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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The State Of Voting Rights In The US From The UK

The Guardian has an article comparing access to voting in the various US states with a different kind of interactive map. At the bottom of the article are links to related articles they've done about voting in the US.

You won't see this kind of coverage in the US media, with its conservatives bias. It ducks responsibility for telling the truth by taking the "he said she said" stance, putting misinformation and information on the same footing.

Which is it? The media's job is to find out and tell us.

I read the article on my iPhone. I've tried various news aggrator "apps" and haven't come across one I truly liked. This one is called News Free. It's not bad. At least it doesn't crash a lot.

I'm getting loaded on Chappell Street, or Chappel Street, depending on which street sign you refer to, and enjoying a pleasant Autumn evening in Albuquerque.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ebola And The End Of Life On Earth

Major news organizations are now referring to the Ebola scare as the "Ebola Crisis".

There's some speculation going around about why, in a nation of 330 million where one person has died and two are infected with a very rare albeit very dangerous disease, it's being talked about as a crisis and talked about so much.

The obvious reason is that it's good for ratings. It's Capitalism. When you dissect that, however, and lump this story in with some of the other frivolous things the media has herd-reported on like the latest missing white women stories or supposed rampaging dark skinned people stories, the ill effects this kind of reporting has on society come to the surface.

On the Stephanie Miller radio program this morning they were lumping the Ebola story in with what has become standard coverage for big stories by the American media, which is to immediately couch everything in terms of how it demonstrates the failed Obama presidency or his lack of leadership, as in stories like Ukraine, Libya, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. In essence, the Stephanie Miller Show hosts were saying, the conservative media reflexively adopts a Republican talking points line on every story.

Left out of what have now been thousands of  Ebola stories are the effects 30 years of Reaganomics have had on business practices -- like at the private hospital in Dallas where the single Ebola death occurred and by the private company it contracts out its emergency room services to -- and the effects emasculating government has had on the general welfare, as Only In New Mexico blogger Jim Baca has pointed out.

Polls have found that Americans know virtually nothing about Ebola. They are being thrown into a panic by a media that also knows little about it, and knows little about or doesn't care about the ethics of Journalism.




Sunday, October 19, 2014

Texas Ebola Hospital Privately Owned; Emergency Room That Sent Away Nigerian Ebola Patient Is Contracted Out. CEO Of Hospital Chain Asks That We Pray.

Liberal talk radio personality Tom Hartman mentioned the other day that no one has questioned the CEO of the corporation that owns the hospital where the Texas Ebola outbreak is taking place.

Barclay Berdan - Ebola hospital CEO
That would be Barclay Berdan, who took over as CEO of Texas Health Resources on Sept 1.

Arlington, TX, based Texas Health Resources is a "non-profit" corporation that somehow managed a $40 million profit last year. The hospital  called "Presbyterian" where the outbreak is taking place -- one has died, two nurses are infected and dozens of others are being watched in quarantine -- is one of 25 owned by Texas Health Resources, which, like the private company that it contracts its emergency room services to, Emergency Medicine Consultants Ltd., which sent the Ebola patient away, has consistently scored below average on all kinds of performance measures.

Emergency room services at Texas Health Resources are contracted out to Emergency Medicine Consultants Ltd., which first looked at the Ebola patient, said he had sinus problems, gave him some antibiotics and sent him on his way. Emergency Medicine Consultants Ltd isn't responding to press inquiries and is referring questions to Texas Health Resources, which has hired "public-relations giant Burson-Marsteller" which is better equipped to deal with disasters of such magnitude, or had better be. But it was apparently when the Ebola patient returned and was admitted to a Texas Health Resources room that hospital employees were infected, which prompted "public relations giant Burson-Marsteller" to tell Texas Health Resources to issue a full page apology in the Dallas paper.

I couldn't immediately find out what Berdan's salary is. His predecessor was paid $5.71 million a year at a time Berdan was making $1.17 million as a vice president at Texas Health Resources. All the stories about him taking over the corporation, that I came across, are butt-kissing hagiographies whose authors are no doubt desperately begging for vacation leave, and make no mention of his salary or the hospital's troubles, although the Dallas Morning News has now come out with a semi hard look at Texas Health Resources, its practices, its ratings, and its behavior during the Ebola scare.

