Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Great Snow And Ice Storm Of February 27, 2015

What a disaster. Not the snow and ice storm but my apartment, which after tax season looks like it was raided by IRS agents. I should be straightening it up or setting a match to it but instead I'm posting some pictures I took yesterday morning while waiting 4 1/2 hours to get into Albuquerque.

I'd headed for Holbrook at 8 p.m. just as the snow was hitting the Albuquerque area. By the time I got to Grants it was pretty severe, but then it stopped and I was hoping for an uneventful retiurn trip. The Phoenix relay truck got to Holbrook early, which for me means a leisurely, fuel saving cruise back to Albuquerque. At 4 a.m., which is generally about the time I get to Continental Divide,  I send a text message to a couple supervisors at DMC, the distribution company that delivers what I haul. I texted I'd be there at 6:00, and added, maybe even a little earlier if they have the roads cleared.

Heroic New Mexico Department of Transportation union employees to the rescue

Of course they'd only gotten worse, and I got back at 10:30. In fact soon after I sent the text the roads started getting bad. The ice started on the Laguna reservation at around the To'hajiilee exit, 25 miles from downtown Albuquerque, where I-40 starts going over a series of rolling hills. That stretch of road is also where I lose my wonderful AT&T (union company) cell phone signal for about 15 miles.

That's where the traffic backups began. Some lightly loaded semis couldn't make it up the hills and there were groups of vehicles parked on the road here and there. My loads are always very light and I had trouble getting going as I was stopped on an uphill slope. If cases like that you have to sit there and let the tires spin until they get warm and literally melt the ice underneath. You can creep forward a little at a time. Spin and melt, ease off the pedal to let them grab, spin and melt, repeat. Eventually you get a little speed up and then you're moving.

I got past a couple bunches of stopped or stuck trucks but stopped on top of a hill where I had an emergency signal so if I'd happened to be late I could let someone know. A lot of people arrive at DMC when I get there to unload the truck and sort out the pharmaceutical supplies according to which of the clinics, doctor's offices, vet's offices, hospitals, etc., around New Mexico they get delivered to. It's overnight stuff they can order up until 7:00 p.m. and be guaranteed delivery by 10:00 a.m. barring truck breakdowns and ice storms.

As I sat there in the right hand lane, a truck would creep past once in awhile and head down the hill only to learn there was no stopping. They'd slowly slide to a halt on the right hand shoulder, sit there a few minutes, then continue slowly down hill, where they all congregated. The vehicles on the other side or the creek down there never moved. It looked like there a truck stuck sideways across the highway with the front tires over the inside edge of the roadway. When I came past an hour later it had been moved. I got past some others that were broke down or couldn't get traction.

 Semis have a transfer case in the driveline that can put the eight drive wheels into all wheel drive, but if you engage it while you're moving it can blow the transfer case to bits and that could be what happened to some of the trucks I passed. It can get scary when a truck starts going sideways on ice, or the tractor's going one way and the trailer another, or you start sliding backwards as the wheels are spinning, and there's a great temptation to reach for the transfer case lever.

My International - McKinney is a trailer rental company

 I didn't get too far and sat for the bulk of the 4 1/2 hours I was late just short of the last hill going down to the Laguna Tribe's big Route 66 Casino complex. Where I sat I had no phone signal and couldn't see over the crest of the hill, and at one point got bored and started walking ahead to see if I could get a signal and see what was going on down in the valley, but I turned around before I got far enough to see anything because I was about lose sight on my truck. My contract states that I can't leave it unattended while it's loaded.

The car just ahead of me was two truck drivers, a team, who had blown an engine in California. Their company had rented them a car and wanted them to pick up a different truck in Indianapolis, the passenger explained to me. "We're not making any money sittin' here," he said.

Further ahead a woman jumped out of the rear seat of a big pickup truck and edged close to me as she bemoaned the fact that they they hadn't "stayed put" where they'd been. "They say it's like this all the way across Texas," she said. She wore the crazed expression of someone who's gone a long time without sleep, or someone who's crazy, I couldn't say which.

Even wreckers break down - call a wrecker

Traffic started rolling at 9:50 a.m. The hill going down into the Rio Puerco Valley and the one coming up the other side had been well sanded. It was bumpy from the ice underneath but traction was no problem. Nine mile hill coming down into Albuquerque was clear sailing in the left lane, and by the time I passed Coors Boulevard all lanes were all but clear.

Home Sweet Home

 I got unloaded and back up to Airport Drive, where I park the trucks a block from where I live at the soon to be fashionable Tierre Pointe Apartments, a little after 11:00, at which point I was an hour over the legal "on duty" limit of 14 hours, although there's an exception for emergencies like today. Either that or you can put down whatever you want in your log book, which of course I never do and never have done if any handsome young DOT officers ever happen onto this.

Note: Creative logging, as some call it, is probably ending, as the federal DOT is going to require "electronic logs" in all commercial vehicles that create a time record of when your truck is moving.

The looming requirement is already hastening the exodus of experienced drivers from trucking that's been caused by a series of non-sensible logging rules imposed over the past ten years, most dangerously the change to the "14 hour rule," which I've written about.

I mentioned, above, that I'd left Albuquerque at 8 p.m. That means I have 14 hours from 8 p.m. to be on duty -- driving, loading, fueling etc. So I have to go off duty at 10 a.m.

Before the rule was changed, you could stop the 14 hour clock by going "off duty" in your log book. So if you needed a nap, you could take a nap, wake up, and continue to your destination.

