Sunday, July 25, 2010

Cancer rate in Fallujah worse than Hiroshima
Common Man News: Social crisis in California deepens for millions

Gulf of Mexico Loop Current Broken!! Risk of Global Climate Change By BP Oil Spill! -- Signs of the Times News

Gulf of Mexico Loop Current Broken!! Risk of Global Climate Change By BP Oil Spill! -- Signs of the Times News

Lakota Sioux Declare Independence from USA News - Freedom - Hippyland

Lakota Sioux Declare Independence from USA News - Freedom - Hippyland

Welcome to Chris Floyd's Empire Burlesque

Welcome to Chris Floyd's Empire Burlesque

What Your Local Hospital is Hoping You Won't Discover offers a few essential facts about hospitals that you should know before you check in:

Stay Healthy in July

July is the most dangerous month to visit a hospital. That's the month when students graduate from medical school and start doing residencies at teaching hospitals. Deaths due to hospital medication errors spike by 10 percent in July.

Hospital Wait Times

Hospitals have terrible wait times, which may actually be endangering patients. Patients who need to be seen within 14 minutes of arriving ended up having to wait more than twice as long.

The Rise of Bedsores

In recent years, the number of hospital patients suffering from bedsores has increased significantly. In order to prevent them, ask your doctor or whoever is accompanying you to make sure that you change positions every couple hours, keep your skin clean and prop yourself up with pillows to relieve the pressure.

Risk of Infections

There are 1.7 million cases of hospital infections every year, and 99,000 deaths that are related to these infections.

Medical Identity Theft

To date, 1.5 million Americans have had their personal information stolen so that someone else can use your health care to cover their costs. At the moment, hospitals are struggling to deal with this problem.

Bills May Be Negotiable

Most Americans have been the victim of hospital bill shock at one point or another, but it's important to remember that sometimes these bills are negotiable. Some hospitals have been known to drop the price by a third or more.

Hospitals Scan Your Credit Reports

Some hospitals have taken up the controversial practice of looking at patient credit scores, credit card limits and even 401(k) information. The issue has raised privacy concerns among consumer advocacy groups.

Get to Know Your Anesthesiologist

An inept anesthesiologist can cause serious harm to a patient, including death in the worst case scenario. It's best that you request to interview anesthesiologists before your procedure so that you can feel confident you're getting the best care.


EXCLUSIVE REPORT: American military creating an environmental disaster in Afghan countryside (Part 1 of 3) :: :: informazione dal medio oriente :: information from middle east :: [vs-5]

EXCLUSIVE REPORT: American military creating an environmental disaster in Afghan countryside (Part 1 of 3) :: :: informazione dal medio oriente :: information from middle east :: [vs-5]

The American military presence in Afghanistan consists of fleets of aircraft, helicopters, armored vehicles, weapons, equipment, troops and facilities. Since 2001, they have generated millions of kilograms of hazardous, toxic and radioactive wastes. The Kabul Press asks the simple question:

"What have the Americans done with all that waste?"

The answer is chilling in that virtually all of it appears to have been buried, burned or secretly disposed of into the air, soil, groundwater and surface waters of Afghanistan. While the Americans may begin to withdraw next year, the toxic chemicals they leave behind will continue to pollute for centuries. Any abandoned radioactive waste may stain the Afghan countryside for thousands of years. Afghanistan has been described in the past as the graveyard of foreign armies. Today, Afghanistan has a different title:

"Afghanistan is the toxic dumping ground for foreign armies."

The (U.S.) Air Force Times ran an editorial on March 1, 2010, that read: "Stamp Out Burn Pits" We reprint here the first half of that editorial:

"A growing number of military medical professionals believe burn pits are causing a wave of respiratory and other illnesses among troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Found on almost all U.S. bases in the war zones, these open-air trash sites operate 24 hours a day, incinerating trash of all forms — including plastic bottles, paint, petroleum products, unexploded ordinance, hazardous materials, even amputated limbs and medical waste. Their smoke plumes belch dioxin, carbon monoxide and other toxins skyward, producing a toxic fog that hangs over living and working areas. Yet while the Air Force fact sheet flatly states that burn pits "can be harmful to human health and environment and should only be used until more suitable disposal capabilities are established," the Pentagon line is that burn pits have "no known long-term health effects."

On April 12, 2010, the Richmond Times-Dispatch carried an article by David Zucchino who investigated the American burn pits in Iraq. He interviewed Army Sgt. 1st Class Francis Jaeger who hauled military waste to the Balad burn pit which was being operated by a civilian contractor for the Pentagon. Jaeger told Zucchino:

"We were told to burn everything - electronics, bloody gauze, the medics’ biohazard bags, surgical gloves, cardboard. It all went up in smoke."

