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BUSH WATCH...WALT BRASCH
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'The not-so-secret foreign energy source'by Walter Brasch
President Bush, several years after most Americans, has decided the nation can't be dependent upon foreign energy sources.
For much of his life, when he wasn't stoned or wasted, and especially when he was running what came to be a series of failed corporations, Bush worshipped the power of oil, while denouncing global warming as junk science. But now, as an enlightened president who is prevented by his own incompetence and inability to deal with the insurgency and unable to drill for oil in Iraq, Bush has decided that alternative energy is necessary. He has a plan--ethanol. It's cheap, he says. It's available from American corn crops, he claims. It's primarily provided by Archer Daniels Midland, which has consistently been a large donor to political campaigns, primarily Republican.
But, just in case ethanol isn't as reliable as Bush believes it could be, there's still the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Our oil-slicked President believes killing animals and disrupting the ecological balance in the ANWR to drill for oil beneath the frozen tundra is also part of the solution to the oil crisis. By 2025, according to government projections, and assuming a ten year development during which no oil is pumped, oil produced in ANWR will represent only about 1 to 2 percent of the Americans' daily needs; if all the oil in ANWR were successfully mined, it would represent less than a one year supply.
But, while Bush says we shouldn't depend upon foreign energy, he really means we should depend upon foreign energy, not in the form of natural resources but in a human form.
He has no objection to American corporations increasing their compensation to executives and stockholders, most of them Republicans, by laying off American workers, most of them Democrats, and outsourcing jobs to myriad other nations.
Call for customer service on everything from a credit card dispute to a computer and you'll probably be talking to someone in India. Want an American-made car? If you don't mind that most of the parts are probably made in Mexico and other countries, you can have your all-American gas guzzler. Clothes? Don't even try looking for the union label. There isn't one in any of two dozen countries that provide most clothes worn by Americans. Toys? Games? American flags? Try China.
Most American politicians treat Cuba, an island nation about the size and population of Pennsylvania but with a higher literacy rate, as a Third Rail. They punctuate every mention of Cuba with the venomous tag, "Communist." The U.S. doesn't recognize Cuba, it doesn't allow Americans to vacation there, and it doesn't allow trade with the people of Cuba. But, every politician--it makes no difference if they're left, right, or mugwump, slobber all over the gluttonous probabilities of trade with the one billion population Chinese Communists. Even Wal-Mart has moved into China. We don't know how that will benefit the average American; we do know that it means the end of China's downtown commerce.
In America, spurred by talk-show mouths, we complain about hordes of illegal immigrants infiltrating our businesses and gorging themselves on every medical, welfare, and educational benefit available. We don't want illegal immigrants--translate that into the language of "Latino"--but we also willingly employ them, and seldom do much to the employer.
And so millions of Latinos, trying to earn enough money to send home to their own families while possibly trying to become American citizens, shed their own knowledge and skills to become this nation's unskilled and semi-skilled laborers, to become janitors and gardeners, maids, clerks, and factory workers. Of course, employers have a scripted, ready-to wear excuse of why they must hire illegals--they claim there's a worker shortage for low-paid no-benefit back-breaking jobs. Of course, they're right. One full-time worker making minimum wage, with no vacations, will earn $10,712 a year. The Census Bureau has determined that the poverty line for one person is $10,160--but, for a family of mother, father, and two children, the poverty line is $19,806. Even those employers who pay illegal immigrants twice the minimum wage, still provide no benefits, and pay them less than for American citizens.
The employment of low-wage employees is addictive. Hiring illegal immigrants means that businesses get workers for low wages, don't pay social security and unemployment taxes and, for sure, don't contribute to pensions or health care. Illegal immigrants either have to let the illness or injury "run its course" while destroying other body systems or reluctantly go to a charity hospital where taxpayers will cover the tab, keeping the employer from losing any more of the "bottom line."
When Americans do complain about worker exploitation in Third World countries, American corporations claim that if the overseas workers didn't earn pennies per hour, the cost of consumer goods the corporations sell to Americans would be significantly higher. That shuts up most of the opposition. If Americans weren't so blinded by their own greed, they would argue that keeping jobs in America would improve wages for all persons, allowing the people to afford higher-priced goods. The people could also argue that corporations could lower executive salaries and benefits, as well as the profit margins, to minimize price increases.
