Welcome to my eighth column for AMP magazine.
This month’s Rant:
(one of the sources used: "The Great American Pork Barrel by Ken Silverstein, Harper's, July 2005)
For future generations in the country, there are two things that are most imperative if the USA is going to have any kind of prosperous and happy future.
One is curtailing the rampant corruption in our Congress (and in the White House).
Two is getting off of the dependency on crude oil.
Whether people are "conservative" Republicans, "liberal" Democrats, or an Independents, if such people give a shit at all about our country and are actually REAL patriots enough to truly care about what is a stake here in this post 9/11 world, then they would work hard to do something about these solving these two things. Both things are the MAIN cause of our loss of prosperity and are leading to our ultimate demise as a nation that has any worth. Both things weaken our country from all sides.
Sure congress has been, since its inception, prone to various petty scandals and graft; but, the way things are now in Congress is a money stealing machine!
Think about this, almost a year ago, on November 17th, a small group of Senators and Representative from various appropriation committees finalized the bills required to fund the US Government for this year. For three years in a row, Congress failed to pass most of the bills that keep ran the daily operations of the government. Because of that, through various closed- door meetings, away from the public eye, the members of these appropriation committees tacked on eight unapproved bills to the Foreign Operations Bill. These eight bills were to fund the Departments of Justice, State, Energy, Labor, Agriculture, Commerce, Transportation, the Treasury, the Interior, Veteran's Affairs, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and also the entire legislative and judiciary branches. The physical hard copy of the final bill, known as the Omnibus Operations Bill, when it was compiled, was not only 3,320 pages long, but its pages were filled with handwritten notes and insertions and deletions. Within 16 hours of being posted, most congressmen passed the bill, 344-51 in the House and 65-30 in the Senate, without actually reading the bill, since that would have been impossible. Soon after, the President signed off on the new bill.
What they don't tell you is that throughout the bill, hundreds of "earmarks" (allocations for local projects inserted into the federal budgets) were added, way beyond the original nine earmarks the bill first started out with when it first left the appropriation committees two days earlier. What earmarks effectively do is suck the money out of budgets that are assigned to the various parts of the government. These earmarks came to a grand total of $16 BILLION DOLLARS! That's $16 billion dollars of pure pork tacked on to the bill that sucked money right out of our taxpayer's pockets! This bill was the BIGGEST load of pork lard legislation every seen in US history!
Here's some examples of where our money went to: $175,000 to obesity research in Texas, $63,000 for noxious weed combating in the desert Southwest states, $100,000 for goat meat research in Texas, and so on and so on. To top it all off, NO public records exist of WHO added these grants to the big appropriation bill.
NO records are kept of WHO is receiving these huge funds - the earmarks are itemized in the bill without any disclosure of the direct recipient - just a dollar amount, destination, and broad purpose are noted. Obviously, these lawmakers, our fine Representatives and Senators are COLLUDING to conceal their actions and deceive the American Tax Payer since they give no visible means of accounting for the appropriation of our money that they give out. Basically then, Congress has become a money printing machine that mysteriously hands out vast sums of money to unknown people. With the Federal Deficit at about a TRILLION dollars, this outright thievery is tantamount to treason, since we are supposedly in war times. Last year, 15,584 earmarks were added to appropriations bills coming to a total of $32.57 BILLION dollars! This is more than twice the amount in 2001, and more than three times the amount in 1998! For example, Ted Stevens - Senator from Alaska and chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee from 1997 to 2004 was able to earmark millions of dollars in grants for Alaskan projects (like $443,000 for development of baby food containing salmon!) that totaled about $2,211.07 per capita, about 22 times the national average! What is disgusting is that these earmarks are added anonymously, at the last minute, behind closed doors, and without applicants having to prove that the project, company, or program being financed is actually useful or good! Your tax dollars at work, ladies and gentlemen!