The Pentagon now admits to operating 84 "official" burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. The number of unofficial burn pits is not known. The Pentagon claims that it is phasing out its burn pits in favor of incinerators and that 27 incinerators are currently operating in Iraq and Afghanistan with 82 more to be added in the near future.

According to a website called the "Burn Pits Action Center," hundreds of American veterans who came in contact with burn pit smoke have been diagnosed with cancer, neurological diseases, cardiovascular disease, breathing and sleeping problems and various skin rashes. In 2009, they filed more than 30 lawsuits in Federal courts across the United States, naming Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR), and its former parent company Halliburton. These companies were named because of their involvement in the LOGCAP (Logistics Civil Augmentation Program) contracts for Iraq and Afghanistan. Several KBR entities either managed or assisted in the management of the American military’s waste in both countries and allegedly operated some or all of the burn pits. Additional lawsuits were filed in 2010, including one in Federal District Court in New Jersey.

The lawsuits reveal that the Pentagon has ignored American and international environmental laws and the results appear to be the widespread release of hazardous pollutants into the air, soil, surface water and groundwater across Afghanistan. This is a persistent problem that continues today. Unlike Saudi Arabia which insisted that American forces cleanup their pollution after the war to oust Iraq from Kuwait in 1991, or the Government of Canada which likewise insisted on a strict cleanup of American bases on its soil, the Government of Afghanistan has been unable to force the Americans and their allies to repair all the environmental damage that they have caused and continue to cause. Afghanistan does not want to wind up like Vietnam. While American ground combat units withdrew from South Vietnam in 1972, neither Vietnam nor its people have recovered from the long term environmental damage and mutagenic effects that American military operations and their exotic chemicals caused.

This article summarizes the problem of America’s military wastes and examines the types of hazardous wastes that are likely to have been released into Afghanistan.

Part 2 of this series will address the contradictory responses by the Pentagon to this problem and it will explore one of the remedies that the Pentagon is currently implementing, which is to phase out the burn pits, replacing them with incinerators. The article examines the flaws in that strategy and why Afghanistan should carefully consider whether to permit the continued use of military incinerators.

Part 3 of this series will set out the recommendations of the author to the Government of Afghanistan on how to investigate and clean up the pollution of Afghanistan’s countryside caused by the burn pits, landfills and other disposal facilities used by American forces.

The American military hazardous wastes that are believed to have entered the air, soil, groundwater and surface water of Afghanistan did so through the following methods (this list is partial only):

* Burn pits
* Incinerators
* Burying/landfilling of the waste and ash
* Intentional dumping
* Accidental spills
* Surface runoff
* Leaking storage tanks, sumps and basins
* Latrines


The American military’s waste, at this time, cannot be completely characterized. The volume and variety of waste (i.e., thousands of different chemicals) are not known and there are certain to be classified items and materials which have been brought into Afghanistan for which there may be no documentation. Regardless of that, much is known about the materials and chemicals that the military routinely uses and about the waste that it routinely generates. Most American military wastes will falls into one of the following twelve (12) categories:

The Dirty Dozen:

1. Fuel leaks and spills. These include releases of aviation fuel, gasoline and diesel fuel. These releases would range from large releases at American airbases of hundreds or even thousands of liters, to minor spills at Forward Operating Bases and combat outposts as soldiers seek to refill diesel generators. Petroleum residues have the ability to leach rapidly into underground drinking water aquifers and create plumes that will permanently contaminate local wells. There is no known way to completely remediate a groundwater source after it has been contaminated with hydrocarbons.

2. Paints, asbestos, solvents, grease, cleaning solutions (such as perchloethylene) and building materials that contain formaldehyde, copper, arsenic and hydrogen cyanide.

3. Hydraulic fluids, aircraft de-icing fluids, antifreeze and used oil. Used oil is carcinogenic, anti-freeze is poisonous, de-icing fluids can contain hazardous ethylene and propylene glycol, along with toxic additives such as benzotriazoce (which is a corrosion and flame inhibitor). Hydraulic fluids can contain TPP (triphenyl phosphate).

4. Pesticide/poison leaks and spills: Afghanistan apparently has no list of the pesticides, fungicides, termiticides and other poisons that the Americans brought into Afghanistan and used, spilled and released into the countryside in order to control flies, mosquitos, ants, fleas and rodents. The military refers to such practices as "vector control." It is expected that the list of such neuro-toxins and the quantity sprayed or spilled throughout Afghanistan is staggering.

