From the Keyboard of Surly1
Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on May 26, 2013
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.
It was a week in which we found ourselves awakened, much like Rip van Winkle after a 40 years sleep, to relive the worst excesses of the Nixon administration. A week in which, 175 years ago Friday, the Trail of Tears began and the United States once again led world opinion in affirmation of human rights and the treatment of indigenous peoples. A week in which part of an interstate fell into the Skagit River, sex workers are having to call it quits for lack of customers with sufficient disposable income, A couple of senators from Oklahoma demand disaster funding for their state while insisting that the hardships of the people of Oklahoma be visited upon unnamed someones elsewhere, and thousands of people in hundred cities marched against Monsanto. Plus plenty of other goodies. So let’s go to the highlight reel.
Truth be told, the biggest news in the world of doom this week is the Age of Limits Conference currently being held in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in southwestern Pennsylvania. Our redoubtable correspondent haniel is there and is filing reports. He also promises to bring back audio, video and images, all of which he is having great difficulty uploading due to the lack of bandwidth in his rural location. But suffice it to say there is no other single activity this week in the world of doom that is as significant or as newsworthy as this ongoing conference. Follow haniel’s reports here.
In one of the most remarkable and egregious examples of infrastructure collapse as a result of maintenance deferred, the I–5 bridge over the Skagit River in Washington collapsed when struck by a truck.
The Interstate 5 bridge spanning the Skagit River in Washington state collapsed Thursday evening, dumping two cars into the water. Three people were injured.
Authorities initially weren’t sure how many people were involved or if there’d been any injuries or deaths. Shortly after the collapse, Washington State Trooper Mark Francis told CNN that he didn’t expect a high casualty rate, in part because the bridge is located in a rural area and is rarely crowded.
CBS is reporting that the collapse was caused by an oversized semi-trailer truck, which hit a beam across the top of the bridge.
Great was the mewling and puking over this affair, and may stood ready to extrapolate from the specific to the general. Rising Hegemon probably had it best:
Good thing we can keep affording to give tax breaks to oil companies to avoid those nasty public safety measures that also provide actual jobs!
The Interstate 5 bridge over the Skagit River collapsed Thursday evening, dropping two vehicles into the water and injuring three people.
Both the northbound and southbound portions of the bridge collapsed into the river sometime before 7 p.m., according to Washington State Patrol trooper Mark Francis.
Xavier Grospe, 62, who lives near the river, said he could see three cars with what appeared to be one person per vehicle.
Obviously the only thing that can keep a bridge from collapsing is another bridge with a gun.
And Equire’s Charlie Pierce observed thusly:
First, the BridgeHunter people declared the bridge in question to be functionally obsolete three years ago. Second, the local inspectors declared it to be safe and sound back in 2008. America’s bridges heve been in sorry, dangerous shape for years, and practically everybody agrees with that. Time for some lifesaving Keynesian stimulus spending, no?
I mean, does a bridge have to fall on their heads?
Forget I asked that.
Robert Reich asks, “who needs Republicans when Wall Street has the Democrats?” In his blog, Reich details how congressional Democrats are helping Wall Street rollback the financial reforms enacted after the near meltdown. With Citigroup and chase writing legislation, eager Democrats are rolling as many logs they can to undo Dodd-Frank and otherwise carry water for the plutocrats. Not to be outdone, members of the troglodyte party decided to raise student loan rates, plus approved a variable-rate that will really stick it to prospective students. Your democracy at work. Meanwhile, in the small fishing village in the south of France, The US Department of Education “has generated nearly $120 billion in profit off student borrowers”, more profit than reported by Exxon and Apple. No word on whether that includes Apple’s Irish offshore accounts.
Speaking of offshore accounts and other tax dodges, this week AlterNet filed a superb report on how corporations are stealing billions in tax breaks, why we confused and misdirected Muppets turn on one another, to their continued enjoyment and enrichment. this again by Mr. Reich, who had a busy week.
… global corporations have no allegiance to any country; their only objective is to make as much money as possible — and play off one country against another to keep their taxes down and subsidies up, thereby shifting more of the tax burden to ordinary people whose wages are already shrinking because companies are playing workers off against each other.
. . . Meanwhile, At a time when you’d expect nations to band together to gain bargaining power against global capital, the opposite is occurring: Xenophobia is breaking out all over.
