Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sweetpea #9

Another safe landing at 7 lb 4 oz.
Charles Patrick A.10/23/09.


They have physiques for hard labor, a fondness for steak and a home away from home called a Man Camp. They are roughnecks, and they are bringing a new dimension to the region's demographic as drilling crews migrate from places like Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana to pursue the gas-rich Marcellus Shale under the Twin Tiers.

In Athens Township, Pa., Chesapeake Energy and Nomac Drilling are planning a 180-bed gated compound to house their crews when they're not pulling 12-hours shifts, seven days a week, on derricks being erected throughout the countryside. Many are expected to show up in Broome County next year, after New York finalizes a regulatory overhaul to accommodate the intensive type of horizontal drilling used to tap the Marcellus.

The name roughneck, which crews tend to embrace as a badge of honor, reflects the demanding and sometimes risky work that sustains them, as well as the cowboy mystique they bring from their hometowns in the South and West. Nomac, a principal contractor for Chesapeake, is one of many companies relocating manpower and equipment to the Northeast to develop the Marcellus, the largest natural gas reserve in the country, running from Broome County through Pennsylvania to parts of West Virginia and Ohio.

Unlike other firms, however, Nomac and Chesapeake won't leave crews to house and feed themselves. They are proposing to build a secured modular-home park in Athens, modeled after one in Searcy, Ark. Commonly referred to as a "Man Camp" by everyone outside the corporate world, it's indigenous to the landscape and drilling culture out there, yet it's a new and foreign presence to the blue-collar worker here.

It has a mess hall, recreation room and laundry. Workers, manning opposing 12-hour shifts, share dorm-style rooms. Around the perimeter will be a security fence, and "facility managers" will track residents who are required to sign in and sign out. Visitors won't be welcome. Not surprisingly, it has raised plenty of questions. First and foremost: What's the fence for?

--------- I wonder if there's anything that would satisfy the so-called progressive/left in this country, all their caterwauling about jobs, poverty, needy people ... and they complain about man camps, claiming the camps raise crime rates and degrade the idyllic surroundings.

Particularly dumb and predictable is the article's "What's the fence for?" Meant to sound ominous and evil - could the fence be for public safety, protecting equipment, theft, etc.? "Track residents," sign in and out, visitors not welcomed... it's a heavy-duty work environment people, not a sing-a-long at Camp Casey.

One poster, on the second link above, stated: "I find it depressing that this community is so against drilling (despite using enormous quantities of natural gas) that our local paper feels comfortable dehumanizing the workers. Imagine an article describing migrant farm workers this way. This is a sad situation - ignorance turning to prejudice so quickly."

Yep, no crime around migrant labor camps, no environmental degradation.

When "progressives" are not dehumanizing the people making an honest living, they're screeching about the environmental impact, which believe me is much more regulated and managed today.

Long ago, during the first "economic crisis" we lived through, DH's company downsized, and to make a long story short, he took a roughneck position in Prudoe Bay. The income was amazing but it should be as not a lot of folks rush, particularly smoothneck "progressives," to work 12-15 hour days in a camp, under risky and extreme conditions, and away from family.

Indeed. "Man camps" predominantly employ skilled and/or educated folks and are unpopular with the left, they prefer migrant labor camps - I suppose more recruits for their anti-something or save everything movements.

I know I know Bubba - it's the big evil corporations that someday the "left" will topple and replace with a kinder and gentler and more egalitarian tyranny.

A progressive poster at PI says "The local communities should demand permanent economic improvements instead of temporary work camps." Lol. These people think that sort of rhetoric makes sense. A mindset that happens when you fiddle with your bootstraps and wait for someone to deliver you a life. By the way, these camps have employees for decades, maybe you can fill a need there somewhere and improve your own economics - or you can just piddle around making demands and let the immigrants beat you to it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

First Fist Bumper

Is Michelle pregnant?

Depleted Truth

Certain folks with an agenda are again hyping the news of "soaring" numbers of birth deformities and cancers in Iraq - due to depleted uranium, or more specifically, another crime against humanity perpetrated by the US. This "news" exposes viewers and readers to graphic images of children, dead, dying, deformed, allegedly the effects of depleted uranium.

According to Al-Jazeera : "Doctors in Iraq are recording a sharp rise in the number of cancer victims south of Baghdad. Sufferers in the province of Babil have risen almost tenfold in just three years. Locals blame depleted uranium from US military equipment used in the 2003 invasion. Some 500 cases of cancer were diagnosed in 2004 alone. That figure rose to almost 1,000 two years later. In 2008, the number of cases increased sevenfold to 7,000 diagnoses. This year, there have so far been more than 9,000 new cases, and the number is rising."

A short while back the same claims were coming from Basra, then Fallujah, and before that it was Kirkuk, still further back, Kosovo.

