Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Canonizing The Truth is Like Throwing A Shovel In A Well

An improperly built boat will still float. A poorly constructed house will still offer shelter. A government run in a manner opposite to its original intention will still stay in business if those that elect that government are misled and will follow the horse in the circle as it crushes the grain for the bread, the very bread that its citizens are dying without. The crushing motion represents the gnawing and gnashing of teeth of senior citizens without health care eating canned cat food so they can buy their medicine. The turning of the wheel is conditioned upon the natural cycle that takes place in the comment that guns don’t kill people, oh no, people kill people. Canonizing the truth is like throwing a shovel in a well, whatever you come up with won’t keep you alive for very long.
I’ve tried suicide and I have heard the symphony of life and danced in its wonder. I have longed for life and I have seen before me the twisted wrath that life does not attempt to hide. But nowhere have I seen a politician become successful without the added appendage of dishonesty. The old saying that a lie is sometimes necessary to shield the listener from the truth is the same reasoning that fuels the agenda of the Bush administration. Presidential records are kept locked away for fifty years in the name of national security. A cover-up is never quite successful and besides who would trust a government that knowingly will lie to your face? A soldier in Vietnam once said, “You can’t do your duty and feel sympathy for these people.” Without sympathy or compassion we could just kill at random, a preemptive strike as President Bush calls it. There is no place in the distorted mind of this man for either. Turn yourself inside out and it may keep you from getting wet but with this kind of rain even the wishing well runs red with blood.

- Chris Mansel

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

HIV Under Lock and Key

The condition of U.S. prisons as I have said before is all but a death sentence. The lack of any protection of an inmate from getting IDS while serving his or her term is a slaughterhouse waiting for more hooks to be installed so the new meat can be seen admired and bid on. The argument always comes to capitol punishment, but do you think of being HIV positive is capitol punishment? Hours, days and months, years, spent on death row waiting for a needle to be stuck in your arm is hideous but to suffer through the full exposure to the entire population.
Quite a lot of inmates have been proven innocent through DNA investigations but it is never told how many of those individuals were infected with HIV while they were serving time as an innocent man or woman. The argument or debate if you will about healthcare is not as important to an inmate falsely accused who is fighting for his life. The most recent presidential election came and went and possibly hundreds of innocent inmates life did not change. Can you remember the last time any meaningful legislation was pursed on the floor of the congress or the senate was discussed? It is the same reason that people of color are dying for no good reason other than genocide in Darfur and Rwanda; there is no help to the politician’s career there. No natural resources to exploit so people of color die, in terms of American prisons and conditions there it is more important for a politician to appear tough on crime than it is to be soft on survival.
- Chris Mansel

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Immolating The National Interest

The best way out is the closet back in. Where is this administrations Daniel Ellsberg? When we see the secret Iraq papers, the detailed orders for the mistreatment of prisoners of war. The truth always comes out eventually, or as President Bush has so scathingly remarked, “In 50 years we’ll all be dead.”
The frantic landscape of Iraq is ruined; the ground is covered in blood and riddled with twisted metal. More flesh has been torn away by fragmentation bombs than votes were cast in the last two elections. Refugees are caught in the crossfire and die before the official word of sympathy can be spoken. War is its own tribunal to overcast the clearing sky of humanity.
Years ago it was argued before the supreme court that you need not burn the U.S. flag, but now as the dead arrive back in this country, the stars and stripes do not burn but are hidden under a curfew of information. The families of the victims cannot be shielded from their grief as the public is to the truth. This is an ugly situation that rears its own bloody head each time a commercial follows a listing of the dead and wounded. Serious reporting of this war does not see the glint of the television news. For the first time the Internet has become the voice of the people who do not have to get the approval of the establishment, old money and the virtuous treachery of the corporations. Websites like and many others report a clear and defining message thereby sidestepping the gray for the black and white.

- Chris Mansel

Friday, April 08, 2005

Interview with Activist Judy Bonds

What is the biggest preconception about Coal River Mountain Watch?

The biggest preconception about Coal River Mountain Watch is also the biggest misconception: that we are Against ALL forms of coal mining and we want to take away mining jobs. This lie is something that the coal barons love to spread to the public to discredit our organization before we get a chance to open our mouths. MOST PEOPLE CHANGE THEIR MINDS ABOUT THE PRE AMD MIS CONCERPTIONS AFTER WE TALK TO THEM. In an interview with Grist Magazine you said, “If it blasts, oozes, or gushes, it's done near poor, oppressed, rural communities or minority communities. This is a dirty little secret that people are now speaking out about.

Why do you think this is? Is it still the corporate philosophy that the poor can’t fight back?

Yes, Exactly, It is hard for poor and minority communities to fight corporations. If the polluting corporations had to live within 1 mile, downstream/downwind of THEIR company's discharges, there wouldn't be 3/4 of the pollution in the air, land or water that we now have in our environment. It is hard for poor, rural people to get a lawyer and find the time and resources to fight corporate America. IT IS EVEN HARDER NOW THAT THE CORPORATIONS SEEM TO "BUY" THROUGH CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS, EVEN OUR JUDGES. I find this especially true if people are labeled as "second class citizens" as we Appalachian Mountaineers have been labeled as "ignorant hillbillies". In his address to the Virginia Assembly in the early part of Civil War, (1860-or so in Miners, Millhands and Mountaineers) Gen. John Imboden told of vast amounts of coal and timber reserves in western Virginia and the owners did not know the value of their own land and minerals so Imboden suggested that we obtain that land and beside that land is cheap labor to mine the coal. SO THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT THEY DID, THEY CONNED AND CHEATED AND MURDERED TO STEAL OUR LAND AND MINERAL RIGHTS AND THEN THEY STOLE OUR HUMANITY BY LABELING US AS "IGNORANT HILLBILLIES". THEY, THEN, HAD THEIR "CHEAP LABORERS" TO WORK FOR SCRIPT MONEY, NOT EVEN REAL AMERICAN MONEY. Lets face it, we--hillbillies are the only ethnic group left that can still be made fun of with NO repercussions.