In its effort to get all truck drivers on a daytime "24-hour circadian cycle," the DOT has changed the logging rule so that if you take that nap, your 14 hour clock keeps ticking, so you can't really take the nap. You have to keep driving, even if you're tired, in order to get all your driving done within 14 hours.

What the federal DOT doesn't realize is that Capitalism isn't on a 24 hour circadian cycle and trucking has to pick up and deliver loads when Capitalism wants it to, so a driver's schedule is constantly changing. Drivers who stay in trucking eventually adapt to it. It might not be as good as being on a 9-5 schedule as far as being alert, but it's a lot safer than driving when you're tired. Believe me.

The federal DOT has really created a problem in trucking. Accident rates for trucks have been steadily increasing for five years now. Every night it's more and more like a clown circus out there.

I'd explain it all in letters to my congress people but I'm afraid they'd take it seriously.  They often take interest in "constituent issues" like this. They assign staff, they get things done, then they promote themselves with it. To me though it's just another excuse not to be working on the issues that matter most -- the increasing income inequality in the US, the declining living standards of American workers, the constant assaults on Social Security, Medicare and other New Deal programs, which Democrats are now going along with. The trucking industry needs to take care of itself, which it sometimes shows signs of being able to do. So much of the economy, almost 100 percent, depends on trucking that the trucking industry, united, could control the country. Truckers could do it, too, if they organized, but if you ever want to hear a lot of Rush Limbaugh implanted right wing blather just read the comments section of an article in a trucking industry publication.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Coming Republican Attack On Social Security

It's coming. They have the congress.

Will there be enough Democrats to stop it?

No. Ours have already voted to cut it, and when they had to justify that vote said that the Social Security benefits they cut didn't affect any New Mexicans, and we vote for these sorry bastards.

New Mexico's Democrats have bought into Reaganomics, and that means cutting and eventually privatizing Social Security. Don't count on them. It's up to us.

It's Over

College students were asked a few basic questions about the United States.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Structural Imbalances

From an article about a strike of oil workers in the US on the World Socialist Web Site.

A report issued by Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors last week boasted that the US economy has recovered from the global financial crisis faster than other countries because it had dealt with “structural imbalances.” This includes reducing government spending on public education and other social services at the fastest rate since World War II and sharply lowering expenditures on health care. Real wages, the report noted, have fallen by 0.3 percent since 2010. The number of salaried workers afforded overtime protection had fallen from 45 to 39 percent.

The picture of the future painted by the Obama administration was even more chilling. Stable jobs and employer-paid health care and pensions would be replaced by greater “labor market fluidity,” reducing workers to the status of desperate migrant laborers without the slightest job protection.

Structural imbalances = deficit spending

Democrat = Republican

Edward Snowden Wins The Oscar

Apparently there was some kind of awards ceremony last night for movies.

Filmmaker Laura Poitras, one of the people who helped Edward Snowden leak his documents and escape to Russia, won an Academy Award at the ceremony for best documentary film for a movie about Snowden's escape.

Pictured below are Poitras and Glenn Greenwald, the constitutional lawyer turned journalist who also helped Snowden escape and who has been publishing the leaked documents in his online magazine The Intercept.

Yesterday's blog post was about the latest revelations in The Intercept.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Slightly Used SIM Card For Sale

Updated 2/22/15 at 9 a.m.

It's hard for me to keep track of how many ways the US government violates our privacy, our civil rights and the law in its all consuming drive to know everything there is to know about everybody -- because, you know, terrorists.

Another Edward Snowden leak of documents, written about by Jeremy Scahill and Josh Begley in The Intercept, explains how our National Security Agency and British intelligence illegally hacked into private emails to find out who, at the private companies that make SIM cards, knew about how they are encrypted and how they are delivered to cell phone makers, then stalked those people, illegally. The NSA and the British then intercepted, illegally, the transfer of SIM card encryption codes from their all their makers to all the cell phone companies, all over the world.

SIM cards are what identify an individual phone to a cell phone company, and they also hold the key -- the numerical deciphering code -- to unlocking the encrypted data that goes out over the cell phone networks, which means our phone conversations, texts, and everything else, and for many people it now includes every place they visit on the internet. Using automatic programs, the government eavesdrops on all of us and then stores all our conversations and texts and everything else, and, according to the leaked documents, even sets up huge searchable databases of it all. And we pay for it. We don't want them to do it, and they do it anyway.

As Scahill and Begley write:

With these stolen encryption keys, intelligence agencies can monitor mobile communications without seeking or receiving approval from telecom companies and foreign governments. Possessing the keys also sidesteps the need to get a warrant or a wiretap, while leaving no trace on the wireless provider’s network that the communications were intercepted. Bulk key theft additionally enables the intelligence agencies to unlock any previously encrypted communications they had already intercepted, but did not yet have the ability to decrypt.

The key word here is "theft." Our government thinks nothing of breaking the law, and while it self righteously condemns other countries for what are in comparison minor infractions, and continues to selectively prosecute and imprison hunreds of thousand of us. Recall that not one banker or Wall Street operative has been prosecuted for gambling practices that often fell outside the law and brought down the world economy causing several million Americans to lose their homes and causing untold misery to working people worldwide that continues. Instead our elected officials hobnob with the criminals and accept their campaign bribes.

