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Thursday, December 30, 2010

OUTFOXED: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism


My advice as part the everyone's New Year's resolutions should be to watch this video, share it with everyone you know, and do not stay silent about the slanted reporting and commentary that is Fox.

OUTFOXED: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism

The producer of the documentary, Robert Greenwald, is interviewed by Keith Olbermann here. It's an excellent follow up.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Manning and Assange: Modern Day Ellsberg and Woodward?

Will someone in government join Ron Paul.... RON PAUL, for crying out loud!!..... in rising up to support Assange?!? http://www.ellsberg.net/

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy




Whether you love him, hate him, or are ambivalent about Julian Assange, my support is growing for him, Bradley Manning, and the value of leaked information in holding our elected officials and their appointed representatives accountable to us.

The more I learn about Assange, Manning and people like them, the more they appear to me to be the modern equivalents of Bob Woodward and Daniel Ellsberg. Assange and Manning have brought varying degrees of secrets out into the open, and they are being attacked by people who are threatened by such exposure in very much the same way that Woodward and Ellsberg were attacked 40 years ago.

It makes me wonder, are our collective memories really that short? Are we really this collectively poor at knowing, understanding, and learning from history which for many of us is actual, living memory?


Here's an interview, Frost over the World - Julian Assange, of Assange by al Jazeera and offered by The Real News Network. I suspect that the vast majority of Americans will never even know this interview exists, let alone see it for themselves. I think it's well worth the 24 minutes. Assange answers questions and discusses who he is, what his organization is all about, how it operates, and what his extradition might mean.

Here are some other insightful sources of information about the man, the organization, and some of the absolutely unbelievable reactions they have generated.

Julian Assange Assails Fox News, Mike Huckabee, Palin On MSNBC (VIDEO)

Fox News' Bob Beckel Calls For 'Illegally' Killing Assange: 'A Dead Man Can't Leak Stuff' (VIDEO)

Assange lashes back at U.S. critics


So Biden is calling him a terrorist?

Fox commentators are calling for Assange's execution; even an illegal assassination or drone strikes?!?

Is this just pathetic hyperbole meant to drive ratings, or are they serious? Where's the outrage by mainstream media and citizens like us? When are criminal charges going to be filed against Huckabee, Beckel, and all the other fomenters of violence and assassination?

It appears to me that these leaks reveal a great deal about just how stupid, petty, and sinister government officials can be. In a Michael Moore interview by Rachel Maddow, Moore talks about leaked cables and Guardian articles that lie about Sicko being banned in Cuba, as well as threatening cables to New Zealand government officials about hosting a screening of Fahrenheit 911. At first these kinds of cables may seem simply to be stupid and petty. After all, such revelations certainly cannot be characterized as threatening to national security, can they?

But do they also signal something more sinister? Is this evidence of modern day McCarthyism that attempts to stifle truth and dissent?

Moore also makes the point in the interview that the Nuremberg Trials taught us that it's not an acceptable defense to simply claim that one was only following orders. It taught us that, as human beings, we have a moral obligation and responsibility to do whatever we can to stop people - and especially people in government and the military - when they create and perpetuate injustice or act criminally. I agree completely.

It's why the more I think about it the more I applaud, respect, and admire people with the courage to step forward. People like Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning if he (Manning) was, indeed, the one who leaked to Assange.

It's important to understand, too, that we still don't know with certainty if it was Manning and if he acted alone. Who knows if and when we will ever know for sure? He's reportedly being held in solitary confinement in a military prison.

We seem to be living in an age and in a so-called democracy where "extraordinary rendition" has not only become acceptable, it's policy. We now live in a democracy where habeas corpus has been indefinitely suspended for anyone our government decides to classify as a so-called enemy combatant. Even sadder, none of this has changed even with elections that changed the Presidency and at least for a little while, Congress. Guantanamo remains open for business, and we have no idea how many people are being held in other places.

Maybe if we're lucky more light will be shed on these issues from among the 250,000 documents recently released.

If it was Manning, then I consider him to be a hero. He is, in my opinion, a modern day Daniel Ellsberg, and Assange is equivalent to Bob Woodward.

It's why I'm finding myself more and more a supporter of Assange and WikiLeaks. It's why I thought sharing interviews of the man himself was worth doing. Let him speak. Let him tell his side with his own voice.

WikiLeaks as I see it isn't about Moore's movies or Qadhafi's nurse or the no-surprise-at-all embarrassment of diplomats saying one thing publicly and then mocking their hosts privately. It's about having the courage to speak truth to power and to shining the bright light of truth in places and on people who work for and represent us. It's about videos of helicopters firing on civilians and holding people accountable for such atrocities.

And now it's about the fear-mongering and not-so-borderline incitements to criminal actions by some in the media and in government.

It's also about the lessons we should have learned from Nazi Germany and the Nuremberg trials.

Lesson 1: Elected officials work for us, not the other way around, and they are a reflection of who we are and what we value.
Much to my chagrin, most of these last 10 years and even the last 2 years have been terribly disappointing. We and our elected officials are even meaner, more hateful, more fearful, and more xenophobic than I ever thought possible. Worse, we seem to revel in being intentionally ignorant and proudly stupid, and that's all a manipulative and malevolent ruling class needs to get away with whatever they like.

Lesson 2: The end never justifies the means.
That's true even in a dangerous world where 18 unassuming, middle class Saudis and one Egyptian can commit a heinous crime - not an act of war by a sovereign nation, but a terrible crime. We allowed ourselves to be duped by the lies of the Bush administration and plunged into a constant state of panic, fear and hatred. We seem nowadays to be eager to give our fears and our hatreds full throat. What other explanation can there be when so-called news outlets like Fox hire "pundits" who are intellectual midgets and political neophytes like Palin? We have empowered the already-powerful with all the excuse they need to keep telling us lies we want to hear about what is required to achieve security; launching and sustaining us on an amoral, illegal and dangerous military campaign of empire expansion throughout the Islamic world that will only serve to ensure the next 2 or 3 generations of terrorists intent on leaving their middle class lives and Hamburg apartments to do us harm.

Lesson 3: Simply following orders is not a defense
Sometimes being patriotic means resisting the will of government and the majority. It is our responsibility, whether we are in uniform or civilians, to hold those in power accountable. It seems reasonable that that will entail revealing information that the powerful would rather not be made public. It also includes holding former presidents accountable who not only lie to us about the reasons for invading other countries but who have spoken out publicly and in print about condoning and approving torture. I wonder if we will ever see justice done for those crimes, and if we will ever collectively understand how much more egregious state-sanctioned torture is compared with leaked diplomatic cables?

Without the Ellsbergs, Woodwards, Mannings, and Assanges of the world, how can we ever expect the people we put into power to ever feel they need to worry about being held to account for their decisions and their actions?


----

"For the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie - deliberate, contrived and dishonest - but the myth - persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic."
John F. Kennedy, Yale Commencement address, 1962

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Let's Keep Blaming Labor

A friend recently shared a Detroit News video report from 2007 about Camacari, "Ford's most advanced assembly plant," that opened in 2001 in Brazil.

The piece ends with the following claim:
"Sources in Dearborn say privately that this is the sort of facility Ford would love to build in the U.S. if only the UAW, historically adverse to this sort of supplier integration, would allow it."

Let me begin by saying that I've never worked in the automobile industry, although very close friends have. I've never been a member of the UAW, nor any other labor union.

That said, I have to wonder about the kind of thinking and reporting that leaves the viewer with the unchallenged conclusion that it is labor's fault that good paying, middle class jobs like building cars goes overseas because the UAW won't "allow" modern plants in America.

The auto industry is clearly one of the central pillars of our economy, and the web of dependencies that has been created seems completely entrenched and undoable. The reason it will be almost - not quite, but almost - impossible to change any of that and build a broader, more sustainable, diverse, and healthier economy is simple.

Money.

And who controls the money?

This report says it's the unions. Has to be them, right? I mean, the piece ends by saying that Ford supposedly wants to build plants like the one in Brazil in America with automation and JIT suppliers integrated inside and all that but the unions won't allow it.

Really? Unions? Are they the people who decide where to invest capital to build plants? Seriously? Is that really the reason Ford doesn't build plants like that in America?

Or is it possible that it might be because the Brazilian factory worker lives in a country where the minimum wage is less than $300 a month (http://tinyurl.com/24v5l8k)?

Ford's employees in Brazil probably have no health care or other benefits, and while they may be "middle class" in Brazil I'm willing to bet just about everything I have left that they can't even afford to buy one of the cars they make.

