Saturday, April 30, 2011

Afghanistan: Lessons Forgotten Are Lessons Unlearned

The Unpleasant, Uncomfortable, Inconvenient Truth.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

We Have Come to This.

At Long Last, We have Retrogressed a Century Back in Time....

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

April 19th is Branch Davidian Day (Republished)

What Happened 15 18 Years Ago in Waco, Texas?

Today is the 15th 18th anniversary of the U.S. government's storming of the Branch Davidians Mount Carmel compound in Waco, Texas. Federal agents released CS tear gas into the building, and several fires broke out, spreading quickly through the structure. Approximately 76 Branch Davidians, 21 of whom were children, were killed in the ensuing blaze. Autopsies confirmed that many of the victims, including David Koresh, had died of single gunshot wounds to their heads. As I recall, no government agent fired a gun during this assault.

This raid culminated from a costly 51-day stand off which stemmedfrom the murder of four ATF agents while they were serving a lawful warrant on Davidian cult leader David Koresh.

This all-time great Michael Ramirez cartoon adequately expresses my own view at the time as to where the true responsibility for this tragedy lies.

David Koresh, a false prophet, broke the peace. Davidians had attacked my government, back in the days when it actually governed.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


I thought you might be interested in this petition. I've signed it.

I am heartsick at Obama's spinelessness and failure to use the Bully Pulpit to change the political discourse in our country. Think of all that he could have done these past two+ years had he had the courage to use these Republian't over-reaches as the "teaching moments" that they are.

I thought Obama was a man of integrity, vision, and courage, but it seems that his courage existed only in my hopeful heart - it seems to have evaporated with his inauguration as our President.

I'm not asking him to blame the Republican'ts. I am asking him to speak the truth to Americans about the lies, distortions, fear-mongering, and the utter contempt for our democracy that permeates today's Republican't party.

I voted for Obama because I believed him when he said he was "all fired up and ready to go".

Sadly for me and ruinously for our country, Obama has turned out to be am empty suit - he gives beautifully crafted inspiring speeches, but when confronted with the Republican't party's obstructionist, revisionist manipulations intended to turn our beloved country into an oligarchy comprised of the Rulers, and the Ruled , he is silent, capitulating to the demands of the Repubs BEFORE negotiations have even begun.

Has Obama pointed out that our country is in danger of becoming a third-world bankrupt nation as a result of Bush's two unfunded wars, and Bush's choice to shower un-necessary tax cuts upon our richest Americans, thereby ensuring that the United States would soon face such a severe and crippling loss of income that the government would be penniless? No, Obama has not.

Instead, he is colluding with the Republican'ts to eliminate/privatize our country's safety nets for seniors and the needy by extending the Bush tax-cuts for the wealthiest one per-cent (let's call it what it is: "CEO-corporate-welfare") and approving the largest budget cuts EVER foisted upon the American people in the history of our nation.

Just as the Republican'ts continually attacked Clinton in an attempt to marginalize him and render him ineffective (which Bill actively aided and abetted through his juvenile behaviors), so Obama has apparently been rendered mute and irrelevant by the continuing barrage of lies that attempt to paint him as alien and illegitimate.

The Republican'ts are well aware that the cuts for which they so loudly advocate are cuts that will completely derail, if not end, our embryonic economic "recovery" from the "Big Recession-Almost-Another-Depression". That is their hidden goal": deprive the government of funding, then declare an economic "crisis"/"disaster" (ignoring the fact that it has been largely created by the Republican'ts) and push through the punitive and destructive social agenda that would undo the social safety net, and establish the United Corporation of America.

The strategies employed by the Republican'ts over the last several decades are the legacies of Reagan's poisonous sound bite that defined government as "The Problem", rather than "The Solution" - a complete rejection of our Founders who envisioned an informed citizenry electing members of Congress who would work TOGETHER for the good of the country - not just for the greedy Corporations and their CEO's. .

