Why social conservatives have it wrong when it comes to marriage equality…..

I agree that the owner of Chik-Fil-A has the right to express his opinion, but he does not have the right to discriminate against LGTB individuals in his business or require them to practice a certain lifestyle or attend a certain church. That violates their constitutional rights. But expressing his opinion is his business. I do not think the mayors of Chicago, Boston or any other city were correct in saying they would prevent Chik-Fil-A from doing business in their city, but I support their compassionate INTENT to reject the owner’s intolerant opinions. However, in doing so, they were intolerant themselves.

We should be mindful that during segregation many white leaders and business owners publicly expressed these types of intolerant opinions against blacks and other races and immigrant groups and religions, just as we see a tremendous amount of intolerance for Hispanics in the border states (and elsewhere) and LGTB individuals now. The fact that they felt the way they did then was sad, as it is now, but they had a right to express their opinion. THEY DID NOT, however, AND WE DO NOT NOW HAVE THE RIGHT TO ACT ON IT AND PREVENT OTHER RACES, RELIGIONS, SOCIAL GROUPS AND NATIONALITIES FROM ENJOYING THEIR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS.

Our constitutional rights and protections are supposedly, according to our founding documents in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, INALIENABLE, meaning given to us by GOD, not by MAN. Which means regardless of how we feel about other human beings and their lifestyles or culture or religious beliefs or politics, the Constitution binds us to protect their rights just as we protect our own. The confusion between facts and beliefs and how we should “judge” others legally and morally presents a conflict. Distinguishing between spiritual/moral behavior and legal behavior may seem to be a fine line at times, but that constitutional line exists for a reason. Even Jesus instructed us on this subject in Mark 12:17 — “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.” This draws a distinct line between what is legally correct and what is morally correct and allows us the freedom to impose our own moral code upon ourselves voluntarily — over and above what is legal, which forms the baseline for social behavior.

Freedom of religion requires us to allow others who belief and worship differently – or not at all – to do so without penalty or fear of retribution. The reason Faux News and other extreme right-wing media try to paint a picture that Christianity is under attack is because they need Christians to feel this way so that they will blindly react (knee-jerk) out of fear and anger — creating a false crisis. Rather than stopping to think about the difference between religious righteousness and legal social behavior and how we must protect everyone’s constitutional rights in order to protect our own rights, this not-so-subtle manipulation uses our religious zealotry and faith to manipulate us into a mob reaction. Whether it’s the “War on Christmas” or some other manufactured cause, it keeps us off-balance and reactive. Propaganda, fear, blind rage, racism, sexism – all these are tools of the extreme right-wing that are driving our society and our culture and our nation over the cliff.

If you read Niemoller’s poem, which describes how Nazi Germany imploded, you see how the polarization of society into an “us” and a “them” pits neighbors and citizens against each other; there must always be a “them” — an enemy — to rally against. As this destructive society in decline implodes, the circle of “us” gets smaller and smaller and more of “us” become the “them” – the enemy that we must turn against — until finally there is no one left “to speak up.” That is what is happening in the Republican Party with the “compromise-is-evil” where tolerance and moderates are not welcome. And that is why we have crippling gridlock in our Congress where scoring political points and obstructionism rule the day and what is good for the country and its people takes last place in the list of priorities. And that is why I am a Christian liberal progressive Democrat.

Posted in civil liberties, civil rights, Gay marriage, gay rights, gayt rights; LGTB rights, LGTB rights, racism, religious intolerance, sexism | Leave a comment

Defining the New Republican Party and understanding its ideological basis.

Special Editorial: From Bain to Main
1:50 PM, Jan 10, 2012 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL

…Mitt Romney’s claim throughout his campaign that his private sector experience almost uniquely qualifies him to be president is also silly. Does he really think that having done well in private equity, venture capital, and business consulting—or even in the private sector more broadly—is a self-evident qualification for public office? One assumes Mitt Romney would agree that Chris Christie is a better chief executive of New Jersey than Jon Corzine, and that Rudy Giuliani was a better mayor of New York than Mike Bloomberg. But Romney’s biography looks a lot more like Bloomberg’s or Corzine’s (leaving aside Corzine’s recent misadventures) than like that of Giuliani (pre-mayoralty) or Christie. Past business success does not guarantee performance in public office. Indeed, Romney sometimes seems to go so far as to suggest hat succeeding in the private sector is intrinsically more admirable than, e.g., serving as a teacher or a soldier or even in Congress. This is not a sensible proposition, or a defensible one. And the unqualified defense of the virtues of Bain Capital by some on the right is also silly. Criticism of any behavior by a private firm? Outrage! An Assault on Capitalism! Haven’t they read Schumpeter? Don’t they know the glories of Creative Destruction? And, of course, all such destruction must be assumed to be creative!

Republicans worship wealth; Democrats worship work
But the description of what Romney is in that passage is the realistic description of what corporatist, capitalist, Darwinian Republican ideology holds, and the article is absolutely true in regards to the fact that being a capitalist in the private sector that is entirely focused on profit (over people) and serving its corporate masters — capitalists, corporatists and profiteers — is in absolute contrast to a government servant that understands that government’s “customers” are the same as government’s “bosses” — the taxpayers and citizens of this country, and that the government is not supposed to operate on a profit with it’s CEO (the president) only focused on maximizing profit, regardless of whoit exploits or who it hurts.

The Tea Party Republicans are an anomaly in that the “movement” is comprised primarily of middle-class voters — even though it has its roots and primary financial backing from multi-billionaire elitist Koch Brothers foundations. These middle-class voters are voting against their own best interests when they support the policies that benefit the wealthy elite, not themselves, and it at first seems mystifying, but when you view it as a process of redefinition and rewriting history that has taken place over decades, you see how we got where we are now. JFK said it best:

“The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. — JFK”

And Democrats have failed to articulate and correct the mythology created around Reagan’s brand of conservatism and its embodiment in the Tea Party’s misconception of their true place in the socioeconomic world controlled by the wealthy corporatists. There is no question that the Tea Party is being exploited by corporatists and the likes of the Koch Brothers and all the conservative elite. How to address this misperception is the real challenge of the Democratic Party if they are to be able to create a political environment where real solutions to correctly identified and defined problems are to take place.

Income inequality in the U.S.

Map: U.S. Ranks Near Bottom on Income Inequality
By Max Fisher, Sep 19 2011, 1:06 PM ET
Viewed comparatively, U.S. income inequality is even worse than you might expect. Perfect comparisons across the world’s hundred-plus economies would be impossible — standards of living, the price of staples, social services, and other variables all mean that relative poverty feels very different from one country to another. But, in absolute terms, the gulf between rich and poor is still telling. Income inequality can be measured and compared using something called the Gini coefficient, a century-old formula that measures national economies on a scale from 0.00 to 0.50, with 0.50 being the most unequal. The Gini coefficient is reliable enough that the CIA world factbook uses it….

The U.S., … with a Gini coefficient of 0.450, ranks near the extreme end of the inequality scale. Looking for the other countries … gives you a quick sense of countries with comparable income inequality, and it’s an unflattering list: Cameroon, Madagascar, Rwanda, Uganda, Ecuador. A number are currently embroiled in or just emerging from deeply destabilizing conflicts, some of them linked to income inequality: Mexico, Côte d’Ivoire, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Serbia.

Income inequality is more severe in the U.S. than it is in nearly all of West Africa, North Africa, Europe, and Asia. We’re on par with some of the world’s most troubled countries, and not far from the perpetual conflict zones of Latin American and Sub-Saharan Africa. Our income gap is also getting worse, having widened both in absolute and relative terms since the 1980s. It’s not a problem that the “Buffett rule” would solve on its own, but at least the U.S. political system is starting to acknowledge how serious things have become.

The Gini coefficient

The Gini coefficient measures the inequality among values of a frequency distribution (for example levels of income). A Gini coefficient of zero expresses perfect equality where all values are the same (for example, where everyone has an exactly equal income). A Gini coefficient of one (100 on the percentile scale) expresses maximal inequality among values (for example where only one person has all the income).[3]

In the article, the range is 0 to 50 rather than 0 to 100. The lower the Gini coefficient is for a country, the more the prosperity is shared or, if “share” sounds too socialist for you, the less grossly overpaid corporate executives are and the more fairly paid employees who work for wages (rather than just invest) and contribute their skills, knowledge and education to the company’s bottom line are. 

When did valuing work become equated with socialism?
At some point along the way, Republicans seem to have redefined sharing in the prosperity as socialism, or people who (in their minds) didn’t deserve or earn it reaping the benefits of investor’s and owner’s rewards (profits). When did it become socialism to expect or ask for investors and business owners to be willing to pay a living wage (the minimum amount required to be self-sufficient — provide shelter, transportation, clothing, food, healthcare, education for yourself and your family). At some point along the way, Republicans decided that anyone who was not an investor or owner did not deserve to enjoy a portion of the profits or share in the prosperity. Part of it may trace back to GWB’s “ownership society” concept, but I am absolutely astounded at this attitude.

Does an engineer’s, doctor’s, nurse’s, teacher’s, secretary’s, manager’s, bank teller’s, shift foreman’s, day laborer’s, truck driver’s, etc., work and contribution to the success of the company no longer have any value? This is the attitude that Republicans and conservatives exude in their writings and media messages and talking-head shows. That is what I mean when I say our society seems to have devalued the concept of work as opposed to wealth. Is there no longer any honor in working for a living? Since when did a person’s bank account and net worth become the only measure of their value to society and their right to enjoy the benefits of their labor?

Blurring the definitions of capitalism and democracy
Our society and, particularly, the Republican Party communicate that they only value “wealth” and that “work” has no value. I disagree strongly. But it goes much further and much deeper into their fundamental philosophy regarding government. Republicans now think of and use interchangeably capitalism and democracy as if they meant the same thing, and they do not. First, capitalism is an economic system, not a political one. Second, America is not a democracy: we do not live in a democracy, we live in a republic. And this is the core difference between Republicans/Libertarians and Democrats in terms of their core constituency and policies. Never in my lifetime has the class division been so sharp. And it is due, in large part to the Republican redefinition of what government is and does and how it defines our country.

There are reasons why the Founders chose the republican (lowercase deliberately) form of government rather than a democracy. In a pure democracy, the majority always wins; the minority always loses. In a pure democracy, this would lead to a tyranny by the majority, who could easily “out-vote” the minority and deprive them of their rights. Our Forefathers came to America, in large part, to escape the tyranny of the majority who had deprived them of their right to worship freely or to claim opportunity beyond their economic class. This was very fresh in the minds of the Founders when they wrote the Constitution.

Because our Founders considered that man received his “rights” from his humanity and his Creator, protecting the rights of ALL humanity, especially of the minority, was an important ideal in designing a form of government. That is why the Founders “layered” government with a representative form of government — to protect the minority from the majority (preventing an inherent “ruling” class) and to prevent mob rule.

From democracy to corporatism
Further, Republicans not only have equated capitalism with democracy, but free-market, unfettered, unregulated capitalism at that. This Austrian School of ecoonomics that believes the market will “correct” itself, so leave it alone, does not take into consideration what damage can be wrought between the actual “mistake” that needs the market to correct and the actual “correction.” The market is usually a lagging indicator, and in the case of corruption or criminality, that lag time can provide unscrupulous, greedy men ample opportunity to victimize many innocent people and destroy evidence of it long before legal action has been filed. Further, the legal process has an evidentiary process (discovery) that requires documentation, the very existence of which can only be identified by the defendant, which can only be provided by the defendant, in many cases, so these criminals often go free due to lack of evidence (or even lack of proof that evidence exists).

Because, since particularly the 1970s and 1980s, corporatists have so dominated the political process with their ability to control the electoral process with their money, it is almost impossible for the “common” man — the middle class, working class and, especially, the poor — to have a voice in government. Or, at least, to have a voice in government that is loud enough to drown own the voice of the “ruling” class of corporatists and capitalists, which is amplified by their control of the political process through their control of the money.

In order to get to this place, our society underwent a long bout of media corruption and redefinition and rewriting of history. It started in the 1960s, when, as JFK put it, “It’s not who you are that’s important; it’s who the voters think you are,” or perception/image trumps reality. Particularly in the 1980s, we saw the superficial definitions of patriotism (Republicans wrap themselves in the flag contrasted with Democrats wrap themselves in the Constitution), where appearance and image became more important than real character and substance, and where 30-second soundbites had to encapsulate simplistic solutions. But the reality required thoughtgful analysis of complicated problems that required sophisticated solutions. Immediate gratifcation ruled — and still rules — the day. And, most important, any attempt to reform the electoral process to prevent corruption was thwarted by the very corporatists who benefit from the current system where money buys access.

Money moves from Wall Street through “K” Street and Madison Avenue and back again
The “ruling” class of capitalist corporatists is fait accompli. Everyone complains about the system — even politicians, who spend most of their waking hours trying to raise campaign contributions — but the “ruling” class with the loudest voice money can buy can drown the rest of us out. And this all culminated in a conservative Supreme Court of the U.S. (SCOTUS) ruling in Citizens United regarding corporate personhood – that corporations were not just “persons” for legal purposes of conducting business and signing contracts, but actually the same as live human beings and were entitled to the same rights as live human beings, including and especially the ability to participate in the electoral process through campaign contributions. The next step is to grant corporations the vote, I suppose, and although it may seem preposterous right this minute, I fear it’s not too far off.

I have an earlier blog on corporate personhood, so I will not re-argue the point here. But let it suffice to say that this decision was possible as a result of how the corporate-owned and controlled media has effectively redefined in the minds of many Americans the idea that capitalism and democracy are equivalent. Once this redefinition took place, it was easy to slip many of the pro-corporatist legislation and court rulings that shifted not only the power from the middle-class to the upper-class, but the wealth as well.

There has been a great transfer of wealth from the lower class to the upper class, particularly in the past decade. In a time when the working class is under attack by rising cost of living and rising prices almost in every area, there is a boldness with which corporatists are attacking organized labor and collective bargaininig rights all over the country. How the wealthy corporatists have managed to convince the middle class that they are suffering low wages and lost benefits because of unions is mystifying, but it has its roots in the redefinition of democracy and the propaganda that has convinced “Joe the Plumber” that he is or could become a part of the upper 1% and is prevented from doing so because of government programs that actually help people in his real economic class.

How the middle-class misidentifies with the wealthy elite
Republican core constituency is the elite 1% capitalist ruling class that wants smaller government (when you are rich, you don’t need government services), deregulation, completely free markets and lower taxes. There is a growing number of middle- and working-class Republicans that identify themselves with the wealthy. They have bought the propaganda that they will benefit from policies that help corporations and the wealthy simply based on their misidentification with the wealthy.

Corporatist propaganda has convinced them that if they only support policies that demand smaller government, lower taxes and deregulation, they can achieve great wealth. This is flawed and proven so by the statistical odds that most will not achieve great wealthy without (a) a great education, or (b) a brilliant, inventive mind whose research is funded by capital, or (c) extraordinary luck of winning the lottery at 13M to 1 odds. Allow me to be the pessimist here: don’t build your financial plan on the assumption that you will win the lottery. Don’t plan on sheer brilliance alone to make you rich. Unless you are brilliant to the point where you exceed the odds of the lottery, you aren’t going to invent some incredible product that makes you a millionaire, no matter how hard you work, without investment capital that you won’t have in the first place. It is even less likely if you don’t have a good education, which is becoming increasingly elusive to anyone in the middle or lower classes, you are not likely to ave the knowledge to compete for the jobs that will make you rich.

Corporatists want to be able to operate without any boundaries in the marketplace and exploit whomever they choose to maximize profits. Merely being profitable is not enough, they must MAXIMIZE profits without any inhibitions such as not being able to poison air, water and ground, not being able to sell shoddy or dangerous products to customers. “Buyer beware” is supposed to be enough warning for the American public — even though many inherent dangers require expertise that the average reasonable American should not be expected to know or understand.

Democrat core constituency is all of We, the People, but especially the “commoners of the capitalist society” — the 99% of Americans who are the small business community, which is primarily middle class, professionals (who, though usually well-paid, still have to perform work for a living) and working class (skilled and unskilled labor). Democrats know that the 99% need caring representation and access to government that their modest money cannot buy them individually as can that of the 1%. These people need government to do what government does best: operate in a non-profit way to create a structure which ensures equal opportunity and equal protection under the law; regulates how businesses and markets perform to prevent exploitation, victimization of innocents and corruption; protect the environment; and provide for health, safety, education and welfare that offers a temporary “hand up,” not merely a hand-out, when the economy has one of its unavoidable and intrinsic low points. Democrats see the nation’s children as a group that should be nurtured for our future (and theirs). Another JFK quote encapsulates Democratic theory about socioeconomic justice and the poor:

“If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.” — JFK

Republican/Libertarian policy is effectively Darwinian – “the strong survive; the weak perish.” Which is ironic, since most Republicans do not believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution. Their view of government is to allow individuals to help themselves and their own kids through their own individual effort, preaching that individual effort is the only “fair” answer to all society’s ills and the definition of good government. But what if society’s “rules” do not allow for equal oportunity or equal protection? They have no answer for that other than “let the free market work its magic.” This rhetoric uses “magical” words and thinkins and cannot manifest itself or translate to meaningful solutions to real problems in the form of good law or good policy.

Democrats see the poor and the homeless in a humanist/Christian way (ironically, social conservatives would bristle that both humanists and real Christians are taught the same values regarding how to treat people) — as a group that is in need of and that can benefit by good government programs that will teach them to help themselves.

It is this very real difference in how the two parties view the role of government that is at stake, but they do not deal with this difference in real and meaningful rhetoric. Republicans, as I stated before, are more Darwinian; they see the homeless and poor as the underbelly of society that are weak, lazy parasites on the capitalist class in need of “elimination,” or at least punishment. Republicans see social programs much the way a father who doesn’t want another mouth to feed sees an abandoned cat that his kids want to feed: if you feed it, it will never go away. In the “capitalist” father’s mind, better the kitten starve to death than drain him of even a fraction of his money. Consequently, Republicans see government as creating the poor rather than “helping” the poor become rich. Republicans think, as Reagan said, that government is the problem, not the solution.

Education is the great equalizer
Republicans neglect to say how you effectively change the odds for the poor so that they can become successful, given that the rules are stacked again them. Nor do they explain how they are to get an education when they can’t feed themselves or their children because there are no jobs that pay a living wage available for non-college graduates. For that matter, there aren’t even enough jobs for the current crop of college graduates these days that pay a living wage. Democrats believe that offering children social assistance for housing, nutrition healthcare and education is far preferable to incarcerating them permanently as adults. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” JFK so eloquently stated,

“A child miseducated is a child lost.” — JFK

And ever more eloquently stated:

“Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation.” — JFK

And that is why Democrats believe that funding and providing a national structure for public education should begin at the federal level, where equal opportunity and equal protection can be monitored and enforced without regard to local pressures, where majority rule cannot outweigh minority rights and long-term community interests. Republicans, on the other hand, want to localize and privatize education, and, further, would dissolve the U.S. Department of Education, which would create great inequities in the quality of education for minorities and the lack of standardization nationally would make it difficult to measure academic performance outside an individual school system.

If you can’t measure it; you can’t manage it. And, more importantly, if we can’t manage it, we can’t improve it.
We know from existing data and research that education is the singlemost effective weapon to combat crime through prevention. When we fail to educate a child, the child suffers lost opportunities due to lack of preparation. Lost opportunities lead to children with a cynical, defeatist view of the world, and that leads to kids that drop out of school and out of society. And that’s where crime consumes poor communities. Republican corporatists see prisoners as a pool of free forced labor to be exploited, which is why they support harsher, longer penalties for non-violent crimes and “three strikes” laws and privatizing the penal system. It is necessary to keep those prisoners in jail and increase the inmate population so that privatized prisons can keep the profits coming and the labor pool high.

The contrast in policy between Republican “elimination” vs. Democratic “illumination” is stark and real. And these beliefs are the foundation for each party’s core ideology. For Republicans, government is only good if it “gets out of the way” and helps the rich make more money and protects their property. For Democrats, government is only good if it protects those who cannot protect themselves and provides opportunity to achieve and succeed for everyone. And this core ideology is the basis for each party’s policies.

That is why I am a Democrat. And I find it both sad and humorous that Republicans are having to run from their own ideology (and the results it causes) in order to gain traction with the public these days. Redefining words, rewriting history, twisted descriptions and tortured logic are the result of the corporate-controlled media and how it has cynically used propaganda to appeal to the worst attributes in humanity: immediate gratification, greed and intellectual laziness.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day”
Promoting the idea or thinking Obama can fix in less than four years what GWB screwed up in 8 is the reasoning of an impatient, simplistic mind hell-bent on immediate gratification and subject to exploitation by shallow men with simplistic solutions. JFK said:

“When we got into office, the thing that surprised me most was to find that things were just as bad as we’d been saying they were.” — JFK

Sadly, in Obama’s case, things were much worse than anyone outside the GWB administration realized. Consequently, the stimulus plan that the Obama administration proposed and got passed was too small to effect the change needed, although it did “put a floor” on the recession. And an impatient electorate is judging him harshly for it rather than taking the time to frankly and openly analyze the problem and discuss what will really work and be truly effective.

Change takes time
The other problem is that not only is the “pain” of the bad economy not going to go away simply because we refuse to face the reality of what it will take to “fix” the economy; it is also not being shared equally, because the wealthy has enjoyed a greater profit margin than ever while the middle- and working-classes wages have remained stagnant. We listen to simplistic soundbites from our poliicians and repeat them like a mantra instead of having the intellectual discipline to stop and think about what it will really take to effect change. If failing to make sound, effective arguments in 30 seconds or less rather than taking ideas and discussing them in detail — and everyone knows the devil is always in the details — is what gets politicians elected — and, consequently, what voters are voting for — then you can’t blame the politicians alone for the mess we’re in.

Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future. — JFK

Americans have the government they have voted for; if we aren’t willing to invest the time to be good citizens and demand solid information, vetted sources, etc., from our media and truth in advertising from our politicians, it’s collectively our fault. The media sells air time based on ratings. Divisiveness and conflict create drama and interest; melodrama sells. Political theatre with 30-second soundbites and mud-slinging and talking heads screaming over each other and media-generated polls are cheaper to produce than live reporters “on the beat.” It is easier to focus on the “process” rather than the substance of both the issues and the elections.

Superficial sells
Andm, consequently, superficial is what we get. We are the buyers so if we continue to tune in to crazies that tell us with all the feigned passion that fake outrage can muster “the sky is falling,” and we react based on this misinformation and disinformation without thinking or researching, we deserve what we get. And we are suffering from our own intellectual laziness and bad citizenship right now.

There are many good men and women who would be good leaders that won’t even consider running for office because of the corruption, the intrusion into family life and the toll it takes to deal with the fractionalism, divisiveness and political theatre in Washington. We have boxed our leaders into intractable positions where they must hold their opinions as moral absolutists — even in the face of new or better information — or be accused of “flip-flopping.” Now, to cooperate and compromise is a bad thing. This leads to one-dimensional leaders, one-dimensional solutions and, ultimately, bad policy. As JFK put it,

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

We have created an untenable situation for our leaders, and we can’t blame them for not wanting to enter the political fray under these conditions. We obsess over what Michelle is wearing instead of what Obama is saying. And, worst, we tune in to media that don’t even allow us to listen to what Obama is actually saying instead, they think for us, talking over Obama’s speech and substituting his words with their own interpretation. “Infotainment” is about couching a kernel of “marketable” news in a grain elevator full of meaningless polls, talking heads and superficial political theatre.

When you reward bad behavior, you guarantee it will continue
And until we stop rewarding bad behavior and change our subscriptions and TV habits by supporting good hard news reporting rather than political talking heads that give opinions rather than facts, we will continue to get more of the same. Politicians respond to what works.

If we demand better government, we will eventually get it. We can act in concert to demand campaign finance reform and media reform that requires hard news programs from all broadcasters that is accountable to fact-checking. Opinions and editorials have no place in hard news programs. Plastic politicians managed by political handlers acting like puppeteers will continue to be the rule until we demand better. Politicians that are intent on redefining reality and rewriting history to validate their political ideology will not give us the meaningful solutions our country needs right now. We do not live in a virtual world where we can redefine reality. We must deal with it in truth. And the sooner, the better for all of us.

Posted in Barack Obama, campaign finance reform, change, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, civic responsibility, Constitution, corporate personhood, corporatism, democracy, deregulation, economy, election reform, government corruption, healthcare, incompetence in government, journalistic ethics, leadership, media, media corruption, philosophy, political corruption, presidential debates, unemployment, unity | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Why it is important not to “check out” during the next campaign season….

On one of the discussion blogs, there was mention of a movement to not participate in the next campaign because of the disgust with our elected officials, specifically, not to contribute to any campaigns. There is a problem with this: If people stop contributing to campaigns, it will simply give the corporations total and complete power of who gets elected. And, as Ralph Nader suggested, they will support the most corrupt and easily influenced candidates, because those candidates will kneel to their corporate benefactors the fastest.

The Citizens United case that gave corporations corporate personhood and the right to participate in the election process did not give corporations equal rights, they gave them more rights than people. As individual live persons, we are limited to the amount of money we can contribute to political campaigns. Corporations are not, so they actually already have more power than we do.

Do we want this? Do we really want this?

And interesting piece was written by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., called What happens when you allow corporations to run our government? (http://www.aliciabaylaurel.com/robertfkennedyjr2):

What happens when you allow corporations to run our government?

What you get is plunder. And I have to say this, the American people have to understand that there is a huge difference between free market capitalism, which is a good thing because it makes us more efficient, more prosperous, and more democratic, and the kind of corporate-crony capitalism which has been embraced by this (Bush) White House. The reason they shouldn’t be running our government is because corporations don’t want the same thing for America as Americans want. Corporations do not want free markets and they do not want democracy. They want profits and the best way for them to get the profits too often is to use our campaign financing system which is just a system of legalized bribery, to get their hooks into a public official, they use that public official to dismantle the market place, to give them monopoly control, and then to privatize the commons, to turn over our Treasury, our air, our water, our public lands, our wildlife, our fishery, the shared resource of our society that give context to our community, that connects us to our past, that are the source of our values and our virtues and our character as a people, and we are turning that over, for profit, to these corporations.

We have to remember this, legally corporations cannot do good things. They cannot do true philanthropy, they can’t do things that are good for our country or for our community. When you see Wal-Mart bringing bottled water down to the Katrina victims, they’re not doing that to be good guys, they’re doing it because they think that over the long run the public view of them will be enhanced and that that will enhance their shareholder value and their dividend distribution. If they have another reason for doing it, any one of their shareholders can sue them and they will win that lawsuit. It is called wasting corporate assets. It is against the law in this country for a corporation to turn itself into a philanthropy. And if they’re caught doing it their board members will be punished and their shareholders can sue them.

We want corporations to be this way, to focus narrowly. We don’t want them to turn into philanthropies because nobody would invest in them. We want them to focus narrowly on shareholder value. BUT, we would be nuts to let them anywhere near our government because we designed them to plunder and that’s what they’re going to do to us if we let them run our country. That’s what they’re doing now. That’s why from the beginning of our national history, our greatest political leaders, Republicans and Democrats, have been warning Americans against the domination of corporate power.

Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican, said that America would never be destroyed by a foreign enemy, by an Osama bin Laden, but he warned that our Bill of Rights, our Constitution and our treasured democratic institutions would be subverted by malefactors of great wealth who would steal them from within. Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican, in his most famous speech ever warned Americans against a domination by the military industrial complex. Abraham Lincoln, the greatest Republican in history, said during the height of the Civil War in 1863,

“I have the South in front of me and I have the bankers behind me and for my country I fear the bankers more.”

Franklin Roosevelt, during World War II, said that the domination of government by corporate power is “the essence of Fascism.” Benito Mussolini, who had an insider’s view of that process, said essentially the same thing. He complained that Fascism should not be called Fascism; it should be called Corporatism because it was the merger of state and corporate power.

What we have to understand in this country is that the domination of business by government is called Communism and the domination of government by business is called Fascism. [emphasis mine]

Our job is to walk that narrow trail between free market capitalism and democracy, holding big-government at bay with our right hand and big-business at bay with our left. And in order to do that we need an informed public that is able to recognize all the milestones of tyranny.

To do that we need an aggressive and independent press that is willing to stand up and speak truth to power, and we no longer have that in the United States of America. [emphasis mine]

This is my concern and my argument in a nutshell. This is what I have been worried about with the simple-mindedness of the Tea Party and the stealth of Wall Street, who can easily use the TPs to achieve their agenda fully, which is to control government completely.

When that happens, We, the People, by and large, specifically the working class wage-earning Americans, become nothing more than serfs serving corporations owned by the wealthy.

And if you think this can’t happen, look at how quickly the U.S.S.R. failed in the ’80s. From the 1960s, when Kruschev slammed his shoe on the table in a discussion with JFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis when we thought the future of this planet was on the brink to less than 30 years later, when the wall came tumbling down in Berlin, is a very, very short life cycle for a government that once was a feared world power.

What has sustained the U.S. through many wars, including a civil war, is not its people, or its flag, or its pride, it is an idea encapsulated in a document called the Constitution. It is the idea of Individualism (the moral worth of the individual), where, during the Age of Enlightenment with Descartes, Spinoza and Newton, the power of the individual was promoted.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_Enlightenment#cite_ref-31:

Because it was a value system rather than a set of shared beliefs, there are many contradictory trains to follow. As Outram notes, The Enlightenment comprised “many different paths, varying in time and geography, to the common goals of progress, of tolerance, and the removal of abuses in Church and state” (Dorinda Outram, Panorama of the Enlightenment (2006) p 29 ). In his famous essay “What is Enlightenment?” (1784), Immanuel Kant described it simply as freedom to use one’s own intelligenc (Blissett, Luther (1997). “Anarchist Integralism: Aesthetics, Politics and the Après-Garde”. http://www.stewarthomesociety.org/ai.htm. Retrieved 2008-01-18). More broadly, the Enlightenment period is marked by increasing empiricism, scientific rigor, and reductionism, along with increasing questioning of religious orthodoxy.

Historian Peter Gay asserts the Enlightenment broke through “the sacred circle” (Gay, Peter (1996). The Enlightenment: An Interpretation. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0393008703. ), whose dogma had circumscribed thinking. The Sacred Circle is a term used by Peter Gay to describe the interdependent relationship between the hereditary aristocracy, the leaders of the church and the text of the Bible. This interrelationship manifests itself as kings invoking the doctrine “Divine Right of Kings” to rule. Thus church sanctioned the rule of the king and the king defended the church in return.

Zafirovski, (2010) argues that The Enlightenment is the source of critical ideas, such as the centrality of freedom, democracy, and reason as primary values of society—as opposed to the divine right of kings or traditions as the ruling authority (Milan Zafirovski, The Enlightenment and Its Effects on Modern Society (201) p 144 ). This view argues that the establishment of a contractual basis of rights would lead to the market mechanism and capitalism, the scientific method, religious tolerance, and the organization of states into self-governing republics through democratic means. In this view, the tendency of the philosophes in particular to apply rationality to every problem is considered the essential change (Lorraine Y. Landry, Marx and the postmodernism debates: an agenda for critical theory (2000) p. 7 ). Later critics of The Enlightenment, such as the Romantics of the 19th century, contended that its goals for rationality in human affairs were too ambitious to ever be achieved (Thomas D. D’Andrea, Tradition, rationality, and virtue: the thought of Alasdair MacIntyre (2006) p. 339 ).

When you read about the Age of Englightenment and Paine’s Age of Reason, which gave rise to the revolution through the concept of empowering individuals and to the idea of self-governance, which is the ideal behind our Constitution, it becomes clear that the recent rewriting of history, believed by Bachmann and other social conservatives, that America was originally a theocracy is absolutely wrong. The Separation of Church and State was extremely important to the Founders, because memories of religious persecution in their homelands were real and immediate. The principles of self-governance depend on personal responsibility, and personal responsibility was the fruit of the ideals that came from the Age of Enlightenment and the Age of Reason, because by giving man personal power, they also gave man personal responsibility.

We know that dictators and strong men do not start out being openly so. They start out, like Fidel Castro, as saviors of their country from some other “force” that was painted as or was truly seeking to destroy their country. In Castro’s case, it was the mafia. In Stain’s case, it was Adolph Hitler and the Nazis. There is always a boogie-man when a strong man takes over a country.

It makes sense that, in a country where Capitalism is so closely aligned with democracy, that corporations would seek to equate capitalism with democracy, then replace democracy with capitalism altogether. In the Republican Party, this transformation is almost complete.

But capitalism is Darwinian — the market has only one purpose: to make money — and only the strong (rich and powerful) survive; the weak (working man with rights) perish. Democracy is the polar opposite: it is all about empowering individuals to participate in the forces that control their lives and their destiny, particularly in governance.

If we do not understand that these differences are important ones, and we allow the forces behind corporations to completely control our government, we will lose our democracy and our power very quickly.

Posted in change, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, civic responsibility, civil liberties, Constitution, corporate personhood, democracy, election fraud, election reform, government corruption, incompetence in government, individualism, journalistic ethics, leadership, philosophy, political corruption, separation of Church and State | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Countries ranked by unemployment, healthcare, taxes, national debt

https://r.office.microsoft.com/r/rlidExcelEmbed?su=6689243096185879178&Fi=SD5CD4F727A464BA8A!104&kip=1&Item='Sheet1'!A1%3AK12&wdDownloadButton=True

I compiled a spreadsheet from three sources plus the “AAA” list provided earlier and included the U.S. in the chart to show unemployment, healthcare, taxes and national debt as a percentage of GDP (I hope you can get to this. I can’t seem to embed the damn thing!) —

https://excel.officeapps.live.com/x/_layouts/xlEmbed.aspx?C=1__SKY-WAC-WSHI&su=6689243096185879178&Fi=SD5CD4F727A464BA8A!104&Item=’Sheet1’!A1%3AK12&wdDownloadButton=True

I used the following sources for the data for the above table:

http://247wallst.com/2011/02/16/nations-with-triple-a-ratings-which-are-at-risk-which-arent/2/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_unemployment_rate
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_public_debt
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tax_rates_around_the_world
http://www.photius.com/rankings/healthranks.html
http://www.visualeconomics.com/healthcare-costs-around-the-world_2010-03-01/ or
* http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/hea_spe_per_per-health-spending-per-person:

http://www.wisegeek.com/what-factors-determine-the-business-climate.htm:

The business climate is a measure of how various factors aid or harm the chances of business as a whole thriving in a particular region. It is based on systemic factors such as regulations and government policies, not on actual business performance or variable factors such as whether or not there is a recession happening. Assessments of the business climate are based solely on how good the situation is for businesses, regardless of how that affects society as a whole

[…]

When comparing the business climate of countries around the world, the respective legal systems play a major role. Factors include how well-protected intellectual property rights such as patents are, the state of law and order, and whether or not there is significant political corruption. While a corrupt system will be a great benefit to some individual businesses, it’s seen as a bad thing for business overall as it lessens the advantages available to businesses which compete legally, for example those which produce the best products, have the best marketing and set the most effective prices.

The business climate is also affected by the availability of resources. This includes how many people of working age are available, how well-trained and well-educated the population is, and whether legal practices make it easier or more difficult to recruit staff. There are also effects to do with machinery and other capital such as how easy it is to get credit in the country to buy equipment. In manufacturing in particular, there is an effect from the cost of electricity, water and gas, which can depend on how much competition there is in the utility markets.

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2008-08/01/content_6895515.htm:

More than half of the 281 corporate executives who responded to the survey named China as the most favorable country. India was second with 45.1 percent, followed by Mexico, the United Kingdom and Canada

The corporate decision-makers who named China as the best for investment most frequently cited its “growing economy/ business opportunities,” “labor cost” and “low overall/operating costs” as reasons for their positive perceptions.

What this means is that if you have virtual slave labor, a large population and no regulations, business executives see where they can maximize their profits.

Although China and India are listed at the top, neither country has a good legal system that protects intellectual property and they do not recognize, respect or protect international copyrights or patents, which means that we here in the U.S. spend the dollars for the R&D of new medicines or the creation and production of a movie or music CD, and they can pirate it at will, robbing the copyright and/or patent holders of millions, if not billions of dollars annually (collectively speaking). And that is largely the fault of our weak negotiators who do not represent us well in trade deals.

Nor do you see in their calculations any value placed on quality of life and job satisfaction among workers or health and safe conditions or environmental health, which is why our laws and perception of what a business executive should weigh in as factors of a good decision should be more than merely maximizing profits.

By maximizing profits only, you are placing no value on good corporate citizenship.

I question the wisdom in allowing the U.S. to become a Third World country where the rich and corporations control the wealth and benefit from the money-controlled government with low taxes, no regulations to ensure proper corporate citizenship and where the vast majority of the population has no power or control over wages, benefits and working conditions and even less power in a legal system that benefits those in power who control the wealth.

This is where the U.S. is headed. We have forgotten the lessons learned from the robber barons at the turn of the 20th century and all the damage they did to workers, the financial system and the environment. That is why labor unions came into existence in the first place. That is why regulations were imposed to ensure that corporations would not damage the environment or use workers like slaves. That is why we banned child labor, indentured servitude (forced slave labor) and slavery.

And now Big Business and right-wing economists are telling us that we must be like China — once our mortal enemy with a chilling list of human rights abuses which still persist, and callous disregard for the environment, working conditions and consumer protection. Where you have large populations living in extreme poverty, you have a desperate pool of labor willing to do anything to survive.
\America had, at one time, moved past those shameful days of the robber barons, slavery and inequity in power between management and labor. Do we really want to regress and digress back to that shameful time?

Posted in healthcare, national credit rating, national debt, political corruption, unemployment | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The SCOTUS decision in Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett

http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/10pdf/10-238.pdf

Page 7 begins Chief Justice John Robert’s majority opinion (ROBERTS, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which SCALIA, KENNEDY, THOMAS, and ALITO, JJ., joined).
Page 37 begins Kagan’s dissenting (minority) opinion (JUSTICE KAGAN, with whom JUSTICE GINSBURG, JUS-TICE BREYER, and JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR join, dissenting).

The “hypothetical” given by Kagan was merely an attempt to describe the situation that led to Arizona adopting the law in the first place. Much was made of it as if it were not “proper” judicial language, but it was merely an attempt to explain the situation as the judges’ viewed it.

Footnote No. 11 in the majority opinion describes the case:

The State claims that the Citizens Clean Elections Act was passedin response to rampant corruption in Arizona politics — elected officials”literally taking duffle bags full of cash in exchange for sponsoring legislation.” (Brief for State Respondents 45). That may be. But, as the candidates and independent expenditure groups point out, the corruption that plagued Arizona politics is largely unaddressed by the matching funds regime. (AFEC Brief 11, n. 4). Public financing does nothing to prevent politicians from accepting bribes in exchange for their votes.

It is true that public financing cannot, by iteself, correct the corruption in politics caused by the undue influence of corporations and special interests on politicians and the political process. On that we agree. However, what the majority opinion does not point out is that the Court’s past decisions to legislate from the bench regarding corporate personhood and extending the rights and protections under the law that natural persons enjoy to corporations and other legal organizations has caused a ripple effectof corruption — an effect of creating an even more favorable environment for undue corporate influence in politics, and therefore an environment of even more-entrenched political corruption in our political process.

This Arizona law is a case that tries to correct the SCOTUS decision of Citizens United, where the SCOTUS contorted the true meaning of the 14th amendment (which was intended to extend constitutional rights and protection under the law to all natural persons, i.e., human beings, mainly slaves of African descent) and create a new class of being — corporations, formerly considered only legal persons for the limited purposes of conducting business and entering into contracts — and make them equal to natural persons, or live human beings. This concept is called corporate personhood.

By the conservative majority on the SCOTUS making this decision in Citizens United that extended cprporate personhood, and therefore, free speech protection to corporations, their Citizens United decision helps to support the political corruption that is rampant in all political campaigns at virtually every level of government, and that is the corruption of Big Business and Special Interests controlling political campaigns through Big Money, and justifiying it with free speech protection. By extending free speech and protection to Big Business, SCOTUS weakened the voices of natural persons — real, live human beings that are tax-paying American citizens, and makes it virtually impossible for any politician to win election without the support of corporate overlords to whom they become beholden and, in exchange, provide greater access and favors to their corporate benefactors once in office.

The SCOTUS decision in Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club Pac et al. v. Bennett, Secretary of State of Arizona, et al., strikes down the state law enacted by Arizona that is an attempt to counteract political corruption and the effects of the SCOTUS decision in Citizens United.

I do not believe that the Arizona state law was proper based on constitutional principles, but not for the same reason as the majority opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts. I do not support the SCOTUS decision extending protected rights of natural persons to legal entities, or legal persons, which is corporations or other legal organizations. Nor do I believe that corporations and special interests should be able to contribute to political campaigns. I believe that this gives them a louder voice than natural persons, which is contrary to the principles of the Constitution, which were founded on principles of the Individualist movement (where men are more important than governments and organizations).

The ideal scene would be to eliminate all forms of campaign financing and corporate involvement. I have provided my solution earlier in the previous post Why corporate person is unconstitutional, and I stand by it.

The SCOTUS majority opinion was proper only in that the Arizona law was inartfully crafted. However, it was crafted that way in order to get around the bad decision of the majority in Citizens United that extended free speech protection to corporations, which is also improper, IMHO.

Rather than read a journalists’ or bloggers’ interpretation of the SCOTUS decision, I urge you to read the majority and minority opinions firsthand.

http://www.supremecourt.gov/default.aspx is the home page of the U.S. Supreme Court. I suggest you store that in your favorites under Government along with http://thomas.loc.gov/home/thomas.php, which is the Library of Congress website that will give you access to all the bills before both houses of Congress. http://www.whitehouse.gov/ is the main website of the White House., especially http://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/executive-orders, which lists the Executive Orders signed by the President and http://www.whitehouse.gov/search/site/Presidential%20Signing%20Statements, which discusses Presidential Signing Statements (a feature that was significantly agused by GWB).

Posted in Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, corporate personhood | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Why corporate personhood is unconstitutional….

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens_United_v._Federal_Election_Commission:

The Court overruled Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which had previously held that a Michigan campaign finance act that prohibited corporations from using treasury money to support or oppose candidates in elections did not violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 08-205 (2010), was a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court holding that corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections cannot be limited — because of the First Amendment…. The decision reached the Supreme Court on appeal from a January 2008 decision by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia…. The Court struck down a provision of the McCain–Feingold Act that prohibited all corporations, both for-profit and not-for-profit, and unions from broadcasting “electioneering communications.”[2] An “electioneering communication” was defined in McCain–Feingold as a broadcast, cable, or satellite communication that mentioned a candidate within 60 days of a general election or thirty days of a primary. The decision overruled Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce (1990) and partially overruled McConnell v. Federal Election Commission (2003).[4] McCain–Feingold had previously been weakened, without overruling McConnell, in Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc. (2007). The Court did uphold requirements for disclaimer and disclosure by sponsors of advertisements. The case did not involve the federal ban on direct contributions from corporations or unions to candidate campaigns or political parties.[5]

This dangerous decision has basically shifted power from We, the People to a corporate owned and controlled government. Extending the rights of natural persons to corporate persons, or legal persons, is the issue at hand. It is called “corporate personhood.”

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporate_personhood:

The corporate personhood debate refers to the controversy (primarily in the United States) over the question of what subset of rights afforded under the law to natural persons should also be afforded to corporations as legal persons. In the United States, corporations were recognized as having rights to contract, and to have those contracts honored the same as contracts entered into by natural persons, in Dartmouth College v. Woodward, decided in 1819. In the 1886 case Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, 118 U.S. 394, the Supreme Court recognized that corporations were recognized as persons for purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment.[1][2] ….

