April 29, 2008 archive

Bite Size Bad News 2 — Auto

[This is the second in a projected series of short posts I have inaugurated over at Fire on the Mountain. They will focus on one or another particular aspect of the economic situation and are designed as a corrective to the “out of sight, out of mind” approach of the mainstream media to the deepening meltdown. Feedback about the idea is solicited.]

The prospect of $4 a gallon gas, falling real incomes and the growing recession are obviously hitting the US auto industry hard. Other recent developments suggest things are going to get appreciably worse for Ford, GM et al, fast.

For one thing, the runup in commodity prices is sinking its teeth in. Netherlands-based AcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel company, has announced a $250-a-ton “surcharge” on steel it has contracted to sell its US customers. Other steelmakers, hit hard by higher raw material and fuel prices, are expected to follow. The spot market price of steel is up 40-50% from last year. (Hot-rolled sheet steel now runs about $1000 per metric ton at spot, to give you a comparison point). Supplies have tightened further as countries like Egypt, China and Brazil cut exports to ensure their domestic supply. (Need I mention that Hugo Chávez is renationalizing Sidor, Venezuela’s largest steelmaker?)

Giving credit where it’s due.

I take Obama to task on a lot of issues, but it wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t acknowledge that he does take some good positions in this campaign.  An example is illustrated in yesterday’s column by the New York Times’ Paul Krugman, which states:

The impression that Mr. McCain’s tax talk is all about pandering is reinforced by his proposal for a summer gas tax holiday – a measure that would, in fact, do little to help consumers, although it would boost oil industry profits.

Obama opposes this silly and, ultimately, fairly useless measure.  Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, agrees with McCain.

The Truth About Military Commissions Laid Bare at Guantanamo

Yesterday, Monday April 28, 2008, the man who used to be the Chief Prosecutor at Guantanamo  gave sworn testimony that puts the lie to the farce of the of the Military Commissions AcT (MCA) proceedings being used to try alleged terrorists. Col. Morris Davis told the tribunal hearing the case of Salim Ahmed Hamdan that

Defense Department general counsel William J. Haynes II, who announced his retirement in February, once bristled at the suggestion that some defendants could be acquitted, an outcome that Davis said would give the process added legitimacy.

“He said, ‘We can’t have acquittals,’ ” Davis said under questioning from Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brian Mizer, the military counsel who represents Hamdan. ” ‘We’ve been holding these guys for years. How can we explain acquittals? We have to have convictions.’ “

(Note, there is no transcript available at this time.)

Ripple Stories

Every now and then change comes in like a tidal wave. Most often, however, it happens so slowly and incrementally that you hardly notice until one day, you look back and recognize the miles that have been traversed. It can be important every now and then to stop for a moment and celebrate the little things in order to keep up the energy for the long run.  

A few months ago, Edger introduced the idea of the “ripple” effect to Docudharma. As we all know and see every day, it has now been incorporated into the current banner.

I thought it might be interesting to talk a bit about those small changes that make up the ripple effect as it is being manifest in the hearts and minds of those of us here at Docudharma and spread out there into the world.

If you take a moment to think about it, what has changed in you or in how you live your life as a result of blogging here at DD or elsewhere that might have gone unnoticed if you didn’t take a minute to reflect? Some of those changes might be big enough that they spring to mind right away. Others are more subtle. And some might still be looking like internal changes that haven’t quite found a direct manifestation out there in the world. Others might have had a direct impact on how you live your life and the choices you make.

I’d be happy to share a couple of mine and then would love to hear from you in the comments.  

Four at Four

  1. The New York Times reports Consumer confidence plunges as home prices crash. “Americans’ confidence in the economy continued to plunge this month as their homes lost value at the fastest rate in two decades.”

    The slump in home prices was more severe than the worst point of the recession of the 1990s, the last time values fell so far, so quickly…

    The fall in home prices has also cut into Americans’ home equity and forced many to grapple with mortgages now worth more than the house itself. The problems have contributed to a deepening gloom, which was reinforced on Tuesday by a grim confidence survey released by the Conference Board.