Today, Reagan's words are enshrined as the mantra of the Republican't party. More significantly and regrettably, they are hostile and hopeless words which, to this very day, remain completely UNCHALLENGED.

In an "Alice-in-Wonderland" moment, which has been inflicted upon us by the greed and speculation of Wall Street CEO's and their corporate boards, those scoundrels have received huge governmental bail-outs and "bonuses", while non-corporate America is mired in a wasteland of growing income disparity. The increasingly widening income gap between the top one-per cent and the rest of our citizens is slowly but surely turning America into a divided nation of those who have money and power and those who have neither.

The terrible economic disparity which has led to an increasing number of Americans who are jobless and without any economic "bailout", many of whom are losing their homes, while simultaneously being confronted with rising prices for health insurance, food, and gas - to name but three necessities of daily living now moving beyond reach for too many of our fellow citizens.

I thought Obama had the courage of his convictions - sadly, I was wrong - VERY wrong. I am grieving for Obama the Candidate - where is he? What happened to him that he refuses to lead, refuses to inform and educate our citizens?

I did not vote for Obama the Cowardly Appeaser. I want Obama the Candidate to come out of hiding and fulfill his campaign promises to stand up and lead our divided and increasingly despairing nation.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

On Bullies & Bullying

Robert Reich is always right. "Right" meaning "correct". That's the way I see it these days. I know of no one getting the correct view on public events better than he nails down.

His last post addresses the problem of Right Wing Bullies sucking the life out of American democracy.

When I was a small boy I was bullied more than most, mainly because I was a foot shorter than than everyone else. They demanded the cupcake my mother had packed in my lunchbox, or, they said, they’d beat me up. After a close call in the boy’s room, I paid up. Weeks later, they demanded half my sandwich as well. I gave in to that one, too. But I could see what was coming next. They’d demand everything else. Somewhere along the line I decided I’d have a take a stand. The fight wasn’t pleasant. But the bullies stopped their bullying.

I hope the President decides he has to take a stand, and the sooner the better. Last December he caved in to Republican demands that the Bush tax cut be extended to wealthier Americans for two more years, at a cost of more than $60 billion. That was only the beginning — the equivalent of my cupcake.

Last night he gave away more than half the sandwich — $39 billion less than was budgeted for 2010, $79 billion less than he originally requested. Non-defense discretionary spending — basically, everything from roads and bridges to schools and innumerable programs for the poor — has been slashed.

The right-wing bullies are emboldened. They will hold the nation hostage again and again.

In a few weeks the debt ceiling has to be raised. After that, next year’s budget has to be decided on. House Budget Chair Paul Ryan has already put forward proposals to turn Medicare into vouchers that funnel money to private insurance companies, turn Medicaid and Food Stamps into block grants that give states discretion to shift them to the non-poor, and give even more big tax cuts to the rich.

There will also be Republican votes to de-fund the new health care law.

Americans of different beliefs came together,” the President announced after agreement was reached. It was the “largest spending cut in our history.” He sounded triumphant. In fact, he’s encouraging the bullies onward.

All the while, he and the Democratic leadership in Congress refuse to refute the Republicans’ big lie — that spending cuts will lead to more jobs. In fact, spending cuts now will lead to fewer jobs. They’ll slow down an already-anemic recovery. That will cause immense and unnecessary suffering for millions of Americans.

The President continues to legitimize the Republican claim that too much government spending caused the economy to tank, and that by cutting back spending we’ll get the economy going again.

Even before the bullies began hammering him his deficit commission already recommended $3 of spending cuts for every dollar of tax increase. Then the President froze non-defense domestic spending and froze federal pay. And he continues to draw the false analogy between a family’s budget and the national budget.

He is losing the war of ideas because he won’t tell the American public the truth: That we need more government spending now — not less — in order to get out of the gravitational pull of the Great Recession.

That we got into the Great Recession because Wall Street went bonkers and government failed to do its job at regulating financial markets. And that much of the current deficit comes from the necessary response to that financial crisis.