A couple days ago the first Texas Health Resources nurse who contracted Ebola issued a brief statement, which was widely reported, saying “I’m doing well and want to thank everyone for their kind wishes and prayers.” But it wasn't actually her statement. It was a press release from Texas Health Resources -- or rather "public relations giant Burson-Marsteller" -- that goes on to quote the nurse as saying she's "blessed to be cared for by the best team of doctors and nurses in the world here at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.”

Buried at the bottom of the press release and not reported as far as I can tell is this brief statement from Berdan:

“The hearts and prayers of everyone at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas are with Nina Pham, and we are working tirelessly to help her in this courageous fight. The doctors and nurses involved with her treatment remain hopeful, and we ask for the prayers of the entire country.”

With staff morale in the dumpster, an army of TV crews stationed outside the hospital around the clock and patients fleeing the hospital in droves, Barlay Berdan is going to need them.



Saturday, October 18, 2014

Permission To Build In Your Own Country

A perhaps little known fact is that Israel won' allow Palestinians to build on their own land - I'm talking about the part of Palestine that was left to the Palestinians when over half of Palestine was given to Zionists in 1948 to form Israel.

The part left to Palestinians was militarily occupied by Israel in 1967, and since then Israel has demolished more than 11,000 Palestinian homes as well as businesses, farm buildings, factories, irrigation systems and wells. (See The Israel Committee Against House Demolitions.)

Israel then charges the Palestinian for the cost of the demolition.



Israel claims the demolitions are of buildings and projects for which Palestinians didn't obtain a permit - that is, a permit from the Israeli Occupation Authority. This isn't in Israel we're talking about, this is in Palestine.

The "Occupation Authority" never approves Palestinians' permits. The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem explains that Israel's construction policy for Palestinians is given a thin veneer of pseudo legality: the land is needed for a park, for an Israeli military zone, for more Israeli settlements, etc.

Palestinians, either because they object to asking for permission to build on their own land, or simply have to build and take the chance, build anyway, with no permit -- remember, permits are always denied -- and eventually Israel finds out and demolishes it.

This, along with the imprisonment of young Palestinians, the nighttime raids of houses where Palestinian families are marched outside to stand in the freezing air in their night clothes while Israeli soldiers ransack the house, defecate on the walls, steal things,  the periodic mass slaughters in Gaza, the restrictions on food and medicines Israel lets into Gaza and the West Bank, the assassinations of Palestinian leaders by Israel, many by rockets (more rockets go into Gaza from Israel than come out of Gaza, according to the UN) is often referred to as ethnic cleansing, but in fact it's genocide.



The status quo of 1948 was always seen by the more hardline Zionists as temporary. "Greater Israel," a term you sometimes come across in articles and opinion pieces supportive of Israel, is code for "We want all the land". "We want the Palestinians gone." "Gone, or dead."

The US government has aided and abetted the Greater Israel policy from the beginning, and unlike most Americans, always knew what was going on over there. Every president from Harry S Truman on knew. A few made feeble attempts to do something - Truman, GW Bush the first, and now Barak Obama, but the overall policy has always been the same - repeat the Zionist propaganda line, cover for Israel at the UN Security Council, keep modern weaponry flowing to Israel, turn a blind eye to the "settlement building" -- huge housing developments for Israelis on stolen occupied Palestinian land.




Note: Americans, particularly college students, have gone to Palestine to resist home demolitions or participate in other kinds of demonstrations. If Americans are present, Israel is usually more careful about killing people.

Rachel Corrie, a 23-year old from Olympia, Washington, was crushed to death March 16, 2003 by an Israeli army bulldozer (a special Caterpillar model made in America only for Israeli home demolitions) as she stood in front of a Palestinian home in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip trying to prevent its demolition. Corrie, as seen in photos below, was wearing blaze orange. Witnesses say the bulldozer stopped, ran over Corrie, then backed up over her.

The Israeli army investigated and ruled the operator didn't see Corrie and that her death was an accident. Neither the US administration nor congress has ever complained about the death of an American citizen in a foreign country, or mentioned it, or investigated, or called for a thorough investigation by Israel.








Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Malala The Socialst

Missing from media accounts heralding 17-year-old Afghan Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai are her political views, as pointed out by the Socialist Worker.