Thomas Jefferson wrote in a 1816 letter to George Logan:[13]

I hope we shall… crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government in a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”

As is often the case, I tend to come down on the side of Jefferson on this issue.

“There is a substantial shift in global power to transnational capital.” – Noam Chomsky

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article25618.htm

There’s much excited talk these days about a great global shift of power, with speculation about whether, or when, China might displace the US as the dominant global power, along with India, which, if it happened, would mean that the global system would be returning to something like what it was before the European conquests. And indeed their recent GDP growth has been spectacular. But there’s a lot more to say about it. So if you take a look at the UN human development index, basic measure of the health of the society, it turns out that India retains its place near the bottom. It’s now 134th, slightly above Cambodia, below Laos and Tajikistan. Actually, it’s dropped since the reforms began. China ranks ninety-second, a bit above Jordan, below the Dominican Republic and Iran. By comparison, Cuba, been under harsh US attack for fifty years, is ranked fifty-second. It’s the highest in Central America and the Caribbean, barely below the richest societies in South America. India and China also suffer from extremely high inequality, so well over a billion of their inhabitants fall far lower in the scale. Furthermore, an accurate accounting would go beyond conventional measures to include serious costs that China and India can’t ignore for long: ecological, resource depletion, many others.

These common speculations about a global shift of power, which you can read all over the front pages, disregard a crucial factor that’s familiar to all of us: nations divorced from the internal distribution of power are not the real actors in international affairs. That truism was brought to public attention by that incorrigible radical Adam Smith, who recognized that the principal architects of power in England were the owners of the society—in his day, the merchants and manufacturers—and they made sure that policy would attend scrupulously to their interests, however grievous the impact on the people of England and, of course, much worse, the victims of what he called “the savage injustice of the Europeans” abroad. British crimes in India were the main concern of an old-fashioned conservative with moral values.

To his modern worshippers, Smith’s truisms are ridiculed as, quote, “elaborate theories of how world history was being manipulated by shadowy corporatist/imperialist networks.” I’m quoting New York Times thinker David Brooks. It’s one of the many illustrations of the intellectual and moral decline of what’s called “conservatism” from the understanding of its heroes.

Actually, in the interests of full disclosure, I should mention that I’m identified as the villain who adopts Adam Smith’s heresy, as in fact I do. Well, bearing Smith’s radical truism in mind, we can see that there is indeed a global shift of power, though not the one that occupies center stage. It’s a shift from the global work force to transnational capital, and it’s been sharply escalating during the neoliberal years. The cost is substantial, including the Joe Stacks of the US, starving peasants in India, and millions of protesting workers in China, where the labor share in income is declining even more rapidly than in most of the world.

In my experience, part of the problem with public debate — as is true with conflicts over unenforceable or poorly written contracts — is the issue of clarity that comes from clearly defined terms. This is particular true in discussing what a successful economy really looks like. There is a saying: “If you can’t measure it; you can’t manage it.” — source undeterminable. And that is true for terms: if you can’t define it in a measurable way, there is no clarity in the debate. Politicians and political entities have made a living out of rewriting history by redefining terms, or at least changing the connotation of terms, which, in essense, is redefining them. The same is true with statistics and statistical analysis. There was a book written by rrell Huff in 1954 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_to_Lie_with_Statistics):

The book is a brief, breezy, illustrated volume outlining common errors, both intentional and unintentional, associated with the interpretation of statistics, and how these errors can lead to inaccurate conclusions. It has become one of the best-selling statistics books in history, with over one and a half million copies sold in the English-language edition, even though the monetary examples have become dated because of inflation.[1] It has also been widely translated.

Themes of the book include “Correlation does not imply causation” and “Using Random Sampling“. It also shows how statistical graphs can be used to distort reality, for example by truncating the bottom of a line or bar chart, so that differences seem larger than they are, or by representing one-dimensional quantities on a pictogram by two- or three-dimensional objects to compare their sizes, so that the reader forgets that the images don’t scale the same way the quantities do.

This book bears reading, because it points out how Madison Avenue has so manipulated our thought processes and our view of the world until we accept nonsense as grounded in fact almost without question.

In the piece referenced above, Chomsky goes on to say:

To understand the public mood, it’s worthwhile to recall that the conventional use of GDP, gross domestic product, to measure economic growth is highly misleading. It’s a highly ideological measure. There have been efforts to devise more realistic measures. One of them is called the General Progress Indicator. It subtracts from GDP expenditures that harm the public, and it adds that value of authentic benefits. Well, in the US, the General Progress Indicator has stagnated since the 1970s, although GDP has increased, the growth going into very few pockets. That result correlates with others—for example, the studies of social indicators, the standard measure of health of a society. Social indicators tracked economic growth until the mid-’70s. Then they began to decline, and they reached the level of 1960 by the year 2000. That’s the latest figures available. The United States is one of the very few countries that has no government inquiry into social indicators. The correlation with financialization of the economy and neoliberal socio-economic measures is pretty hard to miss, and it’s not unique to the United States, by any means.

Now, it’s true that there’s nothing essentially new in the process of deindustrialization. Owners and managers naturally seek the lowest labor costs. Occasionally there are efforts to do otherwise. Henry Ford is the famous example, but his efforts were struck down by the courts long ago. So, in fact, it’s a legal obligation for corporate owners and managers to maximize profit. One means of doing this is shifting production. In earlier years, the shift was mostly internal, especially to the Southern states. There, labor could be more harshly repressed. And major corporations, like the first billion-dollar corporation, the US Steel Corporation of the sainted philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, could also profit from the new slave labor force that was created by the criminalization of black life in the South after the end of Reconstruction in 1877. That’s a core part of the American industrial revolution, which continued until the Second World War. That’s actually being reproduced in part right now, during the recent neoliberal period. The drug war is used as a pretext to drive the superfluous population, mostly black, back to the prisons, also providing a new supply of prison labor in state and private prisons, much of it in violation of international labor conventions. In fact, for many African Americans, since they were exported to the colonies, life has scarcely escaped the bonds of slavery, or sometimes worse.

I understand what he’s saying, because I live in the South and have witnessed the disparity in wages that is the result of the desperation for jobs — any jobs at any payrate — that comes with economic depression. And the myth that living expenses are lower, therefore wages can be lower is just that: a myth, not reality in comparison to cities of equal size throughout the country (with the exception of metro areas like Atlanta, DC, NYC, Boston, Chicago, LA, etc.).

Make no mistake, we are watching the foundation for modern serfdom being laid as we speak.

“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” – George Santayana quotes (Spanish born American Philosopher, Poet and Humanist who made important contributions to aesthetics, speculative philosophy and literary criticism. 1863-1952)

The SCOTUS based their decision in Citizens United on the claim that corporations have a right to freedom of speech and their previous decisions that expanded corporate personhood to include the rights of natural persons (live human beings). This basically equates natural persons (live human beings) with legal persons (corporations and other legal entities that include special interest groups, unions, etc.). But the previous decisions they have made using as justification the 14th Amendment to the Constitution violates what I believe (as do many others) the framers intended. Had that not been the case, they would have specifically articulated that corporations and other legal organizations are equal to natural persons. Given the stranglehold that the crown and business entities like the East India Trading Company had on the law in England, I cannot imagine they felt this way.

The 14th Amendment was intended to abolish slavery and raise all natural persons (human beings) to equal legal status — equal rights and equal protection under the law. It was not intended to turn a business into a human being in terms of the rights protected in the Bill of Rights, etc. Businesses do not vote (as of yet, though we are headed in that direction).

There is a reason that their decision did not take on the question of how corporate personhood diluted the power and voice of natural persons. It was not mentioned, to my knowledge, in their arguments becvause it contrasts sharply with the framers intent. A corporation has legal rights to enter into contracts and conduct business. In these actions, it can and does speak with one voice (the voice of the proprietors, owners, executive board and stockholders, etc.).

The SCOTUS claimed that because companies are comprised of individuals that are natural persons (executive board members, stockholders, employees), they are to be considered to have equal rights as a natural person (live human being). The flaw in this argument is that the natural persons that comprise a corporation have many individual voices and do not necessarily speak with one voice, certainly not unanimously and consistently and without fear of retribution. In fact, most board decisions are not unanimous. Nor are stockholder votes. And employees cannot speak freely without risking their jobs (fear of retribution), so they would be speaking under duress if they are allowed to speak at all and certainly if they are speaking in their capacity as employees of the company.

That is not free speech. In fact, it has the likelihood, if not certainty, of repressing the free speech of the natural persons that comprise the corporation if their position in the company might be at risk of loss should they not agree with the majority opinion or even the minority opinion if it is management’s opinion.

That is the exact opposite of the intent of freedom of speech as it is articulated in the Bill of Rights.

Very seldom, in situations where individuals feel safe to speak their minds freely without risking retribution from the majority or the powerful, do any group of natural persons speak with one voice without exception. Therefore, it is erroneous and actually unconstitutional to consider that corporations or any other organization of natural persons (even ones where its members join voluntarily) should have the power to represent a group of natural persons in equity with the same rights as each of the individual natural persons.

This decision actually weakens the voice of natural persons when more powerful legal entities like corporations and special interests can speak more loudly (with more money to back it up) than they can, especially in government and the political arena. It is contrary to the founding principles of our Constitution, which considered the rights and voice of the individual (here, natural person) to be more important than the government or any other legal entity.

That is why corporate personhood should be abolished. When corporations, who control their employees and, to an extent, their customers, are allowed equal consideration to a natural person, it is misleading to think that the consideration they enjoy is actually equal, since their wealth and power gives them a louder, more powerful voice. And these louder and more powerful voices can often be at odds with the best interests of the collective individual natural persons we call We, the People.

How do we fix it? Campaign finance reform will require Congress to reverse Citizens United. It may require a constitutional amendment to define what a “natural person” v. a “legal person/legal entity” is and which rights legal persons/entities cannot enjoy and, more importantly, which rights are reserved for natural persons only.

Then, and only then, can we enact meaningful campaign finance reform. Here are my suggestions:

1. Restrict campaign contributions to a maximum individual amount per person for each registered voter in the candidate’s district (city, county, ward, district, state or country, depending on what office the candidate is running for). For a U.S. Representative, that means only the registered voters in his or her congressional district are allowed to contribute to the candidate’s campaign and only for the maximum individual amount. For a U.S. Senator, that would be the registered voters in his or her state. For President, it would be the total registered voters in each state for the entire country.

2. Political parties can use contributions to the party, in general, to fund “get out the vote” and “voter registration” drives. They can supplement an individual’s campaign fund only to the total limit allowed for that district, state or the country, depending on the office in contest. That means if the U.S. Representative have 1,000 registered voters (natural persons of voting age that can provide a state ID and voter registration card) and the contribution limit is $1,250 per person, the total amount the candidate can have, whether it be from individual contributions or his political party supplement is 1,000 x $1,250 = $1.25M.

3. No candidate or candidate’s family member can contribute more than the maximum individual amount per registered voter, and any member of the candidate’s family that contributes must be a registered voter in that district.

4. No other candidate in any other race can transfer funds to any other candidate.

5. No corporation or special interest can contribute to individual campaigns or political parties. They are restricted to running “issue” ads that do not specify a specific candidate or party in any identifiable way (picture, name, ID, party affiliation).

6. Candidates cannot borrow money personally and campaigns cannot borrow money as a political campaign from anyone, any time, anywhere, ever.

7. The length of campaigns must be limited to approximately six months beginning on Memorial Day weekend and ending on the second Tuesday in November (election day).

Now, why these restrictions?

We want the people’s voice to determine the candidates that are slated on the ballot on election day as well as the winner of the election. We do not want any candidate to have special advantage because of their personal wealth, in other words, a rich person cannot buy an elected office with his own money. We want only the voters in the district to be able to speak as to who represents them in Congress or in the White House. We want elected officials to demonstrate that they can successfully manage and operate on a fixed budget. And we want our elected officials to actually do something besides run for re-election while they are in office.

The other arm of campaign finance reform would be accountability:

1. Candidates, their campaign manager(s), media manager(s), the company producing the campaign advertising (broadcast media or printed material) and the network broadcasting or distributing the ads are subject to the same “truth in advertising” and libel laws as companies advertising soap flakes. Each officer of the campaign mentioned can be held legally liable for unsupported allegations against other candidates or parties or outright lies or misrepresentations of factual content. The same is true for any claims regarding the candidate, his or her personal and work history, arrest records, tax returns, military conscripjtion compliance, military service records, business ownership, executive boards and any regulatory infractions or lawsuits and legal status of businesses owned or controlled by the candidate, and the candidate’s arrest records, convinctions and legal status. Reporting rumors as rumors that cannot be substantiated with evidence as facts is libelous. Likewise, fraudulently claiming you have a college degree and being unwilling to support that claim with evidence will not be allowed.

2. Candidates, their campaign manager(s) and their campaign’s CFO or Financial Manager are legally liable for verifying the legitimacy of all monies collected, who contributed, how much they contributed, a copy of their state driver’s license (establishing residency) and voter’s registration card on file, the amount collected, and how it was collected (internet, in person, by mail, cash, credit card, check).

3. Candidates, their campaign manager(s), the political party who is running them, and the state Secretary of State responsible for creating the ballots must be able to provide evidence that the candidate meets the federal or state constitutional requirements to run for the office. Just like the I-9 residency verification process, candidates must provide a birth certifcate, a state driver’s license, tax returns and a voter’s registration card demonstrating that he or she meets the requirements to run. Certified copies of these forms must be on file at campaign headquarters, party headquarters and the state Secretary of State’s office and available for public review upon request.

4. Candidates must divulge all business and financial holdings, without exception, including any “dark investments” like derivatives. All the candidates assets must be held by U.S. companies and U.S. banks (no hidden cash in the Caymans, etc.). The candidate cannot hold any investments in foreign corporations and cannot represent foreign governments as a lobbyist or in any other capacity. If the candidate’s spouse is serving in a professional capacity as a lobbyist or works for or represents a government contractor, foreign corporation or foreign government, that should be considered a conflict of interest in equal standing with the candidate themselves holding the same position while running for office or serving their term.

That will avoid all the nonsense of whether a candidate is “legal” and whether they are abiding by the rules. This will allow the public to focus on the real issues at hand.

The next step will be to shut the revolving door between the President’s cabinet and Wall Street and “K” Street, particularly in the Treasury Department and any regulatory agencies. We can accomplish this by requiring any elected official or his or her spouse to have to wait at least two years after leaving office before he or she can work as a lobbyist or for a government contractor. Additionally, any appointed official or regulatory official or agent must divest themselves of personal holdings in any company that operates in the industry or area that their position will require them to manage or regulate, and after that person has left the government, they will not be allowed to work for or hold interest in any company that operates in any industry they previously managed or regulated in their government position for a minimum of two years. This will avoid conflict of interest. In other words, Paulson would not be able to jump from Goldman Sachs into Treasury and write legislation that so directly benefitted Goldman Sachs.

Disclosing which lobbyists or private companies participated in the writing of legislation before Congress is another way we can prevent corporations from using Congress as their personal agents.

And, finally, restricting ownership and control of broadcast journalism to companies wholly owned and controlled by journals and independent news bureaus. It is time to stop corporations from controlling the message and dessiminating propaganda as hard, factual news. Freedom of the Press cannot be a reality if the press is not independent of corporate special interests and influence.

When we have accomplished this, We, the People, will have our power back. We will once again control our government and ensure a truly free and independent press. There can be no effective self-governance without informed consent.

Posted in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, civil liberties, civil rights, Constitution, democracy, election reform, freedom of speech, government corruption, individualism, leadership, political corruption | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Attack on teachers: Using reporting of rumors to misdirect attention!

State officials back off Capitol damage claim
e-mail print By Jason Stein and Sharif Durhams of the Journal Sentinel
March 4, 2011 11:36 a.m.

Madison — State officials charged with overseeing the state Capitol are now backing away from their estimate that demonstrators did more than $7 million in damage to the building.

The purpose of reported rumors using words like “could” or “might” or “up to” are deliberately constructed to report the rumor with plausible deniability in mind, avoid responsibility and escape legal slander or libel lawsuits from damaged parties.

The result is that the focus of the public discourse changes from the facts of the actual issue to arguments over deliberate, designed rumors, i.e., distractions that may not even be real from the outset. And, more often than not, those reporting the rumors know this to be true, but also know well that once a headline story is out most listeners/viewers will not bother to research the facts, much less read the retraction in small print in the end of the next issue or in the closing credits streaming by in lightning speed at the end of a program. The damage is done and the desired effect has been accomplished once the words jump off the page or out of the mouth of the reporter.

You have to learn to be a smarter reader/viewer when listening to this garbage from any source, otherwise you will be sucked into the blackhole of oblivion from which there is no solution sought, planned or possible.

Let me say this much about teachers: both of my parents were nationally honored and recognized educators with advanced degrees who spent decades toiling in unair-conditioned classrooms or offices with 30-40 students (elementary) and up to 300 students per day in high school. My father was a curriculum and instruction administrator who first brought special education to Mobile, which, for the first time, serviced physically and mentally challenged students (started at home, then classrooms for kids that could be mainstreamed, then an entire school dedicated to mentally challenged children).

I watched them get to work at 7:00 a.m. and work at school until about 5:00 p.m. or later, only to come home, get supper on the table, then retreat to their separate workrooms to grade papers, prepare lesson plans and do homework — that is, when they weren’t attending school functions, PTA meetings or working with smaller groups of kids needing extra help.

We got calls at home all time of the day and night from parents about their kids, teachers about their students or the students’ parents, etc. My father and mother both worked at home on weekends and often spent one or more days during the weekend putting up bulletin boards in their classrooms or going to their offices for other tasks.

For all this work and aggravation, neither of my parents were ever paid more than $45,000 per year with medical benefits and retirement, both of them retiring in the 1980s. Our family sacrificed time together more often than not. Neither of my parents were ever able to come to my PTA meeting or my sporting events because they were tied up with their own school’s functions. We could rarely afford to eat out or go on vacation on their combined salaries. The few times we did were tense with calculating the lowest-priced items on the menu or eating picnics while on vacation. We didn’t run air conditioning during the summer because we couldn’t afford the power bills. Buying a new pair of shoes required an Act of Congress, and my mother sewed most of my clothes (including bathing suits and prom dresses). Going to the hairdresser was out of the question: perms were administered at home. We had economy cars. There were no graduation trips to the Bahamas or Spring vacations to the beach. We did our own yardwork. Both my brother and I walked to school (including college) until we saved and bought our own cars and paid for our own gas.

So, as you can well imagine, when people talk about “greedy” teachers and how they only have to work nine months of the year (which isn’t actually true, since they are usually having to take college courses to keep their licensure up and/or attend inservice training and meetings), and when this criticism comes from financial analysts (mainly FOX News) who helped destroy our economy while still keeping their outrageous salaries and taking their outrageous bonuses on the taxpayers’ dime, remarking in outrage that THEY had earned THEIR money, intimating that teachers did not…. well, I guess you can imagine that it enrages me to a level and degree that’s hard to imagine.

Finally, I would like to point out that both of my parents (and I agree) that, like the ministry, medicine and public service, education is a “calling” not just a profession or a job. I certainly wish doctors and politicians thought of their professions in that way.

That does not mean, however, that teachers or any other “called” professionals have not earned our respect along with adequate financial compensation. My father often told me when I was debating in which direction I was going to go professionally, that teaching did not pay well, but the benefits and retirement made it financially feasible and the rewards were spiritual more than financial.

But let it be said loud and clear: neither of my parents went into education “for the money.” “Greedy teachers” — what a joke!

My Mom remarked that she wished all the politicians and talking heads could spend one day (I drew it out to one week) in a classroom with 30-40 elementary school kids, no air-conditioning and all the other conditions that teachers deal with daily before they were allowed to attack teachers! I would like all those financial analysts who think teachers are greedy to try to live on a teacher’s salary for a couple of months….

When Walker, the State Legislators and the State cabinets are willing to forgo with their salaries FIRST, pay rent for staying in the governor’s mansion, travel coach on their own dime to all the unnecessary trips to “encourage and promote tourism and business to their state” which translates into “vacationing on the taxpayers’ dime” in real-world terms, then I will consider their requests for salary cuts or benefits cost-sharing from public employees at least reasonable. And when they are willing to tax people earning over $250,000 (or higher) a small amount to make up the deficit, then talk to me.

Another ridiculous statement I would like to clear up is that the comment that public teachers make “more than their private counterparts” is misleading and misrepresentative. First of all, you have to know which private schools are included. Do they include any private school, including those that do not have the same accreditation as public schools (not only by the State, but also by accrediting agencies that accept their graduates on par with public schools)? All private schools are not created equal. The exclusive ones where broadcasters and politicians send their kids probably pay significantly more and charge significantly more per student for tuition than the public pays or receives from the State. And they can count on rich parents to provide for school supplies, nutritious meals, healthcare, a safe place to sleep, homework, tutors, etc. Many religious schools are not properly accredited and their graduates have problems getting accepted by better colleges and universities.

There was a book written by Huff entitled How to Lie with Statistics. Wikipedia says in its article about the book: “…The book is a brief, breezy, illustrated volume outlining common errors, both intentional and unintentional, associated with the interpretation of statistics, and how these errors can lead to inaccurate conclusions.”

Back to the issue at hand: to use the issues or “greed” and “irresponsibility” against teachers and attacking teachers in order to try to “break the backs of public unions” and eventually all unions (a Democratic stronghold) in preparation for a Republican victory in 2012 and beyond is despicable and un-American. To shut down government services or lay off teachers rather than make reasonable deals (the teachers’ unions already agreed to make all the financial concessions asked for by Walker) just so that you can railroad your bill and benefit your political party rather than the People is beyond despicable.

A side note: I wonder how much of the People’s tax dollars has been spent on having State Police camp out at the doorstep of Democratic legislators homes and offices…. (An example of a side-issue, but at least here it is more pertinent to the issue!)