What activists of the past have inspired you?

Well, when people call me a radical I thank them and tell them that my hero was the most famous radical of all---Jesus Christ, now this was an activist. Followed by Martin Luther King, Mother Jones in the labor fight in the early 20's and the Widow Combs from Kentucky in the first fight against strip mining in the late 60's and early 70's. I really admire lots of activists but I put them in order for you.

Is it difficult to get media outlets to listen to you or to attend a rally?

It used to be a lot easier to get local media out. Especially the TV stations. It seems that the coal industry has complained that we get free publicity and it has paid off for them (coal boys) in less coverage for us. ALSO WE HAVE HEARD AND BLEIEVE IT IS TRUE THAT MILLIONAIRE WEST VIRGINIA COAL BARON JAMES "BUCK" HARLESS HAS STOCK IN A MEDIA OUTLET, WE ALSO READ WHERE MASSEY SAYS IT IS BRANCHING OUT INTO "COMMUNICATIONS". WE THINK THE COAL MONGULS OWNS PART OF THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA. We can sometimes get the Gazette to do an article but it seems that they have backed off except for Ken Ward. Since Dan Radmacher has left the Gazette, it seems that the other editors have NO courage. It seems to be ALMOST as easy to get national reporters to do a story about the devastation here in the coal fields. For instance I just got a call 5 minutes ago, from a documentary group in Los Angeles, they want to interview people about strip mining and fossil fuels. I guess it comes and goes, but one thing here in West Virginia, the coal industry's complaining AND WHINING has paid off. I would think that the TV and newspapers would understand that the more stories they do with us OR JUST REPORTING THE TRUTH....makes it mandatory that the coal industry has to/NEEDS TO buy time/ads with the media.

Has there been any politician that has pledged help and actually came through on their word in the struggle with the coal companies?

There probably are more politicians than I will name here that has helped, so I apologize in advance. The majority of politicians lack the courage to stand up for what is right in mining, particularly, coal mining. But Ken Hechler has stood up for God's creation, the people and the Earth EVERY time. In the first battle against steep slope strip mining, Ken Hechler was Congressman for the state of West Virginia. A recently published book by Chad Montrie called, "To Save The Land and The People" tells the whole sordid story of the first battle. Ken Hechler is the person and politician that stands out most in my mind in that book and also in today's battle. I can't go back and look up the names of the few other politicians that stood up-(there was few) because I loaned the book to others to read. There is a VERY high interest in the renewed battle again. I remember Jennings Randolph was also mentioned as one of the good guy politicians.Today, Representatives Christopher Shay (Conn) and Frank Pallone(N.J.) has introduced a bill HR 738 into Congress that will greatly limit Mountaintop Removal. The bill has 65 co-sponsors.As for West Virginia politicians, here in this state, I cannot name one as far as I know that will stand up. I could be wrong, but I have yet to hear or read statements of support against mountaintop removal or the rape of the state and the people from them. Other than those that ran under the newly formed Mountain Party and of course, they do not have the clout or money to fight the big money coal whores to get elected. This of course goes all the way back to the birth of the state of West Virginia. This state was set up by extractive industry barons for extractive industry barons, they put themselves in power and made the laws for their other greedy baron friends and we, the people of this state, has suffered for it ever since. FOR THE INDUSTRY, BY THE INDUSTRY.
Our state motto is "Mountaineers Are Always Free" and that may have been true at one time. Now it is more like..." We're Flatlanders Now, But Once We Were Free". You see these mountains and forests did make us free. God gave us everything we needed in order in survive in these mountains and hollows, we didn't need anything from the outside world. As these mountains and the mountain culture goes, then so goes our freedom.

How important is it to stress how the devastation and widespread poisoning of the eco system has a lasting effect outside of West Virginia?

I can answer that in many different ways.

It is very important to stress the damage and pollution levels outside the state. Mountains are the birthplace of rivers, of the life giving waters. Only an idiot pollutes or covers up water.
Clean water and clean air are the ONLY 2 things needed in order to live. Pollution/crap rolls downstream. My little stream gets polluted and the pollution goes all the way to the ocean and then comes back down to the earth, in the form of rain again.

The coal that is burned turns to mercury, poisons the water system and damages unborn babies: and pollutes the air causing billions of dollars in health problems, makes our babies suffer with asthma, and causes global warming. I don't understand why more people aren't concerned with the poisoning of our unborn and born babies.
That is a few of the reasons.

The damage is spreading like a cancer to other states. Any place that has coal is at risk to the same destruction. The destruction is spreading into Tennessee and is becoming more aggressive in Virginia. I would say that West Virginia has the most destruction, but Kentucky isn't far behind and then Virginia.

The damage today, from mountaintop removal and steep slope strip mining, is unprecedented. It is irreversible. The ecosystems in the coalfields of central Appalachia are the worlds' most diverse temperate hardwood forest. There is NO PLACE on earth like this. Scientists marveled at the under story, plants and herbs here in the area slated for destruction. The worlds best wild ginseng comes from here, black cohosh, yellow root, blood root, ramps, morel mushrooms (we call them "molly moochers") are just a few of the valuable plants found here.
As the God's mountains are blown to pieces and His hollows are filled, the mountain culture is disappearing.

People need to understand that there is NO such thing as cheap energy and no such thing as "clean coal".

People need to understand that our homes are being blasted and that we are under attack. We are being terrorized by the flooding and the blasting and by the oversize trucks on our narrow mountain roads.

Some people call us "ignorant hillbillies" but I am smart enough to understand that our children cannot drink or breath money. I know that it is stupid to trade reliance upon one dirty fossil fuel for reliance upon another dirtier polluting fossil fuel.

What recommendations do you have for parents in aiding their children’s interest in activism?

First I would highly recommend that parents teach their children that activism is a DUTY and a responsibility.

They must teach their children that only through activism can America and the World be free and livable.

Talk and read to your children at an early age about the great activists and movements of the past. Make your children aware of the wrongs that have been righted by a few dedicated people that made positive changes. Talk about the atrocities of the past and present. Show them video's and documentaries as a visual aide. Expose them to "Music That Matters", protest and activists music, there was plenty in the 60's and now there is a new move toward music that means something.

