Friday, December 24, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Strike You Haven't Heard About

Russia Today reports on the Georgia Prison strike which has passed largely unreported in American media. As noted 1 in 12 adults in Georgia are incarcerated or almost 8.5% of the population.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Picture of The Day

Maybe picture of the week. I would invite American readers to suggest who they would most like to see in a similar or worse situation.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Give Us Your Country Or We Will Shoot This Dog

This video by the DKs from the 1980s seems very appropriate as an American anthem. What with wikileaks and the backlash against the truth, the latest unemployment stats which lie as usual (graphic courtesy of Shadow Government Statistics), and of course the "we will shoot this dog" technique in American politics. The zombification of America is complete.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Report: US Nuke Weapons Drivers Got Drunk at Work

I was so shocked by this report I almost spilled my wine. From AOLNews (of all places):

"Federal agents driving convoys carrying America's nuclear weapons and other sensitive material sometimes got drunk on the job, and two agents were detained by police during an "incident" at a bar while on duty, according to an internal Energy Department report.

Another agent was arrested for alleged public drunkenness. Altogether, the department cited 16 alcohol-related infractions among nearly 600 workers at the Office of Secure Transportation between 2007 and 2009. "
"The agents are responsible for transporting -- usually by truck -- nuclear weapons, weapons components and other nuclear materials between laboratories and facilities around the United States. They undergo a 21-week program that's supposed to train them to be discreet, and how to defend the shipments from possible attacks or sabotage.

The report also cited problems with paperwork, including missing signatures on forms used to report violations of OST rules. The department also missed the one-year deadline to re-certify at least 17 of its agents, allowing them to continue working without required checks, it said.

The National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees the OST, issued a statement defending its agents and noting that the report did not find evidence that anyone was driving while intoxicated. Agents have safely transported nuclear materials more than 100 million miles without a deadly accident or release of radiation, it said.

"NNSA takes each of these cases very seriously and is working to evaluate the inspector general's report and make additional improvements to the program," NNSA spokesman Damien LaVera said in the statement, excerpted by The Washington Post.

The findings also alarmed some lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

"I was appalled to learn that some couriers responsible for transporting nuclear weapons and material were found to be drinking on the job," Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., who chairs the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, told The Associated Press. He said he would seek a full briefing from the inspector general.

"We cannot tolerate any behavior that falls short of the level of excellence required and expected when it comes to protecting and handling our nation's most powerful and dangerous weapons," he said."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Chalmers Johnson 1931-2010

I once loaned "Sorrows of Empire" to an acquaintance of mine who got almost all of his disinformation from FOX noise. He later returned the book, quite distraught, saying he couldn't read it. It was Chalmers Johnson who coined the apocryphal term "blowback" which now so aptly describes the consequences of American foreign policy. Chalmers Johnson was a great Asian scholar, historian, and CIA analyst. His contribution to knowledgeable discussion and thought will, no doubt, only continue to grow. Chalmers Johnson died November 20th. His colleague, Tom Engelhardt, has an obituary at

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Zippy 1995-2010

A very good dog.

The Oligarch- Tea Party Connection

A dynamite combination of Matt Taibbi and Elliot Spitzer delve into the tea party and the oligarchic kleptocracy which propels American life in its downward spiral.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Saturday, November 13, 2010

London Riot: Tory HQ smashed by British students

So much for the idea that the English are too docile to react when their own interests are threatened by the corporate state. Meanwhile in the Land of the Lemmings the Catfood Commission has released it's recommendations for the further pauperization of the American populace:

"The two deficit-hawk extremists President Obama put in charge of his fiscal commission released their personal suggestions for cutting the federal budget deficit on Wednesday. And while it's quite possible that not a one of them will make it into the commission's official recommendations, which require the approval of 14 of the 18 commissioners (not just two), the document will inevitably be welcomed as a "serious" contribution to the debate - at least by Republicans and conservative Democrats.

But taken as a whole, the plan authored by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson would have devastating effects on the government and its ability to help the most vulnerable in our society, and it would put the squeeze on the middle class, veterans, the elderly and the sick - all in the name of an abstract goal that ultimately only a bond-trader could love."

BTW Alan Simpson has spent a good part of his career flagellating the poor, while his partner in this bi-partisan war on people, Erskine Bowles, sits on the board of Morgan Stanley. Amazing brazen bullshit.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Wall of Voodoo - Back In Flesh (live)

Wall of Voodo, one of the greatest 1980s bands gives a performance reacting to the Reagan recession. Why go to work?

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Japan Trip Reprise

I'm not particularly familiar with Weezer but this evokes alot of recent memories.

The New Team-The American Lemmings

The bumper sticker for the New American Team. Their stats are a little dodgy as noted at Decline of Empire:

Thursday, November 04, 2010

A Break From the Depressing American Stuff: Ivan Kupala, "Kostroma"

Living in America will require things that can last decades or centuries to be meaningful, not every two year elections to simulate democracy.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Further Into The Abyss: America's Alternate Reality Election

When even policy wonks like Jeffrey Sachs start sounding alarmed you know there's reason to be scared this Halloween in America. It's quite likely that a contrived group of pissed off idiots organized by oligarchs will make serious in roads into the U.S. political establishment. The American system of government is incapable of meeting the needs of the majority of its citizens and is irretrievably broken and corrupt, the coup de gras being administered by a foul ruling of the Supreme Court which now condemns the the American populace to never-ending corporate serfdom.Driftglass shows the disturbed American demographic:

Inspite of this horrible shit it is more important than ever to vote. Voting in these circumstances is an act of resistance and defiance. Do it.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Groundhogs - Thank Christ For The Bomb 1970

Great UK band with a song with a certain moral ambiguity.

UK nuclear sub runs aground

As if my last post needed further emphasis. Truth be told "accidents" with nuclear weapon systems or their components are not that unusual. A threat to friend and foe alike.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Reports Cite British Nuclear Weapons Safety Issues

After a week I've finally adjusted to the Tokyo Madison time change and have stumbled across further evidence of the on going threat of nuke possession, this time in the U.K.:

"Years-old reports made public last week cite "poor" safety processes at the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston, which manufactures and maintains British nuclear warheads; potentially hazardous "crew fatigue" by personnel involved in the ground transport of nuclear weapons; and failure by commanders of the nation's nuclear-armed submarines to follow safety rules.

