Obama to EU: Frack, baby, frack


Ukraine ‘crisis’ is a business opportunity.

From Common Dreams:

Speaking after a meeting with European leaders at the [European Union]-US summit in Brussels on Wednesday, President Barack Obama suggested that the U.S. is open to exporting fracked shale gas, once promised as the source of American “energy independence,” to the EU and urged the EU to open up its own fracking reserves amid energy fears related to the crisis in Ukraine. Environmental groups have warned these policies will do nothing by way of energy security and everything for global environmental destruction and climate chaos.

I showed the whole story to Swamp Rabbit, who was sitting by the wood stove, filing his teeth with a reed, waiting for spring. It’s still too cold for him to jump into the swamp.

“I don’t know, rabbit,” I said. “It’s hard to believe Obama thinks Russia annexing Crimea was as bad as — was even in the same league with — the United States invading Iraq and blowing it to hell. Maybe he’s just looking for an excuse to open up new markets for the fossil fuel industry.”

The rabbit rolled his eyes, I think. It’s hard to tell, they’re like little black marbles.

He said, “You really think so, Odd Man? I’ll bet there ain’t nobody else in the whole world had such thoughts. You must be one of them strategic geniuses. A Richelieu, or somethin’.”

I ignored his sarcasm and opened a window in the shack. I said, “What’s really depressing is that Obama used to talk about boosting wind and solar power. He called climate change a fact. He made speeches against fossil fuels. Now he sounds like a cheerleader for the fossil fuel industry — a fracker backer. Who is this guy? I thought I was voting for a Democrat, not a closet Republican.”

“That’s what’s great about this here country,” the rabbit said. “These days, when you vote for the one party, you get the other party, too.”

Posted in climate change, environmentalism, globalization, humor, Iraq war, Obama, world-wide economy | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Pro-union Democrats an endangered species


Alice with Sen. Fred Dodo, the only remaining  elected Democrat who is pro-union

Alice with Sen. Fred Dodo, the last remaining elected Democrat who is pro-union

Swamp Rabbit is a big fan of Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor during the Bill Clinton years, long-time economics professor and a high-profile advocate for workers’ rights. I’ve noted elsewhere that Reich often writes variations on the same column and seems to be preaching to the choir, but there’s no denying his knack for spelling out the extent to which American workers are being robbed by the owner class:

…Fifty years ago, when General Motors was the largest employer in America, the typical GM worker got paid $35 an hour in today’s dollars. Today, America’s largest employer is Walmart, and the typical Walmart workers earns $8.80 an hour.

Does this mean the typical GM employee a half-century ago was worth four times what today’s typical Walmart employee is worth? Not at all. That GM worker wasn’t much better educated or productive. He often hadn’t graduated from high school. And today’s Walmart worker is surrounded by digital gadgets – mobile inventory controls, instant checkout devices, retail search engines – making him or her highly productive.

The real difference is the GM worker a half-century ago had a strong union behind him that summoned the collective bargaining power of all autoworkers to get a substantial share of company revenues for its members. And because more than a third of workers across America belonged to a labor union, the bargains those unions struck with employers raised the wages and benefits of non-unionized workers as well…

But Reich and other prominent labor union advocates aren’t getting through to the people they want to help, even when the stakes are high, as they were a few weeks ago when the United Auto Workers, fighting intense anti-union propaganda, failed to persuade enough workers to vote to unionize the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, TN. Was the UAW outspent and outsmarted by the owner class, or have American workers simply become too scared to ignore the likes of Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the ruthless liar who warned that VW would scuttle plans to build another plant in Chattanooga if the drive to unionize the first one was successful?

And where were the elected Dems — the big guns — who should have been publicly denouncing Republicans for trying to intimidate workers?

Reich hasn’t tried to answer those questions, as far as I know. However, he has suggested he might run for president (!) unless Democrats make income inequality a priority issue in the 2016 presidential race. He said, “I think, though, if we don’t get a candidate or a set of candidates in 2016 who are taking this issue with the seriousness it needs to be taken, I think that there will be a lot of people — Elizabeth Warren, others, maybe even me — who will toss our hats in the ring, because it has to be addressed.”

