US/EU Plan to be Your Big Brother!

Okay, can we please agree to stop them from doing this crap?

There is nothing about a plan like this that makes any of us safer…

From: The Raw Story | US/E.U. plan to database airline passengers’ personal information raises deep privacy concerns.

While Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff calls it "an essential security measure," worries arise about a looming privacy threat in the new agreement between the United States and the European Union, effective August 1, 2007, that allows the United States to keep extensive profiles of inbound airline passengers.

In addition to data such as name, address, flight itineraries, and credit card information, the United States will now database more intimate details about passengers as provided by airlines, such as race, political opinions, religious beliefs, and sexual orientation.

Personal data received, even on people not under suspicion, is to be kept on file for fifteen years and only used "when lives are at risk," such as during a terror investigation.

"We’re going to be able to connect the dots more quickly," says Russell Knocke of the US Department of Homeland Security, "and we’re going to be able to provide our front line personnel with a powerful tool that really can help to save lives."

This is a complete and utter crock of horseshit.

First, let’s talk about a basic truism about bureaucracy, and that is, the more information they have, that more difficult it is to sort through. The dumbest thing security people do is screen every single passenger or potential passenger, and try to guess what they may or may not do at any given time. That approach has never worked, because the potential criminal/terrorist has a major advantage over the rest of us; he knows what he’s going to do, and he knows we’re looking for him. Therefore, it defies logic to think that, by setting up more and more elaborate databases, the terrorist will be caught. he won’t; he’ll just make sure that nothing he does sticks out in any way.

I don’t know about anyone else out there, but I’m not worrying about flying with a terrorist, as long as said terrorist isn’t carrying a bomb, or the means to harm us. Therefore, isn’t THAT what we should be concentrating on in the first place? Screening for THINGS that could be used to kill people on planes is far more effective than trying to figure out which person might do something. Why aren’t airports populated with bomb-sniffing dogs, and explosive detection equipment, instead of wasting time and resources looking at watch lists and trying to match up names and other information?

I’ll tell you why…

It’s because, for years now, governments have been searching for ways to gather all of this sort of information about people, and now they have a pretext for doing so; a fearful public, scared to death of the terrorist bogeyman. Seriously; there is no reason in the world why knowing someone’s political affiliation or sexual preference would flag them as a terrorist, so what is that information really used for?

Gee, i don’t know… secret prisons, an executive order setting it up so that the president himself can decide that you’re a terrorist and take everything you own, and  a proven penchant for  taking down political enemies, like those CIA agents whose husbands call you out on one of your lies? Why would they want such information?

We have to stop this crap, people. Watch lists can’t work; screening works. And governments with too much information about their citizens are flat dangerous.

 

Impeachment Follow-Up – It’s All About Principles!

Sometimes, you just
have to do the right thing.

 

In the last few days,
since I wrote my first piece detailing the case for impeachment, I have
received a lot of feedback from both sides of the political spectrum, as well
as a lot of people known for hugging the soft gooey middle. Except for the
abusive comments from wingnuts (tell Bill O’Reilly, no one is nastier than a
wingnut, period.), most of them attempted to be useful.

 

Normally, I get at
least a few critical missives that make me think twice about my position. I
pride myself on being very open minded, with a keen ability to listen to
alternate viewpoints and understand where they’re coming from. It really helps
to be able to do that, because it’s necessary to making the distinction between
a conservative with an honest difference of opinion, and a wingnut who just
reacts, without taking the time to rub a couple of brain cells together. And
sometimes, actual conservatives have an interesting take on things.

 

But this time, none of
the arguments made sense, or were in any way relevant. I want to talk about a
few of the reasons people give for not being in favor of impeachment, and
address why they are completely irrelevant.

 

The number one reason
given is "We don’t have the votes."

 

Apparently, these
people didn’t read the piece very closely, because I did address this problem
somewhat.

 

I simply don’t care
that we don’t have the votes to convict now. It really doesn’t matter. No one
ever said that doing the right thing was always going to be easy.

 

I think Democrats
should spend their August recess making the case for drafting articles of
impeachment. Once they vote on them, the Senate must hold a trial. Don’t tell
me there are no grounds for impeachment; if the Founding Fathers had been
confronted with a George Bush, they would have impeached him without a moment’s
hesitation. This Administration doesn’t value the Constitution, they don’t
value the rule of law, they have an exaggerated sense of the power they possess
under our system, and they have no regard for the people. They created the
mechanism of impeachment for two reasons; to remove people who abuse the power
given to them by the people, and to remove incompetents from positions where
they can do serious damage. In other words, in George Bush, we’ve hit the
jackpot.

 

Impeachment is not
supposed to be a political tool, used to get rid of people you don’t like
politically. The Republicans bastardized the process in 1998, when they
impeached Bill Clinton, even though they knew damn well they wouldn’t convict
him. Yes, you read that right; the Republicans went ahead with a sham
impeachment, based on complete bullshit, despite the fact that they didn’t have
enough votes. But Democrats can’t push forward with a real impeachment based on
real reasons?

 

Sometimes all of us,
including politicians, have to actually go outside of their comfort zone to do
the right thing, regardless of whether or not it’s politically popular at the
time. (Although half the country already thinks they should be impeached, and
nearly three-quarters think they’re bad for the country. I don’t think it’s
even necessary to convict and remove
Bush and Cheney in the end; at some point, we must put all of their misdeeds
into the record, and show the people just what these people are doing to our
country. At some point, the American people must be presented with all of the
facts, laid out in one very concise presentation. As of today, much of Middle
America senses that the Bushies are incompetent, but they have no clue as to
what the details are. I mean, 41% of Americans are convinced of a connection
between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda; isn’t that evidence enough that real
information isn’t trickling down enough?

