Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Top Ten Worst Things about the Bush Decade; Or, the Rise of the New Oligarchs

By spring of 2000, Texas governor George W. Bush was wrapping up the Republican nomination for president, and he went on to dominate the rest of the decade. If Dickens proclaimed of the 1790s revolutionary era in France that it was the best of times and the worst of times, the reactionary Bush era was just the worst of times. I declare it the decade of the American oligarchs. Just as the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union allowed the emergence of a class of lawless 'Oligarchs' in Russia, so Neoliberal tax policies and deregulation produced American equivalents. (For more on the analogy, see Michael Hudson.) We have always had robber barons in American politics, but the Neoliberal moment created a new social class. At about 1.3 million adults, it is not too large to have some cohesive interests, and its corporations, lobbyists, and other institutions allow it to intervene systematically in politics. It owns 45 percent of the privately held wealth and is heading toward 50, i.e. toward a Banana Republic. Thus, we have a gutted fairness doctrine and the end of anti-trust concerns in ownership of mass media, allowing a multi-billionaire like Rupert Murdoch to buy up major media properties and to establish a cable television channel which is nothing but oligarch propaganda. They established 'think tanks' like the American Enterprise Institute, which hires only staff that are useful agents of the interests of the very wealthy, and which produce studies denying global climate change or lying about the situation in Iraq. Bush-Cheney were not simply purveyors of wrong-headed ideas. They were the agents of the one percent, and their policies make perfect sense if seen as attempts to advance the interests of this narrow class of persons. It is the class that owns our mass media, that pays for the political campaigns of 'our' (their) representatives, that gives us the Bushes and Cheneys and Palins because they are useful to them, and that blocks progressive reform and legislation with the vast war chest funneled to them by deep tax cuts that allow them to use essential public resources, infrastructure and facilities gratis while making the middle class pay for them.

Here are my picks for the top ten worst things about the wretched period, which, however, will continue to follow us until the economy is re-regulated, anti-trust concerns again pursued, a new, tweaked fairness doctrine is implemented, and we return to a more normal distribution of wealth (surely a quarter of the privately held wealth is enough for the one percent?) It isn't about which party is in power; parties can always be bought. It is about how broadly shared resources are in a society. Egalitarianism is unworkable, but over-concentration of wealth is also impractical. The latter produced a lot of our problems in the past decade, and as long as such massive inequality persists, our politics will be lopsided.

10. Stagnating worker wages and the emergence of a new monied aristocracy. Of all the income growth of the entire country of the United States in the Bush years, the richest 1 percent of the working population, about 1.3 million persons, grabbed up over two-thirds of it. The Reagan and Bush cuts in tax rates on the wealthy have created a dangerous little alien inside our supposedly democratic society, of the super-rich, with their legions of camp followers (sometimes referred to as 'analysts' or 'economists' or 'journalists'). The new lords and ladies are the Dick and Liz Cheneys and the people for whom they shill. They are the Rupert Murdochs and the Richard Mellon Scaifes, and they are guaranteed to own more and more of the country as long as more progressive taxation (i.e. pre-Reagan, not pre-Bush) is not restored. They are the ones who didn't want a public universal health option, did not want the wars abroad to end abruptly, did not want the Copenhagen Climate convention to succeed. They are driven by pure greed and narrow profit-seeking for themselves. They always get their way, and they always will as long as you poor stupid bastards buy the line that when the government raises their taxes, it is taking something away from you. It is the alliance of the Neoliberal super-rich with the new lower middle class populists led by W. and now by Sarah Palin that produces clown politics in the US unmatched in most advanced industrial countries with the possible exception of Italy.

9. Health and food insecurity increased for ordinary Americans. Health care costs skyrocketed. Most Americans in the work force who have health care are covered via their employers. 'From 1999 to 2009 health insurance premiums increased 132%" for the companies paying most of the costs of coverage to their employees. Euromonitor adds, "Average private health insurance premiums for a family of four in 1999 were US$5,485 per annum or 7.2% of household disposable income. 2008 premiums were estimated at US$12,973 per annum or 14.8% of average household disposable income." By Bush's last year in office, food insecurity among American families was at a 14-year high. About 49 million Americans, one in six of us, worried about having enough food to eat at some points in that year, and resorted to soup lines, food stamps, or dietary shortcuts. Some 16 million, according to the NYT, suffered from '“very low food security,” meaning lack of money forced members to skip meals, cut portions or otherwise forgo food at some point in the year.' Hundreds of thousands of children are going hungry in the richest country in the world. From being a proud, wealthy people, our social superiors reduced us to the estate of third-world peasants, so as to make sure their bonuses were bigger.

8. The environment became more polluted. The Bush administration was the worst on record on environmental issues. Carbon emissions grew unchecked, and the threat of climate change accelerated. In fact, Bush muzzled government climate scientists and had their reports rewritten by lawyers from Big Oil.

7. The imperial presidency was ensconced in ways it will be difficult to pare back. But note that its powers were never used against the oligarchs (unlike the case in Putin's Russia), but rather deployed to ensure the continued destruction of the labor movement and the political bargaining power of workers and the middle class, and to harass and disrupt peace, rights and environmental movements. A part of this process was the abrogation of fourth amendment protections against arbitrary search, seizure and snooping into people's mail and effects, and of other key constitutional rights under vague and unconstitutional rubrics such as 'providing material aid to terrorists,'(rights which seem unlikely ever to be restored).