5. Lead, nickel, zinc and cadmium battery waste and acids (which are toxic and/or corrosive).

6. Electronic waste (or E-waste). This includes computers, printers, faxes, screens, televisions, radios, refrigerators, communications gear, test equipment. They contain cancer-causing chemicals such as the flame retardant PBDE (polybrominated diphenyl ethers), PCDD (polychlorinated dioxins), barium, copper, lead, zinc, cadmium oxides and cadmium sulphides and trivalent antimony, which is eco-toxic.

7. Light bulbs. This may not seem important but many military light bulbs are fluorescent and therefore contain toxic levels of mercury. Disposal of these light bulbs in ordinary landfills is prohibited in the United States.

8. Plastics. The U.S. military uses thousands of different types and formulations of plastic. While most are harmless in their present state, such as plastic water bottles and Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) piping, the military has been burning its plastic waste in Afghanistan. When burned, many plastics release a deadly mix of chemicals including dioxins, furans, benzene, di 2-ethylhexyl phthalates (DEHP), hydrochloric acid, benzo(a)pyrene (BAP) and various acids and chlorine gas (which is a neurotoxin). Breathing a few seconds of this mixture in a concentrated form would likely be fatal.

9. Medical Waste. Infectious disease waste and biohazard materials, including used syringes, bloody bandages, sheets, gloves, expired drugs, amputated limbs and animal carcasses.

10. Ammunition waste. Lead, brass and other metals from ammunition along with all the constituents of the propellants, including trininitrotoluene, picric acid, diphenylamine, nitrocellulose, nitroglycerin, potassium nitrate, barium nitrate, tetracene, diazodintrophenol, phosphorus, peroxides, thiocarbamate, potassium chlorate, vinyl fluoride, vinyl chloride, sodium fluoride and sodium sulfate.

11. Radioactive waste. When one thinks of radioactive waste, usually one thinks only of atomic weapons, but that is not the case. The American military routinely uses a variety of devices and equipment that contain radioactive elements or radioluminescent elements. These materials are referred to as "Radioactive Commodities" by the American military. The primary radioactive materials are: Uranium, Tritium, Radium 226, Americium 241, Thorium, Cesium 137 and Plutonium 239.

Some of the equipment containing radioactive elements:

* Night Vision Devices
* M-16 Front Sight Post Assemblies
* M72 Light Antitank Weapons
* T-55 Aircraft Engine components
* M58 and M59 Light Aiming Posts
* M4 Front Sight Post Assemblies
* RADIAC Calibrator Sets and Check Sources
* Radium Compasses
* L4A1 Quadrant Fire Control Devices
* Fire Control Azimuths
* Level Gauges
* M-1 Collimators
* M-1 Muzzle Reference Sensors
* Soil Moisture Density Testers
* TACOM Vehicle Dials and Gauges
* Radios, including VRC-46/GRC-106/GRC-19
* Chemical Agent Monitors
* Testing Instruments
* Vehicle Depleted Uranium Plates
* Depleted Uranium Ammunition, including 20 millimeter ammunition
* Electron Tubes for Communications Equipment
* Various types of Laboratory and Hospital Analysis and Testing Machines.

Note: The American military will likely insist that it strictly controls the disposal of radioactive waste, but such assertions are not credible. While there are strict regulations, the time and cost of complying with them in a war zone are such that base commanders in Afghanistan most likely ignored them, opting instead for throwing the waste into burn pits. The evidence for this is contained in Part 3 of this Report, which cites to a Pentagon-funded study of what American field commanders think of the Pentagon’s environmental regulations.

If the American military continues to insist that it did not release radioactive materials in Afghanistan it should document such assertions by releasing its records. The Pentagon should publicly release all data on every radioactive commodity brought into Afghanistan. They should all be listed in HMIRS (the Hazardous Materials Information System). The Pentagon should then detail where each commodity is today.

12. Grey and Black Water. The American military and its contractors in Afghanistan operate human waste facilities. The military refers to these as LSS (Latrine, Shower and Shave) facilities. They generate what is known as grey and black waste-water. Grey water from sinks and showers has as its primary pollutant soap residue (i.e., phosphates and other chemicals that generate what is known as BOD - biological oxygen demand, which means they can absorb all the available oxygen in streams and rivers so fish cannot breathe). Some American soaps contain additives such as MIT (methylisothiazolinone), which is under investigation as a toxin.

Latrines generate black water pollution. While the American military has to adhere to strict rules regarding the discharge of such waste in the United States, it faces no restrictions in Afghanistan. Latrines can be dug near ground water and even upgradient from surface water (so that discharges can flow into them). There are no known maps of all the American latrines. After a latrine pit is filled, it is apparently covered over with dirt and forgotten.

While environmental releases involving categories 1 and 12 above are a certainty, it is feared that millions of kilograms and millions of liters of wastes set out in categories 2 through 11 were all thrown into the hundreds of American burn pits in Afghanistan or dumped into secret landfills. If true, the American legacy to Afghanistan is not freedom, but pollution.