They quote a message she sent back to comrades in Pakistan after attending a Marxist school there. The message has shown up on various Socialist and Marxist web sites and reads in part:

"I am convinced Socialism is the only answer and I urge all comrades to take this struggle to a victorious conclusion. Only this will free us from the chains of bigotry and exploitation.”

At a Marxist conference in Pakistan at which her message was read, one of the young schoolgirl friends she was riding with in the van the day she was shot by Taliban, who is also a Marxist, spoke and read poetry, according to Marxist.com.

Malala opposes President Obama's drone wars and told him so in person, information that is also missing from the media, which instead has situated her story in a narrative in which the US needs to kill more people in the Middle East.

If you have a chance to read the SW article it also has a brief but interesting discussion of Malala's opposition to western Imperialist intervention in places like Afghanistan.

Marxist political parties, including Socialists and Communists, are common in Middle Eastern countries, although they have not held power in some time. A few examples: Mohammad Mosaddegh, the Iranian president overthrown by the CIA in 1953 -- which is the direct cause of most of the resentment of the US in Iran today -- was a Socialist who had nationalized Iran's oil, leading to his overthrow by the US and UK intelligence forces on the orders of President Eisenhower. Many sectors of Egypt's union movement, which played the major although mostly unreported role in organizing the protests that led to the downfall of Hosnai Mubarak, are Socialist. The PKK, the main Kurdish opposition group, which has been waging a several decades old guerrilla war for an independent Kurdish state that would encompass the large Kurdish homeland that overlaps Iraq, Iran and Pakistan, is Socialist. The Ba'athist parties in various Middle Eastern countries, including the one Sadaam Hussein controlled and the one that rules in Syria, are, ideologically, Socialist, Pan-Arab parties.  





Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Greedy Poor

The problem with the economy is that working people haven't sacrificed enough. We paid for the bailouts of the wealthy, we've accepted stagnant wags and declining living standards, we've cheered the stock market gains that have increased income and wealth disparities to dizzying 1920s levels, and we think that's enough.

Well, we're wrong. Echoing the sentiments of the ruling elite all over, a big time investor quoted by Yahoo News said today,

"Clearly there is a problem in Europe. France and Italy are the EU's second- and third-largest economies and they are refusing to make the necessary structural changes. Both need structural labor reforms."

"Structural reforms" means lower wages, lower living standards and cuts to social services, and even lower taxes on the rich. It's what they say in Europe when they're talking about Reaganomics, Thatcherism, The Washington Consensus. what Democrats and Republicans are doing here. It's all the same thing. It's the way it is now.

Working people, listen up: If you want things to get better for the rich you're going to have to sacrifice.






Monday, October 13, 2014

British Parliament Votes 274-12 To Recognize Palestine

Following Sweden's announcement last week that it will recognize Palestine, and in the wake of this summer's massacre in Gaza by the Israeli military and shifting public sentiment against Israel, UK parliamentarians from Left and Right stood up to heavy lobbying from supporters of Israel and either voted in favor of the resolution or abstained, which in itself was a demonstration of lack of support for Israel.

Part of the significance of the vote, which won't change Britain's policies immediately, will be the rush to downplay its significance by Israel backers, particularly the US media and the US government and US elected officials. It's also significant because it was the "Balfour Declaration", during the time after WWI when the UK was in control of Palestine, that set in motion the process of taking half of Palestine away from its inhabitants for the creation of a Jewish state.

Primarily though, in my view, it marks the fact that the US was unable to keep a major ally in line and adhering to it own official policy, which is to refuse to talk about Palestinian statehood outside the context of "direct negotiations between the two parties," i.e. Israel and Palestine.

That farcical policy has been used for decades as cover to allow for the continued theft of Palestinian land through "settlement" building, and increasingly shows signs of unraveling.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Truck Driving And Socialism

I've been intending to write a post in which I compared the title of my blog to what the blog has actually been about. I see that I've been blogging for a little more than four years. When I started this blog I wasn't working. I was looking for work but not constantly. It was the height of the recession. I had some spare time.