6. The Katrina flood and the destruction of much of historic African-American New Orleans, and the massive failure of the Bush administration to come to the aid of one of America's great cities. The administration's unconcern about the unsound dam infrastructure, about climate change, and about the fate of the victims are all a wake-up call for what all of us have in store from the small social class that Bush served.

5. The Bush administration's post-2002 mishandling of Afghanistan, where the Taliban had been overthrown successfully in 2001 and were universally despised. The Bush administration's attempt to assert itself with a big troop presence in the Pashtun provinces, its use of search and destroy tactics and missile strikes, its neglect of civilian reconstruction, and its failure to finish off al-Qaeda, allowed an insurgency gradually to grow. It should have been nipped in the bud, but was not. Once an insurgency becomes well established, it is defeated militarily only about 20 percent of the time. Eight years later, the Neoconservative thrust into Central Asia (in search of hydrocarbon leverage, or in a geopolitical pissing match with Russia and China?) of the early years of this decade has bequeathed us yet another war, this time one that could destabilize neighboring Pakistan-- the world's sole Muslim nuclear power.

4. The Iraq War, which the US illegally launched a war of aggression that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, displaced 4 million (over as million abroad), destroyed entire cities such as Fallujah, set off a Sunni-Shiite civil war, allowed Baghdad to be ethnically cleansed of its Sunnis, practiced systematic and widespread torture before the eyes of the Muslim Middle East and the world, and immeasurably strengthened Iran's hand in the Middle East. All this on false pretexts such as 'weapons of mass destruction' or 'democratization,' for the sake ofopening the Iraqi oil markets to US hydrocarbon firms-- a significant faction of the oligarchic class. Cost to the US in American military life: 4,373 dead as of Dec 15 and 31,603 wounded in combat. The true totals of war-related dead and injured are higher, since 30,000 troops who were only diagnosed with brain injuries on their return to the US are not counted in the statistics, according to Michael Munk. The cost of the Iraq War when everything is taken into account will likely be $3 trillion.

3. The great $12 trillion Bank Robberry, in which unscrupulous bankers and financiers were deregulated and given free rein to create worthless derivatives, sell impossible mortgages to uninformed marks who could not understand their complicated terms, and then to roll this garbage up into securities re-sold like the
Cheshire cat, with a big visible smile of asserted value hanging in the air even as their actual worth disappeared into thin air. Having allowed the one-percent oligarchs to capture most of the increase of the country's wealth in recent decades, Bush and Paulsen now initiated the surrender to them of nearly a further entire year's gross domestic product of the US, stealing it from the rest of us by deficit budget financing that will have the effect of deflating our savings and property values and relative value of our currency against other world currencies. That is, we are to be further beggared for sake of the super-rich. And while the banks and bankers are held harmless, the hardworking Americans who have lost and will lose their homes are extended virtually no help. While 500,000 American children will go hungry at least some of the time this year, the Oligarchs at Goldman, Sachs, will get millions in bonuses, on the backs of the ordinary taxpayers. It seems likely to me that the creation of a pool of vast excess liquidity for the super-rich by the Reagan-Cheney tax cuts was what impelled them to develop the derivatives, since they had too much capital for ordinary investment purposes and were restlessly seeking new gaming tables. The conclusion is that until we get our gini coefficient back into some sort of synch, we are likely at risk for further such meltdowns.

2. The September 11 attacks on New York and Washington by al-Qaeda, an organization that stemmed from the Reagan administration's anti-Soviet jihad in the 1980s and which decided that, having defeated one superpower, it could take down the other. Al-Qaeda's largely Arab volunteer fighters had confronted the Soviets over their occupation of a major Muslimm country, Afghanistan. Bin Laden was himself a Neoliberal Oligarch, but he broke with the Gulf consensus of seeking a US security umbrella, thus creating a fissure within his powerful social class. Al-Qaeda viewed the US as only a slightly less objectionable occupier, though they were willing to make an atliance of convenience in the 1980s. But they were increasingly enraged and galvanized to strike, they said, by the post-Gulf-War sanctions on Iraq that killed 500,000 children, the debilitating Israeli occupation of the Palestinians, and the establishment of US bases in the holy Arabian Peninsula (with its oil riches that Bin Laden believed were being looted for pennies by the West, aided by a supine and corrupt Saudi dynasty). Al-Qaeda was a small fringe crackpot group of murderous conspiracy theorists, since most of what they considered an American 'occupation' of Muslims was no such thing. The leasing of Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia was comparable to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan? They intended to make themselves look like a world-historical force, and the US new Oligarchs, who no longer had the international Communist conspiracy with which to scare the American public into letting them have their way, were happy to buy in to the hyping of al-Qaeda, as well. But the catastrophe was not only the attacks, deadly and horrific though they were, but the alacrity with which Americans rsurrendered their birthright of yeoman liberties to a Bonapartist regime that ran roughshod over law, the constitution, the Congress, and anyone, such as Ambassador Joe Wilson, who dared oppose it.

1. The constitutional coup of 2000, in which Bush was declared the winner of an election he had lost, with the deployment of the most ugly racial and other low tricks in the ballot counting and the intervention of a partisan and far right-wing Supreme Court (itself drawn from or serving the oligarchs), and which gave us the worst president in the history of the union, who proceeded to drive the country off a cliff for the succeeding 8 years. And that is because he was not our president, but theirs.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


New law focused on distracted driving takes effect January 1, 2010
by Fred Hansen, General Manager — last modified Nov 12, 2009 03:59 PM

The new law impacts all TriMet employees who use cell phones

There have been numerous stories in the media about the dangers of distracted driving and accidents caused by drivers texting or on a cell phone. In response, the Oregon Legislature recently passed a bill to outlaw the use of handheld cell phones while operating a vehicle. 