Look to the source of the reports - all coming from biased groups or individuals with an agenda. When someone says "research has emerged" ... what they mean is, they have juggled information to fit their own preconceived viewpoint, that of the US being a genocidal ogre.

It goes without saying that chemicals and weapons are bad for the health. But where can objective facts be found ... there does not seem to be reliable information for comparison from the Saddam era. Although Iraq's Cancer Registry was established in 1976 it's accuracy is uncertain. What is known is that healthcare was meager or nonexistent outside the major metro areas. Saddam opened more medical schools but faculty and facilities were lacking in everything. Blame that on Bush 1 and/or Clinton, or blame Saddam as his palaces and Babylon theme park took precedence.

The folks at Depleted Cranium have made an attempt to track down some of the disturbing infant and child images making the rounds. Some are photos from a Russian museum, from textbooks, thalidomide babies, etc.

Let's remember a couple of things. Uranium is found everywhere in nature - rocks, soil, water, air, plants, animals, humans. DU is weakly radioactive - depleted. There is no evidence that DU is widely used in any weapons other than armor-piercing ammo fired by some tanks and aircraft.

Hundreds of studies have been done on DU in the last 2 decades - none have proven much. The International Atomic Energy Agency reported in 2003 that, "based on credible scientific evidence, there is no proven link between DU exposure and increases in human cancers or other significant health or environmental impacts," although "Like other heavy metals, DU is potentially poisonous. In sufficient amounts, if DU is ingested or inhaled it can be harmful because of its chemical toxicity. High concentration could cause kidney damage." The IAEA concluded that while depleted uranium is a potential carcinogen, there is no evidence that it has been carcinogenic in humans."

Not that I completely trust them, but WHO has conducted studies, Sandia Laboratories conducted studies, the UN studies, and others - and while DU is not good - there seems to be no long-term consequence and certainly no horrific defects like those making the rounds today, many of those images were used in the 1990s when Western friends of Saddam were making the same exact claims. It reminds me of the rightwing "incubator babies" but these deformed babies are from the leftwing.

As I have not found any objective data regarding the above cancer/DU claims, I don't believe them. Even if there is a spike in cancer rates it could be due to the simple fact that there is more access now to healthcare/prenatal care. Cancer and birth defect rates were studied for years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki - one would think the rates would have been horrific and long-term, but apparently not. The aftermath of Chernobyl is not as deadly as one would expect. The ability of the human species to persevere and correct itself is amazing.

How much of this issue, among so many, is founded on nothing more than wanting private and government funds to study it? What sort of mind is willing to falsify information and use photos of the unfortunate to make a name for themselves and/or demonize the US? Who are these Iraqi doctors collaborating with questionable news agencies - former Baathists who once cut off ears to prove their loyalty to Saddam?

I wonder - why hasn't Earth Father Al Gore taken on the DU issue? I wonder too, are the same assclowns selling their DVDs and building careers on anti-depleted uranium hype, also supporting the idea that cells phones will give everyone brain tumors and reduce sperm counts?

I am not defending war, or death and destruction, or depleted uranium - don't even go there. Ban DU (not a nuclear weapon) - along with all WMD, but until that happens, stop swallowing unsupported information from wannabe-famous folks who are only grinding their own axe - they are as self-serving as the liars who took us into this war.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Piece of the Action Soapbox

Scott Horton interviews Cindy "Peace Mom" Sheehan. Peace activist Cindy Sheehan discusses plans for continuous civil disobedience in Washington D.C. until the Iraq and Afghanistan wars end, lessons learned from the Pittsburgh G-20 protests, how Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize was awarded soon after he refused to meet with peace groups and why much of the Left can’t wrap their heads around a pro-war Democratic Party.

---- I can barely listen through such interviews anymore, in fact, I rarely get to the end. Yawn. I'm still trying to determine who anoints the mouthpieces for the "Left."

Originally, Cindy appeared to be chosen as peace mom by multi-funded organizations, such as Code Pink's Medea Benjamin. Now that Benjamin has been "rethinking" the war ... well ... I guess Cindy is the "new left" or one of those "dissident" voices that has yet to reach the tax bracket that embraces capitalism while publicly espousing a redistribution of other people's brackets.

Anyhoo, listening to the above interview, my first thought was Cindy has been using a voice coach - but then, within 30 seconds or so, I heard that slight whine slipping back into her voice.

Horton and Sheehan discussed Sheehan's upcoming planned occupation of D.C. Until the Iraq/Afghanistan wars end, this action, going by the name of A Peace of the Action, will be continuous - hmmm ... sounds serious ... just as she continuously occupied Crawford, Texas, and the hunger strike that lasted 3 days, her political skit/run against political lifer Nancy Pelosi ...