 

And when that
information is presented by way of an impeachment trial, the Republicans in
Congress will be faced with a choice. They will have to choose to stand for the
rule of law and the Constitution they swore an oath to uphold (yes, it was an
oath to the Constitution, not to the GOP or George Bush), or they can choose to
stand beside the lamest of lame duck presidents and his crooked vice president.
If they vote to convict, they uphold the rule of law, and we get to keep at
least some standards for the presidency. If they vote to acquit, in the face of
all of the evidence presented, they effectively kill the right wing and the
current incarnation of the Republican Party for a generation, and we get either
Hillary, Barack or John (or even Dennis?) into office, and we will have a
president and enough seats in Congress that we can demand reform and have a
fighting chance of getting it…

 

Either way, we win. We
win, because this is a democracy, and we’ll have a majority of the American
people behind us, demanding reform of just about every mechanism the right wing
has broken since 1980. An impeachment trial, win or lose, will expose the government
for the crooks they are, and we will have the impetus for a real reform
movement. (If, of course, we progressives play politics better than we have in
the past. But that’s another column for another time…)

 

The second-most
popular complaint (again, among people who didn’t read the whole piece) seemed
to be "there just isn’t enough time."

 

Between the passing of
the Articles of Impeachment and the acquittal of Bill Clinton, less than two
months passed. That means, if we can put forth genuine articles of impeachment,
debate them thoroughly, and pass them by October, we could conceivably be done
with these scumbags by Christmas. But even if we can’t, February or March works
for me. If anyone is worried that a "President Pelosi" might upset
the Democratic nomination process, we could get her to agree to not run for an
additional term if Bush and Cheney are impeached and removed. I don’t get a
sense that she particularly wants to be president, anyway, so she’d probably
agree. (Might make Hillary a little mad, though; she wants to be the first…)

 

Just
as an aside, why don’t many liberals understand that the reason Pelosi took
impeachment "off the table" was so that it didn’t look like she was
working in her own self-interest? She can’t take anything ‘off the table’; if
the Judiciary Committee brings forth articles, she’s not going to kill them.
But if you’re a potential recipient of the benefits of a particular action,
doesn’t it make ethical sense to remove yourself from the process, short of
voting on it?

 

Sometimes, you simply
must stand on principle, regardless of the consequences. If we don’t get rid of
them until January 19, 2009, then so be it; the point is to take back the rule
of law. This is not about political payback, and it’s not about Bush and Cheney,
personally speaking. It’s about restoring justice to the rule of law, starting
with the most obvious breach of it in our lifetime.

 

Now, the third
rationale is the most interesting to me. I actually had a couple of people
write and say something to the effect, "well, what if this turns into a
game; they impeached us, so we impeach them, then they do the same to us, and
it becomes a cycle."

 

Well, what if?

 

First of all, I’m no
conspiracy theorist, but nn my opinion, Republicans were attempting to
inoculate the next Republican president when they impeached Clinton. They
didn’t necessarily know that the next president would be George W. Bush
(although, given the massive election fraud in 2000, maybe they did), but they
did know that the next wingnut they elected would act in extraordinary ways.
So, isn’t it possible that they used that impeachment to make the public more
reticent to engage in another one anytime soon? And if we allow them to get
away with that concept, how gullible are we? We have to go after bad guys who
get into office. If we end up with five impeachments in a row, then we need to
look at our electoral process, and ask ourselves why we keep electing such
assholes. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t get rid of them, just because we
keep impeaching people.

 

Besides, the last
impeachment was political theater, while this one would be a valid impeachment
for valid reasons. This time, the exercise is not an attempt to "get"
a president politically, nor is it an attempt to get rid of someone we don’t like
politically. I couldn’t stand Reagan or Bush 41 at all, but I was ambivalent
about their impeachment. I probably wouldn’t have minded seeing more heads roll
over Iran-Contra, but compared to the current bunch, the Reagan bunch were
pikers. In the Reagan Administration, investigations were conducted, heads did
roll, and there were lots of firings. The current administration sees every
investigation as a major pain in its ass, and no one’s ever been fired for
doing anything wrong, although a few have been forced out for siding with the
Constitution over their "fuehrers" Bush and Cheney.

 

Think about it this
way. If you cared about your job, and your "legacy" to even the
slightest degree — hell, if you cared even one little bit about your promise
to "bring honor and dignity" back to the White House — how tolerant
would you be of the crooks and liars inside of your administration? Ethical
people would find it embarrassing to know that someone under them had betrayed
the trust of the American people. Think about the various important yet
unanswered questions regarding impropriety in the Bush Administration thus far;
why would any ethical person not want to clarify any of these? (There are so
many, I can actually list many that I didn’t list in the first impeachment
column…)

 

o Who in the Bush Administration assisted
Enron in its attempts to escape blame for the largest corporate fraud in
history? When it found out that Enron’s illegal dealings resulted in millions
of people losing billions of dollars in retirement savings, why was there no
serious attempt to recover as much of that money as possible?

o What happened at those top secret
meetings featuring Dick Cheney and top energy industry executives, and by what
authority has Cheney continued to refuse to divulge the details of those
meetings?

o Why did Bush wait seven minutes to
even react after terrorists attacked New York City? Why has there been
so little of the assistance promised in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks actually provided?

o Why does this Administration continue
to hold hundreds of prisoners after nearly five years, without 
   charges, without trial, and in most cases, without counsel? And is
such      disregard for the basic principles of justice out of a
sense of keeping the country secure, or a reflection of their disdain for the
rule of law?

o In the run up to war, why was there
such a massive operation to lie about the rationale for invasion? Why hasn’t
anyone been held accountable for the "faulty    
intelligence" which led to more than 30,000 American casualties, and
     as many as half a million or more Iraqi civilian deaths?

o Who is responsible for the estimated
tens of billions (some would say hundreds of billions) of  dollars in
waste, fraud and abuse by contractors in Iraq? In one very glaring example of
fiscal irresponsibility, $8.8 billion dollars was "lost" several
years ago by several contractors, and there was no accountability for that.
No-bid contracts worth billions have been handed over to campaign donors, and
the Vice President is still being paid by at least one contractor that has seen
billions in profits from its operations in Iraq.

o And, in one of the most shocking
events in American presidential history, who is responsible for  the
coordinated effort to smear a political opponent, by revealing the identity of
his wife, a CIA undercover operative? And why has no one ever been held
accountable for that?