This is the kind of bullshit news reporting that really pisses me off, mostly because too many Americans are gullible enough - especially my friends on the right - to believe it. They buy this line of thinking that those poor bastards in the boardrooms and corner offices of corporate America are being held back by labor and government. All those magnanimous and benevolent capitalists want to do is invest more money into more businesses to create more jobs, but labor and the big bad government are keeping them from doing that. What a crock of shit!

It comes down to money. Yes, organized labor has money and power but make no mistake, dear reader. The money that matters and that makes these decisions is the real money - the richest 2% kind of money. GOP kind of money. It's why I'll never understand how middle-class Americans could ever, ever, EVER vote Republican. They're voting against their own economic self-interest. The trickle-down, Randian economic model that was sold by Alan Greenspan and bought hook-line-and-sinker by that moronic B-movie actor and GOP god, Ronny, and his minions in the GOP has proven not to work.

None of those facts seem to matter, though, to the latest crop of defenders of the wealthy and so-called free markets; the tea baggers, the Boehner/McConnell crowd, and the real whack jobs like Rand Paul and his Libertarians. Less regulation, more wealth protection, and even tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans has become religion for them, and that belief system has been perpetuated by liars and haters like Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and others so much so that uninformed and easily-duped Americans actually believe in the magnanimity of the rich, and worse, the fallacy of the American Dream that they, too, can someday be rich.

Devotion, admiration, and even worship for wealth, the wealthy, and the so-called captains of industry is how we got to the sorry-ass state we're in now. Maintaining that devotion and electing devotees of Ayn Rand and Ronny Reagan to high office is how we'll go over the cliff for good, too.

But, hey, not to worry. Our children, grand children, and great grand children will have it better. Unregulated, unfettered, and under-taxed free markets and the absurdly wealthy who run it are making sure that we're going to be a big part of the third world by the end of the century - maybe sooner. Then maybe all those middle class jobs will come back.

How, you ask?

Because we'll be the nation of poor, desperate people willing to do anything for a few bucks an hour.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Giving up liberty for security

Ben Franklin's famous line about liberty and security has even more meaning in the age of post-9/11 fear.

Too bad most people don't take a stand like this guy did.
TSA Encounter at SAN



In 1755 (Pennsylvania Assembly: Reply to the Governor, Tue, Nov 11, 1755), Franklin wrote: "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

This phrasing was also the motto in Historical Review of Pennsylvania, attributed to Franklin

It's important to note that this sentiment, with many variations, was much used in the Revolutionary period by Franklin and others.
http://www.ushistory.org/franklin/quotable/quote04.htm

Saturday, November 13, 2010

How a State Full of Conservatives Elects an Idiot Like Inhofe

Oklahoma Public School Students Fail Basic Citizenship Test

Sample questions:

1. What is the supreme law of the land?
2. What do we call the first 10 amendments to the Constitution?
3. What are the two parts of the U.S. Congress?
4. How many justices are on the Supreme Court?
5. Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?
6. What ocean is on the East Coast of the United States?
7. What are the two major political parties in the U.S.?
8. We elect a U.S. senator for how many years?
9. Who was the first president of the United States?
10. Who is in charge of the executive branch?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Complete Palinisms

Did Sarah Palin really say that?
By Jacob Weisberg, Slate.com
Updated Friday, Oct. 8, 2010, at 12:18 PM ET

"What I think she could add to that even is to explain what the real witchcraft and voodoo politics and economics is, and that's what's going on in D.C. And that's why she's determined to get to D.C., to write some laws and get some truth in Washington D.C. so that our economy can get roaring back to life."—On what was missing from Christine O'Donnell's "I'm You" campaign ad, to Fox News' Sean Hannity, Sept. 6, 2010.

See the complete list here.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

What August 28th is Really All About



This is what August 28th means to me. I have no idea what the people gathered at this place on August 28, 2010, think this country is all about, but I don't recognize their vision and version of America.

See what it was like on August 28, 1963.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Charley Reese's 545 People

I have no argument with the general sentiments of the email copied in below. It is, however, the victim of present-day and all too typical sets of changes without citations which then appear to belong to the original article.

I admit that I haven't spent a ton of time researching this, but this is what I was able to discover.

The original article was written by Charley, not Charlie, Reese in 1985. You'd think people would at least get the guy's name right.

Ronny-boy was resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave in 85. He was, with the same level of intellect and with the same kind of help a kindergartner gets when finger painting, the one proposing federal budgets in 85.

In 85, Dems controlled the House. (The GOP held the Senate.) Dems were clearly responsible for having the balls to tell President Chimp to go f*** himself budgetary-wise. (Any-reason-wise would have been good with me.) True to form, the spineless cowards didn't.

Notwithstanding all the editorial changes and additions too numerous to mention here, the original Reese article ends with the phrase "...have the gumption to manage their own employees." It's our fault for whom we vote into office. Granted, the pickings have never been very good. IMHO, they have degenerated into something almost completely unrecognizable and bordering on inhuman in the GOP. I submit Sharron Angle as Exhibit A.

Reese's article has reportedly been updated by the author from time to time. A 1995 revision, when the GOP controlled both houses of Congress and Slick Willy was proposing budgets, includes the following passage:

"Everything on the Republican contract is a problem created by Congress. Too much bureaucracy? Blame Congress. Too many rules? Blame Congress. Unjust tax laws? Congress wrote them. Out-of-control bureaucracy? Congress authorizes everything bureaucracies do. Americans dying in Third World rat holes on stupid U.N. missions? Congress allows it. The annual deficits? Congress votes for them. The $4 trillion plus debt? Congress created it."

GOP-controlled Congresses, as the article points out, are as guilty as Dems for not acting with fiduciary responsibility.

I found the end of the email to be downright comical. Times were better 100 years ago? Really?

I'd love to see proof that "...our nation was the most prosperous in the world" in 1910. Someone must have forgotten or ignored their history. Everything I've ever read or learned in school attributes our role in WWII as the factor most responsible for our rise to global prominence. Before that, we were wannabes.

"We had absolutely no national debt"
There was national debt in 1910, too. The fact is that there has never - NEVER - been a time when the federal government didn't carry some debt, including during the budget surplus years of Clinton.

"...had the largest middle class in the world"
Really? Someone please provide proof that there was anything even remotely resembling what we would call a middle class in America in 1910 even if it wasn't the largest in the world.

I only wish that my grandparents were still alive to ask. If you have any friends or relatives left who lived through even the Depression and WWII, ask them if they considered themselves to be "middle class" back then. Then ask them to compare it to their standard of living today.

My father (1915 - 1989) and mother (1925 - 2010) grew up in the warm embrace of unregulated, capitalist-driven, middle class status.

They really had it all, those lucky children of immigrants-turned-middle-class-Americans. After all, what's not to like? They enjoyed the comforts and security that could have come only from being serfs to...I mean, the lucky employees of..... kind, benevolent, unregulated, and non-unionized coal companies.

Their lives were replete with all the middle class luxuries we would recognize, and maybe even envy, today.

Middle class luxuries such as....
....outdoor plumbing
....endless, discount-priced shopping opportunities at the company store
....threats, beatings, and sometimes even killings....wait, I mean safe and secure working and living conditions.... courtesy of company-paid private security
....and the one thing that seems to completely resemble today's middle class American - totally oppressive debt, but in their case to the company store instead of big banks and credit card companies.


Sources:
http://www.snopes.com/politics/soapbox/reese.asp
http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/1995-03-07/news/9503060362_1_blame-congress-passed-by-congress-bureaucracy/2
http://www.ustreas.gov/education/faq/markets/national-debt.shtml
http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/117xx/doc11766/2010_08_05_FederalDebt.pdf
http://www.treasurydirect.gov/govt/reports/pd/histdebt/histdebt.htm

----
"The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little"
FDR inaugural address, 1/20/37. http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5105/





The article below is completely neutral, ...not anti Republican or Democrat.

Charlie Reese, a retired reporter for the Orlando Sentinel has hit the nail directly on the head, defining clearly who it is that in the final analysis must assume responsibility for the judgments made that impact each one of us every day.

545 vs. 300,000,000

EVERY CITIZEN NEEDS TO READ THIS AND THINK ABOUT WHAT THIS JOURNALIST HAS SCRIPTED IN THIS MESSAGE. READ IT AND THEN REALLY THINK ABOUT OUR CURRENT POLITICAL DEBACLE.


Charley Reese has been a journalist for 49 years.


545 PEOPLE--By Charlie Reese

Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them..

Have you ever wondered, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are against deficits, WHY do we have deficits?

Have you ever wondered, if all the politicians are against inflation and high taxes, WHY do we have inflation and high taxes?