Sheehan and friends' "demands" are: troops out, mercs out, reparations paid to Iraq - and this will be accomplished by "sustained direct action" i.e. having their peace personnel at 10 different locations every day to shut down intersections, buildings, etc. until their demands are met. I don't believe anyone mentioned BushCo war crimes trial, guess that one has been crossed off the dissident to-do list.

Cindy's "coalition" of peace groups will include World Can't Wait, After Downing Street, etc. The bigger groups, she says, won't be there as they have been co-opted (must be talking about used-to-be-best backer Medea of Code Slink). Rut-ro, Cindy says they will not start their action until they have 5000 peace warriors willing to sign on for this sustained offensive. Not to be callous but how about we call her Colonel Mom?

Horton says he thinks shutting down D.C. would be a blast. Hahahahahaha. I can hear 300 million folks applauding as their government is toppled and replaced with ... what? gotta name for it, if we can keep it?

Sheehan will be moving to Washington, D.C. to direct her end of this continuous action. Ever wonder how these folks who are "one of us" can financially afford to travel the world, relocate multiple times, turn intermittent continuous action into a career, all on low-end speaking fees and donations? Have you looked at the Additional Contributors on Antiwar.com?

If that isn't a list of overpaid do-littles for a lifetime I don't know what is. Hey, you patrons of airhead spokespersons - pick me pick me - I want a piece of the action too. I can be more dreary and predictable than those clowns! Hahaha, just kidding - I always fly low on the radar. Maybe that's why I have a hard time understanding how anyone can waste their energy demanding a product they don't use themselves. In this case I guess the product would be common sense.

Being "anti-war" does not automatically endow one with common sense.

The interview made me wonder though, other than anti-war/nonintervention - what do libertarians, like Horton/Antiwar.com, have in common with "leftists" like Cindy? I have been accused a couple of times myself of being libertarian because of my stand on welfare, taxation, gun rights, immigration - but I disagree with several of their stances on other issues.

I agree with nonintervention - but once we've committed time, money, and lives, there has to be a different approach other than pulling out, letting the place fall to the best armed barbarians, and then pumping in the same amount of money disguised as reparations or rebuilding.

I disagree with the insane libertarian idea that we can make our streets safe again by ending "drug prohibition." If legalized, coke head, meth head, crack heads, and pot heads, will have affordable drugs and apparently no reason to commit crime, hence our prisons will not be overcrowded with nonviolent drug offenders, and there will be room for really violent guys, for "serious" criminals.

According to libertarians, ".... it is estimated that every drug offender imprisoned results in the release of one violent criminal, who then commits an average of 40 robberies, 7 assaults, 110 burglaries and 25 auto thefts."

Obviously, libertarians are not looking at the same guys I am. Where I live, the drug offenders are usually the ones committing robbery, assault, burglary, theft, and sometimes murder. But go ahead, convince me that it's okay for Bubba to cook up meth because he's a nonviolent offender.

Tell me it's okay for that young boy to sell a few rocks, as long as he's not violent, except the other night when Pookie went to make a sale and ended up shooting the potential buyer in the butt because he wanted to keep his drugs and the money too (true story). And it's okay for Puff because she's not hurting anyone but herself when she spends her days walking up and down the street looking for another rock, she shouldn't be in jail because she's nonviolent - it was her boyfriend, another crackhead, who was violent, stuffed his socks in crying baby girl's mouth and then smashed her head in. (True story.)

Tell me nonviolent drug offenders are not a problem. Convince me low-level dealers and users are noooooooooooo threat. But, when (not if) they become violent, we'll have room for them. Go ahead, convince me it's okay for the pilot, the surgeon, the cop, the judge, the lawyer, the clerks entering all your information anywhere, and my favorite goofball Carl Sagan, to be stoned or jonesing because they're nonviolent. Yep, not gonna hurt a soul. Let's all sing Rainy Day Women, but I would not feel so all alone .... everybody must get stoned. Legalization is the solution, genius?

Libertarians use the example of alcohol prohibition as proof that prohibition doesn't work. Of course, legalizing liquor did not end crime, did not reduce the price, did not end bootlegging, and did not reduce the number of drunks. Don't get me wrong - alcohol should be legal. But anyone who spins prohibition to defend legalization of drugs has used too much of one or both products.

Libertarians ask you to "Consider the historical evidence: America's murder rate rose nearly 70% during alcohol prohibition, but returned to its previous levels after prohibition ended. Now, since the War on Drugs began, America's murder rates have doubled. The cause/effect relationship is clear. Prohibition is putting innocent lives at risk."