An August blaze at Aldermaston's high-explosives facility highlighted safety worries, according to the newspaper. It took firefighters nearly nine hours to quell the fire, records indicate (see GSN, Aug. 4).

A 2005 report identified eight "issues and regulatory risks." Defense Ministry nuclear arsenal regulator Andy Moore noted "slow progress in implementing the regulation framework for the nuclear weapons program."

He also addressed "inconsistent arrangements for managing transport activities," meaning that safety procedures for the transit of plutonium or other sensitive substances might "not meet departmental standards."

A mishap in a transport operation could result in radioactive tritium escaping from warheads, Moore stated. That could create a "potential impact on work force and public protection" (Rob Edwards, London Observer, Oct. 17).

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Japan Trip Winds Down

Sadly the time in Shinjuku is coming to an end. I must bid farewell to an amazing country as illustrated by the crack anti-smoking police seen above. More thoughts later.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bombspotting Strikes Again

This is a fairly amazing video from the intrepid folks at Bombspotting. As American power winds down we now find ourselves in a spot not unlike the post-Soviet Russians with insecure nuclear facilities that not even the military wants.If nothing else Bombspotting is doing a service demonstrating the amazing lack of security at these facilities.

Not Exactly Japanese but from NHK, Blaine Reninger and Tuxedomoon

Blaine Reninger exemplifies a musical aesthetic which even 30 years ago was to some degree Japanese in its sensibilities.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Okinawa: Imperialism By Any Other Name

I had the opportunity to meet with a group of Japanese protesting the continued U.S. occupation of Okinawa in front of Shinjuku Station in Tokyo the other day. This has been a huge issue of national sovereignty for the Japanese in general and the long suffering Okinawans in particular who have had to put up with a huge U.S. military presence there since the end of WW 2. Chalmers Johnson describes the dimensions of the American presence:

"Okinawa, Japan's most southerly prefecture and its poorest, has been the scene since 2001 of a particularly fierce confrontation between Washington, Tokyo, and Naha over the Japanese-American SOFA and its use by American authorities to shield military felons from the application of Japanese law. To many Japanese and virtually all Okinawans, the SOFA represents a rebirth of the "unequal treaties" that Western imperialists imposed on Japan after Commodore Perry's armed incursion in 1853. On November 15, 2003, in talks with Japanese officials in Tokyo, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said that he planned "to press anew for the Japanese government to relent on a long-standing U.S. demand for fuller legal protections for members of its military force accused of crimes while serving in Japan."4 Most American press accounts avoided details about what this enigmatic comment might mean, including whether the American defense secretary was equally concerned about legal protections for Japanese citizens forced to live in close proximity to American soldiers and their weapons and warplanes.

As of November 2003, the United States had stationed in Japan some 47,000 uniformed military personnel, not counting 14,000 sailors attached to the Seventh Fleet at its bases at Yokosuka (Kanagawa prefecture) and Sasebo (Nagasaki prefecture), some of whom are intermittently at sea. In addition there were 52,000 American dependents, 5,500 civilian employees of the Department of Defense, and 23,500 Japanese working for the U.S. forces in jobs ranging from maintaining golf-courses and waiting on tables in the numerous officers' clubs to translating Japanese newspapers for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).5 This large contingent was deployed at ninety-one bases on Japanese soil, of which thirty-eight are located in Okinawa, where they occupy some 23,700 hectares or 19 percent of the choicest territory of the main island. Okinawa is host to some 28,000 American troops plus an equal number of camp followers and Defense Department civilians. The largest contingent of U.S. forces in Okinawa consists of 17,600 Marines, followed by Air Force pilots and maintenance crews at the huge Kadena Air Force Base, the largest U.S. military base in East Asia. Even without these unwelcome guests, Okinawa is an overcrowded island with an indigenous population of 1.3 million in a land area smaller than Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands.

The Marines are spread out in huge forbidding enclaves from the headquarters of the 3rd Marine Division at Camp Foster (the 3rd Division is the only one of America's three Marine divisions located outside the continental United States) to Camp Hansen in Kin village, Camp Courtney in Gushikawa, Camp Schwab in Nago, and the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma located in the dead center of Okinawa's second largest city, Ginowan, where it takes up fully a quarter of the city's land area. All have been there since the battle of Okinawa in the spring and summer of 1945 or the height of the Cold War in the 1950s.

There is nothing particularly unusual about this manifestation of American military imperialism in Okinawa except for its concentration."

I informed the protesters that while many Americans were sympathetic the majority are so poorly informed as to the extent and nature of our "Empire of Bases" that just educating people is a huge challenge. The fact that the country is essentially broke and heading for international irrelevance may speed up the process. These guys can be contacted at the following:

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Hikikomori, Japan's Lost Generation

An estimated 1 million young Japanese men have closed the door to their room and have decided to stay there in the wake of a bubble collapse which began 20 years ago.Ryu Murakami delves into a social phenomenon which probably has implications for the United States as well:

"Hikikomori has become a major issue in Japan. Loosely translated as "social withdrawal, "hikikomori refers to the state of anomie into which an increasing number of young Japanese seem to fall these days. Socially withdrawn kids typically lock themselves in their bedrooms and refuse to have any contact with the outside world. They live in reverse: they sleep all day, wake up in the evening and stay up all night watching television or playing video games. Some own computers or mobile phones, but most have few or no friends. Their funk can last for months, even years in extreme cases. No official statistics are available, but it is estimated that more than 1 million young Japanese suffer from the affliction. One such young man was the protagonist of my latest novel, Symbiosis Worm."

Murakami goes onto attribute this to affluence however the loss of security in the Japanese middle class particularly as it relates to employment is an important component. Now in the U.S. it's quite likely there are several generations that will either return home or never leave. A real question may be can they ever be mobilized in a social or political way that can change the country for the better.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Peppermint Creeps - Turning Japanese

While I'd like to post the original Vapors version it seems to be unavailable. Meanwhile Ian and I will be turning Japanese in Shinjuku for the next week.Look for posts from the benign corporate feudal state.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

American Brain Drain

Russia Today presents an interesting report on a phenomenon not commented about in American media, namely the potential for out migration from this country. While the economic implosion is an obvious contributor other factors such as an anti-science bias on the part of the American lunatic right. Examples of this can be found in the area of stem-cell research for one. Another area is the refusal to invest in infrastructure such as high speed rail and education by taxaphobic elites and the befuddled American masses. The country is on the fast track to international irrelevance.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Milwaukee Fourth Poorest City in the U.S.

