Saturday, April 23, 2011

MAVERICK CHRONICLES, 4/22/2011

Maverick Media’s Rebel News Round Up,* broadcast live at 11:15 a.m. each Friday on WOMM (105.9-FM/LP – The Radiator) in Burlington. Part Two.

Vermont's Nuclear Showdown Begins   Entergy Corp has filed a federal lawsuit to prevent the State of Vermont from forcing the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant to shut down in 2012. The corporation claims it "had no other choice" than to go to US District Court to resolve the dispute, which pits the decision of the state's elected officials – and the opinion of most Vermonters – against a federal agency's regulatory authority. It’s a state’s rights showdown of immense importance.

In March the Nuclear Regulatory Commission renewed Vermont Yankee's operating license for 20 more years, clearing the way for it to operate through March 21, 2032. But Vermont officials want the plant to shut at the end of its original operating license in 2012.

Entergy claims that the state doesn’t have the power to veto the federal government’s decision. It argues that Vermont is violating 1) the Atomic Energy Act, 2) the Federal Power Act, and 3) the Commerce Clause, which says that states can’t interfere with interstate commerce. Entergy also claims, although it had previously agreed to state oversight, that Vermont changed the rules with a 2006 law that gave the legislature the power to sign off on a new license. Entergy says that it never agreed to legislative oversight, and that the state’s decision is preempted by the Atomic Energy Act.

Governor Peter Shumlin recently showed video clips in which Entergy praised the state law, while Attorney General William Sorrell claims that Entergy is just experiencing a kind of buyer’s remorse.

There is a similar case. In 1983 California attempted to ban new nuclear plants. That time the US Supreme Court said Atomic Energy Act safety issues are controlling, but states do retain some authority over the need for a plant, its costs and so on. But the Entergy case will be a unique test, the first involving an operating plant. The NRC claims it won’t weigh in on the lawsuit. But it has already said, on one hand, that Vermont Yankee should get a new 20-year license, while, on the other, some state actions are valid and necessary.

So what will happen in 2012? Unless Vermont goes to court and gets an injunction, Yankee will probably keep operating. A sign of what’s ahead is likely in July, when Entergy decides whether to buy new fuel. If it does so, that will means it wants to keep operating and is ready to fight to the end. And that will lead to a showdown even more titanic than the state’s rights struggle over health care reform.

Toward the Popular Option   With only three electoral votes and a history of going Democratic in national politics for more than 20 years, Vermont usually isn't considered a battleground in presidential elections. But a bill just passed in the state legislature is a small step that may change the way future presidents are chosen.

The new law calls for Vermont to join the National Popular Vote, a movement to give the presidency to the candidate who wins the most overall votes, rather than the most electoral votes. The proposal has come in reaction to presidential elections in which the candidate with the most votes didn’t end up in office. In 1876 Samuel Tilden received more votes but Rutherford Hayes became president. Most notably, George W. Bush became president in 2000 rather than Al Gore, even though it turns out Gore got more votes. And no one really knows who had more votes in 2004.

Under the bill, all three of Vermont's electoral votes would go to the candidate who wins the national popular vote, even if Vermont voters themselves didn’t opt for that candidate. The system would go into effect only when it is adopted by enough states to ensure that 270 electoral votes — the minimum to become president — are committed to the plan. To date Vermont is the seventh state to adopt the proposal, joining mainly Democratic states that usually aren’t competitive in presidential election years. They are Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey and Washington. Including Vermont, the National Popular Vote plan now has 74 electoral votes behind it.

Climate Action Input   Burlington's updated Climate Action Plan is nearly finished and the Community and Economic Development Office (CEDO) wants public input. Thus, the office is asking local residents to take a priority ranking survey that can be found online at the Climate Action Plan site. Responses to the survey will help the city rank important greenhouse gas emission reduction opportunities. For more information, contact Sandrine Thibault, or Jennifer Green at CEDO.

One thought: don’t make deals with military contractors -- Lockheed Martin comes to mind  -- that are responsible for enormous pollution.

Good Nuke News   A Washington Post/ABC News poll confirms what we really knew already: that about 2/3 of Americans (64%) oppose new nuclear reactor construction, and 59% strongly oppose it. Meanwhile, Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts has introduced a nuclear bill that’s worth supporting. HR 1242 would ensure that nuclear power plants and spent nuclear fuel pools can handle earthquakes, tsunamis, strong storms, long power outages, or other potential disasters. It would require nuclear plants to have emergency backup systems that can withstand long electricity outages, require spent fuel to be moved into safer dry cask storage as soon as the fuel is cooled, and make the Department of Energy factor in the lessons learned from the Fukushima meltdown when calculating the risk of default on loan guarantees for new plants.

It's not a perfect bill and unlikely to pass soon. But at least there’s something to support and a place to begin a serious discussion.

MEDIA WATCH

Pulitzer Time  For the first time, a Pulitzer has been awarded for reporting that didn’t appear in print. The winner this year for national reporting is ProPublica, for its web series “The Wall Street Money Machine.” Another first: The Wall Street Journal won its first Pulitzer since Rupert Murdoch bought the paper in 2007, for Joseph Rago’s editorials on President Obama’s health care reform legislation.