Oh my, look at all the stupid in that "evidence." Murders rates during prohibition were related to turf wars/mafia wars. The doubling of today's murder rates are related to many ills, usually connected with the drug culture - violent home lives, broken homes, dysfunctional homes, pornoviolence entertainment glamorizing the drug culture, craving instant wealth, and an adult population that protects it young from nothing because easy assess to whatever we want is "liberty." Free to be me, me, me, me.

Liberty yes - problem is too many folks do not want the responsibility that comes with it.

Can't you just see the US signing trade deals with the Drug Cartels. If you think Oil and Pharma are big business, just wait till you see the profit from legal dope - we can have malls with opium dens, meth parlors, pot pubs, cocaine, heroin hangouts, step right in, you want the opulent brand, perhaps a high altitude blend of China and Columbia's finest, or will some cheap stuff do you? Yep, that should solve a lot of our crime and drug issues, create jobs, increase tax revenue. Will big manufacturers of "recreational" drugs have the right to require naked workers? ...wouldn't want employee theft cutting into profits. The ACLU can sue if that question comes up.

I suppose my biggest difference with libertarianism is I believe many people are "law-abiding" citizens, and do not engage in activities that are illegal - but! make something legal and too many of them will be first in line to use it, have it, sell it, buy it - that's why the ruling class call us sheep.

I also agree, maybe 90%, with the libertarian view on "the failed welfare state" which is : "... eliminate the entire social welfare system. This includes eliminating AFDC, food stamps, subsidized housing, and all the rest. Individuals who are unable to fully support themselves and their families through the job market must, once again, learn to rely on supportive family, church, community, or private charity to bridge the gap."

The 10% of disagreement is that initially this would create chaos and more crime, for the simple fact is we are now going into the 3rd generation of individuals unable to support themselves and turning to family is not an option as mom and grandma, are also unable to provide for themselves and family. Reagan and Clinton both cut back welfare - but people caught on to that real quick and a new brand of welfare arose - "disability." Usually after a back injury from a motor vehicle accident, and other forms of creative crippling for folks who don't want to work.

Secondly, we have entered an era where church membership is haphazard; where many churches are fleecing the flock rather than providing materially for them. And, lest we forget, the US has become more anti-religion with more folks viewing religion as an intrusion rather than a support base. For decades, "community" has been waiting for BigDaddy Government to step in and provide assistance. Imagine the number of government employees who, upon ending the welfare state, would themselves be turning to family, church, community. Private charity, no matter how generous, does not have the capacity to support the numbers today, and those to come, who receive some form of "assistance."

Millions would need to be weaned from welfare, food stamps, subsidized housing, AFDC, and "all the rest." Reminds me of breast-feeding. All of my children gradually weaned at about 13 months of age, encouraged by offering them food and sippy cups, until one day they didn't nurse at all. Alas, I think you'll find a lot of feeders who, suckling for years on the system, will have violent tantrums if they lose their teat.

So, while I agree we need to end welfare as we know it - can they be a bit more honest about the fallout when what the government giveth it comes to taketh away? Sheehan claims we live in a police state now - girl, you gotta lot to learn about police states. That kind of ignorant hyperbole makes me want to use the "f" word.

I used to wonder why libertarians and/or the left failed to attract greater numbers. Now I know - they can't wrap their heads around anything. They're political wannabes, as rudderless as any of the self-serving pols we have now. I mean come on folks - shut D.C. down?

Maybe what libertarians and leftists have in common is - they think it would be a blast to just shut the system down and then their particular brand of liberty/freedom will rise up and cure all ills. When 98% of us are handed our "social equality" because the "left" has placed us all on the same footing and the "right" will make sure we stay there. Bipartisanship, finally.

Do these heenesque balloon heads have a clue to the ramifications of shutting down the government, or are they just pulling words out of their rear-ends, that seems to be where their heads are stuck. Far be it for any of them to get off their phony soapboxes and shill for something that might make a tad bit of difference, they could begin with term limits ... and they could stop interviewing one another year after year, swapping praise for the same old failed left/right ideologies.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

I See Dead People

Last week the NYT published an article on Michelle Obama's ancestry, prompting me to do some Obama digging myself, being an amateur genealogist. The piece focused on the line of Melvina Shields, born about 1844, died 1938, and her son Dolphus. For me the piece raised more questions than it answered and left out some interesting details I won't go into here.

The NYT, with genealogist expert Megan Smolenyak, says Melvina's "... 1938 death certificate, signed by a relative, had “don’t know” in the space for the names of her parents, suggesting that Melvinia, then in her 90s, may never have known herself."

Gasp, how horrible.

Even I, an amateur genealogist know that "don't know" for parentage on death certificates from this era is very very common, whether black or white, slave or free. Particularly if the deceased outlived those who might know the answer. I have sifted through thousands of death certificates of ancestors born in the 1800s, black and white, and sadly many had "don't know" for the parents. Often the "informant" was a grandchild or great grandchild or great niece, nephew, etc. Even had Melvina known the identity of her parents, and very likely she did as a young woman, there is nothing unusual about family members in 1938 not knowing the information.