You and I don't propose a federal budget. The president does.

You and I don't have the Constitutional authority to vote on appropriations. The House of Representatives does.

You and I don't write the tax code, Congress does.

You and I don't set fiscal policy, Congress does.

You and I don't control monetary policy, the Federal Reserve Bank does.

One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one president, and nine Supreme Court justices equates to 545 human beings out of the 300 million are directly, legally, morally, and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague this country.

I excluded the members of the Federal Reserve Board because that problem was created by the Congress. In 1913, Congress delegated its Constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a federally chartered, but private, central bank.

I excluded all the special interests and lobbyists for a sound reason. They have no legal authority. They have no ability to coerce a senator, a congressman, or a president to do one cotton-picking thing. I don't care if they offer a politician $1 million dollars in cash. The politician has the power to accept or reject it. No matter what the lobbyist promises, it is the legislator's responsibility to determine how he votes.

Those 545 human beings spend much of their energy convincing you that what they did is not their fault. They cooperate in this common con regardless of party.

What separates a politician from a normal human being is an excessive amount of gall. No normal human being would have the gall of a Speaker, who stood up and criticized the President for creating deficits..... The president can only propose a budget. He cannot force the Congress to accept it.

The Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, gives sole responsibility to the House of Representatives for originating and approving appropriations and taxes. Who is the speaker of the House? Nancy Pelosi. She is the leader of the majority party. She and fellow House members, not the president, can approve any budget they want. If the president vetoes it, they can pass it over his veto if they agree to.

It seems inconceivable to me that a nation of 300 million cannot replace 545 people who stand convicted -- by present facts -- of incompetence and irresponsibility. I can't think of a single domestic problem that is not traceable directly to those 545 people. When you fully grasp the plain truth that 545 people exercise the power of the federal government, then it must follow that what exists is what they want to exist.

If the tax code is unfair, it's because they want it unfair.

If the budget is in the red, it's because they want it in the red ..

If the Army & Marines are in IRAQ , it's because they want them in IRAQ

If they do not receive social security but are on an elite retirement plan not available to the people, it's because they want it that way.

There are no insoluble government problems.

Do not let these 545 people shift the blame to bureaucrats, whom they hire and whose jobs they can abolish; to lobbyists, whose gifts and advice they can reject; to regulators, to whom they give the power to regulate and from whom they can take this power. Above all, do not let them con you into the belief that there exists disembodied mystical forces like "the economy," "inflation," or "politics" that prevent them from doing what they take an oath to do.

Those 545 people, and they alone, are responsible.

They, and they alone, have the power..

They, and they alone, should be held accountable by the people who are their bosses.

Provided the voters have the gumption to manage their own employees...

We should vote all of them out of office and clean up their mess!

Charlie Reese is a former columnist of the Orlando Sentinel Newspaper.

What you do with this article now that you have read it......... Is up to you.
This might be funny if it weren't so darned true.
Be sure to read all the way to the end:
Tax his land,
Tax his bed,
Tax the table,
At which he's fed.

Tax his tractor,
Tax his mule,
Teach him taxes
Are the rule.
Tax his work,
Tax his pay,
He works for peanuts
Anyway!

Tax his cow,
Tax his goat,
Tax his pants,
Tax his coat.

Tax his ties,
Tax his shirt,
Tax his work,
Tax his dirt.

Tax his tobacco,
Tax his drink,
Tax him if he
Tries to think.

Tax his cigars,
Tax his beers,
If he cries
Tax his tears.

Tax his car,
Tax his gas,
Find other ways
To tax his butt.

Tax all he has
Then let him know
That you won't be done
Till he has no dough.

When he screams and hollers;
Then tax him some more,
Tax him till
He's good and sore.
Then tax his coffin,
Tax his grave,
Tax the sod in
Which he's laid...

Put these words
Upon his tomb,
Taxes drove me
to my doom...'

When he's gone,
Do not relax,
Its time to apply
The inheritance tax..
Accounts Receivable Tax
Building Permit Tax
CDL license Tax
Cigarette Tax
Corporate Income Tax
Dog License Tax
Excise Taxes
Federal Income Tax
Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)
Fishing License Tax
Food License Tax
Fuel Permit Tax
Gasoline Tax
Gross Receipts Tax
Hunting License Tax
Inheritance Tax
Inventory Tax
IRS Interest Charges IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)
Liquor Tax
Luxury Taxes
Marriage License Tax
Medicare Tax
Personal Property Tax
Property Tax
Real Estate Tax
Service Charge Tax
Social Security Tax
Road Usage Tax
Recreational Vehicle Tax
Sales Tax
School Tax
State Income Tax
State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)
Telephone Federal Excise Tax
Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Tax
Telephone Federal, State and Local Surcharge Taxes
Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax
Telephone Recurring and Nonrecurring Charges Tax
Telephone State and Local Tax
Telephone Usage Charge Tax
Utility Taxes
Vehicle License Registration Tax
Vehicle Sales Tax
Watercraft Registration Tax
Well Permit Tax
Workers Compensation Tax
STILL THINK THIS IS FUNNY? Not one of these taxes existed 100 years ago, & our nation was the most prosperous in the world. We had absolutely no national debt, had the largest middle class in the world, and Mom stayed home to raise the kids.

What in the heck happened? Can you spell 'politicians?'

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Next Big Battle in Washington: Bush’s Tax Cuts

A short quiz. Answer only Yes or No.

1. Are you an individual earning $200,000 or more, or a family making $250,000 a year or more?
2. Is your estate worth $1million or more?
3. Did your personal wealth grow, your overall financial condition improve, and/or your confidence in the economy strengthen after 2001, 2003, or at any time over the last 9 years?
4. Are you in favor of extending tax cuts to benefit those who answered "Yes" to questions 1 through 3 knowing that doing so is projected to potentially add $2trillion (trillion, with a "T") to the deficit?


If you answered "Yes" to any of the above, I can understand why you would support the GOP's desire to extend and even make permanent the changes to the tax code made in 2001 and 2003.

If you answered "No" to any of the above and still support the so-called "Bush Tax Cuts" the only explanations that seem reasonable to me are:
a) you may not have known these facts or,
b) you're simply choosing not to acknowledge them.


Here's another very revealing fact.

According to 2006 data from a joint study by the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2,240,000 households, or 1.93% of the 116,011,000 total American households, have incomes over $250,000. That is one-point-nine-three percent. Not quite 2 out of every one hundred households.

The Mean Income for this over-250K group? $448,687.

Here's another interesting fact from that study. Out of the 2,240,000 American households earning more than $250K, 1,984,000, or 88.57%, reported themselves as "White Alone" households.

I didn't look up any new data on estate wealth. What I have offered in the past are these facts.

According to research conducted at the University of California-Santa Cruz and updated as recently as this month, as of 2007:
-> the top 1% of Americans held 34.6% of all privately held wealth
-> the next 19% held another 50.5% of all privately held wealth
That means 85% of privately held wealth was and probably still is held by the top 20% of Americans.

That same study reveals that in 2007:
-> the top 1% of Americans held 42.7% of all Financial Wealth (defined as total net worth minus the value of one's home)
-> the next 19% held another 50.3%
93% of financial wealth is held by the top 20% of Americans.


If you still have any kind of investments left, an IRA or 401K that hasn't completely dissolved, own a home in a high-priced market, or a business that hasn't had to close its doors during the economic boon created under Bush and a GOP-controlled Congress, then perhaps your estate might be valued at $1million+. I know that mine is nowhere near that number. I sincerely hope that yours is, and that you and your heirs won't be worrying about this for a long, long time.

According to a July 21st USAToday article, some proposed Democratic and bipartisan changes would increase the exemption to as much as $5million while also lowering the tax rate from 55% to 35%.

Maybe that will put you wealthy supporters of the GOP and the Bush Tax cuts at ease; all 1.93% of you.

Here's the New York Times article that prompted this posting.

Next Big Battle in Washington: Bush’s Tax Cuts
By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN

WASHINGTON — An epic fight is brewing over what Congress and President Obama should do about the expiring Bush tax cuts, with such substantial economic and political consequences that it could shape the fall elections and fiscal policy for years to come.

Democratic leaders, including Mr. Obama, say they are intent on letting the tax cuts for the wealthy expire as scheduled at the end of this year. But they have pledged to continue the lower tax rates for individuals earning less than $200,000 and families earning less than $250,000 — what Democrats call the middle class.

Most Republicans want to extend the tax cuts for everyone, and some Democrats agree, saying it would be unwise to raise taxes on anyone while the economy remains weak. If no action is taken, taxes on income, dividends, capital gains and estates would all rise.

