Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Goats and Dogs, Eco-Fascism and Liberal Taboos

When remembered at all, Edward Abbey is mostly thought of as an environmentalist and anarchist but there is no gainsaying the racism and xenophobia on display in his 1983 essay, “Immigration and Liberal Taboos.” The opinion piece was originally solicited by the New York Times, which ultimately declined to publish it — or to pay him the customary kill fee. It was subsequently rejected by Harper’s, The Atlantic, The New Republic, Rolling Stone, Newsweek, Mother Jones and Playboy before finally being published in the Phoenix New Times as “The Closing Door Policy.”

Various white nationalist blogs applaud what they view as Abbey’s foresightedness and forthrightness regarding immigration, presumably oblivious to how those views relate to his ideas about wealth inequality, industrial development and authoritarianism. Conversely, Abbey fans on the left who seek to insulate his nature writing from the taint of his anti-immigrant bigotry ignore the way in which, as Michael Potts put it, “a xenophobic and racist image of the immigrant as pollution… map[s] cultural and ethnic prejudices on to an idealised landscape.” (Dumping Grounds: Donald Trump, Edward Abbey and the Immigrant as Pollution) Abbey’s admirers on both the right and the left thus resort either to blinkers or lame apologetic to redeem him for their political preferences.

My interpretation is that Abbey was a curmudgeon and contrarian whose intended target was liberal hypocrisy. Immigrants were merely “collateral damage” of his colorful diatribes. In the pursuit of being provocative, though, he revealed more than he bargained for about his prejudices. It is precisely this flawed complexity, though, that makes Abbey’s writing a kind of Rosetta Stone for deciphering the dire social hieroglyphics of our time. Presumably, Abbey did not think of himself as racist. He was indignant when accused of racism. But the institutions of the society he grew up in transmit racism in their DNA.

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Recycling is Broken

Lloyd Alter at treehuggers: The only thing that really works for recycling is full producer responsibility. If a producer sells a product, the container is theirs and the contents belong to the customer. This is how it used to work with beer, pop, milk, water for the water cooler. It is what consumers and producers have to get back to achieve zero waste and a circular economy.

California has a long history of calling for deposits on both PET plastic, aluminum, and bottles under the California Redemption Value (CRV). At one time the recycler ePlanet had 600 facilities collecting drop off recyclables throughout California where people could get their deposits back.

On August 5, ePlanet closed down the remaining 284 recycling plants laying off 700 workers. In a statement:

With the continued reduction in state fees, decreased pricing of recycled aluminum and PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic, and the rise in operating costs from minimum wage requirements, required health and workers compensation insurance; ePlanet has concluded the operation of these recycling centers and supporting operations is no longer sustainable.”

A three-month investigation by Consumer Watchdog found the reason for the failing California recycling system which left consumers fewer options each year on where to redeem their empties. It also found special interests such as grocery chains, beverage distributors, and trash haulers could get rich at the consumer’s expense.

Besides the closures limiting where to take recyclables, grocery and big box stores are not taking back empties either in spite of a law requiring them to do so. Accounting scams by retailers such as Walmart and also beverage distributors are prevalent. They undercount the paid deposits for each item they sell and by under reporting they keep the difference.

Over the last five years CalRecycle (state agency) which oversees California’s beverage container recycling program has not publicly imposed a fine on distributors scamming the system or retailers not taking recyclables back. CalRecycle has purposely accumulated an ~$300 million reserve as of 2018 rather than disburse the funds to recycle centers to help them survive.

The commercial fraud and state agency issues need to be resolved.

Also troubling the industry today is the availability of less costly virgin material. Virgin PET is cheaper than cost of cleaning and processing of recycled material which is due to the abundance of natural gas. There is also an abundance of recyclable aluminum in the market today which has driven prices down. Prices have dropped from “75 cents per pound last year to 55 cents, the lowest it has been since 2009.” Since the golden-haired child in the White House has imposed tariffs on China, the Chinese have imposed tariffs on US scrap imports which is part of the reason for the low prices created by a growing US glut. Lower price results in increased recycling costs for consumers today and especially in rural areas. Then too with the price drop I would think US manufacturers could use recyclable material more readily than virgin material. It is just a matter of making them do so.

The results of a failed recycling system scream for a solution and one which product and package manufacturers will not like. If product manufacturers want to use aluminum and plastic for packaging their products such as soda, water, etc. than they have to take it back and work with the packaging manufacturers to recycle it into more packaging or other uses. Today, the packaging does not go back to the user of the packaging, the product manufacturers, and is recycled outside of their responsibility. This enables them to side step the responsibility.