President Bush wants the government to recognize and permit more immigrants. He believes it will help improve the nation's work force. He is right. Most immigrants, transient illegals or future citizens, are hard workers. However, flooding American businesses with low-wage/minimum benefit employees allows businesses to increase their profits, a goal well within the political philosophy of this Administration, but opposed by the reality that companies earn their profits not because of country-clubbing executives but from the sweat of their workers. Posted: April 15, 2006
'Compromising Americans' civil liberties'
by Walter M. Brasch
Two weeks before President Bush signed Congressional legislation that made permanent all but two sections of the USA PATRIOT Act, State College, Pa., became the 397th American community to reaffirm the belief that the Constitution and Bill of Rights take precedence over any federal law. Not one of those resolutions should have been necessary. Nor should the legislatures of eight states--Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Montana, and Vermont--have had to pass legislation affirming the rights of all Americans. But they had to, and they did.
This Column Does Not Exist
by Rosemary and Walter M. Brasch
President Bush doesn’t like the media. He proudly tells the nation that he doesn’t read newspapers, magazines, or books. He and his dwindling corps of sycophants, some of whom prepare his daily briefings, believe the media don’t tell the truth—at least their version of the truth. They are sure the lyin’ liberal media (which they believe is a redundancy) are on a conspiracy to “get him”—or at least expand his world beyond Oil Drip, Texas.
Of course, they’re wrong. For most of his presidency, the media have merely channeled what he says, preferring to confine their investigative reports to the latest Hollywood break-ups, trysts, and scandals.
Before 9/11, the media gave Bush an unbelievable honeymoon, seldom criticizing him for anything except his fractured syntax. After 9/11, the media bought almost everything he said, not unlike the disintegrating Democrats who poke their fingers into the wind to determine that speaking the truth would be a sign of weakness and disloyalty. And so the establishment media, long ago resigned to a lifestyle of digesting massive heapings of press releases and then expelling them as fertilizer to the masses, didn’t challenge his lies about the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the “necessity” to suspend a few civil liberties in order to “defeat the enemy,” and never questioned why high oil prices and destroying the environment were in the people’s best interest. They merely saluted and went on to the next story, reporting a mixture of facts, semi-truths, and lies, having decided that in the aura of objectivity their role was to be stenographers, taking “he said/she said” statements to transmit to the people.
Of course, every now and then there’s a blip, enough for the President to lament the media just hate him and all that he stands for. There’s an occasional story about the lack of ethics among the Republican-dominated Congress or massive intrusion on Americans’ civil liberties and rights of privacy. But, those stories are buried by overdoses of celebrity news and Aunt Gertie’s birthday card shower. At the same time President Bush has attacked the media while also fashioning a message that makes people believe he is a populist—“I’m an outsider to government, just wanting to help the people”—he has used the media as his own personal voice.
What if there were no media? What if for some ethereal reason the media all got together, decided they really were tired, needed a sabbatical, and created a self-imposed moratorium on news, their decision being the last story they published or aired?
The politicians couldn’t all get together to use the media to complain about how bad the media are. Since there are no media, there would be no one at the infrequent press conferences. There would be no media giving up some of their journalistic integrity to jockey for the best seats on Air Force One or at Washington black-tie parties.
With midterm elections in November, how ever would the political parties thrust insipid candidates spouting rickety platforms upon the masses?
There would be no one to accept the myriad pork-barrel press releases from members of Congress who want to show the “folks back home” they care enough about them and their votes, and that’s why they successfully got a naval supply house in Haystacks, Kansas, or a museum in the south side of Chicago dedicated to cow tipping.
They wouldn’t be able to get national air time because there would be no appearances on “Oprah,” the morning semi-news infotainment shows, the evening news, late night talk shows, or even the far more honest and journalistically competent “Daily Show” because they wouldn’t even exist.
There wouldn’t be any radio to capture their distortions of reality and transmit them to an audience that prefers to hear conservative slobbering talk-mouths and Golden Oldies music from the Bayou.
The politicians could still spew press releases, but without media there would be no one to print or televise them. They could distribute millions of flyers and newsletters, but the Government Printing Office is part of the media and, thus, would also be closed. Paid ads in newspapers, radio, and television would be useless since those media don’t exist.
If the Hollywood film industry, which right-wing politicians equate with Satanic verses, went on vacation, the politicians could create their own films and documentaries. But, that won’t happen in a media vacuum.
Politicians could still show their “normal” side by jamming with rock, jazz, or accordion bands—except that music is all part of the mass media. Without music, the government couldn’t even blast loud screeches known as “the Top 40” to terrorists to make them cave in. Bush league politicians could try putting abbreviated epithets of false promise onto billboards but there wouldn’t be any billboards because they’re also part of the media.