Carol Guzy, a photographer with The Washington Post, became the first journalist to win four Pulitzers. The award for breaking news photography was shared with Nikki Kahn and Ricky Carioti, all cited for their shots of the devastation in the aftermath of Haiti earthquake.

The prize for fiction went to Jennifer Egan for A Visit From The Goon Squad. Bruce Norris won the drama award for his play Clybourne Park. The history prize went to Eric Foner for The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery. Ron Chernow won in the biography category for Washington: A Life. “Madame White Snake” by Zhou Long won for music. Kay Ryan took the prize for poetry for The Best of It: New and Selected Poems. The award for general nonfiction went to to Siddhartha Mukherjee for The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer.

There was no award for breaking news this year, but four newspapers became finalists: The Chicago Tribune, The Tennessean, The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald, a joint entry for their coverage of the Haiti earthquake.

David Leonhard of The New York Times won in the commentary category for what the Pulitzer committee called a “graceful penetration of America’s complicated economic question.” The Times’s Clifford J. Levy and Ellen Barry won for international reporting for putting “a human face on the faltering justice system in Russia.”

So, congrats to the winners, and to Vermont for its legislative independence. If such a small state can successfully challenge the nuclear industry, maybe there’s hope for the Earth and the End Times are farther off than some people think.

*Edited transcripts are posted after the broadcast, but don’t include extemporaneous comments and last minute changes or additions.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

HAARPing on End Times

Some forecasters say that we’re already beyond the peak oil turning point. This week the average price of a gallon of gas was around $3.84. According to press reports, drivers in at least six states pay more than four dollars, that’s Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, and New York. Actually, you can add Vermont to the list. San Diegans are paying a whopping $5.05 per gallon and prices in California are likely to generally go over $5 in the near future.

Yet, when we think about End Times, it isn’t usually about a world without affordable gas but rather one based on much more extreme doomsday visions, many visualized in films. Usually such scenarios, especially those developed for television, show human beings somehow avoiding the worst and surviving. Not so, however, in the Planet of the Apes franchise and Dr. Strangelove. Both dared to actually contemplate the extinction of humanity. Both were also nuclear fantasies; Apes put the button in Charlton Heston’s dead hand while Strangelove said a machine will decide.

Here’s a theory just as terrible but more outside the box. For the moment let’s call it the rumor of the month: According to writer and radical theorist Richard K. Moore, a New World Order depopulation conspiracy is using covert technology developed by a defense program known as HAARP to cause earthquakes and tsunamis.

For those not fluent in acronyms or military speak, HAARP stands for High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, an actual joint military program involved in highly classified experiments focusing on the ionosphere. The suspicion is that it has been involved for decades in developing various types of weather-based and environmental warfare capabilities. The military has its own name for this tactic – weather modification.

In a recent essay called “End Times” Richard Moore claims that a depopulation and genocide agenda “has recently moved up to a rather high gear. Formerly, the agenda was confined mainly to the third world, and primarily black Africa,” he writes, “running at about six million intentionally starved children per year, plus those killed by Western-armed civil wars and easily preventable diseases. And then it moved into the Muslim world, with depleted Uranium being the primary weapon of mass destruction.

“The current phase of the depopulation agenda, as it moves into the industrialized world, is so far based mainly on HAARP, and its ability to cause earthquakes and tsunamis,” Moore charges. “The most transparent example of HAARP was of course Haiti, where the US had a task force ready to invade before the earthquake even occurred….Before that we had the Indian Ocean tsunami, where populations were intentionally not warned about it, even though there was enough time to do so.

“Now, with Fukushima, we have a full-scale assault not only on Japan, but on the oceans and atmosphere of the whole globe. As was obvious from day one, the Fukushima disaster is at least ten times worse than Chernobyl.” Moore predicts that all of Japan may become uninhabitable. That sounds almost plausible.

The big danger, he claims, is all the deadly particles of Plutonium and such floating around in the stratosphere and oceans. If those micro-particles get into your system, you’re toast. But how have governments responded? By raising the official level of ‘safe radiation.’ What was dangerous yesterday becomes safe today.

“It won't stop with Fukushima,” Moore predicts. The established pattern, with disasters and invasions, is incremental escalation. In the US alone there are around 20 nuclear reactors with the same design as Fukushima, “waiting, like sitting ducks, for their own HAARP attacks. One never knows where they will strike next, or with what ferocity. But ever since 9/11, we have been warned that there are no limits to their audacity. And they have made it clear that an 80% reduction in world population is their goal.”

And who would do this? The world’s elite, say Moore and other Cassandras. Or possibly the reptilians, who have clearly been screwing with us for too long.

Having laid out the problem, however, Moore has decided to drop the subject. Too discouraging, he says. But with what he calls a major escalation in depopulation, he felt that a heads-up was at least in order. Moore’s bottom line: “The time has come to think about getting your affairs in order, and deciding where you want to be, and who you want to be with, in these end times.” So, consider yourself warned.