Obviously, being on the appropriations committees brings people a lot of power. Interestingly, one of the main manipulators of this system has been Tom DeLay, who finally is being knocked out of his seat in his recent indictments for corruption. Since the Republicans won control of the House in 1994, DeLay, as House Majority Leader, has assigned membership to the committees strategically (to Republicans that narrowly won their congressional seats), instead of on seniority as had been traditional. By giving these powerful seats to those that narrowly won, these people were able to funnel much money into their home districts and have been able to insure their re-elections. These people have made earmarking pork to bills a Washington industry, with DeLay keeping a little black book of Washington Lobbyists who he allowed to see him. To get on the list, you have to be a major contributor to the Republican Party, which is a nice way of saying you have to pay bribes! What's the difference between what these congressmen are doing and a crime syndicate? Not much! Thanks to people like DeLay running our government, under the auspices of the president, Congress has been hijacked. These people have built a ruthless shakedown machine using our taxpayer money to reward their rich constituents. Not only that but DeLay and company have worked hard to repeal almost all the legal protections ordinary citizens have been given over the years to benefit his friends at fat cat corporations, as he sought to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency (already turned into a useless and toothless organization) and repeal the Clean Air Act (already gutted of any power to enforce anything), etc. The economic well being of our country and our children's lives is being decimated by extremists who have stated such things as "families living on minimum wage income do not exist", "women can't take care of families without a man to provide structure", and that there should be no separation between church and state, among many other far-right ideas. Good, hardworking, honest fiscal conservative Republicans have had their party raided by these thieves masquerading as Republicans. There is ONLY ONE sure way of getting rid of this whole corrupt system and that is to VOTE in the next election to dump all these crooks and replace them with people who have proven themselves locally to be more interested in the public good than their lining the pockets of their pals AND then to GET RID of the whole lobbying system that allows the wholesale bribing of Congress in the first place.
Getting out of our dependency on oil is other major factor that must be done now. It's almost already too late because we can see the end of oil in our lifetimes. Anything refined is an addictive drug, whether it is sugar, heroin, cocaine, or crude oil. All these things are the main items that are trafficked around the world to fuel not only the crooks that run them but also the terrorists that are bent on destroying us. Over and over it has been said the there is only 50 to 100 years of oil production left in the world! That isn't much, not with China and India now grabbing as much of that oil as possible. Oil dependency is the number one thing that separates the interests of the average American from that of the interests of those in power in our government. People want to use alternate fuels and to drive cars that get better mileage, they are willing to buy cars that are more fuel efficient. That is obvious by the fact the American auto manufacturers like GM are going bankrupt thanks to poor sales and foreign cars such as Toyotas, Hondas, and others are having banner years in the USA. How much more obvious can this be? Thousands of people are losing their jobs in the US auto manufacturing sector thanks to these companies stupid partnership with the oil companies. The day that they divorce themselves from gasoline use is the day that they will regain their profits and become a significant part of our economy again. The day that they stop fooling driver about horsepower and instead give people better technology and fuel efficiency is the day that they will overtake the foreign car companies again.
As long as we are dependent on oil we will be at the mercy of crooks. As the price of oil goes up little by little, each increase slows down our economy and increase inflation. As soon as fuel prices increase here, transportation costs rise sharply (thanks to other crooks like the Teamsters Union that have ensured that we mostly use trucking for freight delivery instead of the more efficient railways), then food prices jump, then all other prices go up shortly after. A strong economy is NOT possible with rising fuel costs. Plus, who sells us most of our oil? Countries like Saudi Arabia that use the money to fund terrorists against us. It is only because our leaders, especially the Bush family, have been in bed with the Saudis and the oil companies that we have not moved on beyond oil many decades ago. Americans hate the fact that we are dependent on the Middle East for our energy needs, they feel that we are trading with the enemy. Even as far back during Reagan's years, he had the chance to enact legislation calling for new means of public and mass transportation that didn't need oil that would have totally changed our infrastructure and made the US an even richer and more prosperous nation that it already was at the time. Instead he shifted trillions of dollars into the military budget, creating one of the highest deficits ever seen before the record breaking ones that Bush has created. As long as we are dependent on oil, the US will stay primitive as far as new inventions and modes of transportation being developed. Instead of gutting the giant surplus in the national treasure the USA had when Bush came into office by later giving away billions of dollars to the very rich (the top 5 richest people in the USA now, since Bush created the tax cuts, have more money than the bottom 260 million combined!) and to the false Iraqi war, he could have invested the money in improving our infrastructure and making the USA the most richest in the world instead of the near bankrupt place it is now. Honestly, people who support oil production and oil use are traitors to our country because they make us vulnerable to the power of those the sell it to us and keep our economy at the mercy of its prices and scarcity. These leaders do not have the interest of America in mind, they instead cater to their own greed.
