Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Ethelbert, Coal Country’s VA Premiere, and Contra Poster, WHEW

September 10, 2009

Cover of my friend Ethelbert Miller’s second memoir, which he read from tonight at Volume II Bookstore at University Mall in Blacksburg.

Then on to catch the crowd who had just seen Coal Country, including friends such as Marian, Anita, Betty (the new Mountain Justice Blacksburg faculty advisor) Clark, David, Kathy and Gary Selvage and Pete Ramey (all up from Wise), and filmmaker Jimmy Crawford who had driven down from Roanoke.

Earlier in the day, I had made this poster for the benefit, so we’d have something at the benefit and run off pdf’s of Energy Justice Network’s new flier.

And you’re wondering why I don’t have much of a blog post tonight? I’ll fill in more tomorrow…

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Latest wingnuttery: Green for All logo is secret community iconography

September 6, 2009

Logo from the website Green for All, an Oakland-based non-profit started by Van Jones to press for environmental quality, justice and economic opportunity.

In the wackiest thing yet, stumbled on this comment at StealthFusion.com under research “Photo: Van Jones makes a Salute.” (Look it up, I’ll not bolster the Technorati score). Complete with a slew of supporting illustrations, “Ace, an administrator there, describes the above logo as

very creepy, are the miscellaneous Communist symbols seen elsewhere

Kind of reminds me of the supposed connection between Proctor and Gamble and the Church of Satan.

So, did J. Edgar Hoover or Joe McCarthy rise from the grave? No, it’s shock jock Glen Beck, who’s very much still with us, Besides his television show on Fox, his radio program and his website, Beck has 118,277 followers on Twitter. On July 24, Beck tweeted this message to what he calls his Watch Dogs:

We are transforming as a nation. It is about Race, Social Justice, Control through czars etc, class warfare & global governance.Stand&speak

The Color of Change, of which Jones was a co-founder, had complained about Beck’s statement :

This president has exposed himself as a guy over and over and over again who has a deep-seated hatred for white people … this guy is, I believe, a racist.

The group wrote,

Beck is on a campaign to convince the American public that President Obama’s agenda is about serving the needs of Black communities at White people’s expense. It’s repulsive, divisive and shouldn’t be on the air.

So Beck put out a contract on Jones’s head, seemingly in retaliation for the Color of Change campaign to persuade advertisers to drop Beck’s show. And Van Jones, absent any support from Obama, announced his resignation today. That’s right, the only visible member of the administration to say Appalachian needed something new, not mtr.

Back on March 10, 2009, the Obama White House was happy enough to align itself with Van Jones, calling him “an early green jobs visionary” and appointing him as Special Adviser for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation at the White House Council of Environmental Quality (CEQ).

Van Jones has been a strong voice for green jobs and we look forward to having him work with departments and agencies to advance the President’s agenda of creating 21st century jobs that improve energy efficiency and utilize renewable resources. Jones will also help to shape and advance the Administration’s energy and climate initiatives with a specific interest in improvements and opportunities for vulnerable communities.

Jones is the founder of Green For All, an organization focused on creating green jobs in impoverished areas. He is also the co-founder of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and Color of Change, and was the author of the 2008 New York Times best-seller, The Green Collar Economy.

Now, however, they have thrown him under the bus. As Jane Hamsher noted in “Van Jones: A Moment of Truth For Liberal Institutions in the Veal Pen.”

If you can’t get it together to at least put out a statement of support for Van Jones and condemn the White House for using him as a sacrificial lamb to right wing extremists that will devour us all if left unchecked, it’s time to add “proudly liberal only when it doesn’t matter” to your logo and be done with it.

This kind of reminds me of when President Bill Clinton didn’t stand by Lani Guinier …And yet, it’s okay for Obama’s chief speechwriter Jon Favreau to drunkenly grope a cardboard cutout of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or for Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to “forget” his taxes.

If anything, Obama can be accused of the the opposite of Beck’s claims: the President seems willing to kowtow at the expense of the disenfranchised. Van Jones, when asked why Republicans were more effective when they held the Congress, infamously said

The answer to that is: They’re assholes. That’s a technical political science term. And Barack Obama’s not an asshole. I will say this, I can be an asshole. And some of us who are not Barack Hussein Obama are gonna have to start getting a little bit uppity.