WORLD SCENE

Saying No to Jasmine

Since the uprisings in the Middle East – often called the Jasmine revolution – China has banned the word Jasmine online. The Old Guard is apparently concerned about the power of the so-called Twitter effect? Their response: preemptive censorship. The country has at least 60 Internet regulations and 30,000 police monitoring blogs, sites and portals. Among the targets are any writing about police brutality, freedom of speech, the Taiwanese independence movement, and any attempt to use social networks to organize.

Note to Republicans: here’s something else to accuse Obama of wanting to do – and then do yourself if you get back into the White House.

Good Sense at the AZ Corral

It recently looked as if Arizona was set to become Birther Central, the first state to challenge the federal government on the qualifications to run for president. It’s been a year since the state adopted the notorious Papers Please law, which made Arizona a pariah and cost it considerable money. But last week Governor Jan Brewer, who signed the notorious immigration law, vetoed a bill that would have required candidates for president to prove their citizenship with a birth certificate or record of circumcision. Brewer’s move may be a sign that the Republican Party has finally begun to wise up to the danger of being seen as a home for fanatics and clowns.

Clown in Chief

Governor Brewer’s caution hasn’t stopped likely Republican voters from going mental for Donald Trump. The Donald, or Sideshow Don as the Daily News named him, has leapt to the front of the GOP field by seizing on the Birther issue. Trump says he’d be the best president ever, and Obama is the worst in history. Trump’s main qualification, he claims, is that he is such a great businessman, someone who could just look OPEC leaders and various dictators in the eye and make them behave through the force of his personality and "brainpower." He even considers his bankruptcies a big success. They worked to his advantage after all.

Initially Trump said he would reveal his wealth if he decides to run. But since then he’s back peddled, saying he’ll release his tax returns only when President Obama releases his long-form birth certificate. People in the know say his campaign will end around May 16, when NBC announces the continuation of Trump’s TV series -- Hasbeens and the Hair.

A People’s Budget

The Congressional Progressive Caucus – Vermont’s Peter Welch and Bernie Sanders are both members – has put together a People’s Budget that would end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, cut military spending, and establish a more progressive tax on millionaires and billionaires. Of course, it has no chance of passing in the current political climate. But that doesn’t excuse the mainstream media from completely ignoring it. At least 70 House members support this sane, alternative budget, including Vermont’s lone congressman.

This is a preview of Maverick Media’s Rebel News Round Up,* broadcast live at approximately 11:15 a.m. Friday on WOMM (105.9-FM/LP – The Radiator) in Burlington.

*Edited transcripts are posted after the broadcast, but don’t include extemporaneous comments and last minute changes or additions.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

MAVERICK CHRONICLES, 4/15/2011

Maverick Media’s Rebel News Round Up,* broadcast live at approximately 11:15 a.m. Friday on WOMM (105.9-FM/LP – The Radiator) in Burlington. Part Two.

THE QUESTION: Can the US economy be saved, or has the time come to stick a fork in it? Unfair? How about something easier? Would you rather have $50 today or $52 in a week? If you want the $50 now, you just passed up the equivalent of 200 percent interest annually.

The point is that we tend to be impatient. It’s known as hyperbolic discounting and helps explain a lot, everything from addiction to the slow response to climate change. Short-sightedness often undermines our long-term planning. One solution: rethink the question before answering. For example, Imagine you can have $52 in a week. Would you rather have $50 now? Now it probably feels like you’re losing $2 if you go for the $50.

Memorable Moment: The Civil War began 150 years ago, on April 15, 1861, with a presidential proclamation calling up 75,000 troops to put down a secessionist insurrection.

Just six weeks after Abraham Lincoln became US president in March 1861, Confederate batteries fired on Union troops stationed at Fort Sumter in South Carolina, one of seven southern states that wanted to secede from the US. The previous December, shortly after Lincoln’s election, South Carolina’s legislature had voted for secession, 169-0. Now they planned to take control of military installations within the state’s borders. Lincoln and his cabinet considered the situation an insurrection.

After 34 hours of bombardment Major Robert Anderson surrendered the fort. No one was killed and only a few people were injured. But during a 50-gun salute at the surrender ceremonies sparks set off an unplanned explosion and killed Daniel Hough, the first casualty of the Civil War.

Three days later, on April 15, later Lincoln issues his fateful proclamation. Two days after that, Virginia seceded, followed within 24 hours by the resignation of Robert E. Lee from the US Army. On April 19 another proclamation from Lincoln announced a blockade of US ports. The War between the States had begun.

One hundred and fifty years later states are again rebelling against federal authority, this time over issues ranging from the size of government and social wedge issues to the moral and economic bankruptcy of an empire in decline.

This has been your “Memorable Moment” for this week.  (See separate post for the full text of Lincoln’s April 15 proclamation)

WORLD SCENE

Another Chernobyl  For weeks Japan delayed upgrading the crisis at its Fukushima nuclear plant to the highest possible level, prompting calls for "swift and accurate" information about the true scale of the disaster. Now Japanese authorities have finally admitted that the situation constitutes a "major accident” on a par with Chernobyl. Feel better?