That the only ways to deal with the long-term budget problem is to demand that the rich pay their fair share of taxes, and to slow down soaring health-care costs.

And that, at a deeper level, the increasingly lopsided distribution of income and wealth has robbed the vast working middle class of the purchasing power they need to keep the economy going at full capacity.

We preserved the investments we need to win the future,” he said last night. That’s not true. The budget he just approved will cut Pell grants to poor kids, while states continue massive cutbacks in school spending — firing tens of thousands of teachers and raising fees at public universities. The budget he approved is cruel to the nation’s working class and poor.

It is impossible to fight bullies merely by saying they’re going too far.

Because I am so frickin' pissed off that I don't have sufficient patience, energy, or voice to compose my own outrage, I will allow Secretary Reich to speak for me. Anytime.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Progressive Agenda Is Progressive Taxation

Joseph E. Stiglitz rightly calls our United Corporations of America as government Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%.

Today, 1% of the people take nearly a 25% of the nation’s income. In terms of wealth as opposed to income, the top 1% control 40% of America's wealth. 25 Years ago the top 1% took in 12% of the income and controlled 33% of our wealth.

The author continues,

One response might be to celebrate the ingenuity and drive that brought good fortune to these people, and to contend that a rising tide lifts all boats.

That response would be misguided. While the top 1 percent have seen their incomes rise 18 percent over the past decade, those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall. For men with only high-school degrees, the decline has been precipitous—12 percent in the last quarter-century alone. All the growth in recent decades—and more—has gone to those at the top.

In terms of income equality, America lags behind any country in the old, ossified Europe that President George W. Bush used to deride. Among our closest counterparts are Russia with its oligarchs and Iran.

While many of the old centers of inequality in Latin America, such as Brazil, have been striving in recent years, rather successfully, to improve the plight of the poor and reduce gaps in income, America has allowed inequality to grow.

Economists long ago tried to justify the vast inequalities that seemed so troubling in the mid-19th century—inequalities that are but a pale shadow of what we are seeing in America today.

The justification they came up with was called “marginal-productivity theory.” In a nutshell, this theory associated higher incomes with higher productivity and a greater contribution to society. It is a theory that has always been cherished by the rich.

Evidence for its validity, however, remains thin. The corporate executives who helped bring on the recession of the past three years—whose contribution to our society, and to their own companies, has been massively negative—went on to receive large bonuses. In some cases, companies were so embarrassed about calling such rewards “performance bonuses” that they felt compelled to change the name to “retention bonuses” (even if the only thing being retained was bad performance).

Those who have contributed great positive innovations to our society, from the pioneers of genetic understanding to the pioneers of the Information Age, have received a pittance compared with those responsible for the financial innovations that brought our global economy to the brink of ruin.

Some people look at income inequality and shrug their shoulders. So what if this person gains and that person loses? What matters, they argue, is not how the pie is divided but the size of the pie.

That argument is fundamentally wrong. An economy in which most citizens are doing worse year after year—an economy like America’s—is not likely to do well over the long haul. There are several reasons for this.

First, growing inequality is the flip side of something else: shrinking opportunity. Whenever we diminish equality of opportunity, it means that we are not using some of our most valuable assets—our people—in the most productive way possible.

Second, many of the distortions that lead to inequality—such as those associated with monopoly power and preferential tax treatment for special interests—undermine the efficiency of the economy. This new inequality goes on to create new distortions, undermining efficiency even further. To give just one example, far too many of our most talented young people, seeing the astronomical rewards, have gone into finance rather than into fields that would lead to a more productive and healthy economy.

Third, and perhaps most important, a modern economy requires “collective action”—it needs government to invest in infrastructure, education, and technology. The United States and the world have benefited greatly from government-sponsored research that led to the Internet, to advances in public health, and so on.

But America has long suffered from an under-investment in infrastructure (look at the condition of our highways and bridges, our railroads and airports), in basic research, and in education at all levels. Further cutbacks in these areas lie ahead.