Every leaked document that's been released reveals that our government has gone much farther than we knew about, that they've been much more intrusive and acted much more illegally. Whenever they've been asked they lied about it, and there's more to come. Journalists at the Intercept and the other outlets provided with the Snowden documents are still going through it, and those docements don't cover everything our government does. There's much more than we know about. When I was a reporter I used to say that I figured I found out about roughly half of what happened, and of that half I could prove half of it well enough to get it in the paper.

So why? It's not terrorism. That's not even a threat, and they know how to stop that. Stop causing it.

Nowhere, not even China, can any country break out of the economic doldrums, which means more social unrest is coming. Add to that global warming and the social upheavals it will cause. We already live in a surveillance state. Many of the elements for instituting a police state are in place. The ruling class is ready.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Quiet Week

It's been a quiet week on I-40. The west coast ports labor dispute no doubt has a lot to do with it. Container ships are waiting offshore for as much as ten days to be unloaded, then being unloaded slowly. The trucking industry is probably holding back on taking loads that deliver in California because once a truck gets unloaded out there it will in many cases sit there for awhile before a load can be found for it. I've spent as much as three days sitting out there during normal times.

The old road house at Thoreau
I-40 carries a lot of truck traffic. At night there are more trucks out there than "four wheelers," which is what truckers call cars and pickups. I-40 goes across the middle of the country and is one of the main streets of the country for trucking. Like I-95 on the east coast, I-35 down the middle, and I-5 on the west coast, there sometimes can be a solid line of trucks in the right hand lane.

I don't enjoy driving under those conditions, but when it's quiet out there, it's nice. Set the cruise, put on a good book or podcast, lean back and relax. I had a nice taste of that a couple of time this winter when I-40 was being hit by weather and the Phoenix truck and I met in Lordsburg instead of Holbrook. I-25 going down to Las Cruces is very quiet at night. The change in scenery was nice, too. At night the scenery is mainly in your head. It's what's conjured up by the place names and the hazy outlines of cliffs and canyons in the starlight, the sharp outlines of a slender woman's body, the past, churning like the low rumble of the engine, the warm sunny days, the cold dark nights, mile markers ticking off, exits not taken, the road always stretched out ahead.

The port dispute will be over soon, most likely, resulting in a freight glut of a few weeks. The shipping companies owners' union has tried a lockout and tried ending overtime to cause the backup and make it worse and has tried getting the Obama Administration involved and their PR people are feeding non-stop propaganda to the media, but the situation is costing people money and the Longshoreman's Union is one of the strongest unions in the country. I think they'll flick off this latest attack by the port owners' union. Then freight rates for those California loads will spike and it will be back to normal on I-40.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Polar Opposites

A similar meme was going around awhile back about how Iceland handled it's banking crises much differently than the US did. That one said that during their banking crises Iceland nationalized its banks instead of bailing them out with public money like we did. It also had the president adding, "The opposite of what America does."

According to Wikipedia the president of Iceland is Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson and the position is largely ceremonial, although recently he was able to stop implementation of a law that would set up a board that could censor the media. Politically he's at the Progressive-Social Democratic end of the spectrum and is in a record fifth term. On two occasions he ran unopposed and last time he got 67 percent of the vote.

I don't know if it's him going around saying these things in the memes or if it's the meme maker but I wish he'd come over here and be president.

The US government, of course, acts like a big Chamber of Commerce for Capitalism and like a doting father who gives it an advance on its allowance every time it blows all it money. The US government relentlessly pursues activists -- those on the Left, that is. Tea baggers who bring their guns to rallies at the Capital are entirely unmolested, while Left leaning activist and environmental groups are spied on, infiltrated, thrown in prison and in some cases murdered by their own government. The opposite of what Iceland does.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Warren Occupies Washington

(Updated below: 9:25 p.m.)

Elizabeth Warren has been gradually expanding her critique of American Capitalism and is now openly criticizing Democrats who have adopted Reaganomics. She's also adopting the language of the Left. In doing so she's placed herself on an interesting, what you might call self marginalizing trajectory that others have taken when they realize how entrenched Reaganomics has become in American big-money political culture.

Elizabeth Warren - AP/Timothy D. Easley
Warren came onto the national scene in 2011 as a Harvard professor appointed by President Obama to set up a new federal consumer protection agency. She was elected senator from Massachusetts in 2012. She had been limiting her criticisms to big banks and Wall Street, but has gradually taken in more territory and at an ACLU forum last month hit on some of the major themes heard in Leftist critiques of Capitalism and in Leftist publications like The Nation or The Progressive magazine -- and were heard from the Occupy Movement.

"Since the 1980s, too many of the people running this country have followed one form or another of supply side — or trickle-down — economic theory. Many in Washington still support it," Warren said. "When all the varnish is removed, trickle-down just means helping the biggest corporations and the richest people in this country, and claiming that those big corporations and rich people could be counted to create an economy that would work for everyone else."

She talked about a 30 year time frame, for example, in which wages have remained flat. That commonly used time frame dates the current situation back to Reagan. She didn't mention Reagan or call his policy Reaganomics, or Neoliberalism as many academics do, but called it "trickle down," which is an interesting choice of phrase. Older people know what she's referring to, but younger people who only know that Reagan is a much admired former Republican president won't tie her criticism directly to him.

"Pretty much the whole Republican Party – and, if we’re going to be honest, too many Democrats – talked about the evils of 'big government' and called for deregulation," Warren continued. "It sounded good, but it was really about tying the hands of regulators and turning loose big banks and giant international corporations to do whatever they wanted to do—turning them loose to rig the markets and reduce competition, to outsource more jobs, to load up on more risks and hide behind taxpayer guarantees, to sell more mortgages and credit cards that cheated people. In short, to do whatever juiced short term profits even if it came at the expense of working families."