Tibet Crackdown  A climate of fear has deepened in the Tibetan area of Ngaba following the self-immolation and death of a young monk from the Kirti Monastery on March 16. Since then Chinese authorities have imposed a lockdown on the monastery, erected a barbed wire fence and wall, and placed armed troops inside the compound to prevent the monks from leaving and any food from getting in.

The monastery's regular programs have been cancelled and a patriotic education campaign has been launched. Sources say that two peaceful protests followed the March 16 self-immolation. The first was organized by upper middle school students, the second by people in Namda Township. The latter protest was broken up by police. Some people were severely beaten and eight were arrested. Tensions are expected to escalate further unless the crackdown is eased. No sign of international action on this ongoing human rights violation.

Inconvenient Repression   The Obama administration's rhetorical commitment to democracy — in the Middle East and elsewhere — has also come face-to-face with a serious contradiction in Honduras. The more Porfirio Lobo’s government cracks down on dissent, the more Washington scrambles to support it. This is the inconvenient truth of continued repression. The Honduran government and its US backers claim that the “free and fair” election of Lobo reestablished the constitutional order. But there was political repression and censorship during the elections. The US has also been assisting allies involved in a dirty war in the Philippines. And it chooses not to intervene in places like Yemen, Bahrain, Burma, and many more places with repressive regimes.

PS. The US said nothing when the democratically-elected president of Honduras was overthrown two years ago. It may even have been involved. Why? Because that president wanted to improve relations with Venezuela. Even after the UN demanded the president’s reinstatement, Obama refused to call it a coup. The problem: that classification would have led to a suspension of $80 million in annual US aid. Every country in the OAS – except the US – withdrew its Ambassador. The blunt message was that any moves not in favor with the US could result in presidentially-approved retaliation. Maybe that’s the real Obama Doctrine

NATIONAL SCENE

Freaking Fracking Facts  According to Maura Stephens, a co-founder of the Coalition to Protect New York, "T. Boone Pickens has President Obama and a lot of other politicians buying into his propaganda that 'natural' gas is a clean domestic fuel. But it’s not clean, it’s filthy.

“A new study shows the entire process of high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracking – going on in places like the Marcellus shale of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, and threatening New York – is as bad as or worse than coal in its greenhouse gas emissions.

"And fracking is not going to supply us with fuel. Much will be shipped overseas, where industry can get a higher price. There’s a glut of gas now, so Pickens creates a perceived need for drilling and does a hard sell on this bill to convert vehicles.

“Pickens has a lot to gain by pushing fracking. He’s bought up huge tracts of land that sit on aquifers. When fracking pollutes our water supplies, he’ll sell us bottled water. My mother would call that a sin.

"Fracking is not clean. It is not good for our country. It ruins air quality, poisons our clean, fresh water and jeopardizes our entire food supply. If we want to maintain the health of our communities and our families -- and not contribute further to the kinds of devastating climate disruptions we see with increasing frequency -- we have to stop pimping filthy fossil fuels and start investing in clean, renewable energy technologies.Otherwise we just further enrich ├╝ber-wealthy marauders like Pickens who push a dirty, dangerous process that harms us all."

For more information, visit http://www.coalitiontoprotectnewyork.org/.

Who are the “Beautiful People?”   People says it starts with Jennifer Lopez, named the “World's Most Beautiful Woman” by the magazine in its annual countdown. Others on the list include Reese Witherspoon, Eva Longoria, Mandy Moore, Katie Holmes, Jessica Simpson, Jennifer Hudson, Dana Delany, Emma Stone, Sandra Bullock, and Jennifer Lawrence. Interesting mix, but clearly People thinks beauty is skin deep – and directly related to how willing the “beautiful” are to be photographed by People. Personally, I’d include women like Catherine Zeta Jones. She just checked herself into a mental health unit suffering from bipolar disorder. But admit it, crazy can be attractive, like lightning.

Webbies Wonders  Covering categories from art and activism to religion and weirdness, nominations for the 15th annual Webby Awards were also announced this week, pitting established media operations against tech startups, blogs and name brands.

The New Yorker, the Economist, the Onion and Wired are competing for best writing with The New York Times, which received more nominations than any other media organization. Here's to what's left of real journalism. Competitors for the news prize include the Huffington Post, New York Times, Daily Beast, Wall Street Journal and NPR. The BBC has been nominated for several awards, including best podcast.

In the best retail category, Groupon, a daily deals site, is up against LivingSocial, Zappo's, Nike Golf and a London startup called Moo.com, which has recently expanded to the US. The Guardian's iPhone app is up against the New York Times, CNN, NPR and Wired for the best mobile news application; its Eyewitness app for iPad is up against tablet editions from The Wall Street Journal, BBC, Reuters and Flipboard, a social media-based aggregation app.

Video nominees includes "Haiti: Six Months On," nominated for best news and politics video, and "Saying Goodbye With My Camera," which records a father's last few months, competing in the best individual episode documentary prize category.

That’s it for Civil War Day. So, choose your weapons (and apps) carefully. Personally, I prefer a Bowie knife, with the Urban Spoon app, something good to smoke and a White Russian. Until then remember, dudes abide.

