A bit of Russian search for talent.
Saturday, December 01, 2012
Monday, November 05, 2012
Sunday, November 04, 2012
Well it is now time to announce the highly unsought Lost Continents Presidential Endorsement however before doing so let us take time to ruminate on the words of an undisputed expert on flawed, opaque, fraudulent elections, Vladimir "The Magician", Churov:
"The U.S. presidential election is not direct, not universal and not equal, and it does not safeguard the secrecy of voting," Churov, who heads Russia's Central Election Commission, wrote in the government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta's online edition. "The electoral system and electoral laws in the United States are far from perfect. They are contradictory, archaic and do not correspond to the democratic principles the United States has declared as the basis of its foreign and domestic politics." He cited a long list of shortcomings such as U.S. methods for registering and identifying voters, vote monitoring which he said was inefficient and mechanisms for casting ballots which he described as questionable."
Having put the election in its proper perspective, choice of who to vote for is not an easy one. President Obama is clearly a representative of the Oligarchic Kleptocracy who has no interest in due process, supports extra judicial assassinations, has deported more undocumented people than George Bush ever thought about, and made whistle-blowing a high crime just for starters.
His opponent from the other half of the duopoly if anything is even worse on these matters with the added attraction of belonging to the Mormon Church which is the equivalent of the Alawites of Islam, a secretive paranoid group whose most visible representative is Bashar Assad of Syria. The other major turn off is the undisguised racism of the followers of the Republican party who are demographically doomed.
There is of course the option of the multiple third party candidates of whom Jill Stein of the Green Party is probably the leading example. I agree with about everything the Greens stand for however their lack of actual governing experience is unnerving and they lack a certain sociopathic viciousness which seems to be necessary to succeed in American political life. If Citizens United is ever overturned there may be a future for Dr. Stein and her party. In the meantime they need to battle it out in city councils and state legislatures. Besides being from Wisconsin I am sick of lost causes.
So in my final analysis my vote is based on a calculus of suffering and who is likely to inflict the least. It may be a nebulous approach but if you are someone who isn't killed, denied healthcare, or imprisoned it is a big difference. Obama has gotten my nauseated, jaundiced stamp of approval.
Sunday, October 28, 2012
The horrible electoral auction is mercifully drawing to an end. The outcome however may be worse than the actual contest. The so-called debates were notable for the lack of content regarding a future discussion of European financial collapse, climate change, the so-called Mexican Drug Wars, and immigrant rights. May I quote Liu Xiaobo :
"For too long we've leaned upon the bayonet's lies, shamelessness, selfisheness, weaknesses, so that we've wholly lost both memory and time-life numbed, unceasingly and interminable, from zero begins to zero it ends: what qualifications can we claim for our mighty nation? None with the least merit."
Saturday, October 06, 2012
After watching the so-called debate this past Wednesday the word that stuck with me was pathetic. The candidates seemed to go out of their way to show how similar each was to the other in an appeal to the nebulous "center" of American politics. They are essentially interchangeable cogs of the duopoly of power. Chris Hedges in his usual fashion lays it out.
Sunday, September 30, 2012
Sunday, September 23, 2012
I spent part of the afternoon today in Janesville WI visiting with some folks from Freeport IL who are having their jobs outsourced to China courtesy of Bain Capital. The gathering took place at the now defunct GM plant which is quite literally the smoldering crater of what was Janesville's once vibrant economy. It was a spirted if somewhat short rally which ended when the police "suggested" we move along...nothing to see here..The Downward Spiral has the gruesome details of the Romney induced calamity and is well worth reading.
Saturday, September 22, 2012
Saturday, September 15, 2012
The 11th annual Fighting BobFest was held in Madison Wisconsin at the Alliant Energy Center. The speakers that I saw included Jim Hightower, Gwen Moore, Juan Cole, Phil Donahue, Mike Papantonio, Norman Solomon, and Greg Palast. Also caught part of the breakout with Bill McKibben. All and all a very revitalizing experience made even better by talking with fellow attendees and realizing the interconnectedness of seemingly unrelated struggles. A common theme was the angst of what to make of President Obama. I think Jim Hightower expressed it best when he described re-electing Obama as trying to carry a sack of concrete over the finish line. A note about the venue; I realize Baraboo was off the beaten track for some but it had a certain agrarian-populist charm. The Coliseum (Alliant Energy Center) has a much weirder vibe which comes in part having an essentially anti-corporate gathering in a corporate owned public place. Enjoy The Raging Grannies and the Solidarity Singers, two musical-cultural institutions who sustained us throughout the Wisconsin Uprising.
Sunday, September 02, 2012
Sunday, August 26, 2012
The Guardian reports on the shooting near the Empire State Building in NYC:
"A laid-off clothing designer killed his former manager before being shot dead by police in New York on Friday after a workplace dispute escalated into a shootout near the Empire State Building. At least nine people were wounded during the attack, in one of the most crowded areas of Manhattan. Some of those injured may have been shot by police as they shot at the gunman, who pointed his handgun at them but is understood not to have fired. The shooting led to panic in the tourist-heavy streets around the Empire State Building, with fears that another mass shooting was under way. However, it became clear that it was not a random attack when police revealed that the victim had been targeted... Police named the suspect as Jeffrey Johnson, a 58-year-old who had been employed for six years as a designer of women's accessories at Hazan Imports, a business that operates from premises in midtown near the Empire State Building. New York police commissioner Raymond Kelly said during a press conference that he was laid off as part of a downsizing at the firm. Kelly described the gunman as a "disgruntled former employee" who came back to confront his former manager. "He shot and killed the former co-worker, striking him three times," Kelly said."Furthermore:
"Questions have been raised over the New York police department's handling of a shooting near the Empire State Building after armed officers injured nine passers-by as they pursued a gunman who had just shot dead his former boss. One of those injured by police told the Guardian that officers appeared to fire "randomly" as they confronted Jeffrey Johnson, 58, minutes after a workplace dispute escalated into a chaotic shootout in one of the busiest parts of Manhattan. Reports suggest that while Johnson drew his gun when he was confronted by officers, he did not fire; all those injured appear to have been shot by police."Oh well what can you say? Thank God it was just some guy who killed his boss and not a deranged mass murderer. Or it was a mass shooting but since the mass shooting was done by the police we can all breath easier. This is so fucked up on so many levels it strains the mind to realize this was a "normal shooting incident". As in a "normal shooting incident" in Iraq or Afghanistan for example.