Also without naming him she makes critical illusions to Bill Clinton, who famously announced that "the era of big government is over." The former Democratic president, who followed Reagan, did more to cement Reaganomics as our economic policy than anyone, by muting the Liberal critique of it and by moving the Democratic party to the right.

Almost from the time of her arrival people on the Left, desperate for a champion, have urged Warren to run for president. She's consistently said she's not interested and that could be true. It's unrealistic to think that she could attract the kind of support -- financially and within the mainstream of her party -- needed to win a nomination, at least until things open up more, that is, until the kinds of things she's talking aboiut and that Leftists have been talking about for years are subjects the mainstream media will even pay attention to. Meanwhile she will cause problems for right leaning Democrats like Hillary Clinton and for most Democrats in congress, because people quickly latch on to a message like hers that hasn't been represented in the mainstream media for decades but readily explains the situation they're in. The field of economic populism has been left entirely to Republicans for a long time.

Occupy, which rose quickly in the summer of 2011 and was quickly demolished by the Obama administration, had the lasting effect of putting economic inequality on the table. It had not been on the media's radar before Occupy but it became a theme in the 2012 presidential election. It defined the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, and even cast a pall on his vice presidential nominee, Paul "Eddie Munster" Ryan, because it shaped the analysis of the federal budget he introduced as chairman of the House Ways and Means committee.

Warren is becoming the new Occupy. Because of her, the themes Occupy popularized haven't gone away, and she's expanding their critique and expanding what's permissible to criticize about the political establishment.

She's not saying anything that Democrats like Rep Luis Guitteriez of Illinois or Rep Maxine Waters of California haven't been saying for years, but she's white and blonde and this is still the United States of America, so she gets on TV and is listened to because the people who run TV have been told by the people who advertize on TV that she's the type the people who watch TV in America, and who buy the things they sell, will tune in to.

Note: a summary of Warren's speech was published in Talking Points Memo. She also published a footnoted transcript on her web site.

Update: Maria Margaronis writing in The Nation has an update on the process underway in Europe by Greece's new Syriza party-led government to undo the "trickle down," or Austerity as its called in Europe, regime imposed on Greece by the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the European Central Bank, the so-called Troika, that was spearheaded by Germany's right-wing chancellor Angela Merkel . As Margaronis points out, Reaganomics by any name has never worked anywhere, and even its proponents now know it. For political and face saving reasons they can't admit it, but Syriza is now in a good position to undo much of the damage done to Greece's economy by the Troika.

Unhappily, in the US, Republicans and most Democrats (including all of New Mexico's) are still pressing ahead full steam with Reaganomics and there's nothing like an organized resistance to it from the Left. Right-leaning working class voters suck it up happily in the hope they will one day enjoy their share of the untold riches now being accumulated by the 1 percent.

At the hint of any kind of organized resistance from the Left the US government swoops down on it, as it did when the Obama Administration's Department of Homeland Security organized the simultaneous raids on the Occupy Movement's camps. Or the government renders Leftist groups ineffective by spying on and infiltrating them and by doing what they refer to as "containing" reporting of the movement to the Left leaning alternative media, and keeping it out of the mainstream corporate-owned media.

Democrats and Republicans - There's A Difference

From a Reuters interview with Republican Paul Ryan, chair of the House Ways and Means committee, about prospects for reforming the tax code this year:

 Ryan said he would prefer to pass a comprehensive tax reform plan this year that simplifies and lowers rates for both companies and individuals. Democratic President Barack Obama has said he wants to push forward with a corporate-only tax reform.

I've pointed out various ways lately, like here and here, in which Democrats have become more conservative than Republicans or Republicans have moved to the left of Democrats, and here's another example. Republicans want to cut everybody's taxes while the president only wants to cut corporate taxes. He'll find a lot of Democratic backing in congress, where Democrats now often raise more corporate money than Republicans.

Since Reagan, as taxes on big business and the wealthy have plummeted, the share of the cost of funding government has fallen increasingly on workers. Republicans would as soon do away with all taxes, and government, but Democrats know someone has to fund the military, the bailout loans, the corporate subsidies.

Ryan - Reuters/Jonathan Ernst
Ryan, by the way, the 2010 Republican vice presidential nominee, has grown a beard, apparently having become weary of being mistaken for Eddie Munster.

Democrats and Labor - send in the troops

It was kind of quiet on I-40 the last couple of nights. I wondered why, but now I read about the lockout at the big west coast ports, where all those shiploads of Wal Mart products from China come in, and all our cell phones and computers and everything else we buy. The port owners have locked out the Longshoreman's Union (International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU)), who've been working without a contract since July and recently began staging slowdowns. A lockout is basically a strike by the owners, though it's never called that. This one was called by the Pacific Maritime Association, made up of port owners, which like the Chamber of Commerce and other groups where owners organize to further interests they have on common, is a union, though they are never called that.

Despite soaring corporate profits and a stock market that has doubled under Obama, corporations, with the help of government including Democrats, are trying to maintain the downward trend in wages and benefits that's been underway the past 30 years.  There's also a small scale strike going on at California refineries, where 5,200 of the 30,000 workers represented by the United Steelworkers have walked out, but even that meek job action prompted two west coast Democratic house members to call on the president to invoke the Taft-Hartley Act, which gives a US president broad powers to suppress labor activity by simply saying it's for national security.