In February 2010, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs began an 18-month study of the burn pits in Afghanistan and their effect on human health. Afghanistan cannot wait eighteen months for the results of this study, it has to act now.

The author is a former U.S. Air Force Captain. He advised on environmental cleanups at Logistics Command regarding the Air Force’s most contaminated bases and depots. He then worked for Bechtel Environmental and was involved in Superfund cleanups across the United States and radiological cleanups at U.S. Department of Energy sites. He later served as a consultant to a group of environmental remediation companies, smelters and waste recyclers.

Sources for Further Reading:

Houston Chronicle - February 7, 2010 - "GIs tell of horror from burn pits"

Los Angeles Times - February 18, 2010 - "Veterans speak out against burn pits"

The New York Times - February 25, 2010 - "Health Panel Begins Probing Impacts of Burn Pits"

Salem-News - March 29, 2010 - "Sick Veterans Sue KBR Over Iraq and Afghanistan Burn Pits"

AFP - November 10, 2009 - "Troops sue KBR over toxic waste in Iraq, Afghanistan"

U.S. Department of the Army Pamphlet 700-48

:: Article nr. 65401 sent on 26-apr-2010 05:58 ECT

:: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website.

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Waltzing at the Doomsday Ball

Capitalism is dead, but we still dance with the corpse

By Joe Bageant
Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico
Joe7-5As an Anglo European white guy from a very long line of white guys, I want to thank all the brown, black, yellow and red people for a marvelous three-century joy ride. During the past 300 years of the industrial age, as Europeans, and later as Americans, we have managed to consume infinitely more than we ever produced, thanks to colonialism, crooked deals with despotic potentates and good old gunboats and grapeshot. Yes, we have lived, and still live, extravagant lifestyles far above the rest of you. And so, my sincere thanks to all of you folks around the world working in sweatshops, or living on two bucks a day, even though you sit on vast oil deposits. And to those outside my window here in Mexico this morning, the two guys pruning the retired gringo's hedges with what look like pocket knives, I say, keep up the good work. It's the world's cheap labor guys like you -- the black, brown and yellow folks who take it up the shorts -- who make capitalism look like it actually works. So keep on humping. Remember: We've got predator drones.
After twelve generations of lavish living at the expense of the rest of the world, it is understandable that citizens of the so-called developed countries have come to consider it quite normal. In fact, Americans expect it to become plusher in the future, increasingly chocked with techno gadgetry, whiz bang processed foodstuffs, automobiles, entertainments, inordinately large living spaces -- forever.
We've had plenty of encouragement, especially in recent times. Before our hyper monetized economy metastasized, things such as housing values went through the sky, and the cost of basics, food etc. went through the basement floor, compared to the rest of the world. The game got so cheap and fast that relative fundamental value went right out the window and hasn't been seen since. For example, it would be very difficult to make Americans understand that a loaf of bread or a dozen eggs have more inherent value than an iPhone. Yet, at ground zero of human species economics, where the only currency is the calorie, that is still true.
click for the rest of the article

Friday, July 23, 2010

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Ok so I have received lots of emails and twitters and yes, I would agree I stepped over the line.


First time I would say I pushed the envelope and perhaps maybe pushed beyond the envelope

For this I’m on suspension from TriMet. I’m not upset about this, they have a job to do. Really I’m not mad at all.

Most of the twitters and emails I have received may knock how I said what I said, but almost all even cyclist are understanding.

So lets get down to facts.

  1. I would have to be the worlds greatest idiot to actually intend to kill someone and post it on a blog. Now maybe my first wife would.. no I don’t even think she would call me an idiot. Stupid maybe but not an idiot. Come on!
  2. I don’t think real death threats come with the mentioning of Star Wars and David Lynch films... Not the Dune movie I sort of like that one. As anyone heard of that? or maybe I’m the first stand up comedian idiot bus ninja driver assassin... Really no way I could be a ninja, weigh way way too much for that.
  3. Those of you who’ve read my blog will see that I seldom say inflammatory things.. other then a headline or two. That when I have had dangerous situations before I use humor and don’t blame all bicyclist the same way I would not blame all car drivers for one crazy guy or all bus drivers for one crazy guy. That’s not my way.
  4. You and I know you don’t own peoples lives just because you save there lives and you can’t exercise an option on their life like a stock certificate. Hmm Well lets see I pulled you out of a well so now you’re my slave! or I’ll kill yo! does anyone really believe that? If I had it it to do over I would have done that last bit angled more towards humor but I was called into work 5 hours early so I had to rush off. That is why it ends so abruptly without my usual humorous flourish.
  5. Now my one complaint by email has been someone saying that I did this all for ratings and you know what.. I knew this was going to get some reaction, but nothing like it did. Like I said I can be stupid (A momentary lack of reason) vs and idiot (A full time lack of reason.) I think if you would look back over the last years of my blog you would see 1. Lots of bad spelling can’t really help it. 2. Lots of love. Yes love. Love for the people of my city all people if I agree with them, if they are like me or not.