Swamp Rabbit took a swig of Wild Turkey and said, “I’d vote for Reich, he’s really smart. Him and me’s the same height and we got the same sorta face hair.”

“Reich won’t run,” I replied. “He’s just hoping to get someone elected who will fix things by keeping the government from turning into an oligarchy.”

The rabbit chuckled. “A little late for that, don’t ya think? A handful of plutocrats own most of the capital and almost all the politicians. They done broke the unions and the tax system. Ain’t no jobs, anyway. Who’s gonna fix that?”

“I don’t know, rabbit. What about Hillary Clinton?”

He choked on his bourbon and fixed me with a dirty rodent look.

“Sorry,” I said. “Bad joke. Let’s start over.”

Clarification: Yes, I’m exaggerating. Pro-union Democrats aren’t quite extinct. I’d vote for Warren or Sherrod Brown or Bernie Sanders. (The latter, tellingly, isn’t even a Democrat.) Which high-profile politicians am I leaving out?

Posted in Congress, economic collapse, globalization, Great Recession, humor, liar, mainstream media, plutocracy, unemployment | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top o’ the mornin’ to you!


charms 2

Swamp Rabbit was in a foul mood. “Snow on St. Patrick’s Day,” he muttered. “And no food in the shack. It’s the end of the world, I tell ya.”

“The end of the world for you if you don’t shut up,” I said.

I dragged myself outside and jogged down the snowy road that winds through the swamp and out to the highway. Three more miles of jogging and I was at the SuperFridge, searching for something edible to steal. I grabbed carrots and bricks of cheese and canned tuna, then looked for a treat for the rabbit. I’m trying to wean him off the Wild Turkey again.

All around me were green tinsel flowers and Mylar balloons, each emblazoned with a maniacal image of a leprechaun. Pallid, doughy customers waddled between a St. Pat’s layout — boxes of Oh Ryan’s Irish Potatoes and Lucky Charms cereal — and a wall display of boxed Trojans and other condoms. Lay off the sweets, I wanted to tell them. Use more Trojans.

Each Lucky Charms box bore the same crazed leprechaun image that was on the balloons. A cross between Frodo Baggins and Gollum, pushing sugar-coated oats and multicolored, marshmallow-y bits shaped like stars and clovers, and so on. Customers pawed and fondled the boxes. I wanted to steal one, but it was too bulky to fit under my skimpy coat.

Back at the shack, I looked up Slavoj Zizek’s notes on Coca-Cola and read them to Swamp Rabbit as he ate his carrots:

…Coke has the paradoxical quality that the more you drink it, the more you get thirsty. So, when the slogan for Coke was ‘Coke is it!’, we should see in it some ambiguity — it’s “it” precisely insofar as it’s never IT, precisely insofar as every consumption opens up the desire for more…

“It’s the same with Lucky Charms,” I said. “The more you eat, the more you get hungry. They’re magically delicious. Living on them would be like living on nothing. Bring me another bowl of nothing, I can’t get enough of it!”

“Put a lid on it, Odd Man,” the rabbit said, washing down his last carrot with Wild Turkey. “Lighten up a little.”

“You dumb rodent.” I said. “Why do you drink that stuff?”

“It’s magically delicious,” he said, already in a better mood. “Like Lucky Charms, but with a kick.”

He took another swig and added, “Just the thing for St. Pat’s Day.”

Footnote: Almost forgot — it’s the 50th anniversary of the invention of Lucky Charms. Another reason to celebrate!

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Tweedledum, Tweedledee spar on NPR


My friend Swamp Rabbit and I get a kick out of Republicans who complain of National Public Radio’s “liberal bias,” a strange charge given the fact that NPR rarely veers from the “he said/she said” style of reporting and commentary, even when he and she, or he and he, are voicing the same narrow point of view. In this case I’m referring to conservative David Brooks and liberal E. J. Dionne, who appear together with moderator Robert Siegel to share their opinions on hot news stories. This week Brooks and Dionne took turns agreeing that Russia is the Great Satan and should be penalized in some way by the United States if Crimea becomes part of Russia again.

The transcript:

Siegel: On Ukraine and Russia, does it appear that politics is stopping at the water’s edge? And if so, is U.S. policy sound? David Brooks, you first.