Taft-Hartley, the most draconian anti labor law of them all, rolled back many of the New Deal era laws protecting union organizing from corporate and government suppression. But under it, the president can impose contracts and call out the national guard to violently repress workers and any broader community support they have. Democrats Janice Hahn of California and Kurt Schrader of Oregon joined Republicans at a Capitol Hill news conference this week calling for a presidential clampdown of west coast workers under Taft-Hartley.

New Mexico's conservative Democrats, as I have pointed out before, are essentially anti union. Their rhetoric is either pro business or so bland as to be meaningless, and they are so afraid of offending corporations or of encouraging union membership that they never utter the word "union" in public.

They never say anything that might encourage average citizens to organize in any way and thereby unleash the tremendous latent power they posses. They see their jobs as doing everything they can to discourage that and to keep workers powerless while creating the illusion that they are "working hard" to represent their interests, while selling them out to their wealthy patrons.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Netanyahu Speech - Contact Congress

New Mexico federal legislative delegation contact details including a link to send an email.

Member NameDC PhoneDC FAXContact Form
Senator Tom Udall (D- NM) 202-224-6621 202-228-3261
Senator Martin Heinrich (D- NM) 202-224-5521 202-228-2841
Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham (D - 01) 202-225-6316 202-225-4975
Representative Steve Pearce (R - 02) 202-225-2365 202-225-9599
Representative Ben Ray Lujan (D - 03) 202-225-6190 202-226-1528

Republicans have invited Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak before a joint session of congress as part of a scheme to derail President Obama's nuclear negotiations with Iran. Some Democrats are boycotting the speech but so far no New Mexico Democrat has summoned the courage to risk the ire of the powerful Israeli lobby.

Also, here's a link to automatically send a form email to the two senators and your representative all at one time from the activism web site Roots Action. Using this form will put you on their email list. I used it earlier today and have received nothing yet. Note that you have to uncheck some boxes if you don't want to be put on some other lists, too, such as Code Pink. Typically it's easy to unsubscribe from such email lists by clicking a link that's at the bottom of every email they send out.

Note: If you click on the member's name, above, it has some interesting information about each one such as key staff members, the committees they're on, etc. There's no information on whether they have a criminal record.

Michelle Grisham: Don't Worry Big Business, I'm Your Gal

Michelle Grisham, our Democratic First District US congressional representative, is bragging about a bill she cosponsored that got passed. In an email I just received because I'm on her mailing list she said, "I'm proud to have been a sponsor of this bi-partisan bill..."

This kind of language -- making a point of pointing out that what she supported is "bi-partisan" -- is typical of her. It's typical New Mexico Democrat speak. You hear it all the time from all of our Democratic delegation.

It means, "This is a Republican-supported bill so there's nothing in it that would displease corporations." 

It means, "This isn't a bill that will help working Americans."

It means, "Don't worry big business, I'm still on your side."

New Mexico's Democrats, who are essentially Republicans who may or may not have a few liberal positions on social issues, almost always vote with Republicans on economic issues, and vote against the interests of the working class they are supposed to represent. All of them have voted to cut Social Security, Medicare, Head Start, veterans benefits and federal employee retirement benefits. None of them advocate for the working class, ever. None of them will even utter the word "union" in public.

I say they are liberal on some social issues. They don't advocate for liberal positions on social issues. If they hold those positions they keep it very quiet. Grisham has said she is in favor of equal pay for women but on all other issues she keeps quiet. All of them do.

Democrats like this are why Republicans control congress. Democrats like this are why wealth and income inequality are now worse than they were in the 1920s gilded age, when the country was run by tycoons and workers slept next to their machines. Democrats like Michele Grisham, Tom Udall, Ben Lujan and Martin Heinrich are a disgrace to the word Democrat.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Netanyahu Speech Controversy And Our Brave New Mexico Democrats

A growing-by-the day list of Democrats including Vice President Joe Biden will be boycotting the controversial upcoming speech to a joint session of congress by Benjamin Netahyahu, Israel's prime minister. Netanyahu's speech is intended to disrail President Obama's negotiations with Iran over its nuclear policy.

I haven't seen many mainstream media headlines about the controversy but it's being covered by inside the beltway outlets like Politico and the Hill and in minute detail by that segment of the Leftist Jewish press where open debate is ongoing about Israel's brutal occupation of Palestine and theft of Palestinian lands, such as Mondoweis. IN some of these outlets the speech is being called a tremendous blunder that has eroded the once invincible power the Israeli lobby holds over the US congress and has taken away Israel's veto proof majority of support for Iran sanctions in the US Senate.

Daily tallies are published listing senators and representatives who have announced whether they will be boycotting the speech, some of which also list those who have said they will definitely be going and who are straddling the fence.

Nowhere on any of these lists is a New Mexico senator or US representative, who are taking the customary non leadership roles they take whenever there's a controversy. Typically New Mexico's Democratic politicians use the tactic perfected by former senator Jeff Bingaman and hide under their  desks in their office until the controversy goes away.

The tactic works well as there is no New Mexico media outlet with broad circulation that covers the federal government or questions NM's delegation about any of the policy positions they take, which leaves NM's Democrats free to create their own highly sanitized news about themselves by issuing press releases and making occasional appearances in the state.