So with those points above tucked into your logic utility belt, riddle me this!

Why would I write what I did?

If I did not mean to kill him and it was not all a publicity stunt and lets face it really wanted publicity all I have do is show up nude and painted blue to a blazer game and I could have gotten all the publicity I needed and not been suspended from work. Well if you have seen me maybe my nude and painted blue maybe some would consider that a death threat.

Before I reveal the answer to that riddle “Why would Dan Write what he wrote” and by the way it’s not “A ring” for you Tolkien fans. Let me tell you what I would do if I met this guy right now. I would have lots of mixed emotions but I would hug him harder then he has ever been hugged. I would tip my top hat and show him the photo of my daughter and granddaughter inside my hat.

I would tell him “You are as precious to someone, as my girls are to me. I want you to live a full, healthy, heroic life worthy of song and praise. just like my daughter and Granddaughter. I never want to see harm come to you. Riding a bike, just like driving a bus is a life or death proposition, you have got to respect that not for others, but because you are a precious son of someone, you are to them, as my Daughter and Granddaughter is to me. I would never willingly harm you but brother it’s so unfair for you to use me to harm you. If I had been one moment slower on the breaks, I would have never been able to drive a bus again. I could not have lived with myself. Even if you care for no one else on the road care for your self, Care for those who love you and hold you precious.”

Will this change how I drive my bus? I got news for you, it’s didn’t. The incident in question happened a while ago to be sure. I still do all I can cyclist. I’m a driver who hops out of my seat to show you how to use the bike rack, The one who double checks his right side to make sure you are clear day or night, lights or no. I drive my bus like that person in the car next to me, or that cyclist ahead of me is my daughter or Granddaughter. What more can I do.

I can’t be careless with someones life. I get mad and frustrated but my anger and frustration was not for what you did at that moment but that you are still out there. That you have no idea what you are doing to others.

I felt like you came up to me pulled a round out of six shout revolved. Spun the chamber and then forced me to put the gun to your head and pull the trigger. I was horrified then you continued on doing it to others.

Brother that is a horrible feeling. It is not rage but horror when I think of you, Rage fades rage would not have lasted a month and a half. I get mad like anyone, come on we all live in the same world and we all get mad, but few things give me that horrifying feeling like you did that day.

The above words as heartfelt as they are would have barely made a blip in Portland if I would have put them in a blog.

So lets answer part of that riddle.

What I wanted to do was shake the pillars of this city. I wanted someone to read my blog and say, like most people are saying. “What could make this beloved, funny, caring bus driver say what he said. I know this cyclist, I’m going to talk to him.” See I don’t know you, I don’t know your name, where you’re from or anything about you. But I did know this, I could not rest until word got to you, word of how careless and dangerous you are and how precious you are.

You see my nightmare starts like this. I wake up one day and I see your picture on the cover of the paper. Cyclist killed, reads the headline. Your dead and I did nothing. Like all those people I listed in my blog, family, friends, other drivers, cyclist. Anyone who has looked away, turned the other cheek, chalked it up under derogatory generalization like “Stupid Cyclist” anyone who didn’t do all they could to wake you up. Those who would defend you as a fellow cyclist, those that would condemn you because you are a cyclist, all these people in my book would have killed you as I said POrtland Killed this cyclist and it would be true. You want to know something else, there would be my name at the top of the list. “Dan Christensen”

Under it it would say

Dan could have done something, but instead he wrote another humorous blog post for the same small group of readers that had no effect, went no place.

When I said “Portland Kill this Cyclist” What I really wanted is someone in Portland reach this guy! Let him know. Help him! do what ever you can! As a bus Driver I see all sorts of people who have no choice in life, They have physical or mental limitations have made bad choices until their life is tied in knots. You have options, You have choice, Like I said you are as precious as my granddaughter and daughter and I don’t want to see you throw that way so you can get to the coffees shop a few seconds faster.

In my book, me doing nothing, that is a crime.

You see I may not always say the right thing, I may not always say what people want to hear and I make mistakes and can be as stupid as anyone.

I do always strive to say the truth as I know it. I don’t want to live a life of regret saying I should have said more or done more.

I can only hope with the exposure this gets somehow, someone gets to you.

So this brings me to the end of follow up.