The article also says that in the 1870 census, three of Melvinia’s four children, including Dolphus, were listed on the census as mulatto. Yes, they were, as I checked on FamilySearch. What the Times does not say is that 2 of those children were listed as 1 y/o twins, Alice and Talley, male and female, with Talley listed as black and Alice as mulatto. What this could mean is one twin was lighter skin - which doesn't necessarily mean daddy was white. Or it could mean both were mulatto but Talley was darker and listed as black, which means the census taker was making a judgement on skin pigment rather than fact.

In the 1870 census Melvina, age 26, is in household #363, and #362 is Charles Shields, age 31, with his wife and daughter. Charles was the son of Melvina's previous owner. Either or neither could have been the father of her children. It is also possible not all of the 4 children were Melvina's children as the 1870 census did not list relationships to head of household, and after the war many people, black and white, raised orphaned children. Most likely, with Melvina living next door to Charles, she was mistress and the children were his. Believe me, the public records for average white folks from this era is little better. Sometimes genealogy is little more than educated guessing while hunting the proof to confirm.

Slave owners kept detailed records of slaves, their pairing and offspring - after all, slaves were property, and owners nearly always knew who was impregnating their property, usually assigning certain men to certain women, sometimes allowing slaves to live as a couple with their children. Not so much out of kindness - but because they believed it good business sense; they knew the lineage of their livestock and slaves were valuable livestock. Melvina's original owner's will read: "Mr. Patterson asked that his slave families "be kept together as far as possible." Such a request was not unusual. I have spent years going through old plantation ledgers and you might be surprised at the details of most - in my own family the owner listed each day's activity for each slave - he listed when a slave was ill, when one gave birth and the father, who worked in what field, etc. Sometimes the information is infuriating, sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking, and sometimes opposite of conventional thinking. You develop a close feeling to the long dead, not angry, not bitter, just finding yourself connected to branches that at times seem more a bramble bush than a tree.

Local, state, and federal governments have a huge amount of recorded documentation from the 1800s - the problem is sorting, indexing, and putting it online - it's in the process but slow, genealogy is not an area of political pork begging for funding. If you're fortunate enough to have time and money you can physically go to the sources and search through the records.

The Times article used a good deal of trite prose. For instance, when Melvina returned to Alabama to reunite with former slaves from her childhood, "A community that had been ripped apart was somehow pulling itself back together." But freed men and women searching for family members was the norm for years after the Civil War. It means many former slaves knew who to look for, who their family members were. I have traced family members who traveled from Virginia to Mississippi, after the war, to find children, parents, siblings.

I also found in the 1840-50s more than one Irish/Scotchman married to free black women; I assumed interracial marriage was illegal, but they married. I found whites raising black children and blacks raising white children and the relationships endured until death. I found 1880 court documents where black men won judgements against white men, usually over land or livestock disputes, and one for stealing clothes off the clothesline. I found black politicians and lawmen. I found an ancestor Fredrick X. registering to vote in 1867. The worst of Jim Crow laws seemed to begin in the 1890s. It was also around this time that whites stopped differentiating black/mulatto. Between 1890 and 1910 southern states passed laws to disenfranchise blacks and thousands of poor whites.

Yes, we all have a horror story from long ago - just let me know who's collective pot/kettle to punish today for it.

From my research, it seems to me, regardless the conditions after the Civil War, most people went about living their lives, regardless what corrupt politicians were doing or more important, perhaps in spite of.

Like I said though, I wasn't going to blog on this because I found the NYT piece rather pointless fluff with the usual cliches to the abuses of slavery, phrases like every day rape, the little slave girl, no shortage of work on the big plantation, white slave owners lingering in the bloodline etc., "sentimental mush."

But then today I read Kimberley's piece over at BAR. The piece goes on and on about the "oppressed and despised group" who even when they rise to power are disrespected (although apparently BAR doesn't like Obama either); how the black condition in the 21st century is only investigated as an opportunity to "condemn and to blame black Americans as the source of any and all problems." Or: "To add further insult, Dolphus Shields’ life was rendered into nothing more than a simplistic “pull up by the bootstraps” story which usually does nothing more than let white people off the hook."

Ummm... in a bit of a diatribe are we? condemn/blame, the black condition in the 21st century. Hmmm, I see something ... I see ... some people are never gonna let white folk off the hook.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Faux Writers

A few days ago there was the article on "don't be a snitch." Right, let the thugs, slugs, dopers, thieves, vandals and worse take over your neighborhood because if you snitch you ain't cool. So I was wondering, according to some on the Left drugs are brought into the country by the wealthy, the government/CIA, so, since we the people cannot stop the rich CIA government kingpins and cartels, what if ALL the nickel and dime pushers stopped dealing dope, they're not getting rich and only going to jail anyway - would that help? Or would rich folks be on the corner selling the drugs they bring into the country? Would you snitch on the rich?