A balloon landed Tuesday morning next to the apartments on Los Volcanes Road as I was parking the truck on Airport Drive


I didn't have a clear idea of why I was starting a web log. I wanted to work on my writing in some way, and to express my political views in some way, or rather, agitate for them. I'd been keeping journals for most of my years in truck driving and I wanted to try turning some of the entries into short stories, but I didn't know how I was going to bring Socialism into it.

The title Truck Driving and Socialism appealed to me because it literally would encompass what I was doing but also contained a contradiction. Truck driving, generally speaking, is peopled by conservative people.

There have been well known writers who were consciously political in their fiction writing and who also gained wide acceptance, but not many. Jack London is among the few American writers to have pulled it off successfully. Internationally there's George Orwell. Writers like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, are political people but in their writing are more unconsciously political, I would put it. They might set up situations that will lead the reader to conclude certain things politically, but they do not, as London and Orwell did, set up situations that make arguments for their political ideologies.

That's hard to do, for me at least, I've learned. I've tried it and it's come across as contrived, which it was. I started going back through my journals and found some that I was able to turn into short stories, but just doing that was such an overwhelming task that I never even thought about politics while I was doing it. The need to make it readable, interesting, believable, seemed to take over.

It wasn't long before I started writing commentaries about events in the news, like the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, what the government was doing, or elections. I also started working full time again, which made it seem impossible to devote the kind of time short story writing demanded, of me anyway. I'm not very efficient with my use of time and I was working 12 hours a day.

Eventually the truck driving job I was doing by the hour was contracted out and I was given first stab at it and I decided to submit a proposal. It was accepted and I had to buy a truck and go into the trucking business, you could say, and I've been doing that for a year and a half now.

The business part of course adds another set of headaches. It's pretty profitable, at least compared to what my expectations were, but it couldn't be profitable enough to compensate for the aggravation it causes.  I'm still doing most of the driving and the driving part becomes more aggravating every night, it seems. Truck driving is changing, as it always has, as everything always has, and so it's me, probably, my inability to adapt to the ever changing nature of the truck driver's world. There's a new generation out there. There are new kinds of truck drivers; increasing number of Sikhs, Asians, Latinos, African Americans. I welcome those people, but I never know who it is that's riding the left lane, who gets out to pass a half mile back and takes their time coming up the left lane with their brighter nowadays headlights blinding me in my rear view mirror the size of a coffee table, but I know it aggravates me. The predominant mode in truck driving when I came in was the Southern driver. Things about that style aggravated me, but it was what I was used to, I suppose.

Several times in the past few weeks, as I was driving down the interstate at night, the idea of getting out of trucking altogether popped into my head. The daydreams are starting, the escapist fantasies, of what else I'd do, replacing the ones of what I wanted to do in the trucking business. For a long time I'd wanted to buy a sailboat and live on it. I'd looked into it. The cost of sailboats, what's the biggest one that can be sailed single-handed, the smallest that can be taken on the open ocean, what's involved in ocean-going, what boat making materials are best, what navigational and emergency equipment would you need. I have an application in my files for a dock space at Long Beach harbor where you can live on the boat - - they have showers on shore, electricity hookups  -- and the total cost for the slip and the extra amount for living on the boat is about what you'd pay for an apartment in Albuquerque.

I've also dreamed about having a little place on a dirt road, being off the grid, having a wood shop and a place to fix up old cars, doing solar and wind, having a garden and a greenhouse. I made a nice little wooden boat by hand once, an English punt, and I'd thought about making them to sell.

These things are starting to come back. I'll be 62 in November. I'm doing nothing now, but work. No living. No writing. The work is never done. After the driving there's the paperwork and the maintenance. There's taking care of things in the morning after I'm done driving and then not getting enough sleep. I do an occasional blog post about what's going on in trucking, the new regulations and such. I'll do a longer essay on the weekends sometimes or dash off an easy to finish commentary before I go to work. I often go four and five weeks without doing laundry. I just keep buying underwear. When I don't have time to buy underwear I have to wash them in the damn sink.



I've been keeping an eye out for how business would change me. I thought it would. I predicated it would. I wondered if it would change my politics. If it would change the way I thought about Capitalism and Socialism. It hasn't changed anything.