*Edited transcripts are posted after the broadcast, but don’t include extemporaneous comments and last minute changes or additions.

Friday, April 15, 2011

April 15, 1861: Lincoln’s Civil War Proclamation

Just six weeks after Abraham Lincoln became US president in March 1861, Confederate batteries fired on Union troops stationed at Fort Sumter in South Carolina, one of seven southern states that wanted to secede from the United States. The previous December, shortly after Lincoln’s election, South Carolina’s legislature had voted for secession, 169-0. Now they planned to take control of military installations within the state’s borders. The President and his cabinet considered it an insurrection.

After 34 hours of bombardment Major Robert Anderson surrendered the fort. No one was killed and only a few were injured. But during a 50-gun salute at the surrender ceremonies sparks set off an unplanned explosion and killed Daniel Hough, the first casualty of the Civil War.

Three days later, on April 15, later Lincoln issued the following proclamation:

Whereas the laws of the United States have been for some time past and now are opposed and the execution thereof obstructed in the States of South Carolina, George, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings or by the powers vested in the marshals by law:

Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, in virtue of the power in me vested by the Constitution and the laws, have though fit to call forth, and hereby do call forth, the militia of the several States of the Union to the aggregate number of 75,000, in order to suppress said combinations and to cause the laws to be duly executed.

The details of this object will be immediately communicated to the State authorities through the War Department.

I appeal to all loyal citizens to favor, facilitate, and aid this effort to maintain the honor, the integrity, and the existence of our National Union and the perpetuity of popular government and to redress wrongs already long enough endured.

I deem it proper to say that the first service assigned to the forces hereby called forth will be to repossess the forts, places, and property which have been seized from the Union; and in every event the utmost care will be observed, consistently with the objects aforesaid, to avoid any devastation, any destruction of or interference with property, or any disturbance of peaceful citizens in any part of the country.

And I hereby command the persons composing the combinations aforesaid to disperse and retire peaceably to their respective abodes within twenty days from this date.

Deeming that the present condition of public affairs presents an extraordinary occasion, I do hereby, in virtue of the power in me vested by the Constitution, convene both Houses of Congress. Senators and Representatives are therefore summoned to assemble at their respective chambers at 12 o’clock noon on Thursday, the 4th of July next, then and there to consider and determine such measures as, in their wisdom, the public safety and interest may seem to demand.

Two days after that proclamation, Virginia seceded, followed within 24 hours by the resignation of Robert E. Lee from the US Army. On April 19 another proclamation by Lincoln announced a blockade of US ports. The war between the States was underway.

One hundred and fifty years later US states are again rebelling against federal authority, this time over issues ranging from the size of government and social wedge issues to the moral and economic bankruptcy of an empire in decline.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Rebel News: Obama’s Deficit Talk

Pundits are calling President Obama’s speech on deficit reduction a “defining moment” for liberals, meaning that they think he’s going the Clinton route, disappointing his Left flank to strike a deal, get the economy under control and secure a second term. But what did Obama actually say at George Washington University on Wednesday?

He began, oddly enough, with the notion that Americans are rugged individualists with a healthy skepticism of too much government – an essentially conservative notion. But he quickly added that they also believe that we’re all connected and must do some things as a nation – like funding the military, schools, railroads and highways, research and so on. Many in the Tea Party movement would disrespectfully disagree.

Each of us also deserves some security and dignity, he said. Thus, we have programs like Medicare and Social Security, unemployment compensation, and Medicaid. We wouldn’t be a great country without those commitments. And to pay for all this, the wealthy have often contributed a bit more.

Those were the good old days.

Sometimes it’s necessary to borrow to pay for priorities, he said. But the county has been amassing too much debt for almost 30 years. Bipartisan deals protected the middle class and seniors, but the country lost its way in the last decade, with two wars and an expensive prescription drug program, plus unpaid-for tax cuts. Then the recession forced more borrowing. It was the right thing to do, but expensive.

Why is budget talk important? Because the US will continue spending more than it takes in unless something serious is done. Just the interest on debt will be $1 trillion by the end of the decade. By 2025 taxes will only be able to cover Medicare, Medicaid and that debt interest with projected revenues. The rest will require borrowed money. If that happens, the US won’t be able to afford good schools, decent roads or much of anything else. Interest rates will rise for everyone.

Reducing waste, abuse and foreign aid won’t be enough. Two-thirds of the budget goes to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the military – Obama called the last “national security.” So any serious plan requires putting everything on the table. But the Republican plan put forward by blue-eyed Scrooge Paul Ryan would fundamentally change the country: a 70% cut in clean energy, 25% cut in education, 35% cut in transportation, and less for college aid. It says that instead of guaranteed health care you would get a voucher, and if it’s not enough, tough luck. It ends Medicare as we know it. Obama called this a “deeply pessimistic” vision.

The Republicans say that somehow the country can afford more tax breaks for the wealthy while increasing costs for everyone else. There’s nothing serious or courageous about this, charged Obama. In response, he proposed what he called “a more balanced approach,” a plan that supposedly puts everything on the table while protecting people who need help. Here it is:

1) Save $750 billion by continuing with the budget cuts made last week. But he still wants to invest in research, technology and infrastructure.