For all of you who have expressed your support, even those of your who may not agree with my method, I say a deep and heartfelt thank you. Trimet or no, Portland is number one in my heart and I have nothing but love for all of you.

So much for keeping this under one page.

Tons of love.

Roll Easy.

I will let you know more when I know more and that looks like sometime on Monday.

I will keep you posted.

Oh and for you all who asked how I stay so upbeat and happy even though it looks like the world is crashing in around me. Check this out.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sunday, July 11, 2010


The Republicans have found a new scapegoat for the economy, in addition to illegal immigrants.

The new scapegoat is public sector workers.

Unwilling to blame Bush for the budget deficit, unable to blame Wall Street for wrecking the economy, and incapable of blaming a lack of regulation or capitalism itself for the morass we're in, Republicans are pointing their fingers now at public sector workers.

The teachers, police officers, fire fighters, and other government employees are just making too much money, the Republicans say, regardless of the fact that public sector workers in state after state have been laid off or put on unpaid furloughs.

But Republicans don't want you to think about. Much less do they want you to notice that it's the top 1 percent that's made off like bandits over the last 30 years. God forbid we raise the marginal income tax rates, or the capital gains tax, or the estate tax.

The last thing Republicans want is to incite class warfare against the upper class. Far better to incite warfare within the middle class and have the majority of Americans blaming each other. (See "War on Public Workers," by Amy Traub in The Nation, July 5.)

One Republican politician after another is joining the chorus against public sector workers, whether it's Scott Brown of Massachusetts or Mitch Daniels of Indiana or Rand Paul of Kentucky or even Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, who has ordered all state workers to get minimum wage until the budget mess there is resolved.

In Wisconsin, where I live, the Wisconsin State Journal just ran a story about public sector workers in Dane County earning more than workers doing similar jobs in the private sector, with at least one local politician complaining about this.

But the average public sector salary is only about $35,000. Are we really going to accept that such a salary is too high? Shall we just kiss the middle class goodbye?

Part of this strategy of blaming the public sector worker is mere distraction-a shell game to keep people from focusing on those who are really feasting at the trough: the corporations and the richest of the rich.

And part of it is a calculated attack on unions, since the public sector has a 37.4 percent unionization rate, while the private sector is down at 7.2 percent.

But whatever the motivation, it's a disgusting strategy.

The next time you hear a politician or a pundit trash public sector workers, ask them if they'd like to take minimum wage-or even a salary of $35,000.

Chances are, they're making a lot more than that.


The press is all abuzz with news of the SEC suing Goldman Sachs for fraud. While this is certainly big news in itself, even more important is what it says about what the financial elite has been doing to America for the last 30 years: shorting the middle class.

The SEC's action is a perfect moment for us to look at the bigger picture of how the American people were sold on the promise of never-ending prosperity while Wall Street was overseeing a massive transfer of wealth from the middle class to the richest Americans.

The results have been devastating: a disappearing middle class, a precipitous drop in economic and social mobility, and ultimately, the undermining of the foundation of our democracy.

Thirty years ago, top executives at S&P 500 companies made an average of 30 times what their workers did -- now they make 300 times what their workers make. And between 2000 and 2008, the poverty rate in the suburbs of the largest metro areas in the U.S. grew by 25 percent -- making these suburbs home to the country's largest and fastest-growing segment of the poor.

The human toll of the shorting of the middle class is brought to life on sites like,, and where the casualties of Wall Street's systemic scam share their personal stories.

Looking through these sites, I came upon a story that struck me as emblematic of where America's middle class finds itself these days. It feels like a dark reboot of the American Dream. Think Horatio Alger rewritten by O. Henry.

It's the story of Dean Blackburn of Alameda, California. The first part of his life was a classic American success story. Raised in Minnesota by a single mom, a teacher, he was "middle class by default." Through a combination of smarts and hard work, he made his way to Yale, then took a succession of jobs in the growing Internet world that had him steadily progressing up the economic ladder.

Then came February 2009, when he was laid off on the last day of the month. His boss chose that day because it meant the company wouldn't have to pay for another month of his health coverage. "Looking back on it," he told me, "that hurt more than the layoff itself -- just knowing that the president of the company was exactly that calculating and that unfeeling about my own, and my family's wellbeing." The timing, Blackburn continued, "put those 'family days' and company picnics in a weird new light."

Fourteen months later, he is still looking for a new job. As he, his wife, and their 2-year-old daughter deal with the immediate financial struggles his extended unemployment has brought, Blackburn has become acutely aware of the broader implications of the shorting of the middle class. "Ultimately," he says, "it's not about a dip in corporate profits, but a change in corporate attitude -- a change that means no one's job is safe, and never will be, ever again."