    The private report, which surveys up to 5,000 American households, dropped to its lowest point since March 2003, at the start of the invasion of Iraq. Americans feel worse about the economy’s prospects than any time since the mid-1970s, and many are bracing for job losses.

    The index fell in April to 62.3 from a revised 65.9 in March and 76.4 in February, the Conference Board said.

    George W. Bush is whining that Americans shouldn’t blame him for the dismal economy, rather, according to the Washington Post, Bush blames the Democrats for the sliding economy. “In a news conference at the White House, Bush declined to characterize the economic troubles as a recession, saying he would not get into a debate about ‘words’ and would let economists decide the terminology.” La-la-la… I can’t here you.

    Bush claimed he has “repeatedly submitted proposals to help address these problems. Yet time after time Congress chose to block them.” He is annoyed that Congress is blocking his promise to big oil to throw open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploitation. He also accused Congress of blocking big energy handouts and “provisions needed to increase domestic electricity production by expanding the use of clean, safe nuclear power.” Because what Americans really need is to keep feeding big oil profits to keep the economy humming along.

  2. The Bush administration’s destruction of our environment continues unchecked. The Washington Post reports a Federal judge has had to order the Bush administration to classify the polar bear. U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken “ordered the Bush administration to decide by May 15 whether the polar bear deserves protection under the Endangered Species Act. The decision… forces the Interior Department to determine whether climate change is pushing polar bears toward extinction. The agency proposed listing polar bears in December 2006 because warmer temperatures are shrinking the sea ice they depend on for survival, but officials have delayed a final decision on the matter for months” while the Bush administration auctions off oil leases in the polar bears’ habitat.

    In addition, the Los Angeles Times reports Groups sue to get gray wolves back on endangered species list. “A dozen environmental groups sued the federal government Monday in an attempt to reverse a decision to remove gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains from the endangered species list. Since the delisting went into effect March 28, at least 35 wolves have been killed in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming… Environmental groups also requested a preliminary injunction to stop wolf kills until the lawsuit was resolved. The suit says federal officials ignored scientists who said a connected population of 2,000 to 5,000 wolves was necessary to ensure long-term genetic viability of the wolf in the northern Rockies.” Some Americans seem obsessed with killing animals for “sport”.

Four at Four continues below the fold with another assertion that the vice president is above the law, finding a long lost relative from 300 years ago, and a giant CO2 sucking sound.

Hollywood for the Ugly

Get your outrage on.

Too slight to quote, you just have to click the links.

Glenn Greenwald- Why the Jeremiah Wright story deserves more attention

Rachel Sklar- WHCD: Swanky, Sweaty and Star-Studded

Skeptical about Skeptics? Check this out …

Being skeptical about Global Warming skeptics’ arguments has proven, to date, to be a healthy and sensible way to deal with their truthiness claims and arguments.  The Heartland Institute‘s distribution of a list of scientist supposedly doubting Global Warming yet again verifies the value of being skeptical about Global Warming skeptics.

DeSmogBlog decided to take a look at Heartland‘s list: emailing the scientists to ask them about the situation. From 500 Scientists with Documented Doubts of Man-Made Global Warming Scares:

  • The Heartland “article purports to list scientists whose work contradicts the overwhelming scientific agreement that human-induced climate change is endangering the world as we know it.”
  • “DeSmogBlog … emailed 122 of the scientists … calling their attention to the list.”
  • “in less than 24 hours – three dozen of those scientists had responded in outrage, denying that their research supports Avery’s conclusions and demanding that their names be removed.”

Hmmm, maybe Heartland should change the title from 500 scientists to 464 scientists maybe have documented doubts of man-made global warming scares until, of course, they are asked whether they agree with this article’s assertion.

