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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

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

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

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.


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 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.


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.

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 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??


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" 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. (

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 (

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 and

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.....

What got me going on this today was an article in today's NYT.

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?"


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

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

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 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..... 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 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 (