None of this should come as a surprise—it is simply what happens when a society’s wealth distribution becomes lopsided. The more divided a society becomes in terms of wealth, the more reluctant the wealthy become to spend money on common needs. The rich don’t need to rely on government for parks or education or medical care or personal security—they can buy all these things for themselves. In the process, they become more distant from ordinary people, losing whatever empathy they may once have had. They also worry about strong government—one that could use its powers to adjust the balance, take some of their wealth, and invest it for the common good. The top 1 percent may complain about the kind of government we have in America, but in truth they like it just fine: too gridlocked to re-distribute, too divided to do anything but lower taxes.

Economists are not sure how to fully explain the growing inequality in America. The ordinary dynamics of supply and demand have certainly played a role: laborsaving technologies have reduced the demand for many “good” middle-class, blue-collar jobs. Globalization has created a worldwide marketplace, pitting expensive unskilled workers in America against cheap unskilled workers overseas. Social changes have also played a role—for instance, the decline of unions, which once represented a third of American workers and now represent about 12 percent.

But one big part of the reason we have so much inequality is that the top 1 percent want it that way. The most obvious example involves tax policy. Lowering tax rates on capital gains, which is how the rich receive a large portion of their income, has given the wealthiest Americans close to a free ride. Monopolies and near monopolies have always been a source of economic power—from John D. Rockefeller at the beginning of the last century to Bill Gates at the end. Lax enforcement of anti-trust laws, especially during Republican administrations, has been a godsend to the top 1 percent. Much of today’s inequality is due to manipulation of the financial system, enabled by changes in the rules that have been bought and paid for by the financial industry itself—one of its best investments ever. The government lent money to financial institutions at close to 0 percent interest and provided generous bailouts on favorable terms when all else failed. Regulators turned a blind eye to a lack of transparency and to conflicts of interest.

When you look at the sheer volume of wealth controlled by the top 1 percent in this country, it’s tempting to see our growing inequality as a quintessentially American achievement—we started way behind the pack, but now we’re doing inequality on a world-class level. And it looks as if we’ll be building on this achievement for years to come, because what made it possible is self-reinforcing. Wealth begets power, which begets more wealth. During the savings-and-loan scandal of the 1980s—a scandal whose dimensions, by today’s standards, seem almost quaint—the banker Charles Keating was asked by a congressional committee whether the $1.5 million he had spread among a few key elected officials could actually buy influence. “I certainly hope so,” he replied. The Supreme Court, in its recent Citizens United case, has enshrined the right of corporations to buy government, by removing limitations on campaign spending. The personal and the political are today in perfect alignment. Virtually all U.S. senators, and most of the representatives in the House, are members of the top 1 percent when they arrive, are kept in office by money from the top 1 percent, and know that if they serve the top 1 percent well they will be rewarded by the top 1 percent when they leave office. By and large, the key executive-branch policymakers on trade and economic policy also come from the top 1 percent.

When pharmaceutical companies receive a trillion-dollar gift—through legislation prohibiting the government, the largest buyer of drugs, from bargaining over price—it should not come as cause for wonder. It should not make jaws drop that a tax bill cannot emerge from Congress unless big tax cuts are put in place for the wealthy. Given the power of the top 1 percent, this is the way you would expect the system to work.

America’s inequality distorts our society in every conceivable way. There is, for one thing, a well-documented lifestyle effect—people outside the top 1 percent increasingly live beyond their means. Trickle-down economics may be a chimera, but trickle-down behaviorism is very real.

Inequality massively distorts our foreign policy. The top 1 percent rarely serve in the military—the reality is that the “all-volunteer” army does not pay enough to attract their sons and daughters, and patriotism goes only so far. Plus, the wealthiest class feels no pinch from higher taxes when the nation goes to war: borrowed money will pay for all that.