IF you don't do this, your children will never hear or see the truth.
For instance, very few people know that there are only 2 instances in which the United States has bombed their own citizens. Most people think there was just the Civil War. In 1921, America dropped bombs on coal miners in Logan County, West Virginia at the Battle of Blair Mountain.

LISTEN to your child, relate that to problem solving in a way that an activist thinks.

EDUCATE AND MOTIVATE. But we must be careful not to pressure. Teenagers especially tend to rebel if pushed but it seems that sometimes children will stray off the straight and narrow path but most of the time they find their way back.

Teach to your best ability. Give you children YOUR BEST and that does not mean material things----It MEANS JUST THE OPPOSITE.

We think that by giving our children "comfortable" things, that we did without and wished for when we were children, is what we should do. But we are truly doing our children a disservice.
The best thing we can give our children is a LIVABLE earth and the tools to fight to keep the earth livable.
For the sake of the kids...STOP poisoning them!!!



Do you ever worry that with all the traveling you have to do if the cause will fall apart if something happens to you?

That is why I feel that my job is to empower others so that the movement goes forward without anyone or me that people feel that they can't do without.

A Lakota Chief once said, "You Are the One that You Have Been Waiting For"

Have you ever noticed how geese fly in a V formation? There is a leader, but it is NOT always the same leader. When the goose in the front (leader) gets tired, it falls to the back and another goose takes the lead for a while and this continues until they reach their destination.

Since winning the Goldman prize have you become more of a target of the coal companies?

Actually, no. The public, the consumer has become a BIGGER target, more now than ever.

I think the coal companies understand that a high profile person is the LAST person they want to have come up missing. The coal companies would rather discredit leaders. Character assassination, as in the case of Judi Barri.

Also the money that King Coal spends on TV propaganda/ads seems to be getting the job done for them, no need to "target" anyone but the gullible public.

The real problem is that the little workingman doesn't seem to understand. The coal industry feeds such lies and propaganda to the little man, the workingman and I am more wary of him. It is easy for King Coal to put fear into these men. The coal companies seem to keep pointing out lies, mainly that we want to take their jobs.
Why would anyone deliberately want to take peoples jobs???

The coal companies have also found out that we are not afraid of them. When we feel threatened, we talk to the press, we scream loud and clear!!!
During the coal truck campaign my friend, Patty Sebok, had a "hit" out on her. The plan was to trap her between two coal trucks and squeeze her.

During that time Patty and I were surrounded at our State Capitol in Charleston, by a group of coal truck drivers.
They harassed us and damaged our signs and tried intimidation. We wouldn't leave.

As we entered the "Well" and noticed the "coal hoes" there. Our group was late, but my goodness, we were at our own state Capitol and there was a state trooper there. Well, he looked me dead in the eyes and left. We stayed.

I felt a little comfort in the fact that a there was a local talk radio show host 5 feet from the incident. He saw what happened and when I screamed for security, Hoppy Kershevel (of the Charleston station, I think it is 580, Metro News) packed up his equipment, tucked in his tail and left.

Patty said that when I screamed " HELP Security" you could have heard a pin drop . One of us had to get security. That is when the security at the Capitol told us that the "well" area was the only place that didn't have security cameras and that the state trooper was NOT supposed to leave without informing security. Patty stayed and their boss came out and Patty told him about the incident, and he was NOT happy with his workers. A newspaper ran the story the next day.

Things like this happened ALL the time. We can't be intimidated by this, we just need to be aware and watch each others backs.
Really, this is a battle between good and evil and we need more people on our side ...the good side.

For those unfamiliar with the struggle of coal miners through the years what would be a recommended reading list to learn more?

First see the movie "Matewan" by John Sayles, this movie was based on the book by Lon Savage--Thunder In the Mountains.
A PBS documentary called "Even The Heavens Weep"
Also the new PBS documentary "The Appalachians" will start to be aired in Kentucky this weekend. This documentary tells the whole sorry story of the abuse the coal industry has put us through and there is a companion book published by Random House.

Now for the other Books

Thunder In The Valley, West Virginia Mine War by Lon Savage...... U. Of Pittsburgh Press

Bloodletting In Appalachia, by Howard Lee

The Battle of Blair Mountain by Richard Shogan this book is really new, Westview Press, I have an autographed copy

Some Books about the fight against coal companies, miners and strip mining
Night Comes To the Cumberlands by Harry Caudill..this book is old and is more about the fight against strip mining in the 60's.

To Save The Land and The People by Chad Montrie--new take on the old fight.

Absentee Landowning and Exploitation in West Virginia by Barbara Rasmussen

Miners, Millhands and Mountaineers, so long ago that I can't remember the author.

What do you believe are the psychological effects of the Coal Mining Companies on the next generation coming out of West Virginia?

My Answer with the help of Patty Sebok, wife of an underground coal miner and a picket line lady.

The coal company has already effected Appalachia's children and it keeps getting worse every generation and with the destruction of our mountains, which is our idenity. Kill the mountain and you kill the mountaineers and the culture. Mountaintop Removal is Mountaineer Removal.
This seems to effect West Virginia more than other Appalachian states. West Virginia is the ONLY state that lies entirely within the Appalachian Mountain range. Other states has bits and peices of the Appalachian Mountain range but West Virginia is enfolded entirely in the Appalachian Mountains.
The coal industry and other extractive industry helped create the myth of the hillbilly and this has severly effected our children for over 130 years and it has stuck with us until this day. This was done intentionaly, as the extractive industry learned form the slave masters of the south that all they had to do was to dehumanize these "mysterious" people that America knew little about. America still knows very little about Appalachia and our culture.
Some of our children and indeed adults are ashamed to admit they are from West Virginia, that is how severve the effects of the coal industry mind set has been.
The coal industry considered coal company mules as worth more that the men and children that they had slaving in the unsafe mines. Thus the statement, "Don't Kill the Company Mule". .That attitude stuck with the people. They still think they are second class citizens.
Now add the fact that the coal industry is destroying our mountains, our very indenity as mountaineers, that will probably be a near death blow to our children. With the mountains and valley's of their family homeplaces gone, they won't have a past and they defintiely won't have a future here in the coal fields of Appalachia. They will never know the meaning of living in a holler or the mountain culture.