We have to go beyond a circular economy and get rid of single-use plastics entirely. It is clearer every day that passes the US never had a real recycling system. It was just a very long linear onegoing from the producer through our homes to China.

treehugger’s Lloyd Alter “Today’s recycling is BS.”

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Another Nail in the Coffin of Democracy and Journalism

Commom Dreams, Jake Johnson, August 6th, GateHouse Media announced it will purchase Gannett (USA Today, Detroit Free Press, Indianapolis Star, and other major American newspapers). GateHouse Media publishes 144 daily newspapers, 684 community publications, and over 569 local-market websites in 38 states.

If approved the result will be a $1.4 billion news conglomerate. Common Cause stated a “combined GateHouse-Gannett entity would own one in every six newspapers in the nation and control over 100 local news operations.” While the media giants touted their commitment to “journalistic excellence” in a press release, the merger announcement comes with plans for $300 million in annual budget cuts.

A study by the University of North Carolina confirmed the U.S. has lost almost 1,800 local newspapers since 2004. Newsroom employment fell by a quarter from 2008 to 2018 (Pew Research) and layoffs have continued this year.

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“4 out of 5 mass Shooters Were Not Diagnosed with Mental Iillness,

half showed no signs of a prior, undiagnosed illness.” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), and plainly speaking, they were not mentally ill.

Yesterday on Monday morning;

President Trump: “Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun. We must reform our mental health laws to better identify mentally disturbed individuals who may commit acts of violence and make sure those people not only get treatment and if necessary, involuntary confinement.” This is coming from a narcistic man who behaves irradicably and irrationally.

In response to President Trump’s remarks, Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT).

“Nineteen of 20 murderers had no diagnosis of a mental illness. Four out of 5 mass shooters had no mental illness diagnosis, and half showed no signs of a prior, undiagnosed illness. Framing mass shootings as just a mental illness problem is a gun industry trope. Period. Stop.”

In any case, the courts make little allowance for mental illness or for those who plead insanity. Those who are mentally ill and convicted of felony are locked away at level 4 prisons with the general population and the treatment is minimal. Trump’s “lock them up” comment of involuntary confinement just takes it one step further than the courts and without their interference.

Back to Senator Murphy and social media comments: some commenters agreed with Senator Murphy’s point about the validity of linking such events to mental illness as these comments only serve to stigmatize anyone with a mental illness. Other commenters questioned whether it is possible for a person to kill multiple strangers, at random, and not be mentally ill. One Twitter commenter; “So a healthy person does this?”

Yes, it can be a healthy normal person more often than not.

A much-cited 2016 review by forensic psychiatrists James L. Knoll IV MD and George D. Annas MD, SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse New York may have been what Senator Murphy was referencing to in his comments.

Both doctors Knoll and Annas acknowledged the public and the media find the question of “mental illness” hard to resist.

“After all, who but a madman would execute innocent people in broad daylight, while planning to commit suicide or waiting to be killed by police?”

Adding to Knoll and Annas’s findings as well as other research; only a “minority” of mass shootings (however defined) have been perpetrated by individuals having recognized mental disorders.

“Few perpetrators of mass shootings have had verified histories of being in psychiatric treatment for serious mental illness.”

Again Knoll and Annas: Such individuals can function (perhaps marginally) in society and do not typically seek out mental health treatment. In most cases, it cannot fairly be said that a perpetrator ‘fell through the cracks’ of the mental health system. Rather, these individuals typically plan their actions well outside the awareness of mental health professionals.”

Mass shooters may not meet the criteria of a disorder as stated in DSM-5 – “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” They may have an ill-defined trouble of the mind, harboring anger or revenge and for which the field of mental health field has no immediate, quick-acting ‘treatment. “Psychiatrists and in particular forensic psychiatrists understand that dark and depraved acts are frequently committed for other reasons besides mental illness and more often committed for those other reasons.”

Can the matter of a hidden anger or other undefined trouble be resolved by labeling it ‘mental illness’ and calling for greater scrutiny of ‘troubled’ individuals? Knoll believes we would solve nothing by doing so and even risk making matters worse. This mindset makes us vulnerable to creating new and misguided laws. Such attempts further the medieval notion of equating mental illness with ‘evil’ or criminal behavior.