The issue has generated little public attention this year as Congress grappled with health care, financial regulation, energy, a Supreme Court nomination and other divisive topics. But it will move to the top of the agenda when lawmakers return to Washington in September from their summer recess, just as the midterm campaign gets under way in earnest. In recent days, intense discussions have begun at the Capitol.

Beyond the implications for family checkbooks, the tax fight will serve as a proxy for the bigger political clashes of the year, including the size of government and the best way of handling the tepid economic recovery.

“It has enormous ramifications for the fall and clearly will be one of the dominant issues,” said Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon. “This is code for the role of the federal government, the debate over the size of government and the priorities of the nation.”

At a closed-door meeting of the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday, participants said Democrats were clearly divided while Republicans wanted assurances that any bill would be developed openly, allowing them to propose amendments. In a sign of how combustible the issue could be, Senator Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat and the committee’s chairman, has so far refused to make that commitment.

Both parties are still charting strategy, but some lawmakers, Congressional aides and administration officials said Democrats must try to pass a bill before the election and not wait for a lame-duck session. “You can’t play chicken with this much of the tax system,” said a senior Republican Senate aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of even the timing of the debate.

If no tax legislation is passed, all the major tax reductions passed under President George W. Bush in 2001 and 2003 will expire, with rates reverting overnight on Dec. 31. The top marginal income tax rate, for example, would go back to 39.6 percent from 35 percent now, with corresponding increases in rates for lower income brackets.

Given the partisan gridlock of recent months, there is a chance that the battle could go down to the last minute, or even — in the face of a stalemate — that the tax cuts could be allowed to expire completely, a development that Republicans are already heralding ominously as the largest tax increase in history and that lawmakers in both parties say could be the worst outcome.

From both political and policy perspectives, the tax issue is dizzyingly complex, and even some of Washington’s most grizzled legislative operatives say they cannot predict the outcome.

Some liberals want Mr. Obama to keep his promise to raise taxes on the rich, and the White House’s budget forecasts rely heavily on rolling the top income tax rates back to their pre-2001 levels. Some fiscal hawks warn that extending the tax cuts would add more than $2 trillion to the federal budget deficits at a time when the national debt is becoming an economic concern and a political issue. Political economists are fiercely divided.

So are Democrats. In recent days, fiscal conservatives like Senators Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Evan Bayh of Indiana expressed support for extending the tax cuts at all income levels, at least temporarily.

Senior administration officials said there was no interest in such a plan at the White House, which intends to have Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner lead an effort to make the case that continuing tax breaks for the rich will not help lift the economy, but eliminating them will help reduce the deficit.

“We do not buy into the theory that because the economy is still recovering, extending tax cuts for the highest earners is a necessary or effective policy response,” said Gene Sperling, counselor to Mr. Geithner.

“While we are supporting measures like small-business lending and tax cuts to spark growth,” Mr. Sperling added, “it is also important to show the world that we are following through on our commitment to long-term fiscal discipline.”

But the questions go far beyond the basic issue of whether to allow the top two marginal income tax rates to rise.

Congress must also wrestle with the estate tax, which lapsed last year but will automatically be reinstated effectively at a 55 percent rate on Jan. 1 for estates larger than $1 million. Lawmakers must also deal with an array of other provisions, including tax rates on dividends and capital gains, and the Alternative Minimum Tax, which has been adjusted annually to prevent millions of middle-class families from paying higher tax bills. The child tax credit would also be reduced.

There are many permutations of permanent or short-term extensions of various provisions.

Negotiations are expected to start in the Senate, where it is hardest for Democrats to advance legislation because of Republican filibusters. But some Democrats say a fallback plan would be to have their larger majority in the House approve a continuation of the lower rates just for the middle class right before the election, almost daring Republicans to oppose them.

In that case, Democrats say, Republicans who opposed the bill would be blocking a tax cut for more than 95 percent of Americans to defend tax cuts for a relatively few wealthy households. Republicans are readying an arsenal of economic data to portray the Democrats as endangering the precarious recovery and harming small-business owners, some of whom are taxed at the top personal income tax rates.

In the weekly Republican radio address on Saturday, Representative Mike Pence of Indiana promised an all-out push to extend the tax cuts for everyone. “House Republicans will oppose this tax increase with everything we’ve got,” he said.

The issue is further complicated by the rising concern among voters about the federal deficit, which would be increased by roughly $1.5 trillion over 10 years just by continuing the tax breaks for the middle class. Many economists say the nation’s debt load is already headed to risky levels.

A decision on the tax issue could come just as Mr. Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform reaches a Dec. 1 deadline to propose remedies for addressing the long-term debt problems. “The big questions before us now are whether we should make some of these tax cuts permanent, and if so, which ones,” Mr. Baucus said at a recent public hearing. “But that’s not the only challenge. There’s another elephant in the room — the budget deficit. And that elephant is growing.”

At Thursday’s closed committee meeting, in a testy exchange described by several witnesses, Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, pushed for developing the bill openly in committee rather than having Democrats bring it straight to the floor.

In a statement, Mr. Hatch lambasted Democrats. “They can talk about the wealthy all they want, but this is about stopping a job-killing tax hike on small businesses during tough economic times, ” he said.

But some lawmakers, including Mr. Wyden, say the deficit concerns and the attention on the debt commission could help forge a deal: a short-term continuation of the tax cuts for the middle class, and perhaps some new tax breaks for businesses, that would buy lawmakers time to undertake a broad overhaul of the tax code in the next Congress.

Monday, July 26, 2010

What and With Whom is the Tea Party So Upset?


The marginal tax rate for median income earners has been unchanged at 15% since 1987. See http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/taxfacts/displayafact.cfm?Docid=226

So what exactly is everyone - especially those in the Tea Party - so upset about, why, and with whom?

Could it be they actually don't know the facts, or is it that they simply choose to "refudiate" and ignore those facts?

Now, if you're among the RWMFs the story is admittedly a little different.

As I'm sure all you RWMFs know, the marginal tax rates for the Twice-Median Income Earners climbed from 22% in 1967 to a peak of 43% in 1980. The Dems controlled Congress during this period. The White House was occupied by the LBJ, Nixon, Ford and Carter administrations. The GOP took back the Senate and White House in 1980 and tax rates start declining but primarily for the rich. Hooray.

As any good Randian knows, that means boon times ahead for all of us! Too bad that didn't work out as planned. The net worth and financial wealth of the top 20% of Americans went from 83.6% and 93.4%, respectively, in 1989 to 85.1% and 93.0% in 2007. (See http://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html)

So much for trickle down.

Median Income Earners, BTW, saw a much smaller increase in their marginal income tax rates from '67 to '80 and very little to no decline after 1980 until...............................wait for it...............................the Dems took back the Senate. (See the attached graph of the Tax Policy Center's data on top of which I've laid the parties in power.)

Tax rates declined even more vigorously when the Dems took back the Senate in '87 and once again controlled both Houses. Let me say that again.

TAX RATES DECLINED EVEN MORE VIGOROUSLY WHEN THE DEMS CONTROLLED CONGRESS.

All you have to do is look at the chart above and the Tax Policy Center's data and do the math yourself if you don't trust me.

And what else was happening during the 80's and 90's while tax rates were being reduced? Oh, yeah. The federal debt as a percentage of GDP was climbing. (See http://didyoucheckfirst.blogspot.com/2010/02/one-persons-perspective-on-federal-debt.html for a chart of that, again overlaid with political parties in power.)

And why was our debt rising? Could it have been because of increases in defense spending (here and here) while at the same time the taxes being paid into the Treasury were being cut perhaps? No. Couldn't be. Could it? Really. What do I know, and what do the facts prove? Nothing, right? They are easily "refudiated".

And who was it who increased taxes on the wealthy Twice-Median Income earners? Was it those evil Dems? No. It was a GOP-controlled Congress who increased those taxes in 1998 from 28% to 33%. Look at the chart and the data. The facts don't lie. Yes, the Democratically controlled Congress increased them in 2008 - an act for which they win my admiration - but they also reduced them in 2009.

Now remember, while all of this is going on the marginal income tax rates on the middle class remain the same. Let me repeat that.

MARGINAL INCOME TAX RATES ON THE MIDDLE CLASS HAVE BEEN UNCHANGED AT 15% SINCE 1987!!!!

Curiously enough marginal rates on low income earners have bounced around. They are now just a little higher than middle income earners. Evidence, IMHO, that the less money you have the less power you have in this country. You do get to be a political football, though, if you're poor.