We should demand better from our public servants. In fact, one of the problems is actually in the word we normally use for governors, legislators and presidents/vice-presidents: politicians.
It is not their job to be a politician, and by calling public servants by that name, we are tacitly agreeing to their change in focus from serving the public to running for office.

We, the People, do not elect them to run for office; we elect them to serve the public. Our Constitution does not recognize the office or official state capacity of “politician.” Nor does any state constitution that I am aware of.

We need to call them by the name that they are and call them out for pretending to legitimately be what they legitimately are not being paid for, constitutionally speaking. There is great power in using the right noun to describe the right person, place or thing.

Posted in Governor Walker, journalistic ethics, leadership, media, philosophy, political corruption | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

From journalism to “infotainment”….

ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper wrote the following article (March 02, 2011 5:36 PM), wherein he quotes Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

Sec. of State Hillary Clinton: Al Jazeera is ‘Real News’, U.S. Losing ‘Information War’

…Viewership of Al Jazeera is going up in the United States because it’s real news,” she said. “You may not agree with it, but you feel like you’re getting real news around the clock instead of a million commercials and, you know, arguments between talking heads and the kind of stuff that we do on our news which, you know, is not particularly informative to us, let alone foreigners.

I wrote a piece a long while ago addressing the effect that corporate ownership of news information bureaus is having on journalism and journalistic ethics called The Media protesteth too much…., which references an important speech by Dan Rather:

RTDNA Speech Archive: Dan Rather (RTNDA1993)
Dan Rather addresses attendees of RTNDA1993, in Miami Beach, FL, Dan Rather was the anchor and managing editor of CBS Evening News as well as contributing to 60 Minutes.

…In the constant scratching and scrambling for ever-better ratings and money and the boss’ praise and a better job, it is worth pausing to ask–how goes the real war, the really important battle of our professional lives? How goes the battle for quality, for truth, and justice, for programs worthy of the best within ourselves and the audience? How goes the battle against “ignorance, intolerance, and indifference”? The battle not to be merely “wires and lights in a box,” the battle to make television not just entertaining but also, at least some little of the time, useful for higher, better things? How goes the battle?

The answer, we know, is, “Not very well.” In too many important ways, we have allowed this great instrument, this resource, this weapon for good, to be squandered and cheapened. About this, the best among us hang their heads in embarrassment, even shame. We all should be ashamed of what we have and have not done, measured against what we could do–ashamed of many of the things we have allowed our craft, our profession, our life’s work to become.

Our reputations have been reduced, our credibility cracked, justifiably. This has happened because too often for too long we have answered to the worst not the best within ourselves and within our audience. We are less because of this, our audience is less, and so is our country.

I encourage you to read Rather’s entire speech in full. It is quite illuminating.

I remember Katie Couric’s first broadcast as the news anchor for CBS, wherein she referred to how they were going to change hard news into “infotainment.” I changed the channel and never looked back. It was particularly distressing to see her sell us (women) out professionally after Barbara Walters and others had fought so hard to escape petticoat journalism in the fifties and sixties. See Bill Wyman (“former arts editor of NPR and Salon.com”)’s article in Hitsville of Wednesday, April 23, 2008, 11:04 pm (http://www.hitsville.org/2008/04/23/katie-courics-ratings-hit-a-new-low/):

There are huge forces at work that Couric could not hope to combat: CBS can’t maintain a news division that can compete with a cable channel’s; and of course when you’re owned by MTV no one up top really cares about quality news coverage anyway. (Les Moonves is married to intrepid newswoman Julie Chen, the hard-hitting host of … “Big Brother.”)

The absurdity of it all is that comedians like Jon Stewart often make an effort to present a more balanced view than the idiot talking heads screaming at each other on the 24-hour news channels from either the Right or the Left. I often learn more there than I do on the 6:00 p.m. national news.

I’m tired of hearing “human interest” stories that do not illuminate larger national news issues. If I want puppies and kittens, I will turn on Animal Planet or NatGeo. I have heard more major news stories with more airtime regarding Brittany Spears, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and, of late, the descent into madness of Charlie Sheen. And rather than influence our children to make better choices, it merely sensationalizes an already overly practiced fascination with the glitz and glam of the superficial existence of being famous for being famous. A real “hero” that has earned the right to acolades from the public by actually accomplishing something greater than a stylisti’s stamp of approval on a designer-labelled shoping spree has no chance in competing for our attention with the rich and famous-for-being-rich-and-famous crowd. And we wonder why our kids are ignorant and lacking in the kind of ambition that requires hard work and dedication.

But all this tomfoolery is designed to do exactly what the corporate CEOs want it to do — sell us more stuff.

A free and independent press is the cornerstone of a healthy democracy.

Make no mistake in believing that “We, the People” can make good decisions with greater and greater control of Big Business directing what we hear and telling us through the “screaming (not chattering) class” as to what it means: we cannot.

We use new “hip” words like “spin” and “controlling the message,” but when the Communists and Nazis did it, we called it what it was: propaganda. Corporate ownership of the media has transformed news from the search for truth to selling the message of the moment like soapflakes. It is destroying our country.

Posted in civic responsibility, democracy, freedom of speech, journalistic ethics, media, political corruption, women | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

About Egypt and spreading democracy…

We need to see the “big picture” here….
The problem with the U.S. supporting Mubarak is that, as of late, his human rights record is atrocious. I realize that we support many other oppressive/suppressive regimes around the world, but we must learn from our mistakes: here, i.e., supporting Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi during the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The Shah was also our friend, but his oppressive regime resulted in the rise of Islamic nationalism, and supporting him gave fuel to the Islamist takeover by the Shi’a fundamentalist Grand AyatollahSayyed Ruhollah Mostafavi Moosavi Khomeini and his followers.

We have always paid a heavy price when we dabble in the internal national affairs of other countries. It is the U.S. that, in its short-sighted policy, decided to counteract the Iranian revolution by supporting, financing and arming Saddam Hussein in Iraq (the guy we later attacked and helped execute) because he was the “doorstop” to the Iranian fundamentalists. Although Iraq’s population is predominantly Shi’a and was at the time Saddam rose to power, he was Sunni (although he was mostly secular in his governance).

We promoted democracy in Lebanon, opening the door to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah. Same for the Iranian-backed Hamas in the Palestinian territories.  The Muslim Brotherhood is active in Egypt. This is where Al Qaeda was born.  Until we learn from our mistakes we will continue to fuel anti-American sentiment and outright terrorism in the Middle East.

America as peace-broker?
We cannot wage wars of choice and play policeman for the world anymore.  We probably never should have tried in the first place, because it reeks of hubris.  However, even if we should get involved in the affairs of other nations, what are the express criteria?  And, further, who should get to decide?  Isn’t that what the United Nations’ purpose is?  If it is not working, then we need to fix it; if it can’t be fixed, it needs to officially be scrapped, pure and simple.

The bottom line is that we cannot regain our position of strength diplomatically until we rebuild our economy.  This requires us to get out of debt, and that is directly linked to (a) getting control of the value of our currency; and (b) overcoming our addiction to a finite energy source:  oil, and foreign oil in particular.  The real answer for the U.S. to our Middle East problem is to convert our economy and energy from oil to sustainable, domestically produced fuel.  And, yes, before you say it, we aren’t there right this very minute in time, but we’ll never get there until we get serious about converting from an oil-based energy policy and build a green economy.

Until then, we are funding terrorism every time we fill up at the pump.  This would be the most effective way to protect Israel as well.  If the demand for oil is drastically reduced, market forces will drive the price of oil down, which will help our allies in Western Europe as well.  Russia’s intervention into the national affairs of Georgia and other former Soviet states for the purposes of controlling the oil pipeline will have less effect.  And, finally, the planet will have less air pollution to filter. 

Lower oil prices also mean lower cost of goods that require transport by ship, train, air or truck.  This means our money will have greater purchase strength.  Lower cost of goods means we can be more competitive in open international markets.  This increases our GDP, and the ripple effect encompasses American service companies as well, since a lower cost of living means wages can stabilize or even go lower without penalty to American labor as purchase power increases.

Until we rebuild our economic strength, we cannot negotiate diplomatically from a position of strength or moral integrity.  It’s hard to tell the government of a country on whose oil you depend for daily functioning that they must treat their citizens fairly when you know they could bring your economy to its knees by cutting you off.

And that is why we have, in our short-sightedness, supported tyrannical dictators and monarchs and contributed to our bad image abroad, especially in the Middle East.  When it comes to Egypt, Tunisia or any other of the Arab states fearing political turmoil, the U.S. is, at best, playing in the minor leagues.  Why?  Because our only play is to use our military strength to impose our will.  We cannot win friends and influence people to whom we are beholden for oil or loans.  Hence, we cannot do much more than offer behind the scenes pleas or encouragement to either party.

The reason the protestors are still out there protesting is because there is no definitive predominant leader representing the protestors as a group, at least not one they have full faith and confidence in.  Further, negotiations with the Egyptian government have been covert. If they knew what the plan was and who was to lead, they might buy in. Right now, they believe that Mubarak is just “starving them out” and trying to suck the Oxygen out of their protest efforts. They do not have faith in the Muslim Brotherhood or the Vice President to act on their behalf. They know that if the journalists leave Egypt, the crack down will happen just like it did in Iran, where journalists were denied access and knew they would be imprisoned or killed if they showed what was really going on.

As far as the U.S. is concerned, the worst possible outcome is to give power to the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic extremists.  That has been the disastrous outcome in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.

Blaming the Israelis won’t work!
Israel is not the problem. Israel is the scapegoat that Islamic extremists conveniently use to unite their oppressed population — a population which they themselves are oppressing – in an almost identical way that Hitler used the Jews to unite Germany and distract their attention from the real issues and root causes. The original name for the Palestinian people was Trans-Jordanian. That is because the Palestinian Territories, as it exists now, was where Jordan deported and contained all the political groups that they didn’t want or couldn’t deal with. 

Israel has long since agreed to support a Palestinian state under the condition that they agree not to export terrorism and stop attacking Israel.  Islamic terrorist groups like Hamas don’t want a Palestinian state to actually materialize because that would take the Oxygen out of their political movement, which is international, not national, in scope, and which main tactic is to foment terrorism.

Most of the nations that we talk about (like Iraq) did not exist as national groups until after WWI and even later.  The societies and whatever passed for governance then were tribal and imperial.    The reality is that Arab society has never been nationalistic, but rather, tribalistic, and until we understand how their culture works now and its history, attempts to unite diverse and opposing tribes into a national group with shared goals and aspirations and respect for diversity, we are doomed to failure.  We have been trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear for decades now with little or no lasting success.

We talk about democracy, but our government is not a pure democracy, it is a representative democracy. Additionally, there is a pre-democratic process, if you will, and certain social structures that are required prior to establishing a democracy or representative democracy in order to be successful.  Our founding fathers realized that preparation was the key, and that the more distance and obstacles you put between the people and the final outcome of their representatives negotiating a compromise would prevent mob rule fueled by mob hysteria. You have to have the social structures, especially free and responsible journalism and an educated public that knows how to analyze the information they receive, before you can have a sustainable democratic government.  Thoughtful public discourse about what the needs of “We the People” actually are, what kind of government services, controls and balance of power is needed, and how to protect minority rights and allow dissent I critical to a functioning democracy.  Most of the Middle East does not have a sense of nationalism or a real understanding of the “messy” intricacies of democracy and how to avoid the pitfalls of strong men, organized crime and terrorist groups taking over the process. That was the result in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories with Hezbollah and Hamas.

The sad thing is that, at this point, most of the Middle East is so suspicious of our motives (however pure, and they often are not), because they know the bottom line is that it’s all about oil as far as our business community is concerned, and it is Big Business money that drives elections and produces leaders who drive policy that is responsive to the short-term needs of their benefactors. While our population sacrifices our young men and women over there, oil prices go up with no justification, oil companies make huge profits while we pay the tab on two costly wars.

And we cannot act in good conscience based on what is truly best for the Middle East or ourselves, long-term, as long as we are dependent on their oil.

Religious Intolerance
Granted, there are many extreme fundamentalist Christian groups in the U.S. that want to legislate morality “God-style” — at least their interpretation of what God wants. And they would be just as happy to “get rid of” gays and lesbians, psychiatrists, etc., censor valid literature, music and works of art; and push rigid parental control over schools and curriculum in a very oppressive way — most people would consider what their version of a proper education is to be brain-washing, programming and propaganda.  We cannot single out Islam exclusively as the only culprit of religious and cultural intolerance.

Religious extremists are the new barbarians of the world — that is what religion-based terrorists are, you know, technologically adept barbarians using religion as a shield to hide behind and deflect responsibility for their barbaric acts.  Whether it is an Arab suicide bomber blowing up a bus in Israel or a Roman Catholic priest encouraging parishioners to shoot doctors that work in women’s clinics offering legal abortions, the tactic is the same, and it is all based on intolerance and lack of respect for other religions, cultures and ideologies.

The political arm of terror
Unlike Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories, which are purely Islamic terrorist groups trying to develop a political face, the Muslim Brotherhood is the political face for a far more fundamentalist set of Islamic terrorist organizations that crosses national boundaries and gets funding from the wealthy oil nations and from Western Europe and America as well. The easiest comparison I can come up with is the relationship between the political party in Ireland, Sinn Fein, and its militant/terrorist group the Provisional IRA.  The difference is that Ireland has long had a sense of national identity, although there is a less pervasive sense of tribe there, historically.

However, unlike Sinn Fein/IRA, the stated goal of the Muslim Brotherhood is not nationalistic in nature, but rather, to spread Islam throughout the world, establish Sharia Law and unite all Islamic states under the Caliphate — to take over the world, in effect. This would serve to outlaw all other religions and turn women and children into property owned by men. The Taliban is the most extreme version of this concept (they don’t even allow women to attend school), and Iran is a somewhat less extreme example. Women can attend school, but if you were around after the Iranian Revolution of 1979, you will remember seeing women beaten in the streets by cultural police:

Within months of the founding of the Islamic Republic the 1967 Family Protection Law was repealed, female government workers were forced to observe Islamic dress code, women were barred from becoming judges, beaches and sports were sex-segregated, the marriage age for girls was reduced to 13 and married women were barred from attending regular schools. Women began almost immediately to protest and have won some reversals of policies in the years since. Inequality for women in inheritance and other areas of the civil code remain. Segregation of the sexes, from “schoolrooms to ski slopes to public buses”, is strictly enforced. Females caught by revolutionary officials in a mixed-sex situation can be subject to virginity tests.

Women may also be sentenced to fines, beatings, or even death if they are found to be engaged in pre-marital sex.

The truly dangerous side of the Muslim Brotherhood is not just in their stated goal (to spread Islam), but their unstated goal of the total destruction of Israel and Western culture. It is insidious because it appears to be benign.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said her policy on Egypt looks “over the horizon” to its possible democratic future — a future that must be carefully planned (http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110207/wl_nm/us_egypt).

The real problem with measuring progress in these talks is that the process is not transparent. We don’t know what has been said or promised “under the table.”  Mubarak’s exit will not, in and of itself, solve the problem, because the real problem is the lack of integrity of the process in Egypt’s Constitution, including the balance of power between the executive, legislative and judicial branches; and orderly transfer of power from one elected leader to another; protection for opposition parties to freely form and receive funding without penalty; freedom to dissent and criticize the government without penalty or fear or imprisonment; transparency, etc.  They need a system of checks and balances that would prevent another strong man or extreme political group from taking over where Mubarak left off.  The protestors are right to be cynical about the probability that all these promises will materialize — they’ve been down this road before.

The biggest concern is which side is the military on, if, indeed, they are reasonably united in their support for any side. So far, the difference between Egypt now and Iran in 2009 is that there were foreign journalists that could document the human rights abuses for all the world to see. When Mubarak’s supporters were attacking journalists, it was toward the end that the departure of foreign journalists would free Mubarak to crack down similar to that in Iran. The military who stepped in to control the secret police disguised as Mubarak supporters and the courage of foreign journalists who stayed the course has been the game-changer so far. If either of those elements changes, the outcome could change dramatically.

The real danger for the protestors is with the short attention span that the rest of the world has towards these struggles — even when they are sympathetic. Visitors want to take their vacations to the pyramids; or there is a new, more entertaining show on TV; or a new, more captivating crisis takes their attention away from Egypt.  When the ratings drop, the foreign journalists will disappear because the networks will reassign them to some other issue that sells better. This is the dangerous side of news bureaus being owned by corporations whose main interest is the bottom line.

There is no such thing as truly independent journalism anymore. In this case, it may be the Egyptian protestors that pay for this bottom line with their lives.

The insidious nature of the Muslim Brotherhood

in·sid·i·ous –adjective

  1. intended to entrap or beguile: an insidious plan.
  2. stealthily treacherous or deceitful: an insidious enemy.
  3. operating or proceeding in an inconspicuous or seemingly harmless way but actually with grave effect: an insidious disease. (dictionary.com)

Hezbollah gained popular acceptance among Lebanon’s lower classes by passing out money given to the organization by Iran.  Money buys votes among the poor and uneducated.  To these folks, Hezbollah is an organization of heroes and saviors.  They promise everything until they get into office, then, once they have power, they act very differently.

Many Germans supported the Nazis originally because they were preaching that Germany was in moral decay. Where have we heard that before? Then, once they got in power, they started programming German and Austrian youth with their version of the Boy Scouts, Hitler Youth, but more paramilitary in nature. Remember the atrocities that followed? Lenin/Stalin and Mao Tse-tung followed Hitler’s example of programming the young as well.

No one understood better than Stalin that the true object of propaganda is neither to convince nor even to persuade, but to produce a uniform pattern of public utterance in which the first trace of unorthodox thought immediately reveals itself as a jarring dissonance.” — Alan Bullock

The Muslim Brotherhood and most terror-based organizations work through the Mullahs and religious schools to program children to their ideology, which is that Allah’s goal for the world is Islamic domination of the world under the Caliphate and any means used to achieve that is acceptable.  It pretty much says that in the Qur’an.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_the_Qur%27an for more information:

The Qur’an said “fight in the name of your religion with those who fight against you.”[38] On the other hand, other scholars argue that such verses of the Qur’an are interpreted out of context,[39][40] and argue that when the verses are read in context it clearly appears that the Qur’an prohibits aggression,[41][42][43] and allows fighting only in self defense.[44][45]

 

Two critics [46] have claimed that a concept of ‘Jihad’, defined as ‘warfare’, has been introduced by the Qur’an. They claim that while Muhummad was in Mecca, he “did not have many supporters and was very weak compared to the Pagans”, and “it was at this time he added some ‘soft’, peaceful verses”, where as “almost all the hateful, coercive and intimidating verses later in the Qur’an were made with respect to Jihad” when Muhammad was in Medina (8:38-39, 8:65, 9:29-30, 48:16-22, 4:95, 9:111, 2:216-218, 8:15-17, 9:123, 8:12, 9:5, 2:190-194, 9:73).[47] This interpretation of events is strongly disputed by other scholars, claiming an intention of encouraging self-defense in Islamic communities.

Al-Qaeda has clearly stated that the re-establishing the Caliphate is one of its primary objectives. Although Al-Qaeda has taken the violent path to realize their dream of the massive Islamic empire,(http://infidelsarecool.com/2008/03/27/islamic-caliphate-the-ultimate-muslim-dream/)[/ there are many Islamic groups all across the world that use politics to gain influence; Tanzeem-al-Islami and Hizb ut-Tahrir to name a few.

http://www.unc.edu/depts/diplomat/item/2007/0709/holl/holliday_evil.html

You can’t, in essence, get to a tolerant co-existence and peace from the Qur’an and its message of jihad.  And all the white-washing and political propaganda disseminated through groups such as CAIR and the Muslim Brotherhood are, indeed, insidious in nature because of the very reason that they claim religious tolerance while covertly promoting world domination under the Caliphate and the wholesale destruction of Israel and Western culture.  Most predominantly Muslim countries outlaw proselytizing by other religions.

The Qur’an states with reasonable clarity what Jihad is.

http://www.historyofjihad.org/quran.html

What the Quran says about Jihad
The Muslims are commanded to wage an everlasting war against the unbelievers and are assured victory in the struggle. Surely, the Marxist social philosophy is an extension of the Koranic doctrine. To realize the significance of this statement, one ought to read the following:

  1. On unbelievers is the curse of Allah. (The Cow: 161 )
  2. Allah is an enemy to unbelievers. ( The Cow: 15 )
  3. The worst of beasts in Allah’s sight are the ungrateful, who will not believe. (Spoils of War: 55)
  4. Oh ye who believe! the non-Muslims are unclean. (Repentance:17)
  5. Oh ye who believe! Murder those of the disbelievers and let them find harshness in you. (Repentance: 123)
  6. Oh believers, do not treat your fathers and mothers as your friends, if they prefer unbelief to belief, whosoever of you takes them for friends, they are evil-doers. (Repentance: 20) 7. Humiliate the non-Muslims to such an extent that they surrender and pay tribute. ( Repentance: 29 )

See also http://www.peacewithrealism.org/jihad/jihad02.htm.

http://quran.com/ is the Qur’an online, and will give you the original text. If you have not read it word-for-word, you need to. (“Know thine enemy better than one knows thyself.” — Sun Tzu from The Art of War.) However, you must also consider the interpretations of the Qur’an, the Hadith, because this establishes the basis of Sharia law.

There is no question that there is genuine disagreement between Muslims about what jihad is.  There is also no question that many of the sociopolitical organizations that appear benign are merely being deceptive in order to seduce the naive into believing that they are tolerant and respectful of other religions and ideologies.  This applies even to more moderate Muslims who would otherwise not support terror-based organization if they knew their true goals and how they intended to achieve them.