Why have that Star of David on Israel’s flag?

September 3, 2009

Photo accompanying the May 25, 2009 story in the Telegraph, “Benjamin Netanyahu: Israel will expand settlements.”

The Netanyahu government in Israel is getting bolder all the time. Israel human rights group Peace Now (email) and Yesh Din have each brought suit about illegal construction on the West Bank and the state is no longer promising eventual demolition. This at least according to Haaretz, Israel’s English language newspaper. In “Israel hints it may retroactively legalize settlement construction,” Chaim Levinson writes,

The state prosecutor’s representative twice hinted that construction in West Bank settlements might be retroactively legalized Wednesday, seemingly representing a major policy turnaround.

The two responses are a departure from the state’s usual response that the structures are illegal and are expected to be demolished...

In several past cases, including construction in the settlements of Harsha, Hayovel, Neveh Tzuf, Netiv Haavot and Amona, the state told the court the structures were illegal and were due to be destroyed in keeping with the priorities of the defense establishment.

The statements in court seem to be a direct contradiction of Ehud Barak’s press statement in late August:

The defense minister has declared a number of times that the evacuation of illegal outposts is our obligation as a democratic state…This is a process which will be implemented in weeks, not years.

The statement came after Deputy Premier and Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon three weeks ago had complained that the state prosecutor wa not faithfully representing the current government’s view on settlements in promising demolition.

And it’s not as if, even under the now maybe former party line, that the courts were siding with the Palestinians. Back last November, Akiva Eldar (email) had written a piece of news analysis, “Israeli legal system going soft on settlers.”

During 41 years of occupation, many settlers and supporters of Jewish settlements in the West Bank have risen to senior posts in the Israel Defense Forces and hold key offices in the Civil Administration as well.

The friendly handling of settler Noam Federman’s case a week ago, by Judge Moshe Drori, was not unusual. Although the settler breached an area declared a “special security zone,” violating a military order and promises made by the local council head to restrain renegade settlers, Drori reprimanded the state for removing Federman.

So what has happened to Israel’s obligations? Knowing what happened during the Holocaust and how other countries turned back fleeing Jews, I’ve always seen the value in a homeland. And yet I’ve been torn by the way the land was appropriated. And now, Israel’s possible change in policy has got me wondering. Would the current government want to be treated this way by the Palestinians if their situations were reversed. If not, what happened to the Golden Rule? Why have that Star of David on the flag. It’s besmirching those of us that believe our our faith requires social justice.

On the Right: the next tea party: Obama’s data mining?

September 1, 2009

Data mining graphic from Direct Marketing Magazine.

The name is innocuous: National Legal and Policy Center. The description benign, talking about how it was

founded in late 1991 following the release of the Senate Ethics Committee report whitewashing the Keating Five. The report made reference to the Code of Ethics for Government, but not by name, presumably for fear of giving it greater standing. NLPC was founded to promote ethics, and to give the Code the visibility it deserves.

Heck, it could be CREW. But a story by Ken Boehm which made it to the Mememorandum list today raised my suspicions “Obama White House Has Secret Plan To Harvest Personal Data From Social Networking Websites.”

In the course of investigating procurement by the White House New Media office, NLPC discovered a 51-page solicitation of bids that was filed on Friday, August 21, 2009. Filed as Solicitation # WHO-S-09-0003, it is posted at FedBizzOps.com. Click here to download a 51-page pdf of the solicitation .

While the solicitation specifies a 12-month contract, it allows for seven one-year extensions. It specifies no dollar cap.

I’ll look into the claims. After all, sometimes the mainstream media is a bit slow on the draw in criticizing Obama. And he’s been a disappointment in continuing Bush’s policies on domestic spying. But so far, the only bloggers salivating are on the right, such as Matthew Vadum,

But, I was right that the Center is not exactly non-partisan, according to Sourcewatch, which cites Susan Crabtree, writing for the hardly liberal The Hill. (I’ve linked to the page on Rangel’s website, because the orginal link is broken, although a look at Google’s cache reveals the story as genuine.

When the news broke that Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) may have been abusing New York City rent-control laws, Peter Flaherty and Ken Boehm smelled blood.

