Yeah, But What Have They Done for Me LATELY?

The NYTimes reports that “Republicans Block U.S. Health Aid for 9/11 Workers“:

Republican senators blocked Democratic legislation on Thursday that sought to provide medical care to rescue workers and others who became ill as a result of breathing in toxic fumes, dust and smoke at the site of the World Trade Center attack in 2001.
The 9/11 health bill, a version of which was approved by the House of Representatives in September, was among several initiatives that Senate Democrats had hoped to approve before the close of the 111th Congress. Supporters believe this was their last real opportunity to have the bill passed…
There are nearly 60,000 people enrolled in health monitoring and treatment programs related to the 9/11 attacks, according to the sponsors of the bill. The federal government provides the bulk of the money for those programs.

The article prompted a great many comments, of course, including this highlighted gem from skater242 — nj:

While it is true that the Federal Gov’t should bare some responsibility for the cost of caring for those who cared so much for us, I feel that enough is enough already.
Having lived a block away from the site, i have hundreds of pictures of rescue workers in shorts, short-sleeve t-shirts, no headgear, no breathing devices/filters, nothing on their hands or any other exposed area where toxic materials can easily seep into the body and for this carelessness, i am supposed to pay for these people’s healthcare for the rest of their lives?
Aren’t most covered thru their jobs? Therefore their healthcare should be paid for by their carriers and not by the taxpayer who, incidentally supports their assault on the pension systems of NY State?

Pivoting from platitudinous piety to victim-blaming to dumping responsibility on some anyone-not-me amalgam of talking points — all in four sentences!

Building intelligent bots to churn out this kind of anti-American slush would be a waste of money, when there are morans who’ll do the same job for nothing.

Assange, Meet Tom Jefferson

It’s possible that Julian Assange is a rapist, or at least a guy with a dubious history of respecting his sexual partners’ wishes. That would not make Wikileaks as an organization any less worthwhile, or less significant. And the outrage so loudly trumpeted by some of the worst of the Media Villagers — people like Marc Thiessen and David Brooks — only makes it more likely that Wikileaks is doing an important job, and that Assange deserves some credit. Last week, when Assange’s arrest was still “immanent”, David Samuels at the Atlantic online published a piece on “The Shameful Attacks on Julian Assange” which deserves wider dissemination:

… Assange may or may not be grandiose, paranoid and delusional – terms that might be fairly applied at one time or another to most prominent investigative reporters of my acquaintance. But the fact that so many prominent old school journalists are attacking him with such unbridled force is a symptom of the failure of traditional reporting methods to penetrate a culture of official secrecy that has grown by leaps and bounds since 9/11, and threatens the functioning of a free press as a cornerstone of democracy.
The true importance of Wikileaks — and the key to understanding the motivations and behavior of its founder — lies not in the contents of the latest document dump but in the technology that made it possible, which has already shown itself to be a potent weapon to undermine official lies and defend human rights. Since 1997, Assange has devoted a great deal of his time to inventing encryption systems that make it possible for human rights workers and others to protect and upload sensitive data. The importance of Assange’s efforts to human rights workers in the field were recognized last year by Amnesty International, which gave him its Media Award for the Wikileaks investigation The Cry of Blood – Extra Judicial Killings and Disappearances, which documented the killing and disappearance of 500 young men in Kenya by the police, with the apparent connivance of the country’s political leadership.
Yet the difficulties of documenting official murder in Kenya pale next to the task of penetrating the secret world that threatens to swallow up informed public discourse in this country about America’s wars. The 250,000 cables that Wikileaks published this month represent only a drop in the bucket that holds the estimated 16 million documents that are classified top secret by the federal government every year…
It is a fact of the current media landscape that the chilling effect of threatened legal action routinely stops reporters and editors from pursuing stories that might serve the public interest – and anyone who says otherwise is either ignorant or lying. Every honest reporter and editor in America knows that the fact that most news organizations are broke, combined with the increasing threat of aggressive legal action by deep-pocketed entities, private and public, has made it much harder for good reporters to do their jobs, and ripped a hole in the delicate fabric that holds our democracy together.
The idea that Wikileaks is a threat to the traditional practice of reporting misses the point of what Assange and his co-workers have put together – a powerful tool that can help reporters circumvent the legal barriers that are making it hard for them to do their job. Even as he criticizes the evident failures of the mainstream press, Assange insists that Wikileaks should facilitate traditional reporting and analysis. “We’re the step before the first person (investigates),” he explained, when accepting Amnesty International’s award for exposing police killings in Kenya. “Then someone who is familiar with that material needs to step forward to investigate it and put it in political context. Once that is done, then it becomes of public interest.”

The issue, of course, is that among the DC media aristocrats, “the traditional practice of reporting” has been reduced to “dutiful stenography of this news cycle’s talking points”. And the battle between those media professionals who consider themselves courtiers and those who prefer the role of gadfly hasn’t changed much since the original Gilded Age, when Finley Peter Dunne said that it was the job of reporters “to afflict the comfortable, and comfort the afflicted.”