The Beverly Killbillies capture the general mood:
Saturday, August 18, 2012
The above clip from Grani-TV.ru illustrates the strong feelings evoked in Russia by the Pussy Riot case. Counterpunch published closing statements from two of the defendants: Yekatrina Samusevich
"Our sudden musical appearance in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior with the song “Mother of God, Drive Putin Out” violated the integrity of this media image, generated and maintained by the authorities for so long, and revealed its falsity. In our performance we dared, without the Patriarch’s blessing, to combine the visual image of Orthodox culture and protest culture, suggesting to smart people that Orthodox culture belongs not only to the Russian Orthodox Church, the Patriarch and Putin, that it might also take the side of civic rebellion and protest in Russia. Perhaps such an unpleasant large-scale effect from our media intrusion into the cathedral was a surprise to the authorities themselves. First they tried to present our performance as the prank of heartless militant atheists. But they made a huge blunder, since by this time we were already known as an anti-Putin feminist punk band that carried out their media raids on the country’s major political symbols. In the end, considering all the irreversible political and symbolic losses caused by our innocent creativity, the authorities decided to protect the public from us and our nonconformist thinking. Thus ended our complicated punk adventure in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior."and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova
"We are grateful to all those who, free themselves, speak out in our support. There are a vast number, I know. I know that a huge number of Orthodox people are standing up for us. They are praying for us outside the courtroom, for the members of Pussy Riot who are incarcerated. We’ve seen the little booklets Orthodox people are handing out with prayers for those in prison. This shows that there isn’t a unified social group of Orthodox believers as the prosecution is endeavouring to say. No such thing exists. More and more believers are starting to defend Pussy Riot. They don’t think what we did deserves even five months in detention, much less the three years in prison the prosecutor would like. And every day, more and more people realize that if this political system has ganged up to this extent against three girls for a 30-second performance in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, it means the system is afraid of the truth and afraid of our sincerity and directness. We haven’t dissembled, not for a second, not for a minute during this trial, but the other side is dissembling too much and people can sense it. People can sense the truth. Truth really does have some kind of ontological, existential superiority over lies and this is written in the Bible, in the Old Testament in particular. In the end, the ways of truth always triumph over the ways of wickedness, guile and lies. And with each day that passes, the ways of truth are more and more triumphant even though we are still behind bars and are likely to be here a lot longer yet."While one can respect the risk these women have taken I would ask those in the West who embrace their cause where they stand on the case of Bradley Manning who faces life in prison or Julian Assange who potentially faces death for basically acting as an investigative journalist. These cases raise similar issues involving free speech and freedom of information that challenge the notion of freedom and justice in both societies.
Friday, August 10, 2012
Saturday, July 07, 2012
Thursday, July 05, 2012
Sunday, June 24, 2012
The National Snow and Ice Data Center weighs in with another dubious milestone in the oncoming onslaught of climate change:
"After a period of rapid ice loss through the first half of June, sea ice extent is now slightly below 2010 levels, the previous record low at this time of year. Sea level pressure patterns have been favorable for the retreat of sea ice for much of the past month."
"The main contributors to the unusually rapid ice loss to this point in June are the disappearance of most of the winter sea ice in the Bering Sea, rapid ice loss in the Barents and Kara Seas, and early development of open water areas in the Beaufort and Laptev Seas north of Alaska and Siberia. Recent ice loss rates have been 100,000 to 150,000 square kilometers (38,600 to 57,900 square miles) per day, which is more than double the climatological rate."
David Roberts puts the implications of what this might mean in the greater scheme of things which is that we are basically toast or toasted as the case may be..
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
If you are of a progressive state of mind and live in what is truly Fitzwalkerstan the past week has been one of unhappy ruminations. I guess I can't say I was totally surprised but hope springs eternal even though there were warning signs, such as the plethora of giant Walker and Fitzgerald signs in the rural areas where I live and which I heard later land owners were paid to put up. There are some with more pithier views which deserve repeating and thinking about: From Mark Vorpahl from Counterpunch:"The main reason behind the recall’s defeat is political. It wasn’t enough to recall Walker. Someone from the Democratic Party had to be elected to replace him. The Madison uprising had started as a movement that put forward its own demands, rather than whittle away at them in order to make them more palatable for the Democratic politicians. While some union officials talked about concessions in the spirit of “shared sacrifice,” this attitude was not reflected in the great numbers filling and surrounding Madison’s Capitol. Therefore, the shift from mass collective action to an electoral campaign accelerated the movement’s degeneration from an inspiring expression of independent working class fight-back to an example corporate co-optation by the Democratic Party. The Democrats and Barrett The Wall Street funded Democratic and Republican parties do not fundamentally differ in their aim to fix the deficit by making workers pay for it rather than the 1%, whose bailouts, federal loans, and tax breaks have increased as the deficit has grown. The Democrats are no more capable of countering austerity than the Republicans because that would require that they bite the hand that feeds them – the corporations, banks, and economic elite. In fact, they are aggressively pursuing policies that will greatly exacerbate the historic divide between the rich and working people. For instance, the bi-partisan supported and Obama designed Simpson/Bowles measure, that will likely go into effect shortly after the presidential election, will slash hundreds of billions from Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security while providing the rich with even more tax breaks. In addition, the recall election in Wisconsin demonstrated an even further distancing between the Democrats and the interests of Labor and working people in general. The Democratic National Committee was largely missing in action for most of the campaign. Not only did Obama fail to do anything to support the recall other than write a supportive tweet, he bypassed a trip to Wisconsin in order to speak at an event on June 3rd with Honeywell CEO Dave Cote in Minneapolis. (1) Honeywell is currently attempting to bust unions in three different labor disputes. Obama and the Democratic Party could not have made their priorities more clear with this slight. They value standing shoulder to shoulder with an anti-Labor CEO than with the unions. The Democratic candidate that ran against Walker, Tom Barrett, is a typical corporate party man. That is, he is no legitimate friend of the unions and workers. As mayor in Milwaukee he attempted to take over the city’s public school district, angering the cities African-American community. (2) He is also a supporter of charter schools and has said this is an area where he can work together with Walker. (3) During the uprising, he proposed an alternative budget to Walkers that extended its cuts to benefits and pensions to police and fire fighters as well, in opposition to the aspirations of those protesting at the Capitol. (4)",