2) Find more savings in defense budget, plus a basic review of our mission in a changing world. This sounds like the piece least likely to be implemented.

3) Further reduce health care spending. This means lowering bills by reducing the cost of health care – wasteful subsidies, drug costs, more efficiency for Medicaid, new incentives, and a commission on unnecessary spending. He projects saving $500 billion by 2023, and another trillion in next decade. If that doesn’t work, then look at changes in Medicare – but not a voucher program.

4) Reduce spending in the tax code. The country can’t afford tax cuts for millionaires, and he refuses to do it again. Instead, he proposes limiting itemized deduction for the wealthy and reforming the tax code.

The total impact, Obama claims, would be to reduce deficit by $4 trillion in a decade. If recovery speeds up and economy booms even greater progress can be made. But if not, he proposes a debt “fail safe:” If the debt doesn’t fall by 2014 and the goals aren’t met, make more spending cuts and more changes in the tax code.

He didn’t mention any of his potential presidential rivals by name but said, in essence, that people like Mitt Romney and Donald Trump don’t need another tax cut. Drawing a line in the sand that will please progressives – if he sticks with it – he promised to oppose any attempt to turn Medicare into a voucher program. The deficit should be cut with a scalpel, not a machete, he said. On the other hand, if some changes aren’t made the US won’t be able to meet its commitments. For liberals, he said, the goal should be to prove that those commitments are truly affordable in the long term.

At the end came his version of the “vision thing.” Americans, said the president, believe that they can’t just think about themselves, but also must consider the needs of the country, their fellow citizens, and what’s required to preserve the American Dream. Thus, he called on Americans to rebuild, together, and pass on a country they can all believe in.

But that’s precisely the issue – time is running out, yet it looks like people in the US still don’t agree on anything these days, right down to whether their leader is actually an American.

This is a preview of Maverick Media’s Rebel News Round Up,* broadcast live and streaming at approximately 11:15 a.m. Friday on WOMM (105.9-FM/LP – The Radiator) in Burlington.

This Week: Deficit talk, another Chernobyl, crackdown in Tibet, freaking fracking, inconvenient repression, who are the beautiful people, and Webbie nominees. Plus, a free-form, on-air only conversation about cartoon politics, social divisions, empire fatigue and secession stirrings.

Live Stream: http://www.theradiator.org/drupal/webcam.html

*An edited transcript is posted after the broadcast, but does not include extemporaneous comments and last minute changes or additions.

Check out The Vermont Way: Restless Spirits and Popular Movements

Friday, April 8, 2011

MAVERICK CHRONICLES, 4/8/11

Maverick Media’s Rebel News Round Up,* broadcast live at 11:15 a.m. Friday on WOMM (105.9-FM/LP – The Radiator) in Burlington. This Week: An End Times update, the CIA's Libya adventure, disease clusters and the benefits of maple syrup, the government shutdown, cutbacks in Burlington, latest on the Lockheed Martin deal, and the toughest job interview questions. The question: Did the US intervene in Libya to assist a revolution or take control of it?

Live Stream: http://www.theradiator.org/drupal/webcam.html

*An edited transcript is posted after the broadcast, but does not include extemporaneous comments and last minute changes or additions.

Check out The Vermont Way: Restless Spirits and popular Movements

REBEL NEWS: Burlington at the Brink

“One thing always to remember in politics is that it takes a long time to overcome inertia, and that, when it has been overcome, it takes an equally long time to stop momentum.” – Theodore Roosevelt, 1910

With election of the first black president the political inertia that set in during the Bush years was clearly overcome. But the momentum of that election has also created the deepest, possibly most dangerous polarization the country has seen in decades. Just a thought…

Burlington: Time for a Change (again)

A tax increase was recently rejected, but another vote, as well as service cuts, may be on the way. So says Mayor Bob Kiss. Burlington Telecom threatens the city’s economic standing and local residents are unhappy about the mayor’s proposed partnership with military contractor Lockheed Martin. Is the city’s progressive era over? At a neighborhood meeting on April 7, a spokesman from the city’s Community and Economic Development Office called the relationship between Lockheed and weapons “unfortunate” but claimed that Burlington is just “entering into a conversation” and nothing is certain at this point. The City Council is meanwhile looking into community standards for such public-private agreements.

Sounds like a start. But Burlington is heading toward a political reckoning next March. To preserve its reputation, stability and unique character it looks as if the city’s current progressive leadership will have to be replaced, hopefully with a forward-looking new team and a new vision of sustainability and democracy.

NATIONAL SCENE

The CIA’s Excellent Libyan Adventure

Evidence is mounting that the Libyan rebels fighting the regime of Muammar Gaddafi are under the direction of US intelligence agencies. Despite repeated claims by Obama officials that the rebels are a largely unknown quantity, it has become clear that key military leaders of the anti-Gaddafi campaign are well known to the US government and have longstanding ties with the CIA.