Here in Britain, the UK Independence Party — which wants to get out of the European Union — is rapidly gaining ground, becoming the third most popular party in the country, according to a new poll for The Independent on Sunday. Almost one in five people plan to vote for it in the next general election. Ukip’s overall ratings have risen four points to 19 per cent in the past month, despite Prime Minister David Cameron’s efforts to wrest back control of the crucial debate over Britain’s relationship with the European Union.
Right-wing nationalist parties are gaining ground elsewhere in Europe as well. In the U.S., not only are Republicans sounding more nationalistic of late (anti-immigrant, anti-trade), but they continue to push “states rights” — as states increasingly battle against one another to give global companies ever larger tax breaks and subsidies.
Nothing could strengthen the hand of global capital more than such breakups.
This sounds very much like a movie we’ve seen before. And none of us like the ending. Betting here we’re not going to like the ending of this one either.
And while were on the subject of money, anyone who actually has to buy anything in this economy realizes that the price of goods keeps creeping up at the same time that there seems to be less and less money in the economy. Small business owners are really hurting. We have friends, Nick and Vicky, who run a beauty shop and spa, who had had to close the spa part of their business due to lack of traffic. Many women who used to be regular once a month visitors have vanished, and with it their income. At the same time, the landlord raises the rent on their building, meaning they have to shrink the business to survive. Thus is it in the real world.
Meanwhile, this on the widening gap between Wall Street and Main Street.
While asset prices are inflated by continued interventions of monetary policy from the Federal Reserve, boosting Wall Street profits and widening the wealth gap between the top 20% of Americans and the rest, “Main Street” continues to suffer a from a rising cost of living and falling wage growth. Just recently Gallup released the following survey:
“The federal poverty threshold for a family of four is just under $24,000; however, Americans believe such a family unit living in their community needs more than double that — $58,000, on average — just to ‘get by.’ That estimate reflects 29% of Americans saying these families need up to $50,000 in annual income, 47% saying they need between $50,000 and $99,999, and 10% saying they need $100,000 or more.”
And then, in a fking nutshell:
This is why the gap between corporate profits and the number of working employees is the highest level on record. Fewer workers, higher productivity and longer hours for the same pay, or less, equals higher corporate profits. This is great for executives, primarily the top 10% of wage of earners, who are compensated from rising share prices, bonuses and other performance related compensation. However, for the “working stiff,” there is little reward for their labor.
At $58,000, Americans’ perceptions of the amount it takes just to get by in their community is substantially higher that the national median household income. This level is also well out of reach for a bulk of the lower 30% of American households.
However, this gap between incomes and living standards goes a long way to explaining the “welfaring” of America. As incomes have waned against a rising cost of living – it is not surprising to see more individuals receiving income supplements in the mail either from “food stamps”, social security benefits or disability claims. All of which are currently at record levels. The chart below shows the level of social security benefits as a percentage of disposable personal incomes which is currently near the highest level on record.
“How long can the disconnect last between Wall Street and Main Street? “
There is no clear answer for that as consumers have shown a willingness to draw down savings rates to historically low levels while quickly returning to cheap credit forgetting the disaster that it caused them not so long ago. However, in reality, when you have a family to feed, clothe and house – it really doesn’t matter what is logical, but what is necessary, regardless of the consequences down the road. Of course, for many American’s today, the only real difference between now and the “bread lines” of the 30’s is that the “bread” is delivered in the mail rather than at the “soup kitchen” on the corner.
A splendid article that offers a precise description of what is happening. I mentioned above the effect of this “recovering economy” on my friends with the beauty shop and spot. Newshound Joe dug up this article earlier in the week that illustrates how even sex workers are feeling the pinch.
It is one of the oldest professions in the world.
Yet, just like many other businesses up and down the UK, even prostitution is now struggling with Britain’s struggling economy.
Many sex workers are now saying its almost impossible to make a full time living out of prostitution with rising rents and energy costs and a reduced demand for services.
They also complain of a saturated market in which students and those recently sacked turn to prostitution to make money.
Like many other workers across Britain, sex workers even complain that immigrants are providing tough competition.
All of this has resulted in many massage parlours and private flats heavily reducing their prices or even closing.
Prostitutes also say men are increasingly unable to pay for sex, with pressures on household spending increasing.
30 years ago, Richard Pryor joked about pimps having to drive Volkswagens. And now this. Clearly, yet another sign of the breaking of the Seventh Seal.
And perhaps none of this makes any difference because we are all screwed in the fullness of time, As we seem to be unwilling or unable to manage our energy footprint, consumption, and behavior in a responsible manner that would benefit the great bulk of humanity. This is of course a subject which has been discussed many times in many different ways within the Diner Forum.
