Disenfranchised Citizen

Chicago, New Orleans and living a beautiful, angry life between the two…

Posts Tagged ‘9-11

9-11 Inc.

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Strange days...

Ten years ago on September 11th, I was in a place not unlike many Americans, essentially surrounded by Europeans in a Las Vegas youth hostel trying desperately to sleep off a hangover…but that morning I heard people chattering, something about burning buildings, plane crashes and how it all looked like a movie, and through my bleary-eyed state, at first I thought they were describing a movie, until it became clear they were discussing something else entirely. Don’t remember what detail finally sank in, but I do remember jerking up from the bunk, hurriedly getting dressed and heading down to the social room where the one television in the place blared on, surrounded by a  bunch of people staring at it, slack-jawed and disbelieving.

I stared too, for quite some time…

Then I did what most people did, I called my family and spoke to friends, to make sure everybody was okay, to touch base with something real, logical, something safer I could understand, and also to see if it would be best for me to continue my travels at the time or go home to be with family as soon as I could get there. Well, my mother and I decided I should stay put, in Las Vegas, and later that night I headed back to the Strip to see what, if anything the terrorist attacks might have changed on Las Vegas Boulevard.

Not much, actually.

People still gambled, maybe the tones were a bit more subdued, worry was a bit more pronounced, exhibited by glances at the news on all those casino monitors where previously, gambling instructions had played in an endless loop. People were drinking, there was more security in the casinos…oh, and there were a hell of a lot more flags. Flags everywhere, waving from every Jumbotron on the strip…you couldn’t turn without seeing a flag.

And now here we are, ten years later.

And those flags are still waving.

And 9-11 has become just as inescapable: movies, news programs, documentaries, divided histories, tributes, posters, commemorative coins, stamps, coffee mugs, shot glasses, silver spoons, posters, videos and t-shirts. 9-11 is an industry and yeah, I kinda have a problem with that, same as I have a problem with every politician who gives the overly patriotic speech, or demonizes his political adversary in the name of 9-11, using it to forward an agenda or to demonize a religion so to boost his or her own bullshit credentials. It’s a cheap shorthand for jingoistic intolerance and then that same politician will often use 9-11 as a campaign weapon, invoking it as proof of thier own red, white and blue beating heart, the purest example, further symbolized by a far-too-easy flag lapel pin: yeah, the people involved in these displays are parasites…parasites exploiting the dead, exploiting fear, exploiting a national and world tragedy, all for their own material and political gain.

Which isn’t to say there aren’t commemorative ceremonies meant to respectfully honor those who died that day, sincere words from sincere people without hidden agenda, who put country and healing first: these ceremonies do exist, and rightfully so, and I applaud them.

Personally, I won’t watch them but I applaud them nonetheless.

But then there is talk radio, there is political grandstanding, agenda setting and bullshit politicians who put on the flag like a superhero’s cape and go out of their way to prove their genitalia is way more patriotic than the other guy’s…and these types, these parasites expect you won’t know the difference between the shallow and the deep. 

Fuck ‘em.

They’re worse than parasites.

They are worms, feeding on the parasites.

So what’s the best way to honor 9-11?

Up to you, your choice of course…we do still have some freedoms left round here, but for me, it’s maybe a moment of quiet contemplation, a few minutes of silence for those who died and reflection about what exactly’s changed since that day, and how I feel about those changes.

And for me, I’ll keep the television and radio off. 

I’ll keep at arm’s length everything the media wants to sell me both during their 9-11 programming and the commercials in between, and then I’ll do what I did on that day ten years ago…I’ll contact some friends and family, make sure the people I care about are doing okay.

Just the way I do things I guess, kind of low-key, quieter…

Oh, and thankfully my memory is good enough I don’t need to pass a resolution to never forget something as unforgettable as the morning thousands of people died in a terrorist attack on American soil. Members of the House of Representatives apparently are not as fortunate in this respect…either that, or their memory is just fine and their resolution was only that much more political grandstanding.

Cough…cough…(parasites)…cough…

Have a thoughtful day.

So, they’ll get it right this time? Oil spills, mine disasters, levees and forgetfulness…

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Far better prepared for this picture, than an oil spill...

It would appear a pattern is developing in this great land of ours. Simply put, we begin with a tragedy, then we have an investigation which discovers the governmental agencies designed to prevent such tragedies either fell down on the job or didn’t care, and even worse, the fail-safe for the agency that didn’t do their job is woefully unprepared to handle the mess created. Next, we get public and government anger, utter outrage about the aforementioned tragedy and congress types propose bills, make promises and issue guarantees that a tragedy like this will never happen again, and damnit, we mean it…never.