Again, all the data is there if anyone wants to avoid an afternoon of yard work like I have. http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/taxfacts/displayafact.cfm?Docid=226

Unfunded tax cuts mean simply this: you can't reduce taxes without appreciating that those reductions mean less income to the government. Unless you replace it with some other source of funding, the deficit gets bigger. If you cut that income source by cutting taxes but still care about trying to balance the budget, then those cuts must be balanced - funded, if you will - by some combination of increases in income (taxes) elsewhere and/or cuts in expenditures.

For more on this idea, I refer you to the following:
Invincible Ignorance; Paul Krugman

Middle Class Taxes at Historic Lows; Mike Lillis, The Washington Independent


It's Unanimous! GOP Says No To Unemployment Benefits, Yes To Tax Cuts For The Rich; Brian Beutler, TPMDC (Talking Points Memo)


Bush's Unfunded Tax Cuts Did Not Increase the Deficit; Kathy Kattenburg, The Moderate Voice


Considering what I think is plenty of proof about our slide into mediocrity and mendacity manifest in so many ways by the Tea Party movement, I guess I'm not all that surprised that so many people are so upset without even understanding why.

Here's the reality. The GOP is lying, plain and simple, and Tea Partiers seem completely uninformed about the facts.

When the GOP says that Bush's tax cuts didn't increase the deficit and were good for the economy and so should be extended and don't need to be "funded" they are lying. Either that, or they believe there really are free lunches in this world.

The GOP is lying when they accuse Democrats of being the only ones who raise taxes and spend money. When Democrats have controlled Congress, at least since 1987, they clearly have not raised taxes on the middle class. In fact, if anyone bothers to look at the data they will see that it was a Democratically controlled Congress who lowered the marginal income tax rate for high-income earners in 2009 thanks in part, according to the Tax Policy Center, to the Making Work Pay Credit enacted in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

And the GOP and tea partiers have the balls to whine and cry and stomp their feet about extending unemployment benefits??? Their demand that extending unemployment must be paid for while it's ok to extend tax breaks to the wealthy without funding is both asinine and heartless.

What I'm saying - again - is that we can't have it both ways.

If you want to debate facts, let's do that. If you want to present real data, then I implore you to please do so. If any tea partiers out there can explain and defend their anger with this administration with anything even resembling data and facts, I might actually pay money for that.

Otherwise, I remain steadfast in my conclusions that unless one counts themselves among the wealthiest 5% - maybe 10% - in this country it remains simply and utterly inexplicable to me as to how or why the GOP or Tea Party holds any attraction to anyone but the wealthiest among us.....................unless, of course, you choose to ignore the facts.

Friday, July 23, 2010

American-Bred Terrorists Causing Alarm For Law Enforcement

Everyone saw the headline, right?

American-Bred Terrorists Causing Alarm For Law Enforcement

What do they mean, "law enforcement"???? WTF is that???? I thought we were at war!?!??

WAR ON TERROR!!!!

War means the military, not law enforcement; otherwise, why would we have bothered sending hundreds of thousands of troops and spent hundreds of billions of dollars invading and occupying Afghanistan and Iraq? Think the FBI could do that? The CIA? Give me a break. If this was a matter of concern for law enforcement would we just stand idly by while thousands of American and Allied lives and countless millions of civilians are killed as part of our military exploits and excursions - I mean, protection of our liberties and freedoms!! - if that should have been something for law enforcement??

PLEEEEEEASE.

So when can we expect to see tanks rolling through Fairfax? How else can we "smoke 'em out of their caves, heh, heh?" I mean, seriously, unless I've missed something the last 9 years, WE ARE AT WAR!!! Terrorism isn't a crime, it's an act of war. Call in the friggin' Army, Marines, and Blackwater contractors - the real bad asses.......oops, that's the real rich bad asses!

This is what we've been told since Sept 12, 2001, isn't it? I mean, Duh-bya and Dicky and Rummy and all those good ol' boys wouldn't lie to us, right? We're at war, dammit. And besides, we all know that it's only the sniveling liberal, peace-niks, and spineless Dems who ever lie to us. Not the good patriotic, god-fearing, Ronny-worshipping (notice which gets capitalized - their real god) Ree-pub-lickins.

So, please. Please tell me that this means we'll be invading Virginia next. We needs to "fight over there so's we don't have to fight 'em over here"....in Pennsyltucky, that is!

That's enough.

It's about effing time we started talking about terrorism for what it is - a crime. How come we're not targeting Chesser and his fellow idiot citizens with tanks, drones, and laser-guided missiles like we do in Muslim countries?

How come we send law enforcement to arrest him, but we bomb Iraq back into the stone age?
Fact: seven years after our invasion, and the lights still aren't on and the water still doesn't run like it did before we arrived. (http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2010/0621/First-day-of-summer-in-Iraq-signals-hot-violent-months-ahead)

Could it be that it's because we're a bunch of friggin' xenophobic, hypocritical, frightened, punk-ass, racists who have no problem seeing our military flex its muscle when it's against non-Christian, non-whites in another country?

Here's a clue: all the military muscle in the world won't stop terrorists. It breeds them.

And so we get to witness the next stage in the evolution of the military industrial complex Ike warned us about during our life times. We get to watch what once was a dick-measuring contest against another form of government - communism - and a couple of erstwhile opponents, the USSR and China, now evolve (devolve, if you ask me) into a perpetual and exponentially bigger drag on our economy, the federal budget, and worst of all, the moral character of our society in the name of "Homeland Security" as if we can make our homes more secure by destroying someone else's.

Now on the count of 3, everyone take another big, long, chug of the Kool-Aid. 1.................2..................3.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Condensed History and Plea for a Better Future


Dateline: October 29, 1929

U.S. stock market crashes. That wouldn't have been such a big deal for most Americans in 1929 except that unregulated banks had invested their depositor's funds into the stock market, too, and without having to tell anyone what they were doing. When the stock market tanked and there no buyers, the banks couldn't sell their holdings either. Some had to close. They no longer had the one thing a bank is supposed to have - money.

Remember, this is an unregulated industry and there was no such thing as the FDIC and deposit insurance. That didn't come along until 1933 (http://www.fdic.gov/about/learn/learning/why/index.html)

Panic about being able to get to one's money, of course, causes the "run" on the banks. Bankers have no money. They lost it all. Oops. Sorry about that.

No money in banks also means no credit for businesses to operate, either. Businesses, naturally, start to worry about preserving whatever remains of their capital so they let workers go. People don't have work so they have no income. Remember, this is before unemployment insurance or any sort of government welfare programs, too. People literally have nothing. No money in the bank and no one working means no one is buying anything, either, so there's no reason for businesses to produce much in the way of goods and services. It certainly doesn't mean there will be any growth and rehiring any time soon. The spiral downward has started, and it's adios amigos to everyone.

Ain't unregulated, unfettered capitalism grand?

And with sincere apologies to some of you, that stupid fucking Russian cunt had the balls to write a few pieces of fiction less than 30 years later and some people like Alan Greenspan either came to believe it was a new religion, suffered severe amnesia about what had happened and why a few decades earlier, simply never bothered to study history at all, or more to what I believe saw then and now that deregulation is the surest way to become filthy rich at expense of ordinary people.

Back to the 30s. So, the federal government creates programs to put people back to work - work that actually benefits society as a whole. My father worked in the CCC program. He and many other young men from PA took care of parts of the Appalachian Trail. So what, you might say. What did that really do for society? Ok. Forget the A.T. Ever hear of the TVA, Triborough Bridge, the Bay Bridge, or Grand Coulee Dam? There's a good chance something where you live that serves you, your neighbors, and the common good - a school, a hospital, or a highway, for example - was built by people employed by BOTH private businesses and the government as a result of the federal government and deficit spending to fund work programs. (See http://americanhistory.about.com/od/greatdepression/tp/new_deal_programs.htm and http://www.pbs.org/wnet/blueprintamerica/reports/the-new-new-deal/public-works-administration/693/)

Let's speed things up a bit. This is getting pretty long.

Lawmakers and citizens alike come to realize that businesses and especially banks are either too stupid or too greedy or both to be completely trusted to regulate themselves. Glass-Steagall is passed in 1932. The "Truth in Securities Act" is passed in 1933 and the SEC and a bunch of other laws are passed beginning in 1934. Banks, at least, are safe and some rules are in place to regulate the financial services industry.

Now it's 1999. The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, a GOP disaster euphemistically referred to as the Financial Services Modernization Act (reminds me the so-called "Patriot Act". We should always get very suspicious of legislation given names that sound like sugar coating or the titles of Mel Gibson movies) effectively repeals Glass-Steagall.

