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

PFAS Contamination, the New Flint at Military Bases and Again in Michigan

In parts of Livingston and Oakland counties, the people have been warned not to eat the fish from the Huron River and Kent, Strawberry, Zukey, Gallagher, Loon, Whitewood, Base Line and Portage lakes as well as Hubbell Pond due to the fish being contaminated with PFAS and similar chemicals coming from industries. In 2016, Michigan started to tell people about the impact of PFAS and how dangerous the PFAS and PFOAs are.

PFAS/PFOA are part of a class of man-made chemicals used in many industrial and consumer products to make the products resist heat, stains, water, and grease. Product Examples include: Teflon® cookware, waterproofing fabric and coating on fast food wrappers.

Former Army reservist Spc. Mark Favors, his relatives, and family have lived around Fort Carson and Peterson Air Force Base for years drinking and bathing-in base and off-base water for years. The level of PFAS and PFOA on base around Peterson Air Force Base has been established at 79 to 88,400 parts per trillion on-base wells and 79 to 7,910 parts per trillion in public and private drinking wells off base.

It was not until the EPA published its 70 parts per trillion guidelines did the DOD claim it began to understand how harmful exposure could be and voluntarily took action. Spc. Mark Favors does not buy the excuse. The issue has been explored in-depth by the Colorado Springs Gazette, which produced a timeline dating back to the first concerns about the foam used to fight fires in 1962. Fort Carson stopped using the firefighting foam in 1991 stating, “Firefighting operations that use AFFF must be replaced with nonhazardous substitutes.”

In Michigan, it will take a Flint-sized emergency before it begins to take aggressive action with businesses dumping contaminated water in company drainage pipes going to water reclamation plants. Then too, Livingston County is the richest in income in the state and is also 96% white, an advantage the county has over the City of Flint.

Fifty year old Mark Favors can count at least 16 relatives from around the area who have been diagnosed with cancer; 10 have died. Six of those relatives have died since 2012, including his father at age 69 and two cousins, ages 38 and 54.

“In my family alone, we have had five kidney cancer deaths,” Favors said. “And those people only lived in the contaminated area.”

Many of Favors’ relatives lived near Peterson Air Force Base, where scores of both on-base and off-base water sources have tested significantly above the Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended exposure of 70 parts per trillion of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFAS) or perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). The compounds were part of the military’s firefighting foam until just last year. The same compounds in the foam have been linked to cancers and also developmental delays for fetuses and infants.

In a recent March 6, 2019 House subcommittee hearing, Mark Favors was among those in attendance as the subcommittee was questioning the actions of the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Defense representatives over the decades long use of PFAS, the failure to regulate it’s usage, provide adequate protection from its usage, and monitor the safe disposal to prevent contamination of ground water and the environment. Knowing its dangers, a reasonable person would have found an alternative to its usage as demonstrated by Fort Carson in 1991. Obvious, some elements of the military were not of that mind.

With a large degree of politeness, House Oversight and Reform subcommittee on the environment chairman Rep. Harley Rouda, D-CA commented:

“To put it charitably, it is unclear why DoD feels justified in passing the buck to the EPA, particularly in light of the evidence suggesting DoD’s awareness of the toxicity of the chemicals since the early 1980s.”

If stationed at a military bases (and who has not been for some period of time?), this is a big issue as many of us were using the water supplied to us at places such as Camp Lejeune where we were drinking and showering in water contaminated with chemicals such as benzene. For those who were at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days, there is now a list of disorders which the VHA will accept as being attributed to exposure to base water. Some of us have disorders on that list and some of us do not. There are many other military sites where former military and civilian personnel have complained of disorders and illness which they believe is attributed to the bases they were stationed during their enlistment or working as civilians.

In Michigan, there is a site where you can get an idea of how bad the issue is in and around your community. All known PFAS sites in Michigan and check your own area (at the bottom you scroll to find your county and township/community).

Many knowledgeable sources believe the 70 parts per trillion is still too high.

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Light Sentence

“Legal observers were surprised by the relatively light, 47-month sentence received Thursday by President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was convicted in August on charges of tax and bank fraud.

The 69-year-old, who appeared in the court in Virginia in a wheelchair and pleaded for compassion, could have been sentenced to up to 24 years in federal prison.

With time served, Thursday’s sentence means Manafort could spend a little more than three years behind bars for this case.