The coal companies and their minions are committing cultural and ethnic geneocide. We are unique to the rest of the world and no one, with the exception of a few, understands how unique we are. Once our unique place (the mountains and hollors) are gone so will be our culture and heritage. How can we pass this heritage along to our children and grandchildren when the places that we do these unique things such as: rooting, green picking, and picking molly moochers, hunting and fishing will all be gone? These kinds of activities have been part of our lives as long as we have been West Virginians.

We are also not readily accepted into other places, so what do we do? We will be a people without a connection to the land.

One other thing is we are part of a global climate. Our trees and forests our the lungs of the east. Does man think we can cut down this many trees and forests and not make an impact on the global level? Just think you might be able to live and breathe with one lung but how much of the second lung could you live without? Just something to think about.

Appalachians, especially Southern West Virginians, are a people shaped by the land. A people that once relied ONLY upon themselves. God gave us everything we needed here in order to survive, we didn't need anything from the outside world until the coal, timber and railroad barons came with their slick words and told our ancestors that we did need those "things".
Our state motto is "Mountaineeers Are Always Free". Now that the indusrty is destroying the very mountains I gues our new motto is "We're Flatlanders Now But Once We Were Free".
I am afraid that our children will find their "Almost Heaven" only in Heaven.

- Chris Mansel

Thursday, April 07, 2005

The Wal-Mart Tour of Historical Battle of Fayetteville

Tour Guide: “Thanks for paying a small fee to to Wal-Mart to tour the Historic Battle of Fayetteville site. Remember our motto: ‘Low Tour Prices . . . EVERYDAY!’ We’re glad you’ve come to share in our history here in Fayetteville. As you may have noted from reading the Historical Marker on the Courthouse Grounds, the Battle of Fayetteville marked the first usage of what came to be called “Indirect Firing.”

Tourist: “I saw that. Where did it take place?”

Guide: “Well, the artillery pieces were deployed back that way. See where that car’s turning? Yeah. Over there. Right about where the Automotive Center is? And they lobbed the shells right past Action Alley and they burst right here at Wal-Mart, between Infants and Intimate Apparel.”

Tourist: “Goodness me! Did anybody die?”

Guide: “Sure did. About 24 confederates died that day. They’re buried under the Pet Supplies. We’re not sure exactly where, but we think they’re pretty close to the Ol’ Sam’s Kitty Litter. A couple may be buried under the display for Ol’ Sam’s Weasel Wormer. We found some old lopped off bones sticking up through the concrete over next to the laxatives aisle. Several other people were wounded, and the Field Hospital, well, you can’t say Wal-Mart isn’t sensitive to historical areas like this! They made a special effort to put the Pharmacy right smack on top of where the Field Hospital was. Even put up a plaque. You can have your picture taken next to the cut-out of our Dear Founder, Sam Walton dressed up as a Civil War Sawbones at the end of the tour for a small fee, payable to Wal-Mart.”

Tourist: D’ya ever find any old bullets or stuff?

Guide: Sure do! We’ve got several on display in the Deadly Firearms Department. Remember our motto here at the Historic Battle of Fayetteville Wal-Mart MegaCenter and Civil War Historical Site: ‘Guns didn’t kill Confederates, Yankees killed Confederates!’ And every artifact we found is for sale, right here at your Friendly Wal-Mart Historical Exploitation Center! Bullets. Belt Plates, little scraps of human bone! If you can’t afford the real thing, we have replicas lovingly reproduced by Chinese Slave Laborers in the Factories of the Peoples Red Army! Wal-Mart’s proud to be partnered with the Chinese Peoples Red Army to bring you these stunningly accurate mementos of America’s fight for freedom! Like this! It’s a perfect replica of a human skull, complete with the holes where the minie ball entered and exitted. That’s a heck of an exit wound, huh? Bet HE sure had a headache that day! We also have American and Confederate flags painstakingly hand-sewn by little Chinese girls chained to their tables. That’s a necessary quality control measure. You know how fidgety seven year olds can get! Wantin’ to go to the bathroom all the time! Wantin’ to eat! Seven year olds can be sooooo silly!

Tourist: Can we buy the flags by the case?

Guide: You sure can! And remember: when you buy in bulk at Wal-Mart, the Chinese Peoples Red Army gets a little stronger with every purchase!

Tourist: Do you have any non-lethal firearm reproductions?

Guide: Sure we do! We’ve even got Union and Confederate cap muskets for the kiddies! They have a really LOUD sound, thanks to the highly realistic blanks we use. And every cap we sell was proudly made by Mrs. Tao’s Fourth Grade boys at the Wa-Kwo-Fung Elementary School and Smokeless Gunpowder Laboratory! Those little Fourth Graders do a real “bang-up” job, if you know what I mean!

Tourist: How about a souvenir for my boss? After all, he let me come on this vacation!

Guide: You betcha! Thanks to the expert craftsmanship of the political dissidents making 13 cents a day at the Shanghai Armory, you can take your boss a perfect miniature, working replica of a Howitzer Field Gun, just like the artillery used in the Historic Battle of Fayetteville. Like everything else in the store, it’s proudly marked “Made In China!” And it shoots real BBs! That way, if you ever try to join a union, he can do what the managers do here: point it at you, pull the lanyard and say “You’re fired!”

Now, if you’ll all move along, we’ll head over to the Historic Battle of Fayetteville In-store McDonald’s for some of our exclusive Chicken McMinie Balls and Indirect Fries! And if THAT doesn’t fill you up, you might want a McDonald’s All-American Apple Pie! It’s the only American thing in the WHOLE STORE!"