Milwaukee now has the dubious distinction of being the 4th most impoverished city in the United States and the Milwaukee Journal gives the grim statistics:

"Milwaukee emerged as America's fourth-most impoverished big city in 2009, as the Great Recession rippled across the city and state, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures released Tuesday.

Milwaukee's poverty rate reached 27%, up from 23.4% in the previous year. Only Detroit (36.4%), Cleveland (35%) and Buffalo (28.8%) had higher poverty rates among cities with populations greater than 250,000. Milwaukee was ranked 11th in 2008.

An estimated 158,245 Milwaukeeans lived in poverty last year. For a family of four with two adults and two children, the poverty threshold was an annual income of $21,954.

What's more, nearly 4 in 10 children in Milwaukee were considered poor, meaning an estimated 62,432 children lived in poverty last year, up from 49,952 in 2008."

The republicans with no sense of shame blame this on "anti-business" bias even though they controlled the state for the better part of the last 20 years. More telling is the institutionalized racism and union busting which have been facts of life in Wisconsin and have hit the largest metropolitan area of the state the hardest.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Saturday, September 25, 2010

America Sails On ....thru the Abyss

The average American is becoming accustomed to the whistling noise in their ears as they whirl merrily downward. The accumulating evidence of this free fall gathers at an increasing rate to the point where an attentive observer cannot be faulted for an ever growing sense of nausea. Here are a few examples from diverse sources:

The "Decline of Empire" documents the ever increasing rate of impoverishment in the U.S.:

"Although it is unclear how the numbers would turn out if we use a revised methodology that wasn't invented in 1955, and we include those held off the poverty rolls because they receive unemployment insurance, it appears that at least 50 million Americans live in poverty, which is about 1 in 6.

When we refer to the destruction of the Middle Class in America, those formerly classified as such do not just disappear, although I'm sure most of our political leaders wish they would. If we discount the approximately 17 people who moved from Middle to Upper Class status in 2009 Smiley_glasses , we are forced to conclude that the formerly Middle Class are now poor, although it is not clear if they are poor enough to be counted as impoverished by the Census bureau.

When Americans do find new jobs, they often find put that their old jobs paid much more than they're currently able to earn. And what will happen if the unemployment benefits run out?"

What will happen indeed? Meanwhile Americans remain essentially clueless as noted by the Smirking Chimp:

"As Election Day 2010 approaches – as the United States wallows in the swamps of war, recession and environmental degradation – the consequences of the nation’s three-decade-old decoupling from reality are becoming painfully obvious.

Yet, despite the danger, the nation can’t seem to move in a positive direction, as if the suctioning effect of endless spin, half-truths and lies holds the populace in place, a force that grows ever more powerful like quicksand sucking the country deeper into the muck – to waist deep, then neck deep.

Trapped in the mud, millions of Americans are complaining about their loss of economic status, their sense of powerlessness, their nation’s decline. But instead of examining how the country stumbled into this morass, many still choose not to face reality.

Instead of seeking paths to the firmer ground of a reality-based world, people from different parts of the political spectrum have decided to embrace unreality even more, either cynically as a way to delegitimize a political opponent or because they’ve simply become addicted to the crazy.

The latest manifestation of the wackiness can be found in the rise of the Tea Party, a movement of supposedly grassroots, mad-as-hell regular Americans that is subsidized by wealthy corporate donors (such as the billionaire Koch brothers) seeking to ensure deregulation of their industries and to consolidate their elite control over the political process.

The Tea Party madness is aided and abetted by a now fully formed right-wing media apparatus that can popularize any false narrative (like Islam planning to conquer Christian America as represented by the building of an Islamic community center near Ground Zero)."

America's totally dysfunctional political system only exacerbates the situation as noted by that curmudgeon of U.S. politics, Ralph Nader, who gives a succinct review of Republican Party stands:

" 1. They want to do nothing about unfair Chinese trade practices that lure jobs away from our country though huge factory subsidies, and where workers are repressed and counterfeit products abound. Imagine, Republicans coddling a communist regime, luring the auto parts, electronic, solar and drug ingredients industries away from America, often in violation of the World Trade Organization rules. And, in turn, China is exporting to the U.S. impure food, faulty tires, toxic drywall, lead-tainted toys and medicines which are contaminated, defective or harmful. Don’t forget the dumping violations.

2. Republicans, led by Senator Richard Shelby and his banking friends, declared their adamant opposition to Professor Elizabeth Warren becoming head of the new consumer financial regulation agency. (To avoid a confrontation with them, President Obama made her a special assistant to organize this consumer watchdog.) Ms. Warren has a solid record of exposing and communicating clearly to families the tricks and traps of credit card companies, mortgage firms, and intermediaries that have taken so many billions of consumer dollars with impunity.

3. The Republicans led by their House leader, John Boehner (Rep. Ohio), a total toady of the gouging student loan companies, opposed the Democrats successful reform of this taxpayer boondoggle that guaranteed obscene profits and had the taxpayers absorb any student defaults. Boehner’s lobbying should upset millions of parents who had to foot the bill for so many years.

4. The Republicans are opposed to raising the federal minimum wage to what it was, adjusted for inflation, in 1968!! They opposed an adequate budget for health and safety enforcement by OSHA to diminish the 58,000 American workers who die every year from workplace toxics and trauma. They are now blocking protections for coal miners pending in the Senate after the Massey mine disaster.

5. Republicans oppose doing anything about “too big to fail” even after Wall Street’s reckless, avaricious collapse of the economy, costing 8 million jobs and trillions of lost pension and mutual fund dollars.

Moreover, they do not support genuine enforcement of the anti-trust laws which are supposed to break up monopolization efforts, monopolies or oligopolies like Monsanto (seeds) or the big five banks—bailed out by taxpayers and secure in their domination of well over 50 percent of all bank assets, deposits and the credit card business. This is by far the highest concentration of financial power in modern U.S. history. With few exceptions, the GOP want very few federal cops on the corporate crime beat.

6. Fighting for the last billionaire and multimillionaire, Republicans are blocking ending Bush’s tax cuts on incomes beyond $250,000 per year. Yes, Republicans want to reduce the deficit yet they want to end revenues of over 700 billion dollar over ten years of restored super-rich taxes. They are blocking renewal of the estate taxes after their expiration on Dec. 31, 2009 left no taxes this year on the estates of the super-rich. (Over 99 percent of estates were already exempt from the federal estate tax.)