 

So many actions by
this administration rise to the level of "high crimes and
misdemeanors" that it’s difficult to count them all. And we must do
something about it. For six years, a friendly Republican Congress neglected its
oversight responsibilities, and the Democrats are now forced to play catch-up.
This will be a condensed process, it will be an intense process, it will
interfere with the presidential race, and it will cause all sorts of
accusations to be thrown at Democrats; accusations of "partisan political
theater" and trying to ‘get’ Bush and Cheney. But at this point, none of
that matters. Much of what the government is allowed to do is based on
precedent; and we cannot allow these people to set a precedent that allows a future
administration to do the same sorts of things, and get away with it.

 

As I’ll show in my
next piece on impeachment, the drive to impeach these people is no longer the
talk of a bunch of Commie leftist pinko liberals; a fair number of
conservatives have joined us. And why not? This administration’s actions
transcend cheap partisan politics and labels. Every chance they get, these
fools carve out an exception for themselves in every law they see, and they
have issued a series of executive orders that are far more reminiscent of
Saddam’s Iraq than the land of the free and the home of the brave. In fact,
Bush’s last executive order, which is featured on this very blog, was issued
July 17, and essentially asserts that the president (see, that’s the funny
thing about executive orders, they’re not president-specific) has the power to
unilaterally decide that you are undermining the effort in Iraq and,
without hearing, can just seize all of
your assets.

 

Now, I know what many
of you are thinking;

 

"I haven’t done
anything, so I have nothing to fear."

 

Those of you who
believe that should know; the word "gullible" appears in no
dictionary. Anywhere. You can go look; I’ll wait.

 

If you give the
government that kind of power, odds are they will use it. And if they take all
of your assets, how do you plan to fight it? The wingnuts spent the 90s
stalling as many Clinton-nominated judges as possible, and they spent the last
six packing the courts with their own kind. Of course, it won’t get that far,
because you won’t be able to afford a lawyer. You have no assets, remember? And
keep in mind, wingnuts; the executive order doesn’t expire when Bush leaves
office. What if President Hillary decides to make the claim that everyone who
has an assault weapon is aiding and abetting terrorism, because she’s
unilaterally decides that she wants to confiscate them, to make sure terrorists
can’t possibly get hold of them? Something tells me you’d probably want her
impeached, and rightly so. And if President Obama ordered every preacher’s
assets taken, because he was sick of them ragging on gays, you’d be calling for
his ouster, as well.

 

And you know what? We
would be right there with you, because it’s an abuse of power, no matter who’s
doing it. This may come as a shock to many on the right, but there are many
issues that transcend simple politics, and which are simply either right or wrong,
not right or left.

 

And right now, there
is no excuse for not impeaching these people. The Constitution demands it.

Limbaugh Demonstrates Why the GOP is Toast

I used to be outraged by stuff like this. Now, I’m amused by the abject cluelessness of the wingnut leadership.

"Comedian" Rush Limbaugh (Keith Olbermann calls him that because it irritates the right. I don’t think he’s very funny, so I prefer Scumbag Rush Limbaugh) puts a lot of his illogical rants on his web site, and puts links to them on his front page. Well, apparently, on his show today, he ranted about the fact that Democrats noticed that President Bush mentioned al Qaeda 96 times in discussing Iraq, and noted that MOST members of al Qaeda isn’t anywhere near Iraq right now, that 85% or more of the attacks that are killing Amercan soldiers are NOT courtesy of al Qaeda, and that the original war against al Qaeda, in Afghanistan, is being badly neglected, to the point that al Qaeda is regrouping and getting stronger…

See, apparently Limbaugh thinks that, by expressing frustration at the fact that Bush has neglected our actual enemies, the terrorists of al Qaeda, and has exaggerated their effect in Iraq, because he’s trying to continue to rationalize an occupation that makes no sense, it’s the Democrats who are compromising the country’s defense. So, on the front of his web site, the idiot Limbaugh placed this:

Osamalimbaugh_2

Isn’t that funny?

Ya see… cuz the so-called "comedian" called the terrorist a Democrat! Hahahahaha… that’s just a laugh riot, ain’t it?

Wonder if Rush and those incredible kidders on the right ever think about the fact that it’s likely that many of the soldiers in the battlefield, and many of the soldiers who have been killed or maimed fighting  for their country are or were Democrats. I wonder if they or their families think such a thing is "funny."

At what point do even his listeners finally figure out that they’re all seen as ignorant putzes by the vast majority of the public? When does right and wrong even factor into their behavior?

Bush Has Michael Moore’s Subpoenas and He’s Not Letting Go…

Since the Bushies think subpoenas are pretty much unenforceable pains in the ass, does this mean MikeSicko
can skip on his and tell them to take a hike?

Not that I’m recommending that, of course. We liberals believe in the rule of law, and would never consider such a thing.

But it does indicate that the Administration doesn’t think of them as "just pieces of paper" when they hand them to liberal filmmakers.  so, they shouldn’t be allowed to get away with ignoring their importance when Congress issues them…

From: Mouth of the Potomac: BUSHIES WANT TO HEAR FROM MOORE ON CUBA TRIP.

Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Michael Moore announced that the Bush Administration has subpoenaed him in the wake of his recent trip to Cuba on the July 26 episode of NBC’s "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" (Monday-Friday, 11:35 p.m. – 12:37 a.m. ET). "I haven’t even told my own family yet." Moore began, "I was just informed when I was back there with Jay that the Bush administration has now issued a subpoena for me."