Jeffrey Sommers, also in CounterPunch, gives another penetrating analysis:"On this note the Kinks inform us again from 40 years ago:Ultimately, however, the bottom line is that Walker was able to capitalize on the very crisis and long-term economic decline Republicans helped engineer over the past thirty years–with no small help from the Democrats. UCLA’s Robert Brenner described how the Republicans managed to jujitsu the crisis of the 1970s to the GOP’s advantage by turning people’s economic distress over declining living standards to electoral victory. The key was to shift the public’s concerns over the private economy and move them onto government. Ensuring that wage increases match levels of economic growth in the economy is difficult. It requires organizing and unions. In the US only a minority of workers have ever been unionized. This made it difficult to address stagnant wages during the 1970’s crisis, but still possible with union efforts. The GOP innovation was to provide an easier route to fattening one’s wallet: tax cuts. This was first achieved in 1978 through Proposition 13 in California that slashed property taxes, thus providing short-term relief to taxpayers. While people could not control their wages (at least not easily) they could determine their level of taxation, and thus their take home pay. The long run cost of this delusion was the destruction of the state’s educational and transportation infrastructure. Before Proposition 13 California’s schools were ranked number one in the US. They are now typically ranked in the bottom 10% and California’s finances are a mess. Reagan successfully campaigned, and rode to victory on this model in 1980. Scott Walker has privately declared he takes his inspiration from Reagan. Walker asserted in his now notorious Koch call that Reagan’s strike against the PATCO union workers early in his presidency was his defining moment in office and history. Walker emphasized that this was vital not only to reign in labor, but also to demonstrate to the Soviets that Reagan was no pushover. In Walker’s view curbing labor and displaying his resolve (others say intransigence) are the keys to understanding his agenda and his unwillingness to back off. If Walker survives the John Doe investigation he might be under, he will simply roll over the compromise inclined Democrats and advance his program at any cost. And, he has the financial means to do it. Yet, Walker, while committed and smart, is hardly deep. His understanding of economics, history, and politics are thin. While he takes at face value the narrative of tax cuts as the key to Reagan’s success, he fails to recognize that Reagan gave up on the cost cutting enterprise as hopeless within two years of assuming office. Indeed, Reagan’s early austerity policies further depressed the economy. Thus, Reagan “corrected” and launched a massive military Keynesian debt-fueled binge that pulled the economy from its torpor. Meanwhile, given the US success in 1970s of getting oil priced in dollars, Reagan was able to press the pedal to the floor on both government spending and the dollar printing presses alike. As Dick Cheney infamously noted, “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.” For Scott Walker, however, “the Gipper” was an austerity icon. Walker is in for a rude shock when he discovers his austerity policies will only exacerbate recessionary conditions. With no Central Bank at his disposal to create dollars, he will be forced to either admit his error (not his strong suit) or launch even further divisive attacks to, in the fashion of the 1930’s USSR, that define and then hit out at “wreckers” responsible for undermining his policy. Further, in the fashion of Mao, he will launch an attack against educators as “elites” parasitically feeding off the people. Meanwhile, just as Reagan’s Director of the Office of Budget and Management, David Stockman, noted early on that it was “feeding time at the trough” for Reagan’s backers at the public trough. That too will continue under Walker’s billionaire, special interest funded Governorship. Walker’s hardcore followers, however, are zealots. They are aggressive in the extreme and will turn hard on all enemies when their ideology is exposed as a failure for not producing broad-based prosperity. Whatever motivates Walker, it is clear his hardcore supporters represent a kind of aggressive freikorps that one would find in the backrooms with Joseph McCarthy or Richard Nixon. What makes Walker dangerous is that at minimum he is comfortable in both attracting and using these elements, while he himself appears to many as a decent and reasonable person who much of the public would not imagine Walker associating with. That said one has to understand Wisconsin in order to further appreciate the broader appeal of Walker’s message. Ironically, under the long Reagan Revolution that Walker has displayed fealty too, Wisconsin disproportionately suffered. For example, its urban workers had wages were 29% over the national average before Reagan took office. Presently, they are under the national average by roughly similar percentages. The Paul Volcker shock Reagan continued to kill inflation and made many of Wisconsin’s industrial exports uncompetitive as the dollar rose. Globalization and NAFTA then buried many of the remaining survivors. For this minister’s son from Wisconsin, however, these reasons are ignored for explaining Wisconsin’s economic decline. Walker instead defaults to the Reagan faith. The crisis is a consequence of government regulation and taxation: provide relief from both and the confidence fairy will return to Wisconsin. Walker’s comic-book narrative is much easier to grasp than any serious economic analysis. Moreover, Walker is an effective salesman for it. He has carefully cultivated his image for years, presenting himself as the plucky working-class kid made good that still carries a brown-bag lunch to work. It’s a throw back to Frank Capra central casting, and the image works for a public generally desiring an honest politician they can identify with. Much of the suburban and rural population has bought into it. Rather than a tool of billionaires, Walker is perceived as the people’s hero that has enlisted the “job creators” (billionaires) to take on the special interests in the public sector. Thus, merely exposing Walker as on the hook to billionaires will not enlighten them to who he really represents. Walker’s constituency desperately needs a hero. Who are they? Overwhelmingly, they were the white working classes with no college education. By and large they have lost these benefits. They may have not seen raises in years. The public sector is an inviting target for them. It’s one of the few places where the working and middle class still receive decent benefits (medical, retirement, etc.). This makes them suspect to a population that has largely lost these. Yet, rather than ask why they too no longer enjoy these, instead, Walker’s supporters want to know why the people in their employ (the public sector) still have them? Walker’s supporters largely assume that “we are broke.” They fail to recognize that the US economy is larger than it has ever been, but that wages have not risen with economic growth since Reagan. Everyone must tighten his or her belts. Moreover, the public sector has disproportionately people of color, thus playing on the racial divide.
Saturday, June 09, 2012
Wednesday, June 06, 2012
In what experts are calling the largest catastrophe of its kind, the failure of a hog waste containment lagoon has drowned 53% of the the population of Wisconsin in pig shit. The failure at the Koch Brothers Swine Factory and Nuclear Facility located in Waukesha county occurred without warning even though activists had suggested the site was a ticking time bomb. While Dane county and 9 others were largely unscathed the remainder of the state has been inundated in pig waste. According to the Borowitz Report Canada is bracing for an influx of refugees:
"The Canadian coast guard was on alert today, preparing for what it fears could be a massive invasion of boat people from Wisconsin. Conor McGlindon, commander of the Royal Canadian Mounted Coast Guard (RCMCG), said that satellite photos had revealed a “substantial flotilla” in the making, as Wisconsinites prepared to flee their state for their neighbor to the North. “Word has gotten around that we have policemen, firemen, and basic school lunches up here,” Mr. McGlindon said. “You can’t blame these boat people for seeking a better life. But we are under orders to intercept them....Mr. McGlindon offered reporters a look at satellite photos showing the boat people larding their vessels with wheels of premium cheddar cheese, possibly in the hopes of bribing Canadian officials on Superior’s northern shore. “We are telling all of our men that under no circumstances should they accept offerings of cheese,” he said. ”These boat people are desperate and they will try anything.” Reports of the looming refugee crisis coincided with the release of a new poll showing that Gov. Scott Walker is now the most hated man in Wisconsin, narrowly edging Brett Favre. Speaking at the state capitol, Gov. Walker seemed philosophical about his legacy: “I’m not worried how history will remember me, because if I have my way there won’t be any history teachers.”
Saturday, June 02, 2012
Salon highlights some of what has developed:
The two-year-old corruption investigation into Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker reached a major inflection point just days before his recall election next week when it came out that Walker had transferred $100,000 of campaign money to his legal defense fund and seemed to acknowledge that he is the center of the probe.... The probe reportedly started with a single staffer who had worked for Walker when he was Milwaukee’s county executive, but it has since grown much larger, touching almost everyone who has worked for Walker, and even the governor himself, and producing several arrests and convictions. Documents made public last night show prosecutors requested the secret investigation after they found Walker’s office “unable or unwilling” to provide information. “It may be the county executive’s office is reluctant to provide information to investigators due to a fear of political embarrassment,” an assistant DA wrote to a judge in May 2010. Walker has maintained that he has cooperated with prosecutors all along, so the document casts doubt on his story of the proceedings. Asked about the stonewalling last night, he essentially called the report untrue.The whole subject of Walker's criminal defense fund itself raises many, at this point unanswered questions.