The two investigators are principals and founders of the National Legal and Policy Center, a conservative watchdog group whose research has spurred news stories taking Rangel to task for alleged ethical violations.

The center has time, money and seasoned Washington hands, who research publicly available information.

The center’s nonprofit status allows it to keep its funding private. Flaherty wouldn’t disclose his donor list but acknowledged that the biggest source of funds comes from foundations associated with Richard Mellon Scaife, the billionaire heir to the Mellon fortune and well-known supporter of conservative public policy organizations….

Flaherty and Boehm, friends since their days at Citizens for Reagan, say their work is legitimate and motivated less by a conservative point of view than a belief that bigger government leads to more opportunities for corruption.

Like there was no corruption under their Republican heroes. Right.

Teddy’s belief in a just society (February 22, 1932 – August 25, 2009)

August 27, 2009

Photo of Teddy at the inauguration on Flickr by “Vidiot

There are those born to great riches who want wealth and privilege more concentrated. There are those with little who aspire to riches and thus harbor the same beliefs.

Teddy Kennedy, for all his personal failings, wanted something more. As he said at the 2008 Democratic Convention:

For me, this is a season of hope, new hope for a justice and fair prosperity for the many and not just for the few, new hope. And this is the cause of my life, new hope that we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American — north, south, east, west, young, old — will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not a privilege.

If you’d like to take a look at his statements on various issues, I suggest you turn to the website OnTheIssues. As Ezra Klein, so eloquently put it this morning for the Washington Post:

Ted Kennedy didn’t belong to all of us. He didn’t even belong to all Democrats. He was not of the party that voted for more than a trillion in unfunded tax cuts but cannot bring itself to pay for health-care reform. He was not of the party that fears the next election more than the next failure to help America’s needy. Rather, he belonged to the party of Medicare and Medicaid, the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Civil Rights Act and immigration reform. He belonged to the party that sought to advance the conditions and opportunities of the least among us. He was, as Harold Meyerson says, “the senior senator from Massachusetts and for all the excluded in American life.”

McClatchy has a piece up about the effect of Kennedy’s death on passage of health care reform:

Securing universal health care coverage for Americans was a decades-long quest that eluded Sen. Edward Kennedy. In the wake of his death, however, several key Democrats on Wednesday saw a chance to break what’s become this year’s stalemate by invoking his legacy and last wishes…. However, it was also likely that without Kennedy, a deal would be even harder to get.

As the administration jeopardizes its mandate from last November, wavering on health care, union card check, civil liberties and the environment, maybe it is time for them to remember that without the “liberal Lion’s” endorsement, Obama might not have gained the nomination. Maybe it’s time to get serious about trying to make things a little more just for “all the excluded in American life,” a category, which sadly, applies to more and more of us.

Ted Kennedy writes about filling his seat

August 20, 2009


For some reason, when the Boston Globe broke this story August 2o, the author,Frank Phillips, said Kennedy wrote the letter last week and alluded to his non-attendance at his sister’s funeral. But, as you can see, the letter was written July 2.

Go figure. As my friend journalist Dan Kennedy (no relation to Ted), whose blog post today referred to the story, responded, when I asked him about the discrepancy in dates,

Damned if I know. Good catch.

The fiasco in filling Obama’s seat in the Senate points to the wisdom concerning Kennedy’s suggestion that Massachusettes law be amended to allow the governor to fill the seat until an election, but that he should appoint someone who promises not to run in the special election.

Universal Broadband Access

August 19, 2009

Graphic by Free Press. “Telecom Lobbying January-June, 2009.”

April 8, 2009, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it was launching development of a National Broadband Plan and was seeking public input to “ensure every American has access to broadband capabilities.

So, I was not surprised to find the above chart at Free Press, outlining the amount of money being spent to assure industry “input.”

Congress had charged the FCC with coming up with a plan by 2/27/2010 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009–otherwise known as the stimulus package. d all other interested parties.

The Docket No. is GN 09-51. Oddly, it was not immediately obvious when the deadline for comments was. More research on this later.