The trip was part of his new film "Sicko" which tackles the question of affordable health care in the United States. Moore, who brought 9/11 rescue workers with him on his excursion, explains the reason for his trip, saying: "Took them to Guantanamo Bay because I heard the Al Qaeda Terrorists we have in the camps there, detained, are receiving free dental, medical, eye care, the whole deal, and our own 9/11 rescue workers can’t get that in New York City."

In a continued effort to help the 9/11 rescue workers, Moore stated that on August 11, the Weinstein Company will be donating 11 percent of the box office receipts from "Sicko" to "help these workers and the other workers who need help," said Moore.

U.S. Announces Nuclear Exception for India – New York Times

Mushroomcloud
On how many levels is this just wrong?

From: U.S. Announces Nuclear Exception for India – New York Times.

Three years after President Bush urged global rules to stop additional nations from making nuclear fuel, the State Department today announced that the administration is carving out an exception for India, in a last-ditch effort to seal a civilian nuclear deal between the countries.

“The United States and India have reached a historic milestone in their strategic partnership by completing negotiations on the bilateral agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation,” the department said in a statement.

The announcement follows more than a year of negotiations intended to keep an unusual arrangement between the countries from being defeated in New Delhi.

First of all, since when does the United States unilaterally decide who gets to have nukes and who doesn’t? Shouldn’t that be a function of global treaties, and not some bilateral agreement in which one country gives the other permission? Don’t any of the countries around India, especially the ones within missile range, have a say in this?

And what sort me message does this send to those countries, anyway, especially Pakistan. Pakistan has nukes, and they seem to have formed a sort of alliance with al Qaeda; does this give de facto to Pakistan to step up its nuclear program? Do we really want someone like Musharraf stepping up his nuclear program, especially given that he was never elected, and is subject to coup at pretty much any time.

Where do we get off demanding that Iran stop its nuclear program from one side our mouths, while sanctioning India’s nuclear program from the other.

Though this story is kind of flying under the radar a bit, this could end up a major foreign policy disaster, especially at a time when we’re threatening other nations to the point that they really want to have a nuke, just in case.

F.B.I. Chief Confirms: Gonzo is a LIAR!

Scooter Libby lied his ass off, and doesn’t have to spend a night in jail, his fine was paid for by someone else, he’s probably been assured a cushy lobbying  job somewhere, and he’ll probably be pardoned before Bush leaves office.

Gonzales2

THIS is how you restore "honor and dignity" to the White House? By simply avoiding oral sex for six years?

Please, I think the country runs better when they follow the rule of law and get some on the side; could we return to that model, please?

From: F.B.I. Chief Challenges Gonzales’s Testimony – New York Times.

The dispute over the truthfulness of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales reached a new intensity today as the F.B.I. Director, Robert S. Mueller 3rd, contradicted Mr. Gonzales’s sworn testimony before a Senate committee.

Mr. Mueller told the House Judiciary Committee that the Bush administration’s secret eavesdropping program was the main topic at an encounter in the hospital room of then-Attorney General John Ashcroft on March 10, 2004, contrary to what Mr. Gonzales told a Senate panel on Tuesday.

At the time, Mr. Gonzales was the White House counsel, and Mr. Ashcroft wasBushandgonzo_3
recovering from gall bladder surgery. That March night, Mr. Gonzales went to the hospital room with Andrew H. Card Jr., then White House chief of staff.

In his testimony before the Senate panel on Tuesday, Mr. Gonzales said the subject in the hospital room was “intelligence activities” under debate in the administration, but not the secret eavesdropping program.

More fodder for the impeachment cannon, folks. Do we really want people running this
country who won’t even fire someone who so blatantly avoids the truth?

Stock Market Tumbles, Dow Down 311 Points — Sell or Ride It Out?

Gawd, I feel almost psychic. Read this carefully folks…

From: Stock Market Tumbles, Dow Down 311 Points — Sell or Ride It Out?.

The joy and jubilation that just last week sent Wall Street to record highs vanished today as negative news about the housing market and rising oil prices hit home in a big way.

Adding to today’s big sell off was a growing inaccessibility of credit.

See, THIS is what I’m talking about. There is so much money tied up in these bogus mortgage Ponzi schemes that people who legitimately want and need credit can’t find anyone to lend them any money. This entire economy is all about credit and debt, folks, so if this keeps up for any length of time, we’re in deep trouble.

Oh, and it WILL keep up… The Fed may throw some extra cash out there to tide us over, but they can’t add much, because the Bushies are still running up $300 billion in deficits and foreign investment isn’t what it was. I don’ t know if you’ve been looking at the exchange rate, but the dollar isn’t worth as much as it was…

It all pushed major markets to close down in the second-worst day of trading this year.

The Dow Jones Industrials Average plunged 311 points, a 2.2 percent decline. The NASDAQ closed down 1.8 percent and the Standard & Poor’s 500 fell 2.3 percent as the market became very nervous.

Stocks only did worse this year back on Feb. 27, when the Dow closed down 416 points and the NASDAQ dropped more than 96 points.

Since then, the markets have had a steady climb up, with the Dow topping 13,000 in April and then briefly crossing 14,000 last week.

Even after today’s dive, the Dow is still up more than 8 percent from the beginning of the year, when it stood at 12,480.69.

So does this mean that it’s time to sell and limit losses?

Not at all, said Hugh Johnson, of Johnson Illington Advisors.

"The one mistake you make as an individual investor is get caught up in the day-to-day and hour-to-hour swings in the stock market. That’s noise and it doesn’t count," Johnson told ABC News. "It’s important to recognize the underlying trend and they’re still positive. But don’t get caught up in the emotional signs of the market, because you will make mistakes."

This is true. Cashing out of the market now would be a huge mistake. We haven’t hit the precipice yet. It’s coming, but it won’t come in the form of a stock market crash this time, like it did in 1929. This time, it will come because our bills have come due, and we’ll have to print money to pay them. Watch the exchange rate, folks. A British Pound is now worth $2.04; two years ago, it was $1.75. When Bush took office, it was $1.48. That is not the direction it’s supposed to go in, especially when the only thing we manufacture anymore is dollars.