At least until next time.

What? What happened to the guarantees, the promises and the bills?

That was so last week man, have you talked to my lobbyist?

In a recent report, it was discovered (surprise) that the US Coast Guard was not prepared for a large deepwater oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and the unified response to the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe was continually troubled by this lack of planning. Government and private sectors “demonstrated a serious deficiency… (in) preparedness for an uncontrolled release of oil from an offshore drilling operation.” The panel also found many of the Coast Guard staff members interviewed “acknowledged that they were unfamiliar” with the plans to combat such a spill, “even though they held prominent positions” in the command structure for the response. Much of this is blamed on the changes to the Coast Guard, post 9-11. As their responsibilities were diversified, the oil spill response plan atrophied which resulted in problems with coordination and communication. From the report: “While the response plan by BP, the well’s operator, was criticized as unrealistic in the report, the government’s plans were also found to be inadequate and incomplete.”

Okay, given…anyone paying attention to events last summer could have figured out that both BP, the Coast Guard and state officials were caught with their pants down on this one, but…what happens now? New drilling permits are being issued, ten in fact (no matter what Vitter says).

“Capt. Ron LaBrec, a Coast Guard spokesman, said the Coast Guard was reviewing the recommendations and had already begun making improvements. (The Department of Homeland Security has requested an additional $11.5 million in its 2012 budget to help bolster the Coast Guard’s ability to respond to major spills, a department official said.)”

Improvements…

Perhaps a complete change might be more in order? One suggestion might be to immediately discuss and begin planning how to keep politics and corporate self-interest out of the equation.

If not, one might someday read an oil spill version of the soon to be even more tragic story about developments occurring since the Massey Mine disaster, which also happened last April and killed 29 miners at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia.

If you don’t recall, there was outrage by Congress and the public that federal regulators didn’t have the power to close dozens of mines that had racked up thousands of safety and health violations (sound familiar?). At the time, both parties in Congress vowed swift action. They promised from their pulpits to fix this so no family will ever have to go through this kind of tragedy again.

A bill was proposed. It would have made it easier to shut down problem mines. It would have increased penalties for serious safety violations and offered greater protection for whistleblowers, and it took eight months for the bill to even reach the floor of Congress where two weeks ago, this bill was killed off, voted down by every single Republican and 27 Democrats.

In 2010, 48 coal miners died, the most since 55 were killed in 1992.

As retired miner, Fred Burgess said, whose stepson Ronald Mayor died in the Upper Big Branch explosion, “The miners should have a safer workplace, but the mine companies throw a lot of money around, they have lobbyists all over the place.”

Indeed, and to add insult to injury, it would appear lots of those lobbyists have been speaking to Rand Paul, who recently said in response to the MSHA’s (Mine Safety and Health Administration) new proposals which would reduce by half the amount of coal dust miner’s breathe, coal dust being the primary cause of  black lung, “”Every regulation doesn’t save lives…There is a point or a balancing act between when a regulation becomes burdensome enough that our energy production is stifled.”

Or in other words, “What he’s suggesting is to keep the cost of coal down we would jeopardize the health of coal miners,” said Stephen Sanders, director of the Appalachians Citizens’ Law Center.

Oh, and speaking of guarantees and promises, anybody remember a certain town called New Orleans and this little catastrophic failure they had a few years back, you know, where over a thousand people died when the levees broke, in several places?

Yeah, remember all those promises made back in 2005, to guarantee that would never happen again?

Well, it would appear those promises were equally hollow. The Army Corps of Engineers, responsible for building and fixing the failed levees, well…they’re working on it…going on six years later. Which isn’t to say improvements haven’t been made. They have, but do those improvements match all those guarantees and promises President and Congress types threw around during the flood’s aftermath?

Anybody want to by the Crescent City Connection?

Really, I’m selling…

But, back to the Coast Guard and their report. Whereas it’s great they are working on “improvements” to their response, it might be nice to see exactly what they are working on, how they intend to coordinate federal, state and local officials, how they intend to keep financial self-interest and politics out, how their own staff will be trained on any new plans that are so coordinated to ensure each administrative and governmental level is on board, you know, so we don;t wind up with useless sand berms.

It would seem if oil companies have a right to drill out there in the Gulf, and they are…Gulf Coast residents have a right to know what will be done, and a guarantee that it will be done to respond to another spill…even after the anniversary news coverage comes and goes.