Brazil is a prime example of what can be done about the grip of foreign oil, and fossil fuels in general. In the 1980's when the first "oil crunch" hit, their government decided to do something about it. Like the US, they were also at an over 85% dependency on foreign oil. Today they are at less than 10% dependent on foreign oil. Instead of fossil fuels they decided to produce their own renewable fuel source. They are using their own crops to produce alcohol that they burn in the cars and produce their electricity. Cars are penalized at the pumps if they have to burn too much gasoline, so the market drives the production. The waste from this renewable fuel source is fed to cattle or recycled to fertilizer. This same alcohol is known in the USA as Ethanol. Shell Oil is one of the biggest producers in Brazil. It's not like they have to develop the technology, it's already done. Where do you think the hold up is? Also, the agents of the oil companies assure us that in the future hydrogen will replace oil. Then they point out all the “short term” problems (see Popular Science Jan. 05 for the list), causing one to suspect that the hydrogen future may be delayed indefinitely.
This past April 27th, President Bush made an impassioned plea for an energy plan that would wean the US from imported fuels. "Our dependence on foreign energy is like a foreign tax on the American people," he declared in a speech to a gathering of small-business owners and entrepreneurs in Washington. What the country needs is "a national strategy," Bush said. "And the most important component of our strategy is to recognize the transformational power of technology. By harnessing the power of technology, we're going to be able to grow our economy, protect our environment, and achieve greater energy independence." Great! When's this going to happen? Sadly, the plan Bush proposed would do little to increase existing supplies of oil, gas, or electricity, or decrease domestic demand for energy -- the two steps that would really make a difference. Frank O'Donnell, head of Clean Air Watch, a Washington-based environmental group said: "The new Presidential energy plan seems mainly to be a public-relations stunt aimed at trying to reverse some of the latest polls, which show a growing public discontent with high gas prices -- and the President."
What Bush proposed is to:
• Provide federal risk insurance for nuclear plant builders, so that they don't bear the costs of delays in licensing new plants.
• Encourage building of new refineries on closed military bases and ease regulatory "burdens" to speed construction.
• Drill for more oil and gas at home, including in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).
• Spend $1.7 billion over five years to develop hydrogen-powered cars.
• Expand the tax credits for hybrid cars to clean-diesel vehicles as well.
• Give the feds more power to site new liquefied natural gas terminals (LNG).
• Promote clean coal and nuclear power around the world.
They all sound fine on the surface, but in reality they are toothless, since they carefully avoid the politically difficult steps that actually would take America farther down the path of energy independence. Nuclear power plants have almost nowhere to deposit their wastes, no state wants the radioactive material and it's deadly potential to be housed there. Extending tax credits for diesel cars is not effective when American auto manufacturers spend so much to promote the opposite. Hydrogen-powered fuel-cell cars are largely a pipedream for now. Both points avoid the obvious anyway: energy experts agree that the single-most effective way to cut oil dependency is to make cars and trucks -- which account for more than 60% of America's oil consumption -- more fuel-efficient. Easing regulations on refineries may sound good. In actuality, the Administration could make things truly easier for refineries by requiring that the nation use just one blend of fuel, instead of the dozens that various states currently require. It would be a real step that would prevent gasoline shortages and keep a lid on energy prices. Of course, that wouldn't be a hit in many of the red states, which currently don't use the cleanest-burning fuels. Instead of drilling in the ANWR or adding a few LNG ports to increase supplies of oil and gas, Bush could open up areas like the Gulf coast of Florida or the Rocky Mountains, which has a 60-year supply of natural gas, to exploration and drilling. But that wouldn't be popular in Florida, where his brother Jeb is governor, or in some of the Western states that are strong Bush supporters. Plus, not one thing has been proposed in Congress since that speech of hot air. In fact, all these proposals would do is make more money for lobbyists and his constituents that contributed this is election campaign instead of actually decreasing energy consumption.