Let me change that a bit. That would be a good thing if we were paying down our debt. In fact, it would be wonderful, because it would mean we were saving 25% or so. But we’re still borrowing; we’re still the largest debtor nation in the world. The only thing that’s keeping us going is the fact that countries still want to invest in dollars.  Well, they did, anyway…

In the short-run, the real impact is going to be felt by those looking to buy a home.

Lenders have been tightening standards and raising rates as more and more people — including now some with good credit — start to miss their mortgage payments.

"The mortgage terms will not be as generous as they were in 2004 and 2005, when they weren’t only generous but also encouraged speculation," Johnson said.

See, there’s a big problem with this scenario that few are really thinking about, and that is that the inventory of homes is going to balloon, which means a serious price correction in the real estate market. People are going to lose their homes, and a whole bunch of people are going to find themselves in a negative equity situation.

This is where we find ourselves. They can’t cheat in the stock market anymore (much) after Enron. They can’t cheat in a housing market that will probably be depressed for a few years. Where are the greedheads going to skim money next?

Go see "Sicko," by Michael Moore, folks… there’s a clue in there…

Hey YOU! Think this is a Great Economy? Are You HIGH?


by Milt Shook

Hey you!

 

Yeah,
I’m talking to you!

 

How do
you think the economy’s doing? If you think it’s going great, raise your hands!

 

Wow,
that’s a lot of hands… guess it’s going really well, then, huh? I guess, because
the government tell you how great it is every chance it gets, well, it must be
just great. I mean the numbers they put out every month indicate that the
economy’s moving right along. I mean, all of that growth! And unemployment’s
still kind of low, right? And hey — according to the Consumer Price Index,
inflation’s really not so bad, is it?

 

But
wait — isn’t this the same government continues to tell you that Iraq and al
Qaeda were in cahoots on 9/11? Aren’t these the same people who told us that the
war in Iraq would only cost a few billion dollars, take a month or two, and be
entirely paid for with Iraqi oil money? Don’t they tell us they don’t torture
anyone, while they’re torturing people? Didn’t they assure us that they would
never spy on us without a warrant, while they were in the midst of a plan to spy
on us without a warrant?

 

Yeah,
but they’re a bunch of greedheads, right? They love money! No way they would lie
to us about how well the economy’s doing, right?

 

Hell,
yes they would.

 

Remember the economic doldrums we found ourselves in from about 1973 until about
the mid-1990s? It’s back with a vengeance. Forget the statistics, folks; use
your instincts for once. How do you actually
feel
about the economy? Well, if you’re feeling good about it, then
you’re buying into the bullshit. Stop it!

 

Take
your head out of the statistics and ask yourself, what’s so great about it,
anyway? They keep telling you everything’s wonderful, but name one thing that’s
gotten better in the last six years, besides the size of the limits on your
credit cards. Okay, maybe the security guard industry’s doing well lately, but
that’s about it.

 

Now,
let me start off by saying that, in pure dollar terms, we are still the 900-lb
economic gorilla when it comes to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) But there is more
smoke and mirrors there than you think. As taxpayers, we’ve saddled our children
with more than $9 trillion in debt, and a trade deficit that won’t be eliminated
in their lifetimes, either. Not only that, but we’re adding to the debt to the
tune of almost a half trillion per year, when you include the hundreds of
billions they’re skimming off the Social Security surplus. Our annual
expenditure for debt service is almost as high as our defense budget, which is
ridiculous. It’s not only the largest in the world; it exceeds the amount every
other nation in the world spends, combined. And to buy what? It sure doesn’t go
to pay soldiers’ salaries and benefits. It doesn’t go to body armor, or to take
care of soldiers when they come home. No, most of it goes to lining the pockets
of defense contractors. Think I’m kidding? Think of all of the high tech gadgets
the Pentagon brags about having, then ask yourself when any of it has been put
to use in any useful defense capacity. How many stealth bombers are we using in
Iraq? We apparently have the technology to be able to see a flea on a rock from
outer space and pick him off with a laser, yet, we’ve been looking for a
six-and-a-half-foot tall Arab carrying a dialysis machine through the Pakistani
desert for six years now, and can’t find him or his video studio.

 

Now,
I’m not saying we should stop making stuff for the Pentagon. God forbid; that’s
about all we manufacture anymore. Our entire manufacturing base seems to be
overpriced weapons systems, Japanese branded cars and a some computer
components.  Aircraft industry giant Boeing’s highly anticipated 787 wasn’t even
built here; parts of it were built all over the world, and they assembled them
here. There is very little in our stores that is made here these days. I live in
Maryland, and even a lot of the crab meat you buy here comes from overseas.

 

Our
economy started to tank in the 1970s, when the first of the Republican breed was
in charge, Richard Nixon. Nixon came from the Herbert Hoover school of
economics, that says, if you leave it alone, the scab will heal itself.  When
inflation started in earnest, in 1973, his approach was to freeze wages and
prices for 90 days. I’d be willing to bet that any middle school kid can tell
you why that’s a stupid idea; when the freeze is lifted, the result is just a
steeper price increase. Nixon’s problem was that he didn’t believe in
regulation, if he thought it could be avoided, so instead, he chose
manipulation. His "banking" program for gasoline prices kept prices artificially
low, by giving oil companies subsidies for keeping the price under a dollar. Not
only was it a stupid idea, but it only kept gasoline prices low. Oil prices went
through the roof, and we the engine that drove that incredible inflationary
period.

 

Under
Nixon, we started closing plants here, and opening them up overseas, with the
government’s blessing. Whole sections of the country that had once been flush
with well-paid factory jobs, became the "Rust Belt." Companies which had used
American labor for incredible profits for many years after World War II,
suddenly complained about having to pay them at all, and decided that their
bottom line was more important than the country, and abandoned us for cheap
labor elsewhere. That trend eased in the mid-1990s, when Bill Clinton actually
made deals with trading partners, and factories began opening up a bit.