After all, coal miners still haven’t gotten protection from cost cutting mine owners.

New Orleans still hasn’t received the levees promised by Congress and the Corp of Engineers.

And now, Gulf Coast residents are waiting to see if that pattern continues or breaks, and they’d probably like to know which, before the next big spill.

Hell, I would…because if there is one thing I’d…uh…oh damn…

From the Times Picayune:

“A year after the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Congress has done virtually nothing to address the issues raised by the oil spill — from industry liability limits, to regulatory reform, to coastal restoration, to broader issues of energy policy…”

Continue reading:

A year after Gulf oil spill, Congress is sitting on its hands

Have a nice day.

A Few Thoughts About Wikileaks…

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National Security's newest enemy, keep a look out...

For anyone not following the story, Wikileaks has begun to publish more than 250,000 secret State Department documents on its website, in one of the largest leaks of classified information in history. Previous to their release, the documents were shown to the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Le Monde and Der Spiegel and several weeks ago, they were also shown to the US government who were given opportunity to help edit and comment. The US government declined, and the White House responded, “To be clear — such disclosures put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals, and people around the world who come to the United States for assistance in promoting democracy and open government.”

Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, commented on this refusal in a letter to the State Department “I understand that the United States government would prefer not to have the information that will be published in the public domain and is not in favor of openness…that said, either there is a risk or there is not…you have chosen to respond in a manner which leads me to conclude that the supposed risks are entirely fanciful and you are instead concerned to suppress evidence of human rights abuse and other criminal behavior.”

In publishing the documents, The New York Times wrote, “The question of dealing with classified information is rarely easy, and never to be taken lightly. Editors try to balance the value of the material to public understanding against potential dangers to the national interest…The Times has taken care to exclude, in its articles and in supplementary material, in print and online, information that would endanger confidential informants or compromise national security. The Times’s redactions were shared with other news organizations and communicated to WikiLeaks, in the hope that they would similarly edit the documents they planned to post online.”

So, what do the documents say?

A number of things, but to explore this would not be what is most on my mind this morning, so feel free to check it out yourself:

Wikileaks US Embassy Cables: New Documents Released – HuffingtonPost

State’s Secrets – New York Times

The US Embassy Cables – Guardian

What is on my mind this morning is the US governments desire to have things both ways, oftentimes at the expense of its citizens in the name of “National Security,”  and how Wikileaks release of the cables effectively does what an American citizen is unable to do, shine a light on a government that seems to no longer feel it is accountable for its actions.

Since 9-11, government abuse of privacy and civil rights in our country has sped up to an alarming degree. Illegal wiretapping, infiltration and monitoring of activist groups including the prior arrests of citizens in New York and Denver before national political conventions, the government monitors the internet, shuts down websites without court order…etc, all in the name of business and National Security. We have our citizens being spied on, inadvertently put on no-fly lists, intrusively screened and patted down at airports, being told they can’t get within shouting distance of politicians and in many other ways restricted, all with little to no recourse at all.

Wars are begun in Afghanistan and Iraq. People are illegally extradited. Large financial institutions are bailed out with our money while the same financial institutions illegally foreclose on our homes, in process making even more money while the government does nothing to stop it. In the Gulf of Mexico there is an alarming and growing health crisis as a result of chemical poisoning from the BP oil spill and the government simply pretends it isn’t happening. Katrina killed well over a thousand people and though everyone knew the levees had been suspect for years, the government did nothing about it and seemingly even less when they broke. We now have torture in this country, we are lied to every day and encouraged to feel afraid by politicians who dismissively speak the phrase, “It’s a new world,” and then justify all by telling us “we don’t understand the real dangers,” all while a complicit media agrees to being embedded with troops, accompanied by the National Guard in New Orleans, and in the Gulf told to get on board or get out.

And we as citizens have no recourse.

The Freedom of Information Act has been gutted, thus enabling the government to be even more secretive as to what it is doing, leaving any concerned American citizen in the dark, and time and time again we are told the same thing:

Its about our safety.

Its about National Security.

All of these arguments hold the same water these days as a parent telling a child to do or not do something, simply because the parent “told you so.” The American government has become so accustomed to manageable reaction, they now engage freely in these acts of lazy parenting where we are told our patriotic duty is not to question, but instead go shopping.

So Wikileaks comes along and does what none of us has been able to do, they shine a flashlight on the whole damn thing by exposing our unvarnished foreign policy goals, our comments about various leaders, our diplomats unfiltered opinions about the actions of our government, their successes, their failures and their embarrassments.