The new law allows the police to cite a driver using a handheld cell phone beginning January 1, 2010. The new law does not prohibit hands free use. However, TriMet’s policy goes further than the law, since we do not allow either handheld or hands free cell phone usage. 

TriMet policy prohibits personal cell phone use (handheld or hands free) while operating a bus, train, LIFT or non-revenue vehicle (including a privately-owned vehicle) on TriMet business. For TriMet staff not operating a bus, LIFT or train but driving while on TriMet business, you must pull over and stop the vehicle before answering or dialing a cell phone. 

Discipline procedures for violating the policy will also change: If there is proof that non-business cell phone use occurred while operating a revenue vehicle on TriMet business, we consider this a violation of District policy, as well as the Working and Wage Agreement, and can be cause for immediate termination.

There is solid research as to why driving while distracted is a serious issue. Research has found that a motorist talking on a cell phone is "four times as likely to crash as other drivers" and as likely to cause an accident as someone with a .08 blood alcohol content."

In addition to restricting all personal cell phone use while operating a TriMet vehicle, it also restricts use of a personal cell phone while operating a personal vehicle in the course and scope of carrying out job duties.
No audio or video device of any kind including headsets, wireless earpieces, and cellular phones, shall ever be used or visible while you are in the driver’s seat unless you are parked at a layover.
Operators shall not use cellular telephones or other communications devices in an operating cab while the train is away from a terminal station, except to contact Control during a radio system failure.

Driving even with a hands free device is still distracting and can put our employees, riders and others at risk. I have a zero tolerance for violating our policies or the law. Compromising safety and distracted driving is not worth the risk.
Thank you.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Facebook has over 300 million active users. It is growing VERY rapidly. In July of this year there were 250 million users and 75 days later they added another 50 million users. Please understand that Facebook will become as pervasive as phones and computers, so if you aren’t on already I would strongly encourage you to consider joining.

Unfortunately, most users don’t know the implications of entering personal information, making friends, and playing games on Facebook.

However these concerns are EASY to address if you follow the guidelines below. Please understand that I strongly believe Facebook now offers a very powerful way to leverage our influence and more rapidly change the fatally flawed conventional paradigm.

I am VERY excited about Facebook and spend a lot of my free time connecting with highly leveraged individuals and CEOs of major companies, and news media. I have several major national news correspondents and journalists as friends.

I’m currently in the process of brainstorming a strategy to optimize these new relationships, but once that is done we should be able to get the message out to well over ten million people.

At this time I believe Facebook is going to play a major role in the beginning of the end of the entire corrupt system.

Currently Facebook limits the number of friends you can have to 5000 and I reached that many months ago. So if you haven’t already done so, please join my Facebook Fan page which has around 20,000 fans at this time.

There is a good chance that Facebook will change the rules and open up the Fan page to friends in the near future, so please join my Fan Page now.

Once you join Facebook, or if you are already on it, please follow these guidelines to preserve your privacy.

1. Organize Friends in Lists

Friend Lists are the foundation of your Facebook privacy settings. Select Friends from the top menu, and use the Create link to create friend lists like Co-workers, Family, College Friends, etc. Your friends can’t see your lists, so you can name them whatever you like.

2. Customize Profile Privacy

Click Settings > Privacy Settings > Profile. Select which parts of your profile will be seen by whom. If you chooseCustomize in the drop down, you can be more specific. This is where the Friend Lists you created before become really useful.

Also go to the Contact Information tab and choose how you want your contact information to be shared on the Internet.

3. Set Facebook Privacy Level of Photo Albums

On the Photos tab of your profile page, click Album Privacy. Here again, you can use your Friend Lists to set the privacy for each photo album. Note that your profile pictures go into a special album that is always visible to ALL your friends.

4. Restrict Search Visibility

Click Privacy > Search to set your visibility when someone searches Facebook for people. This is an important way to safeguard your Facebook privacy.

5. Control Automatic Wall Posts and News Feed Updates

Your actions in Facebook such as comments, likes, appear as highlights on ALL your friends’ home pages. You cannot use friend lists here, only turn them on or off. Go to Privacy > News Feed and Wall and make your selections.

6. Set Facebook Wall Privacy

Go to your profile page, click Options > Settings under the status box. Here you can control whether your friends can post to your Wall, and who can see the posts made by your friends.

7. Avoid Appearing in Advertisements

Facebook has two types of advertisements: third-party and Facebook. Third-party advertisements are currently not allowed to use your pictures, but there is a setting to disallow it if it is allowed in the future. Go to Privacy > News Feed and Wall > Facebook Ads tab to turn this off.

8. Protect Yourself from Friends’ Applications

Go to Privacy > Applications, and click the Settings tab and uncheck all the boxes. These settings control what information about you is visible to applications installed by your friends. By default, these are set to visible. This means that your information is readily available to one of the million worldwide Facebook application developers, each time any of your friends takes a quiz, plays a game, or runs any other Facebook app. These settings control what applications installed by your friends can see about you, even if you don’t install the application yourself.

9. Privacy from Your Applications

There is no way to control what applications see about you; it is an all-or-nothing affair. The only thing you can do is to authorize only those applications you require and trust. Go to Settings > Application Settings from the top menu. Change the drop-down from Recently Used to Authorized. Here you can see all the applications you have authorized to get access to ALL your profile information. Remove the ones you no longer need. Also check the list of applications Allowed to Post andGranted Additional Permissions to remove unwanted ones.