 

But
except for that brief period, which coincided with the government’s rare
exercise of fiscal responsibility, the Wingnut era of economic stupidity has
practically destroyed everything the GI Bill and the Marshall Plan built up in
the 25 year period after World War II. We have been lulled into a false sense of
economic security by a government that prints money as if it’s just, well,
paper, and which has supported an economic regimen that essentially consists of
moving large amounts of money from one pocket to another. It’s gone on for more
than 30 years now, although the real stupidity didn’t start until the 1980s,
under that economic genius, Ronald Reagan.

 

Let’s
start out with one truism. Reagan did  not win election in 1980 because of his
boffo economic plan. Jimmy Carter lost because he had the courage of his
convictions and really did try to stop inflation, by tightening the money supply
for a time. If that had continued, interest rates would have gone down, and
inflation would have gone back to normal levels. Did you know that a bottle of
Coke was a nickel in the 1930’s and a dime in the early 1970’s? A loaf of bread
was a quarter during World War II and about 35 cents in 1969. In other words,
for some reason, this country managed to function for many years without huge
price increases. Now, they happen every year, regardless of whether they’re
necessary.

 

But
Reagan started the downturn when he came into office with the intent of
deregulating everything, and by regaling us with tales of "trickle-down," that
wonderful, magical "theory" (read "bullshit story") that, when the rich had more
money, they would invest more in those things that helped the poor. I challenge
anyone to find me any time in human history when a majority of the rich
voluntarily helped a majority of the poor. Sure, they’ll buy more stock, and
make investment that way, but as I pointed out; most of that money goes to
building plants overseas. In the past, the rich were faced with a high starting
tax rate, but could lower it by investing in infrastructure. Beginning with
Reagan, they got that lower rate without doing a thing. Meanwhile, we keep
saddling our children and grandchildren with more and more debt, pretty much
guaranteeing high taxes during their adult lives.

 

Look
around you; where have lower taxes, deregulation and  a near-unanimous refusal
on the part of Congress to enforce the Sherman Act gotten us? Well, those
policies have largely rendered entrepreneurship dead, unless you call placing
tiny little classified ads in newspapers and getting people to buy copies of
books on how to get rich entrepreneurship. Think about it; what type of business
can you start these days that isn’t dominated by some huge multinational
conglomerate? Forget just about any retail, except for high-end shops for rich
people. In the last 40 years, we have gone from a nation of really nice shops
that took on the identity of their neighborhood and their region, to a nation of
strip malls and factory outlets, full of the same businesses over and over.

 

Have
you been to Times Square recently? I was there a few months ago, and some idiot
behind me was marveling about what a wonderful job former Mayor Rudy Giuliani
did in "rehabilitating" the area. I was thinking, he had to be kidding, except
that, when you think about it, Times Square has become what Americans are
accustomed to. I will admit that it’s probably better for tourists that the porn
shops and nudie bars are gone. But there is almost nothing in the area that
screams "New York," except the theaters. Who in their right mind goes to
fricking New York City and then hankers for some Applebee’s? (Yes, folks, there
is an Applebee’s, and a Bubba Gump Shrimp Company.) And the shopping is a joke!
Most of the stores are simply bigger, gaudier versions of the same shops you can
find in any suburban shopping mall in the country. That’s right, the famous
Times Square has been turned into a suburban shopping mall, and it’s no longer
possible for anyone to simply rent a little space and sell their wares, because
the greedheads have driven the prices way out of anyone’s range. You see, those
big chains are American business in the
21st century; a bunch of look-alike stores selling the same Chinese-made
garbage, which is cheap, but pretty much guaranteed to break if you actually use
it.

 

Seriously, folks; we’re in deep trouble, economically speaking, and it’s only
our incredible mountain of debt that has been hiding the truth. Like I said;
most of our supposed "wealth creation" consists of moving money from one pocket
to another. Enormous debt has been built into our culture; we actually think
it’s "normal." It’s difficult to get a good job without a college degree, but
the only way to pay for college degrees nowadays is through student loans, and
lots of them. And not only does the average college student leave college with
mounds of student loan debt, but the same banks that make tons of money from
those guaranteed no-risk loans, also allow students to run up a huge amount of
credit card debt before they’ve even received a pay check from the career
they’ve trained for.

 

Our
debt has given us the illusion that we are a thriving economy since the early
1980s. And why not? If I gave you an unlimited line of credit and said, "Buy
anything you want, and as long as you just pay me the interest, you can carry
the debt until I decide I need the money back," you could have a great time. You
could borrow money to make more money, and buy yourself a whole lot of bling, a
house, a few Ferraris — no one would ever know that you’re unemployed. But you
wouldn’t really be rich, and when I asked for all of that money back, you’d have
a hell of a time paying it, wouldn’t you?

 

Well,
debt has been sinking this economy for more than 30 years. Because of Republican
right wing economic policy, which takes a "social Darwinist" approach to
economic policy, we are now looking, for the first time, at a generation that
will do less well than their parents, in part because they will have to pay much
higher taxes in order to retire the debt we are leaving for them. Because of
their obsession with tax cuts as a panacea, their complete deregulation of
everything, a completely unrealistic approach to "free market" economics that
completely ignores the fact that there is no such thing, and their patronage of their rich friends, to
the detriment of the grass roots, they have sold us down the river, and it’s
going to take us a while to get back upstream.

 

Taxes
do have an effect on the economy, but not the effect the right would like you to
believe. The tax code used to create incentives for investment. When the top tax
rate was 70%, for example, no one actually paid
70%. If a person or a company helped build economic infrastructure, they got tax
credits or tax deductions. In other words, if a company wanted to save money on
taxes, it had to invest in the country. Now, they don’t pay very much tax, so
there is no incentive to invest. And the result is what you see today; our
infrastructure is falling apart; 80 year old steam pipes are bursting in
Manhattan, factories are sitting idle, while its former workers are flipping
burgers or encouraging people to "have a nice day" for $7 an hour. Taxes are no
longer seen as an investment in the country; they’re seen as punitive, they’re
avoided, and we’re forced to borrow money just to keep things running.