As a result New Mexico's Democrats -- Marin Heinrich, Tom Udall, Michele Grisham and Ben Lujan -- are free to support Reaganomics economic policies that harm their constituents but keep the campaign donations rolling in. They can take a pass on confronting the Israeli lobby and never have to take any responsibility for Israel's ongoing theft of Palestinian land and its periodic massacres of Palestinian men, women and children in Gaza. New Mexico's Democrats can expect to hold onto their fancy offices as long as they want to, continue cashing their generous paychecks, continue enjoying the status and perks that come with their offices, and can pretend they never heard about the ongoing project Israel has been pursuing since its inception in 1948 which is to exterminate the Palestinian people and have all of their land for themselves.

Monday, February 9, 2015

A National Security Gag Order

Alfredo Lopez
Alfredo Lopez, a 67-year-old activist in New York who sometimes writes for the This Can't Be Happening collective, has a chilling story about the entire board of his organization, May First/People Link, being put under a federal gag order of the type government is increasingly use to oppress dissent -- a gag order meant to silence dissent by prohibiting you from even telling anyone you are under a gag order.

Lopez' group is involved in activism but also has a secure server on which it hosts web sites, and one of the many groups renting out space from them is an Indymedia outlet in Athens, Greece. There are Indymedia web sites all over the world. The people who write for them tend to be Anarchist in political leaning and are the type of activists who were behind Occupy. Anarchism as a political philospphy is probably more poplar in europe than in the US, where it is increasing in popularity among youth. Anarchism is basically a belief in decentralized government -- i.e., local control.

The police in Greece had noticed that two young men they wanted had posted comments on the Athens Indymedia site and requested that the FBI get all the information on Lopez' group's server for them, which the FBI tried to do. A server is a computer set up to host web sites (like this one, Blogger, which is on a massive Google server) or a server is a big block of space someone rents out on a big computer and sets up to rent out space to host web sites on.

The gag order not only prevented Lopez and other board members from talking about the fact that they were being pressured by the US government to hand over the personal information of everyone who had a web site with them, but it prevented them from even saying they were under a gag order.

These type of gag orders have become popular tools for law enforcement since 9-11 and are part of the Patriot Act, which is full of provisions that are unconstitutional and haven't yet been challenged, or have been chalenged but judges have let them stand, erroneously, many on the Left think. An FBI agent can issue a gag order under the Patriot Act without even having to go through a judge. He or she simply writes a "national security letter" and sends it to the person or group being gagged. There is mandatory jail time and a $5,000 per day fine for violating the gag order. Lopez' gag order was similar to these but was issued by a judge and has been lifted, which is why he can talk about it now, but it is unknown how many people are under FBI "national security" gag orders because people who are under them can't say they are under them.

In the latest This Can't Be Happening podcast, Lopez and veteran Philadelphia journalist Dave Lindorff talk about the gag order in the context of an increasing police state mentality by governments and law enforcement in the US. Part of it is the increase in police violence, which in many places already has made people afraid to participate in marches and protests. Police violence is increasing as police see that virtually every cop who kills or beats the crap out of someone is let off without even being disciplined by government officials, who themselves see the potential for civil unrest in the country what with stagnate wages, decreasing hope for a better future among youth, vastly increasing inequality, and the economic and social problems that will come with climate change.

They are clamping down, folks. The indictment of two cops by Bernalillo County, New Mexico's District Attorney Kerri Brandenburg  is a rare exception to the rule of police not facing consequences and should be applauded and supported.

This Can't Be happening, by the way, is the news source that got documentation with Freedom of Information requests that showed that the Obama Administration coordinated the attacks on Occupy encampments around the country that brought that movement to an end. Mainstream media have ignored this story. For writing about it, This Can't Be Happening got themselves put on a "Threat List" that was sent out to Department of Homeland Security Fusion Centers around the country. I've written about these centers, where federal, state and local law enforcement officers are in one location in order to coordinate and share information. Fushion Centers, set up under legislation that created the Department of Homeland Security after 9-11, were briefly in the news when the Boston Fushion center failed to prevent the Boston Marathon Bombings despite the fact that they were tracking the suspects, but they largely operate in the dark and aren't reported on.

New Mexico has one Fushion Center, called the New Mexico All Source Intelligence Center, at 13 Bataan Boulevard in Santa Fe, according to Public Intelligence.Net.

Communism Takes Over

A post about Communist tires, Communist computers, Communist cell phones, and drones, written at 5,116.9 feet above sea level plus or minus 62.3 feet.

I bought some new tires for the International recently. Right away the guy at the TA truck stop started pushing some Communist Chinese tires. I have nothing against Communism or China but wanted Firestones or something, something that sounded like good tires, but all those were twice as much as Communist Chinese tires. My truck has the old size tires, which are a couple inches taller than most trucks use now, and I wanted to keep the same size but the old size had to be "special ordered." We're talking a $3,000 difference for the set of eight drive tires.

Communist tires
My old tires were nearly bald. With the new ones, with all that new tread on them, I'm registering six to seven miles less per night on the odometer for a 486 mile round trip, which is down to 480 miles now. The engine, the axles, differentials, almost all the moving parts turn over fewer times in the same distance. That's why I didn't want the new type tires, which I think would have been even worse in the other direction. The engine would have turned over faster, more wear and tear, more fuel, and the speedometer would have been off.

Self portrait on Communist computer

About eight years ago I switched over from Windows to Apple products, which are apparently all made in Communist China.

I'd always been curious about Apples. I was going through a Windows laptop a year on the road. The ones I had, which were HP and Maytag, as I recall, didn't seem to take the jostling around or the vibration and something made me think Apple computers were solidly built. That could be true. I still have that original iBook 4 and it still works alright, so either the computer is more solid or I learned how to care for a computer in the truck better. I'd probably still be using that computer but it's no longer possible to update it, or most of the programs on it.