7. No matter that Republicans caved to the health insurance companies getting over 30 million new covered customers, starting in 2014, they supported the industry’s blaming the federal government, no less, for this month’s latest sharp hike in insurance premiums by Aetna and others largely on the policies of individuals and small business. The Republicans did this after blocking the “public option” that would have given consumers both a choice and the benefit of some competition to the big insurance firms.

8. Have the Congressional Republicans ever challenged the bloated, wasteful, contractor-corrupt military budget that makes up half of the entire government’s discretionary budget?

Even the Congress’s own auditing agency—the Government Accountability Office (GAO) declares the Pentagon budget unauditable. Many Pentagon audits document the abuses of Halliburton, KBR, Blackwater and other firms in the deficit-driving, bloody Iraq and Afghanistan wars (both Republican espoused.) The Pentagon’s burgeoning budget, now nearing $800 billion a year, is deemed untouchable. (A few Republicans, like Charles Grassley and John McCain sometimes object to contracting abuses.)

9. President Obama wants a counter-recessionary public works program renovating airports, bridges, highways, rail and mass transit, drinking water and sewage treatment facilities and other infrastructures. Republicans sneer at this local job creation for much needed facilities.

10. Unlike any Republican Party since its creation in 1854, it has misused the filibuster threat, and any one of its Senators misuse the rules and block even going to a floor discussion or a nomination vote. The Party is earning its moniker as the Party of NO. Republicans have turned the U.S. Senate into America’s graveyard."

One would think with such political fodder to work with the political opposition would have a field day however the Democratic party is a deeply conflicted organization which hopes to remain in power by focusing on the insanity of their opponents. This probably not much of a hope when one realizes that at any given time at least 10% if not more of the populace is certifiably nuts. Add in the now unleashed potential of corporate money as notes Alexander Cockburn:

'A huge new factor is the consequences of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last January in the Citizens United case. The Court ruled that corporations should encounter no impediment in sluicing money into elections via so-called “independent expenditures” theoretically bypassing direct contributions to a candidate. Already, at this point in the electoral season, Republican senate candidates have benefited from $23.3 million in these independent expenditures, while Democrats have only seen $3.3 million thrown their way."

and witness the end of functional democracy in the United States. Welcome to the Oligarchic Kleptocracy of the United States of America.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ivan Kupala "Pcheli 2"

Ivan Kupala combines aspects of traditional life with inimitable Russian techno.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Militarism and the End of America

Recently I was flying on a domestic U.S. airline and at the end of the flight the stewardess exhorted passengers to thank members of the armed forces for their service. While this might seem innocuous to most it was to me another example of creeping militarism that has been seeping into American life for the last nine years. With the recent economic collapse it becomes even more obvious that the military is the only option for an increasingly large number of Americans, especially the youth. The ugly reality is that for many the military is the only employment option. More to the point, for a nation which is increasingly financially, morally, and intellectually bankrupt, military force is the only thing in its favor. When the only tool we have is a hammer every problem is a nail.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Fighting Bob Fest 2010

A crowd of 6,500 to 7,000 gathered at Baraboo, WI on Saturday, September 11th, for the 9th Fighting Fest. By FOX News estimating protocols this would translate to about 500,000 people. The mood was serious and the speakers, as usual, both inspiring and informative. Pictured above are Jim Hightower, Jesse Jackson, and John Nichols. The general message was fight back, end the Afghan occupation, continue the struggle for single payer health care, and above all resist corporate fascism in American life. A particular item of interest the was despicable Citizens United Supreme Court decision which has essentially put the electoral process up for sale and the need to over turn this decision. Conspicuous by their absence was the mainstream media who normally would be all over the place if this was a Tea-Bagger event. C-SPAN however was present and I'm sure will roll some footage at 3:00AM some week night.

Friday, September 10, 2010

9 Lazy 9 - Black Jesus

I love the music, the video reminds one of a bygone era when Americans actually made stuff and had jobs.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Sea Ice Update

It appears that this years Arctic ice melt will be only 2nd to the record set in 2007 and continues a trend of decreasing sea ice for the last couple of decades. The National Snow and Ice Data Center provides further info:

"Arctic sea ice generally reaches its annual minimum extent in mid-September. This August, ice extent was the second lowest in the satellite record, after 2007. On September 3, ice extent dropped below the seasonal minimum for 2009 to become the third lowest in the satellite record.

The Northwest Passage and the Northern Sea Route are largely free of ice, allowing the potential for a circumnavigation of the Arctic Ocean. At least two expeditions are attempting this feat, the Norwegian explorer Borge Ousland and the Peter I yacht from Russia."

As pointed out at NPR (of all places) these anti-climate change (republicans) people are fact impervious on a large number of issues.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Labor Day 2010

The American holiday for labor was originally conceived in Canada and became a national holiday in the U.S. after President Grover Cleveland ordered Federal troops to put down the Pullman strike in Illinois in 1894.It was hoped this would garner support in the upcoming Presidential election that year(he lost). Since then organized labor has waxed and now mostly waned. American industry has been hollowed out, sent overseas, and ceased to be a meaningful part of the economy while financialization has run amuck. The idea of an eight hour day is now a historical anomaly while debt-burdened American workers try to hold onto whatever they can. With this the quaint notion of a single wage earner actually supporting their family is now pretty much unheard of while corporate supported politicians get elected supporting so-called family values. Strange Days indeed.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Vladimir Vysotsky - Koni Priveredlivye *Capricious Horses"

I put this up as a salute to that icon of Russian music and film Vladimir Vysotsky. Vysotsky during the 1960s and 1970s occupied a place comparable to someone such as Bob Dylan and is a father of contemporary Russian alternative music.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Russian government email servers hacked

So we thought this was only an Amerikan Capitalist problem. The Moscow Times tells us otherwise.:

"On Monday it turned out that the Federal Service of Protection (FSO) is not that good at protecting its own privacy. Yesterday internet forums were bubbling with information about a hack into the FSO internal email system.

The attack was aimed at an email server of one of the services’ departments, the FSO’s official representatives confirmed to Vedomosti, but no important state information was stored there. At the moment the organisation is investigating the circumstances of the break in and the security of all the servers.