 

Then
there’s the whole "deregulation" debacle which, combined with this whole
half-assed "free market" concept, demonstrates just how stupid the right is, but
how great they are at selling this snake oil. Folks, people who believe that a
lack of regulation and a completely "free" market leads to economic prosperity
must also believe that the Easter Bunny flies around collecting teeth and
handing kids toys on Yom Kippur; it’s absurd. There is a reason the Founding
Fathers put commerce regulation right there in the Constitution. They put it
there because they knew that capitalism is a brutal business; without
regulation, opportunities dry up. And boy, were they ever on the money! What’s
happened since the government started giving up its regulatory duties is exactly
as the founders predicted. Since the idiots on the right started handing
everything over to the mystical, magical "market forces," you’re seeing
companies gobbling each other up, getting bigger and bigger, and elbowing every
competitor out of the market. Every single "market" is on the verge being
dominated by one company, and individual opportunity has been squelched. Sure,
we get cheap prices on lower quality junk, but we also see a complete lack of
customer service, and absolutely no sense of public interest or civic
responsibility.

 

And can
we please get off this whole "free market" nonsense? First of all, there is
no such thing. Someone
always runs the market. It’s not "free" just because
government doesn’t regulate it
sufficiently. When Wal-Mart puts a store into a small town and run everyone else
out of business, that’s not a "free market," and to think so is delusional.
What’s happened is, the people of the community have ceded the market to
Wal-Mart, and they run it. When Home Depot or Lowe’s moves into an area, and all
of the hardware stores close within months, that’s not a function of a "free
market;" it’s just the opposite. A "free market" is one in which any
entrepreneur can open up and make or sell his wares. The government’s job is to
protect the actual free market with regulations, not allow businesses to kill
opportunity. You can’t open a business selling widgets, if one or more of the
largest corporations in the world has exclusive contracts on widgets, and
controls the US widget market. That’s not a free market.

 

We are
in deep trouble, and we’re sealing our own fate by falling for this economic
double-speak. I’m not one to long for the olden days; I like my HDTV and my
laptop. But we have to return to the old economic model; you know, the one that
worked; the one in which we invested in the future, and everyone had an
opportunity to live the American dream. Not only are we not making anything, but
now, the corporations who made their riches off of our sweat for so many years
are increasingly moving offshore to avoid even the low taxes they’re still
required to pay. Pretty soon, we won’t have anything left; no manufacturing, no
corporations. At what point do we start investing in us again? Our economic
infrastructure is already suffering; what will it be like in 20 years? How about
50 years?

 

There
are a lot of warning signs, if you would bother to take your eyes off the latest
LindsayBritney nonsense to look around and see them. They’re not only warning
signs, they’re messages of dark foreboding.

 

We are
completely dependent on oil, precisely because the oil companies want us to be,
and the government to date has been more than willing to help us. Did you know,
for example, that the first hybrid engine technology was patented in 1917? Did
you know that the first electric cars were created at about the same time? In
both cases, large behemoth corporations bought out the companies, and their
technology, and buried it. That’s what happens when you cede control of the
economy to a few greedy bastards who care more for the bottom line than the
future of the country.

 

Our
largest industries are all about recycling money. The Federal Reserve prints
more money, and companies vie for the right to siphon as much off as they can,
without getting caught. There are only two solid investments in this country;
the stock market and real estate, and if you’ll notice, they both rarely go up
at the same time. The exception was for the last few years of the Clinton
Administration, when there was a flash of that entrepreneurial spirit once
again, due to the creation of enterprise zones, and other creative investment
ideas. But it didn’t last long; as soon as the right took over again, we went
right back into stupid-land. First, the Enron mess shined a light on just how
crooked the pursuit of money is, especially when money is your only actual
product.  So when the Enron mess screwed the economy, and the players in the
stock market were forced to play fair and at least try to be truthful, the same
con men then turned to real estate.

 

When
they turned to real estate, they did the same thing they did in the pre-Enron
market. They created mortgages which were little more than financial sleight of
hand, and lo and behold! A whole bunch of people who couldn’t afford to buy a
house before, were suddenly able to buy a house! What a great thing, right?
After all, home ownership is a cornerstone of the American Dream™, right?

 

Well,
yes and no.

 

Working
hard and making it to the point that you can buy a nice home that you can afford
is actually a good thing, and it is something that people strive for. Habitat
for Humanity helps people do just that; predatory lending practices most
certainly do not. For the last 8-10 years or so, we have been subject to
creative financing that should have sent up red flares. I’m no financial whiz,
but you know, when someone advertises a $400,000 mortgage for $900 a month, or
something like that, huge warning bells should go off in someone’s head. It’s
Enron financing writ large on the housing industry.

 

And
what a great time it was, too, huh? Real estate prices just shot through the
roof, and a whole bunch of people made a lot of money because of that fact.
Except that it was all fake. Housing prices didn’t go up based on actual supply
and demand; the houses were paid for by essentially moving money from one pocket
to the other. Houses were being sold and mortgages were being written for people
who couldn’t pay for them. And now, we’re at the precipice of a housing crash
unlike anything we have ever seen, as people who have been carrying these fake
mortgages are hit with the real mortgages that were deferred for a few years. 
Meanwhile, the people who came up with these fake mortgages made out like
bandits, quite literally, as they bought and sold homes with real mortgages to 
people who could afford them, at the prices that they caused to be overinflated.
Yep, that’s right, folks. A whole lot of people either have lost, or are about
to lose everything, and a whole bunch of other people have been making a lot of
money from it. The current housing crisis is Enron II, and it’s in its beginning
stages; it’s about to get worse.