Then what greeted me yesterday? Barbara Ehrenreich's latest book, her 20th book I think, in Alternut: Brightsided: The Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America. Sample reviewers : " Ehrenreich at her provocative best—poking holes in conventional wisdom and faux science, and ending with a call for existential clarity and courage." "Ehrenreich shows, the refusal even to consider negative outcomes—like mortgage defaults—contributed directly to the current economic crisis."

Ehrenreich, with a PhD in biology, is one of those successful writing activists covering the usual topics of healthcare, women's issues, worker issues, social equality; marched with ACORN, passed out some leaflets, etc. A socialist who has written Dancing In The Street, which she describes as a scholarly work, on how the ruling class suppress our "festivities and ecstatic rituals."

Basically, we are inhibited and melancholic because elites suppressed our community bump and grind festivals.

With the help of SEIU (Service Employees International Union) she is founder and director of United Professionals. It must be a sign of achievement when one can found and direct a "nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization." (It could mean that success needs another tax shelter, but one could practice Naderism frugality or Gore-ism, where you donate most of your "scholarly" income to your own nonprofit organizations and businesses.)

Barbara produces the type of writing that on the surface appears to have merit, if you're a member of the shallow club. To members it will make sense, mean something, have a point. Actually, even on the surface it's nonsense; the writer has a catchy title for a trendy topic and writes a book, and the only point is the pointy head of anyone who can read meaning into the idea that "they" continue to oppress you and your rituals, that positive thinking has undermined America, that you have been baited and switched in your futile pursuit of the American dream (the dream is only greedy white capitalist folks anyway). Fortunately, no one would accuse activists of positive thinking.

Ehrenreich connects unhappiness and even the current economic crisis to the culture of self-help books, evangelical preachers, pop psychologists, and the ideology of "positive thinking." Hmmm, wouldn't evangelicals be practitioners of the ecstatic rituals she claims have been suppressed?

Her own political preachy psychobabble brand of activism, as many of her genre today, often begin a spiel with the economic effects on black folks, and as white activists usually do, insert vague hints of rightwing white boys with sheets ready to blame the Negro.

Have you noticed, since the Civil Rights era, when richer-than-you white radicals/bourgeois need a really dumb audience they appeal to black folk fears? I mean ... it's almost as if blacks have to remain downtrodden so's disgruntled white activists have a poster boy of oppression when they need one.

Although writers/activists of Ehrenreich's sort pontificate on how our lives are totally controlled by the wealthy elite, because the elite own everything - politics, the media, finance, business - for some inexplicable reason these wealthy owners allow the oppressed classes to have icons, icons who explain how the system continually exploits them. Left leaning writer activists and their publishers of course would never exploit their followers ... oh wait a minute, is that positive thinking? ... no Bubba, I believe that's an ecstatic ritual all the way to the bank...

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Good Hair

Tuesday, October 06, 2009


Some folks believe the "Community Reinvestment Act", or the perversion of said act, helped create the mortgage/lending/housing/banking crisis - others say the CRA had nothing to do with it. As always, just depends on if you lean right or left as to who you want to blame.

Although the big boys, Bank of America, JP Morgan, Meridian, etc. received "outstanding" ratings for their participation with the CRA - they claim they had nothing to do with making loans to high risk customers. No sirreeee. And the activist superheroes who push the CRA also had nothing to do with any crisis either - they seek only to do good for the huddled masses.

Community redevelopment is a noble profession, and it pays well, skims well. What exactly does community reinvestment mean, have you seen such a thing in your neighborhood? Shouldn't America by now be filled with shiny renewed communities after 3 decades of reinvesting billions in them?

Here's what I have witnessed in our 'hood. The city rulers, all white with the one educated black man, receive funds from the feds, sometimes trickled funds from the state who received them from the feds and trickles them to the county who trickles them to the town level, sometimes "grants" via feds, state, county, town trickles - or any order thereof, there's so much trickling and tickling and granting and agencies and acts - it's headachey trying to keep track of who is doing who.

Anyhoo, the city fathers partner with a black community nonprofit nongovernmental group to set up office to help low-income blacks attain the American Dream here in Pofunk Heights. There was no such community black group so the city council with the one educated black man scour the 'hood to find a couple or three who can open an office - name it with something that includes "Institute" in the title. The word 'institute' can sound high-minded as in Carnegie Institute, or crazy as in the County Institute for the Criminally Insane.