The web? Not a chance. Politicians have been complaining about the web as a source of evil, or at least the repository for bare breast pictures for two decades. The web, the newest mass medium, would already be closed by ethically-challenged and sometimes adulterous politicians who have tried scoring votes by trying to censor Internet sites and messages.
Satellite transmissions would all cease. Politicians could text message their pleas for money or send video clips to the ubiquitous network of cell phones—if cell phones weren’t confiscated as part of the mass media.
Without the media, President Bush and every politician would become useless; they wouldn’t matter; they would be irrelevant. People might even start talking with each other, care about each other. But, that’s only a fantasy. --posted Feb. 9, 2006
[Walter Brasch’s latest book is ‘Unacceptable’: The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina, available from amazon.com, borders.com, and other on-line and “brick-and-mortar” stores. Rosemary Brasch is a former labor rights activist and Red Cross family services disaster specialist.]
The FEMA Scheme-a; Or,
The Unrepentant Consultant
by Walter M. Brasch
Clutching a bag of nails in one hand and wielding a hammer in the other, Marshbaum broke out of semi-retirement and into my office. It could mean only one thing. “I’m going to be rich!” In the three decades I have known my faux friend, he always had a scheme for how to live the affluent life of a no-talent pop celebrity. He did extremely well on the first part of it. Now and then, he came up with a scheme that brought him a comfortable living—until his next scheme drained him of his savings. But, at least he was persistent. “What’s it this time?” I yawned, knowing that for the next 20 minutes I wasn’t going to get any work done. “The Gulf Coast!” he declared. “I’m headed South. Gonna take care of houses. Planning to become rich from the government! Halliburton/KBR got up to a half billion. Bechtel, Fluor, Dewbury, and something named CH2M each got $100 million. Their profits are bigger than the oil companies.” Without missing a beat, he added, “This will guarantee me a home in Pacific Palisades.” “Marshbaum,” I carefully explained, “there are two reasons why that won’t happen.” “Only two?! Heck, I’m gold already!” “First reason. You aren’t politically or economically tied to the President or Vice-President. Not only did you campaign against them, you tried to get everyone named Bush or Cheney deported.” “It was a good idea,” he said. “Second reason. You don’t know anything about home repairs. Your first wife got an annulment because she said you were useless around the house. Your second wife divorced you after you fell through the roof you were fixing and later burned down the house while trying to screw plate covers onto electrical outlets. Even the insurance company got a restraining order against you to keep you from doing any more home repairs.” “I know I’m incompetent,” said Marshabaum. “That’s why I’m going to be a consultant. Media companies hire the bunglers all the time. I figure the government needs my incompetence in the Gulf. I’m going to advise people how to fix their houses.” “You’ve had more than a thousand get-rich-quick schemes,” I said, “but this one has jet-packs on it to put this scheme at the top of the list as the worst idea you ever had.” “Michael Brown is now a consultant for emergency preparedness,” said a smug Marshbaum. “Michael Brown?” I said unbelieving. “You sure we’re talking about the same Michael Brown? The incompetent that Bush appointed to run FEMA? The guy who was more worried about what he looked like than what a catastrophic storm was doing to New Orleans? The one who disregarded every advance notice and blankly told us a couple of days after Katrina hit that the storm was bigger than anyone anticipated? The guy who hid out from the storm just as his boss had once hid out from the Vietnam War? That Michael Brown?” “Same one. All suited up and ready for action.” “Who’d hire that idiot?!” “Bunch of companies already have. Hadn’t been off the government payroll more than a month when he started lining up clients. Told the Rocky Mountain News, ‘If I can help people focus on preparedness, how to be better prepared in their homes and better prepared in their businesses—because that goes straight to the bottom line—then I hope I can help the country in some way.’ Now, that’s altruism. He’s a real patriot. Will probably make more from consulting than he ever did on the federal payroll. Even has a fancy office in Washington, D.C.” That fancy office, I learned, was in the high-rent posh office suite of Joseph Allbaugh, who ran George W. Bush’s first presidential campaign. For his loyalty, but certainly with almost no knowledge of emergency management, Allbaugh became Bush’s first FEMA director before he resigned to become a consultant and lobbyist, bestowing the nation’s disaster response to his college buddy Michael Brown. One of Allbaugh’s clients, the Shaw Group, received two $100 million contracts, much of it for nailing FEMA blue tarpaulins on houses and buildings at a cost about ten times the normal rate. “So, you see, it’s all so simple. If you can’t do anything right, just be a consultant,” said Marshbaum. For once, I had to agree with him. --posted Novembr 26, 2005
More Brasch Essays