Walker, thus far, has maintained that he is not the target of the investigation. But under Wisconsin law, politicians can only use their legal defense funds for themselves or their staffs, and Walker said this week that none of the money from the fund would go to his staff, suggesting it would be used only to defend himself. Democrats seized on the comment as an admission from Walker that he is personally a target. Walker had already contributed $60,000 to the fund — which comes from campaign donors whom he refuses to name — before this week’s transfer, bringing his total legal war chest to $160,000. He claims the money is being used to help turn over documents to investigators, but some experts point out this amount of money suggests a more sophisticated legal defense representing hundreds of hours of attorney work. There are also email records suggesting that Walker was personally involved in trying to stem the bleeding when the first allegations came out.One of the most disconcerting aspects of the recall has been the the obscene amounts of money involved in what is a demonstration case of what post-Citizens United politics are going to look like. Watchdog.org gives an accounting of the fund raising in what is arguably the most expensive political undertaking in Wisconsin history:
Walker, in the fight of his political life, raised $5.9 million along between April 24 and May 21, according to finance disclosures posted at the Government Accountability Board website. He has raised around $31 million since he took the oath of office in early January 2011. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Walker’s Democrat challenger in next week’s unprecedented gubernatorial recall election, took in $3.4 million more than the most recent five-week reporting period, and has raised $4.2 million since jumping into the race in late March. Walker’s totals to date are record-setting by every measure, with the governor far outpacing his previous campaign finance high-water mark of $11 million-plus in 2010. Critics have knocked Walker for his legal ability under Wisconsin recall law to raise unlimited campaign funds through the first stage of the recall campaign. But Walker in recent week still has dwarfed his challenger in the money chase.I close with the Kinks:
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
I live in senate district 13 in SE Wisconsin where Lori Compas is waging a heroic struggle to unseat one of the more despicable accomplices of Scott Walker, Scott Fitzgerald. Mr Fitzgerald distinguished himself by essentially throwing legislative protocol out the the window in ramming Act 10 through the legislature thus precipitating our current sad state of affairs. As the Duke of Wellington described the battle of Waterloo, this looks to be a close run thing, but no one can deny that the hearts of her supporters are in it even if the DNC isn't.
Tuesday, May 01, 2012
An excellent song from a great artist. Here in Wisconsin we gird ourselves for the conflict which may define our lives for the foreseeable future.
Saturday, April 28, 2012
A rally to draw attention to the GOP's outrageous policies towards women in particular and people in general was held at the state capitol in Madison on Saturday. Sponsored by United Wisconsin it featured an impressive group of speakers including Mark Pocan, Sarah Finger, Kathy Utley, and John Nichols. They addressed a diverse, very focused crowd of approximately 2,000 on a cold damp day. In other words the equivalent to a gigantic Tea Party event that would normally warrant a couple of pages of coverage in the Wisconsin State Journal or Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Also present were Kathleen Falk and Arthur Kohl-Riggs, a thoughtful young man running in the Republican primary against the Gubernator.
Sunday, April 22, 2012
Saturday, April 21, 2012
The figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, shown above, paint a bleak picture of job loss in Walker's Wisconsin. While the Recall obviously has garnered national attention, the economic reality of Walker's policies of rewarding the oligarchs while imposing harsh austerity on workers and the middle class has caught national attention as well. The San Francisco Chronicle made the following observation:
"Scott Walker, the Republican governor facing a recall vote in Wisconsin, traveled over the Illinois line to argue that the tax increase backed by his Democratic counterpart Pat Quinn is killing jobs even as the Midwest rebounds from recession. "Is it any wonder because of choices that were made right here in the state's capital?" Walker, 44, said in an April 17 speech in Springfield. "When you raise taxes on businesses, that wealth and opportunity and those jobs more often than not go somewhere else." A broader snapshot tells a different tale. Illinois ranked third while Wisconsin placed 42nd in the most recent Bloomberg Economic Evaluation of States index, which includes personal income, tax revenue and employment. Illinois gained 32,000 jobs in the 12 months ending in February, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found. Wisconsin, where Walker promised to create 250,000 jobs with the help of business-tax breaks, lost 16,900."
In the meantime the state lost 4,500 jobs in the month of March of which 4300 were in the private sector. Blogging Blue gives a good synopsis of the facts. It is amazing that the Republicans tout Walker's policies as some sort of model in the face of ongoing failure. However acknowledging, let alone dealing with, reality has never been their strong suit.
Sunday, April 15, 2012
After a brief hiatus from the blogosphere, during which the Republican Carnival came and went leaving Rick Santorum twitching in the dust and a Planned Parenthood Clinic attacked by a
right wing wackorepresentative of the Republican base, I return to reflect on the biggest political event in a generation, the recall election. When the recall was conceived during the heady days of the Wisconsin Uprising over a year ago it was a noble dream with no details. Since then gazillions of dollars of corporate money are now faced off against a genuine grassroots effort to a large degree run by newly politicized people of all walks of life. Regardless of the outcome political life in Wisconsin will never be the same for either party. The Democrats have come up with a slate of four candidates which in many ways mirror the strengths and weaknesses of the party in general. There are two time proven losers,Tom Barrett and Kathleen Falk, who could be accurately described as centrists and close to the party centers of power. They have organization and experience in their favor and are widely seen as the most likely contenders. To the left of them would be Kathleen Vineout who lacks name recognition but has gained notice in progressive circles and has a compelling personal history. Not to be left out is Doug La Follette who has a familiar Wisconsin name and is running on civility and maturity. With all due respect he is not seen as a strong contender. The Republicans have Scott Walker, the most polarizing figure in Wisconsin politics since Joe McCarthy and beneficiary of Citizens United's unregulated corporate largess. He taps into a base made up of social conservatives, wannabe corporate oligarchs, and the genuinely rich and powerful. Fear is a big factor in the lives of his non billionaire supporters whether its creeping Socialism, the perceived threat of unionism, or general social breakdown and uncertainty. It's not clear how committed the actual Republican voters are given that Walker's agenda was a sort of bait and switch scheme and may have alienated some of the middle class base.
The consequences of this election could see either party rendered irrelevant for years to come. For the Democrats a loss, especially if Barrett or Falk are involved, would call into question the logic of appealing to centrist values when the outcome is due to perceived lack of passion for progressive values.Negotiating with a group of take no prisoners Republicans is a no win proposition as America's national stalemate abundantly illustrates.
For the Republicans a defeat could symbolize the awakening of the majority of the populace to the fact they have no interest in the greater good and the concept of shared sacrifice. Another likely outcome may be the death of so-called bipartisanship which for anyone who has been paying attention has been DOA for years. Hold onto your hats, Armageddon in Wisconsin is coming.