Only a few short years later we find ourselves once again in an economy where too little regulation and oversight exists, thanks mostly to Greenspan, the GOP, and weak-kneed Dems.

W drives the final nails into the coffin up by giving away the federal surplus to the rich, invading 2 countries off the books based on total lies (except for the fact that Afghanistan was harboring bin Laden and he proceeded to fuck that up totally by invading Iraq) and running up the biggest debt since - you guessed it - that other GOP nitwit, Reagan. The financial service sector, who had been merrily creating so-called investments out of highly speculative debt, and the real cold-blooded capitalists who were making even more billions on derivatives tied to that shaky debt, have been doing so without regulation or oversight.

When the bubble bursts ON W's WATCH, who pays? We the taxpayers do.

So I get the tea party anger. Honestly, I do. But the anger, frustration, and demand for change needs to be directed where it belongs; at deregulation, failed GOP economic and fiscal polices dating back to Reagan, and the disaster created that forced Bush to have to put TARP in place for Obama to have to accept and implement. Wake up, tea baggers and you Obama-haters. Have you just conveniently forgotten or chosen to ignore how we got here?

Now I can't believe I'm going to say this, but the more I read and listen to people a lot smarter than I the more convinced I am that TARP had to be done to save the economy and that, perhaps, the biggest mistake being made in DC is that the feds are not spending enough.

The parallels all seem to be there to the 1930s. Some experts say that FDR was too concerned about fiscal restraint in the beginning. Had he done more, they say, the Depression may not have lasted as long or required WWII to really pull us out of it. (I'm sorry that I can't find a reference to that and don't have time to keep searching right now as we're going to a grad party. Maybe someone else can find something on it. I only remember hearing it or reading it somewhere; maybe last Sunday on one of the news programs.)

There are people out there a lot smarter than I who can explain all of this a million times better. Here's one.....

http://robertreich.org/post/719313692/my-father-and-alan-greenspan

What got me going on this today was an article in today's NYT. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/11/us/politics/11tarp.html?_r=1&th&emc=th

It's proof to me that Americans really aren't very well-informed. Candidates for public office are probably the dumbest of the lot. Trying to make hay on who voted for TARP is like blaming the iceberg for the sinking of the Titanic (the iceberg didn't do anything). Captain W and his administration steered us into that iceberg. In case you haven't noticed, they and their cronies are long gone in their yachts for life boats.

How refreshing would it be for politicians to stand up to the STYLE OVER SUBSTANCE HYSTERIA IN THE MEDIA and actually educate the voters on what really caused the bottom to drop out of the economy and the fact that....gulp....there was no other choice but to go with W's bailout. I mean, really. What alternative was there?

The real objective ought to be what comes next to keep this from happening......AGAIN!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Brewer is Either a Moron, a Comfortable Liar, or a Perfect Spokesperson for the Haters on the Uber-Right



It's really sad to see McCain engaging in the same sort of injurious hyperbole and lies just to try and keep his job.

Make me wonder. How come no one on the Right is criticizing him the way another over-the-hill politician, Specter, was criticized for doing something far less reprehensible - just changing parties - to keep his job? Could it be that some people just want it both ways? Hmmm???

What's really amazing is that politicians still think they can just make shit up and no one will find out. Really? Where is she getting her advice? Is there no one on her staff saying, "Jan, boobie, you know you can't go out there talking about decapitations, dear. It's just not happening, love. You're not overdoing those 'little helpers' again, are you, hon?"

From http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/09/AR2010070902342.html

Headless bodies and other immigration tall tales in Arizona

By Dana Milbank
Sunday, July 11, 2010; A15

Jan Brewer has lost her head.

The Arizona governor, seemingly determined to repel every last tourist dollar from her pariah state, has sounded a new alarm about border violence. "Our law enforcement agencies have found bodies in the desert either buried or just lying out there that have been beheaded," she announced on local television.

Ay, caramba! Those dark-skinned foreigners are now severing the heads of fair-haired Americans? Maybe they're also scalping them or shrinking them or putting them on a spike.

But those in fear of losing parts north of the neckline can relax. There's not a follicle of evidence to support Brewer's claim.

The Arizona Guardian Web site checked with medical examiners in Arizona's border counties, and the coroners said they had never seen an immigration-related beheading. I called and e-mailed Brewer's press office requesting documentation of decapitation; no reply.

Brewer's mindlessness about headlessness is just one of the immigration falsehoods being spread by Arizona politicians. Border violence on the rise? Phoenix becoming the world's No. 2 kidnapping capital? Illegal immigrants responsible for most police killings? The majority of those crossing the border are drug mules? All wrong.

This matters, because it means the entire premise of the Arizona immigration law is a fallacy. Arizona officials say they've had to step in because federal officials aren't doing enough to stem increasing border violence. The scary claims of violence, in turn, explain why the American public supports the Arizona crackdown.

Last year gave us death panels and granny killings, but compared with the nonsense justifying the immigration crackdown, the health-care debate was an evening at the Oxford Union Society.

Two months ago, the Arizona Republic published an exhaustive report that found that, according to statistics from the FBI and Arizona police agencies, crime in Arizona border towns has been "essentially flat for the past decade." For example, "In 2000, there were 23 rapes, robberies and murders in Nogales, Ariz. Last year, despite nearly a decade of population growth, there were 19 such crimes." The Pima County sheriff reported that "the border has never been more secure."

FBI statistics show violent crime rates in all of the border states are lower than they were a decade ago -- yet Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) reports that the violence is "the worst I have ever seen." President Obama justifiably asserted last week that "the southern border is more secure today than any time in the past 20 years," yet Rush Limbaugh judged the president to be "fit for the psycho ward" on the basis of that remark.

Without question, illegal immigration and Mexican drug cartels are huge problems. And there is a real danger that the alarming and growing violence in Mexico could spread north. But beyond anecdotes -- the slaying of a rancher and the shooting of a sheriff's deputy -- there is no evidence that it has.

Yet there is McCain -- second only to Brewer in wrecking Arizona tourism -- telling NBC, ABC and CNN that Phoenix is the "No. 2 kidnapping capital of the world," behind only Mexico City. "False," judged Politifact, tracing McCain's claim to a dubious report by ABC News in February 2009. Law-enforcement agencies generally don't track foreign kidnapping statistics, but experts said rates are far higher in various Central American, African and Asian countries. Reports of kidnapping in Phoenix, meanwhile, are declining.

Next, there's Brewer's claim that "the majority" of people immigrating illegally "are coming here and they're bringing drugs, and they're doing drop houses and they're extorting people and they're terrorizing the families. That is the truth." No, it isn't. The Border Patrol's Tucson Sector has apprehended more than 170,000 undocumented immigrants since Oct. 1, but only about 1,100 drug prosecutions have been filed in Arizona in that time.

The claim that illegal immigrants are behind most killings of law-enforcement personnel is also bunk. Arizona state Sen. Sylvia Allen claimed that "in the last few years 80 percent of our law enforcement that have been killed or wounded have been by an illegal." A Phoenix police spokesman told the Arizona Republic's E.J. Montini that the real figure for such killings is less than 25 percent, and that there are no statistics on the wounding of officers.

So what is this "terrible border security crisis" that Brewer says has only "gotten worse"? She complained recently to Fox News's Greta Van Susteren about the Obama administration's handling of the border: "They haven't did [sic] their job."

But really the person who hasn't did her job is Brewer. She should screw her head back on and start telling Americans the truth.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Style Over Substance

http://wimp.com/fareedzakaria/

If I may offer my own opinion (and even if I may not), I would begin by saying that our society is rooted in a culture that values style over substance. (There's a bold statement, eh?!?!) We only have ourselves to blame.

Some like me would say that style-over-substance is the only explanation for how Ronny Ray-Gun, Slick Willy, Dumb-ya and even Obama got elected. Yes, even Obama. He was the right guy with the right message and right delivery at the right time. It's refreshing to have a president who speaks in complete sentences and doesn't come off like some dumb ass cowboy who fell out of his saddle one too many times....or in W's case, who has all the right power-base genes but the intellect of a toaster oven.

Frankly, 2 turds could have beaten any GOP ticket considering how bad W screwed things up. That and the fact that the best the party of Lincoln could come up with was a near-senile ex-maverick and a brainless windbag ex-beauty queen who doesn't read a single newspaper and seems pretty proud of her ignorance. The GOP deserved to lose. Some, including me, would cast them - McCain, mostly - in the role of sacrificial lamb. Hell, let's face it. After W's 8-year debacle a GOP ticket of Jesus Christ and Ayn Rand still would have lost.