- Bob Kincaid

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Noam Chomsky on Aljazeera

Chomsky: US budget attacks majority
by Adam Porter in Perpignan, France
Thursday 10 February 2005 2:41 PM GMT

If you were poor, a Native American, a small farmer or an ecologist, you probably did not vote for George Bush.
It is therefore not so surprising to find that all these sectors of society have come under attack, from the Republican administration's new fiscal budget.
However, if you were an army veteran you may have expected to escape spending cuts. But even this slice of American society, one that largely voted for Bush, finds itself the subject of financial "rollback".
Versatile American scholar Noam Chomsky, speaking exclusively to Aljazeera, put it like this.
"There is a very simple principle that goes a long way towards explaining decisions of the Bush administration. If some policy is beneficial to wealth, privilege and power, it should be promoted.
"If some policy is beneficial to the large majority of the population but of no particular concern (or even marginally costly) to wealth, privilege and power, it should be undermined."
Foreign adventures
The overall budget actually weighed in at $2.5 trillion. Defence spending is increased across the board, both internally in the US and for its foreign adventures.
There is a 4.8% increase on defence, plus larger increases for Homeland Security (7%) and counter-terrorism which shoots up by 17%. In total, since becoming president, Bush has increased military and defence spending by just over 40%.
Chomsky sees the budget not as a series of cuts but rather "to reorient (spending), so that it is even more focused on the interests of extreme wealth and power than before". Before these spending hikes the United States already spent more on its military than the next 15 biggest national armies combined together. Even nuclear weaponry is set to get a boost to defend the US against "new threats, terrorism, failed states" as outlined by Condoleezza Rice in her Paris speech.
President Bush also said that his budget was going to control the US national budget deficit. However, even Alan Greenspan, chairman of the US Federal Reserve, has now admitted that the imbalances in the US economy are worsened partly by tax cuts created by Bush's administration.
Equity extraction
In a low-key speech last week Greenspan admitted that US consumption has been driven by tax cuts and "equity extraction". This is the practice of taking on more debt on the back of rising house prices.
Indeed, the Bush administration predicts that by 2010 the US current account deficit will have amounted to a cumulative $1.257 trillion. By the same year the Bush administration tax cuts, as estimated by them, will have amounted to a cumulative $1.290 trillion.

Public debate between a choice of tax cuts or social security are off limits, says Chomsky, as "the US (administration says it) must dismantle a very efficient social security programme which faces, at worst, trivial financial problems that could easily be overcome by measures that cannot be contemplated and are never discussed.
"Most simply, by raising ... the outrageously regressive payroll tax, which means that Bill Gates pays nothing beyond the first roughly $90,000 of income."
The new budget is also based on some premises that are open to question. On the one hand ,Greenspan was warning that "market pressures" will come to "readjust" the US economy.
On the other, administration officials basing their tax and deficit predictions on rises of 3.5% for spending, turning into an extra 6.1% in revenues for the government.
Fragile consumer
This at a time when the share of the turnover of the US from consumer spending has risen to an all-time high of just under 71%.
Yet the fragile US consumer may be about to see an end to the counter-deflationary measures of Greenspan, low interest rates and tax cuts. These were needed after the recession of 2000-2002 to bolster the flagging US market.

But now correctional "market pressure" could lead to a decrease in consumer spending, not a 3.5% increase. Any simultaneous popping of the housing bubble will only exacerbate these problems.
Of course such realities already exist for the Bush administration. They were prepared to attack spending, yet this has tended to be aimed at groups not traditionally part of the 30% of the US population who voted Republican.
Chomsky sees the budget as following the tradition of the Regan administration in the 1980s - deficits, tax cuts and spending rollback "guided by the same general principles, but (now) far more extreme and brutal".
"It should be recalled that for about 25 years, wages have stagnated or declined for the majority ... and incomes have been sustained only by work loads far beyond the norm in the industrial world, while the top few percent have become enriched beyond the dreams of avarice."
Schemes cut
While public education is to be scaled back by 1%, $2 billion is to come from high schools. Programmes to help poor and ethnic minority students gain university places have been scrapped.
So has the 'Even Start' programme which teaches reading and writing to children of parents who cannot read and write. Anti-drug programmes have also been cut, saving around $500m.

The US health system known as Medicaid, primarily for the elderly poor, is also to come under scrutiny. The current US government has called for a $60bn reduction in the next 10 years.
Training medical staff has taken a huge hit, with a specific 33% reduction in the training of some paediatric doctors.
"A completely fraudulent 'Social Security crisis' has been manufactured," says Chomsky. "With a very impressive level of brazen deceit. A huge public-relations campaign has succeeded in convincing many people, especially young people, that the system is crashing into an iceberg."
America's native population, the weakest in society, is also seeing in excess of $100m worth of cuts, 5%. About 250,000 people will no longer be eligible for food stamps.
Death knell
Child care is to be frozen at current levels. Meanwhile the death knell is sounding for America's small farmers as subsidies to them are to be slashed by $8.2 billion, opening the way for giant agribusiness farms to swallow them whole.

Nuclear clean-ups, the Environmental Agency and National Parks are to see their budgets cut. Even energy bill assistance for the poor is to be cut by over 8%. This at a time when many Americans are finding it hard to pay their current demands, on average 22% higher than twelve months ago.
But perhaps most surprising are the cuts in assistance to US military veterans. Some of whom will who see a 114% increase in their long term drug bills, plus a one-off $250 subscription fee.
As well as a reduction in the number of nursing home places held for them. Do these cuts fit with the idea of opponents coming under fiscal attack?
"The administration's opponents are the large majority of the US population," says Chomsky. "The general 'starve the beast' strategy is hardly concealed, though few are willing to tell the truth. Namely, that the 'beast' they have in mind is the "great beast", to borrow the phrase of the Founding Fathers, the dangerous public."

By Adam Porter in Perpignan, France
You can find this article at:

Bush on Meatballs and Tom Delay

President Bush is sitting at his desk in the oval office mumbling to himself while he reads. Karl Rove walks into the oval office.

President Bush: Hey Karl, how does this sound, “The attack from the Vatican will come in the form of a mushroom cloud.”

Karl Rove: Oh yea, that’s a good one.

President Bush: So I’m gonna go to the funeral? Do they have some really good spaghetti and meatballs over there Karl?