For two weeks in March there was a ban in the US media on reporting the name of Khalifa Haftar, the long-time CIA collaborator who was appointed chief rebel commander March 17 – on the eve of the US-NATO bombing campaign against Libya. Haftar founded the Libyan National Army on June 21, 1988 with backing from the Central Intelligence Agency. For the last 20 years, he has been living quietly in Virginia before returning to Benghazi to lead the fight against Gaddafi.

So, did the US get into this to back a revolution or take control of it?

Water Woes

The operator of Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant said this week that it has found radioactive iodine at 7.5 million times the legal limit in a seawater sample taken near the facility. In response Government officials imposed a new health limit for radioactivity in fish. On Thursday, a pair of 7 plus earthquakes struck off Japan's devastated northeast coast within a minute of each other. Another Tsunami threatened and people were told to move away from the coast.

Research indicates that a 3-foot rise in global sea level by the end of this century is very possible. Studies show that changes in ocean circulation driven by warming waters could raise sea levels another foot or more along New England shores.

Right now, 65 acres of prime Massachusetts coastal real estate is swallowed by the sea every year. While more land will be eaten away, storm surges ¬and abnormal rises of water during severe weather ¬ layered on top of higher seas could push much further inland, especially in flat coastal areas of New England, and oceanside homes will be even more vulnerable. Some scientists say that climate change may also bring fiercer and more frequent storms.

Sweet and Healthy

Here’s a little good news. Pure maple syrup is good for you. Researchers at the University of Rhode Island have identified 54 compounds in maple syrup, double the amount previously reported, many with antioxidant activity and potential health benefits. In studies, they acted as anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory agents. Initial studies also suggest that maple compounds may inhibit enzymes relevant in Type 2 diabetes management.

Disease Clusters

At least 42 disease clusters have occurred in 13 US states since 1976, according to a report by environmentalists. "Communities all around the country struggle with unexplained epidemics of cancers, birth defects and neurological diseases," said one of the report’s co-authors, Gina Solomon, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. The authors plan to identify disease clusters in all 50 states but focused their initial work on 13: Texas, California, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Delaware, Louisiana, Montana, Tennessee, Missouri and Arkansas.

FEEDBACK

Commenting on my novel Spirits of Desire, a reader wrote recently: “Some people ‘see’ the other realities created by those who we consider to be previous lives, but actually there is no time, just now, and we construct time as an explanation of the linear perspective. If more people could visit simultaneous points in reality, we could be in more than one place at a time; our minds limit that to help keep our sanity. As our construct has ‘evolved’ we have limited more and more of our perspectives so much that now we only comprehend everything as linear, and not coincidental. From our first birth moment we are taught to think in time, and that incorrect teaching moment distorts everything in our lives.” Thanks but you’re blowing my mind.

WANT THAT JOB? ANSWER THIS…

It’s rough out there, at least five candidates for every opening. And some of the people who do the hiring are using unusual tactics to narrow the field. The intrepid researchers at the career site Glassdoor.com have gone through thousands of questions mentioned by job seekers. Apparently, interviewers are often more interested in how people respond – their thought process and whether they remain calm – than a so-called "correct" response. So, here are some the oddest interview questions of the past year.

Let’s begin with one from Facebook: "Given the numbers 1 to 1,000, what is the minimum number of guesses needed to find a specific number, if you are given the hint 'higher' or 'lower' for each guess you make?"

It’s easy actually. The answer is that The MINIMUM number of guesses needed would be 1. You could always guess correctly the first time. The maximum would be a different question entirely.

How about this, from Capital One: "Using a scale of 1 to 10, rate yourself on how weird you are." As weird as the next person, about average, enough to get by? Whoa, what’s 1, least or most weird?

PricewaterhouseCoopers, the insurance company, asked one of its candidates: "How many balloons would fit in this room?" If it's the right size, just one. Another way to go: that would depend on if they were inflated, not to mention the size and capacity of the balloons.

The geniuses at Goldman Sachs asked a prospective master of the universe this brain zapper: "If you were shrunk to the size of a pencil and put in a blender, how would you get out?"

Epic Systems tested the logic skills of its candidates with this: "You have a bouquet of flowers. All but two are roses, all but two are daisies, and all but two are tulips. How many flowers do you have?" One person answered: If you assume there is an answer, could be 3. But it’s hard to know from the available data.

Here are a few more:

AFLAC: "What is the philosophy of martial arts?"

Boston Consulting: "Explain to me what has happened in this country during the last 10 years."

AT&T: "If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?"

IBM: "How do you weigh an elephant without using a scale?" Possible answer: Ask 1000 random people to estimate how much the elephant weighs. The average of their guesses will be close to the true weight. It’s called the wisdom of crowds.

Amazon tested some applicants with this one: "If you had 5,623 participants in a tournament, how many games would need to be played to determine the winner?" Possible answer: One. All other games only determine who will play in the final game.

Ebay, another online mega-company, went with this: "You have five bottles of pills. One bottle has 9 gram pills, the others have 10 gram pills. You have a scale that can be used only once. How can you find out which bottle contains the 9 gram pills?" How about opening the bottles

Microsoft: "How would you market ping pong balls if ping pong itself became obsolete? List many ways, then pick one and go into detail."