Forecast global temperature rise of 4C a calamity for large swaths of planet even if predicted extremes are not reached the world is still likely to be in for a temperature rise of double that regarded as safe.
The researchers said warming was most likely to reach about 4C above pre-industrial levels if the past decade’s readings were taken into account.
That would still lead to catastrophe across large swaths of the Earth, causing droughts, storms, floods and heatwaves, and drastic effects on agricultural productivity leading to secondary effects such as mass migration.
Some climate change sceptics have suggested that because the highest global average temperature yet recorded was in 1998 climate change has stalled. The new study, which is published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows a much longer “pause” would be needed to suggest that the world was not warming rapidly.
Alexander Otto, at the University of Oxford, lead author of the research, told the Guardian that there was much that climate scientists could still not fully factor into their models. He said most of the recent warming had been absorbed by the oceans but this would change as the seas heat up. The thermal expansion of the oceans is one of the main factors behind current and projected sea level rises.
It’s simple. Authorities invented the idea that other people have issues with authority.
Psychiatrists rank right up there among the elitists setting the standards. They, for example, have concocted a little fictional doodad called Oppositional Defiance Disorder. And magically, they never accuse their professional colleagues of having it. No.
Why should they? They amuse themselves by deciding when civilians are overly defiant and need pacification (drugs).
More from the Department of Your Tax Dollars at Work.
Got PTSD? No problem. Here: take this. At a time when government funding for veterans hospitals and healthcare is being diverted by the military and replaced with private donations comes this news of the Pentagon development of memory adjustment pills. Perhaps the combination of so-called “medication” coupled with the use of targets featuring children and pregnant mothers waving guns will usher in a new generation of conscience-free troops for the next round of “nation-building” and empire extension.
The Pentagon this week announced an $11 million grant for three research institutions, all of them long-time hubs for the military’s ongoing PTSD investigations. Experts at Emory University, the University of Southern California and New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center will study the effectiveness of D-Cycloserine (DCS). DCS is a pharmaceutical thought to help extinguish fearful memories. It’s usually taken right before exposure therapy, a process that involves recalling traumatic experiences in an effort to nullify the menacing associations that accompany them.
Your tax dollars at work. This is a clue that we will continue to be in a perpetual state of war.
In the holy city of Washington DC, otherwise known as Jerusalem-on-the-Potomac, we were treated to the spectacle of two Oklahoma solons rightfully demanding disaster aid for their tornado-stricken state, but only at the cost of insuring that the suffering visited on the people of Oklahoma was transmitted by the miracle of the appropriations process up its on innocent and unsuspecting others located God knows where, but presumably not Oklahoma. “Budget offsets”so the Blessed Messrs. Cobern and Imhofe solemnly intone. In response, we need to visit with the Master, Charlie Pierce.
This is a guy who, one day after a devastating natural disaster killed his own constitutents, said he will not vote to allevate their suffering unless he can inflict some pain on someone somewhere else in the country. And his spokesman defends this as a matter of principle, and uses the worst act of domestic terrorism in the history of the United States as a salutary example. (And the link demonstrates that Coburn’s aversion to tossing money down various ratholes is not universal.) Does Senator Coburn really believe you can budget for the unthinkable? That tornadoes are zero-sum events? That you can horse-trade on human suffering as though it were a line-item on a transportation rider? I no longer am willing to try to understand how people like this think. They are monsters and they operate on their own monstrous imperatives.
The attack on the natural instincts of a self-governing political commonwealth has been a long one, a powerful one, and (alas) a very effective one. It has made the politically unthinkable a viable alternative in the face of the literally unimaginable. It is a return to the days where people died alone on the prairies during blizzards, or they drowned in floods along the plains, or they were lost in hurricanes that struck without warning. It’s not a great distance removed from staving off severe weather by judging the flights of birds or reading the entrails of a disembowelled goat on a rock. The idea that there is even a “debate” worthy of mentioning over this money shows how far we’ve fallen.
By the way, here is the City Of Moore’s official FAQ page about storm shelters and the like. I may be wrong, but this fairly reeks of defensiveness. The explanation for the lack of storm shelters seems economically prissy and more than a tad lame—people won’t use them because they won’t leave their pets behind? So, therefore, we don’t build one? Really?—and the cruel irony of this tornado is that people were warned specifically not to “shelter in place” but, rather, to get in their cars and drive like hell. There is considerable real-time audio from local radio and TV to that effect. And this is a masterpiece of You’re On Your Own, Jack:
“What if I live in a mobile home?