NBC News and MSNBC legal analyst Glenn Kirschner: ‘As a former prosecutor, I’m embarrassed. As an American, I’m upset … I am just as disappointed with Judge Ellis. It’s an outrage and it’s disrespectful of the American people.'”

I have been in level 4, 2, and 1 prisons. I used to chase prisoners a long time ago. None of these prisons are a walk in the park. The prison up in Pugsley, Michigan was a level 1 and one of the most dangerous ones in the state as they transferred a bunch of long timers there who did not give a . . . . . you know what I mean. For this peace of garbage ‘Manafort’ it has to be a huge let down having to associate with the lesser human beings who will be making fun of him. Lets see what the next sentencing brings. If they run it consecutively and it goes over 10 years, he will go to a Level 4.

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Pentagon to Tap Leftover Military Pay Funding

“The Pentagon is planning to tap $1 billion in leftover funds from military pay and pension accounts to help President Donald Trump pay for his long-sought border wall, a top Senate Democrat said Thursday.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-IL ‘It’s coming out of military pay and pensions. $1 billion. That’s the plan.

The funds are available because Army recruitment is down and a voluntary early military retirement program is being underutilized.’

The development comes as Pentagon officials are seeking to minimize the amount of wall money that would come from military construction projects that are so cherished by lawmakers.

‘Imagine the Democrats making that proposal — that for whatever our project is, we’re going to cut military pay and pensions.'”

Gee, did anyone ever think of tossing this into the VHA funding since the VA now has to pay for the Choice program which Trump said he will not fund.

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The Lost People . . .

Over heard in the Comments Section:

EMichael: “I do love the term ‘Goober Safari’”.

“I am as tired as anyone else is at the seemingly endless Goober safaris into those benighted precincts of Americans who helped hand us El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago as our president*. I am even more tired of being told that the prescription for getting rid of this guy is to romance the daylights out of the unreconstructed ignorami who voted for him in the first place.

So imagine my complete lack of surprise when The New York Times sent yet another expedition out into the hinter-boondocks to see what the plaid-cap and camo set is thinking these days.

‘But, listening to strategists and voters in a critical state for Democrats, the midterms feel like a long time ago. Instead, there are widespread worries that the momentum in Pennsylvania, and in other key Rust Belt states, could screech to a halt if the issues in the 2020 presidential primaries and the party’s eventual nominee stray too far left for the region’s many centrist voters. “The more we have presidential candidates or newly elected congresspeople talking about the Green New Deal, talking about ‘Medicare for all,’ talking about socialism, the more that plays into the Trump campaign’s hands,” said Ed Rendell, a former Pennsylvania governor and national Democratic chairman.’

Jesus H. Christ in a wax museum, have we not heard enough from Ed Fcking Rendell? No presidential candidate—except Donald Trump—is “talking about socialism.” The Green New Deal and Medicare For All are new policy proposals growing from policy positions and philosophies held by Democrats for at least 40 years.

Both are “a Yuengling order for a Pennsylvanian right now,” said Ryan Costello, a former Republican congressman from suburban Philadelphia. That is, someone as familiar as the beer brewed in Pottsville. Mr. Costello said that by nominating a progressive in 2020 — he named Mr. Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — the general election would become a referendum on far-left policies rather than the president.

“The whiplash on the left right now, it’s almost like they didn’t learn the lesson of why they were successful in 2018,” Mr. Costello said.

One of the reasons “they” were successful, of course, was that people like Costello ran like rabbits away from their congressional seats because they saw what was coming at them. So, sure, let’s make certain that Democrats listen to the likes of him. And, of course, there is that stubborn Economic Anxiety in some of these areas that just won’t go away.

We had eight years of nothing,” said Diane Pappert, 75, a retired school guard, referring to President Barack Obama, “and this guy’s trying to clean up everybody’s mess.” Her daughter Angie Hughes, 55, a nurse, had cast the first vote of her life for Mr. Trump. She said she would never vote for a Democrat because she believed that the party favored generous welfare benefits. “When you see people who have three, four, five children to different fathers, they have no plans of ever going to work,” she said.

and then there is . . .

Lou Iezzi, 68, who still works at an auto garage he opened at 19, had voted Democratic for decades before casting a ballot for Mr. Trump. He liked the way he sounded as if he were on the next barstool, and Mr. Iezzi chuckled approvingly recalling Mr. Trump’s dismissive remarks about the newscaster Megyn Kelly in 2015 that were widely interpreted as referring to menstruation. Mr. Iezzi could vote for a Democrat in 2020 if the nominee “sounds like he’s talking honestly,” he said. His choice of the male pronoun was deliberate: “I just can’t see a woman running this country.”