Karl Rove: Well yea, it’s Italy you know.

President Bush: I thought it was the Vatican…I was thinking about the mushroom cloud you know Karl, like those two people on the commercial that carry around the laptop and show people how that medicine works and then they drive off in the bus. I had a bus on the campaign.

Karl Rove: Yea but yours wasn’t purple and blue.

President Bush: What is going on with that uh, uh, that guy?

Karl Rove: Which guy?

President Bush: Delay, is he a commie?

- Chris Mansel

Monday, April 04, 2005

The Long Emergency by James Howard Kunstler

Reprinted here for information purposes only. This article recently appeared in Rolling Stone magazine.

A few weeks ago, the price of oil ratcheted above fifty-five dollars a barrel, which is about twenty dollars a barrel more than a year ago. The next day, the oil story was buried on page six of the New York Times business section. Apparently, the price of oil is not considered significant news, even when it goes up five bucks a barrel in the span of ten days. That same day, the stock market shot up more than a hundred points because, CNN said, government data showed no signs of inflation. Note to clueless nation: Call planet Earth.
Carl Jung, one of the fathers of psychology, famously remarked that "people cannot stand too much reality." What you're about to read may challenge your assumptions about the kind of world we live in, and especially the kind of world into which events are propelling us. We are in for a rough ride through uncharted territory.
It has been very hard for Americans -- lost in dark raptures of nonstop infotainment, recreational shopping and compulsive motoring -- to make sense of the gathering forces that will fundamentally alter the terms of everyday life in our technological society. Even after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, America is still sleepwalking into the future. I call this coming time the Long Emergency.
Most immediately we face the end of the cheap-fossil-fuel era. It is no exaggeration to state that reliable supplies of cheap oil and natural gas underlie everything we identify as the necessities of modern life -- not to mention all of its comforts and luxuries: central heating, air conditioning, cars, airplanes, electric lights, inexpensive clothing, recorded music, movies, hip-replacement surgery, national defense -- you name it.
The few Americans who are even aware that there is a gathering global-energy predicament usually misunderstand the core of the argument. That argument states that we don't have to run out of oil to start having severe problems with industrial civilization and its dependent systems. We only have to slip over the all-time production peak and begin a slide down the arc of steady depletion.
The term "global oil-production peak" means that a turning point will come when the world produces the most oil it will ever produce in a given year and, after that, yearly production will inexorably decline. It is usually represented graphically in a bell curve. The peak is the top of the curve, the halfway point of the world's all-time total endowment, meaning half the world's oil will be left. That seems like a lot of oil, and it is, but there's a big catch: It's the half that is much more difficult to extract, far more costly to get, of much poorer quality and located mostly in places where the people hate us. A substantial amount of it will never be extracted.
The United States passed its own oil peak -- about 11 million barrels a day -- in 1970, and since then production has dropped steadily. In 2004 it ran just above 5 million barrels a day (we get a tad more from natural-gas condensates). Yet we consume roughly 20 million barrels a day now. That means we have to import about two-thirds of our oil, and the ratio will continue to worsen.
The U.S. peak in 1970 brought on a portentous change in geoeconomic power. Within a few years, foreign producers, chiefly OPEC, were setting the price of oil, and this in turn led to the oil crises of the 1970s. In response, frantic development of non-OPEC oil, especially the North Sea fields of England and Norway, essentially saved the West's ass for about two decades. Since 1999, these fields have entered depletion. Meanwhile, worldwide discovery of new oil has steadily declined to insignificant levels in 2003 and 2004.
Some "cornucopians" claim that the Earth has something like a creamy nougat center of "abiotic" oil that will naturally replenish the great oil fields of the world. The facts speak differently. There has been no replacement whatsoever of oil already extracted from the fields of America or any other place.
Now we are faced with the global oil-production peak. The best estimates of when this will actually happen have been somewhere between now and 2010. In 2004, however, after demand from burgeoning China and India shot up, and revelations that Shell Oil wildly misstated its reserves, and Saudi Arabia proved incapable of goosing up its production despite promises to do so, the most knowledgeable experts revised their predictions and now concur that 2005 is apt to be the year of all-time global peak production.
It will change everything about how we live.
To aggravate matters, American natural-gas production is also declining, at five percent a year, despite frenetic new drilling, and with the potential of much steeper declines ahead. Because of the oil crises of the 1970s, the nuclear-plant disasters at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl and the acid-rain problem, the U.S. chose to make gas its first choice for electric-power generation. The result was that just about every power plant built after 1980 has to run on gas. Half the homes in America are heated with gas. To further complicate matters, gas isn't easy to import. Here in North America, it is distributed through a vast pipeline network. Gas imported from overseas would have to be compressed at minus-260 degrees Fahrenheit in pressurized tanker ships and unloaded (re-gasified) at special terminals, of which few exist in America. Moreover, the first attempts to site new terminals have met furious opposition because they are such ripe targets for terrorism.
Some other things about the global energy predicament are poorly understood by the public and even our leaders. This is going to be a permanent energy crisis, and these energy problems will synergize with the disruptions of climate change, epidemic disease and population overshoot to produce higher orders of trouble.
We will have to accommodate ourselves to fundamentally changed conditions.
No combination of alternative fuels will allow us to run American life the way we have been used to running it, or even a substantial fraction of it. The wonders of steady technological progress achieved through the reign of cheap oil have lulled us into a kind of Jiminy Cricket syndrome, leading many Americans to believe that anything we wish for hard enough will come true. These days, even people who ought to know better are wishing ardently for a seamless transition from fossil fuels to their putative replacements.
The widely touted "hydrogen economy" is a particularly cruel hoax. We are not going to replace the U.S. automobile and truck fleet with vehicles run on fuel cells. For one thing, the current generation of fuel cells is largely designed to run on hydrogen obtained from natural gas. The other way to get hydrogen in the quantities wished for would be electrolysis of water using power from hundreds of nuclear plants. Apart from the dim prospect of our building that many nuclear plants soon enough, there are also numerous severe problems with hydrogen's nature as an element that present forbidding obstacles to its use as a replacement for oil and gas, especially in storage and transport.
Wishful notions about rescuing our way of life with "renewables" are also unrealistic. Solar-electric systems and wind turbines face not only the enormous problem of scale but the fact that the components require substantial amounts of energy to manufacture and the probability that they can't be manufactured at all without the underlying support platform of a fossil-fuel economy. We will surely use solar and wind technology to generate some electricity for a period ahead but probably at a very local and small scale.
Virtually all "biomass" schemes for using plants to create liquid fuels cannot be scaled up to even a fraction of the level at which things are currently run. What's more, these schemes are predicated on using oil and gas "inputs" (fertilizers, weed-killers) to grow the biomass crops that would be converted into ethanol or bio-diesel fuels. This is a net energy loser -- you might as well just burn the inputs and not bother with the biomass products. Proposals to distill trash and waste into oil by means of thermal depolymerization depend on the huge waste stream produced by a cheap oil and gas economy in the first place.
Coal is far less versatile than oil and gas, extant in less abundant supplies than many people assume and fraught with huge ecological drawbacks -- as a contributor to greenhouse "global warming" gases and many health and toxicity issues ranging from widespread mercury poisoning to acid rain. You can make synthetic oil from coal, but the only time this was tried on a large scale was by the Nazis under wartime conditions, using impressive amounts of slave labor.
If we wish to keep the lights on in America after 2020, we may indeed have to resort to nuclear power, with all its practical problems and eco-conundrums. Under optimal conditions, it could take ten years to get a new generation of nuclear power plants into operation, and the price may be beyond our means. Uranium is also a resource in finite supply. We are no closer to the more difficult project of atomic fusion, by the way, than we were in the 1970s.
The upshot of all this is that we are entering a historical period of potentially great instability, turbulence and hardship. Obviously, geopolitical maneuvering around the world's richest energy regions has already led to war and promises more international military conflict. Since the Middle East contains two-thirds of the world's remaining oil supplies, the U.S. has attempted desperately to stabilize the region by, in effect, opening a big police station in Iraq. The intent was not just to secure Iraq's oil but to modify and influence the behavior of neighboring states around the Persian Gulf, especially Iran and Saudi Arabia. The results have been far from entirely positive, and our future prospects in that part of the world are not something we can feel altogether confident about.