Monday, March 26, 2012
Russian punk group Pussy Riot recently invaded Christ the Savior cathedral in Moscow to take on both the church and state. The Russian Orthodox church has resumed its traditional role as a reinforcement of the the status quo much as in Tsarist times. Russians are regularly subjected on holidays to the sight of politicians attempting to appear as pious as possible which no doubt is a major effort. Eurasia Review provides more details:
March 7, 2012 President-elect Vladimir Putin described on Wednesday a protest at Moscow’s largest cathedral by all-female punk group Pussy Riot as “unpleasant for all believers,” but made no mention of possible lengthy jail sentences faced by two alleged band members. “If the girls disturbed the peace of the cathedral, then this is unpleasant for all believers,” he said. “I hope it will not be repeated.” Putin demonstrated a very “negative” reaction when told about Pussy Riot’s performance of what they called a “punk prayer” on the altar of the downtown Christ the Savior Cathedral on February 21, his spokesman said earlier in the day. “We don’t know anything about the content of the song,” Dmitry Peskov told the independent Dozhd (Rain) TV channel. “We do know, however, of course about this disgusting incident.” Despite his past as a KGB officer in the officially atheist Soviet Union, Putin presents himself as pious believer and is often shown in state media at church services. Four members of the group, clad in bright balaclavas, bowed and crossed themselves as they sang an acapella version of a song entitled “Holy Sh*t” at the cathedral. The lyrics included lines such as “Holy Mother, Blessed Virgin, chase Putin out!” The group said the act was a protest against public support for Putin by the powerful Orthodox Church’s head, Patriarch Kirill, who took up residence in the Kremlin last year. Pussy Riot first hit the headlines in January, when they raced through a musical diatribe against Putin on a snowy Red Square, calling for “Revolt in Russia!” and chanting “Putin’s got scared” before being detained by police. Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were detained on March 4 as Russians voted in presidential polls that handed Putin a third term after a four-year hiatus. The cathedral performance came amid ongoing anti-Putin protests in Moscow and other cities. The two women were remanded in custody on Monday until April 24 and could face up to seven years behind bars on hooliganism charges. Both deny their involvement and are on hunger strike to protest the decision to refuse them bail. Alekhina has a five-year-old son and Tolokonnikova a four-year-old daughter. Guelman went on to accuse the patriarch of “provoking” the performance in the cathedral with his “very active participation in the recent polls.” He also suggested that Putin had been helped greatly by the Church during his election campaign and had “decided to answer in kind.” Patriarch Kirill praised Putin as Russia’s “savior” during a televised meeting during the election campaign, and also advised believers to stay at home and “pray” instead of going on anti-government rallies. “We don’t have any direct evidence that Putin or Patriarch Kirill ordered the opening of the case,” Alekhina and Tolokonnikova’s lawyer, Nikolai Polozov, told RIA Novosti. “But it’s obvious some levers were pulled.” Polozov added that the case against his clients was opened with unusual haste after the initial complaint. “It took a few hours, when the process usually takes a couple of weeks – or even a month.” He also said he could not rule out that his clients could be jailed for seven years, citing the case of opposition activist Taisiya Osipova, the diabetic mother of a five-year-old girl, who was handed a ten-year sentence on drug charges late last year. Osipova’s sentence was annulled in mid-February after President Dmitry Medvedev intervened. She remains behind bars while a new investigation is carried out. “But even a couple of months would be absolutely too much for what they did,” said Polozov. A number of religious figures have urged leniency for Alekhina and Tolokonnikova, including senior Church official Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin. “It’s wonderful that the police have been serious about their investigation into this crime,” he said on Wednesday. “But leniency should be shown…there is no need to jail them.” He called however for a “serious” punishment for the accused for “insulting the feelings of believers.” Russian blogger and opposition figurehead Alexei Navalny also called for Alekhina and Tolokonnikova to be freed. “Their actions in the Christ the Savior Cathedral were idiotic and there is nothing to argue about here,” he wrote in his Live Journal blog. “But are their crimes so dangerous for society that the woman should be kept behind bars? The answer is obvious – no.” Russia’s increasingly politicized Internet community has come out against the jailing of the women, with over 3,000 people having singed an online petition urging the patriarch to “petition the court to close the case.”
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Saturday, March 24, 2012
Little is said of the increasing police violence against #ows and people of color in the U.S.....until now
Sunday, March 18, 2012
Russblogger sends this video of the St. Patrick's Day parade on Starry Arbat, Moscow attended by 7,000 people.
As Wisconsin prepares for the recall struggle with Walker and now three State senators it is sobering to understand what stands in the way. While to most progressives it's obvious that Walker and his fellow corporate supported colleagues are proxies for the oligarchic kleptocracy, it's necessary to understand that the corporate media fog machine has succeeded in converting a considerable portion of the population into fact impervious zombies.Corporate money pours in to keep the low information, social conservative part of the populace in a permanent state of delirium with issues such as Obama's citizenship and religion, gay marriage, abortion, and of course, guns. With this in mind here is a cheery article on the subject of The(Psycho)Pathology of The American Voter from Dissident Voice:
What is going on in this country? Have the citizens of the U.S. gone totally mad? The U.S. Congress has an approval rating of less than 10%. Greedy, unprincipled billionaires own virtually all of the wealth of the nation, and pay a lower percentage for taxes than the poorest worker. We imprison a greater percent of our population than any nation on earth. We spend more on vicious, unwarranted wars than the 15 top military spending countries combined. We are the greatest purveyor of murder and destruction internationally than anyone else. Our public school system is under attack, and becoming obsolete. A college degree has become so expensive as to be unavailable to middle class families. The safety net for the old and infirm is being torn asunder. Our immigration policies are so degrading and inhumane that there is a mass exodus from the U.S. by peoples who used to flock here. Health care is a national disgrace, and is fast becoming unaffordable to any person in need of hospitalization. Homeland Security looks more like the German Gestapo every day. The list of failures and problems facing the country is unparalleled, and the public knows it. Everything from cartoons to serious news shows bemoan the catastrophic decline in this country’s standard of living, and recognize the incompetence and inhumanity of those in power. This is so, even though the public media is little more than a propaganda tool for the oligarchy. What is the most astonishing fact, though, is that there are no candidates or possibilities for new leadership on the horizon anywhere! Obama is the best of the pack of wolves and thieves who are actively destroying this nation. 95% of those in Congress who are running for re-election are are certain to retain their status. How in the world is that possible? Any rational person would expect the electorate to throw these pandering, posturing politicians out on their keesters, and elect a set of representatives who would radically change the picture. But instead, we are about to re-affirm the failed, dying programs that have transformed this country into a violent, disrespected second-rate nation. What a contradiction in logic and reality! What kind of national pathology is causing the electorate to allow the oligarchy to engage in this unadulterated rush to destroy everything of value in this country? Like lemmings, rushing into the sea to commit suicide, the voters will once again endorse the same fools who have immobilized Congress for decades, will do nothing to control a run-away Pentagon, and its maniacal weapons manufacturers, and will accept Wall Street’s unregulated destruction of our wealth and resources. There is simply no rational explanation for the inability of the American people to find alternatives to the elected gangsters who bow to every billionaire that comes before them. It is apparent that the voting public in the U.S. feels so disenfranchised from the process that it has for all intents left the spoils to the thieves. By abandoning any process by which there can be meaningful change in the policies of this government, the people have accepted the fact that there are no meaningful differences between the Democrats and the Republicans. The wars will continue, the repression will expand, the rich will get richer, and the rest of us are on our own.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