One thing I think we might all agree on is that "style" has taken over substance. "Style" when it comes to leaders and especially presidents is overrated. I'll bet "style" isn't exactly the first adjective that comes to mind when we think about Nixon, Carter, or George Herbert. Not that any of them were particularly great leaders. Damn, now that I started on this path I have to admit that they all sucked, too. They sucked *AND* had no style. What a trio of losers, eh? Carter, of course, is my favorite among the three but that's only because of what I've learned about GHWB and Jimmy since they left office.

I wonder if any of us will live long enough to see the voting public mature as a society to a point where we focus on facts, the issues, and policies and forget the rhetoric and hyperbole. Sadly, I suspect not. My hope still rests with my children's generation. Ironically, it seems simultaneously easier and harder to fool the digital generation. Clearly, we have done nothing but screw things up royally.

Speaking of screw ups, what a freak show 2012 promises to be if you real Republicans finally and completely surrender your party to the lunatic fringe nut-jobs and Palin is your candidate. If that happens, I can only hope Inhofe or maybe her fellow Faux News celeb, Huckabee, is her running mate. Wwooooooooo-doggies!!!! We're gonna' have us one big ol' Meet the Kardashian-type media circus campaign, you betcha!!! Break out the grizzly jerky and the Good Book, and let's have us some drilling in the ANWR, deportation of anyone who even resembles a Latino, and teaching Creationism in public schools! Hell, let's just have us one big ol' full blown Christian Taliban White House!! If you ain't a white, heterosexual, god-fearing, conservative, lifetime member of the NRA, and deeeee-vout Christian, well then, you're a commie pinko tree-huggin' fagot socialist and we're gonna' show you the door!

You know us middle-class whites - any chance we get to piss on someone below us on the socio-economic ladder and we'll whip it out just to prove that our lord god and savior, Ronny-boy, was right about trickle down!

Enough of that. It's hyperbole, and I'm sure it pisses some of you off. Sorry, but it serves to make the point. We have ourselves to blame.

The media is about eyeballs and advertisers. You've heard it from me before. The media focuses on the president's emotions or lack thereof because that's what we care about and will watch. We don't care about real leadership. Hell, most Americans wouldn't know what that was if it slapped us squarely in the face. When we think of leadership we think of Ben Rothlisberger or Kobe Bryant or John Wayne. We don't think about intelligence and intellect. We don't think about careful contemplation, consequences, inclusion, or long-term consideration for the common good and the general welfare. We certainly don't seem to think about the truth or facts about anything unless, of course, they appear to fit our preconceived notions, beliefs, and desires for what we want and wish the world to be.

What other explanation is there for the ridicule from some quarters of sources like PolitiFact, FactCheck, Snopes, and other unbiased resources?

What other reason can there for Obama's handlers and his political opponents alike to make so much about his "kicking some ass" comments? One side claims it demonstrates his toughness while the other sees it as an indictment of him and his leadership while ogres like Cheney telling legislators to go f*** themselves and that chimp W's stupid flip of the middle finger to a camera like some delinquent ninth grader gets a pass. Oh, then there's that whole inconvenient torture thing, but, hey, we're Americans! We can do whatever the hell we want, whenever the hell we want, and to whomever the hell we want because............well, that's the bully's prerogative.

So, coming from a self-proclaimed flaming liberal, the real crime is that we citizens don't stop and take the time to ask real questions or do our own homework. There simply is, IMHO, no other rational explanation for why things are as they are. We are complicit in the dumbing-down of America, the media, and American politics. Only we can change that. Nothing could have convinced me more of that than seeing a tea party rally with my own eyes.

I don't care that they hate Obama, I really don't. Like most hate, it's out of ignorance. What I care about is that the media pays any attention at all to this lunatic fringe and their lunatic demigod, Queen Sarah. Sharron Angle? Are you effing kidding? How does someone like that rise to any more prominence than with a bunch of local snake handlers without the media and our moth-like reaction to follow the light?

Every second of attention paid by the media to the tea party movement confers a mistaken and misguided sense of credibility they do not deserve and can only win with an uneducated, uniformed portion of the populace who thinks their values are being echoed when all they really are is more fodder for the movement. Moths to the flame; eyeballs to the advertisers.

I get the frustration, I really do. We all have some. But what I saw on July 3rd in my proverbial backyard was the basest elements of what I thought was a democratic society. These people don't care about democracy. They pay it lip service. They don't care about facts or the truth. Listen to their speakers. What they want is a segregationist's America, complete with discrimination against anyone who isn't a god-fearing white face like themselves. What they want is a white man back in the White House; preferably a good Episcopalian, Presbyterian, or Methodist, and in a pinch, a Baptist. No matter what, anyone with a name like Barak Hussein Obama is obviously a Muslim, probably isn't a citizen, and is for sure just a little too tanned for the liking of good ol' fashioned baseball, apple pie, and Chevrolet Americans, goddammit.

And we have ourselves and our feeding of the media-beast to blame for all of this. Why else would the president's emotions - real or staged - seem to get more attention than what caused the disaster in the Gulf and what we're going to do as a nation and as a people to make sure this never, ever, ever happens again anywhere, not just in the USA?

Must be because what we value most is style over substance.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Special Comment: Teabaggers and Racisim.




I went to my first tea party (notice the terminology) rally this weekend sponsored by the Southwest PA Tea Party.

Had to see for myself. Video of the MC (I guess that's who he was) and their featured speaker, some talk show/commentator who fills in for Savage and Doyle (tells you everything you need to know about him) named Jeff Kuhner from DC, are at http://www.youtube.com/user/PeaceIsPatriotic.

I know some of you won't believe this, but I went with an open mind. These people are, after all, locals and neighbors. The event was only a few miles from my home. I wanted to see and hear what was being said. I wanted to find some common ground.

I did. I'm as pissed off as anyone about the state of affairs in this country. I was hoping to hear solutions and rational ideas mixed in with the anger and frustration. Surely, my neighbors weren't the same idiotic racists and blindly loyal conservatives I've seen on TV and the Internet at all the other tea party rallies. Surely, they weren't the stereotypical "tea baggers" with their thinly veiled racism and complete lack of understanding of the facts about how we got to this sorry state in America and whom I've come to hold in utter contempt and disdain.

Not here. Not my neighbors.

Sadly, I was wrong. The common ground was all too thin. The stereotypes are all too true.

This was a gathering of angry white Christian rednecks only. It was sad to see and hear how completely uninformed these people are. They blame Obama for everything; from being a socialist and a Marxist (2 different things, of course), to wanting amnesty for illegals (he doesn't), to the financial and economic crisis (don't even make me say it), to not having capped the oil well. They want people "back on their knees" and praying only to their Christian god (lower case intentional).

It was sad to see this live, in-person, and first-hand. It's sad to see just how easily duped some people are. They hear only what they want and cheer on cue....like at the mere mention of Ronny Reagan.

I have news for you, my neighbors. Chants of "USA, USA" and dressing up in colonial costumes does NOT make you a patriot. You are an embarrassment to me, this part of PA and the real Americans who see you for what you really are.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

How Pissed Off Would You Be If Someone....

....erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

....kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

....affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

....combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.


How much more pissed off would you get if someone was.....
....at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.


And who would you be?

Would you be a modern-day Iraqi, Afghan, or a Colonial subject of King George III in the last part of the 18th century? I think it describes all 3.

Read it for yourself at http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/index.htm then tell me the America of today isn't guilty of exactly the same things that spurred a handful of brave and wealthy elites (for that's really what they were) to revolt against their oppressor.

-----
"For the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie - deliberate, contrived and dishonest - but the myth - persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic."
John F. Kennedy, Yale Commencement address, 1962 (http://www.jfklibrary.org/Historical+Resources/Archives/Reference+Desk/Speeches/JFK/003POF03Yale06111962.htm)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Physicians group accuses CIA of testing torture techniques on detainees - latimes.com

Physicians group accuses CIA of testing torture techniques on detainees - latimes.com

I only wish I could be surprised by this..... There's only one way to determine the truth and that's to pursue these findings for what they are - evidence of the possibility of a crime. Only then will we know if there is, in fact, anything even remotely resembling real courage or justice left in our government, our country, and our society. Only a tyrant tortures, and only an amoral culture condones it no matter the supposed reasons or justification.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Obama Not the 1st President to Miss Memorial Day at Arlington

Radio and TV talker Glenn Beck (on May 25) said, "Obama is skipping out on a Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington Cemetery because he'll be in Chicago on vacation." On his show, Beck incorrectly asserted that the president "has decided not to honor our troops on Memorial Day."

Beck said, "Maybe this has happened before. I don't recall it."