And then there is the issue of China, which, in 2004, became the world's second-greatest consumer of oil, surpassing Japan. China's surging industrial growth has made it increasingly dependent on the imports we are counting on. If China wanted to, it could easily walk into some of these places -- the Middle East, former Soviet republics in central Asia -- and extend its hegemony by force. Is America prepared to contest for this oil in an Asian land war with the Chinese army? I doubt it. Nor can the U.S. military occupy regions of the Eastern Hemisphere indefinitely, or hope to secure either the terrain or the oil infrastructure of one distant, unfriendly country after another. A likely scenario is that the U.S. could exhaust and bankrupt itself trying to do this, and be forced to withdraw back into our own hemisphere, having lost access to most of the world's remaining oil in the process.
We know that our national leaders are hardly uninformed about this predicament. President George W. Bush has been briefed on the dangers of the oil-peak situation as long ago as before the 2000 election and repeatedly since then. In March, the Department of Energy released a report that officially acknowledges for the first time that peak oil is for real and states plainly that "the world has never faced a problem like this. Without massive mitigation more than a decade before the fact, the problem will be pervasive and will not be temporary."
Most of all, the Long Emergency will require us to make other arrangements for the way we live in the United States. America is in a special predicament due to a set of unfortunate choices we made as a society in the twentieth century. Perhaps the worst was to let our towns and cities rot away and to replace them with suburbia, which had the additional side effect of trashing a lot of the best farmland in America. Suburbia will come to be regarded as the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world. It has a tragic destiny. The psychology of previous investment suggests that we will defend our drive-in utopia long after it has become a terrible liability.
Before long, the suburbs will fail us in practical terms. We made the ongoing development of housing subdivisions, highway strips, fried-food shacks and shopping malls the basis of our economy, and when we have to stop making more of those things, the bottom will fall out.
The circumstances of the Long Emergency will require us to downscale and re-scale virtually everything we do and how we do it, from the kind of communities we physically inhabit to the way we grow our food to the way we work and trade the products of our work. Our lives will become profoundly and intensely local. Daily life will be far less about mobility and much more about staying where you are. Anything organized on the large scale, whether it is government or a corporate business enterprise such as Wal-Mart, will wither as the cheap energy props that support bigness fall away. The turbulence of the Long Emergency will produce a lot of economic losers, and many of these will be members of an angry and aggrieved former middle class.
Food production is going to be an enormous problem in the Long Emergency. As industrial agriculture fails due to a scarcity of oil- and gas-based inputs, we will certainly have to grow more of our food closer to where we live, and do it on a smaller scale. The American economy of the mid-twenty-first century may actually center on agriculture, not information, not high tech, not "services" like real estate sales or hawking cheeseburgers to tourists. Farming. This is no doubt a startling, radical idea, and it raises extremely difficult questions about the reallocation of land and the nature of work. The relentless subdividing of land in the late twentieth century has destroyed the contiguity and integrity of the rural landscape in most places. The process of readjustment is apt to be disorderly and improvisational. Food production will necessarily be much more labor-intensive than it has been for decades. We can anticipate the re-formation of a native-born American farm-laboring class. It will be composed largely of the aforementioned economic losers who had to relinquish their grip on the American dream. These masses of disentitled people may enter into quasi-feudal social relations with those who own land in exchange for food and physical security. But their sense of grievance will remain fresh, and if mistreated they may simply seize that land.
The way that commerce is currently organized in America will not survive far into the Long Emergency. Wal-Mart's "warehouse on wheels" won't be such a bargain in a non-cheap-oil economy. The national chain stores' 12,000-mile manufacturing supply lines could easily be interrupted by military contests over oil and by internal conflict in the nations that have been supplying us with ultra-cheap manufactured goods, because they, too, will be struggling with similar issues of energy famine and all the disorders that go with it.
As these things occur, America will have to make other arrangements for the manufacture, distribution and sale of ordinary goods. They will probably be made on a "cottage industry" basis rather than the factory system we once had, since the scale of available energy will be much lower -- and we are not going to replay the twentieth century. Tens of thousands of the common products we enjoy today, from paints to pharmaceuticals, are made out of oil. They will become increasingly scarce or unavailable. The selling of things will have to be reorganized at the local scale. It will have to be based on moving merchandise shorter distances. It is almost certain to result in higher costs for the things we buy and far fewer choices.
The automobile will be a diminished presence in our lives, to say the least. With gasoline in short supply, not to mention tax revenue, our roads will surely suffer. The interstate highway system is more delicate than the public realizes. If the "level of service" (as traffic engineers call it) is not maintained to the highest degree, problems multiply and escalate quickly. The system does not tolerate partial failure. The interstates are either in excellent condition, or they quickly fall apart.
America today has a railroad system that the Bulgarians would be ashamed of. Neither of the two major presidential candidates in 2004 mentioned railroads, but if we don't refurbish our rail system, then there may be no long-range travel or transport of goods at all a few decades from now. The commercial aviation industry, already on its knees financially, is likely to vanish. The sheer cost of maintaining gigantic airports may not justify the operation of a much-reduced air-travel fleet. Railroads are far more energy efficient than cars, trucks or airplanes, and they can be run on anything from wood to electricity. The rail-bed infrastructure is also far more economical to maintain than our highway network.
The successful regions in the twenty-first century will be the ones surrounded by viable farming hinterlands that can reconstitute locally sustainable economies on an armature of civic cohesion. Small towns and smaller cities have better prospects than the big cities, which will probably have to contract substantially. The process will be painful and tumultuous. In many American cities, such as Cleveland, Detroit and St. Louis, that process is already well advanced. Others have further to fall. New York and Chicago face extraordinary difficulties, being oversupplied with gigantic buildings out of scale with the reality of declining energy supplies. Their former agricultural hinterlands have long been paved over. They will be encysted in a surrounding fabric of necrotic suburbia that will only amplify and reinforce the cities' problems. Still, our cities occupy important sites. Some kind of urban entities will exist where they are in the future, but probably not the colossi of twentieth-century industrialism.
Some regions of the country will do better than others in the Long Emergency. The Southwest will suffer in proportion to the degree that it prospered during the cheap-oil blowout of the late twentieth century. I predict that Sunbelt states like Arizona and Nevada will become significantly depopulated, since the region will be short of water as well as gasoline and natural gas. Imagine Phoenix without cheap air conditioning.
I'm not optimistic about the Southeast, either, for different reasons. I think it will be subject to substantial levels of violence as the grievances of the formerly middle class boil over and collide with the delusions of Pentecostal Christian extremism. The latent encoded behavior of Southern culture includes an outsized notion of individualism and the belief that firearms ought to be used in the defense of it. This is a poor recipe for civic cohesion.
The Mountain States and Great Plains will face an array of problems, from poor farming potential to water shortages to population loss. The Pacific Northwest, New England and the Upper Midwest have somewhat better prospects. I regard them as less likely to fall into lawlessness, anarchy or despotism and more likely to salvage the bits and pieces of our best social traditions and keep them in operation at some level.
These are daunting and even dreadful prospects. The Long Emergency is going to be a tremendous trauma for the human race. We will not believe that this is happening to us, that 200 years of modernity can be brought to its knees by a world-wide power shortage. The survivors will have to cultivate a religion of hope -- that is, a deep and comprehensive belief that humanity is worth carrying on. If there is any positive side to stark changes coming our way, it may be in the benefits of close communal relations, of having to really work intimately (and physically) with our neighbors, to be part of an enterprise that really matters and to be fully engaged in meaningful social enactments instead of being merely entertained to avoid boredom. Years from now, when we hear singing at all, we will hear ourselves, and we will sing with our whole hearts.