While Americans hear much about the Keystone pipeline little is seen in the American media regarding the ongoing controversy in Canada regarding the many concerns about the tar sands. The British Columbian paper The Tyee had an interesting series, the salient points bear repeating:From TPM: Rick Perry in Iowa: “Every barrel of oil that comes out of those sands in Canada is a barrel of oil that we don’t have to buy from a foreign source.”"Canada has joined the ranks of exporting oil nations and now supplies more petroleum to the United States than Mexico or Saudi Arabia. The unconventional character of mined bitumen as well as the startling revenue it generates for government coffers has irrevocably changed the country. Five per cent of the nation's GDP comes from oil while bitumen makes up 25 per cent of the nation's exports.... "Since 1996 the global oil industry has invested nearly $200 billion in bitumen mines, upgraders, pipelines and steam plants. Seven of the world's largest companies (ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, Sinopec, Petro China, Total and Chevron) now propose to invest another $180-billion on the resource over the next two decades to boost production from 1.6 million barrels a day to more than 3 million barrels. By 2030 industry will have dug a 40-metre hole in the boreal forest the size of Rhode Island. It has already created lakes of mining waste (170 square kilometres) great enough to flood Washington, D.C. or downtown Vancouver. Moreover, the world's longest and therefore least secure pipelines are all connected to the project. Everything about the project gives a new meaning to the word big. "In 2011 the government of Alberta released a startling infrastructure plan for the world's largest energy project. It forecasts that oil sands production will grow from 1.6 million barrels a day to 6 million by 2035. At the same time the population of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo could more than double and grow to 240,000 people. "Yet this rapid expansion poses more risks than benefits for Canada. For starters, the U.S. demand for oil is in steep decline due to the global recession and rising domestic production from North Dakota's unconventional oil fields. That leaves Communist China as a core market for expanding bitumen supplies. Yet renewable energy reforms combined with slowing growth in its industrial megacities could also lesson demand for imported oil. Moreover oil remains the world's most volatile commodity. The Deutsche Bank has predicted that oil price volatility alone could diminish demand for petroleum as a transportation fuel and cripple high cost projects such as the oil sands as early as 2015. "A damning 2011 report by a Montreal investment group, MRB, concluded that the nation has crossed a critical threshold: "A severe case of Dutch Disease has dramatically reduced the breadth of the Canadian business sector over the past decade, hollowing out manufactured goods exporters and making the nation increasingly reliant on commodity demand. Canada has often been referred to in jest as the 51st state, due to its historical reliance on the U.S. as a key export market. However, it is becoming more accurate to regard Canada as another Province of China." "Just about every oil sands developer claims that they can clean up messy bitumen production and its large carbon and water footprint with better technology. "Technology is the key to further progress," says the American Petroleum Institute in its oil sands propaganda. But this technology doesn't exist yet. Although the energy industry may be dependent on technology for making fossil fuels, it doesn't invest much in innovation. According to Forbes, big energy companies are fat and lazy creatures that devote barely 0.3 per cent of their sales to research and development (R&D). Many have even axed their R&D departments. In contrast, the pharmaceutical industry spends 19 per cent of its sales on research. The auto industry follows closely behind. But not the oil patch. In fact, Canadian energy firms devote no more than 0.2 to 0.7 per cent of sales to research.Americans in the meantime are told these tar sands in Canada will free the country from "foreign oil dependency" which should give even Canadian conservatives pause.
They already own the place in their own minds.
Saturday, March 10, 2012
A crowd estimated at 60,000 plus assembled at the state capitol in Madison Wisconsin to commemorate Governor's attack on the working class one year ago and also flex some political muscle. Speakers included the president of the state AFL-CIO as well as other union officials and political luminaries including Lori Compas, whose campaign to unseat Scott Fitzgerald has taken on additional importance in the effort to realign and reform the state's political landscape. A rousing speech was given by John Nichols who never fails to impress with his historical perspective and oratorical skills. As the union president noted, "We're back!" Hopefully we never leave.
Sunday, March 04, 2012
This is a great piece about the Wisconsin Uprising from a Canadian perspective. While by and large Canada has a rather robust labor movement compared to the U.S. they are rightly concerned that events in Wisconsin will be used as a laboratory for union busting world wide. It would be a huge leap forward if people not only in North America could break through their self imposed nationalist bubbles to cooperate for the betterment of all. One unintended side effect of globalization is the realization that boundaries between workers in the so-called developed world and non developed world are artificial constructs.
While I subscribe to the notion that the American political system on the national level has irretrievably devolved into the hands of the Oligarchic Kleptocracy, local and state politics may still offer some, if the only, hope for recovery of a democratic process. Every branch of government in the state of Wisconsin, executive, legislative, and judicial is effectively in the hands of corporate monied interests. Their representatives, of which Scott Fitzgerald is a prime example, function to further the interests of those who believe the entire state including its citizenry are commodities to be exploited. Their record thus far includes trampling the rights of workers both in the public and private sectors, destroying public education, diminishing legal redress for nursing home residents, and promoting voter suppression and gerrymandering. Their idea of improving the quality of life in the state includes allowing tens of thousands of people to carry concealed firearms and permitting the sale of alcohol starting at at 6:00AM. A review of Scott Fitzgerald's financial support between 2007 and 2009 available at the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign shows that 81% of Big Money donations came from outside the district. With the advent of Citizens United and the recall movement this is likely even worse now. If you live in Senate District 13 now is the time to support Lori Compas.
Friday, March 02, 2012
Thursday, March 01, 2012
Rosatom-owned company accused of selling shoddy equipment to reactors at home and abroad, pocketing profits
"Russian Federal Prosecutors have accused a company owned by the country’s nuclear energy corporation, Rosatom, with massive corruption and manufacturing substandard equipment for nuclear reactors under construction both at home and abroad. Charles Digges, 28/02-2012 The ZiO-Podolsk machine building plant’s procurement director, Sergei Shutov, has been arrested for buying low quality raw materials on the cheap and pocketing the difference as the result of an investigation by the Federal Security Service, or FSB, the successor organization to the KGB. It is not clear how many reactors have been impacted by the alleged crime, but reactors built by Russia in India, Bulgaria, Iran, China as well as several reactor construction and repair projects in Russia itself may have been affected by cheap equipment, given the time frame of works completed at the stations and the scope of the investigation as it has been revealed by authorities. “The scope of this scandal could reach every reactor in Russian and every reactor built by Russia over the past several years and demands immediate investigation,” said Bellona President Frederic Hauge. “Were is the political leadership in the Russian government to deal with such a crime?" Hauge expressed outrage that an alleged crime of such a massive scale was not leading to immediate action to check each reactor that may have been affected by the profit pocketing scheme, and he was frustrated that the FSB and prosecutors were not naming specific reactors that may be involved. “As long as the Russian government is not investigating this case correctly, we will have to ask international society to do it,” he said. “Bellona will be taking further action in this case.” Vladimir Slivyak, co chair of Russia’s Ecodefense agreed. “Stopping and conducting full-scale checks of reactors where equipment from ZiO-Podolsk has been installed is absolutely necessary,” said Slivyak. “Otherwise [there is] the risk of a serious accident at a nuclear power plant with cleanup bills stretching into the tens and even hundreds of millions of dollars [that] will have to be footed by taxpayers.” The criminal case was opened