Having a laptop and cell phone that were ideologically compatible would make transferring things easier, I figured, so when I needed a phone I got the free Communist iPhone deal -- last year's model for free if you signed a two year contract with either Verizon or AT&T. I picked AT&T because I'd read that they're unionized while Verizon isn't. I'd heard AT&T doesn't work very well in New Mexico but I didn't need to talk on the phone. I just needed to have a phone bill in a hurry, so I could register my International. A phone bill is required for proof of residence by the New Mexico Department of Motor Vehicles Commercial Division if you want to register a semi truck. I used to have a pay-as-you-go Trac Phone, which was quite suitable for my needs. If you're on an interstate or major highway you almost always have a signal. Trac Phone rents space on other companies' networks. They used to be sold mainly in truck stops so I suspect the service areas were rented out with trucking in mind.

I've had the apple cell phone for almost two years now and am using the internet functions more and more. I also try an "app" once in awhile. A week or so ago I found an "app" that shows your elevation. It actually uses your GPS location.

"App," I think, is another word for "program." I've asked several people whether that's true but have never received a straight answer. I suspect people never questioned what an "app" is. We're on a ship of fools. No one questions anything. I question everything, including why I question everything. I get no answers and live in constant turmoil.

I've always been interested in elevation, and I was curious about the elevations I went through on my nightly run: Albuquerque to Holbrook and back on I-40. The middle screen shot, where it says "Gallup," is the highest point I found. It was actually taken near the Continental Divide exit, about mile marker 40, which is 20 miles from Gallup.

Add caption

It gives the longitude and latitude. I suppose those GPS devises do that, but I've never had one. I noticed that as I was driving along I-40 the longitude "seconds" reading changed about once per second. I was going about 60 mph -- 62.5.

I took this last screen shot as I was driving over the river on the I-40 bridge. A bridge is the best way to get across a river in a truck.

Since Continental Divide is roughly halfway between here and Holbrook, on each leg of my run I'm going uphill halfway, then downhill halfway. Since I've realized how much the elevation varies, when I have to make up some time I've begun waiting until I'm going downhill. If I could just figure out how to control the wind speed and direction I could take everyone to Dairy Queen.

I was playing around with Google Maps on my Communist cell phone and it located me in my apartment, more or less. The little blue dot is supposed to be where my cell phone is, but as you can see from these three screen shots the blue dot kept jumping around. My apartment is in the building with the white roof that's near the blue dot. I live in the corner apartment nearest the blue dot, on the ground floor. There are trees outside, too. The sun never strikes my apartment, which is depressing but makes for better sleeping during the day during the summer. I can keep the whole apartment cool with one small Communist Chinese standing air conditioner from Lowe's.

I can see how the government will assassinate me with a drone if and when they decide to do it. I can also see why, in places like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen, where our government has been assassinating people with drones without benefit of a trial for quite awhile now, most of the people killed are innocent people and not terrorists. There's an "app" called Metadata that keeps track of drone deaths.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Latin America Unites Behind Venezuela As US Destabalizaion Efforts Comtinue

The Monroe Doctrine At The End of the Line

The Union of South American Nations, UNASEUR, will investigate US efforts to topple Veneuela's Socialist government, according to the group's top executive.

Only last week, CELAC, a similar group representing Central American and Caribbean nations, voted unanimously to oppose ongoing efforts by the US government to destabilize Venezuela.

UNASEUR has become the primary forum for Latin American cooperation, supplanting the US-dominated OAS as what the US has long considered its back yard increasingly opposes US policy of imposing governments on Latin American peoples. Indeed, many see recent efforts by the Obama Administration to establish friendlier relations with Cuba as a reaction to dwindling US influence in the region, where even the tiny number of countries still considered US allies all publicly oppose US policy toward Cuba. President Obama wanted the rapprochement to occur now, some are saying, to salvage April's 2015 Summit of the Americas: The US has always frozen Cuba out of the summit, but at the last meeting in 2012 attendees voted not to have another summit without Cuban participation.

As I've written about before, UNASUER, initiated by former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, has largely supplanted the US dominated OAS, Organization of American States, as Latin American countries reject US meddling and US influence in the region declines.

Latin American government's criticisms of US meddling in Venezuela spiked in the wake of a bill passed by the US senate and house in December that imposes new economic sanctions on Venezuela. The bill, which the president has signed, provides for sanctions similar to those recently imposed Russia, targeting individuals. Unreported in the media, as far as I can tell, are amendments to the bill that increase funding by $150 million for USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy, arms of the state department that have already spent millions trying to topple Venezuela's Socialist government. Those efforts have included organizing and funding Venezuelan opposition groups, broadcasting anti government propaganda into Venezuela, and helping organize last year's violent anti-government protests. The sanctions bill passed by congress refers to those protests but inaccurately attribute the violence to the government. The US also backed a 2002 coup against Hugo Chavez that was overturned within two days by the mass mobilization of Chavez supporters in the capital Caracas.

The sanctions bill passed the senate and house on voice votes with no New Mexican legislator objecting or voicing opposition from the floor.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Great Victory For Net Neutrality

Internet freedom activists are cheering the announcement by Federal Communications Chairman Tom Wheeler that he's on board with their demand to reclassify the internet in a way that makes it easier for the FCC to keep it free and open to all.