Brooks: I think so. I give the Obama administration an A for what they’ve done so far. They’ve been tough. They’ve been out front. They’ve really been cracking down in a slowly but very rigorous way against the Russians. They’ve taken clear sides. You know, I’d love to see every Russian oligarch have their kid kicked out of British prep school or something like that. That would end the crisis in a week.

But they’re doing that sort of thing. They’re freezing assets, they’re stopping visas, they’re raising money to help the Ukrainians. It’s a comprehensive policy which I think is getting pretty broad support.

Siegel: E.J.?

Dionne: It ought to be bipartisan, and on the actual steps being taken, it is – it is broadly bipartisan. There is still all this sniping at Obama, as if there were a whole lot more that we could do than we are doing. But I think there’s a toughness here and that Putin will pay a price, and I think he may pay the biggest price in the long term in Ukraine because he’s lost a lot of friends that he might have – or he’s lost for Russia a lot of friends that Russia might have had.

Siegel: Even though we expect a referendum on secession of Crimea to take place on Sunday…

Dionne: A phony referendum, it should be said, under occupation.

These guys could finish each other’s sentences. Why bother with a segment that purports to present different perspectives when both commentators are Washington, D.C. insiders who never stray far from so-called centrist positions? God forbid they should present Russia’s perspective on the Ukraine before they trot out the anti-Russian cliches.

“Ain’t no liberal bias on NPR, just mainstream drift,” Swamp Rabbit said as we sat on the porch and looked out at the swamp. “If you ain’t Tweedledum, you damn sure better be Tweedledee, or you don’t get no airtime.”

Clarification: This is not to imply the commentators are always mirror images of one another. Dionne is a standard-issue liberal; what you see if what you get. But Brooks is the Earnest Weasel, an apologist for the rich and corrupt posing as a moderate and a moralist, a hypocrite of the first order.

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Daring Dems vow to fight back against the Kochs


Charles Koch looks like a nice guy posing for a dentures ad, but he's your enemy unless you're rich.

No, Charles Koch is not some harmless old dude posing for a dentures ad.

Hold on to your laptops: According to The New York Times, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid has an idea. He wants Dems to launch a media counterattack against two prominent plutocrats who are on a mission to destroy democracy in America — what’s left of it — by spending untold millions on blatantly dishonest pro-Republican campaign ads:

Democrats say the strategy of spotlighting the Koch brothers’ activities is politically shrewd. The majority leader was particularly struck by a presentation during a recent Senate Democratic retreat, which emphasized that one of the best ways to draw an effective contrast is to pick a villain, one of his aides said. And by scolding the Koch brothers, Mr. Reid is trying to draw them out, both to raise their public profile, and also to help rally the Democratic base.

“Well, duh,” my friend Swamp Rabbit said as I fed the wood stove in my Tinicum shack. “You ain’t gotta ‘pick a villain’ when he’s right there in the flesh, swinging a bat at you.”

“Not unless you’re a modern-day Democrat,” I said. “Dems have to check the polls before they defend themselves, even when they’re in the middle of getting their asses kicked.”

It’s true. The billionaire Koch brothers, David and Charles, have been demonstrating for years that they are serious about destroying labor unions, minimum-wage laws, environmental regulations, government-sponsored health care and everything else that might interfere with their money lust and benefit average citizens. There is no right-wing yahoo candidate they wouldn’t spend a fortune to elect. They are impossible to caricature. The great film director Frank Capra couldn’t have invented plutocrats as vile and greedy as the Kochs.

And yet the Dems in Washington are only now getting around to fighting back, even though midterm elections are less than a year away and the Kochs, for months, have been cranking out expensive propaganda on behalf of Republican candidates.

“I know Dems these days ain’t got no courage and don’t have no heart,” Swamp Rabbit said. “But ain’t there a few Dems in Congress that at least have a brain?”

“I don’t know, rabbit. Maybe they should ask the Wizard of Oz to help.”

But that’s a dead end, too. The closest thing Dems have to the Great Oz is Barack Obama, and he turned out to be an even bigger fraud than the Wiz in the old movie.