10. Quitting Facebook? Delete, Don’t Just De-Activate Your Account

You can easily deactivate your account in Facebook from the Settings page. But deactivation will retain all your profile information within Facebook, including pictures, friends, etc. If you want to permanently delete your Facebook account, click here to submit a deletion request. Note that:

  1. There is an unspecified delay between submitting your delete request and actual deletion.

  2. If you login to Facebook, your deletion request is automatically cancelled.

  3. There doesn’t seem to be any way to confirm that your request was completed.

  4. Even after permanent deletion, copies of your photos may remain on their servers for technical reasons.


"Eve Pell on Old Money and Its Discontents

"The Truth About Two Racists—Beck and Limbaugh

"The Worst Type of Cad

"Let Blue Dogs Face the Music

Secret Link Between Cigarettes and Cell Phones?

Saturday, November 7, 2009


New Articles

· Several restaurant chains are offering free meals to U.S. military personnel in conjunction with Veterans Day.

· Was ABC News' 20/20 co-anchor John Stossel fired for trying to air a piece critical of health care reform?

· What happened to the FOX News documentary on Barack Obama?

· Noah Biorkman, a 5-year-old boy battling cancer, wants to receive Christmas cards.

· Would a House bill require members of Congress to participate in a publichealth care plan?

· Photograph shows representatives playing solitaire on their laptop computers during a legislative session.

· Do influenza outbreaks of recent years correspond to Chinese astrologicalsymbols?

· Photographs capture images of white-coated moose.

· E-mailed list offers tips for avoiding contracting the swine flu.

· Don't forget to visit our Daily Snopes page for a collection of odd news stories from around the world!

Worth a Second Look

· Does a photograph show a tearful veteran embracing a wounded Marine?

Still Haunting the Inbox

· Some rumors about snopes.com were debunked at FactCheck.org.

· Message promises consumers can receive free laptop computers from Ericsson for forwarding an e-mail to their friends.

· Postcard / Greeting Card virus.

· E-warning cautions that cell phone numbers are being sold to telemarketers.

· Claim that peeled onions placed about the home will fight off the flu virus.

· Does a government program provide free cell phones to welfare recipients?

· E-mail advises contacting police by calling #77 (or *677) on a cell phone.

· First Lady Michelle Obama has an unprecedented number of staffersworking for her.

· Warning about cash back charges being surreptitiously placed on WalMart customers' credit cards.

· Message lists criticisms of Barack Obama noticed by the public.

· Warning about a password-stealing Facebook virus.

· Mail Server Report virus.

· E-mail petition #2493 from Dr. James Dobson protests proposed ban on religious broadcasting.

· Actor/writer Ben Stein's commentary on the observance of Christmas.

· Warning about thieves armed with "code grabbers" breaking into cars by recording signals sent from remote keyless entry devices.

· Warning about 'Osama Captured/Hanged' computer virus.

· Warnings about scammers' running up long-distance charges by asking victims to press #-9-0 on their telephones or luring phone users into returning calls to numbers within the 809 area code.

· Account of Irena Sendler's saving 2,500 Polish Jews from the Holocaust.

· Promotion promises free cash or merchandise for forwarding an e-mail message.

· Message from Vietnam vet claims Target stores do not support veterans.

· Claim that Rep. Nancy Pelosi regularly travels to California on a 200-seat jet.

· Claim that the ACLU is seeking to have cross-shaped headstones removedfrom federal cemeteries.

· Plea to help find missing girl Ashley Flores.

· Comedian Bill Cosby's purported platform as a write-in candidate.

Fraud Afoot

· Seems like everyone has become the recipient of mysterious e-mails promising untold wealth if only one helps a wealthy foreigner quietly move millions of dollars out of his country. The venerable 419 Scam has discovered the goldmine that is the Internet. Beware: There's still no such thing as "something for nothing," and the contents of your bank account will end up with these wily foreigners if you fall in with this.

· Likewise, look out for mailings announcing you've won a foreign lottery you don't recall entering or claiming that because you share the surname of a wealthy person who died without leaving a will you're in line for a windfallinheritance.

· And be especially wary if, while trying to sell or rent anything online (car, boat, horse, motorcycle, painting, apartment, you name it) you're approached by a prospective buyer/renter who wants to pay with a cashier check made out for an amount in excess of the agreed-upon price and who asks the balance be sent to a third party.

· Aspiring work-at-homers promised big bucks for acting as intermediaries for international transactions wherein they cash checks for other parties or reship goods to them have been defrauded by con artists. Don't you be next.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Saving the Obama Revolution

By Robert Scheer

The Obama revolution, and there was the hope of one, might still succeed. But only if Barack Obama follows the model of the incredibly successful Reagan revolution and heeds the political base that made his presidency possible.

Love him or not, Ronald Reagan had at least one outstanding political virtue—his respect for the concerns of those who placed their trust in him. And whenever the political vultures that feast on power tried to lead him astray, they were fired at the insistence of Reagan or his remarkably savvy wife, Nancy. Hopefully Obama and his no-less-impressive mate, Michelle, will do the same.

The first obligation of Obama as president is to be a peacemaker, since he as a candidate seized that mantle, successfully exploiting his early opposition to the Iraq war, which his closest rival, Hillary Clinton, had supported. Obama, as opposed to her flirtations with U.S. imperial arrogance, has stuck to a vision of a complex multipolar world in which the military option is to be chosen only as a last resort.