All Coming Together To All Fall Apart: Climate Crisis

(Notice: This will not be a pleasant essay to read, and please click the links)

Global Warming, Climate Crisis, Climaticide, whatever you want to call it, is not some future calamity waiting to happen. It is happening even as we speak. It is happening now. Its devastating effects may some day be dramatic enough to be worthy of a Hollywood movie….which is how we are conditioned to think of disaster these days, if it doesn’t have explosions or tidal waves, it is not REALLY a disaster….. But that is not how it works.

That is not the form that this disaster takes. It takes the form of a slow, rolling, building crisis, unnoticed at first, then easily explained away, then easily dismissed as someone else’s problem. Until it is too late. Starting with the worlds poorest people and gradually working it’s way up “the food chain.” The food chain of all of human society, every nation, every state, every city every village, every human. Until the ‘elite’ are finally affected and alarmed…which will be too late.

Oh, there will be explosions…in fact there are explosions right now, as the first of the resource wars rages in Iraq, (please read LithiumCola’s essay) resource wars will be the dramatic face of Climate Crisis. Resource wars started by the very ‘people’ who are denying that there is a crisis now. Denying it in order to ‘steal a march’ on the rest of the world that they are purposefully attempting to keep in ignorance of the future they are creating. All for their advantage. For their profit. In the mistaken belief that somehow this will save them. They know what is happening, and have known for years, their response has been to try to profit off of this knowledge, instead of working to stop the damage. Resource wars will be the dramatic face.

But the face of a starving child will be the real face of Climate Crisis.

Sanctioning Iran: Foreign Policy 101

Philip Agee died on 9 January of this year in Havana, Cuba. He was 72.

ageeAgee joined the Central Intelligence Agency in 1957 and worked as a case officer in several Latin American countries. He later claimed: “My eyes began to open little by little down there as I began to realize more and more that all of the things that I and my colleagues were doing in the CIA had one goal which was that we were supporting the traditional power structures in Latin America. These power structures had been in place for centuries, wherein a relative few families were able to control the wealth and income and power of the state and the economy, to the exclusion of the majority of the population in many countries. The only glue that kept this system together was political repression. I was involved in this. Eventually I decided I didn’t want anything more to do with that.”


Agee resigned in 1969. His book, Inside the Company: CIA Diary, was an instant best-seller and was eventually published in over thirty languages. An Agee interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now is available here.

One very important term often used by our government, military and corporate leaders is one which is almost never clealy defined. It hints at noble ideals. As a naive schoolboy in the ’50s or as an indoctrinated enlisted Marine in the late ’60s concepts such as spreading freedom and democracy, and freeing the world of injustice might have come to mind. The term is “US strategic interests”, or simply “our national interests”.

FOX News flunkie gets pwned by Rev. Wright’s friend

Crossposted at Big Orange.

This is a good video…. albeit it’s from April 3. Did any of you catch this? Here’s an unedited exchange between a FOX News producer flunkie Porter Berry and Father Pfleger, friend of Rev. Jeremiah Wright.


Why Jeremiah Wright is justified in taking Barack Obama to task.

Last night MSNBC (including Keith Olbermann) was all over Jeremiah Wright for going on a book tour and – gasp! – daring to criticize Barack Obama.  Reading today’s hate-fueled rant on the web site, you’d think he had done something wrong.  Why?  Why shouldn’t the man who was publicly tossed overboard by his former parishioner return the favor?

Reading Kevin Alexander Gray’s assessment of the speech in which the Democratic candidate for president distanced himself from the man who presided over his marriage and baptized his children, I couldn’t help but conclude that Wright had been thrown under the proverbial speeding bus by Obama – who apparently decided long ago to adopt Bill Cosby’s out-of-touch, blame-the-victim rhetoric (an observation echoed by Adolph Reed, Jr., in the May issue of The Progressive).