Source: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20006346-503544.html

Only a cretin of the highest order would be stupid enough to say things so patently false and easily debunked. And if he's not this stupid, then he is clearly and most certainly one of the most reprehensible creatures ever to use mass media to make himself wealthy while knowingly misleading those who are all too willing to be misled.

It's an unforgivable smear on the gravity, dignity, and importance of this day of somber remembrance. I couldn't let it pass.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

How I Solved the Debt Crisis






How I got the U.S. to an acceptable debt level at http://crfb.org/stabilizethedebt/. My selections are in bold below.


Iraq and Afghanistan

Reduce Troops to 60,000 by 2015
-$350B

Reduce Troops to 30,000 by 2013
-$740B
Maintain Current Funding Levels
$0

2001/2003 Tax Cuts
Renew All the Tax Cuts
$3,280B
Renew the Tax Cuts on Income Below $250k/200k
$2,590B
Reduce Lower Rate Cuts by Half and Let Upper-Income Cuts Expire
$2,060B
Allow All the Tax Cuts, Except for AMT Patches, to Expire
$480


Discretionary Spending Growth
Grow Regular Discretionary Spending with GDP
$1,290B
Adopt the Discretionary Spending Growth Rates in the President's Budget
$680B
Grow Regular Discretionary Spending with Inflation
$0


Defense, Diplomacy & Security
Enact Administration's Proposed Weapon System Cuts
-$30B


Foreign Aid
Cut Foreign Economic Aid in Half
-$110B

Increase Foreign Economic Aid by 50%
$110B

Veterans' Benefits
Reduce Veteran's Income Security Benefits
-$50B
Expand Veteran's Income Security Benefits
$30B


Cancel Missile Defense System
-$50B

Reduce Spending on Ship Building
-$50B

Increase Homeland Security Spending
$50B

Troop Levels
Increase Number of troops by 46,000
$70B
Reverse "Grow the Army" Initiative
-$90B


Domestic Social & Economic Spending
Cancel TARP and Rescind Unused ARRA Funds
-$350B

Enact New Jobs Bill
$210B

Food Stamps
Gradually Reduce Benefits to 2008 Levels
-$100B
Index Current (Post-Stimulus) Benefits to GDP
$140B


Freeze Average Unemployment Benefits at 2009 Levels
-$50B
Cut Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) Program
-$50B
Cut Federal Funding of K-12 Education by 25%
-$60
Eliminate the New Markets Tax Credit
-$40B
Cut School Breakfast Programs
-$30
Double Funding on Adoption and Foster Care
$70B
Increase Funding for the Education of Disadvantaged and Disabled Children
$290

Social Security
Raise the Normal Retirement Age to 68
-$110B

Slow Initial Benefit Growth
Gradually Reduce Scheduled Benefits (by 30% in 2080)
-$100B

Progressively Reduce Benefits, Protecting Low Earners
-$80B
Progressively Reduce Benefits, Protecting Low and Medium Earners
-$60B
Use An Alternate Measure of Inflation for COLAs
-$100B

Reduce Spousal Benefits from 50% to 33%
-$20B
Increase Years Used to Calculate Benefits
-$40B
Include all New State and Local Workers
-$80B
Institute a Minimum Benefit
$130B

Health Care
Modify Health Care Reform Law

Expand Coverage to an Additional 5 Million People
$130B
Reduce Insurance Subsidies by 20%
-$160B
Repeal Entire Legislation
$160B
Repeal Legislation, but Keep Medicare/Medicaid Cuts
-$260B
Increase Cost-Sharing for Medicare
-$100B
Raise Medicare Premiums to 35% of Costs
-$140B
Reduce Spending on Graduate Medical Education
-$20B
Enact Medical Malpractice Reform
-$50B
Increase the Medicare Retirement Age to 67
-$80B
Replace Traditional Medicare with Insurance Vouchers
-$120B
Modify Federal Medicaid Funding to States

Reduce Funding Removing Floor on Matches
-$130B
Increase Average Matches from 57% to 60%
$140B


Other Spending
Eliminate Certain Outdated Programs
-$40B
Reduce Federal Highway Funding
-$70B
Reduce or Eliminate Certain Transportation Programs
-$20B
Cut Federal Workforce by Five Percent
-$130B
Cancel NASA Missions to the Moon and Mars
-$40B
Reduce Farm Subsidies
-$80B
Expand Spending on Federal Research & Development
$100
Cut Earmarks in Half
-$80B

Increase Mass Transit Funding
$60B


Revenues
Increase User Fees Across the Board
-$40B
Sell Certain Government Assets
-$70B
Impose Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee
-$80B
Reform International Tax System
-$120B
Enact Carbon Tax or Cap-and-Trade
-$330B
Increase Gas Tax by 10 Cents per Gallon
-$80B
Enact Five percent VAT With Partial Rebate
-$630B

Gradually Increase Dependent Exemption by $3,500
$190B
Impose Surtax on Income above $1 million
-$190B
Gradually Increase Payroll Tax by One Percentage Point
-$130B


Raise Social Security Payroll Tax Cap
Raise Cap to Cover 90% of Earnings
-$420B

Institute Two Percent Surtax on Earnings Above Cap
-$190B
Reduce Corporate Tax Rate from 35% to 30%
$390B
Index Tax Code to Alternate Measure of Inflation
-$80B
Improve Tax Collection (Reduce Tax Gap)
-$20B


Tax Expenditures
Convert Mortgage Interest Deduction to a 20% Credit
-$190B
Limit Itemized Deductions for High-Earners
-$250B
Curtail State and Local Tax Deduction
-$470B
Eliminate Life Insurance Tax Benefits
-$220B

Eliminate Subsidies for Biofuels
-$110B
Make Research & Development Tax Credit Permanent
$80B
Extend $400/person Making Work Pay Credit
-$400B

Tax Credits for Children and Families
Cut the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
-$70B
Expand the EITC and Child Tax Credit
$90B
Extend "American Opportunity" College Tax Credit
$60B

Tax Treatment of Employer Sponsored Health Insurance
Begin Excise Tax on High-Cost Plans in 2013 Instead of 2018
-$110B

Repeal Excise Tax on High-Cost Plans
$10B
Replace Employer Health Care Exclusion with a Flat Credit (In Place of Excise Tax)
-$340B

Friday, May 21, 2010

Reinventing financial regulation

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/graphic/2010/05/20/GR2010052004992.html


I'm glad to see a return to some degree of sanity.

How many more times will we fall for the lies and deceptions of so-called free markets and deregulation before we learn the lesson?

Eff the Gramm-Leach-Bliley act and all the harm it and Randians everywhere have done to our great country, our economy and our once great society. How much more proof do we ordinary citizens need that the people with money and power can never, ever, ever be trusted to do what's right for anyone but themselves?

Markets only work for everyone when there are some rules that enforce fairness and honesty.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Magnetar Trade: How One Hedge Fund Helped Keep the Bubble Going (Single Page) from ProPublica.com

Worth the read for anyone who wants to understand what happened to cause the economic crash from inside the complex world of collateralized debt obligations, credit default swaps, and individual bankers, CDO managers, and hedge funds.

http://www.propublica.org/feature/all-the-magnetar-trade-how-one-hedge-fund-helped-keep-the-housing-bubble

If you prefer listening to the story, you can stream it or download the an MP3 file from http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/405/inside-job

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Wake up GOP and Conservatives and Quit Being Idiot Tea-Baggers!

http://www.gallup.com/poll/127181/Tea-Partiers-Fairly-Mainstream-Demographics.aspx#1

Don't let the title fool you.

Only 28% of U.S. adults admit to being tea-baggers. 26% oppose. 38% neither support nor oppose. 8% don't give a f***.

49% of tea-baggers identify themselves as GOP compared to.....
...... a whopping 28% of all U.S. adults who are willing to admit that they are Republicans.

72% of all U.S. adults are either Independent (40%) or Dems (32%).

Here's a shocker....
70% of tea-baggers say they are Conservative but only 40% of U.S. adults say so. 59% of U.S. adults are either Moderate (38%) or Liberal (21%).

And look, another huge surprise....
19% of tea-baggers earn less than $30K a year
...... 55% make more than $50K

More surprises....
62% of Republicans and 63% of Conservatives have a favorable opinion of tea-baggers, but......
WHOOPS!
More National Adults overall(40% v 37%), Independents (41% v 37%), and Moderates (51% v 24%) have an UNFAVORABLE opinion compared to a favorable one.

Wake up you Republicans and Conservatives before you disappear completely into the cultural oblivion and societal garbage heap which is most certainly the final destination of Queen Tea Bag and her moronic movement.