Posted in campaign finance reform, climate change, Congress, dirty rotten scoundrels, environmentalism, health care, humor, mainstream media, Obama, plutocracy | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

MSNBC: The Russians are coming!


It says, "Our women would be helpless beneath the boots of Asiatic Russia.'

‘Our women would be helpless beneath the boots of the Asiatic Russians.’

Robert Parry in Consortium News:

If you were living in Crimea, would you prefer to remain part of Ukraine with its coup-installed government – with neo-Nazis running four ministries including the Ministry of Defense – or would you want to become part of Russia, which has had ties to Crimea going back to Catherine the Great in the 1700s?

Good question, and one that is rarely if ever asked by mainstream news outlets, including MSNBC, home of reputedly progressive talking heads who seem content to repeat the same anti-Russian propaganda you can hear on other channels, including Fox News.

Last night, in typically long-winded fashion, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow rehashed an old report on Abkhazia and South Ossetia, tiny territories in Georgia that Russia recognized as independent states after it intervened on their behalf in a brief war with Georgia in 2008. Maddow segued to an on-air interview with NBC foreign correspondent Richard Engel, who suspects the upcoming referendum in Crimea is part of a long-range Russian plan to reclaim more territories lost when the Soviet Union imploded.

At one point, referring to Russia’s possible annexation of Crimea, Engel portentously said, “The question is, does [Vladimir] Putin stop there — does Russia stop there.” In other words, maybe Crimea is a prelude to a Russian takeover of the rest of Ukraine (the part that’s actually Ukrainian). And who knows what’s next, Richard. Maybe the rest of the freaking free world!

“What in the hell we watchin’?” my friend Swamp Rabbit said. “I thought the Cold War was over and done. This Engel guy sounds like he wants to be John Foster Dulles.”

The segment, it turned out, was called “Crimea feared as first step in Russian land grab.” Amazingly, Maddow and her guest never once addressed the fact that Russia is reacting, at least in part, to non-stop anti-Russian activity by the United States and NATO in countries that border Russia. Not one word, not even about Kosovo, the territory that broke away, with lots of help from the American military, from Russian-allied Serbia.

Maddow does a great job with domestic stories about the rights of minorities. She has helped shine a light on the dirty governing style of Chris Christie, an elected official who arguably is even more piggish than Putin.

“But why is she harping on the Russian menace, given the fact that American foreign policy is even more pernicious?” I asked Swamp Rabbit. “Sounds like she’s playing into the hands of the neocons who have pressured Barack Obama into talking like a Cold Warrior. Not that he needed much pressure.”

“Well, there’s your answer,” the rabbit said.

Footnote: If you want to start to put Crimea in perspective, read this piece in Foreign Affairs instead of watching dumb-ass TV, as I made the mistake of doing last night.

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Do as we say, Russia, not as we do


If I read one more time that President Obama thinks Russia’s support for a referendum on the status of Crimea “violates international law,” I’ll scream. This will mean nothing, because I live in a swamp and only my friend Swamp Rabbit and a few birds will hear me. But still, where is the mainstream media on this?

How can any self-respecting reporter quote Barack Obama’s contention in Paragraph 2 without stating in Paragraph 3 that our country has, on dozens of occasions since World War II, taken military action against sovereign states that posed no threat to the US of A? How can she or he not mention that, in the opinion of many, the invasion of Iraq — the most egregious 21st century example of U.S. imperial aggression — more or less disqualified U.S. politicians from invoking international law?

I’m not defending Vladimir Putin’s style of governance — I’ll take Pussy Riot over Putin any day. The point is that the United States can threaten or cajole Russia on the Ukraine controversy, but it can’t pretend to stand on principle. The appropriate response when we hear Obama or that dolt John Kerry complain that it is morally wrong of Russia to reclaim Crimea is, “Shut the f**k up, you ponderous, self-serving hypocrite.”

When the Obama administration attempts to bring Dick Cheney and his mascot/mouthpiece George W. Bush to justice for war crimes — that’s when the world might begin to take seriously America’s moral outrage over Russia’s pressure on Ukraine.

As Swamp Rabbit said, quoting Buddy Holly quoting John Wayne in The Searchers, “That’ll be the day.”

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