After the attack any internet user could follow the link distributed by the hackers in online forums, type in a simple username and password and access the web-interface of Dozor, the software used for monitoring email traffic, checking the messages for breaches of email use policy, and then archiving the emails.

A hole in security

There had been information about a glitch in the security system, but it got out only now, according to a manager of a company that deals in internet security.

The unknown hackers advertised the glitch as access to the email archives of the system for investigative actions (SORM) – a technical complex that allows access to Russian citizens’ telephone conversations, as well as sms and other electronic communication.

However, experts say that it was misleading. It was not SORM, but the system which monitors internal email. Even so, it's still a very serious issue, the head of Virus research and analytics centre of the Russian branch of ESET Alexander Matrosov told Vedomosti."

No one is safe.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Northwest Passage Opens Again

The Northwest passage is open, another sign of climatic change that NASA scientists are expected to debate with guys who have maybe a Junior High school grasp of weather and climate.
A great explanation of the latest news by smarty pants scientists here.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Chico Science and Nacao Zumbi

A Brazilian favorite. Sadly, Chico Science was killed in an accident in 1997.

American Despair Continued...a series unfortunatley

The last week was truly an exercise in showing the lemming like march to the sea that characterizes life in America these days.A prime example was the so-called "End of the Iraq War" which must have come as rude shock to the latest (and probably not the last) American killed there.Particularly galling was coverage by MSNBC which supposedly represents liberal or progressive opinion with breathless pieces with Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow sounding like embedded journalists trying to overlook the fact that a withdrawal that still leaves 50,000+ forces is incongruous to put it mildly. Of course if your network is owned by one of the largest defense contractors in the country the idea of being an independent voice is difficult at times.

The next example is the Gulf Oil Spill is all cleaned up now. Here we have a problem where an out of control trans-national has ruined an enormous area for decades but now that there is no visible problem at least compared to the last 4 months everything is fine. Except pesky scientists keep intruding with inconvenient facts:

"As you might have heard, scientists are finding gigantic under oil plumes from the BP spill, including one that is more than 22 miles long, more than a mile wide and 650 feet deep.

On Thursday, Dr. Ian MacDonald and and Dr. Lisa Suatoni testified to a Congressional subcommittee that the oil will stay toxic, and will not degrade much further, for decades. MacDonald is an expert in deep-ocean extreme communities including natural hydrocarbon seeps, gas hydrates, and mud volcano systems, a former long-time NOAA scientist, and a professor of Biological Oceanography at Florida State University. Suatoni has a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Yale, and is Senior Scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council's Oceans Program.

Dr. MacDonald told Congress that the oil has already degraded, emulsified and evaporated about as much as its going to, and it is going to very resistant for further biodegradation. The oil will be in the environment for a long-time, he said, and the imprint of the BP discharge will be detectable "for the rest of my life" (he's 58, and the average lifespan for American men is about 76; so that's some 18 years).

Dr. Suatoni told Congress that oil which goes into low-oxygen zones will remain in a full toxic form for decades."

These stories epitomize the collapse of American institutions that in a normal society galvanize the attention of the public and those in power as well. However if your media has been corporatized beyond recognition, your government also corporatized and unable to respond to the needs of the greater populace, and your populace preoccupied with personal economic survival, this is what you get.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fox's Race Problem

Fox News and it's demographic of fearful, aging, white remnants of the middle class, has a real problem with race relations in the U.S. Malik Shabzz, of the New Black Panthers relates his group's experience with Fox Noise to Russia Today, while Think Progress illustrates the paltry coverage given to racist rants by the likes of Laura Schlessinger on Fox.

Meanwhile, the prospect of obese middle aged Tea-Baggers being confronted by the New Black Panthers as promised by Mr. Shabazz sounds too good to be true, I'll definitely be watching for it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Matthew Simmons RIP

Matthew Simmons did not discover Peak Oil but presented one of the most compelling arguments regarding a large factor of the obvious American Decline.The video above shows his insight into our present situation in 2007. His book "Twilight in the Desert" is a primer in peak oil. He was an early skeptic of the BP gulf fiasco and as an accomplished business journalist in a field of sycophants stood out for his integrity

"If the inevitability of peak oil is ignored and the event overtakes us unprepared, the unintended consequences could easily spiral into a sequence of ever-worsening conditions that would create not just twilight in Saudi Arabia's oil industry, but twilight for the lifestyles we all now enjoy" .

Matthew Simmons died on August 8th at his home in Maine.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Friday, August 06, 2010

Russian Fires, Bombs, and Bread

Large parts of western and southern Russia now resemble southern California on a very bad day.Russia Blog reports on the scope and peculiarities of Russian forest and peat bog fires now scorching the country:

"Nearly 1.8 million acres are burning in Central Russia, thousands of homes are destroyed, military and fire departments resources maxed out, and no end of the tragedy is in sight. Peat (a fossil fuel that lays underground close to the surface) caused current fires. The fuel, usually moist from the rivers, swamp, and underground creeks, has dried up during the record-breaking two-months-long draught with temperatures reaching 120 Farengheit across Central Russia. The greatest challenges in fighting the fires is that burning peat cannot be detected as the fire spreads rapidly underground and travelsin random directions. At any given moment the fire almost instanteniously appears above the ground igniting trees and homes above. While firemen tackle the smoking ground, chances are high that they are pouring water on a fire that has been burning for days or weeks, and its major flames have already traveled dozens and hundreds miles away from where it is being fought."

Meanwhile Kavkaz Center reports on damage to Russian military infrastructure:

"The command of the Moscow Military District, due to fire-dangerous situation, removed stocks of missiles and artillery weapons deployed at this base to a safer area, Russians claim.
On Wednesday, the formal ringleader of the Kremlin, Medvedev, instructed the Putin's "government" to draw up in two days a new list of potentially dangerous military bases.
It is to be mentioned that a naval base, storing aerotechnical equipment, in the Kolomna district outside Moscow has been destroyed by fires in recent days. According to official underestimated figures, the damage amounts to $ 670 million.

Medvedev dismissed some high-ranking military officers and warned his funny "defense ministry" that "if something like this happens again, everyone will bear responsibility".

Some Russian media outlets reported that fires at the naval base also destroyed a secret antenna of the Russian general staff, the damage amounted to several hundred million US dollars. The defense Ministry, as previously, tries to deny this report.