The Failure of Empathy

August 18, 2009


The news from Scott Horton that Bush’s torture architect, John Yoo, is facing difficulties at Berkeley led me to a search to see if another prof at that school, linguist George Lakoff had said anything about the situation. While I came up empty, I just now found an interesting piece, “Torture, Empathy and Democracy,” that he published in the April 26, 2009 FireDogLake. He refers to a piece two days earlier by Greg Mitchell of Editor & Publisher in Huffington Post, about American G.I., Alyssa Peterson, who committed suicide after refusing to torture Iraqi prisoners.

“The official probe of her death would later note that earlier she had been “reprimanded” for showing “empathy” for the prisoners. One of the most moving parts of the report, in fact, is this: “She said that she did not know how to be two people; she … could not be one person in the cage and another outside the wire.””

Repeat: “She did not know how to be two people…” Reprimanded for showing “empathy.”

Lakoff writes that

Our native neural capacities for empathy can be strengthened by how we are raised, or it can decay when empathy is not experienced — or we can be trained to develop neural circuitry to bypass natural empathy.

This is a little scary to me, as his research shows that

empathy is the basis of progressive political thought, and the basis for the very idea of social, not just individual, responsibility. Conservative political thought is otherwise structured, based on authority, discipline, and responsibility for oneself but not others. The major moral, social, and political divide in America centers around empathy.

Now consider that, according to Preston McAfeee, sociopaths also can be characterized in part by

  • Callousness/Lack of Empathy–inability to empathize with their victims’ pain, having contempt for others’ feelings of distress and readily taking advantage of them.
  • Pathological Lying–can lie coolly and easily, it’s almost impossible for them to be truthful on a consistent basis. They can create, and get caught up in, a complex belief about their own powers and abilities. Extremely convincing and even able to pass lie detector tests.
  • Irresponsibility/Unreliability–Unconcerned about wrecking others’ lives and dreams. Oblivious or indifferent to the devastation they cause. Don’t not accept blame themselves, but blame others, even for acts they obviously committed.

Well you get the idea. I’m not sure about the delay in writing about Peterson, as reports appeared back in 2006. What I do know, is that I find the implications troubling.

Linguist George Lakoff on the Dems and Health Care

August 13, 2009


As the media concentrates on the “deathers” who say that the Obama health plan would kill our grandparents (well, that’s my generation, actually, or soon), as latest polls show a shift to trusting the R’s for formulating a better health care plan and we learn of the President’s caving in to big Pharma, I’m wishing that someone in this administration had paid a bit of attention to George Lakoff (email, profile) in May, when he set out how to formulate rhetoric to win the hearts and minds of Americans for health care reform.

He said the Dems needed

some guiding principles for effectively saying what they believe and what is true.

Principle 1. Health care is part of our economic system.

President Obama correctly sees the economy as an integrated system that includes more than just banking. The economy is a system that includes health care, education, jobs, energy, and the environment, as well as an effective, well-monitored banking system and stock market. Real health care is essential for our economy.

Principle 2. Health care is a moral issue.

America was founded on the most central of moral principles: empathy, on caring about and for each other. We are responsible for ourselves and for one another. That is why we have principles like freedom and fairness, for everyone not just the few who are powerful.

To care about our fellow Americans is to care about their health.

Principle 3. Health care is central to the moral mission of the American government.

The American government has twin moral missions: protection and empowerment of the individual – equally for everyone.

Protection includes not just the military and police, but also consumer protection, worker protection, environmental protection, safety nets, investor protection, and health care.

Empowerment is what enables Americans to make a living and have a good life if they work at it. It includes systems of public road and buildings, education, communication, energy, banking — and health.

No one can make a dime in America or achieve their goals in life without protection and empowerment by America’s government.

Principle 4. The President’s plan is the American Plan: it fits our principles and serves our people. It represents patriotism at its finest.

The American Plan allows you the freedom to keep your current health plan or choose the American Plan. It is fair in that it allows everyone to afford excellent care. And it allows us to demonstrate in the most visceral way that Americans care about and for their fellow citizens.

Principle 5. The American Plan is a doctor-patient plan.

You and your doctor determine your treatment.

There is no HMO bureaucracy standing between you and the care you get.

Principle 6. The American Plan relieves oppressive HMO government.