Mental health treatment has its limits is not designed to detect and uncover potential violent extremists. Formal psychiatric screening is not likely to identify those who may commit massacres.

Noting the wave of mass shootings beginning in the late 1990s; there was another propellant besides guns and mental illness both of which existed for a long time, and to which Knoll added the media as another. “It seems difficult to deny that the media coverage since the late 90s” has made it certain that those who commit heinous crimes become celebrities through the development of an online “Columbiner culture” glorifying the Columbine High School shooters and the others following in their footsteps.

We must eliminate the media attention gained from mass shooting.

Conundrum: Why Isn’t Killing 22 People ‘Mental Illness’?” — Psychiatrists say the question is beside the point, MedPage Today, John Gever, Managing Editor, August 5, 2019

Mass Shootings and Mental Illness,” Gun Violence and Mental Illness. James L. Knoll M.D. and George D. Annas M.D.

The Health 202: Trump blamed mental illness for mass shootings. The reality is more complicated” The Washington Post, Paige Winfield Cunningham

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Rep Liu got Mueller to say it

https://twitter.com/pbump/status/1154042744702029824?s=20

Also the MSM noticed. Bump is a Washington Post reporter.

The point is that this implies that Mueller thinks Trump was guilty and that he would have a reasonable chance of convincing a jury that there is proof beyond reasonable doubt of Trump’s guilt.

The other answer was “that was a sufficient reason to not indict Trump which doesn’t imply that it was a necessary condition. As written in the report I don’t think it is fair to discuss the question of

update: in the afternoon, Mueller took it back

When he appeared before the Intelligence Committee in the afternoon, Mueller clarified this exchange, noting that it was not solely because of the Office of Legal Counsel opinion that he did not charge Trump with a crime. Instead, he said, “we did not reach a determination as to whether the president committed a crime.”

This is inconsistent with his exchange with Liu. The key word is “the” in “the reason”. Liu asserted that there was only one reason and Mueller agreed. But in any case, the bottom line is that he took it back.

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Tomorrow

Everyone is waiting for tomorrow to see what Mueller will tell the House. I am going to say it will be nothing other than what has already been said verbally. No one is going to read the text version and see what was really said by Mueller. Only a few of us will and I have yet to find a place to place it in my bathroom.

In Michigan in May, Congressional Representative Justin Amash had a townhall in his district to explain why he called for the impeachment of DTrump. He did not call it to first explain why he supported Trump or to say I was mistaken in giving him my support since he took office. He absolved himself of the responsibility of doing so and he marched to the same tune as the rest of the House Republicans. Instead Justin arrived at his support of the impeachment of Trump after reading the 448 page Mueller report.

Setting politics aside many of us already knew Trump was not fit for office based upon his past, his actions, and his lies. We saw through Trump and recognized what he was. After reading Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s 448-page report on Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible obstruction of justice by the president, Congressman Justin Amash finally saw the light.

As the Atlantic explains, one person in the crowd just found out.

“As far as she was aware, Trump had been totally exonerated.

Cathy Garnaat, ‘I was surprised to hear there was anything negative in the Mueller report at all about President Trump. I hadn’t heard that before. (A Republican who supported Amash and Trump, told NBC that night.) ‘I’ve mainly listened to conservative news and I hadn’t heard anything negative about that report, and President Trump has been exonerated.'”

I am not sure what Congressman Justin Amash’s excuse was for not knowing Trump was not fit (being kind here) for office. He could not see it himself and he marched right along with the rest of them until he was told by someone else Trump was unfit.

Tomorrow morning when Mueller is scheduled to testify publicly before the House Judiciary Committee and the House Intelligence Committee, Ms. Garnaat’s words will be worth considering as they represent a purposeful perception gap by the public. A tidy summary of how Americans may have navigated the time gap successfully between the 4-page Barr commentary on the Mueller report and the report itself. Her short statement underscores how successful Attorney General William Barr exploited the space of time between his release of the 448 page report as compared to his 4-page short brief of what the Mueller report said, harnessing the power of television to set his version of the narrative of the report, and knowing most people were unlikely to read it themselves and have that “aah huh” moment. Why read the book when one can read the cliff-notes? There is no test of citizenry knowledge of current events to be passed here.