This means that you have additional responsibility for your safety, and that begins much earlier! Mobile homes typically do not offer good shelter from thunderstorm winds, and that means you should find shelter elsewhere—perhaps the house of family or friends. You need to plan your actions long before thunderstorms arrive, and leave early…don’t wait until warnings are issued or the sirens are blowing to leave.”
In a week where the Obama administration has managed to resuscitate the cadaver of the Nixon administration through various scandals, and right-wing pols are making hay out of Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi!!, Comes this little noticed and curious aspect to the Benghazi story from one of my favorite cranks, Jon Rappaport.
Just a coincidence. Nothing to see. Move along.
Remember the Benghazi attacks? Remember how the White House rewrote their talking points to scrub out mention of a terrorist attack?
Well, here are some new talking points.
Point one: Star CBS investigative reporter, Sharyl Attkisson, has been discussing leaving CBS since April. She can’t get some of her Benghazi stories on the air. Attkisson was hot on the trail of figuring out who, at the White House, rewrote the Benghazi talking points.
Point two: One sure candidate at the White House? Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser and “mind-melding” speechwriter.
Point three: Who is Ben Rhodes’ brother? He is David Rhodes, who happens to be Sharyl Attkisson’s boss, the president of CBS News.
Point four: Read point three again.
Point five: Those White House Benghazi rewrites scrubbed prior mention of “terror attacks.”
Point six: Again, reporter Attkisson was hot on the trail of the White House fiction writers—which could have led to her boss’s brother.
Point seven: Again, Attkisson got into hot water at CBS for her Benghazi coverage.
Point eight: Again, the president of CBS News, her boss, is the brother of the man who helped organize the White House fiction writing on Benghazi.
The Daily Caller broke this story.
Point nine: Somebody has been fiddling with reporter Attkisson’s computers. Attkisson has been assembling evidence on the what and the who for several months.
As loath as I am to repeat anything uttered in the pages of The Daily Caller–even its very name makes me twitch–even a stopped clock is right twice a day, Much in the same way that Crazy Uncle Liberty and his son, Sen. Aqua Buddha are often right twice a day. Remains interesting to watch to see if this aspect of the story goes anywhere. Politico’s Dylan Byers has a take on this. Little surprise that Attkisson has trouble getting anyone inside the Obama administration to talk to her since most of her stories have often been extremely critical of the administration and often seem to bespeak a partisan political agenda. No duh.
The only thing certain in this murky affair is that House Republicans will do everything possible to keep these flames alive well into the midterm election season. Meanwhile, in at least one poll I saw this morning, House Republicans are writing a 59% disapproval rating. Double down on crazy, boys.
Many protesters gathered in Virginia Beach yesterday as part of a March against Monsanto, one of dozens of such marches organized across the globe in protest of CGI and months and tell and its genetically modified, potentially toxic food.
Organizers were reported to have said the protests were held in 52 countries and 436 cities. Locally, the demonstrators were out in force by the hundreds on a clear, brisk day at the oceanfront that also heralded the beginning of the vacation season.
You have to love the creativity of the people who brought signs and banners. Enjoy the examples below. It was a pleasure to reconnect with local occupiers and many other activists, including many people who would not otherwise even dream of being part of a protester a demonstration, yet who are well enough informed to take a keen and abiding interest in real food. One woman held aloft a sign that said, “our children are not eating the same Cheerios we did.”
Many of the volunteers passed out information flyers explaining what GM owes are. Salient facts included that most major US food companies managed to keep GM oh ingredients secret from the public. That agribusinesses have spent tens of millions of dollars to defeat Geo labeling laws. Products may contain genetically or all-natural modified foods and still be labeled natural. The most common genetically engineered crops are soy, corn, papaya, rice, cotton, tomatoes, dairy products, potatoes and peas.
Murder is our national sport. We murder tens of thousands with our industrial killing machines in Afghanistan and Iraq. We murder thousands more from the skies over Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen with our pilotless drones. We murder each other with reckless abandon. And, as if we were not drenched in enough human blood, we murder prisoners—most of them poor people of color who have been locked up for more than a decade. The United States believes in regeneration through violence. We have carried out blood baths on foreign soil and on our own land for generations in the vain quest of a better world. And the worse it gets, the deeper our empire sinks under the weight of its own decay and depravity, the more we kill.
“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.” – Frederic Bastiat