In that regard the president is making some progress, particularly with his decision to stop provoking the Russians with an unneeded and unworkable missile defense on their border. He also seems serious about getting the Israelis and Palestinians to peace negotiations, the one issue in the Mideast that must be solved if the region’s religious fanatics are to be neutralized. And he will deserve credit if he backs his attorney general’s quest to hold the enablers of a U.S. government torture policy accountable.

The deal breaker in foreign policy so far has been his escalation of the folly of U.S. nation-building in Afghanistan that feeds rather than mitigates terrorist recruitment. That is the unmistakable, if unintended, conclusion of the 66-page declassified report of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal that became public this week. It states: “ … many indicators suggest the overall situation is deteriorating. We face not only a resilient and growing insurgency; there is also a crisis of confidence among Afghans—in both their government and the international community—that undermines our credibility and emboldens the insurgents.”

The report makes clear that the insurgents are deeply divided into three camps (one of which previously fought against the Taliban) and are basically homegrown, and provides no evidence that defeating them has anything to do with making us safer from attack by al-Qaida terrorists. Lest we forget, the 9/11 hijackers found it easier to operate from Germany, San Diego and Florida rather than forlorn Afghanistan.

The foreign influence behind the insurgency comes primarily from one of the countries we are allied with; as the report notes, “Afghanistan’s insurgency is clearly supported from Pakistan.” And the document goes on to say that the historical India-Pakistan rivalry has now been transferred to Afghanistan, where “the current Afghan government is perceived by Islamabad to be pro-Indian.” Great, another Kashmir battlefield in the making.

Obama was right during his appearances Sunday on the TV political talk shows to put the emphasis on going after what remains of Osama bin Laden’s forces in Pakistan and elsewhere rather than simply throwing more troops into the Afghanistan war. He raised the all-important question of what U.S. troops in Afghanistan are expected to do.

The McChrystal report agrees that the key is the question of mission rather than simply increasing troop numbers: “Success is achievable, but it will not be attained simply by trying harder or ‘doubling down’ on the previous strategy. Additional resources are required, but focusing on force or resource requirements misses the point entirely. The key take away from this assessment is the urgent need for a significant change to our strategy and the way we think and operate.”

There is a sobering honesty to McChrystal’s report that those who want to “win” in Afghanistan must take into account. The mission the general outlines is one of nation-building with a vengeance by U.S. forces that must forsake the safety of their bases, learn the local languages and enter into the administration of local life without being able to count on the support of the hopelessly corrupt and, after the rigged election, illegitimate Afghan government. “Afghans are frustrated and weary after eight years without evidence of the progress they anticipated,” the report says.

It’s the old winning-hearts-and-minds strategy that has never worked—as Richard Holbrooke, Obama’s point man in the region, should know from his failed efforts to win hearts and minds during the war in Vietnam, where he specialized in “rural pacification.” That was a Democrat’s war, and the base of the party, which knows better than to repeat that disastrous error, should tell the president so.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Surprised by Disaster by Fred, Son of Tzu

In re Afghanistan, why, you might ask, is the world’s hugest, expensivest, most begadgeted military unable to defeat a few thousand angry tribesmen armed with AKs and RPGs?

Easy: Character. The men running the war are mentally the wrong ones to do it.

Think about this for a moment. Suppose that your boss at the lab or law firm or newsroom demanded that, when he entered the room, you leapt spasmodically to your feet, stood rigidly erect with your feet at a forty-five degree angle like a congenitally deformed duck, and stared straight ahead until he gave you permission to relax. You would think, correctly, that he was crazy as a bedbug. If he then required reporters to stand in a square so he could inspect their belt buckles, you would either figure he was a gay blade or call for a struggle buggy and some big orderlies. This weird posturing is not normal, nor are those it appeals to.

Suppose you showed up for freshman orientation at Princeton and your professors bellowed at the tops of their voices, three inches from your face, “Your shoes ain’t shined good, puke. Get down and give me fifty.” (Pushups, that is, which in the military doesn’t mean the better sort of bra.) You would decide that the loon had lost whatever mind he had ever had, and call Domino’s for a cheese pizza, double Haldol.

Should you be so unwary as to suggest the foregoing in print, the response will usually be that militaries need discipline. True, and so do newspapers. However, there is a distinction between discipline and ritualized lunacy. At every publication for which I have worked, the editor was clearly and absolutely in charge. Yet I, seldom senior, could say, “Yeah, Wes, but if we do that, won’t thus-and-so bad thing happen?” His decision was law, but he was happy to hear from subordinates, who might know something he didn’t. Editors do not require vaguely sadomasochistic submissiveness.

This hoopla is not of use in combat. The Taliban seem to be doing rather well. Do you suppose their commanders check their beds to be sure that a quarter will bounce from their blankets?

Now, what kind of kid wants to go for robot training at West Point or boat school at Annapolis? Statistically these kids are bright, gregarious, “motivated” (a favorite military word), athletic, perhaps Eagle Scouts. Psychologically they want (need?) to live under a regime of rigid conformity and obedience that would appear as absurd as it is if we were not accustomed seeing it among soldiers. That is, they are autoselected not to think for themselves or question decisions from above. They are exactly what universities exist not to produce.

