politics

next teabagging target: climate change

TPMmuckraker reports on a leaked oil industry memo about a plan to stage astroturf rallies in opposition to climate change legislation:

The memo -- sent by the American Petroleum Institute and obtained by Greenpeace, which sent it to reporters -- urges oil companies to recruit their employees for events that will "put a human face on the impacts of unsound energy policy," and will urge senators to "avoid the mistakes embodied in the House climate bill."

API tells TPMmuckraker that the campaign is being funded by a coalition of corporate and conservative groups that includes the anti-health-care-reform group 60 Plus, FreedomWorks, and Grover Norquist's Americans For Tax Reform.

The memo, signed by API president Jack Gerard, asks recipients to give API "the name of one central coordinator for your company's involvement in the rallies."

And it warns: "Please treat this information as sensitive ... we don't want critics to know our game plan."

Seems we can look forward to the same sort of lies, manipulation, and manufactured outrage about climate change we're currently enjoying about health care. (I did see some teabaggers at the healthcare town hall I went to last week.)

Why An Anarchist Favors Government Health Care

(some notes toward a manifesto of sorts)

I've generally found myself in agreement with Thoreau:

"I heartily accept the motto, -- 'That government is best which governs least'; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe, -- 'That government is best which governs not at all'; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have."

and with Kerry Thornley's "Zenarchy":

"As a doctrine, it holds Universal Enlightenment a prerequisite to abolition of the State, after which the State will inevitably vanish. Or - that failing - nobody will give a damn."

Over the years, some of you have heard me rail against many things the government has done: war, drug policy, domestic surveillance, censorship, and so on. For example, way back in 1993, in a USENET discussion about drug policy I spoke of the feds as

"...the government that gave us the Dredd Scott decision, Prohibition, McCarthyism, MK-ULTRA mind-control experiments with LSD, the Bay of Pigs, the Vietnam police action, Watergate, Iran-Contra, the House banking and Post Office scandals, the Waco [assault], and 20-page MILSPECS for brownies..."

and a decade and a half later, I find nothing to disagree with in that statement.

(I Am Not Making This Up: the 2003 version of the military specification for brownies actually runs to 26 pages.)

So, how is it that I now find myself arguing in favor of that same government taking up a greater role in health care?

It is because, under current and foreseeable circumstances, the alternative is health care from the same sorts of massive corporations that brought us the Bhopal disaster, the Exxon Valdez debacle, the Merck fake medical journals, the Enron and Halliburton and KBR and Blackwater and Madoff and Goldman Sachs scandals.

A large corporation is an animal dedicated to its own preservation and growth; if actual goods and services are produced, that's just a fortunate by-product of its metabolic processes. And that's fine when we're dealing with ordinary consumer goods. But a health care system in which some people might occasionally receive care, if it doesn't affect the bottom line too much? Stacked against that, a government-regulated system (however subject to inefficiency and corruption and mistakes) that claims as its prime directive to provide care, starts to sound attractive.

Exxon vs. the EPA

ExxonMobil's 2008 profits, according to Fortune magazine: $40.6 billion dollars. That's profit, mind you, not total revenue; that was a bit under $373 billion.

2010 budget for the entire EPA: $10.5 billion.

I.e., if the EPA devoted itself entirely to policing this one oil company, ExxonMobil could outspend it three to one and still remain profitable.

Res ipsa loquitor.

Fox News nutcase: Americans "keep marrying other species and other ethnics"

How crazy are the folks at Fox News? Very.

Recently on Fox News' morning show, "Fox and Friends", the hosts were discussing research done in Finland and Sweden that suggests that people who stay married are less likely to suffer from Alzheimer's disease. I would suggest, off-hand, that this might be because people showing early signs of Alzheimer's are more likely to get a divorce or have one forced on them, but I haven't read the study.

Anyway, host Brian Kilmeade questioned the results, saying, "We are -- we keep marrying other species and other ethnics and other... See, the problem is the Swedes have pure genes. Because they marry other Swedes .... Finns marry other Finns, so they have a pure society."

California couple locked in a cage for selling naughty pictures

Just in case you thought you were caught up in the patriotic fervor around July 4th and thought you lived in a free country, this will bring you back to reality: Robert Zicari and his wife, Janet Romano, have been each sentenced to one year and one day in prison on federal charges of conspiracy to distribute "obscene" material through the mail and over the Internet.

Yes, the government of the land of the free and the home of the brave is so scared that somebody might look at dirty pictures, that they are forcing people into cages at gunpoint over the issue. As U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan said, "These prison sentences affirm the need to continue to protect the public from obscene, lewd, lascivious or filthy material, the production of which degrades all of us." I was quite worried that next time I went to the Royal Farms store the porn was going to jump off the shelf and attack me and leave me "degraded", but I feel safer now knowing that the federal government is going to protect me from filthy material.

Juxtaposing the fact that you can get locked up for selling naughty pictures with the fact that no one has been brought up on charges for the torture of detainees in Gitmo, is left as an exercise for the depressed reader.

Protest the war? DoD says you're a terrorist.

A recent Department of Defense anti-terrorism training document, asks readers to pick from a list of activities, "Which of the following is an example of low-level terrorism activity?" The possible answers: "Attacking the Pentagon", "IEDs", "Hate crimes against racial groups", and "Protests".

The "correct" answer, according to the DoD? Protests.

Yes, folks, according to the U.S. government, wars of aggression are fine, torture is fine, "preventative detention" is fine, but peaceably assembling to petition the government for a redress of your grievances about all this is terrorism.

The ACLU is on the case. Good reminder to send them a little donation.

a political parable

Once, there was a young man who wanted a sports car.

His parents objected. "Its engine is too powerful. It will make you a danger to others and to yourself."

But the young man was clever, and knew more than a little about cars. "Mother and father, you are correct that this car's powerful engine makes it a danger. Therefore, I promise to make that engine smaller!"

So his parents assented. They watched for days as the young man removed pieces from the engine, leaving a pile of metal in the garage. They were impressed when he showed that he had reduced the weight of the engine by a sizable amount. So they granted their blessing for him to reassemble the car and drive it.

The young man installed the shrunken engine back in the car, and promptly tore off at high speed, running down six pedestrians before wrapping his car around a telephone pole.

It turned out that his idea of making the engine "smaller" had been to remove every limiter, governor, and regulator, all to make it more powerful.

There's a sort of so-called "libertarian capitalist" or "anarcho-capitalist" political theory that you often hear that talks about "smaller government", or even about eliminating government all together.

But you'll note that they never talk about eliminating government-issued land deeds, or government-issued corporate charters, or government-issued copyrights and patents. They're quite happy to have government force around to evict tenants who fall behind on rent, or to quell unruly laborers. They are generally property-centric, and ignore the fact that, beyond the natural use of own's own home and tools and toys, property is a product of government.

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