It's one of the reasons he's decided to try to start his own company, NaviDate, a data-driven twist on online dating sites: "It's no longer a trade-off between doing what you love and having stability. Stability is long gone, so you better do something you love!"

Achieving middle class stability and having your children do better than you, the way you had done better than your parents, has always been the American Dream, but, as Blackburn notes, mobility now is increasingly one way: "The plateaus of each step, which can be a great place to stop a bit and catch your breath, are gone. Now, it's climb, climb, climb, or start sliding back down immediately." The result: "the odds are you're going to wind up at the bottom eventually, unless you get lucky."

Luck. That's what the American Dream now rests on. It used to be about education, hard work and perseverance, but the system is rigged to such an extent now that the way to keep your head above water is to get lucky. The middle class life is now the prize on a scratch-off lottery ticket.

In November 2008, as the initial aftershocks of the economic earthquake were being felt, David Brooks predicted the rise of a new social class -- "the formerly middle class" -- made up of those who had joined the middle class at the end of the boom only to fall back due to the recession. "To them," he wrote, "the gap between where they are and where they used to be will seem wide and daunting."

But, in the year and a half since Brooks wrote this, the ranks of the formerly middle class have swelled far beyond those who joined at the tail end of the boom.

The evidence that the middle class has been consistently shorted is so overwhelming -- and the results so potentially damaging to our society -- that even bastions of establishment thinking are on alert. In a new strategy paper, The Hamilton Project -- the economic think tank founded by Robert Rubin (a big beneficiary of the shorting of the middle class) -- argues, in the Project's own words, "that the American tradition of expanding opportunity from one generation to the next is at risk because we are failing to make the necessary investments in human, physical, and environmental capital."

Of course, it's even worse than that. We are actually cutting back on our current investment in people (see the human cost of massive budget cuts in education, health care, and social services in state after state after state -- all across America).

After reading the details of the SEC's filing against Goldman Sachs, it's hard not to come away thinking: "Why would anyone ever do business with that firm again?" Likewise, after even a cursory examination of the treatment of the American middle class by the Wall Street/Washington class over the past few decades, one should also wonder why anyone would ever do business with that crowd again. And yet, there they are, still running things at the Treasury, the Fed, and the National Economic Council.

The urgent need for the reorganization of our financial system goes far beyond the upcoming debate on new financial regulations. And it goes far beyond the media's right versus left framing. It's a question about the future of our country, and whether we are going to stop the slide toward a Third World system in which there are just two classes: those at the bottom and those at the top.

A lot of people at the top of the economic food chain have done very well shorting the middle class. But the losers in those bets weren't Goldman Sachs investors -- they were millions of hard working Americans who had heard the pitch and bought into the American Dream, only to find it had been replaced by a sophisticated scam.


By E.J. Dionne, Jr.

The tea party is nothing new, it represents a relatively small minority of Americans on the right end of politics, and it will not determine the outcome of the 2010 elections.

In fact, both parties stand to lose if they accept the laughable notion that this media-created protest movement is the voice of true populism. Democrats will spend their time chasing votes that they will never win. Republicans will turn their party into an angry and narrow redoubt with no hope of building a durable majority.

The news media’s incessant focus on the tea party is creating a badly distorted picture of what most Americans think and is warping our policy debates. The New York Times and CBS News thus performed a public service last week by conducting a careful study of just who is in the tea party movement.

Their findings suggest that the tea party is essentially the reappearance of an old anti-government far right that has always been with us and accounts for about one-fifth of the country. The Times reported that tea party supporters “tend to be Republican, white, male, married and older than 45.” This is the populism of the privileged.

Tea party backers are far more likely than others to describe their views as “very conservative,” and are decidedly more inclined than the rest of us to believe that too much is made of the problems facing black people.


This last finding points to a disconcerting fact that white Americans are reluctant to discuss: Part of the anger at President Barack Obama is driven by the color of his skin.
Saying this invites immediate denunciations from defenders of those who bring guns to rallies, threaten violence to “take our country back” and mouth old slogans about states’ rights and the Confederacy. So let’s be clear: Opposition to the president is driven by many factors that have nothing to do with race. But race is definitely part of what’s going on.

Here is the poll question in its entirety: “In recent years, do you think too much has been made of the problems facing black people, too little has been made, or is it about right?”

Twenty-eight percent of all Americans—and just 19 percent of those who are not tea party loyalists—answered “too much.” But among tea party supporters, the figure is 52 percent. Tea partyers are almost three times as likely as the rest of us to say that too much attention is being paid to the problems of blacks.

Among all Americans, 11 percent say that the Obama administration’s policies favor blacks over whites; 25 percent of tea party sympathizers say this. Again, more is going on here than race, but race is in the picture.