Meanwhile, Russian sources insist that also a communications center of the general staff was burnt down together with the naval base in the Kolomna district, Moscow region.

The fire occurred on July 29 - the same day, when the naval base was burnt, and it destroyed a secret antenna of the general staff, located near the village of Shurovo, Kolomna district, on the territory of the airborne forces, the media insist.

The antenna was in the forest and burned down in few minutes. When Russian soldiers arrived to the scene under the orders of the command, there was nothing left to extinguish.

A fight between Russian soldiers and the fire near the nuclear bombs factory in Sarov is continuing against this background."

Another effect which may directly impact American consumers is rising food prices as noted by this Reuters report:

"A severe drought in Russia could result in higher prices for bread in U.S. stores, as a spike in wheat costs may lead manufacturers to ease up on the discounts retailers pushed for during the recession.

But consumers and retailers may push back. Shoppers could opt for cheaper options as unemployment remains high, while retailers -- who try to drive traffic with discounts -- could point out that the spike in wheat is no where near the level of two years ago, when manufacturers raised prices on many goods.

Russia, one of the world's biggest exporters of wheat, is enduring its worst drought in 130 years, sparking a temporary ban on exports and sending U.S. wheat prices soaring.

If prices do not retreat, food makers such as General Mills Inc (GIS.N), Kellogg Co (K.N), Kraft Foods Inc (KFT.N) and Sara Lee Corp (SLE.N) may need to raise prices on bread, crackers and cookies to protect their profit margins."

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Countdown to Zero, Nukes, Loose and Otherwise

It's difficult to convey to those born after the 1970s the existential menace of nuclear war that subtlety pervaded American, if not, world life. Growing up in Winnipeg in the late 1950s it was difficult to ignore the night time air force maneuvers to the Arctic Circle. Unfortunately the nuclear threat never went away but merely morphed into newer and more diverse forms.

The film "Countdown to Zero" explores these new manifestations of potential doom. The Toronto Star elaborates:

"First conceived by Democratic politician Matt Brown and Bruce Blair of the World Security Institute, and directed by Britain’s Lucy Walker, the film features a critical mass of former world leaders, experts, spies, officials, activists — and one of the most cold-blooded weapons smugglers in history.

Its message is meant to put a new generation of anti-nuclear campaigners back on the peace path their grandparents pioneered as Cold War protesters in the days when grade schoolers had to “duck and cover” in anticipation of a Soviet nuclear attack.

Now things have changed — and not altogether in a good way.

“There’s pretty broad agreement that the No. 1 threat the world faces is nuclear terrorism,” says Joseph Cirincione a non-proliferation expert with the Ploughshares Fund who is among more than 80 people interviewed for the film. “There are apocalyptic groups who wouldn’t hesitate to build, and use, an atomic bomb.”

And Cirincione is not just talking about a homegrown “dirty bomb” combining low-level nuclear material with ordinary explosives — which would cause alarm and confusion but few casualties. Increasingly likely is a crude, Hiroshima-style weapon that could devastate a city, melt down an economy and throw the world into nuclear chaos...

“There are three ways to acquire a nuclear weapon,” says former CIA operative Rolf Mowatt-Larssen. “You can steal a bomb. You can buy a bomb. And you can build a bomb.”

To underscore the point, there’s Oleg Khinsagov, a jailed Russian black marketer from the northern Caucasus who cheered for the 9/11 hijackers and told Walker his stated goal “was to kill 4 million Americans using a nuclear device.”

Khinsagov’s attempt to sell weapons-grade uranium to Al Qaeda was foiled by a Georgian sting operation, and his 2006 arrest made few headlines worldwide.

But while they often slip below the media radar, reports of nuclear smuggling are far from rare. Since 1991, numerous plots have been tracked and halted — and those are only the incidents we know about.

In one of the biggest, three St. Petersburg men were arrested for trying to sell three kilograms of highly enriched uranium stolen from a Russian nuclear production facility in 1994. Some of the hazardous stuff was stashed in a refrigerator.

Two years earlier, a Russian research lab worker spent months stockpiling 1.5 kilos of highly enriched uranium in hopes a wealthy buyer would come along. Scientists say about 10 times that amount is needed for a small atomic bomb."

Hopefully this film can provoke interest in a threat to humanity that makes some of our other existential concerns pale in comparison.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Buckethead - Nottingham Lace

More nostalgia from the 90s. Buckethead is one of the true guitar phenomena of our times.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Putin’s mid-term crisis

No doubt readers have heard about Vlad Putin's recent appearence at the Russian version of Sturgis. The Moscow News asks why:

© RIA Novosti. Alexsey Druginyn
Putin’s mid-term crisis
by Tom Washington at 26/07/2010 12:18

A middle-aged man on a Harley Davidson always hints at a mid-life crisis, so perhaps the speculation around prime minister Vladimir Putin's intentions for the 2012 presidential elections played a small role in seeing him saddle up at an international biker convention in Sevastopol, Ukraine.

Putin, famed for his all-action summer holiday snaps, kicked off this year's silly season by donning shades and fingerless gloves before bestriding a three-wheeled Harley and leading a motorcade in front of 5,000 or so lovers of the open road.

After last year's holiday snaps were cruelly likened to camp cowboy flick Brokeback Mountain, this year's publicity stunt seemed to be aiming for Easy Rider.

But not everyone was impressed, with the Hong Kong Standard suggesting the PM was grabbing any available opportunity for a photo-op to “kick-start his flagging popularity”."

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Praxis - Animal Behavior

Relatively old but great stuff with Bill Lasswell, Buckethead,and Bernie Worrell y'all.

If We Could Only See Ourselves As Others Do: Sarah Palin as Seen In Asia

Via Wonkette from the same folks who gave us the Tiger Woods low down. I don't know for sure but the Fox News Nation now ranks 12 in the developed world in college graduates, but of course that's just a liberal's interpretation of American collapse. And anyone who works outside of the belt line knows that this family is all too representative of the so called real Amerika.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Another capital for Another Russia

The Moscow News reports on Eduard Limonov's proprosal to shift the capitol further east:

"Following in the footsteps of Peter the Great, opposition politician Eduard Limonov is planning to shift Russia's capital away from Moscow.

But while the Tsar wanted to make St. Petersburg a window to the west, Limonov hopes his purpose-built Siberian city will open new routes to the Orient.