against ZiO-Poldolsk in December, but information about the investigation was released in the Russia media via the official Rosbalt agency only last week – a common circumstance in FSB-associated investigations. The charges leveled against ZiO-Podolsk, which is Russia’s only manufacturer of steam generators for nuclear plants built by Rosatom domestically and by its international reactor construction subsidiary Atomstroiproyekt are a staggering blow to Rosatom’s credibility. ZiO-Podolsk is a subsidiary organization of Atomenergomash, founded in 2006. Atomenergomash was acquired by Atomenergoprom, which is 100-percent state-owned, in 2007. Atomenergoprom is a part of Rosatom. But the paperwork is rather a technicality for a machine works that has been involved with the nuclear industry since its inception. Founded in 1919, ZiO-Podolsk produced the boiler for the first electricity-producing nuclear reactor at Obninsk in 1952, and has produced the boilers for every Russian reactor built ever since. A shudder in the environmental community According to prosecutors, ZiO-Podolsk began shipping shoddy equipment in 2007 or perhaps even earlier. This has implications for the safety of nuclear power plants built by, or that bought equipment from, Rosatom in Bulgaria, China, India and Iran – as well as Russia – striking a chord of outrage and distress among environmental groups. ZiO-Podolsk is also making critical parts for the reactor pressure vessel and other main equipment for the BN-800 fast reactor at Beloyarsk Nuclear Power Plant, in Russia’s Sverdlovsk Region in the Urals, a source told Bellona on the condition of anonymity. The machine works giant is also making steam generators for Russia’s Novovoronezh, Kalinin, and Leningrad Nuclear Power Plants, and Belene in Bulgaria, according to the London-based World Nuclear Association. The case assembled against ZiO-Podolsk involves embezzlement of state funding intended for purchases of raw material that are compatible with contemporary safety standards for nuclear reactors, Rosbalt reported. The FSB investigation According to the FSB investigation – which was described in unusual detail by the news wire – procurement director Shutov allegedly purchased low-grade steel for equipment in collusion with ZiO-Podolsk’s supplier AТОМ-Industriya. That company’s general director, Dmitry Golubev, is currently at large after embezzlement charges were filed against him by the same Moscow court that ordered Shutov’s arrest, Rosbalt quoted FSB sources as saying. The scheme between Shutov and Golubev allegedly involved Shutov turning a blind eye to inferior quality steel in return for a large portion of the profits reaped by ATOM-Industriya, the FSB told Rosbalt, citing transactions that were accounted for in bookkeeping documents the security service said it confiscated from the financial director of ATOM-Industriya. “This company purchased cheap steel in Ukraine and then passed it off as [a] more expensive [grade]; the revenues were shared by the scam’s organizers,” an FSB source was quoted by Rosbalt as saying. FSB agents said that ATOM-Industriya produced some 100 million roubles’ (€2.5 million) worth of pipe sheets, reactor pit bottoms, and reservoirs for ZiO-Podolsk – equipment that was delivered to Russian and foreign reactors – including an order of so-called tube plates for high-pressure heaters at Bulgaria’s Kozloduy NPP. High-pressure heaters, while having no relation to the safe operation of reactors, are used to improve efficiency of power output."
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Saturday, February 25, 2012
"In an event that has led to several confusing reports in Russian media, an explosion of a non-radioactive substance occurred at the All Russian Scientific Research Institute of Experimental Physics – known by its acronym VNIIEF) in the closed nuclear city of Sarov, reportedly injuring two – or one – depending on the news source. Charles Digges, 23/02-2012 According to an anonymous source at VNIIEF’s safety center, “the explosion posed no risk to the population of the town,” which has a population of 92,000. The source also said that agents from Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, the successor organization to the KGB, were conducting investigations at the site. Sarov, a tightly guarded nuclear city off limits to foreigners located in the Nizhny Novgorod region, was founded in 1946 as Arzamas-16 – home to Russia’s first atomic and hydrogen bombs. It is a massive complex belonging to Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom, which includes several complexes devoted to theoretical physics, nuclear physics, laser development, high energy physics as well as a construction division. The explosion there, according to a reading of several leading Russian news sources, was either nuclear or non-nuclear. And where some sources reported that the incident occurred yesterday, other sources made no reference to when the accident occurred, while yet another pinned the accident down as occurring on February 20. The explosion also occurred during experimental work and two people or one person received minors skin injuries that were treated onsite. The work was, according to various sources, sanctioned or unsanctioned. “If the official Russian media were trying to calm us down after initial reports appeared early afternoon yesterday,” said Vladimir Slivyak, co-chair of the environmental group Ecodefense, “they didn’t do a very good job – why were there so many conflicting details?” All sources do agree that the blast occurred after 2 grams of a non-radioactive substance exploded, but no one has yet reported what that substance was, or what caused it to ingnite. Nuclear explosion? In what was most certainly a shocking typo, Gazeta.ru, one of Russia’s most popular independent online publications reported that “[…] environmentalists demand that independent experts be allowed to the take radiation measurements of the nuclear explosion” (emphasis by author). Slivyak attributed that gaff in a telephone interview Thursday to the release by his organization sent to Gazata.ru, and the online newspaper’s splicing of official details obtained from the RIA Novosti news wire into Slivyak's release. Slivyak said that his organization’s press release on the incident contained a quote indicating that official information about accidents at Russian nuclear installations – most recently the fire aboard the Yekaterinburg nuclear submarine while in dry dock – were intentionally misleading. In that instance, the Defence Ministry reported that no nuclear missiles had been aboard the vessel during the 20-hour fire that engulfed it during repair works on December 29. In that instance, the Defence Ministry reported that no nuclear missiles had been aboard the vessel during the 20-hour fire that engulfed it during repair works on December 29. Yet on February 14, Russian deputy prime minister in charge of the defense industry, Dmitry Rogozin, indirectly confirmed weapons were on the submarine at the time of the blaze by telling reporters the incident “was a gross violation of existing regulations for the repairs of nuclear submarines specifically with armaments onboard.” Slivyak said in his release that, “even if an explosion affecting nuclear materials had occurred [at Sarov], the authorities and Rosatom would try to convince people that there was no danger.” “Gazeta.ru made a sort of funny mistake,” said Slivyak Thursday. He did, however, insist that independent obsevers be allowed access to the site to measure radiation levels. More contradictions Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear corporation, told RIA Novosti that an explosion had indeed occurred, but failed to mention when it had happened. “One person received insignificant skin injuries during planned experimental work as a result of an explosion of two grams of a nonradioactive substance,” said the Rosatom source. “The worker was treated immediately. [VNIIEF] continues normal operations.” That the work had been planned, however, was ripped to pieces by VNIIEP’s head engineer Gennady Komarov in a report released by ITAR-TASS, another state news agency, several hours after the RIA Novosti report. According to ITAR-TASS Komarov said the “unsanctioned explosion” occurred due to “non-observance” of workers conducting an experiment. ITAR-TASS, like RIA Novosti and the semi-official Lifenews.ru online newspaper all reported that VNIIEF was now operating under normal conditions, confirming the Rosatom spokesman. But ITAR-TASS reported that the incident had occurred on February 20, where Lifenews.ru said it had happened yesterday, February 22. The official RIA Novosti news agency, which initially carried the report of the explosion early afternoon yesterday, did not indicate when the explosion had taken place. Lifenews.ru also released the report, citing an anonymous source, that indicated two people, not one, were injured when the explosion took place. Nuclear news continues to mystify Such contradictions and, in some cases, outright lies, are not uncommon relative to Russian nuclear industry accidents, and the practice has been on bold display for the past two months, which have seen more than their share of accidents at nuclear sites. Initial reports emanating from Murmansk newspapers on the Yekaterinburg fire, for instance, indicated that as many as 19 people had been taken to the hospital with smoke inhalation. These reports