Foreign policy, by definition, is about the balancing of national interests and national resources. With the top 1 percent in charge, and paying no price, the notion of balance and restraint goes out the window. There is no limit to the adventures we can undertake; corporations and contractors stand only to gain.

The rules of economic globalization are likewise designed to benefit the rich: they encourage competition among countries for business, which drives down taxes on corporations, weakens health and environmental protections, and undermines what used to be viewed as the “core” labor rights, which include the right to collective bargaining. Imagine what the world might look like if the rules were designed instead to encourage competition among countries for workers. Governments would compete in providing economic security, low taxes on ordinary wage earners, good education, and a clean environment—things workers care about. But the top 1 percent don’t need to care.

Or, more accurately, they think they don’t. Of all the costs imposed on our society by the top 1 percent, perhaps the greatest is this: the erosion of our sense of identity, in which fair play, equality of opportunity, and a sense of community are so important. America has long prided itself on being a fair society, where everyone has an equal chance of getting ahead, but the statistics suggest otherwise: the chances of a poor citizen, or even a middle-class citizen, making it to the top in America are smaller than in many countries of Europe. The cards are stacked against them.

It is this sense of an unjust system without opportunity that has given rise to the conflagrations in the Middle East: rising food prices and growing and persistent youth unemployment simply served as kindling. With youth unemployment in America at around 20 percent (and in some locations, and among some socio-demographic groups, at twice that); with one out of six Americans desiring a full-time job not able to get one; with one out of seven Americans on food stamps (and about the same number suffering from “food insecurity”)—given all this, there is ample evidence that something has blocked the vaunted “trickling down” from the top 1 percent to everyone else. All of this is having the predictable effect of creating alienation—voter turnout among those in their 20s in the last election stood at 21 percent, comparable to the unemployment rate.

In recent weeks we have watched people taking to the streets by the millions to protest political, economic, and social conditions in the oppressive societies they inhabit. Governments have been toppled in Egypt and Tunisia. Protests have erupted in Libya, Yemen, and Bahrain. The ruling families elsewhere in the region look on nervously from their air-conditioned penthouses—will they be next? They are right to worry. These are societies where a minuscule fraction of the population—less than 1 percent—controls the lion’s share of the wealth; where wealth is a main determinant of power; where entrenched corruption of one sort or another is a way of life; and where the wealthiest often stand actively in the way of policies that would improve life for people in general.

As we gaze out at the popular fervor in the streets, one question to ask ourselves is this: When will it come to America? In important ways, our own country has become like one of these distant, troubled places.

Alexis de Tocqueville once described what he saw as a chief part of the peculiar genius of American society—something he called “self-interest properly understood.” The last two words were the key. Everyone possesses self-interest in a narrow sense: I want what’s good for me right now! Self-interest “properly understood” is different. It means appreciating that paying attention to everyone else’s self-interest—in other words, the common welfare—is in fact a precondition for one’s own ultimate well-being. Tocqueville was not suggesting that there was anything noble or idealistic about this outlook—in fact, he was suggesting the opposite. It was a mark of American pragmatism. Those canny Americans understood a basic fact: looking out for the other guy isn’t just good for the soul—it’s good for business.

The top 1 percent have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live. Throughout history, this is something that the top 1 percent eventually do learn. Too late.
It's so clear to me that where the money must go is on to main street. That's where demand must be created. Investors don't invest in inventory or employees if their bank accounts are swollen with riches saved from taxes. They expand their investments. What crap. They only invest in inventory and jobs if there are people out there with money in their pockets to buy needed products and services. Cutting public employees back is self-destructive.

The crux of the Progressive agenda in this day and age is progressive taxation. What say you, Readers? It's not on the table? Why not? What for did we elect that leader-turned-charlatan president? I don't know about my readers, but I voted for him to set the friggin' table.

The Corporatists call Progressivism, "Socialism". I want to vote for a 21st Century Patrick Henry who will say,

If this be socialism, make the most of it.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Fearguth, over at Bildunblog, always asks rhetorical questions I cannot answer.