Google: "How many smartphones are there in New York City?"

Apple: "You have three boxes. One contains only apples, one contains only oranges, and one contains both apples and oranges. The boxes have been incorrectly labeled so that no label accurately identifies the contents of any of the boxes. Opening just one box, and without looking inside, you take out one piece of fruit. By looking at the fruit, how can you immediately label all of the boxes correctly?" Answer: label them all fruit.

Many of these questions need more data for a real answer, but the point of some is to see how well you're paying attention. Many simply illustrate if you can think outside the box. In most cases, the idea is to gauge the reaction to the questions. If you lose your cool, how will you handle the unexpected on the job? If you walk out of an interview because of such questions it probably reveals something about you to the interviewer. The person who stays automatically has a better chance at the job. So, the correct answer is to stay cool.\

That’s it for this week. Next week: a look at the labor movement.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Vermont Way: Marriage Equality

April 7, 2009: Vermont’s legislature became the first in the nation to legalize gay marriage, another in a series of breaks with conventional political thinking that contribute to the state’s iconoclastic brand. Find out more, plus a look at the role played by Howard Dean, in this excerpt from The Vermont Way.

Friday, April 1, 2011

REBEL NEWS ROUND UP IS BACK

After a winter hiatus we're back on the air. Check out the news and talk weekly on The Radiator, starting Fridays around 11:15 a.m. EST on The Howie Rose Variety Show with the program's legendary host, Formless. Here are a few stories:

Gorillas have discovered the joy of iPads, a unicorn skeleton was found at the Tower of London, Google has developed an App that completes your thoughts, and the Bronx Zoo cobra has landed a TV deal. That’s just some of the news on this first day of April.

British Breakthroughs: In the British Sun newspaper wildlife expert Terry Nutkins had some delightful photographs of gorillas frolicking with iPads. For some reason she doubts we'll see them on Twitter or Facebook. Meanwhile, Radio 4 announced that their Today program will soon be broadcast in 3D sound, which will create the effect of people speaking inside your head.

Head Trip: Google offered a touching interview with Michael, its autocompleter, which began as a spellchecker but has now graduated to completing words faster than you can type them. Every time you type words into Google's new search engine, someone at autocompleter instantly provides suggestions for your incomplete thoughts.

Here's how it works. "As a Google Autocompleter,” the company announced in a recruitment statement, “you’ll be expected to successfully guess a user’s intention as he or she starts typing instantly. In a fraction of a second, you’ll need to type in your prediction that will be added to the list of suggestions given by Google. Don’t worry, after a few million predictions you’ll grow the required reflexes."

A Star Is Born: In the US, the Bronx Zoo Cobra has landed a documentary deal with Animal Planet. Marjorie Kaplan, president of the Animal Planet and Science networks, said in a statement, "We're looking for raw, untapped talent. We have a triple threat on our hands. Bronx Zoos Cobra is relatable, audacious and venomous, and you don't turn your back on a snake like that!”

When asked about her asp-irations the cobra explained,. "I'd really like to do a talk show like The Soup where I make witty and sssarcastic comments about other animal shows. The possibilities are endlesss." The press release about the special promised "never-before-seen footage, the cobra’s home movies, photography and an exclusive interview with confessionals."

Edible News: Back to England, where Metro – which also provided a video of the unicorn at the Tower of London -- launched its edible edition, using corn starch, vegetable oil and citric acid among other delicious ingredients. "Printing takes a few hours overnight – several seconds to print each page and slightly longer to dry,” they announced. “The finished products are even given a light vanilla scent.” Charles Bouquet, of the Edible Paper Company, said the project will encourage recycling. 'We hope it adds flavor to the stories," he said, "and presents readers with a colorful menu of current affairs."

Kids only Flying: In airline news, the flight comparison site Skyscanner announced the maiden voyage of Urchin Airways, the first child-passenger only plane. "Cabin crew on Urchin Airways will all be dressed as clowns and will oversee the library of video games and supervise a ball pit area,” they announced. “Activities such as egg-and-spoon races will be held along the aisle and targets woven into seating upholstery will offer youngsters the chance to hone their seat kicking skills. Whereas on regular flights children are scolded for making noise, screaming will be encouraged in 'who can scream loudest?' challenges."

Of course, none of the above actually happened on this April Fools Day. But here’s a little real news:

Creeping Toward Single Payer: After a full day of debate, the Vermont House gave preliminary approval this week to health care reform legislation that is designed to put the state on the path toward a single payer system. The vote was 89-47. Backers of the bill say the state's current health care approach is broken. Opponents say it could dismantle the high quality system already in place.

Vermont Schools Left Behind: Nearly 3-in-4 Vermont schools (72 percent) missed performance targets under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, according to information released Thursday by the Vermont Education Department. Meanwhile 33 percent of Vermont schools were identified as underperforming for missing the mark at least two consecutive years. No school in the state improved enough to get out of the testing.

Tune in weekly to the Rebel News Round Up for much more.



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