Monday, January 13, 2014


"Hundreds of thousands of West Virginia residents are on their fifth day without safe tap water after a chemical spill in the Elk River. The company Freedom Industries leaked up to 7,500 gallons of an agent used in coal extraction on Thursday. Residents have been barred from drinking, cooking or bathing with water from their taps. Scores of schools and businesses have been closed, including in the state capital, Charleston. The head of the West Virginia Water Company told residents to only use water for flushing toilets."

"Environmental inspectors have not visited the Freedom Industries facility behind the West Virginia chemical spill since 1991. Under West Virginia law, chemicals storage facilities are not even subject to inspections. The chemical, known as MCHM, does not receive close federal or state oversight. The plant also had no groundwater protection plan in place."

P.S. Regulations are bad for business, but no regulations are worse for people.
LORI WALLACH is a sharp cookie.

Trade agreements are handouts to big business,
that cost workers here and abroad their livelihood, 
and sometimes their lives.

The world can't afford free trade.
LORI WALLACH: Basically, there were a combination of factors. These trade agreements, like the TPP, NAFTA 20 years ago, are like the corporate Christmas tree. This is the one piece of "legislation" that every corporate interest loves. It jacks up medicine prices with patent extensions for Big Pharma. Big Content loves it because they’re like SOPA-type copyright rules. The chemical and pharmaceutical companies like it because they have actual rights to not be regulated and inspected. The oil and gas companies love it because it gives them absolute rights to natural resources. The chronic job offshoring companies love it because it gives them new investor protections to offshore. So they all lobbied Congress, squeezed Congress.

But in the end, the reason NAFTA passed was Fast Track, the arcane Nixon-era procedure that allows the executive branch to write legislation, stuffing in all kinds of goodies unrelated to the trade agreement to buy congressional votes, special deals. And then that goes through Congress with no amendments allowed, very quickly, yes-or-no vote.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Our Body Politic


We've all experienced the clash of expectations. You look forward to something and it disappoints, or you get surprised by an unanticipated joy. It happens with shows, books, parties, or when you are just hanging out with some redhead.

Any number of factors can influence an experience. Traffic, parking, or the asshole in front of you can destroy an otherwise great concert. Sometimes my favorite beers taste awful, and I can only explain it by assuming variables outside of my control are throwing things off. I certainly can't stay mad at the beer.

Well, expectations may have played a role in my reaction to two Trekker pastiches. I assumed the Hugo Award winning book "Redshirts" would be entertaining, and the ridiculous sounding "Night of the Living Trekkies" would be an awkward lark. It turns out I hated "Redshirts." I thought it was a bad idea poorly executed. Having reached with relief the end of the story, I was horrified to discover that a self-indulgent "Coda" was appended. Actually three of them. Short pieces related to the story from completely different points of view. The first coda was so annoying that I had to put the book down and debate whether to finish it. I did, but do not recommend anyone else do so.

On the other hand, "Night of the Living Trekkies" far exceeded my expectations. I didn't want to put it down. I thought it was a brilliantly executed piece of genre fiction. The story held together far better than the pathetic conceit of "Redshirts," and frankly I thought the writing was superior. It maintained a perfect balance between satire and a celebration of science fiction. It was genuinely funny and the story flowed in a natural and compelling way. I thought John Scalzi might deliver another "Galaxy Quest," but it took Kevin David Anderson and Sam Stall to pull it off. The author Scalzi may have more genre credibility than the authors of the zombie book, and his metafictional Trek rip off may have hidden depths, but when an onion is rotten why bother peeling it?

My only question is when will "Night of the Living Trekkies" hit a theater near me?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014