Right now HMO’s govern your life. Unaccountable HMO bureaucrats decide what treatments you can be “authorized” for and they function to say No to care whenever they can justify it. They make you wait too long, and limit your choice of doctors, clinics, and hospitals. HMO’s are oppressive forms of government.

The American Plan diminishes bureaucrats’ control over your life. Your American government could act only as a bursar, paying your bills and making sure there is no fraud. Your treatment is up to you and your doctor.

Principle 7. The American Plan provides care instead of denying it.

Why do HMO’s have a high administrative cost – 15 to 20 percent or more? They spend money to justify denying you the care you need and all too often delaying care so much that you are harmed by the delay.

The American Plan is there to provide you care, not deny or delay it. Its administrative costs would be low, about 3 percent.

Principle 8. The American Plan costs less and does more.

HMO’s are big spenders, not on your health, but on administrative costs, commercials to tout their plans, and profits to investors. As much as 20 to 30% of what you pay does not go to your care. In The American Plan, 97% of what you pay goes for your care. It’s a better deal for you and for our country.

Principle 9. The American Plan helps primary care doctors.

HMO’s put the squeeze on primary care doctors and have created assembly line medicine. HMO’s require doctors to take too many patients per hour, more than they can effectively treat. And they pay doctors as little as possible per patient, so that the HMO’s make greater profits, while your doctor loses out — and you may lose your doctor.

As a result, many thousands of primary care doctors have left their profession. The American Plan will bring back the primary care doctors, paying them what they are worth, and letting them practice medicine instead working on an assembly line.

Principle 10. The American Plan will make prescription drugs cheaper.

Why? Because they can be purchased in greater volume and at a discount.

No longer will Americans have to go to Canada to buy their meds, or order them from other countries. No longer will the cost of medicine threaten to bankrupt older Americans on a fixed income.

EPA faces protests over Mountain Range Destruction

August 12, 2009


August 7, 2009 –The federal Army Corps of Engineers issued a Clean Water Act permit for CONSOL Energy Inc.’s Peg Fork Surface Mine near Chattaroy in Mingo County. The Peg Fork Surface Mine was one of six pending permits that EPA had reviewed in mid-May and said that opposed because “they all would result in significant adverse impacts to high-value streams, involved large numbers of valley fills, and impact watersheds with extensive previous mining impacts.” The Obama administration’s EPA quietly approved the permit without announcing the move publicly, despite his promises of greater transparency.

Tuesday, August 18, folks in our region can go to Philly and let folks know that we want them to stop destroying the mountains. This is part of a national campaign which kicks off August 14 at EPA Headquarters in DC at noon. Come join us at the EPA Region 3 Office to hand out information and make some noise about MTR. Not enough people know about this alarming practice. You can find directions to the office at http://www.epa.gov/region03/direct.htm

There will also be protests at the EPA regional offices across the country while we take care of Philly.

* Boston MONDAY 8/17 at noon!
* New York MONDAY 8/17 11am – 1pm!
* Atlanta TUESDAY 8/18 11am-2pm, carpool from Knoxville contact tanyabturner@gmail.com
* Dallas WEDNESDAY 8/19 11am -1pm, carpool from Denton contact undoubtedlythomas@yahoo.com
* Kansas City- meeting WEDNESDAY 8/19 2:30- 5:30pm
* Denver
* San Francisco
* Seattle
* Chicago

And if you cannot attend, PLEASE participate in a “fax attack” to the water protection division at (215) 814-2302, email “Brian Trulear or, if you live in the region, you can call toll free 1-800-438-2474 (Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.) And you can also do a twitter attack by replying to @EPAregion3.

Get everyone you know to do the same. (We still need someone to set a date for Denver, Chicago, Seattle and SF. If a city is missing, we still need someone to choose a date and show up : ) You can find out your region by clicking on your state on this map: http://www.epa.gov/epahome/regions.htm. From there, the link for contacts will tell you how to call.

Showing support is VERY helpful. Let the EPA know that our numbers are much larger than the people who could make it out to their lawn.Folks are tired of coal companies going after thin seams of coal while killing wildlife and plants and sickening those who have lived here sometimes for hundreds of years, through the poisoning of our water and air with carcinogens and heavy metals.