 

This is
the story of the right wing approach to economy, folks. Since Nixon took over,
the economic fortunes of this country have tumbled, and it’s time we start
taking stock and taking steps to reversing the trend. An economy that runs on
borrowed money is also living on borrowed time. And an economic model that
stifles creativity and innovation is an economic model that can’t recover when
the inevitable bad times hit. What got us out of the Great Depression was World
War II, but what got us into an unprecedented boom after World War II was an
incredible amount of innovation. It used to be possible to open a small business
on a shoestring, and make a good living; now, almost all of us are dependent on
a job with one of the handful of huge corporations that still do business here.
Entrepreneurship is dead, and because of our massive debt, we are largely a
nation of wage slaves.

 

It’s
time we started demanding economic change. The government needs to get off its
ass and do something about this, because we cannot live on borrowed money
forever, and the money we had is drying up quickly. Large corporations are
running this country, not us, and the politicians who are running things are
largely employees of these companies. Everything is becoming homogenized to the
point that every freeway exit on every Interstate in the entire country is the
same, the stores in every shopping mall in the country are the same, and
innovation is being stifled. We have a lot of problems in this country, not the
least of which is global economic competition unlike any we’ve seen before, and
we must prepare for it, but it’s not possible to prepare for it in an economic
climate that no longer feeds innovation. Most problems need creative solutions,
but the only creativity allowed these days seems to involve ways to squeeze more
money into the bottom line of a large company that already has plenty of money.

 

Loads
of debt, limited income opportunities, legalized bribery and extortion, and a
series of Ponzi schemes. That is what marks our economy nowadays, thanks to
Reagan-Bush-Bush, and the right wing’s obsession with "market forces."

 

Isn’t
it time the government did its goddamn job?

FCC Doesn’t Understand its Purpose

Seriously, folks, how clueless is this government when the Chairman of the agency charged with overseeing the public airwaves has such a dismissive attitude toward the concept that everyone in the community owns the airwaves.

From: Print Story: FCC chair: Fairness Doctrine not needed on Yahoo! News.

The Federal Communications Commission has no intention of reinstating the Fairness Doctrine imposing a requirement of balanced coverage of issues on public airwaves, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said.

Martin, in a letter written this week to Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., and made public Thursday, said the agency found no compelling reason to revisit its 1987 decision that enforcing the federal rule was not in the public interest.

Several Democratic lawmakers suggested that Congress take another look at the doctrine after conservative radio talk show hosts aggressively attacked an immigration reform bill when it was on the Senate floor, contributing to its defeat.

Pence and other Republicans in both the House and Senate countered by introducing legislation to bar the FCC from reinstating the rule.

So, here you have a Republican Representative — you know, a member of the party that has spent the 3 years since Janet Jackson revealed her right boob on national television, and little children fell over dead from the sight, increasing fines for "indecency" without actually defining it and trying to outlaw the utterance of a half dozen choice words that we all know cause cancer.  That party wants to outlaw bad words AND fairness of any kind, even if Congress changes the meaning a bit.

It gets better, folks:

Martin, in his letter, said government regulation was not needed to ensure public access to a wide range of opinion. "Indeed, with the continued proliferation of additional sources of information and programming, including satellite broadcasting and the Internet, the need for the Fairness Doctrine has lessened even further since 1987," he wrote.

Is there someone in the Republican government that is not clueless about their job?

Can we start with the fact that the FCC doesn’t regulate satellite broadcasting or the Internet, and they’re supposed to regulate the broacast airwaves without regard to the other technologies out there.

But talk about your elitists! (Is it okay for someone NOT on Fox Noise to use that word?)

The only one of the above that he regulates is the one that’s free, and he’s essentially refusing to regulate it. Therefore, the people who need information the most, only have access to music without news, and right wing talk.  His job isn’t to tell a poor single mother in the inner city that, if she doesn’t like the choices for information available to her, to go hook up the Internet!

No one’s asking to take the right wingers off the air. And no one’s necessarily talking about going back to the original Fairness doctrine, exactly as is. But come on; when you’re driving in the car and your only choices for information are Hannity and Limbaugh, who just tell bald-faced lies and parade them as truth, is it really too much to expect that OUR Federal Communications Commission demand that the record be corrected?? A radio station license holder is supposed to ‘serve the public interest,’ but most of the public interest is ignored, and it’s the FCC’s fault.

Seriously, all of these people need to go, and be replaced with folks who actually understand the concept of ‘public interest." I’m disgusted.

 

This is What Happens Without Health Insurance

From: 1600: Support a Local Legend.

On Sunday, July 29th, a benefit will be held for a much-beloved Washington music hero, Tom Terrell. In addition to his music journalism and photography exploits, Tom turned heads and turntables at both the old 9:30 Club, and host of the Cafe C’est What? on WHFS-FM radio (you remember- back when they still rocked!) before pursuing a career as a rep for Mango/Antilles and Verve Records. His many friends in the DC area, including bands such as 9353, the Beatnik Flies, Tommy Osborne, Bobby Donovan, and Virginia and the Blue Dots, among many others, will be entertaining that evening, in a star-studded gala to help contribute to Tom’s medical expenses. The doors open at 4 p.m., and tickets are only $20. Be there and show your support for one of the iconic figures in the D.C. music scene, a legendary DJ and all around nice guy. And if you can’t make it to the club, your contributions (in checks or money orders, no cash) will also be gratefully accepted by:

The Tom Terrell Benefit Fund

c/o Dr. Bevadine Z. Terrell

1839 Otis Street NE
Washington, DC 20018

I can’t think of a better way to spend a summer Sunday night, and reminisce with one of the folks that welcomed me to Washington, turned me on to a lot of great music, and made me decide to settle down here. I don’t know if I remembered to say it then, but thanks for everything, Tom. I look forward to seeing you there!

Of course, you should give to this great cause. This guy was a phenomenal radio personality, for a hell of a station.

But it should also make you think…

How many non-legends are out there dying, because they have no insurance, and no one will hold a benefit for them…