Whadda guy! Buy him a Yuengling. But, for the love of god, don’t tailor a single policy position toward gaining his support. He’s hopelessly lost.”

These People Are Lost. Democrats Shouldn’t Bother Chasing Them., Charles P. Pierce, Esquire Magazine

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It is anti semitic to assert that lobbyists influence politics ?

“she was condemned by bipartisan leadership for suggesting pro-Israel lobbying groups … influence American politics.”

Front page of WWW.washingtonpost.com, Deanna Paul does not seem to notice that the events she describe are insane.

It is, in fact, true that it is not allowed to note that AIPAC is a lobby or that it influences politics. This shows that it is a lobby with huge influence on politics.

This is bipartisan insanity.

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Neoliberalism as Structure and Ideology in Higher Education

Neoliberalism as Structure and Ideology in Higher Education

 A few weeks ago I speculated on the structural aspect of neoliberalism at an economy-wide level, the way its characteristic framing of economic decision-making may have emerged from changes in the role of finance in business and the composition of high-end portfolios.  My purpose was to push back against the common tendency to view neoliberalism solely as a philosophy, to be countered by other philosophies.  Today I stumbled across this superb bit of reporting from the Chronicle of Higher Education that implicitly makes the same kind of argument in a different context.  (Hat tip: Naked Capitalism.)

The article describes the massive expansion of non-profit online education that has occurred in recent years, with several institutions approaching 100,000 students each.  Interviews with planners and administrators make it clear that the motivating force is not a philosophical rethinking of what education means or should mean; rather they are responding to the emergence of a market that someone needs to serve—if not them, someone else.  More than 30 million adults in the United States have some college credits under their belt but no degree.  With the labor force increasingly segmented by credentials, many of them are desperate to finish their degrees as quickly as possible.  Since they are trying to make ends meet at low-wage jobs, they want programs that are as convenient and inexpensive as possible: commodity education.  Everything about the new online degree providers is dictated by this situation.

Read the article for yourself.  Here’s what I like about it:

It isn’t weighed down by explicit value judgments.  It lets readers do this for themselves.

It presents what we can call a neoliberal turn in higher education not primarily as a change in philosophy or mode of discourse, but as a reflection of changing circumstances.  There’s a two-way dance between the economic pressures facing students, their expectations and competences in a world in which the role of consumer has been made more determining and ubiquitous, the shift toward tuition financing, and other economic factors on the one hand, and the cognitive structures those implementing these systems use to justify and assess what they’re doing on the other.  If anything, the article foregrounds the arrow going from economic context to cognition, which redresses the balance somewhat (as I see it).

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Netanyahu Sinking

Netanyahu Sinking

While the wise and up-to-date observers declare the two-state solution between Israel and Palestine to be deader than dead, I continue to think that morally it is the best solution for this deeply difficult problem. However, one leading force in sending this solution into the grave is Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, who is up for reelection very shortly. He has for some time been pushing the situation towards a hard nationalist one state solution, with the current Trump admin supporting his worst impulses. But in the last few days as the election approaches, Netanyahu has made seriously disturbing moves that promise longer tern injustice and instability.

The first of those is his decision to ally with Otzma Jehudit, a political party descended from the terrorist Kahane group. Really, the Kahanists have been officially labeled a terrorist group by the US government and in the past have killed lots of people, including in the US. They are so bad that even AIPAC has criticized Netanyahu for allying with him in this tight election campaign, although I have no doubt that if he wins, they will be back supporting him big and full time.

The other development that I read on Juan Cole’s blog is potentially far more serious and dangerous. Within the last few days, supposedly spontaneous Israeli West Bank settler activists have halted Muslims from accessing the al-Aqsa mosque. This has involved both attacking people trying to get near it as well as illegally chaining the gate to the area around it. This has received in the US near zero coverage, but this could lead to World War III (or are we on IV?).

Mallik Salman bin Abdulaziz bin Abdul-Rahman al-Sa’ud, the King of Saudi Arabia, whose most prestigious title is that he is the Protector of the Holy Sites (Mecca and Medina) could claim to be the Caliph of Islam if he controlled (as did the Ottoman Sultans) all three of the most holy sites of Islam. His father, the founder of the modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Abdulaziz (aka “Ibn Saud”), did not claim the Caliphate precisely because while had two of them under his control after he pushed the Hashemites out in 1924, he did not control the third, the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem (al-Quds in Arabic), then controlled by the British, That Netanyahu would allow keeping Muslims from visiting this third most holy site in all Islam threatens world religious war.