Already various members of Congress are calling for Wikileaks to be declared a terrorist operation as a result of this release because it is, of course, harmful to National Security.

Well, as an ignorant child, I would guess it is not my place to speculate but should I get too upset and decide to throw a tantrum in the aisles of Wal-Mart, I might so respond to these same politicians how they should hope no inside staffer gets a bug far enough up his ass that they go after their secrets and expose them to the country, because as a Guardian columnist writes about the Embassy Cable release: “Clearly, there is no longer such a thing as a safe electronic archive, whatever computing’s snake-oil salesmen claim. No organization can treat digitized communication as confidential. An electronic secret is a contradiction in terms.”

And I’d also like to think, like any child growing up, eventually “because I said so,” will finally stop working and the parent must at last begin to explain their reasoning to every American citizen.

Have a nice day.

BP, EPA tells cleanup workers they are safe, just don’t breathe

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Perspiration from the forehead of BP's PR Department, very toxic

British Petroleum released, quietly…oh so quietly, new information today about their results from chemical testing. What? You mean the PR department didn’t try to splash that one all over Google, Facebook, MySpace, Sarah Palin’s forehead and Texas Congressman Joe Barton’s ass?

Nope.

Turns out that 20% of the Gulf Coast cleanup crews have been sickened by a chemical that sickened cleanup workers involved in Exxon’s Valdez mess. The villain is a chemical called 2-butoxyenthanol a chemical released when BP initially used the dispersant, Corexit 9527. Apparently, Tony Hayward was wrong when he initially suggested sick workers probably just had food poisoning.

Wikipedia says:

“Moderate respiratory exposure to 2-butoxyethanol often results in irritation of mucous membranes of the eyes, nose and throat. Heavy exposure via respiratory, dermal or oral routes can lead to hypotension, metabolic acidosis, hemolysis, pulmonary edema and coma…U.S. Employers are required to inform employees when they are working with this substance...”

That this chemical is still showing up in air quality testing is called “worrisome,” “troubling,” and according to Natural Resources Defense Council Senior Scientist Gina Solomon, “the air quality if anything, seems to be deteriorating.” Considering that 2-butoxyethanol is supposed to biodegrade in a few days and British Petroleum claims they stopped using Corexit 9527 in favor of Corexit 9500 a month ago, it is curious this chemical keeps showing up. Perhaps BP is just covering up the labels on the canisters, slapping 9500 on 9527s like they cover up oily beaches with more sand. This company continues to release selective results from their air quality testing with no penalty and it’s getting old, really freaking old, but who is there to keep them in check? Who can we rely on, who will give us the facts in this, our time of need?

Oh good, it’s the EPA.

Turns out somebody in the EPA went rogue, releasing a report stating the air, especially around Venice and Grand Isle, Louisiana is now a “moderate health risk.” Moderate, right. In case you’d like a reminder of another time the EPA monitored a Catastraphuk of a disaster site and said things were safe, consider this gem:

“Our tests show that it is safe for New Yorkers to go back to work in the financial district”

Oops.

Their bad.

Also interesting is that though California lists 2-butoxyethanol as a hazardous substance, back in ’94, the EPA removed it from their list of hazardous air pollutants. So what is it, dangerous or not? EPA? BP? Obama? Somebody please give us a straight message so we don’t have to resort to independent scientists. Talk about troublesome, these guys, the ones without a financial stake in this mess, they call this stuff a cancer causing carcinogen that can be absorbed through the skin. That don’t sound too good at all, but nothing really does when so many messages are mixed.

So, for those of you haven’t been following the news of recent: BP comes to the Gulf of Mexico to get a bit of oil, totally fucks up the water, and not to be content with this they fuck up the air while they’re not cleaning up the water. BP is not really cleaning up anything but the savings accounts of everyone in the Gulf Coast States who relied on the Gulf for their source of income…and life. Meanwhile the government says they are in charge but accede to every BP demand. Obama makes a lot of promises, provides great reassurance to the American people and then disappears.

Oh…he sent his wife to visit.

Oops.

My bad.

How about another quote from round the time of 9-11, this one from Charles Schumer D(ick)-NY, “If the public loses faith that things are safe when the government says so, we’ll have more damage than a pointed statement the week after 9-11 would have.”

You think?

Hey Obama, I think he might have been talking about you!

Read the following articles:

New BP Data Show 20% og Gulf Spill Responders Exposed to Chemical That Sickened Valdez

From the EPA: Moderate Health Concerns With Gulf Air

And as always,

Have a nice day.

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