The movie "Uncovered: The Whole Truth about the Iraq War" (which we've talked about on this show) will be shown in McConomy Auditorium in CMU's University Center on Tuesday March 2, at 8pm. Admission is free and open to the public. Free parking is available in the garage on Forbes next to the University Center.
Today, our guest on Left Out is Christopher Zurawsky. He will lead a discussion about the city's financial crisis. Here's an outline of some of the points he's planning to touch on:
- City financial situation including amount of debt and personnel and service cuts. Pittsburgh is the only major city in the country with junk bond status, meaning essentially that we can't borrow money. See Municipalities Financial Recovery Act; Consultative Evaluation for a summary.
- What are Act 47 and the oversight board?
- Possible spending cuts could include privatization of services like garbage collection. Savings are also likely to be pursued through restructuring of public safety contracts, especially where firefighters are concerned.
- Revenue increases could come from increases in the parking tax, commuter tax, and business privilege tax.
- Possibility of restoration of services, like pools.
- Dismiss as myth that the primary cause of these problems is somehow mismanagement -- it is only one of several causes. Other causes include: Infrastructure maintenance, demographics, federal policy encouraging sprawl and suburban development, state funding cuts and Republican legislature.
- Proposed merger of city and county, with focus on recent Murphy/Onorato League of Women Voters luncheon. Also, a discussion of a similar proposal for Buffalo, NY.
- Tax-increment financing (TIF) and other tax breaks, originally meant to revitalize urban blighted areas, now being used for suburban development at undeveloped areas that aren't really blighted (Camp Horn Road/Mt. Nebo is a recent example). An article about TIFs from the Multinational Monitor and another article from the Green Building Alliance about how TIFs are being used in Allegheny county to "subsidize the creation of big-box store developments in previously undeveloped suburban communities while many areas in true need of redevelopment are left unaddressed...". Also, a Post-Gazette article By Brian O'neill looking in part at the use of TIFs in the city.
The chief characteristic of the Bush administration is a subjugation of evidence to prejudice, policy to politics, truth to ideology. If the facts don't support the pre-determined ideological position, so much the worse for facts --- distort them, suppress them, twist them, ignore them.
The Union of Concerned Scientists has issued a report entitled Scientific Integrity in Policymaking that is critical of the administration's misuse and abuse of science in the formation of national policy. The report alleges:
- There is a well-established pattern of suppression and distortion of scientific findings by high-ranking Bush administration political employees across numerous federal agencies. These actions have consequences for human health, public safety, and community well-being. Incidents involve air pollutants, heat-trapping emissions, reproductive health, drug-resistant bacteria, endangered species, forest health, and military intelligence.
- There is strong documentation of a wide-ranging effort to manipulate the government's scientific advisory system to prevent the appearance of advice that might run counter to the administration's political agenda. These actions include: appointing underqualified individuals to important advisory rules including childhood lead poisoning prevention and reproductive health; applying political litmus tests that have no bearing on a nominee's expertise or advisory role; appointing a non-scientist to a senior position in the president's scientific advisory staff; and dismissing highly qualified scientific advisors.
- There is evidence that the administration often imposes restrictions on what government scientists can say or write about "sensitive" topics. In this context, "sensitive" applies to issues that might provoke opposition from the administration's political and ideological supporters.
- There is significant evidence that the scope and scale of the mnaipulation, suppression, and misrepresentation of science by the Bush administration is unprecedented.
Here's the statement from the Union of Concerned Scientists that was signed by 20 Nobel Laurates, and scores of other famous scientists. The complete report is available on-line from the UCS web site. Here's a NY Times editorial on this topic.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has written an article entitled The Junk Science of George W. Bush in The Nation magazine, describing his own experiences in working with the Bush administration. Here are some of the stories he details:
- The EPA falsely declared the area around the WTC after Sept 11 to be safe.
- Suppressing a study by an Agriculture Dept. scientist about "superbugs" (resistant to antibiotics) that are in the air surrounding industrial-style hog farms.