As Wheeler, a former cable company lobbyist appointed by President Obama, wrote in a Wired Op-ed piece today:

This week, I will circulate to the members of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed new rules to preserve the internet as an open platform for innovation and free expression. This proposal is rooted in long-standing regulatory principles, marketplace experience, and public input received over the last several months.

"Public input" refers to more than four million comments the FCC received about the last set of new rules Wheeler proposed that opened the door to privatization of the internet. Republicans will still try to sell off the internet to cable companies and other telecommunications companies with legislation, but for now this is great news.

The internet, of course, has revolutionized communications. Anyone can be a publisher. Factual errors and outright lies in traditional media outlets are immediately jumped on by thousands of people on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter and are quickly corrected. Th potential of the internet as a platform for organizing people has hardly been broached but has already proved invaluable.

It's important to keep the pressure on the FCC and our elected officials to make sure the new rules go through and aren't diluted by telecommunications industry lobbying that continues nonstop, and there are several easy ways to pressure your congress member. Big business has been trying to privatize the internet for years and concerned activists have managed to beat them back every time, so far. This is an ongoing battle, ongoing until greed is no longer a human characteristic and until Capitalism is replaced by something better, but for now this is a great victory for we the people.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Cubans Look To The Future, Grisham Looks To The Past

Cubans are looking forward to normalized relations with the United States -- which has spent the past 60 years trying to destroy their country -- but not without some anxiety. That's what I gather so far, but I'd been especially waiting for a monthly radio program about Cuba that airs on the New York City Pacifica station, WBAI, which I listened to last night.

Pacifica, of course, is a Leftist voice and Leftists in the US are generally somewhat anxious about what the US-Cuba rapprochement will mean, Cuba being an important symbol for Leftists and occupying a central role in the Socialist's imagination. Cuba is seen as a successful experiment in Socialism and is further admired for how it has resisted and survived efforts over the past 60 years by it's huge imperial neighbor to the north to eliminate it as an example that Socialism can succeed, and provide a better life to a country's citizens. We've been watching how Fidel Castro's brother Raul, who took over as head of government from Fidel in 2008 and has been making some changes -- particularly opening the country up to more private enterprise.

Hosts Sally O'Brien and Margret Gilpin interviewed two Cuban professors, someone in the government, and a few random people on the street in Havana. The question's reflected the hosts' anxieties about Cuba's future. The main concern, of course, is whether the lure of US culture and Capitalist materialism will dilute the solidarity of the Cuban people, who seem to remain committed to the ideals of the Cuban Revolution.

The interviewees had thought about it, too. In their various ways they all said that they think Cuban culture and Cuban Socialism will remain intact because of the strength of Cuban culture. One of the professors added that he thinks American culture will remain intact despite closer contact with Cuba.

The hour long Cuba In Focus program can be accessed at WBAI's archives page. Scroll down to January 29 programs.

 New pictures of Fidel released today

New Mexico's First Congressional District Rep Michelle Grisham's statement on normalizing relations with Cuba is carefully worded in an attempt to not alienate anyone to the Left of Hitler who might possibly ever think about voting for her, i.e., her natural constituency:

Lujan Grisham Releases Statement on Restoration of US-Cuban Relations

Dec 17, 2014
Press Release 
Washington, DC – Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-01) released the following statement in response to President Obama’s announcement about the relationship between the United States and Cuba.

“I am optimistic about the shift toward restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba and moving away from a policy that has failed on so many levels. During my visit to Cuba, I was struck by how the embargo, coupled with a dysfunctional economy, has hurt so many average Cubans. A more robust relationship will ultimately help people in both countries, and open the door to democracy in Cuba.

“However, I am concerned about the release of Cubans, who were convicted in American courts, as a condition or precursor to improving relations between with the U.S. and Cuba. I worry about the message that may send to other state actors around the world that are looking for leverage against the U.S.”


Grisman, in that statement, while it tries to placate both her liberal and conservative backers, reveals her deeply conservative beliefs, which are so typical of so many so-called Democrats today.

And that little bit at the end about "Cubans who were convicted in American courts" is a mealy mouthed way to refer to a group of Cubans referred to by the Left as the Cuban Five, who were arrested while they were in the US to spy on the rabidly anti-Castro Cubans of Miami who have played such a large role in formulating and implementing US policy toward Cuba. People on the Left have been agitating for their release for years and had gotten two of them released. The three who were still in US prisons were released as part of the US-Cuba rapprochement arrangements in a prisoner swap with US spy Allan Gross that was arranged by Pope Francis. The fact that Grisham doesn't mention that aspect of it, and the oblique way she slips the issue into her statement, puts her statement squarely in the context of a nod to the rabid anti-Socialism that has hallmarked the American policy toward Cuba and is still adhered to by the most conservative elements of US society. Neither does Grisham mention Louis Posada Cariles, a US agent wanted in Cuba for a string of terrorist bombings in Cuba and who has been convicted in absentia for placing a bomb on a Cuban Airlines jet that killed all 73 Venezuelans on board. Cariles today walks free in Miami. No mention of him by Grisham.

Many Republicans now agree that Cubans have the right to run their country as they see fit, and favor normalizing relations with Cuba. As I laid out a couple of posts ago, many Democrats now take positions to the right of Republicans. Yes, many Democrats are more conservative than Republicans now. Especially New Mexico Democrats. Especially Michelle Grisham, who still wants to impose Capitalism on Cuba whether the Cubans want it or not.