Captain’s Blog: Gulf of Mexico Oil Damage/Worse Than You Thought update

In blogging, as in much else, marrying well can make life a lot easier.

Case in point:

Through marriage to my wife I gained cousinhood with Captain Peter Willcox, who at this point in an adventurous, well-lived life, is master of the Greenpeace ship M.V. Arctic Sunrise.

Which means that because of the family connection, I get Peter’s episodic updates, his Captain’s Blog.

What follows is his latest, from a Gulf of Mexico cruise designed to assess both the damage and decision making about the Deep Horizon disaster that will define the Gulf ecosystem for decades.

First, a work about Peter:  He grew up on boats (next door to my wife-to-be, as it happens in a lefty, multi-racial sort of cooperative housing development in Connecticut, right on Long Island Sound. It was the kind of place where children learned how to sail at about the time they started walking and were allowed to skipper on their own from the moment they proved competent enough.

From there, Peter got involved in water-borne environmentalism on the queen of the Hudson River, the sloop Clearwater (one of Pete and Toshi Seeger’s many give-backs to the community), and then he joined up with Greenpeace.  There he rose to become  captain of the Rainbow Warrior — and was in command when French terrorists spies government-employed-murderous-thugs sunk the ship with two limpet mines, killing one crew member, Fernando Pereira.

In other words, Peter has been there and back again, and has some very hard-won knowledge of what the real world is like — a view barred to those who cannot tear Galt’s glasses from their eyes.

So — what’s in the latest of Peter’s dispatches?

Nothing to make one happy.

Here’s a sample:

Corexit is mostly what BP has used on the spill.  There are a few things to know about Corexit.  One is that is was banned in U.K. over ten years ago because it is so toxic, as in poisonous to humans and sea life. According to the label on the product, it will irritate the eyes, it is not to be inhaled, and it can cause harm to red blood cells, your kidney and liver.  The OSHA data sheet states: component substances have a potential to bioconcentrate, that human health hazard is acute.  Nice stuff.

Also, according to EPA data, Corexit ranked far above other dispersants for toxicity, and far below other dispersants in effectiveness in handling Louisiana crude.

Corexit was also used on the Exxon Valdez spill.  Now read carefully: Almost all the clean up workers who worked on the Exxon Valdez spill are dead.  According to CNN, who made efforts to warn the people of the Gulf about Corexit, the average lifespan of an Exxon Valdez spill worker is 51 years.  That’s almost 30 years less than that of the average American.   There were 11,000 people involved with the Exxon Valdez spill.

[Update:  CNN did not “report” these numbers.  Someone being interviewed on a CNN program made these claims.  CNN did report that an attorney with access to Exxon summaries of worker health files told the network that 6,722 out of 11,000 records showed health problems.]

The whole thing is below the jump.  Don’t read it if you have a short fuse.  You will detonate.


One last note: Peter isn’t a journalist and doesn’t claim to be one.


He’s an environmentalist, one with decades of experience with ocean issues.  You can judge for yourself how well he gets the story below. FWIW, here’s my take, as a sometime journo:


Peter lays out not just what he knows, but also from whence he gets his data. He distinguishes between that data and interpretation. He makes no secret of his presumptions, his starting point, and he clearly sees players who fill the roles of villain and fool.  I’m passing on this report both because it looks to me to be solid (and troubling as hell) and because Peter has given us all the apparatus we need to dig into his claims if we are so minded.

This is, if you were wondering, very different from what much more “credentialled” MSM pundits do. As soon as I have time, I’m going to write up a couple of recent offenders to illustrate the point, but truth is, no one reading this blog needs the crayon sketch.

Read on.  Peter’s got some serious sh*t to say.

Read more

Early Morning Open Thread: Uncertainty

Jeff Danziger’s website.

Fixing A Broken Nation

The December issue of Foreign Policy has an article by Paul Farmer, of Partners in Health, entitled “5 Lessons From Haiti’s Disaster
What the earthquake taught us about foreign aid
“. It begins:

1. Jobs are everything. All humans need money — they need it to buy food and water every day. And no matter how hard the government or the aid industry tries, people will want for all three things until they are employed…
2. Don’t starve the government. The international community doesn’t know best. Local people do. NGOs like the one that I am lucky to work with cannot replace the state — nor can the United Nations or anyone else. We don’t have the expertise, and we won’t stay forever. We don’t have the same stake in building a community that the locals themselves have… On this, almost everyone agrees.
Some donors argue that the Haitian government is rife with corruption and mismanagement — and that infusing it with money will only make matters worse. But we need to strengthen the public sector, not weaken it. And that will take a working budget….

I swear, this reminds me of a massive political disaster currently afflicting some other country, one which used to be proud of its “global pre-eminence”.