Tea party enthusiasts also consistently side with the better-off against the poor, putting them at odds with most Americans. The poll found that while only 38 percent of all Americans said that “providing government benefits to poor people encourages them to remain poor,” 73 percent of tea party partisans believed this. Among all Americans, 50 percent agreed that “the federal government should spend money to create jobs, even if it means increasing the budget deficit.” Only 17 percent of tea party supporters took this view.

As for raising taxes on households making more than $250,000 a year to provide health care for the uninsured, 54 percent of Americans favored doing so, as against only 17 percent of tea party backers.

And this must be the first “populist” movement ever driven by a television network: 63 percent of the tea party folks say they most watch Fox News “for information about politics and current events,” compared with 23 percent of the country as a whole.

The right-wing fifth of the American population deserves news coverage like everyone else, and Fox is perfectly free to pander to its own viewers. What makes no sense is allowing a sliver of opinion out of touch with, yes, the “real” America to dominate the media and distort our political discourse.

Democrats face problems not from right-wingers who have never voted for them, but from a lack of energy among their own supporters and from dispirited independents and moderates who look to government for competence in solving problems and have little confidence in its ability to deliver.

A just-released Pew Research Center study found widespread mistrust of government, but also of banks, financial institutions and large corporations. Yes, there is authentic populist anger out there. But you won’t find much of it at the tea parties.

E.J. Dionne’s e-mail address is ejdionne(at)
© 2010, Washington Post Writers Group

Thursday, July 8, 2010


I used to have trouble understanding

the often-manic behavior of Portland

bicyclists, but lately my eyes have been

opened. Bikes here are not merely a mode

of transportation; they’re a religion.

I should have picked up the clue three

years ago when they began an annual

Blessing of the Bikes ceremony at St.

Mary’s Cathedral. I thought it was cute,

so I ran a picture in the paper. I may have

badly underestimated the situation. All I

can say is, from about that time onward,

the Portland Church of the All Mighty

Bicycle has been gaining adherents at

every turn, and I don’t think they’re all


The converts love to

ride bikes down steep

mountain trails at high speed

on Sunday mornings. Forest

Park, it seems, is something

like their church. They come

out all black and muddy but smiling

nevertheless. It’s almost as if

they’ve just been baptized.

It makes sense that, if the park is

sacred ground, they would want to

liberate it for the work of their lord.

That’s why they plot and congregate in

great numbers in hopes that one fine day

they can ride all over the park on paths

paved with mud.

They are willing to sacrifice for their

cause. Last year, one of the faithful offered

$500 if 100 cyclists would join the Forest

Park Conservancy, the organization trying

to preserve the park and the wildlife in it

for secular purposes. The plan was apparently

to get so many bike advocates on the

organization’s rolls that they could turn its

policies toward their righteous mission.

I know members of the Portland

Bicycle Church thought this was pretty

clever and nothing to be ashamed of, but

true believers have a way of being insensitive

to the complaints of the unconverted.

If, however, members of the Forest Park

Conservancy had launched a campaign to

take over the leadership of their church,

they would figure out in a minute that it

wasn’t kosher.

Religious zealots sometimes say things

that make no sense to the nonbelievers.

Sobicyclists using the park would multiply

if more trails and facilities were built for

them, as if all would see that as an unalloyed

blessing. They have equated more

bicycle commuters with fewer cars on our

streets, less petroleum consumption and

fewer greenhouse gases. Amen to that, but

in their evangelistic fervor, they assume

that more bike riding anywhere—even in

a fragile, over-used wilderness park—is

a benefit to all. When you’re holier than

thou, you assume your excrement doesn’t

stink, I guess.

Bicycle zealots adhere to a higher law

than mere ordinances of the city or state.

A Northwest District Association board

member, not knowing this, questioned

a cyclist for riding recklessly

through a sidewalk

café last month. The rider

slugged him in the

face, knocking his

glasses to the

ground. Nothing

is owed

the infidel.


notice how




importance on

slight differences in doctrine? The current

target of their rage is people who deign to

ride bicycles boosted by electric motors.

Would be better for these people to have

millstones tied around their necks and be

cast into the sea (or perhaps to be driving

Hummers) than to be corrupted by

electric power. They’re called cheaters and

are scorned for riding in bike lanes. They

are not true believers in the one and only,

true, holy, sanctified church of the bicycle,

and they must be shunned.

If you’ve ever been flipped off, sworn at

or physically attacked by a bicyclist who

didn’t like the way you drive or walk on

the sidewalk, keep in mind that these are

not ordinary people. They live on another

plane. They believe that danger, disdain

and ridicule may follow them all their

days on the earth, but one day they will sit

in glory at the right handlebar of have argued that the number of