Remember, when Hitler rose to power, he was considered by many Germans to be to answer to what they perceived as moral decay.  He then focused their anger at their circumstances (the harsh consequences of losing WWI) on the rich, primarily the Jews, the intelligentsia and other religions that had a stronghold on segments of the population – anything but the true cause of Germany’s woes, which was the failed attempt of its leaders to wage war with the goal of establishing a German empire worldwide.  In addition to the cost of waging war, the reparations and loss of territory and treasure as a result of their defeat caused Germany’s woes, but the German people didn’t want to take responsibility for the consequences they faced.

Islamic fundamentalists consider Western culture to be in a state of moral decay, therefore all Westerners — especially Americans, since they are the Western superpower — are enemies of Allah. It is no different than Bill O’Reilly declaring cultural war on liberals, except Bill O’Reilly has not, so far, sent suicide bombers into Massachusetts or the DNC headquarters, nor has he encouraged others to do so (yet, anyway).

You have to give credit to Al Qaeda on at least one level – they suckered us into responding in exactly the manner that would generate support for their cause in the Muslim world.  If America and the West are enemies of Allah, then what better way to unite Arabs against us than attacking us on our homeland to start a war that can be viewed in the Arab world as the infidels in America and Western Europe attacking Islam?  A 21st century version of the Crusades.  Once you can twist perception of how the war started, you can use the Qur’an to justify acts of terror in “defense” of Islam.  And, of course, we know how long the memory of the Arab world is regarding grievances — they still blame Christians today for the Crusades waged centuries ago.  Disagreements between Shi’a and the Sunni escalate to death squads — Muslims murdering each other – over the order of succession of religious political leaders, Imams, after the death of Muhammad.  What chance do we have of winning over this mentality and culture?

Back to Hitler: One by one, he focused on each group until they were conquered. Once they were conquered, the German people had to have another scapegoat to focus on, so he unwittingly orchestrated an implosion of their society and, ultimately, his own power. Niemöller’s poem describes this technique.

The comparison of the Muslim extremists with the Nazis or the Communists or Red Chinese is valid because it describes a long-used political tactic for establishing a tyrannical dictatorship, the ideology is not the significance here, it is about how to achieve and hold power.  See my blog: Reflections on Naomi Wolf’s piece: Blueprint for shutting down a democracy.

The names and causes may change, but the techniques remain frighteningly the same.  And it is particularly discouraging to know that we humans still have not learned from history by now.

Learning from our mistakes
One of the advantages of America’s beginnings is that life was not instantaneous, that movements could refine their ideologies and goals over time, and that the people who wanted to establish rule by “We the People” had time to educate themselves to the issues and philosophies behind various positions.  You cannot have a successful democracy unless controls and balances are put into place that not only ensure independence between the various branches, but also prevent mob rule.

The worst possible result of a true democracy is mob rule. Having a process that deliberately creates obstacles to prevent rash decisions based on mob hysteria or manipulation of the truth by the media protects the minorities in a population. That is why our founders chose to have a representative form of government. They knew that instant response was perhaps the worst outcome and could lead to bad laws and unjust enforcement.

Who wants a government that rules by poll? What is popular today may not be so tomorrow. It also leads to intolerance of others and doesn’t give minority viewpoints a chance to establish their argument in the public forum.

My concern is that jumping into a wholesale change of the form of government without first establishing pre-democratic structures, including a free press, independent public education, a free market economy and opposition political parties that can gain strength and financial backing will push the process forward before the Egyptian people have had a chance to conduct a full and thoughtful public discourse regarding the role they want their government to play or not play and whether their expectations are reasonable.

This will allow opposition leaders to emerge that are political, not just revolutionary. There is a big difference between organizing and waging a revolution (social or military) and governing. This is a concept that Americans have to revisit from time to time. It is human to want drastic action right now to solve problems. The issue is not whether or not everyone wants to solve the problem (i.e., our own energy crisis and the lack of clarity of any government policy), but whose solution is the best or is there a hybrid solution….

This was the danger of GWB and his lack of planning for Iraq. That our military could come up with a plan to invade and conquer Iraq was not the issue, it was the lack of planning for peace that got us into trouble. We (as GHWB said of Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War) “miscalculated” in thinking that political leaders with the ability and understanding of how to govern would emerge immediately after the war ended to take up the “banner of freedom” and govern. If GWB had thought this through, he would have realized that after 30 years of a tyrannical dictatorship that either executed or exiled any opposition political leaders, there was no system in place to mentor leadership and there were no leaders ready to step into the job.

We have seen this in the fall of the Soviet Union. Former KGB agents have become the backbone of the Russian mob. On the surface, Russia looks like it is different from the USSR or imperialist Russia, but just like in Iraq, there were very few Russian opposition leaders who had the experience to step into the job. That’s why Putin has established himself as another dictator in sheep’s clothing.

This is why I fear for the Egyptian people. Islamic extremists have a network of organizations that mentor leaders-in-waiting, a paramilitary group to support such leaders and an ideology that most moderate Muslims would be too intimidated to argue with. How do you argue with something that has been ordained by Allah?

Even if only 30% of Egyptians currently support the Muslim Brotherhood, the MB knows that a loud (and violent) minority can silence a timid majority. Just look to history to learn that lesson.

Posted in change, civil liberties, civil rights, democracy, economy, election fraud, election reform, freedom of speech, government corruption, green economy, Israeli-palestinian conflict, leadership, Middle East, Oil, oil-based economy, political corruption, separation of Church and State, terrorism, women's rights | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Reflections on Naomi Wolf’s piece: Blueprint for shutting down a democracy…

I was rereading some of my old mail in order to clean out my inbox when I came across this.  Seeing what has transpired in the Middle East (Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, etc.) over the past few weeks brings these concerns to the forefront once again.

It was written in 2008 before the last presidential election, but the issues are still with us today – just change the names and places, the rest stays the same.

We still have not rolled back GWB’s intrusion to our constitutional protections with his imperial presidency.  As I said in other pieces, once the territory is expanded, it seldom is given back.  Obama has not acted to change any of these excesses, and he is now considering the use of presidential signing statements like GWB, which basically says, “I am the president.  I don’t agree with this law, even though everyone else is supposed to abide by it, I don’t intend to do so and will consider myself above the law in this instance.” 

When I was arguing this case during the GWB administration, my Republican friends didn’t agree with me because their guy was in office.  Well, your guy isn’t in office anymore, so how do you like it now?

Supporters of GWB in 2008 (like Limbaugh and Beck, et al.) dismissed these concerns then, and now that Obama’s been in office (not their guy), all of a sudden there is great hand-wringing and declarations of doom and despair about how what is happening in Egypt, et al., will happen here.

I’m all for the declarations of doom and despair regarding the expansion of the imperial presidency and the erosion of our constitutional protections – regardless of whose guy is in office – because the issue is the erosion of constitutional protections, not whose faces or which names or places, that is important.


Talk by Naomi Wolf, author of “The End of America”, October 14, 2007
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjALf12PAWc

Blueprint for shutting down a democracy:

  1. Leader manufactures or hypes a terrifying internal or external threat that doesn’t exist (WMD in Iraq).
  2. Create a secret prison system where torture takes place and often establish military tribunals (Gitmo, FEMA concentration camps). Start with a segment of the population that most of the population does not identify with, then branch out – Niemõller’s poem.
  3. Create a paramilitary force (Blackwater). President can also nationalize National Guard in Alabama to perform martial law duties in another state.
  4. Create a surveillance apparatus spying on ordinary citizens (FISA). Security industrial complex was military industrial complex, shifted after Cold War. The watch list ensures that the security industrial complex will always have someone to surveil. This administration has put its enemies on the watch list – journalists, Code Pink, animal activists, etc.
  5. Arbitrarily detain and release citizens.
  6. Target key individuals (Dan Rather, Bill Maher, Dixie Chicks).
  7. Infiltrate citizens groups.
  8. Restrict the press. Bill Keller, NYT, Swift-Bacon – calls for him to be charged with treason. 1917 Espionage Act – last used to round up anti-war activists, etc., without warrants. Since these charges end in the death penalty, raises fear among dissenters. U.S. journalists seized and held without warrant for writing stories unfavorable to the administration.
  9. Expand the definition of terrorist, traitor, spy. Last fall, definition of “terrorist” was expanded to animal rights activists.
  10. Subvert the rule of law. Declare martial law.

When the U.S. Attorney’s scandal broke, I said at the time that I bet those attorneys are in swing states (they were). E-mails the White House isn’t turning over document the plan to fire all the attorneys – not used.

A closed society doesn’t look like Hitler’s Germany. A closed society still looks like an open society – still elections, just corrupted, like 2000 – remember Florida and the Republicans harassing the recount? There’s still a judiciary, but not free to adjudicate freely against the administration.

We must stand up for our democracy. That is our sacred duty as American citizens. We must do it now.

——————–

That concluded the summary of her speech (which was much more in depth and well worth the time to view — see first link).  

So, what do we do now?

First, we must put enormous pressure on Congress to roll back the changes that have taken place during these last 10+ years:

  • Pursue criminal charges against Bush, Cheney and others involved in the falsification of documents, fraudulent intelligence leading up to the war in Iraq, the outing of Valerie Plame, the abuse of executive privilege, etc.  [Libby was their designated “fall guy.”]
  • Revise FISA law to require the administration to (a) submit a list of names of who the administration is investigating (“watch” list) to a select group of intelligence committee members in both houses of Congress with a list of the probable causes leading to granting the warrant and the results of the investigation; (b) submit the complete watch list to the same committees, providing probable cause and investigation results for why each name is on the list; (c) require social security number (if an American citizen) or other identifying number (passport ID, etc.) to be a part of the list so that innocent people with similar or the same names can be cross-checked with the list to prevent them from undue hardship or punishment; (d) require the watch list to be reviewed at regular periods and coordinated between various intelligence and enforcement branches; and (e) restore writ of habeas corpus completely.
  • Prohibit the administration from placing any legitimate journalist on the Watch List unless there is absolute proof that said journalist is guilty of aiding and abetting the enemy resulting in the direct deaths of Americans, American soldiers or allied soldiers in any military conflict.
  • Prevent the administration from denying admission into any military theatre of legitimate journalists and prohibit the administration or the Pentagon from editing any journalist publication unless absolute proof can be provided that printing such information would directly and immediately compromise military operations or expose the troops to immediate and irreparable harm.  This includes end-round investigations of such watchdog organizations as Wikileaks and Code Pink (and I am not necessarily supporting the wholesale release of leaked classified documents by Wikileaks, because I do believe Julian Assange is behaving in a vengeful manner with reckless disregard for the consequences of some of the information leaked it is possible to strike a reasonable balance between the need to expose government officials and agencies acting in an illegal manner and the need to protect private correspondence and national security).
  • Prohibit the administration or the Pentagon from preventing journalists or news media from covering the arrival of coffins of dead soldiers from a war or military theatre. Prevent the administration or the Pentagon from preventing journalists or news media from covering the funerals of fallen soldiers unless so requested by the soldier’s family.  This does not apply to antiwar demonstrations at funerals.  Families of dead servicemen or women deserve not only our respect for their sacrifice and the full sacrifice of their deceased loved one, but also the right to grieve without being harassed.  I find exploiting a funeral of a dead service man or woman for the purposes of an antiwar demonstration disgusting and shameful, at best.  I thought the mistakes we made during the Viet Nam era (taking out our frustration at the war against our returning soldiers) were lessons learned.  Apparently these lessons need to be taught to each new generation.
  • Remove from the president the power to unilaterally declare a national state of emergency (that could kick into action the Continuity of Government or martial law) without approval from Congress. Require that any national state of emergency must have an automatic expiration date of 30 days from the date of the declaration. Any extension must be approved by Congress every 30 days or a date sooner, if so designated by Congress.
  • In the event of a tragedy that causes COG to be activated, the majority of Congress or the U.S. Supreme Court to be killed, any extension of the national state of emergency resulting in COG being activated must be approved by the majorities in each State legislature until such time as new senators and representatives can be replaced.  Should the state legislature not be able to convene, an emergency group for that state consisting of the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state and majority and minority leaders in both state legislative bodies of that state can approve such actions or appointments as needed, according to their state constitutional provisions, should such provisions exist.
  • Under no circumstances and in no event is the U.S. Congress to be disbanded for more than 30 days in the event a national state of emergency is declared and approved by Congress. No new law or “emergency law” may be passed, executed or implemented during the time Congress is disbanded without the majority of state legislatures (or state “emergency group”) approving such “emergency” law. Such laws will expire immediately upon the reconstitution of Congress.
  • Under no circumstances and in no event is the U.S. Supreme Court to be disbanded in the event a national state of emergency is declared and approved by Congress unless the number of deaths of justices prevents them from reaching a quorum. No cases shall be brought, decided or appealed by any other body during its absence. No federal inmates shall be convicted or executed by any other body during its absence. No state shall execute capital punishment of any prisoner during the absence of the U.S. Supreme Court. No military tribunals or other extra-judiciary bodies shall exist in the absence of the U.S. Supreme Court and the Federal court system.
  • Remove from the president the power to declare anyone a non-enemy combatant.
  • Disband existing military tribunals (since they are unconstitutional) and require all detainees to be tried in Federal Court. Any detainees that are determined to be held without probable cause will be immediately released, returned to their country of origin and compensated for time served. Any detainees that are found innocent of all charges brought will be immediately released and returned to his or her country of origin.
  • Outlaw rendition and torture and make it a capital crime to commit same by any U.S. government elected or appointed official, employee, private government contractor or other person acting under the advice and consent of the administration or any government agency or  entity – at home or abroad.
  • Make it a crime for accessory before, during or after the fact for any government elected or appointed official, employee, private government contractor or other person acting under the advice and consent of the administration to withhold evidence or knowledge that such criminal rendition and torture has been committed.
  • Remove from the power of the president the ability to seize persons or property without a warrant and probable cause, detain them without arraignment within a 72-hour period, questions them without the presence of their attorney unless they have been advised of and waive their Miranda rights, require any detainee to sign a confession as a condition of providing a defense attorney or allowing access to their defense attorney. And/or hold them indefinitely in some secret prison without due process or possibility of release.
  • Require the administration to provide information to families of the whereabouts and course of action (arraignment dates, trial dates, etc.) of any person arrested and detained by this government.  Allow human rights organizations such as the international Red Cross and/or Amnesty International the ability to meet with detainees and conduct medical examinations of detainees to determine that they have been treated humanely.
  • Pass the Feingold-Whitehouse Executive Order Integrity Act, which limits the White House and its use of Executive Orders to create law or orders that have the full force and effect of law, not just administrate based on law.
  • Create a list of criteria that governs the use of military or intelligence forces or private military contractors (mercenary forces like Blackwater) without the prior approval by Congress (limit the size and scope of such companies to include any subsidiary companies and/or disallow members of their executive boards to sit on more than one company of this type (to avoid “under the table” coordinated business activities).  Any joint ventures must be registered with Congress and must count toward the total applied to such limitations.  Require that such paramilitary organizations provide Congress with a list of all restricted weapons in use or in storage owned by the private company or its subsidiaries.  Enact a law stating that sale of such restricted weapons to any other company or government or U.S. federal, state or municipal agency require prior approval by Congress (in order to prevent end-round weapons trafficking).
  • Limit the president’s power to negotiate treaties to commit military or intelligence forces or private military contractors (mercenary forces like Blackwater) to any foreign country without the prior approval of Congress.
  • Limit the use and scope of activity of private intelligence firms in the intelligence activities of this government to an “advisory” capacity.  Disallow companies that operate in foreign countries to operate as a private intelligence or military contractor in the U.S.
  • Limit the use of private military contractors (mercenary forces) so that they cannot duplicate services that our government military forces already provide. If such forces are used, they cannot be paid more money than their government military equivalent.
  • Prohibit the exemption of legal (criminal or civil) accountability or liability of any private military or intelligence or other contractor who violates American law, International law or the law of the country in which it operates.
  • Prohibit the administration from distributing government funds to individuals without a written record, including receipts for any expenses or invoice for services or goods sold (i.e., no more distributing cash among the “civilian” populations of a foreign country (i.e., Iraq) with no accountability for the funds).
  • Limit the use and scope of classifying documents as “Confidential,” “Secret” or “Top Secret” or other such classifications.  No policy shall be allowed that automatically classifies every document generated by the administration as inaccessible by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) of 1966 (amended 2002). The 2002 amendments must be reviewed by Congress to make sure that all documents not reasonably deemed a national security risk are reasonably made available to the public, and any redactions must be unique to the document requestor and documented as to the reason for the redaction.
  • Outlaw “executive privilege.” No such privilege exists in the Constitution, and it cannot be used to delay or refuse to testify before Congress or provide documents requested by Congress in its duties of oversight and accountability. Any such refusal will result in immediate and automatic arrest and detention by Congress, where such individuals will be held pending any appeals in Federal court.
  • Outlaw “presidential signing statements” with the only exception being that the president will provide written rationale for vetoing a bill, as provided in the Constitution. No presidential signing statement or finding of law by the Attorney General shall relieve the president or his administration from accountability for obeying laws passed by Congress and signed by the president. The president and his administration is NEVER above the law.
  • Require the administration to provide a list of all the FEMA camps throughout the U.S. its territories, whether currently in service, populated or available for use, or under construction and whether each and every member of  the population of each camp is allowed to travel freely in and/or out of the camp without penalty or threat of imprisonment; the reason and justification for their existence and maintenance; their capacity; any use or how many prisoners of what types that have been detained in them; and release this information to the public.
  • Require the administration to release its Continuity of Government policy to the Congress for its approval and then, in turn, to the public. No Continuity of Government (COG) plan may exist and be executed without first being reviewed, revised and approved by Congress.  Any individuals serving in advisory capacities from time to time is subject to the same review and approval process as any executive serving in the government.  No individual may serve in a capacity of authority without the approval of each Congress.
  • No company that employed any elected or appointed executive branch official from a current administration or Congress may participate in no-bid contracts for the duration of that official’s tenure.

These are some of my suggestions to improve government accountability.  My previous piece On re-establishing our Constitution rights, provided further reflections on this important issue.

Posted in censorship, civil liberties, civil rights, COG, Constitution, domestic intelligence, election reform, FISA, freedom of speech, Gitmo, government corruption, imperialism, Middle East, National Security, philosophy, political corruption, Presidential Signing Statements, state of emergency, terrorism, Uncategorized, war, writ of habeas corpus | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

On re-establishing our Constitution rights…

I updated this piece due, in part, to the tragic mass murder in Arizona.  Many of the same issues and arguments I waged years ago when I first wrote this piece are still alive and altogether too well today, much to my dismay and disappointment.  Although I have given Obama (and all politicians, for that matter) much grief in the past, I must commend our President for his remarks at the memorial service at the University of Arizona this week.  His suggestion that we best honor the memory of Christina Green and all America’s children by making our country live up to their expectations is a challenge that all Americans should be willing to accept without question. I wholeheartedly believe that his speech speaks to many of the concerns I raised in this piece years ago….

There must be a sense of urgency if we are to avoid the excesses of the GWB administration in the Obama administration or in administrations yet to come.  Once an office-holder gets power, it is very difficult to reclaim the power and give it back to its rightful owners (“We, the People”).   And the GWB administration expanded executive powers well beyond that of any previous administration — even the Nixon administration — by exploiting our fear over 9/11.

It is also clear that Obama will abandon his “core” principles in the name of “getting something done.”  This has held true for every controversial issue that has come before us in the last couple of years (and before that when he voted “present” in the IL State Senate).  Since the original publication of this piece, he has gotten very little done in the way of rolling back the excesses of the GWB administration.  GITMO is still up and running because all Congress hears from their constituents is “not in our backyard;”  we still haven’t gotten FISA right; and it has recently been reported that he is considering the use of executive signing statements (a particular pet peeve of mine).  Further, the “Tea Party” and its “we’re-mad-as-hell” reactionary (rather than visionary) movement has proven to be too off-the-wall in the selection of their candidates (“I am not a witch.”) and far too extreme in their view of the role of government (besides war, there isn’t one in their view).

The only way we can get our rights re-established within the current governmental structure is to enact campaign finance reform in order to shift the power back to the people and seize it from fat-cat Big Business and their special interest groups and lobbyists.  Until we do this, Congress and the Executive Branch will allow them to “pay to play” and will not make decisions that benefit the people.

Campaign Finance Reform is the first and most critical step.

Once that is in place, a healthcare bill can be passed that benefits the people and not the insurance companies, healthcare providers and Big Pharma.

Decisions about how to solve the economy will move back from “welfare for Big Businesses” and the proper restraints and regulations that were eroded since the Reagan years (and even before that) will be re-established.

And, of course, if we re-establish the natural balance between the three branches that the authors of the Constitution intended (and which have worked reasonably well in the past), it stands to reason that our rights and protections will be re-established as well.  All the executive abuses of the past, from torture, rendition and abolishment of the writ of habeas corpus to Executive Orders and Presidential Signing Statements (where GWB made clear he thought he was above the law) all the provisions in the last few FISA amendments and the Patriot Act will cease to exist in their present form. 

We must acknowledge that “We, the People” do not have to relinquish our constitutional rights and protections in order to be safer.

Fear causes us to make bad decisions out of desperation and despair  in order to achieve superficial rather than substantial solutions.  Draconian safety measures may make us “feel better” or create the delusion that we can be less fearful of our enemies and the potential threats they present to our country and its citizens, but the trade-off of losing our constitutionally protected rights and freedoms is too high a price. 

Fear-mongering and the strident and violent words we use in our public discourse, particularly in the “chattering (actually screaming) class,” especially to describe those with whom we disagree (I’m right; you’re evil!), may score political points in the media circus, but  it also creates a toxic political environment where it is almost impossible for politicians to really work together and make the compromises necessary to effect positive change.  Creating straw men and false arguments and phony issues tends to distract and divide  us, often over manufactured, imaginary crises, rather than focus and unite us in meaningful and effective ways to address concerns that are real.

We cannot, out of fear or frustration,  choose to become reactionary rather than visionary. 