were based largely on accounts on Facebook and its Russian cousin vKontakte by users who had relatives and friends working in the Severomorsk naval hospital, north of Arkangelsk, where the victims were brought. The Emergency Services Ministry fixed the number at nine injured – seven sailors and two Emergency Services fire fighters. But the Defense Ministry was far more ardent in pushing its story that no weapons had been aboard the sub, even though Bellona investigations revealed that the Yekaterinburg had been transferred from dry dock in Ruslyakovo to the Okolnaya base, which has fixed pier cranes specifically for unloading and loading nuclear missiles. Rogozin’s remarks on the presence of “armaments” aboard the vessel simply confirmed what reporters and NGOs had managed to elucidate weeks prior. Officials in charge of governing information about the Yekaterinburg fire were similarly vague about what, exactly, on the sub burned for 20 hours. Official information said it was the rubber outer hull. But photos released by a blogger and analyzed by Bellona revealed that the fire had been centered in the sub’s so-called hydro-acoustic chamber - a part of the bow's outer hull that houses navigational antennas that contain long burning oils and high pressure air tanks, which fanned the flames. In early February, a fire broke out at the Alikhanov Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Physics in southwestern Moscow. A similar cloud of misinformation and stonewalling smoldered on after the blaze. Officials said the fire broke out among cables surrounding a collider in the institute’s basement, and Rosatom and the institute led the chorus of denying any radiation dangers were present. But reports from official news agencies issued conflicting reports on whether the fire was indeed extinguished. Interfax cited a police source as saying fire brigades were denied access to the facility for “a long time” before being allowed in. State-run RIA reported earlier that that the fire had already been put out. The institute is home to the Soviet Union’s first heavy water reactor, designed in the late 1940s as part of dictator Josef Stalin’s program to develop nuclear arms, according to the institutes website. But Rosatom and other officials refused to comment on whether the decades-old structure contained any radiological material. The institute itself refused to answer telephone calls. Too old to not to burn Nils Bøhmer, Bellona’s nuclear physicist and general manager said this and similar situations underscored the decrepit condition of most of Russia’s nuclear industry. “This is the kind of thing that should not be happening,” said Bøhmer Sunday. “It just proves that Russia’s aging nuclear infrastructure is prone to fires.”Next stop is Idaho where The Idaho Statesman reports on an incident involving weapons grade plutonium which I had not heard about previously:
"The contamination of 16 workers at the Idaho National Laboratory’s Materials Fuels Complex in November shook the nuclear establishment in eastern Idaho to its core. It appears today that none of the workers are suffering immediate effects from the uncontrolled release of oxidized plutonium from a package of weapons-grade plutonium at the retired zero-power physics reactor. But the breakdown in basic safety measures the accident revealed hit the site like nothing seen since the early 1990s. Now the Department of Energy has released its accident investigation report and the soul-searching continues. The same questions are raised after two miners died in the Silver Valley last year. The Idaho Falls Post Register did an in-depth story on the report that showed the accident was preventable and that INL managers had numerous opportunities to avoid the conditions that led to the contamination. Management at the ZPPR had changed hands since the fuel was removed from the reactor and stored. The board was critical of the contractor, Battelle Energy Alliance, for weakness in the work planning and control process. Battelle didn’t recognize the hazards associated with the plutonium material, the report said: “None of the work planning addressed the radiological and engineered controls necessary for mitigating a potential release of airborne plutonium.”...When our own Kevin Richert reported in the early 1990s about all kinds of violations of safety standards at the INL’s Naval Reactors Facilities, based on leaked documents, many readers in that nuclear-dominated community were critical. They said we journalists were making a big thing out of nothing. But Richert, then a reporter for the Post Register, was leaked the documents because safety officials trained under legendary nuclear pioneer Admiral Hyman Rickover considered the violations the harbinger of worse accidents to come if changes weren’t made. What the industry didn’t like was seeing its dirty laundry aired in public."
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Saturday, February 18, 2012
The Valentines Day rally at the state capitol in Madison is a reminder of the events of the past year in Wisconsin. It also serves to illustrate the fact that the full impact has yet to play out as the state is now engaged in a profound struggle to define its future. In a nutshell it pits those who believe in the greatest good for the greatest number versus those interests which favor the unimpeded commoditization of every aspect of human existence for corporate benefit. It would be a mistake to characterize this soley as a Labor vs. Business struggle although that is obviously a large component, also involved are protection of the environment and natural resources, protection of immigrants and minorities from the tyranny of the majority, and respect for the constitutional concept of separation of church and state. One of the few things Scott Walker and those who control him understand are these wider implications hence the flood of obscene amounts of outside money and proliferation of false front organizations. Whatever comes of this it will never be life as usual in Wisconsin again.
Friday, February 17, 2012
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
A satirical Russian video depicting the arrest of Vladimir Putin for theft of state property. Even more satirical would be the executives of Goldman-Sachs, and various other American oligarchs in a similar satire (since we know this would never happen here).
The Guardian goes into greater detail:
"Russian officials said at the time that all nuclear weapons aboard the Yekaterinburg nuclear submarine had been unloaded well before a fire engulfed the 167-metre (550 feet) vessel and there had been no risk of a radiation leak. But the respected Vlast weekly magazine quoted several sources in the Russian navy as saying that throughout the fire on 29 December the submarine was carrying 16 R-29 intercontinental ballistic missiles, each armed with four nuclear warheads. "Russia, for a day, was on the brink of the biggest catastrophe since the time of Chernobyl," Vlast reported. The 1986 disaster in modern-day Ukraine is regarded as the world's worst nuclear accident..... The fire started when welding sparks ignited wooden scaffolding around the 18,200-tonne submarine at the Roslyakovo docks, 1,500 km (900 miles) north of Moscow and one of the main shipyards used by Russia's northern fleet. The rubber covering of the submarine then caught fire, sending flames and black smoke 10 metres (30 feet) above the stricken vessel. Firemen battled the blaze for a day and a night before partially sinking the submarine to douse the flames, according to media reports. Vlast reported that immediately after the fire the Yekaterinburg sailed to the navy's weapons store, an unusual trip for a damaged submarine supposedly carrying no weapons and casting doubt on assurances that it was not armed. "K-84 was in dock with rockets and torpedoes on board," the magazine said, adding that apart from the nuclear weapons the submarine was carrying torpedoes and mines as well as its two nuclear reactors."It's like nuclear powers are asking the world more often than than we might imagine or wish a'la Clint Eastwood, " Do you feel lucky?"
Sunday, February 12, 2012
Saturday, February 11, 2012
Tuesday, February 07, 2012
Saturday, February 04, 2012
Wisconsin State Journal the gubernator has hired a law firm known for high profile criminal cases and representing those facing grand jury investigations:
"In a statement issued through his campaign, Walker also announced that he had hired two high-powered criminal defense attorneys, Mike Steinle and John Gallo, but said he would use no public money to cover the costs.....Walker said his attorneys were hired to assemble additional background information and ensure he's "in the best position possible to continue aiding" the investigation. Steinle is a Milwaukee-based criminal defense attorney with the firm Terschan, Steinle & Ness. He has taken on recent high-profile cases, including one involving a Fox Point teen who killed his grandfather with an ax. Gallo is listed as a partner at Sidley Austin LLP in Chicago, and the firm's website says he specializes in representing criminal defendants and grand-jury targets."I particularly enjoyed this comment:
""I have already said that I would be happy to sit down with the people looking into these issues and answer any additional questions they may have," Walker said."I suspect "happy" is the least of the emotions going through Mr. Walker's mind these days.