The plan was unveiled on Tuesday when Limonov published his new party manifesto in Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

A new St. Petersburg?

The programme explains that “the necessary move of enormous historical meaning” will balance Russia’s geographical, economic, infrastructure and political tilt towards Europe.

They argue that the project will create millions work places, new infrastructure and will increase the population of Siberia and improve ties between the Russian Far East and its European metropolis. It will also stop China’s expansion, says the programme.

“There have been calls to move the capital to Siberia before,” Eduard Limonov told The Moscow News. “A Member of Parliament from Novosibirsk Region suggested moving it to Novosibirsk in the State Duma in the 90s; Luzhkov expressed an idea to move the capital in 2007. These suggestions are constantly raised,” he said.

Besides, he argues that building a city from scratch is not that difficult, as proved by Kazakhstan, who “built Astana from scratch and they are very happy, and they have a much smaller population.”

As for the location of the new capital, Limonov told the Moscow News that “the developers will find a suitable place for the city.”

The Kazakhstan experience

Limonov’s reference to Kazakhstan’s positive experience is supported by those who witnessed the move.

Vladlen Lyssenker, an employee of Moskommertsbank in Moscow was living in Almaty when Kazakhstan moved its capital from Almaty to Astana.

“There it was done right, not least for the threat of earthquakes,” he told The Moscow News. “There had always been one developed city in Kazakhstan – Almaty, then suddenly there were two – Almaty and Astana.”

“I did not feel the difference, and it did not become worse,” he said. “Almaty went on developing. It remained the financial centre – all the financial authorities, the national bank, all the banks’ headquarters remained there. So did the cultural life. Almaty did not lose one bit.”

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Planetary Heatwave

While one hot summer is not a trend in itself latest data supports a distinct warming of the climate. An article in the Guardian discusses new information from NOAA:

"Last month was the hottest June ever recorded worldwide and the fourth consecutive month that the combined global land and sea temperature records have been broken, according to the US government's climate data centre.

The figures released last night by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) suggest that 2010 is now on course to be the warmest year since records began in 1880.

The trend to a warmer world is now incontrovertible. According to NOAA, June was the 304th consecutive month with a combined global land and surface temperature above the 20th-century average. The last month with below-average temperatures was February 1985. Each of the 10 warmest average global temperatures recorded since 1880 have occurred in the last 15 years with the previous warmest first half of a year in 1998.

Temperature anomalies included Spain, which experienced its coolest June temperature since 1997, and Guizhou in southern China, which had its coolest June on record. According to Beijing Climate Centre, Inner Mongolia, Heilongjiang, and Jilin experienced their warmest June since their records began in 1951....."

In the Arctic more evidence accumulates:

"In a further possible sign of a warming world, the Jakobshavn Isbrae glacier, one of the largest in Greenland, lost a 2.7-square mile chunk of ice and retreated one mile between 6-7 July – one of the largest single losses to a glacier ever recorded.

The glacier, a tongue of the Greenland ice sheet, has retreated six miles since 2000 and more than 27 miles since 1850. It is believed to be the single largest contributor to sea level rise in the northern hemisphere.

Greenland's ice sheet, a vast body of ancient ice covering 1.7m sq km, is melting today more rapidly than only a few decades ago. Since 2000, the ice sheet is calculated to have lost about 1,500 cubic kilometres of water– enough to raise global sea levels by 5mm . If the entire ice sheet melted, the world's oceans would rise by over six metres.

Glaciologists expressed surprise at the speed of the break-up of the glacier: "This is unusual because it occurs on the heels of a warm winter that saw no sea ice form in the surrounding bay ... it lends credence to the theory that warming of the oceans is responsible for the ice loss observed throughout Greenland and Antarctica," said Nasa scientist Thomas Wagner.

"These are clear signs of a rapidly warming world and exactly what the climate models have predicted. Thankfully, there is a way out of it if we can get greenhouse gas emissions under control," said Ben Stewart of Greenpeace."

The last quote sounds like bleeding optimism. The National Snow and Ice Data Center suggests that this summer may see the largest melting of polar ice, beating the record set in 2007:

"Average June ice extent was the lowest in the satellite data record, from 1979 to 2010. Arctic air temperatures were higher than normal, and Arctic sea ice continued to decline at a fast pace. June saw the return of the Arctic dipole anomaly, an atmospheric pressure pattern that contributed to the record sea ice loss in 2007."

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Your Dad is a Fascist рок-группа Телевизор "Твой папа - фашист"

A song by the Russian group Television. I could imagine an American version called "Your Mama's a Fascist" with Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Messer Chups @ Armazém do Chá

Oleg Gitarkin and his attractive bass player interpret American music in their inimitable way.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Petronobyl As Reality

Peak Generation provides one the more incisive synopsis of the current Petronobyl catastrophe, here is the whole post since it is so on target:

"Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Apocalypse watch: BP’s Gulf disaster as reality TV
If French intellectual Jean Baudrillard were still alive to deconstruct the unfurling Gulf oil disaster, I’m sure he’d marvel at the hyperreality of it all. Me, lacking the vocabulary, I’m going to call it reality TV.

True to the genre a dysfunctional cast – Tony Hayward, Barack Obama and Martin Feldman – must coexist in an unlikely situation, promoting themselves while being constantly upstaged by video footage from robots 5,000 feet (1,500 m) below sea level. Watch as they try to cope with reality, each other, and their investment portfolios! Squirm as they star in their own tragedy! Gasp as Hayward, left, reassures you that there’s nothing toxic about the dispersal chemicals!

Want drama? The Gulf of Mexico is becoming toxic, poisoned by both the crude oil surging out of BP’s ruptured well and the million-plus gallons of chemical dispersant, Corexit 9500, being dumped on the slick. Oil is making landfall along the area – if whipped up by a hurricane, it would likely be sprayed over communities along that seaboard – and, it is claimed, a mixture of oil and Corexit seems to be raining throughout the region causing widespread crop damage. People helping clear the oil are coming down with a range of symptoms that suggest poisoning, just as they did after the Exxon Valdex cleanup.

How about some tension? The oil is still gushing out, and the poison is still being sprayed. The blowout preventer is widely believed to be on the verge of collapse, and relief wells might be facing an impossible task, depending on what is left of BP’s wellbore – we don’t know much about this, because no-one will tell us. But then, that’s reality TV for you.

But viewers, I’m jumping ahead of myself – let’s go back to the start of this sorry mess.