I (not alone) have long argued that the most hotly contest piece of land on this planet is a small square known in English in the US as the “Temple Mount,” following Jewish and Christian views of it, while it is known in Arabic as the Haram-es-Sharif, the Holy Place. The earliest Biblical reference to this site on its high spot is to when reportedly Abraham visited Jerusalem and had friendly dealings with then High Priest Melchizedek. His temple was reportedly on a more sensitive spot in that enclosure than the al-Aqsa mosque, the later central site of the Hebrew/Jewish temple, which the Romans destroyed in 70 CE after the locals up rose against their rule.

The building now on this long-revered spot is the Dome of the Rock, not quite as holy in Islam as the al-Aqsa mosque a few feet away from it, but the most beautiful building in Jerusalem. Not only does the gorgeous Dome of the Rock (al Aqsa and the Christian Church of the Holy Sepulchre not on this mount but not too far away, are both just ugly by comparison) it on the center of Melchizidek’s temple and the old Hebrew/Jewish temple, but in Islam it is where supposedly the Prophet Muhammed ascended into heaven for a major confab, as well as containing rock formations where the souls of those who die pass before going on to final judgment. Its interior art is fabulously beautiful. I saw it in 1997 when I first visited this contested site, then under the official jurisdiction of the late King Hussein of Jordan, although in 2017 when I took my wife, Marina, there non-Muslims were no longer allowed inside the Dome of the Rock, although we were able to wander around its exterior, taking photos.

But now Netanyahu is allowing settler activists to prevent Muslims from even entering the general site (directly above the Western “Wailing” Wall of the Jews on the lower west side of the former temple) to even get near either the officially more holy al-Aqsa mosque or its more beautiful neighbor, the Dome of the Rock. This act is completely unacceptable and threatens serious violence and war.

Barkley Rosser

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Who Beats Out Sanders Other Than Biden?

A Hill-HarrisX poll released Tuesday found that 25 percent of Democrats said they would back Michelle Obama in the party primary over nine other declared or potential candidates, including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas). 5% error in Democrat only questioned.

Cited reasons for her being a top choice? She is mostly an unknown, never a candidate, never been on a ballot, avoided a candidate’s public scrutiny, always seems nice, etc. People love her for who she has been, what she has said, and what she exemplifies. There is nothing bad about her. The closest to her, Biden is a real trip and has been in the pocket of Delaware Bankers forever. He personally sponsored bills which have created much of the student loan debt issues today and he comes right out and says it is the student’s fault. The old “I got mine, now you get yours” routine. Biden is as bad as the Bush’s for politics and being beholden.

Hell, I would vote for Michelle.

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The Black Bill and the Green New Deal

“When we first came to Washington in 1933,” FDR Labor Secretary Francis Perkins wrote in her memoir, The Roosevelt I Knew, “the Black bill was already before the Congress. Introduced by Senator Hugo L. Black, it had received support from many parts of the country and from many representatives and senators.”

The Black Bill was the Senate version of the Black-Connery Thirty-Hour Bill. On April 6, 1933, the Senate approved the measure by a vote of 53 to 30. Perkins was scheduled to appear before the House committee holding hearings on the Connery Bill:

Roosevelt had a problem. He was in favor of limiting the hours of labor for humanitarian and possibly for economic reasons and therefore did not want to oppose the bill. At the same time, he did not feel that it was sound to support it vigorously. But the agitation for the bill was strong. Its proponent insisted that it was a vital step toward licking the depression. I said, “Mr. President, we have to take a position. I’ll take the position, but I want to be sure that it is in harmony with your principles and policy.”

Roosevelt had another problem. The National Association of Manufacturers and the Chamber of Commerce were adamantly opposed to the Thirty-Hour Bill. Perkins offered amendments to the Connery Bill, the American Federation of Labor offered other amendments and business representatives “proposed crippling amendments that would have destroyed the purpose of the measure.”

On May 1, the administration withdrew its support for the Connery Bill. Roosevelt had concluded that organized business would not support the recovery program if the Black-Connery Bill were to become law. In its place, the collective bargaining provisions of Section 7(a) and wage, hour and labor standard provisions were added to the National Industrial Recovery Act through, in Leon Keyserling’s account, “a series of haphazard accidents reflecting the desire to get rid of  the Black bill and to put something in to satisfy labor.”