The service academies reinforce these unfortunate characteristics. Their schooling consists of four years of learning what to think, not how to think. There are hours of running in formation (“If I die on the Russian front….”), close-order drill, manual of arms (“Hen-spection…harms!”). Why? There is no military value in being able to shift your rifle from shoulder to shoulder crisply. Like the endless inspections of everything, all of this participation in the hive inculcates groupishness and a curious sense of safety in conformity.

The effects are remarkable and, from a standpoint of civilization, undesirable. Large authoritarian organizations make easier the compartmentalization of morality. A colonel typically will be a good neighbor, civic-minded, responsible, unlikely to steal your silverware or kick your dog. If the Pentagon tells him to bomb a city he has never heard of and has no reason to bomb, killing people who pose no threat to him, he will. He feels no individual responsibility for atrocious behavior ordered from above. “I vas only followink orders,” the Nuremberg defense, is the bedrock of military ethics, if any.

Men trained in conformist obedience can work marvels. They just don’t care whether the marvel is good or evil. If you need to handle some vast natural disaster, call on the military. They have the manpower, the aircraft, the medics, the co-operation to get things done now. They will stay on their feet for forty-eight hours without sleep. They take the “mission” (another favorite military word) seriously.

What they do not do particularly well is wage war. Why? Because they have in their minds a view of war that is partly that of offensive linemen—you close with the enemy and destroy him—and partly martial romanticism. They speak of duty, honor, country, bravery, fallen comrades, proving oneself. Military history is rife with silly pageantry, nobility of spirit, glorious charges, and impracticality. Having been trained to think rigidly, they do.

Before Agincourt, there were things the French might profitably have learned about long bows, but didn’t bother because chivalry didn’t concern itself with peasants. It was the glory of the thing, not whether they were committing suicide. English generals killed 20,000 young Brits in one day at the Somme; they hadn’t compared the ideas in their heads with then-current military reality (such as that infantry charges over long distances against massed machine guns, artillery, and barbed wire are not especially productive, unless you manufacture embalming fluid.) Authoritarian group-think, love of ritual, romanticism, inattention: not a happy brew.

Further, military service encourages an often-catastrophic sense of masculine potency. Running in formation with fifty other men (“lef-rye-lef-rye-lef-rye-layeff….”) or watching a fighter cat-shot from a carrier deck—the thrill is gonadal, appealing to something deep in the male psyche, a challenge flung at life. It is wonderful, but not a sound basis for judgement.

A consequence is a tendency for militaries of the First World to gravely overestimate themselves, and thus underestimate their enemies. This is why they usually expect wars to be far shorter and cheaper than they turn out to be. As recent examples, the French did not expect those slanty-eyed little zipperheads (les jaunes) to win in Viet Nam, nor did the Pentagon have any idea they the US could possibly lose 60,000 dead and the war in that country, Iraq would be a cakewalk, and those louse-infested towel-heads in Afghanistan had no hope against American swoosh-kerpows. The US military in particular has a compulsory can-do attitude, with slogans like “The difficult we can do today, the impossible takes a bit longer.” This substitution of morale for comprehension is regularly disastrous.

Having no idea what they are getting into is almost doctrine among professional officers. A major does not become a colonel by saying, “General, the French didn’t do all that well at Dien Bien Phu. Maybe we ought to, you know, do something else. We could invade Vanuatu.”

America’s problem is not that its generals prepare for the last war, but that they don’t prepare for it, and then fight it again the same way.


Here are the secrets your dentist may not want you to know -- but you need to know to get the best care possible:

Secret #1: Your dentist may not be as educated as you think.

Dentistry has changed a lot since your dentist graduated from dental school. There have been major advances in most materials used in fillings, bonding and root canals. If your dentist is not actively engaged in continuing education, it is unlikely that he or she is keeping up with these developments.

Secret #2: Your dentist may not have the latest technology.

Digital x-ray: Dentists who do not have digital x-ray equipment are practicing in the dark ages. Digital x-rays use less radiation than film. They are easier to read and the ability to manipulate contrast makes diagnosis more accurate.

Ultrasonic Cleaning: Ultrasonic instruments vibrate plaque and calculus off your teeth, even in areas below your gums. It is much more comfortable than old-fashioned hand scraping.

CEREC: The CEREC system lets your dentist provide a ceramic crown or veneer in only one visit. CEREC means fewer injections, less drilling and no annoying temporaries.

Diagnodent: This is a laser that the dentist shines on the tooth and it tells whether there is a cavity and how deep it is. With the use of this technology, the dentist can detect cavities, and find them at an earlier stage, than traditional poking around the tooth.

Secret #3: Your dentist may be using mercury.

Mercury is toxic. Norway and Sweden have banned the use of mercury fillings.. But mercury fillings are less expensive and easier for the dentist to use. If your dentist does not use composite fillings, don't go to that dentist any more. In the US, the FDA is way behind the ball and not actively warning patients about this like they have been mandated by the courts to do.

Secret #4: The lab may be more important than your dentist.

Dental labs create dentures, crowns, bridges, orthodontic appliances, and other dental restorations like implant crowns. There is a huge difference in the quality of these labs. You should be particularly wary if your dentist is using a lab in China or Mexico. Some of the top labs in the U.S. are Aurum Ceramics, MicroDental Laboratories, da Vinci Dental Studio, and Williams Dental Lab.

Secret #5: There's more to good dentistry than filling cavities.

A competent dentist screens for more than tooth decay. He or she should be concerned about sleep apnea, jaw-related pain known as TMJ or temporomandibular joint disorder, periodontal disease, oral cancer, diabetes and hypertension.