Part of the community reinvestment monies will go into office space, equipment, overhead, and salaries for a Director, a secretary, etc., for the Institute, hired from the more stable members of the minority community who aren't busy, i.e. don't have a life. A board of directors will be found - 6 of them, 2 old scammers from the 'hood, 2 educated black women who live on the white side of town, and 2 guys who I swear were dragged in from the corner craps game.

The local "Institute" is/was run by Mr. R., a married Vietnam vet receiving a lifetime PTSD disability check while also working full time and retiring from the local utility plant with pension; he's also a part-time preacher with his hand in the collection plate and his pants on the bedpost of the deacon's wife. He hired his daughter Nina as secretary. She never questioned the Institute's credit card bills with his charges for a Harley motorcycle and 6 laptops. They were gonna do good deeds - put black folk in their own homes. Pat their own backs, what's a little harmless cycle on the side ... hehehehe jokes Mr. R. fat belly heaving, puffing on a cigar.

Mr. R. and Nina. Between the 2 of them they embezzled close to a million. Hehehehe. Mr. R. built a new home, not on the minority side of town, but over with the white folks - and now drives a new Hummer and his wife a new Explorer. He also now owns 3 rental properties on the minority side of town. Yes, community reinvestment worked well for Mr. R. Not so well for Nina - she bought lots of clothes and took trips but when the Institute began to go broke and rumors of an audit circulated, she left town. Mr. R. washed his hands of the situation - he didn't do nuttin' wrong, ain't gonna blame him for this mess.

But I digress. Next - buy the 20 unit abandoned housing project on the minority side of town - it's structurally sound, brick. Refurbish and resell to minority or low income homeowner wannabees.

Hire contractors - all local white boys because the two black contractors are not licensed or really competent; they have made a good income working for the local slum lords (black and white slum lords here) - you don't have to know what you're doing to fix things for slumlords. The city and the bank holding the funds of course get their percentage in administrative fees, permits, etc. etc. Who owned the abandoned projects? Well, the bank, and who are members of the banking community here - yep, the city council (except the one black man). And who were the project managers, you get the idea.

The "Institute" opens the door and holds "credit classes." Sifting through the wrecked credit history of every black man, woman, and child over 18 in the 'hood. Pickings are slim, very slim. Most potential home buyers are female as most grown black men are in prison, on parole, out on bail, still living with mama, or terminally unemployed.

Many of the women are disqualified as they're too old raising too many grandbabies and have transient family members who occasionally need a place to flop - the homes will only have 2-3 bedrooms and the city will be enforcing zoning laws about how many can live in a single family dwelling - the city won't really enforce anything because we have a lady down the street in a 2 bedroom house with a dozen or more people running in and out - but the city will initially pretend it's going to abide by the law - besides, just put down on paper it's you and a couple of others, and the rest can move in when you do.

Damn hard to find young working minority couples here, and those stable minority couples with jobs are not going to live in that section of homes on that side of town.

Damn hard to find low-income minorities here who even want to own a home. I mean, the self-appointed do-good "left and progressive" benefactors have been telling you for decades that the American Dream is nothing more than greedy white folks capitalist b.s. ... now they want you to buy a piece of the b.s. in one of their programs?

Okay, so the "Institute" and city fathers will put single working mom in these homes (and her new boyfriend). Just have to counsel them on cleaning up the credit scores. Pay off those old phone bills, heating bills, low-limit credit card bills, etc. And after those are settled, pay off or deal with the really old ones that mama made when you were 10 and put her phone and utility bills in your name.

So now we are down to maybe a dozen who could eventually qualify for a home loan - and that's stretching and bending the qualifications to fit just about anyone who can show up at the closing to sign. After all, these homes will sell for maybe $20k and with the new and lax rules of no down payment, low credit scores, and limited work history and enough fudge - voile, the community will have reinvested in the American Dream. Jaqueeta and Shaniqua are homeowners. As are born-again "Track" and the couple from out of town who are unaware of what they've bought into. The "Institute" even managed to slide in a couple of grandmothers and their gang of descendants.

Although a home in the new named "Pine Oak" section is valued at a mere $20k I'm certain when the trickling and activism at every level is accounted for - each one is a million dollar home.

Oops, forgot to tell the homeowners there's such a thing as regular home maintenance, general repairs, yard work, new landscape rules to live by (dead washing machines and parked cars in the yard are not allowed). Insurance, taxes, 'fraid so. And when the city wants to pave the alley, do you know who has to pay your portion? Yep, cough it up.

Guess what!

For sale - must see, refurbished project suitable for single family dwellings, priced to sell. Great income investment opportunity. Won't last. Contact First Frivolous Bank or R.U. Insane Community Institute.

Friday, October 02, 2009


Rising Above Politics, Joe Bageant.