We must be careful to make changes that balance our need for safety with our right to enjoy constitutionally protected freedoms, else we may change who we are as a people. And what all this fear-mongering and strident political discourse really accomplishes is to change what is good about our society and form of government, all because of our fear and desire for safety — without, I must stress, actually making us safer.    We only have to look in our past to see how we slaughtered Indians by the millions and imprisoned Japanese American citizens in our own concentration camps because we didn’t trust people who didn’t look or live like us.

And we must pass a rule that amendments that are not germane to a bill cannot be included in any bill.

We also must demand the SCOTUS rule on whether or not an Executive Order is constitutional and binding, particularly if it includes provisions that are unconstitutional (abolishing the writ of habeas corpus, etc.).

And we must clearly establish the Right to Privacy, which will resolve such issues as abortion and homosexual marriage (and, for all practical purposes, many of the wedge issues that have plagued us since the mid-20th century).  I believe the Right to Privacy does exist.  If you look at the Bill of Rights, it is quite apparent that our Constitutional framers believed in the “man’s castle” theory which clearly establishes our inherent Right of Privacy.

Anyway, I think we must approach this issue in two ways:

First, get back control over our elected officials, who have reason to fear Big Business and Special Interests because of the enormous cost of running a successful re-election campaign, through passing campaign finance reform.

Second, we must try to educate “We, the People” and make them realize how dangerous it is to set such precedents that shift too much power to either of the three branches and shift power from the People to the government.  We must re-establish the inherent controls and balance between the three branches of government and the unconstitutional shift of far too much government power to the Executive Branch.  Even if we like and trust (or think we do), the guy in office now, we must remember that these precedents, once set, will empower any candidate that occupies these governmental position in the future. 

Unchecked power and unaccountable authority just don’t work, whether we are speaking of individuals or a political party.  We have seen (throughout the ages, and especially since 1980) that when the political parties and special interests influenced the general public in becoming more and more polarized, government powers or excesses tend to expand in ways that do not benefit the people.  And that is the real danger. 

A democracy must be “people-oriented” and “people controlled,” but without resorting to mob rule and hysteria.

Any act or action that contributes to American society by solving societal problems or preventing abuse by a government branch that refuses to acknowledge their accountability to the law of the land and to We, the People, must be effective and results-oriented in order to succeed and achieve the true goals of a democracy.  Loopholes and ambiguity lead to overburdened courts and no real enforcement. Every time we allow wedge issues to consume public discourse and further polarize Americans or sit back and watch our inherent constitutional rights and protections “flushed down the toilet” — regardless of any fear that permeates political discourse or public discourse — we move further and further way from the true freedoms that only a democracy can provide.

Abandoning our democratic values in exchange for the delusion that we are safer is the greatest “win” the terrorists could have hoped for…. and (especially after 9/11) we gave this to them out of fear.

The GWB administration was masterful when it came to fear-mongering.  They proved how instilling fear in the general population for the purposes of exploitation of the masses could successfully empower an unhealthy, unchecked Executive Branch who believed themselves to be above the law.  And we also see how the country was bankrupted by the GWB administration and its systematic destruction of the oversight and regulations that protect our industries (banking, etc.) to the point where the People are now financing with their own tax dollars poorly run companies with incompetent or criminal executive management; who deserve to be punished, not rewarded with multimillion-dollar executive bonuses BEFORE they have paid the American taxpayers back for their bailout money. These are the same executives that routinely and for a significant period of time made bad management decisions and were even criminally negligent to the point that their actions consist of a criminal breach of their fiduciary responsibilities.  And then we allow them their million-dollar bonuses while we struggle financially and are punished for their crime by having to carry the load of an out-of-control national debt.

Campaign Finance Reform is the first step

Without it, the Constitution will not be restored to its original intent; real healthcare that first protects the best interests of the People and not Big Business, Big Pharma and other Special Interest will never pass; and Big Business, the NRA and Special Interests will continue to have improper, excessive access to our elected officials, which results in the power to secretly write bills that benefit them or their industry.

Posted in Arizona shooting, civil liberties, civil rights, Constitution, deregulation, election reform, Financial Bailout, FISA, freedom of speech, Gay marriage, Gitmo, government corruption, healtcare, imperialism, incompetence in government, individualism, leadership, National Security, philosophy, political corruption, racism, separation of Church and State, terrorism, women's rights, writ of habeas corpus | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Taking back the healthcare debate….

OK, I’ll admit I’m venting a little….

It’s time for a little sanity and rationality. I’m tired of the angry mob ranting and screaming over scheduled speakers in the healthcare town halls even before they get a chance to utter their first word. I have read H.R. 3200 and H.R. 676 and I’m still working on reading the rest of the proposals, so I do at least know and understand what is in H.R. 3200, which is what the media has been referring to when they talk about the healthcare bill.

Let me say upfront that I do not support H.R. 3200 because it does not accomplish what I believe needs to happen for real healthcare reform, which is Medicare for All – a single-payer universal healthcare solution that gets the for-profit insurance companies out of the healthcare business permanently. Why?  Because it is the nature of for-profit insurance companies, mandated by law, that they must make a profit for their stockholders, which increases our premiums and deductibles.

The first responsibility of insurance company executives is to their stockholders, not to their insureds (patients).  And, especially in recent years, we have seen policy premiums, deductibles and co-pays rise astronomically and coverage is continually cut back further and further while insurance company CEOs continue to get hundreds of millions of dollars in yearly bonuses….

Every town hall I have seen on the tube shows people screaming at the politicians or other presenters about unrelated issues or making wild accusations like the Palin comment about “death panels,” which is not just incorrect, it is grossly misrepresentative and a completely irresponsible remark for a former Governor and Vice Presidential candidate to make.

And I am tired of hearing how anyone who does not support the verbal lynchings that go on in the town halls is suppressing free speech and being a bully. Those in attendance of the town halls who are respectful and ask the ranters to be quiet long enough for the speaker to make his or her presentation aren’t being bullies just because we want to hear what the scheduled speaker has to say before we make comments or ask questions. I’m sick and tired of ill informed idiots trying to shout the speakers down rather than have a rational, factual discussion about healthcare…..

This issue is much too important to allow special interests and those only concerned with scoring political points based on propaganda, lies and fabrications to take over the discussion. I fear that the stranglehold that corporations and special interests have over politicians (because we have not dealt with much-needed election reform and campaign finance reform) is coming back to bite us in the butt once again.

There are plenty of logical reasons to oppose any of the healthcare bills — none of them are perfect, nor will they ever be, and some of them may well be worse than doing nothing. But the reality is that there is a huge inequity in our healthcare system because of lack of access to care based on unaffordability, uninsurability (because of pre-existing illnesses) and “job lock” (having to stay at a job you don’t like because changing insurance companies could jeopardize your coverage based on pre-existing conditions). Those who can easily afford the premiums and co-pays are happy with what they have, and why shouldn’t they be? But over 47 million (and counting, since the numbers grow as unemployment rises) people have no healthcare and even more have inadequate healthcare coverage — and worse still, they often don’t know it and don’t find out until the need it.

The town hall ranters speak about “taking their country back,” but from whom?

From my view, it looks like “we the rational” need to take this issue back from “those the hysterical” that are dominating the news!  Some of these demonstrators are simply honest, but ill-informed and easily manipulated, folk being used by the right wing-nuts to score political points.  Some are right wing-nuts or special interests that are deliberately trying to confuse and obfuscate and manipulate Americans using fearmongering to reject healthcare reform, yet again, and, often, not based on their perception of the need for healthcare reform, but because it provides them a convenient opportunity to score political points against a political opponent.  In other words, any issue will do if it creates a backlash against the opposing party.

And, given the change in public attitudes regarding healthcare and the recognition that this crisis has serious economic implications in contrast with the economic and political forces opposing healthcare reform, this may be the last real chance we have for a very long time to make any progress toward solving our healthcare crisis.

At this point, we Americans who understand the importance of this issue are all going to have to stand up and claim ownership of this issue and make a concerted effort to get the debate back to what should be the real focus: single-payer universal healthcare v. for-profit insurance company-dominated healthcare. And our common goal should be working together to solve problems, not fearmonger.

It is amazing to me how many people have no idea what single-payer universal healthcare really is. They think it is socialized medicine, and it is not. It is a “hybrid” system that makes the government the insurer, reducing the overhead of for-profit insurers by about 26%, but the healthcare providers are still privately owned and controlled.

It is equally disturbing to find that many of the people making these wild accusations about what is in the healthcare bill haven’t read any of the proposals yet.  What’s worse, even our elected officials admit they haven’t read the bill(s) either, and some have already admitted they don’t intend to.  It’s hard to wrap my head around the level of arrogance an elected official must have in order to vote on a bill he or she hasn’t read.  Why do they think we put them in office?  We certainly didn’t put them there just so they’d have a media platform, and the ability to get contributions for the next campaign.

A perfect example is the “death panels” comment by Palin. There is no such thing as death panels where government officials or medical professional make life or death decisions about patients in any of the bills. What she was referring to is the end-of-life consultation provision in H.R.3200 which simply allows healthcare professionals to be reimbursed for the time they spend explaining the medical content of Living Wills, et al., to patients. These consultations are completely voluntary on the part of patients, who request a conference with the doctor or nurse practioner to sit down with the patient and explain what each provision in a Living Will (Advance Directive for Healthcare) means, medically speaking.  More about Living Wills later….

The other bill where the “death panel” charge was wrongfully made was regarding the Health Information Technology provision in the Stimulus bill: the provisions contained constitute an amendment to the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 201 et seq.).  See http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/42/usc_sup_01_42.html for complete text). There is no provision in the stimulus bill for “death panels” which would review a patient’s medical records and decide to approve or deny coverage based on his or her value to society (age, general health, etc.).  Oddly enough, insurance companies do that now in their appeals process.

The Health Information Technology section is amending a previous bill that mandates a national database information exchange with a codified format that will allow health information systems to “speak” to each other and to access medical records of individuals. All this must conform to HIPAA standards regarding privacy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_Insurance_Portability_and_Accountability_Act ).

Now, back to Living Wills and the bogus “death panels” charge regarding the H.R.3200 (commonly referred to by the media as the healthcare bill or ObamaCare) –go to the Library of Congress website (http://www.thomas.gov/cgi-bin/query/F?c111:1:./temp/~c111whxT0k:e513253), and see SEC. 1233. ADVANCE CARE PLANNING CONSULTATION.  Advance care planning consultation “means a consultation between the individual and a practitioner described in paragraph (2) regarding advance care planning….” and “An explanation by the practitioner of advance directives, including living wills and durable powers of attorney, and their uses;” and “An explanation by the practitioner of the role and responsibilities of a health care proxy [someone designated by the patient to make medical decisions should the patient become unconscious or incompetent],” and so on.

Every individual should have a Living Will (Advance Directive for Healthcare), which is a legal document with instructions on what to do should he or she (the patient) become ill or injured and is unable to communicate his or her wishes directly. The medical practicioner refers the patient to a number of resources (some funded by the government that are free or low cost), including attorneys and other professionals who can help the patient determine his or her resources and the options that are available to him or her should hr or she need hospice care or other special end-of-life services.  There is no “death panel” – no committee of government officials or healthcare professionals voting to see if grandma lives or dies.

Of all the misrepresentations made thus far, I find this the most objectionable, particularly since it is creating fear in the elderly about something which all of us need to address BEFORE WE BECOME INCOMEPTENT AND UNABLE TO MAKETHESE DECISIONS FOR OURSELVES. Shame on you, Sarah Palin, for promulgating this nonsense!

Now, if you recall, I stated early on in the piece that I don’t like the H.R.3200 healthcare bill (ObamaCare); so, you might ask yourself, why am I defending parts of it?  Well, it’s not the bill itself I am concerned about defending, it’s correcting the lies and propaganda.  In order for our country to get past the hyperpolarization and political gamesmanship that pervades the public forum, we must start speaking truthfully with accuracy and clarity about all the issues and bills – whether we like them or not.  In order to “speak truth to power,” we first must begin speaking truthfully.  If we don’t like a bill or are against an issue, we should be able to articulate truthfully the reasons why without resorting to fabrication, emotionalism and propaganda.  My concern is that we as a people have not made good decisions in the recent past, due in large part to the fact that we are too busy trying to manipulate each other rather than respectfully argue the pros and cons of an issue with truth, accuracy and clarity.

I believe that honesty may not always be the best policy, particularly if the truth does not serve your interests, but honesty is ALWAYS the sincerest form of respect.  When you respect someone, you are honest with them.  And it is time that our elected officials earned our respect by showing us the respect of being honest with us.

For those of you who are proactive in nature and responsible enough to want to inform yourselves, go to www.thomas.gov (the Library of Congress website) and search for bills using the word “healthcare.” You will come up with about 250 entries to work your way through. The two major proposals that have gotten some media attention are H.R. 3200 (ObamaCare) and H.R.676 (the only single-payer option that I am aware of), but there are about six other plans.

The bottom line is that we need accurate, complete, clear information. I believe that Obama made a mistake to not have a solid plan to discuss before holding these town hall meetings. However, these meetings could be effective if they were used to discuss possible provisions, their pros and cons, and find out from the people what they need and want rather than dictating to them what the administration thinks they need and want.

Timing is everything. Preparation is the next most important thing, and the administration blew it on both counts. But it is not too late for the American citizens to stand up and take the issue back from the special interests and insist on sanity, clarity and truthfulness. We need to get the country focused on solving problems rather than acting out in anger and ignorance, because whether you like any of the bills proposed or not, healthcare is the one, single most important issue that prevents American labor from being competitive internationally.

And it is a national shame that the richest country in the world ranks only 37th internationally in terms of healthcare — lower than all the European countries and even Cuba. As Robert Kennedy once said of America:  we can do better than this!  And we must if we want to regain our economic power and stability.

Posted in civic responsibility, economy, freedom of speech, healtcare, incompetence in government, leadership, media, philosophy, political corruption | Leave a comment

On Darwin’s evolution: Why Science and Religion can live together in harmony

National Center for Science Education
Defending the Teaching of Evolution in the Public Schools, May 21, 2008
http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2008/US/861_united_methodist_church_adopts_5_21_2008.asp

At its General Conference held in Fort Worth, TX, from April 22 to May 2, 2008, the United Methodist Church adopted three resolutions relevant to the teaching of evolution in the public schools.  First, and most directly concerned with education, the UMC expressed its opposition to “the introduction of any faith-based theories such as Creationism or Intelligent Design into the science curriculum of our public schools,” noting that “the United Methodist Church has for many years supported the separation of church and [s]tate” and that “[t]he promotion of religion or any particular religion in the public schools is contrary to the First Amendment.

Second, in the course of a statement on science and technology, the UMC affirmed, “We find that science’s descriptions of cosmological, geological, and biological evolution are not in conflict with theology….  We find that as science expands human understanding of the natural world, our understanding of the mysteries of God’s creation and Word are enhanced.”  And third, the UMC revised its resolution on “God’s Creation and the Church,” to endorse the Clergy Letter Project (founded by Michael Zimmerman) and “its reconciliatory programs between religion and science,” in which it urged its clergy to participate.

The text of the resolutions — 80839, 80050, and 80990, respectively — is available by using the Legislation Tracking feature of the UMC’s website for the General Convention.  The UMC’s General Conference is the denomination’s top policy-making body, which periodically revises church law and the “Social Principles” (related to a wide range of social and economic concerns) and adopts resolutions on various current moral, social, public policy, and economic issues.  With over eight million members in the United States served by over forty-five thousand ministers, the United Methodist Church is the third largest religious denomination in the United States.

——————–

It’s no mistake that I was raised United Methodist.  We were taught the interpretation of Genesis was allegorical, not literal, in nature, and, consequently, there was no real “clash” with evolution.  To a United Methodist, science is merely the discovery of God’s creation, not the enemy of it.  Since the term “day” was invented by man and man, himself, has changed in its meaning over time (day used to be the time from sunrise to sunset; now it is a 24-hour period that includes the traditional day and night), it seems folly to impose man’s literal interpretation of Genesis upon a superintelligent God, which is exactly what literalists are doing.  Darwin’s theory of how the world began and “The Big Bang” theory are only scientific ways of explaining how God created the universe to a United Methodist.   

“In physical cosmology, the Big Bang is the scientific theory of how the universe emerged from a tremendously dense and hot state about 13.7 billion years ago. The Big Bang theory is based on the observed Hubble’s law (expanding universe, which solved Einstein’s Theory of Relativity):  redshift (the light from distant stars and distant galaxies) of distant galaxies that when taken together with the cosmological principle indicate that space is expanding according to the Friedmann-Lemaitre model of general relativity. Extrapolated into the past, these observations show that the universe has expanded from a state in which all the matter and energy in the universe was at an immense temperature and density. Physicists do not widely agree on what happened before this, although general relativity predicts a gravitational singularity.”  (http://www.crystalinks.com/bigbang.html)

 Likewise, the concept that God’s “days” could last eons or literally billions of years would not be illogical, given that He is supposed to be infinite.  How irrelevant is time to an infinite being?  Only man is concerned with measuring time, because for man time is finite.

The recent release of the sequel to The Da Vinci Code, called Angels and Demons, broaches the subject of “the God particle” and the Large Hedron Collider:

“…a particle accelerator-an atomic peashooter more powerful than any ever built. It’s called the Large Hadron Collider, and its purpose is simple but ambitious: to crack the code of the physical world; to figure out what the universe is made of; in other words, to get to the very bottom of things….

Physics underwent one revolution after another. Einstein’s special theory of relativity (1905) begat the general theory of relativity (1915), and suddenly even such reliable concepts as absolute space and absolute time had been discarded in favor of a mind-boggling space-time fabric in which two events can never be said to be simultaneous. Matter bends space; space directs how matter moves. Light is both a particle and a wave. Energy and mass are inter- changeable. Reality is probabilistic and not deterministic: Einstein didn’t believe that God plays dice with the universe, but that became the scientific orthodoxy.”   (http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/03/god-particle/achenbach-text)

Einstein’s Theory of Relativity was flawed because he assumed that the universe was static – neither growing or shrinking.  When Hubble (the guy the telescope is named for) discovered clear evidence that the universe was expanding, it became clear that Einstein’s assumption was wrong.

The bigger issue here is the political one.  There has been a systematic attack on science by the so-called Christian Right against science, this being only one of the areas of contention.  The administration of GWB has declared a war on science within his administration, allowing political editing of scientific documents.

Andrew C. Revkin, “Bush Aide Softened Greenhouse Gas Links to Global Warming”, NYT, June 8, 2005, (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/08/politics/08climate.html?ex=1275883200&en=22149dd80c073dd8&ei=5089).

Dan Vergano, “Science vs. politics gets down and dirty“, USA Today, Updated 8/7/2007, (http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/2007-08-05-science-politics_N.htm).

Council on Foreign Relations, December 2007 (http://www.cfr.org/publication/15079/political_interference_with_climate_change_science_under_the_bush_administration_december_2007.html).  Full report:  United States House of Representatives: Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, December 2007 (http://oversight.house.gov/documents/20071210101633.pdf).

Jonathan Adler, Bush Appointees Blocked Health Report Release”, The Volokh Conspiracy, July 29, 2007 (http://volokh.com/posts/1185724235.shtml).

Written Testimony of Francesca T. Grifo, Ph.D., Senior Scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists; Director of the Scientific Integrity Program, Before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works: Subcommittee on Public Sector Solutions to Global Warming, Oversight, and Children’s Health Protection, “Oversight Hearing on Science and Environmental Regulatory Decisions”, May 7, 2008 (http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/scientific_integrity/Written-Testimony-for-5-7-08-EPW-Hearing.pdf).

Daniel Smith, “Political Science”, NYT, September 4, 2005 (http://www.cspo.org/Political_Science.html).

And there are many more articles like these.  We know what the agenda of the Christian Right is:  they believe that science usurps their beliefs and decays their children’s thinking (a sad statement on religion in our country, I must add).  But what was the Bush agenda in his war on science?

I submit that it is the need to control information.  Much like the Roman Catholic Church during the times of Galileo (when they tortured him to make him recant about discovering a new planet), Bush, the evangelical champion, appointed himself Keeper of the Truth.  That is, the “truth” according to Bush.  This is one of the most powerful tactics used by Karl Rove on behalf of Bush in controlling the political message by obfuscation.

So, what do we do?

Well, we need to take action, and fast.  As is evident in the article I quoted here, if Texas is able to muddy the line between religion and science in the classroom, textbook editors will soon follow.  Their agenda is to sell textbooks. 

And the agenda of all freedom-loving people should be to preserve the separation of Church and State, which is a concept borne of religious tyranny.  We cannot allow this Creationist movement to poison the minds of our young people for generations to come with regard to science and the importance of objectively seeking the truth.

Posted in censorship, creationism, evolution, philosophy, political corruption, separation of Church and State | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Where does America rank in healthcare quality and efficiency?

The assault on healthcare reform has begun. For the next three years, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, HMOs and other halthcare profiteers will spend billions in advertising and more billions in lobbying to convince us that we have the BEST healthcare system in the world and that reform will ruin our system. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have claimed a reputation for quality healthcare by deceit. We are not the best in the world; we are 37th on the list behind most EU countries with government-run simgle-payer universal healthcare.

Single-payer government-managed healthcare is the only way to bring costs down. I have worked in several hospitals and clinics while in college and shortly after, so I am not speaking in ignorance.

The real problem is that insurance companies must make a profit, and to do so, they must up the premiums and deny as many claims as possible. When care is denied, it results in loss of life or loss of quality of life. Further, most insurance companies do not pay claims for preventive healthcare. They wait until the problem becomes chronic or acute, when it is too late and when the costs for healthcare go up astronomically.

The old standby fear-mongering that “a government bureaucrat will decide your healthcare” can easily be countered with the fact that WE ALREADY HAVE BUREAUCRATS DECIDING OUR HEALTHCARE — INSURANCE COMPANY BUREAUCRATSand they do not have our best interests at heart, but rather the health of the company.