The challenge faced by Democrats tomorrow’s attempt is to make Mueller’s words resonate more forcefully then Barr’s 4-page summary in an era defined by the brevity of the laws of entertainment. Mueller’s testimony if it does call out Trump may have missed the moment. Of course many of us claim, the moon landing was done in a Hollywood studio. Perhaps, I will be mistaken and much more will come out of this?

As far as Amash, he is saving his ass and he should have known better well before Mueller’s report.

Bill Barr Already Won The Atlantic, Elaina Plott, July 23, 2019

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Hannity Calls For/Predicts War With Iran

Hannity Calls For/Predicts War With Iran

OK, sorry if this is just over the top, but this evening Trump’s close pal, Sean Hannity, has gone over the top both predicting and clearly supporting a full blown attack on Iran, “take out all their nuclear facilities.”  Curiously a sign of how over the top this is was given by one of his guests, a colonel, warned that it would take nuclear weapons by the US to fully take out the most deeply buried  Iranian capabilities.

I am reasonably certain that part of why Hannity was sounding the war trumpet rather than his usual “investigate Hillary and the Steele dossier” baloney is that today Trump put himself into a difficult contradictory situation, having gone doubtful last night on his followers in NC chanting “Send her back” to supporting those chanters today. So, much easier to distract everybody with a possible war in the Persian Gulf (sorry, not “Arabian Gulf,” not yet), especially given that there has been an ongoing escalation of incidents in the Gulf over oil tankers, with Iran pushing back against the US withdrawing from the JCPOA nuclear deal.

But the bottom line is that what Hannity spouts often ends up being what his close pal Trump ends up doing.  I take this spout from Hannity all too seriously.  We may well be in more serious war with Iran soon, with such an effort accompanied by far more massive lies than the Bush admin gave us when he stupidly invaded Iraq on false pretenses, although Hannity is assuring us that “It will be all over very soon, with no boots on the ground.”  Yeah, we have heard that one before.

Barkley Rosser

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Pence’s Potemkin Village on the Mexican Border

Pence’s Potemkin Village on the Mexican Border

Merriam Webster defines a Potemkin Village as:

an impressive facade or show designed to hide an undesirable fact or condition

Mike Pence visited a Potemkin Village in Donna, Texas:

Pence also visited a tent-like temporary detention facility in Donna, Texas, that holds unaccompanied children and immigrant families. The new and mostly clean facility stood in stark contrast to the McAllen station Pence later visited.

While the Buzzfeed story focused on the McAllen station, which depicted horrific conditions, I’m sure Trump’s favorite “news” outlets will highlight the facility in Donna, Texas. In other words, part of Pence’s visit to the border was designed to con the American people that immigrants are being treated well. Leon Panetta is right:

Trump treats Americans like we’re chumps

Since Pence is a Christian, we have to wonder how he can still support Trump’s racist immigration policies after seeing how God’s children are being horribly abused. Here’s a little challenge for Mr. Pence – how many of the Ten Commandments are you violating? Certainly the first two with your idol worship of Donald Trump:

1. You shall have no other gods before Me. 2.You shall make no idols.

This abuse of God’s has led to many deaths, which of course violates the Commandment not to murder. OK – Mike Pence has not committed adultery even if his idol has many times. But cheating on one’s wife is sort of routine for powerful politicians. The serial abuse of innocent people solely based on their race and mainly for partisan purchases is not only unAmerican but also against everything Pence’s religion stands for.

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The Mutt Speech

One Mutt’s Speech for You to think about after celebrating the long Weekend from the nationalistic holiday called the Forth of July while others are fleeing terror and violence.

John Winger: “Cut it out! Cut it out! Cut it out! The hell’s the matter with you? Stupid! We’re all very different people. We’re not Watusi. We’re not Spartans. We’re Americans, with a capital ‘A’, huh? You know what that means? Do ya? That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. We are the wretched refuse. We’re the underdog. We’re mutts! Here’s proof: his nose is cold! But there’s no animal that’s more faithful, that’s more loyal, more loveable than the mutt. Who saw ‘Old Yeller?’ Who cried when Old Yeller got shot at the end?

Nobody cried when Old Yeller got shot? I’m sure.

I cried my eyes out. So we’re all dogfaces, we’re all very, very different, but there is one thing that we all have in common: we were all stupid enough to enlist in the Army. We’re mutants. There’s something wrong with us, something very, very wrong with us. Something seriously wrong with us – we’re soldiers. But we’re American soldiers! We’ve been kicking ass for 200 years! We’re ten and one!”

“Stripes” Bill Murray the Mutt Speech

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