Since there is only 50 to 100 years of oil left in the world, doesn't it seem like it is a matter is extreme importance and our country should be addressing this situation aggressively (instead of wasting our time in Iraqi everyday)? Wouldn't the fact that oil production has already peaked a national calamity that deserves much greater attention than it does now? Obviously, our national security is at risk, our foreign policy is shackled, and our diplomatic credibility in the Middle East undermined, so long as we buy from regimes that maintain such a strong influence over our economy. Our nation currently relies on foreign oil for 55 percent of our energy requirements, and this dependence is expected to rise to 65 percent by 2020. Indeed, during the next 20 years, our energy demand is expected to increase more than 50 percent. The United States uses oil to supply about 40 percent of our energy needs. America has become increasingly dependent on petroleum from Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Iraq. With about 250 billion barrels, Saudi Arabia has more proven oil reserves than any other country; that is, one-fourth of the world's oil reserves. Iran and Iraq each control about 10 percent of the world's oil reserves, with large amounts of unexplored resource. The expectation is that the Persian Gulf must expand oil production by almost 80 percent during the next two decades to supply the world market. Meanwhile, Russia and the surrounding area has tons of untapped oil that has never been developed. If they were they would increase 25% of the world's oil supply. Why aren't we working with them to do that? Cause of the deals we have with the Saudi royal family, because of people who say "fuck the future, lets make money now".
This Month's Rave:
Do you like to look at concert posters and flyers? Want to check out a cool site? Look at www.gigposters.com . Here you will find a huge poster artist community frequented by many of the best posters artists in the world. You can look at tons of great posters and flyers done for decades of live music shows for all your favorite bands by all your favorite artists. It has a great navigation system where you can search for posters by either a band's name or a designer’s name. All there is a lively discussion group there too that gets into great detail on silk screening techniques and printing as wells as debating current events. You can also buy the posters direct from the artists that made them via their classified ads section. Loads of art directors and art buyers come to gigposters.com to see what is happening and to hire artists to do work. Lots of bands check out gigposters.com to find new artists to do their poster art and come away very happy! There's also a comments section where people can make comments directly about the posters that are listed at the site, some comments are very astute, some very funny, and some have caused a major uproar at times. Once you hang at gigposters.com it's hard to leave!
Many great artists like Kozik, Ewing, Emek, Art Chantry, and others (me included) hang out and argue with each other, a real interesting experience! The site is a total labor of love developed by Clay of Alberta Canada, who dedicated the site to the artists, designers and musicians who create amazing gig posters to advertise shows and events. The art of gig posters, flyers, and handbills showcases the talent of many designers who see little to no profit for creating gig posters. It's a really a great and unique website worth checking out and joining!
This Month's Rocking:
Sweden continues to keep things Rocking as always with such great bands as ON PAROLE, check out their songs at http://www.on-parole.net/ . ON PAROLE have a great sound, which they describe as "triple speed Chuck Berry riffs from hell". They write powerful and exciting Rock songs with a hint of MOTORHEAD inspired heavy metal and lots of hard rock big riffs with some raw punk rock edge to them as well. It's great upbeat and driving hi-octane Rock that makes you feel excited and inspired to go out and have a great time. Heavier that the usual new Rockers often heard from in Sweden (like HELLACOPTERS, BACKYARD BABIES, etc) and meaner too! Another amazing unsigned band that is ripe for the picking!
BROADZILLA is another Hard Rocking band that pumps out a lot of power and majesty, check out their songs at http://www.broadzilla.net/. This wild, all girl three piece ROCK band kicks ass and hails from Detroit rock city, of course. Sharp, over the top dressers and LOUD hard Rock power chords blast at you like the Godzilla namesake. They blow away most bands today. Melodic and powerful at the same time, they keep they audience's attention riveted to their playing, not just their looks (which are great too!). If you want to be bulldozed by a great band that plays their dirty rock and roll filled with hardcore riffs played with much energy and enthusiasm, then these gals are the real thing. Hey, they even cover AC/DC's "Big Balls"! By far, BROADZILLA are star material, there's really nothing like them around right now.
Last but not least are the totally over the top band, THE SPARKLING BOMBS, who have been playing rock’n’roll influenced by early Manic Street Preachers as well as the NEW YORK DOLLS and the SEX PISTOLS since year 2001. Check out their stuff at http://www.sparklingbombs.com/ . Crazier than you can imagine! Pure glitter rock and midnight madness. Their albums have great catchy songs and funny lyrics. From their website: " The first full-length CD of the band untitled Dead Dreams From The Silver Gutter (Musicast distribution) was officially released in September 2004 and is already described in the worldwide media as a celebration of glitter mixing dark glam rock to catchy pop tunes with punk rock’n’roll guitars. The 70s and the 80s are over but the world sure needs another flamboyant rock revolution." Kinda like if the DAMNED were more like the NY DOLLS, but with a bigger sense of humor and darker touches. Fun stuff!
That's it for this issue! Click here to read column #9
Sal Canzonieri - www.electricfrankenstein.com / www.myspace.com/electricfrankenstein