If the government provides the same healthcare as all Federal employees have available to them, that is an improvement, but not the best we can do. A better solution is for the government to put us all on the same basic coverage as Medicaid, but Federally run rather than State run. The premiums for those not indigent would be lower and the defaults for emergency care of indigent would be significantly less. It would profit us in the long run by having a healthier populace but, more important to business, a healthier workforce and less overhead to figure in the cost of labor for Big Business.

This would make us far more competitive with foreign labor (with the exception of the third world countries who treat their workers and citizens as expendable resources). Real reform in healthcare will only be possible with some government control over cost. I do not believe the value of a person’s life or quality of life should be sacrificed to the bottom line.

Arius (from another blog) said:
France, Germany, and Great Britain all have nationalized health care – and they ALL spend less per capita than we do. Stick THAT in your stethoscope and listen to it.

There is a theory that competition will bring prices down. So far it has not. There is more price-fixing among medical practices, pharmaceutical companies and HMOs than there is real competition that benefits the consumer. Competition does not guarantee a low price. Examples of how government cost regulation kept prices low is when they controlled milk prices when I was young. When the regulation ended, prices went up astronomically. And then there is the breakup of Ma Belle that was promised to lower our phone bills and improve our service than’s to competition. Well, our phone bills went up immediately after the break-up and the service went down, and this has been going on for a while now. Even the introduction of the mobile phone did not improve long-distance prices for land-line service, which is why most folks use a mobile phone for long distance calls, and many (especially the young) only have a mobile phone.

Arius is right. The superiority of our healthcare is a myth. Here is a good list of resources regarding world health statistics: http://search.who.int/search?ie=utf8&si … itesearch=

The following table shows where the US ranks in comparison to other countries in terms of healthcare systems and their efficiency (infant mortality, etc.). The US in 37, behind virtually every EU country and Canada.

So, don’t pretend that we are so superior to everyone else. We are not. For the U.S. to be 37th in the world is shameful given the resources that we have.

Table 1. Overall efficiency in all WHO member states
                         [Country names shortened by blogger]

1   France                                 96   Fiji                                
2   Italy                                     97   Benin                            
3   San Marino                           98   Nauru                            
4   Andorra                                99   Romania                        
5   Malta                                   100  St. Kitts & Nevis             
6   Singapore                             101  Moldova                        
7   Spain                                   102  Bulgaria                         
8   Oman                                   103  Iraq                              
9   Austria                                 104  Armenia                        
10 Japan                                   105  Latvia                            
11 Norway                                106  Yugoslavia                     
12 Portugal                               107  Cook Islands                  
13 Monaco                                108  Syria                             
14 Greece                                 109  Azerbaijan                     
15 Iceland                                 110  Suriname                      
16 Luxembourg                          111  Ecuador                         
17 Netherlands                          112  India                             
18    U.K.                                     113  Cape  Verde                   
19 Ireland                                 114  Georgia                         
20 Switzerland                          115  El Salvador                    
21 Belgium                                116  Tonga                           
22 Colombia                              117  Uzbekistan                     
23 Sweden                                118  Comoros                       
24 Cyprus                                 119  Samoa                          
25 Germany                              120  Yemen                          
26 Saudi Arabia                         121  Niue                              
27 U.A.E.                                  122  Pakistan                        
28 Israel                                   123  Micronesia                     
29 Morocco                               124  Bhutan                          
30    Canada                               125  Brazil                            
31 Finland                                 126  Bolivia                           
32 Australia                               127  Vanuatu                        
33 Chile                                    128  Guyana                          
34 Denmark                              129  Peru                              
35 Dominica                              130  Russia                           
36 Costa Rica                            131  Honduras                       
37    U.S.A.                                  132  Burkina Faso                  
38 Slovenia                               133  Sao Tome &  Principe      
39    Cuba                                   134  Sudan                           
40 Brunei Darussalam                135  Ghana                           
41 New Zealand                         136  Tuvalu                           
42 Bahrain                                137  Côte  d’Ivoire                  
43 Croatia                                 138  Haiti                              
44 Qatar                                   139  Gabon                           
45 Kuwait                                  140  Kenya                            
46 Barbados                              141  Marshall Islands             
47 Thailand                               142  Kiribati                          
48 Czech Republic                      143  Burundi                         
49 Malaysia                               144  China                            
50 Poland                                  145  Mongolia                       
51 Dominican Republic               146  Gambia                         
52 Tunisia                                 147  Maldives                        
53 Jamaica                                148  Papua New Guinea         
54 Venezuela                            149  Uganda                         
55 Albania                                 150  Nepal                            
56 Seychelles                            151  Kyrgyzstan                     
57 Paraguay                              152  Togo                             
58 South Korea                          153  Turkmenistan                 
59 Senegal                                154  Tajikistan                      
60 Philippines                            155  Zimbabwe                     
61    Mexico                                156  Tanzania                       
62 Slovakia                               157  Djibouti                         
63 Egypt                                   158  Eritrea                           
64 Kazakhstan                           159  Madagascar                   
65 Uruguay                               160  Viet Nam                       
66 Hungary                               161  Guinea                          
67 Trinidad & Tobago                162  Mauritania                     
68 St. Lucia                               163  Mali                              
69 Belize                                   164  Cameroon                     
70 Turkey                                 165  Laos                              
71 Nicaragua                             166  Congo                           
72 Belarus                                 167  North Korea                   
73 Lithuania                              168  Namibia                         
74 St. Vincent & the Grenadines  169  Botswana                      
75 Argentina                             170  Niger                             
76 Sri Lanka                              171  Equatorial Guinea           
77 Estonia                                 172  Rwanda                         
78 Guatemala                            173  Afghanistan                   
79 Ukraine                                174  Cambodia                      
80 Solomon Islands                    175  South  Africa                   
81 Algeria                                 176  Guinea-Bissau                
82 Palau                                   177  Swaziland                      
83 Jordan                                  178  Chad                             
84 Mauritius                              179  Somalia                         
85 Grenada                               180  Ethiopia                         
86 Antigua & Barbuda                181  Angola                          
87 Libya                                    182  Zambia                          
88 Bangladesh                           183  Lesotho                         
89 Macedonia                            184  Mozambique                  
90 Bosnia & Herzegovina            185  Malawi                          
91 Lebanon                               186  Liberia                           
92 Indonesia                             187  Nigeria                          
93 Iran                                     188  Congo                           
94 Bahamas                              189  Central African Republic  
95 Panama                                190  Myanmar                       
                                             191  Sierra Leone                  

 

http://www.who.int/healthinfo/paper30.pdf. p. 18

Posted in healtcare, pandemics, swine flu | Tagged , , | 31 Comments

How the biased liberal press is once again using propaganda to shape public opinion

Sadly, the seemingly pervasive attitude in the liberal press against Israel accuses any supporters of Israel or unbiased reporters as either Zionist or right-wing.  I am neither.  Likewise, any broadcasts that portray a balanced report of the issue are, in their minds, due to Jewish-controlled media.  The reality is that the Jews in entertainment do not have the power to completely control journalism and, therefore, information; the corporations that own the media broadcasting (like GE) do, and they will do what is good for business, not what they think is right for either side.  Also, I am seeing a swelling support from this mindset to identify and persecute Jewish owned or controlled companies in an effort to find a target for their hostility.  This is the very same kind of persecution that gave rise and gave focus to the Nazi movement, which I find frightening.  Likewise, holocaust deniers are propagandizing to increasingly uneducated youth who respond to their lies.

 

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.  —  George Santayana 

 


As for victims, the Palestinians are willing victims of their own design.  They continue to elect and support Islamic extremists like Hamas.  If they didn’t bomb Israel daily, Israel would not be retaliating in defense.  Likewise, the women and children killed in Israeli attacks are pawns in a game for Hamas, who deliberately uses them as human shields to create a picture for the world of dead Palestinian children “slaughtered” by Israeli bombs, causing the desired outcry of support for the poor Palestinians and anger and hostility toward Israel.  And the worst part is that the liberal press throughout the world is too blinded by their own gullibility to see how they are being used to create this sympathy and support for terrorists who would, ironically enough, be happy to kill them if given a chance.  Remember the numerous beheadings of journalists by Islamic extremists?

 

  1. The chief suspect in the September 11, 2001, attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, confessed to beheading US journalist Daniel Pearl “with my blessed right hand,” the Pentagon said Thursday.  (http://www.manilatimes.net/national/2007/mar/17/yehey/world/20070317wor1.html

  2. Sun Nov 11, 2007 3:04am EST– KHARTOUM, Nov 11 (Reuters) – Ten Darfuris convicted of beheading a Sudanese journalist have been sentenced to death by hanging, state media said on Sunday, contradicting an earlier account by their lawyer that they would be shot.
    “The criminal court in Khartoum North presided over by Judge Osama Osman issued a judgment of death by hanging for all 10 accused in the case of the murder of journalist Mohamed Taha,” the state-owned Sudanese Media Centre said.The beheading of al-Wifaq editor Taha last year shocked Sudan’s media. Taha, himself an Islamist, had angered other Islamists by reprinting articles questioning the roots of the Prophet Mohammed.

    Authorities also said he had provoked Darfuris with unflattering articles about Darfuri women. All the accused were from the Darfuri Fur tribe. (Reporting by Opheera McDoom; editing by Philippa Fletcher;  http://www.reuters.com/article/latestCrisis/idUSL11152692

    )

     

  3. Monday, April 9, 2007, at 3:00 PM ET — The beheading of Afghan journalist Ajmal Naqshbandi Sunday afternoon may well be remembered as the first casualty in a new wave of violence against journalists in Afghanistan. Naqshbandi was the translator working with Italian journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo when they were kidnapped by Taliban forces last month; Mastrogiacomo was later freed in exchange for the release of five Taliban prisoners. The Taliban then demanded further prisoner releases in exchange for his translator. The Afghan government refused to negotiate, so the Taliban chopped off his head.Within the last two weeks, at least 13 more Afghans and two French aid workers have been kidnapped, and the Taliban warn of more to come. Many in Washington and Kabul blame the abduction spree on the prisoner-exchange deal arranged by the Afghan and Italian governments. “These kind of deals are Pandora’s boxes,” Afghan parliamentarian Daoud Sultanzoy told me. “Once we open them, anything can happen.”  (http://www.slate.com/id/2163793/fr/rss/)  

    2007-04-09 04:59 (KST)   — Taliban militants in Afghanistan announced on Sunday that they had killed the Afghan interpreter who was kidnapped with an Italian journalist while traveling in the country’s southern Helmand province on March 6.

    According to a purported Taliban spokesman, who telephoned to media offices and correspondents in Kabul Sunday afternoon, they beheaded the Afghan translator, Ajmal Naqshbandi, around 3 p.m. (local time).  (http://english.ohmynews.com/articleview/article_view.asp?article_class=3&no=354908&rel_no=1

    )

     

  4. Aljazeera Broadcasts Report with Video of Italian Journalist Hostage: August 24, 2004 claiming to offer a link to the beheading video of Nicholas Berg. .(http://www.camerairaq.com/beheading/index.html) 

 

It’s no wonder journalists are afraid to publish the truth about Islamic terrorism. 

 

Nor does anyone seem to care that Hamas uses hospitals and schools to store weapons and as safe houses, even launching rockets into Israel from these positions.  And they do not find it reprehensible that madrassas program children from kindergarten on to hate the Western world and embrace jihad by, for example, becoming suicide bombers.  This, more than anything, indicates Palestinian priorities are not their children, but their ideology.

 

Neither is the liberal press fretting over all the bombs Hamas lobs at Israel daily, which has been going on for years now.  What about the Israeli children who live in fear?  No one seems to care about them. 

I suggest to the liberal press lamenting the bloodshed and, believe it or not, “ethnic cleansing” allegedly waged by Israel and suffered by the “innocent” Palestinians the following:

 

YOU plant YOUR ass in Israel in one of the Israeli border towns.  Perhaps you might feel differently when a Hamas rocket (supplied most likely by Iranian funding) lands in YOUR living room or YOUR child’s school.  Or an Islamic suicide bomber gets on a bus and blows your wife up on her way to work or your child on his or her way to school.  Or maybe a few weeks spent running to and from a bomb shelter while trying to carry on work, school and life might change your perspective…. 

Likewise, Israel’s so-called “control” of the Palestinian territory apparently does not extend to any human being outside the Palestinian territory, because Palestinian guards will shoot you without question if you so much as set foot on Palestinian soil.  If, perchance, you are invited in, you can guarantee you will see what THEY want you to see when THEY want you to see it.  And should you report it in a way unpleasing to them:  WATCH OUT!  It might be you losing your head….

 

Yes, unfortunately, the liberal press (and this is coming from a moderate Democrat) has been hoodwinked by the clever Islamic extremists once again.  Hamas controls access to virtually all territory and all information coming out of the territories it controls.  It shows journalists what it wants them to see.  Islamic groups all over Europe and in America are capitalizing on Western “guilt” and outrage at their “plight.”  This victimization is largely a myth created by Islamic extremists in order to put political pressure on pro-Israel governments and organizations. 

The reality is, and I think it was Bill Clinton who said it (please someone, if you know give the exact quote):

 

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict will never be resolved so long as Palestinians choose their ideology over their children’s future.

 

I do not hate Muslims.  I hate what Islamic extremists do [in the name of their religion] with the passive acquiescence of so-called moderate Muslims.  But I do acknowledge the reality that Islam, as it is currently practiced, is, by and large, intolerant of other religions and dedicated toward the obliteration of Western culture, other religions and, finally, world domination under the Caliphate.  And women do not now nor will they get the freedom and protection under Shariah law, which has invaded Western government in England, Denmark, Sweden and other Western countries in an effort to broker a peace between Muslims in their countries.

 

If Israel were to leave the Holy Land tomorrow, internecine war would ensue between Hamas and Fatah or whatever group might rise up in the wake of total anarchy.  Hezbollah could conceivably invade and assume title.  And there goes the neighborhood….

 

They are not victims as much of Israel expansionism as of Arab intransigence.
 
 That again, is cultural, not even so much a political position.  And when you are living by enshrined religious zealotry, Lord help your opponent.  Suicide is inculcated within that doctrine.  —   Marilyn A.F. 

 

One thing we learned about terrorists in the sixties is that when one terrorist cause was taken off the table, most of the core group migrated to other causes.  What does this say?  Terrorists are in it for the violence, destruction and power.  They achieve power through fear.  They will use whatever cause célèbre to recruit supporters, but, at their core they are addicted to the violence and destruction because it creates fear, which gives them power.  So, achieving power through fear is their pay-off. 

Hamas, Hezbollah and all the other Iran-supported terrorism is designed to accomplish several goals: 

 

  1. to keep the Middle East in turmoil, which raises the price of oil and empowers their countries and the terrorists they fund;
  2. to keep their people united against a common enemy (just like Hitler—remember Neimöller’s poem?); and
  3. to keep their own region united with each other instead of fighting each other (which, given the tribal structure of most of these countries, would likely happen internally and regionally). 

 

Israel is an excuse – the Western lifestyle is an excuse—for their terrorist activities, their recruiting, their funding solicitations, etc.  If Israel were to cease to exist tomorrow, another cause would take its place very quickly.  It would have to.  Otherwise, these countries and this region would quickly descend into tribal wars against each other.  This region has been marked by chaos for centuries.  We in the Western world did not create it, and we cannot fix it.  Selling the idea that we can somehow fix it to Westerners is a means of manipulating us into a delusional compliant state where we will do anything to appease these guys in order to achieve peace. 

We tried that once already with Hitler.  Neville Chamberlain is the poster boy for appeasement.  And where did that get us?

 

Wake up to the reality.  If moderate Muslims are the majority and they do not support this violence and terrorism, why don’t they rise up and defeat it?  Or at least vote these guys out?  They didn’t.  They voted them in. 

One of the reasons I opposed the war in Iraq was because I believe that no government can exist against its people’s will.  If the majority of the Iraqis were truly committed to getting rid of Saddam, they would have done it without us.

 

The same is true for Palestine.  If they did not see Hamas as representing their best interests, Hamas would be out, terrorism would be over, and Israel and Palestine could coexist peacefully. 

Such is not the case.

 

The Palestinian people have had a number of opportunities to resolve the conflict.  Israel has given back land won during several wars and settled by Israelis, uprooting the settlers at Israel’s expense.  They left greenhouses in tact which could have provided food and income to the Palestinians, but the Palestinians CHOSE to destroy them instead, and now they whine about starvation and poor living conditions.  But it is never enough.  Islamic extremists elected by the Palestinian people, which (though Hamas is more so and Fatah less so) run Gaza and the West Bank, for all practical purposes, will not be content to have their own country ADJACENT to Israel.  They will only be happy if Israel ceases to exist.  This has been clearly stated by Hamas from the outset.

Given that reality, there is nothing of substance that Israel can do to permanently resolve the conflict short of conquest. 

To the whining liberal press I say, “Give me a break!”  Save the outrage for unwilling victims, like the persecuted people enduring real ethnic cleansing in Darfur.

Posted in Israeli-palestinian conflict, Middle East | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Learning from history: Regulation works

“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”   George Santayana quotes (Spanish born American Philosopher, Poet and Humanist who made important contributions to aesthetics, speculative philosophy and literary criticism. 1863-1952)

 

This housing market debacle that has occurred under George W. Bush’s watch can be traced back to many of the same causes as the Savings & Loan debacle during Reagan’s watch on October 1987:  it’s about how deregulation sets the market up for failure.

 

This problem goes back to Carter.  And every administration and every Congress since then has been complicit in this mess.  The reason they waited until it was too late to put it off is that they are ALL in bed with the financial contributors.  This year, Dodd, our Senate Banking Committee chair, got the most from the investment houses, Obama was second. (www.opensecrets.org).  But, none of them are blameless.  James A. “Jim” Johnson, a close friend of Richard Daley and the Chicago Daley political machine, Franklin Raines, , Tim Howard, Jamie Gorelick and Penny Pritzker are Obama advisors, and McCain had Rick Davis as his campaign manager.

 

“In 1990, [Jim] Johnson [Chairman and CEO, 1991-1998) went to work for the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and quickly became its $5 million-a-year chairman. His compensation rose to a reported $21 million by his final year, 1998….

 

When he left his job at Fannie Mae, which long has had a reputation as a cushy landing spot for the political class in Washington, he was serenaded by 16 members of the Benson High band, which had been flown to D.C. at Fannie Mae’s expense. He also received a number of perks, including a $600,000 annual consulting fee….

 

It should be noted that Johnson got out of Fannie Mae while the getting was good. Since his leaving, the massive, quasi-public home mortgage organization has been buffeted by negative headlines. Accounting scandals, dating back to Johnson’s era, have been followed by recent news that Fannie Mae has lost more than $3 billion in the housing slump.”  (http://www.minnpost.com/stories/2008/06/03/2078/obama_turns_to_trusted_political_insider_jim_johnson_for_key_campaign_role)

 

A news release, dated 12/18/2006, stated that OFHEO had filed a Notice of Charges against former Chairman and CEO Franklin Raines, Vice Chairman and Chief Financial Office Tim Howard and former Senior Vice President and Controller Leanne G. Spencer, which was ultimately settled.  In that Notice, Office of Federal Enterprise Housing Oversight (OFHEO) Director James B. Lockhart stated,

 

The 101 charges reveal how the individuals improperly manipulated earnings to maximize their bonuses, while knowingly neglecting accounting systems and internal controls, misapplying over 20 accounting principles and misleading the regulator and the public.  The Notice explains how they submitted six years of misleading and inaccurate accounting statements and inaccurate capital reports that enabled them to grow Fannie Mae in an unsafe and unsound manner.The conduct cost the Enterprise and shareholders many billions of dollars and damaged the public trust.  http://www.ofheo.gov/media/pdf/RainesNOC121806.pdf

 

Let’s examine the relationships that two of those mentioned have with Obama:

 

Franklin Raines, Chairman and CEO of the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) from 1999-2004, is the individual most responsible for the subprime mortgage crisis. It was on Mr. Raines’ watch that Fannie Mae went bankrupt.

 

He was accused of manipulating earnings statements so he could be paid bonuses to which he was not entitled.  He received a golden parachute valued at $240M, court ordered him to return $50M, leaving $190M, at least $20M of that sum was now worthless stock.

 

Of Raines’ $91 million in compensation between 1998 and 2003, more than $84 million was tied to earnings per share targets and faulty accounting, OFHEO said in 2006.:  (http://www.reuters.com/article/ousiv/idUSN1835681920080419?pageNumber=2&virtualBrandChannel=0)

 

 

Tim Howard was the Vice Chairman and Chief Financial Officer of Fannie Mae. Howard “was a strong internal proponent of using accounting strategies that would ensure a “stable pattern of earnings” at Fannie. In everyday English – he was cooking the books.  The Government Investigation determined that, “Chief Financial Officer, Tim Howard, failed to provide adequate oversight to key control and reporting functions within Fannie Mae,”

 

On June 16, 2006, Rep. Richard Baker, R-La., asked the Justice Department to investigate his allegations that two former Fannie Mae executives lied to Congress in October 2004 when they denied manipulating the mortgage-finance giant’s income statement to achieve management pay bonuses. Investigations by federal regulators and the company’s board of directors since concluded that management did manipulate 1998 earnings to trigger bonuses. Raines and Howard resigned under pressure in late 2004.  Howard’s Golden Parachute was estimated at $20 Million, of which he had to return $5.4 million.  (http://www.reuters.com/article/ousiv/idUSN1835681920080419).

 

 

Mr. Johnson and Mr. Raines aren’t the only figures in the subprime mortgage scandal to be connected to the Obama campaign. Jamie Gorelick, rumored to be an attorney general candidate in an Obama administration, was vice chairman of Fannie Mae from 1997 to 2003 [and was the former Deputy Attorney General in the Clinton administration]. Penny Pritzker, Mr. Obama’s national finance chairman, has been described as “the Michael Milken of the subprime mortgage crisis” for her pioneering of the packaging of bad loans with good ones at her now defunct Superior Bank in suburban Chicago.”  (http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2008/09/how_close_are_raines_and_obama.html)

 

Penny Pritzker, a billionaire  (Hyatt hotel chain and the Marmon Group industrial conglomerate. (Forbes Lists 2005), engaged in predatory lending “after the Pritzkers’ bank acquired its wholesale mortgage organization division, Alliance Funding, in December 1992.”  (http://gdaeman.blogspot.com/2008/02/who-is-penny-pritzker-and-why-is-she.html, http://www.thenation.com/bletters/20080211/fraser).