BP had problems with its Macondo well long before the Gulf disaster, according to documents and emails released by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. As Bloomberg reported, cracks in the well date “as far back as February”:

On Feb. 13, BP told the minerals service it was trying to seal cracks in the
well about 40 miles (64 kilometers) off the Louisiana coast, drilling documents
obtained by Bloomberg show. Investigators are still trying to determine whether
the fissures played a role in the disaster.

The company attempted a “cement squeeze,” which involves pumping cement to seal the fissures, according to a well activity report. Over the following week the company made repeated attempts to plug cracks that were draining expensive drilling fluid, known as “mud,” into the surrounding rocks.

The problems continued. Rumours from industry professionals writing on The Oil Drum have suggested that BP experienced numerous blowouts over this period. Again from Bloomberg:

On March 10, BP executive Scherie Douglas e-mailed Frank Patton, the mineral
service’s drilling engineer for the New Orleans district, telling him: “We’re in
the midst of a well control situation.”

[We let the scene on the Deepwater Horizon fade out, and cut to Hayward. We see him putting in a vital telephone call in mid-March – to his stockbroker.]

According to the UK Daily Telegraph newspaper, in an item headlined BP chief Tony Hayward sold shares weeks before oil spill:

The chief executive of BP sold £1.4 million of his shares in the fuel giant
weeks before the Gulf of Mexico oil spill caused its value to collapse.

Tony Hayward cashed in about a third of his holding in the company one
month before a well on the Deepwater Horizon rig burst, causing an environmental

Mr Hayward, whose pay package is £4 million a year, then paid
off the mortgage on his family’s mansion in Kent, which is estimated to be
valued at more than £1.2 million.

This alleges Hayward “disposed of 223,288 shares on March 17.” It clearly states he did nothing legally wrong. They were his shares to sell.

Then the showstopper: the April 20 Deepwater Horizon explosion, killing 11, and sending tens-of-thousands of barrels of crude oil surging into the Gulf every day.

The next cast member featured is Obama, who addressed the nation on June 14, and, by default the rest of the globe: his take on the world’s worst environmental disaster was of interest to billions. His 18-minute address contained more military metaphors than the average sport report – his government’s "battle" against the "siege" in the Gulf of Mexico (we will fight it on the beaches, we will fight on the fields and in the streets, we will fight in the hills. . .) – but no real content.

He had the opportunity to mention peak oil – the reality behind the need to drill in 5,000 feet of ocean, around the depth of the Titanic’s resting place. But, of course, Wall Street would never allow Obama to do that. He did enough to let a knowledgeable audience know he’s no fool, but he worded it in terms that would not alarm Joe Sixpack. From the transcript:

After all, oil is a finite resource. We consume more than 20 percent of the
world's oil but have less than 2 percent of the world's oil reserves. And that's
part of the reason oil companies are drilling a mile beneath the surface of the
ocean: because we're running out of places to drill on land and in shallow

For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered. For decades, we've talked and talked about the need to end America's century-long addiction to fossil fuels. And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires.

This was wrapped up in notions of energy security, fears of foreigners (“Each day, we send nearly $1 billion of our wealth to foreign countries for their oil”) digs at political adversaries (“. . . the path forward has been blocked, not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor”) and good old pork barrel hoopla that “the transition to clean energy has the potential to grow our economy and create millions of jobs.” (Which it has, in theory, although transition should not be presented as something to do in addition to plasma TVs and SUVs; it’s a willful downsizing of the supposedly non-negotiable way of life.)

Just another politician’s speech – but it got the ratings – watched by 32 million US viewers.

Next in our production, some intrigue. . . The man who, to most of the media is Mr. Peak Oil, Matthew Simmons lurches to centre stage. With a rumpled shirt and flushed face, he tells how insiders have told him that massive amounts of oil are pouring through BP’s fractured well and coming up at various points on the ocean floor, and that the chances of capping the gusher are so slim Obama may as well nuke it. The allegations make more impact online, going viral. Simmons, putting his money where his mouth is, seizes the opportunity to short some 8,000 BP shares.

At this point in the broadcast, we need some glamour if we want to get the ratings back up, and what beats a yacht race to bring together the rich and the beautiful? A quick edit will switch the scene to Hayward’s June 20 yacht jaunt around the Isle of Wight. After all, the waters, around the Isle of Wight, were clear of oil. What a great day out on the ocean; what a great photo op for our gaffe-prone star. . .

He’s in the role of a charming, lovable rogue. What this reality TV show needs is a villain. Enter the activist judge.

Obama wanted a six-month freeze on deepwater drilling, presumably along the lines that this is how long it will take the news media to go on to a new topic, allowing him to safely hand the drilling permit rubber stamps back to the industry. But that’s not how Judge Martin Feldman sees it.

Part arbiter of justice, part energy investor, Justice Feldman acted deftly to sell his oil stock and overturn Obama’s drilling moratorium – all in the same morning. According to Associated Press:

A statement released by U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman's chambers in New
Orleans says the judge instructed his broker to sell his stock in Exxon and a
subsidiary as soon as the market opened June 22. That was the day after the

Feldman says his broker told him his stock was sold several
hours before he struck down the Obama administration's drilling moratorium. The
judge also said he didn't know if he made a profit or loss on the sale.

Exxon isn't a party in the case, but the company had one of the 33
existing exploratory rigs shut down by the moratorium imposed because of the
Gulf spill.

No-one is accusing the judge of letting his energy investments colour his judgment – he is a judge, after all – but if nothing else, it’s normally considered good manners to declare an interest. Memo to Feldman: suggesting that you might have made a loss on the deal is not the same thing.

Meanwhile, viewers, the blowout preventer deathwatch continues. . . how far is it leaning today? How much of BP’s compromised wellbore will it take with it when it collapses? Can the relief wells get in place before the whole thing goes? Don’t forget to tune in tomorrow, folks.

[Fades out on shots of Obama looking like he wants a cigarette, Hayward on his yacht, and Feldman standing up for the poor downtrodden oil execs.]

In terms of entertainment, is this scraping the barrel? Actually, yes. Millions of them, all told, from the beaches, wetlands and waters of the Gulf of Mexico. An estimated 35,0000 to 60,000 barrels have been gushing out every day since April 20, according to the government – and many more according to Simmons – but the current containment system can only handle up to 28,000 barrels per day."