"Sure, they may kick a lot of Republicans asses out of office next election. Big friggin deal! For my people, the same feudalist deal is on the table as ever: work hard, kill when you are told to, trust your betters, and everything will be all right. Plenty of highly politicized leftists and their meeker kin, the last hopeful Democrats, came up as hard as anyone I've described here. The Democratic Party definitely doesn't want them showing up like bikers at a cocktail party and talking real populism. Because there ain't no big money campaign contributions behind populism.

Look at it this way: Black America suffered lynchings, police dogs and fire bombings just to shit on the same toilet seats as white Americans like you and me, and ultimately waste their lives in front of computer monitors next to us on the same electronic plantation of the gulag global economy swallowing America and the rest of the world.

And so, still I ask (and who am I to ask anything?): Are there any progressives or leftists willing to come out here into the hinterlands and offer the first step. True populist hope? Spell it out in "see-spot-run" language? Talk about our bad teeth and why our elderly parents are rotting in pisshole nursing homes owned by ex-car dealers and attended by imported Asian physicians who barely speak English? Or the dynamics of hopelessness that drive the meth epidemic out here?

It will take an entire lifetime of commitment amid a crumbling world. And it will continue to crumble around us even as we work. There will be not one ounce of glory or acknowledgement or public reward. But it lies there before us, the first fearful and questioning stone on the pathway to the liberation of mankind.

True populist politics could give us a quarter turn in the right direction. Genuine socialism could put us on the approximate path to justice. Eco-politics cannot save us from the inevitable, but at lest it can teach us to deal with our limitations as a species upon this earth. But one begins the journey at the start of the path, not the promised land at its end."

---- I used to like Joe's catchy rants. Now they seem predictable and rehashed. In large part the populist/socialist "movement" fails for the simple fact that its representatives are bullshitters pushing a heart-warming tale about the "liberation of mankind." They can't save their own teeth or tend to aging parents - but they can start you on the path to the promised land.

I can remember when "liberal" was the thing to be - now it's "populist" - the club which typifies the common man. Populists can pander as well as any pol - all they need do is denounce the status quo and make generous promises - like all pols, a populist claims to believe in the virtue and wisdom of the common man, especially those common enough to qualify as candidates for Springer-type talk shows.

Number one problem for - populist progressive liberal left - is they are always looking for a gimmick, and always using the same gimmick as everyone else - to break the "feudalist deal" the Democrats and Republicans stick you with, promise.

Joe uses the "true populist politics" phrase - that's the catch isn't it? Proponents of anything always use "true." In its "true form" true capitalism, true socialism, true communism, yadayada. What a wonderful world it will be as soon as we get that "true" ism.

Let's look at some "see-spot-run" language.

Bad teeth? Meth does that. So does sugar, liquor, lazy lack of routine brushing, maybe a cleaning at the clinic now and then, a lifetime commitment to our own health, you think? My grandparents rarely if ever saw a dentist - yet they had their own teeth for 80 years. What they didn't have was access to junk, they brushed with baking soda on their fingers; floss was a broom straw. I see kids today as young as 4 with rotting baby teeth, sucking on a soft drink with a bag of chips. And that is the fault of ... ? Capitalism? Hopelessness?

Look at those elderly parents in "pisshole nursing homes." Why is that? No one wants to bother with mom or dad? Have these unfortunate nursing home clients simply been labored to death by the economic gulag? Today is the disposable generation - accustomed to shrugging off any inconvenience; throw-away parents, throw-away kids, throw away teeth...

My dad was a hopeful man regardless of circumstances; hope for me, hope for my brother. He worked in the field all his life, drank a 6 pack of beer once a year listening to the World Series on the radio - he considered it a luxury, an indulgence. He drove a tractor until he was 79 - left the field one day, mentioned some chest pain and died, his mind still sharp, his body a little stooped and slow. When I was 16 I nursed my mom for months, dying of cancer. A nursing home never occurred to us, or the neighbors who sometimes helped.

Yes yes, I know, one of the excuses today is that people have to work and have no time or skills to care for aging/ill parents. Yea, as if we didn't have to work "in the old days", back then we were all born with time and money and the skills to nurse our dying loved ones.

Imported Asian physicians who barely speak English? Yep. But I speak to Americans who have been here in the 'hood for 400 years and can't understand half of what they mutter. Knom'whu'mm'sain'?

Dynamics of hopelessness driving meth epidemic? Which came first, the meth or the guvmint check? Does anyone see the correlation between the "welfare" state and the drug epidemic?

Hopelessness - having no expectations of good, of success. Who are you expecting to give you and your children hope - yourself or the government? What makes you believe anyone or the government should move the stones on your path?

Yep Bubba, populists will be wise and virtuous, handing out hope and success - probably in a voucher.

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