 

According to the Encyclopedia Judaica, the Obama campaign’s national finance chair, Pritzker “served as chairman of the Superior Bank from 1989 to 1994, but the savings and loan institution collapsed” in July 2001. Created at the end of 1988 as the successor bank to the failed Lyons Savings Bank, the Oakbrook Terrace/Hinsdale, Illinois-based Superior Bank was 50 percent owned by Chicago’s billionaire Pritzker family. Yet according to an October 16, 2001, statement before the US Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs by Ely & Company Inc. President Bert Ely, the Pritzker family’s Superior Bank “started life with enormous tax benefits and a substantial amount of FSLIC-guaranteed assets under a FSLIC Assistance agreement.” In a December 2002 Chicago magazine article, “Tremors In The Empire,” Shane Tritsch noted, for instance, that for investing $42.5 million in the failed Lyons Savings Bank before it was reopened as Superior Bank, the Pritzkers and their business partner received an estimated $645 million in federal tax credits and loan guarantees; and “by one estimate, it would have cost the government $200 million less simply to shut Lyons down.”

 

But according to Ely’s October 16, 2001, statement, “Superior’s trick, or business plan” under Penny Prtizker’s chairmanship was apparently “to concentrate on subprimelending, principally on home mortgages, but for a while in subprime auto lending, too,” after the Pritzkers’ bank acquired its wholesale mortgage organization division, Alliance Funding, in December 1992.

With a business loss estimate of between $350 million and $1 billion, the 2001 failure of the Pritzkers’ Superior Bank represented the largest US-insured deposition institution to fall between 1992 and 2001. But according to a February 7, 2002, report by FDIC Inspector General Gaston Gianni Jr., “the failure of Superior Bank was directly attributable to the Bank’s Board of Directors and executives ignoring sound risk management principles.”  (http://www.thenation.com/bletters/20080211/fraser 

 

And then there’s ACORN.  Obama’s direct involvement with ACORN, who intimidated banks into providing loans to those with bad credit, included serving  on the board of the Woods Fund which provided money for ACORN’s activities.  Obama also trained “activists” on behalf of Madeline Talbot, who spearheaded the drive to pressure banks into providing high risk loans.

 

A rundown:

·         Madeline Talbot, leader at Chicago ACORN, enlists Obama (between college & law school) to train her staff.

·         ACORN requests Obama as legal representation in “motor voter” case.

·         Obama (post law school) in partnership with ACORN organizes “Project Vote.”

·         Obama enlists ACORN volunteers for State Senate, (failed) Congress, US Senate campaigns.

·         Obama hires Daley-team to run State Senate election, kicks other 4 contenders (including incumbent) off the ballot, and wins by running unopposed (How did Obama’s legal team invalidate thousands of signatures? See article & video for more).

·         Obama directs millions in grants to ACORN

(http://www.dingonation.com/politics/race-redistribution-and-the-bully-pulpit)

 

 

“Senator John McCain’s campaign manager [Rick Davis] was paid more than $30,000 a month for five years as president of an advocacy group set up by the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to defend them against stricter regulations, current and former officials say. 

 

… several current and former executives of the companies came forward to discuss the role that Rick Davis, Mr. McCain’s campaign manager and longtime adviser, played in helping Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac beat back regulatory challenges when he served as president of their advocacy group, the Homeownership Alliance, formed in the summer of 2000.”  (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/22/us/politics/22mccain.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&ref=politics&pagewanted=print&oref=slogin)

 

As long as times were good, nobody complained too hard because you “don’t fix what ain’t broke.” (Will Rogers)   The markets were great, the bubble hadn’t burst yet.  But, then the bubble burst.

 

This is not the first time de-regulated markets have posed a problem.  The Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 was passed to protect homeowners. 

 

“Bad Government Policies

Economist Robert Kuttner has criticized the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act as contributing to the subprime meltdown.  A taxpayer-funded government bailout related to mortgages during the Savings and Loan crisis may have created a moral hazard and acted as encouragement to lenders to make similar higher risk loans.”  (Wiki — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subprime_mortgage_crisis)

 

Banking deregulation started in earnest during the Carter admin in 1978.  Interest rate ceilings on deposits were phased out in the early 1980s, during Reagan’s watch.  Next came the Commodities Futures Modernization Act of 2000, HR.5660, also passed by a Republican Congress and signed by Clinton.

 

“Additionally, there is debate among economists regarding the effect of the Community Reinvestment Act, with detractors claiming it encourages lending to uncreditworthy consumers and defenders claiming a thirty year history of lending without increased risk.  Amendments to the CRA in the mid-1990s, dramatically raised the amount of home loans to otherwise unqualified low-income borrowers and also allowed for the first time the securitization of CRA-regulated loans containing subprime mortgages.

 

Some have argued that, despite attempts by various U.S. states to prevent the growth of a secondary market in repackaged predatory loans, the Treasury Department‘s Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, at the insistence of national banks, struck down such attempts as violations of Federal banking laws. 

 

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development‘s mortgage policies fueled the trend towards issuing risky loans.  Like the second link says, HUD and the Community Reinvestment Act are major culprits. After their accounting scandals in 2003 and 2004, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac committed to increased financing of “affordable housing.” They became the largest buyers of subprime and Alt-A mortgages between 2004 and 2007, with total GSE exposure eventually exceeding $1 trillion. They greatly grew the subprime mortgage market, leading to a housing bubble and its subsequent collapse. 

 

Among banks and the regulatory agencies, there was a consensus that data collection, recordkeeping, and reporting requirements imposed a heavy burden on small community institutions. As a result of a 2002 review of the CRA regulations, and revision of an initial Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) proposal following a public commenting period that was largely negative, the FDIC, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Federal Reserve Board (FRB), made substantive changes to the implementation of regulations for the CRA for banks (not thrifts).

 

Previously, all institutions over $250 million in assets were subject to a three-part CRA test that covered lending (including community development loans), qualified investments, and services (including community development services) to their assessment areas. Institutions less than $250 million were subject only to a lending test.

 

However, as of September 1, 2005, only those institutions with more than $1 billion in assets were subject to the three-part test. Institutions below $250 million remain subject to only a lending test, and a new CRA test was created for institutions with assets between $250 million and $1 billion. This latter category, referred to as Intermediate Small Banks, is subject to the same lending test to which institutions under $250 million were subject, along with a new combined community development test that covers community development loans, qualified investments, and community development services. The $250 million and $1 billion asset thresholds also were indexed to the consumer price index and could change annually. Thus, all institutions remain subject to the CRA test. These substantive changes were intended to be a compromise between changes advocated by banks and community groups.

 

However, the changes were not received positively by all community groups. Changes to tests conducted on the Intermediate Small category were viewed by some as decreasing the institutions’ obligations to meet lending requirements of low- and moderate-income households. Racial inequities in mortgage acceptance rates (as reported by Inner City Press, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, ACORN and other groups) are cited as a primary reason to maintain or even increase the scope of the CRA.”  (Wiki — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_Reinvestment_Act)

 

The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, passed in1999, and the Commodities Futures Modernization Act, passed in 2000 “broke down the firewalls between Wall Street and commercial banks and banned regulation of credit default swaps, an insurance-like product bought by financial services companies to cover their risky subprime mortgage investments.”  (http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0908/13683.html)  

 

“The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, also known as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Financial Services Modernization Act, Pub.L. 106-102, 113 Stat. 1338, enacted 1999-11-12, is an Act of the United States Congress which repealed part of the Glass-Steagall Act, opening up competition among banks, securities companies and insurance companies. The Glass-Steagall Act prohibited a bank from offering investment, commercial banking, and insurance services.”  (Wiki — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gramm-Leach-Bliley_Act)

 

American International Group, rescued by the Federal Reserve on Tuesday [September 16, 2008] is one of the biggest sellers of these swaps.”  Barney Frank commented to reporters that he had been sitting on a bill (S.190, then S.1100 refiled), tabling it until after the presidential election. Clinton had tried to get legislation through during his administration that modified some of this.  Even Bush tried to do the same.  McCain even raised the cry.

 

Relaxation of geographical restrictions on bank expansion proceeded historically, and this resulted in the history of state-level regulation being completely abandoned. Over a period of 20 years, Glass-Steagall was pecked at and undermined and weakened. It was finally killed altogether in 1999 with the Graham-Leach-Bliley Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999, signed by Clinton, but passed by a Republican-dominated Congress.

 

Triggering the financial implosion on Wall Street were the problems at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which had its legislative roots in the Congressional Black Caucus.  The concept for these institutions was a good one — to break down the barriers of institutionalized racism in the financial market.  But the implementation and de-regulation made for a situation is which widespread fraud and abuse and far-too-relaxed lending practices created an unstable situation.  These firms were not properly leveraged, and their impending collapse should have been easy to predict.  These firms, fostered lax lending practices and covered up their own financial deficiencies.  And these two institutions have their tentacles in the 2008 presidential campaign in the forms of Jim Johnson, Franklin Raines, Rick Davis, Jamie Gorelick and Penny Pritzker.

 

Although I am not a fan of GWB, it is only fair to say that, going back to the beginning of his administration, President Bush warned of the problems at these institutions and the consequences if Congress did not bring them under control. Seventeen times, Bush publicly called for reform of both institutions. But Democrats and Republicans in Congress ignored the warnings and denied there were any problems. What follows is an administration chronology of efforts to achieve reform:

 

At the beginning of 2005, a bill was introduced by Chuck Hagel to deal with the need for regulating Fannie and Freddie, among other investment banks. John McCain was a cosponsor: (http://uppitywoman08.wordpress.com/2008/09/21/john-mccains-fannie-maefreddie-mac-warnings-may-2006/).  And Barney Frank (http://www.house.gov/apps/list/press/financialsvcs_dem/press092308.shtml) and Chuck Dodd had a bill in the last Congress that was filed as S.190 and refiled as S.1100 that they have been sitting on until after the presidential election was over, only the economy wouldn’t wait

 

As with most idealistic theories, Adam Smith and his concept of a free market works very well in a laboratory setting, where all the factors are carefully controlled, much like any utopian philosophy.  But in real life, with real people who have real greed and real problems with ethical behavior, it simply does not work.  It works no better than its polar extreme socialism, which does not motivate people to work and to strive for excellence.  That’s why we need regulation of the markets.  Because markets deal with real people and real temptation and real greed must be controlled.

 

The next problem that is happening today is both a symptom of deregulation and a cause of the resulting debacle, and that is lack of transparency.  It is a particularly strong trait of this administration.  And this administration has set the tone for the entire country, especially the business world.  Lack of transparency makes it impossible for real oversight or regulation to occur.  People who hide things usually have something to hide.  We have found this to be true of this administration, and now we see the same trait is both a cause and a symptom of this deregulated market and its result:  the biggest market failure requiring the biggest bailout in history.

 

The same applies to our other regulatory agencies which have been decimated during the Bush administration.  We need environmental, labor and consumer protection regulation both at home and as it applies to our imports and trade agreements.

 

We know from our own experience as children that rules work.  Rules that are reasonable and that are fairly and consistently enforced make society work for everyone.  It also applies to markets and to business.

 

So, how do we fix it?  The administration is pressuring Congress to move quickly.  But I hope Congress realizes that there is a difference between moving quickly (and knowing what you’re doing) and moving irresponsibly and imprudently.  Rash behavior will only complicate the existing mess and create an even bigger mess.  And U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson’s “Chicken Little” presentation before the Senate Banking Committee did not inspire confidence.

 

When you are reacting, you are not in control.  We must get control of these markets, and that requires thoughtful, deliberate action that requires controls and oversight tools to be included in the pending legislation, which, in its current form, is a prescription for a larger disaster, but it basically writes a blank check to Secretary Paulson, who helped oversee the making of this mess in the first place, and this, plus his $500M fortune earned by the very excesses and abuses that have cause this market to fail, makes him an unregulated and uncontrolled God of the market economy.  Paulson was Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs  since the firm’s initial public offering in 1999, and this tends to further erode my confidence in his ability to objectively oversee this recovery and select firms to bail out.  All this leads me to believe that this legislation in its current for is a prescription for disaster.

 

There are also some punitive actions that must be included, not the least of which is that the golden parachutes of the executives who got their company in this mess should not be permitted.  And, most of all, there must be provisions within this deal that protects the American taxpayers in such a way that the funds they are lending these institutions are recoverable, at least in part.  Otherwise, we will be encouraging the same behavior to happen again.  If Uncle Sam bails you out every time you screw up, then why should you change your behavior?

 

One of the most disturbing aspects of this bailout legislation in its first incarnation is that it provides for American taxpayers to bail out foreign firms that had business transactions in the United States.  Since we are in a global economy, shouldn’t the entire globe — any nation that was involved with these transactions — be participating in the pain?  After all, it is their firms who did not observe good lending practices when buying these instruments.  Why should the American taxpayers be held holding the bag for any of it?  There must be some real controls and deliberation on bailing out a foreign-owned institution.  What do we do if we can’t recover our investment in bad paper?  Invade the country where the firms originates?  There is much about this bailout that gives me pause.

 

The American taxpayers will be experiencing significant pain in this deal.  They are taking on, with the recent deals already done, over $1.3T in bad debt that may not be recoverable.  Remember, all the wonderful plans for healthcare, education and many other factors have been flushed down the toilet once this deal is signed.  There will be no money for any of those programs.

 

And if we are willing to take over the banking industry, we must also take measures to control the rising costs of commodities that has already occurred and will continue to occur with investors moving their money to this market.  Just today oil went up $25/barrel.  And rising food prices are already increasing starvation in third-world countries.  The American taxpayer must have some protection with temporary price controls.  Otherwise, other markets will start to fail as rising costs put small businesses out of business.  And the next problem will be all the other industries that have been hard hit during this economic downturn.  Who do we bail out next?  The auto industry?

 

The Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 or CFMA (H.R. 5660 and S.3283) repealed the Shad-Johnson jurisdictional accord, which had banned single stock futures in 1982. The legislation also provided certainty that products offered by banking institutions would not be regulated as futures contracts. This act was incorporated by reference into HR.4577 (see below). The legislation thus became law as a part of HR.4577 – Public Law 106–554, §1(a)(5) signed by Bill Clinton December 21, 2000….

 

The Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 has received criticism for the so-called “Enron Loophole,” 7 U.S.C. §2(h)(3) and (g), which exempts most over-the-counter energy trades and trading on electronic energy commodity markets. The “loophole” was drafted by Enron Lobbyists working with Senator Phil Gramm [one of McCain’s financial advisors] seeking a deregulated atmosphere for their new experiment, “Enron On-line.” 

 

Several Democratic Legislators introduced legislation to close the loophole from 2000-2006, but were unsuccessful.

 

In September 2007, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) introduced Senate Bill S.2058 to specifically close the “Enron Loophole.”  This bill was later attached to H.R.6124, the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, aka “The 2008 Farm Bill”. President Bush vetoed the bill, but was overridden by both the House and Senate, and on June 18th, 2008, the bill was enacted into law.  One specific reason behind its introduction was to address the record high oil prices of the 2000s energy crisis. Since it was enacted, average gas prices of regular unleaded gasoline in the U.S. have dropped $0.357, from their record high of $4.114 on 7/17/2008 to an average of $3.757 as of 09/21/2008.

 

The prohibition on single-stock futures and narrow-based indices that had been in effect until the passage of this act was known as the Shad-Johnson Accord because it was first announced in 1982, as part of a jurisdictional pact between John S.R. Shad, then chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and Phil Johnson, then chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. 

 

The act specifically banned regulation of credit default swaps. These unregulated instruments, insurance policies against default on risky investments like mortgage backed securities, necessitated the government bailout of insurer A.I.G.  (Wiki – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commodity_Futures_Modernization_Act_of_2000)

 

Next, if we protect the investors in these institutions, we must also take measures to protect the American taxpayers and the good homeowners who are struggling to pay their mortgages.  I suggest that all homeowners be allowed to adjust their loans to current market value and refinance with fixed rate loans based on that value since the market has devalued their property so greatly.  This strategy worked well during the Great Depression recovery.  In fact, most banks following this practice made money.  Keep these good homeowners who are paying their mortgages in their homes.

 

This crisis could have been averted by practicing reasonable regulation and oversight.  The market, big business and our government failed us on every level.

 

“Ours is a system of corporate socialism, where companies capitalize their profits and socialize their losses…in effect, they tax you for their accidents, bungling, boondoggles, and mismanagement, just like a government. We should be able to dis-elect them.” — Ralph Nader

 

But we must also include our own culpability in this problem.  Many people became speculators during the housing bubble.  They were speculating on the fact that the market would be good and the value of the investment homes would increase so they could sell them at a profit.  And then there were the folks living well above their means who entered into interest-only payments with a big balloon at the end of three- or five-year period, etc., living at the edge of their income and banking on their ability to sell their home for the balloon price or better, then doing it all over again with a new house.  The market failed, the value of the house dropped, and they had no savings to cover the balloon, so they lost their home and ruined their credit.

 

And one final note: The administration’s view is that they are bailing out the “market,” not just a few key firms.  But the greatest beneficiaries ARE the few key firms.  Granted, anyone who has investments, whether it be stock, money market accounts, 401Ks or other retirement or savings vehicles, and anyone who needs credit (especially businesses) will be impacted by this failure.  But there must be some real controls and an objective bipartisan oversight – a deliberative body who decides on what actions should be taken and with which firm.

 

So, here we are again.  Will we learn from history this time?  Will Congress have the balls to face this crisis without giving into the panic-atmosphere that the administration has created to push this bill through without the necessary controls and oversight?  We shall see.  But, whatever, the outcome, we know the American taxpayers will get stuck with the bill.  And, although life is not fair, this is particularly unfair, because it has to do with unbridled greed and mismanagement of private industry due to our elected officials rolling over and playing dead when deregulating the markets and then failing to perform their oversight duties.

 

There is a record of legislation going back to the Clinton administration that addressed this problem, but could not get passed.  The largest contributors in all the campaigns came from these same failed firms.  If that does not wake us up to the need to get money and corporations out of our political campaigns, I don’t know what will.  It’s our fault, too, because we did not demand better from our government.

 

And then there were the honest folks who dealt with predatory lenders — fraudulent real estate brokers, mortgage brokers, etc., that were encouraged to enter into mortgages with variable interest rates or graduated interest rates and hidden costs that caused them to be unable to pay their mortgage.  These real estate brokers and mortgage brokers that falsely represented to their clients their ability to afford these homes, and fraudulently submitted false information about the client’s income or down payment or the value of the home in an effort to put the deal through.  Then they turned around and sold this bad paper to other investment firms.  And the homeowners are left with an unmanagement mortgage payment that they can ill afford or a home beyond their means when they were told they could afford it.  These conspirators must be brought to justice.

 

“Capitalism will always survive in the United States as long as the government is willing to use socialism to bail it out.” — Ralph Nader

 

Bibliography

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subprime_mortgage_crisis

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glass-Steagall_Act

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_Reinvestment_Act

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gramm-Leach-Bliley_Act

http://www.house.gov/apps/list/press/financialsvcs_dem/press092308.shtml

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commodity_Futures_Modernization_Act_of_2000

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0908/13683.html

http://www.newsmax.com/kessler/gse_financial_timeline/2008/09/22/133234.html

http://uppitywoman08.wordpress.com/2008/09/21/john-mccains-fannie-maefreddie-mac-warnings-may-2006/

http://www.ofheo.gov/about.aspx?Nav=73

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/09/24/politics/washingtonpost/main4473574.shtml

http://falkenblog.blogspot.com/2008/06/fannie-mae-ex-ceo-ousted-from-obamas.html

http://news.aol.com/political-machine/2008/09/20/ex-fannie-ceo-raines-not-obama-advisor/

http://www.nysun.com/blogs/latest-politics/2008/09/fannie-mae-slips-from-obama-litany.html

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2003023671_fannie28.html?syndication=rss

http://phoenix.bizjournals.com/phoenix/stories/2008/09/15/daily81.html

http://www.cftc.gov/files/ogc/ogchr5660.pdf

http://www.allbusiness.com/finance-insurance/credit-intermediation-related-activities/577783-1.html?yahss=114-2974554-577783&siap=1

http://www.fdic.gov/bank/analytical/banking/2004nov/article1/

http://www.ecs-limited.com/download/Challenges%20facing%20Banking%20Industry%20in%20India.pdf

http://fic.wharton.upenn.edu/fic/papers/02/0239.pdf

http://schneiderview.blogspot.com/2008/09/those-who-do-not-learn-from-history-are.html

 

Posted in 11432190, Barack Obama, deregulation, economy, election reform, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, John McCain, mortgage-backed securities, political corruption | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The media protesteth too much.

After reading some comments online, I thought if would be worthwhile to re-examine my thoughts on journalistic ethics:

An examplo of the media substituting OPINION for FACT.

Apparently, if ratings are an indication, it is more entertaining to see people shout each other down instead of have substantive discussions about issues.

I found it amusing during the campaign to hear the media complaing about every one else in the media discussing process instead of issues. While they themselves were discussing process instead of issues.

It takes no brains to report on the results of a poll. It takes hard work to research a story, interview experts and witnesses, vet those experts and witnesses, corroborate facts, etc. — all of which real ethnical journalism requires.

Much cheaper to conduct polls and argue opinions with factoids and propaganda.

Media creating news instead of reporting it.

Dan Rather had some insight into this:  http://www.rtdna.org/pages/media_items/dan-rather1107.php

Posted in journalistic ethics, media | Tagged , | 4 Comments