- Hydraulic fracturing is a technique in which benzene is injected into underground formations to aid in the extraction of oil. It's used by Halliburton. It turns out that some of the benzene ends up in the drinking water, in excess of federal water safty standards, as proved by an EPA study. After it came out the study was "revised" to lower the claimed level.
- The bloodstream of one in twelve US women is saturated with enough mercury to cause neurological damage, permanent IQ loss and a grim inventory of other diseases in their unborn children. As a favor to the coal industry, the EPA delayed a report about mercury from coal buring.
- If the EPA won't produce a study that gives the "right" results, then hire a consultant who will! Eg: A study by Florida developers that "proves" that wetlands generate more polution than development. Similarly for the pesticide Atrazine.
- And on and on and on. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
The mainstream news coverage of the coup in Haiti has been amazing. The event is not put in context at all. There are these "rebels". But who are they? Why are they doing this? Who is funding and equiping them? Counterspin on Friday had an excellent analysis of the coverage.
A source that is actually covering the Haiti story with some depth is Democracy Now (which you can listen to right here on WRCT at 8am each weekday).
Haiti is a democracy and Aristide was democratically elected. His term ends in 2 years. If he was doing a bad job or was unopular the proper response is to vote him out! Yet the US said Aristide should step down! The hypocrisy of this is astounding, given the US's constant pronouncements about "bringing democracy to the middle east", etc.
The US's public behavior makes it clear that it wanted this coup to be successful. There is no doubt that the US could have stopped the coup with very little effort. And this is what it should have done. It's very ikely that the US was in fact supporting the "rebels".
One reason for the US hatred of Aristide is his friendly relations with Castro. This is documented in this article U.S. 'Playing Games' With Haiti, Say Policy Critics
Slightly related to all this. The "Doctrine of change of course", which was explained by Noam Chomsky in this op-ed piece appearing in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in December:The content of the doctrine is, "Yes, in the past we did some wrong things because of innocence or inadvertence. But now that's all over, so let's not waste any more time on this boring, stale stuff."The US propped up Saddam in the 80s but that's ancient history. Now we're doing the "right" thing and getting rid of him.
But right this minute the US is doing the wrong thing with Haiti. Eventually, the US mainstream media will get around to explain this. But by then 2004 will be the "bad old days, not like now". And the pattern continues.
From the Columbia Journalism Review comes a scathing analysis of the editorials that appeared in the mainstream print press in the leadup to the Iraq war. Here's one small excerpt:But the biggest flaw, for all of the papers, goes back to the way they responded to Colin Powell's speech. At best, the presentation should have been taken to represent one side in a continuing UN debate about Iraq's weapons capacities -- exactly how international papers like the Guardian reacted to it. After all, that paper noted, UN inspectors Blix and ElBaradei had their own analyses, which often conflicted with Powell's.Here's the whole article.
Yet without appearing to weigh such contrary evidence, the U.S. papers all essentially pronounced Powell right, though they couldn't possibly know for sure that he was. In short, they trusted him. And in so doing, they failed to bring even an elementary skepticism to the Bush case for war.
Scientists are now believe that one consequence of "global warming" could be to shut down the gulf stream which keeps Europe and N. America warm. Such events have happened in the past very quickly. The time frame is on the order of years. The effect would be catastrophic, rendering vast heavily populated and agricultural areas unusable.
Pentagon planners Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall have written a report predicting the geopolitical effects of such an event. The consequences are dire. Here are some links to this story:
This story has gotten almost no play in the US mainstream media. I'm only aware of one article in Fortune magazine about it. Nothing in the mainstream news.
- We're Closer to the Edge Than We Think By Kelpie Wilson, Truthout Perspective, February 27, 2004
- Now the Pentagon Tells Bush: Climate Change Will Destroy Us The Observer, February 22, 2004 by By Mark Townsend and Paul Harris.
- Greenpeace site, February 22, 2004
- Common Dreams article, January 30, 2004
Last time we talked about longwall mining, and the havoc it's wreaking in southwestern PA. Here's an article about "America's New Coal Rush"