Secret #6: You are probably using the wrong specialist for dental implants.

Since dental implants involve the removal of a tooth and replacing it with an artificial tooth, many patients assume that an oral surgeon is best qualified to do it. This can be a flawed assumption. Periodontists, who specialize in gum disease, may be a better option. Periodontists have special training in gum tissue and underlying bone in the mouth, which are significant issues in dental implants.

Secret #7: Bad dental advice about dentures can be fatal!

Dentures are no joke. Your dentist should examine your dentures for evidence of wear. Wearing down the teeth on your dentures can result in distorted facial characteristics, collapse of the bite and closure of the airway.

Secret #8: Your dentist may not know enough about sleep apnea.

The most common form of sleep apnea is caused by a blockage of the airway during sleep. It is a pretty scary condition. The patient can stop breathing hundreds of times during the night. A common treatment for sleep apnea is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), which involves blowing pressurized room air through the airway at high enough pressure to keep the airway open.

As an alternative, your dentist, working with your physician, can custom make a device that guides the lower jaw forward, called a mandibular advancement device or MAD. MAD devices are more comfortable to wear and the compliance rates are much higher than using CPAP.

Secret #9: Not all cosmetic dentists have the skills to really improve your smile.

Any dentist can call herself a "cosmetic dentist." Your dentist should be able to show you ten or more before and after photographs or videos, and be willing to give you the names of patients who have consented to be used as references.

Secret #10: How to avoid the root canal your dentist says you need.

Ask about the "ferrule effect." Technically, this means that a root canal is unlikely to be successful if there is not enough tooth structure above the gum line to protect the tooth from coming loose or fracturing after it has been prepared for a crown. If your tooth fails the "ferrule effect" test, you might be better off with an extraction and an implant.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


Pitbull boards TriMet bus.
Pitbull boards TriMet bus.
The 52 TriMet bus headed through Aloha Friday morning during a seemingly normal dark October day along Farmington Road.

But, a different type of rider jumped on board at SW 160th.

Furry. With four legs. And a tail wagging.

“You open the door, it’s really simple. People get on, people get off—and a dog can do it too,” says TriMet spokesperson Mary Fetsch (prounced coincidentally, Fetch).

She says the canine boarded without a transfer or paying any fare at all.

This is not the first time this has happened for the Portland area transit agency. A coyote tried to ride for free on a light rail train in 2002. An airport worker snapped photographic evidence of the freeloading four-legged fare jumper curled up on the seat at the PDX MAX stop.

“A coyote on the MAX train,” explains Fetsch, “it’s warm inside, they see an open door—they think it’s a nice place to go.”

Signs along the Farmington Road do have a silhouette image of a deer. Fetsch explains this does not indicate that deer ride for free. Instead, she says, it indicates an outdated way the agency used to designate areas of the city—using symbols like a snowflake, a beaver, a deer and a raindrop.

Fetsch says that no matter how well an animal might carry themselves in public, that it’s TriMet regulations that state any pet must be in a carrier.

“No dogs on the bus, even if they have the correct fare,” she said.

The dog in question did get to go anywhere. A nearby human walking their own dog was frightened by the pit bull mix being overly friendly and called 9-1-1.

The bus waited for a Washington County Sheriff’s deputy to arrive and take custody of the dog who was without collar, leash or microship. The deputy describes the dog as “loveable and friendly."

The mystery fare-jumping dog is currently staying at the Washington County Animal Services shelter until an owner can be found. Their director tells KOIN Local 6 that apparently Washington County pets are on board with mass transit. She says it was just last week that a different dog was found riding the MAX train in Beaverton.