The Supreme Court ruled the Recovery Act unconstitutional on May 27, 1935. In its place, the “Second New Deal” consisted of a variety of policies, including, most notably, the National Labor Relations Act, the Works Progress Administration and Social Security.

The moral to the story is that “the” New Deal was improvised, it evolved, was not unitary and its original impetus came from a fundamentally different policy proposal that was anathema to the business lobby. The Thirty-Hour Bill was conceived as a solution to a problem that is no longer polite in policy circles to consider as a problem — “over-production.”

I am sympathetic to the intentions and ambition of the Green New Deal resolution proposed by U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey. What I find especially compelling is the inclusion of social and economic justice and equality in the program goals. The vision isn’t just a proposal for “sustainable” business-as-usual, powered by wind and solar.

The day before Ocasio-Cortez and Markey announced their resolution, Kate Aronoff and co-authors presented a “Five Freedoms” statement of principles for a Green New Deal, modeled on Franklin Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms.from 1941. My favorite, of course, is number two: Freedom From Toil:

We can’t escape work altogether, and there’s a lot of work we need to do, immediately and in the long term. But work doesn’t need to rule our lives.

The great nineteenth-century English socialist William Morris made a distinction between useful work and useless toil: we need the former but should free ourselves from the latter. We can escape the crushing toll of working long hours for low wages to make something that someone else owns.

At present, there’s a lot of work that’s worse than useless — it’s toil that’s harmful to the people doing it and to the world in which we live. But even useful work should be distributed more widely so that we can all do less of it — and spend more time enjoying its fruits.

I suppose there always has been work that is “worse than useless” — bullshit jobs and all that. But there is cruel irony in the fact that the ultimate solution to the 1930s problem of over-production was perpetual creation of useless toil through credit, fashion, advertising, and government stimulus and subsidies. The original proposal had been… shorter working time!

Which brings me back to the peregrinations of the FDR New Deal. The 12-year deadline posited by the I.P.C.C. for keeping within the 1.5 degree centigrade limit brings us to the 100th anniversary of Keynes’s “Economic Possibilities For Our Grandchildren.” Time has run out on his caveat:

But beware! The time for all this is not yet. For at least another hundred years we must pretend to ourselves and to every one that fair is foul and foul is fair; for foul is useful and fair is not. Avarice and usury and precaution must be our gods for a little longer still. For only they can lead us out of the tunnel of economic necessity into daylight.

We have been pretending long enough now for foul to become worse than useless and to convince ourselves that fair really would be foul. It is past time to stop pretending.

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Damn Socialists, Commies, and Libruls – Updated February 24th

In an editorial, the publisher of the Democrat-Reporter newspaper in Linden Alabama confirmed to the Montgomery Advertiser on Monday that he authored the Feb. 14 editorial calling for the return of a white supremacist hate group.

In a conversation, Goodloe Sutton added to the editorial.

“If we could get the Klan to go up there and clean out D.C., we’d all been better off.”

Asked to elaborate what he meant by cleaning up D.C., Sutton suggested lynching.

“We’ll get the hemp ropes out, loop them over a tall limb and hang all of them,” Sutton said.

(Finally, someone who know what hemp is used for besides medicinal. As an 18 year old, I would help my dad rig rope-scaffolds on the buildings in Chicago. I can still splice Manila – hemp ropes up to 1 inch as my hands have growth weaker over the years.)

When asked if he felt it was appropriate for the publisher of a newspaper to call for the lynching of Americans, Sutton doubled down on his position.

“It’s not calling for the lynching of Americans. These are socialist-communists we’re talking about. Do you know what socialism and communism is?” Sutton asked.

Montgomery Advertiser reporter Melissa Brown

Update:, February 23, 2019: In a, I do not give a damn – Melissa moment, Goodloe Sutton, decided he had had enough as did his family with Goodloe.

“Lady, I don’t give a shit. I’m quitting. You can tell everybody you ran me out of the newspaper business.”

The Sutton family: “Effective February 21, 2019, Elecia R. Dexter will be the Publisher and Editor of the newspaper going forward.” Elecia is a Black woman and it is hinted she may now be the owner.

Montgomery Advertiser reporter Melissa Brown

So much for white-trash.

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