But one thing being in business has done is to make me more rational. I've had to face situations I didn't have to face in the past. I've had to take care of things because I had no other choice. I think it's sharpened my ability to make decisions. The other night, at the truck stop in Holbrook where I make the trailer exchange with the Phoenix truck, I'd got there an hour early and shut my truck off, and then just before the Phoenix truck arrived it wouldn't start. I haul very time critical freight and it's sensitive for other reasons. It's pharmaceutical supplies and some if it is controlled substances.

I didn't panic. I probably would have in the past. I knew what I should check first and did that, then got the truck stop's garage to get their service truck out there to try jumping it, and when that didn't work the mechanic and I went through the other possible causes and then suddenly it was running and I was back in Albuquerque well within my window. As anyone who has run a business or an organization can no doubt tell you, doing something like that is, in a way, solving a series of problems. The problems always come. They never stop. I'm better at solving them. More rational.

I suppose I see the dollars and cents of doing everything, now. I'm more calculating. The dreams are still there. They never stop keep coming, either. I have a better sense of what they'll cost, of what I might gain and what I might lose. I'll think about it, dream about it some more, think about it some more. I don't know what's going to happen. In other words, I've probably already made up my mind.






Thursday, October 9, 2014

Lunch Time!

As thanks for performing the public service of letting the people of New Mexico know what their elected governor and her staff were doing, Jaime Estrada has been sentenced to nine months in prison, according to today's Albuquerque Journal.

Estrada admitted to stealing emails, which were released to the public around the time Governor Susana Martinez' administration was being investigated by the FBI. The Martinez administration was being charged in media outlets with rigging the awarding of a multimillion dollar race track and casino contract and thuggishly intimidating wittnesses.

The account of Estrada's sentencing in the Journal, which has yet to publish anything negative about the governor, doesn't mention the scandal or provide any context for the email thefts.

Martinez herself appeared at the sentencing to urge the judge to sentence Estrada to the maximum term allowed, the Journal reported, saying her personal life had been "invaded."

“I don’t know how many emails are out there," the Journal quotes Martinez as telling the judge. "I truly believe this will never end.”



To assist Martinez in determining how many email are out there, the above is a screen shot from when the emails were published that shows part of several of the emails. One is from a company called Spanx that specializes in underwear meant to make women look thinner. On their web site it's called "shapewear" and includes such items as "mid-thigh shapers."






Another email is from Jockey, also a company that makes underwear intended to make it look like you haven't been chowing down every spare minute.





I hope this helps, governor!


The Journal article didn't indicate whether the reporter who wrote it asked Martinez if she thought she was being vindictive in making time in her schedule to go down to Albuquerque and sit through a sentencing hearing so she could call for Estrada to be sentenced to a long prison term, or whether the Journal reporter asked Martinez whether she had better things to do like try to improve on her performance in creating jobs in the state, which is among the poorest in the nation.


Martinez, a former Democrat, switched to Republican Party after some Republicans bought her lunch. Early in her administration her driver was pulled over for speeding on an Albuquerque frontage road while he was taking the governor to lunch.





Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Capitalism Versus The Climate

Capitalism has shown itself unable to deal with the periodic economic crises that are part of the cyclic nature of Capitalism. The Great Depression, for example. The government's response to the current downtown, half-hearted at first and then none, which continues with depression-like conditions for most of the populace, is blamed for the continuing stagnation in job creation (except in poor paying and part time jobs, and in the Temp industry, which if you noticed in the latest job statistics is the leading industry in job creation, as it has been for several years now) and the decline in working class living standards

 A few people on the Left are beginning to talk about the political opportunities for the Left that will become apparent as the effects of global warming set in. The most powerful tool the Left has ever had, Naomi Klein calls it in her new book "This Changes Everything." Conservatives already know this, which is why climate change denial is being pushed so hard by major conservative think tanks and media.

Jim Baca in his Only In New Mexico blog today points out the relationship between free market fundamentalism with its mania for cutting government spending and the Ebola outbreak. The Ebola scare is being overblown, as he points out. But the fact remains that free market fundamentalism is useless, helpless, in the face of something like a pandemic, and has done and can do and is doing nothing to generate the kind of radical changes that will be necessary at this late date to avert a global climate change induced disaster.

Like the other crises it caused, Capitalism only caused the climate change disaster. It can't and won't solve it.

More to come on this.