Adapted from The Long Emergency, 2005, by James Howard Kunstler, and reprinted with permission of the publisher, Grove/Atlantic, Inc.

"The Long Emergency" Emergency Response Team

There will come a day
when oranges
in Christmas stockings
will be a treat;
when Christmas will mean

when things that won’t grow here
won’t be on the table here;
when sorghum won’t be
only the stuff of festivals;

when a late frost won’t
irritate, but kill.

A time will come
when WE will be the Indians,
natives on the land,
poisoned again;
but now strangers to it,
poisoned by it, and
cursing the greedof fattened fools cool
in their tombs.

A time will come
when we again measure day
by the sun;
when the turning
of Orion spells the turning
of the earth;
when the first
sweet fruit is the pungent bite
of radish; sharp tang of Ramp;
when child’s play
is work,
and work the study
of life,
and life the measured study
of earth.

- Bob Kijcaid, 2005
(the author retains the copyright)

Friday, April 01, 2005

A Death Directive from Bob Kincaid

Knowing that Congress is “ginning” up to REALLY fool with America, I, Bob Kincaid,
do leave these instructions for anyone assuming (and we already know about “assuming,” don’t we) to undertake the execution of my wishes as touching upon my future, should I become incapacitated:

1) Don’t get in a hurry. Hire a few doctors. Deal a few hands of Canasta. Ask the doctors if their portfolios are secure against inflation.

2) Play Roxy Music’s “More Than This” warmly against my ear. Let me hear my Wife chatting in the background. If I don’t so much as twitch, start looking for the wall-switch marked “Bob.”

(3) If, in the process of any of the above, Tom DeLay gets within a thousand miles of me, please, at my direction herein, have some gang of poison-mutated insects devour Tom like something out of the end of the first “Mummy” movie with Brendan Fraser. There should be a whole BUNCH of screaming as the bugs do their job. I don’t think Tom’ll let us down on the Special Effects. Even if I never saw Paris, I damned sure DO get to see What’s Next.” And I’ll haunt the first mouthbreather that says I don’t.

- Bob Kincaid

You can listen to the Bob Kincaid show by going to weekdays at 6 pm CST, his show is archived at