Monday, October 26, 2009


"Michael Moore's Action Plan: 15 Things Every American Can Do Right Now"
You've Seen the Movie -- Now It's Time to ACT!
Thursday, October 22, 2009
It's the #1 question I'm constantly asked after people see my movie: "OK -- so NOW what can I DO?!"
You want something to do? Well, you've come to the right place! 'Cause I got 15 things you and I can do right now to fight back and try to fix this very broken system.
Here they are:
1. Declare a moratorium on all home evictions. Not one more family should be thrown out of their home. The banks must adjust their monthly mortgage payments to be in line with what people's homes are now truly worth -- and what they can afford. Also, it must be stated by law: If you lose your job, you cannot be tossed out of your home.
2. Congress must join the civilized world and expand Medicare For All Americans. A single, nonprofit source must run a universal health care system that covers everyone. Medical bills are now the #1 cause of bankruptcies and evictions in this country. Medicare For All will end this misery. The bill to make this happen is called H.R. 3200. You must call AND write your members of Congress and demand its passage, no compromises allowed.
3. Demand publicly-funded elections and a prohibition on elected officials leaving office and becoming lobbyists. Yes, those very members of Congress who solicit and receive millions of dollars from wealthy interests must vote to remove ALL money from our electoral and legislative process. Tell your members of Congress they must support campaign finance bill H.R.1826.
4. Each of the 50 states must create a state-owned public bank like they have in North Dakota. Then congress MUST reinstate all the strict pre-Reagan regulations on all commercial banks, investment firms, insurance companies -- and all the other industries that have been savaged by deregulation: Airlines, the food industry, pharmaceutical companies -- you name it. If a company's primary motive to exist is to make a profit, then it needs a set of stringent rules to live by -- and the first rule is "Do no harm." The second rule: The question must always be asked -- "Is this for the common good?" (Click here for some info about the state-owned Bank of North Dakota.)
5. Save this fragile planet and declare that all the energy resources above and beneath the ground are owned collectively by all of us. Just like they do it in Sarah Palin's socialist Alaska. We only have a few decades of oil left. The public must be the owners and landlords of the natural resources and energy that exists within our borders or we will descend further into corporate anarchy. And when it comes to burning fossil fuels to transport ourselves, we must cease using the internal combustion engine and instruct our auto/transportation companies to rehire our skilled workforce and build mass transit (clean buses, light rail, subways, bullet trains, etc.) and new cars that don't contribute to climate change. (For more on this, here's a proposal I wrote in December.) Demand that General Motors' de facto chairman, Barack Obama, issue a JFK man-on-the-moon-style challenge to turn our country into a nation of trains and buses and subways. For Pete's sake, people, we were the ones who invented (or perfected) these damn things in the first place!!
1. Each of us must get into the daily habit of taking 5 minutes to make four brief calls: One to the President (202-456-1414), one to your Congressperson (202-224-3121) and one to each of your two Senators (202-224-3121). To find out who represents you, click here. Take just one minute on each of these calls to let them know how you expect them to vote on a particular issue. Let them know you will have no hesitation voting for a primary opponent -- or even a candidate from another party -- if they don't do our bidding. Trust me, they will listen. If you have another five minutes, click here to send them each an email. And if you really want to drop an anvil on them, send them a snail mail letter!
2. Take over your local Democratic Party. Remember how much fun you had with all those friends and neighbors working together to get Barack Obama elected? YOU DID THE IMPOSSIBLE. It's time to re-up! Get everyone back together and go to the monthly meeting of your town or county Democratic Party -- and become the majority that runs it! There will not be many in attendance and they will either be happy or in shock that you and the Obama Revolution have entered the room looking like you mean business. President Obama's agenda will never happen without mass grass roots action -- and he won't feel encouraged to do the right thing if no one has his back, whether it's to stand with him, or push him in the right direction. When you all become the local Democratic Party, send me a photo of the group and I'll post it on my website.
3. Recruit someone to run for office who can win in your local elections next year -- or, better yet, consider running for office yourself! You don't have to settle for the incumbent who always expects to win. You can be our next representative! Don't believe it can happen? Check out these examples of regular citizens who got elected: State Senator Deb Simpson, California State Assemblyman Isadore Hall, Tempe, Arizona City Councilman Corey Woods, Wisconsin State Assemblyman Chris Danou, and Washington State Representative Larry Seaquist. The list goes on and on -- and you should be on it!
4. Show up. Picket the local branch of a big bank that took the bailout money. Hold vigils and marches. Consider civil disobedience. Those town hall meetings are open to you, too (and there's more of us than there are of them!). Make some noise, have some fun, get on the local news. Place "Capitalism Did This" signs on empty foreclosed homes, closed down businesses, crumbling schools and infrastructure. (You can download them from my website.)
5. Start your own media. You. Just you (or you and a couple friends). The mainstream media is owned by corporate America and, with few exceptions, it will never tell the whole truth -- so you have to do it! Start a blog! Start a website of real local news (here's an example: The Michigan Messenger). Tweet your friends and use Facebook to let them know what they need to do politically. The daily papers are dying. If you don't fill that void, who will?
1. Take your money out of your bank if it took bailout money and place it in a locally-owned bank or, preferably, a credit union.
2. Get rid of all your credit cards but one -- the kind where you have to pay up at the end of the month or you lose your card.
3. Do not invest in the stock market. If you have any extra cash, put it away in a savings account or, if you can, pay down on your mortgage so you can own your home as soon as possible. You can also buy very safe government savings bonds or T-bills. Or just buy your mother some flowers.
4. Unionize your workplace so that you and your coworkers have a say in how your business is run. Here's how to do it (more info here). Nothing is more American than democracy, and democracy shouldn't be checked at the door when you enter your workplace. Another way to Americanize your workplace is to turn your business into a worker-owned cooperative. You are not a wage slave. You are a free person, and you giving up eight hours of your life every day to someone else is to be properly compensated and respected.
5. Take care of yourself and your family. Sorry to go all Oprah on you, but she's right: Find a place of peace in your life and make the choice to be around people who are not full of negativity and cynicism. Look for those who nurture and love. Turn off the TV and the Blackberry and go for a 30-minute walk every day. Eat fruits and vegetables and cut down on anything that has sugar, high fructose corn syrup, white flour or too much sodium (salt) in it (and, as Michael Pollan says, "Eat (real) food, not too much, mostly plants"). Get seven hours of sleep each night and take the time to read a book a month. I know this sounds like I've turned into your grandma, but, dammit, take a good hard look at Granny -- she's fit, she's rested and she knows the names of both of her U.S. Senators without having to Google them. We might do well to listen to her. If we don't put our own "oxygen mask" on first (as they say on the airplane), we will be of no use to the rest of the nation in enacting any of this action plan!
I'm sure there are many other ideas you can come up with on how we can build this movement. Get creative. Think outside the politics-as-usual box. BE SUBVERSIVE! Think of that local action no one else has tried. Behave as if your life depended on it. Be bold! Try doing something with reckless abandon. It may just liberate you and your community and your nation.
And when you act, send me your stories, your photos and your video -- and be sure to post your ideas in the comments beneath this letter on my site so they can be shared with millions.
C'mon people -- we can do this! I expect nothing less of all of you, my true and trusted fellow travelers!
Michael Moore
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