“His political repertoire,” writes Reed, “has always included the repugnant stratagem of using connection with Black audiences in exactly the same way Bill Clinton did – i.e., getting props for both emoting with the Black crowd and talking through them to affirm a victim-blaming, ‘tough love’ message that focuses on alleged behavioral pathologies in poor Black communities.”  Reed blasts Obama for going “beyond Clinton and rehears[ing] the scurrilous and ridiculous sort of narrative Bill Cosby has made famous.”

Gray pointed out in his April 2, 2008 Progressive online column:

Until the controversy broke about his ties to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama himself frequently played the race card – on black people.

Shortly before the Texas and Ohio primaries, Obama was speaking to a mostly black audience and said, “I know some of ya’ll, you got that cold Popeye’s out for breakfast. I know. That’s why ya’ll laughing. … You can’t do that. Children have to have proper nutrition.”

In South Carolina, he told the state Legislative Black Caucus that a good economic development plan in the black community would be “cleaning up the garbage.”

Now, if white politicians had said these things they would have been pummeled.

And even in his much-heralded speech, Obama went out of his way to criticize welfare, decry “the erosion of black families” and stress the need for black fathers to spend more time with their kids.

This Bill Cosby routine goes down well with white voters, but it further stigmatizes blacks.

Obama managed to weasel his way out of trouble a month ago by dissing his former pastor as a bitter relic of a bygone era.  So who can blame Jeremiah Wright when he goes on the talk circuit to defend himself and retaliate against his betrayer?  For truly, did Obama not merely use his former pastor’s church as a means of establishing ties to a community whose political backing he wanted to strengthen his career (writers at Black Agenda Report and The New Republic certainly seem to think so)?

The point here is not to criticize Barack Obama so much as it is to defend Jeremiah Wright as he gives back what he received.  The danger of dismissing him as an angry, bitter old man whose message is equally ignorable lies in continuing the cycle of racism in this country, and the suppression of very real issues pertaining to U.S. foreign and domestic policy.

The fact is that not only was Wright betrayed, so too was the whole of the Black community, and the legitimate criticisms of imperialist policy that have wrought suffering and devastation upon others.  We may disagree with the reverend’s delivery, but we cannot deny that the attacks of September 11, 2001 were a direct consequence of our country’s meddling in Middle Eastern affairs that resulted in mass death and political oppression in the region.  Nor can we deny that our nation was built on the backs of African slaves, and the genocide of the aboriginal peoples of this continent.  The indignation over Jeremiah Wright’s fiery rhetoric clouds the truths contained in his diatribes.

So let’s cut the man some slack.  He may not be the sort of person we’d prefer to point out these truths, his method of delivery far too blunt for our comfort.  But sometimes we need that in order to face up to unpleasant facts about ourselves and our nation’s history.  We should consider that Mr. Wright may be justified in going public with his side of the story, with his criticisms.

If that happens to hurt Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, whose fault is that?

Nine Days – Still No Resignations or Apologies

One of many questions that Chris Wallace failed to ask Barack Obama during his 45-minute interview on Foxaganda Sunday was what the Senator thought about David Barstow’s devastating exposé in The New York Times the previous weekend.

No surprise. What would be the percentage in replacing one of the plethora of Jeremiah Wright questions with an inquiry about the megamedia’s hiring of retired military officers who sexed up the case for the U.S. invasion of Iraq and then exaggerated, distorted and lied about what was happening when the war and subsequent occupation got underway? Would that help the bottom line? Nah. Hence, none of Wallace’s pals at Foxaganda are talking about this. Indeed, mum’s been the word on Barstow’s bombshell throughout the megamedia. The talking point – or perhaps the memo from on high – seems to be: Don’t talk.

Don’t tell viewers that retired generals and colonels and majors engaged in a war-drumming, flag-waving perversion of patriotism. Or that those in the Pentagon who ordered special briefings for these analysts as part of a domestic propaganda campaign ought to get their mail deliveries slipped between the bars at Leavenworth for the next few years. Avoid the subject and maybe it will go away like so many other stories which have been disappeared as if they were dissidents in some backwater military dictatorship.

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