Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Of course we know Henry Kissinger, that big shot, such a smart guy with lots of titles, was a big supporter if not instigator of the coup in Chile, the murder of its elected president Allende, the torture and murder of thousands, thousands more driven into exile, the petrie dish for the policy of governments kidnapping, torturing and murdering civilians in secret, the "deseparecidos" of South America, the "extraordinary rendition" of the middle east. Same thing. http://www.zpub.com/un/wanted-hkiss.html
And the big shot, really smart guy Boalt professor John Yoo who was so overwhelmed when summmoned by the white house that he wrote an eloquent rationalization providing academic support and cover for the right-wing's claims that of course Bush can be a dictator if he wants, of course the citizens have no rights, of course the constitution is just "advisory" and not binding, and the Geneva Convention is of no importance, of course Bush is free to kidnap, torture, and murder anyone he wants, of course Bush can hold people without charges or counsel or rights of any kind, then send them to other dictators to be buried in underground prisons waiting execution for having done nothing at all. Of course, of course he can, the esteemed professor Yoo sang to those in power, basking in his 15 minutes. http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2008/04/todays_must_read_308.php
We hear a lot recently about the Milton Friedman school of economics, some call it the Chicago Boys. But Chile heard about this decades ago when their economy was taken over by Kissinger's thugs, all social services eliminated, people starved into submission, workers' rights crushed. http://www.counterpunch.org/grandin11172006.html
Milton Friedman's economic "theories" have also been applied in Iraq to let the U.S. steal all that country's assets and pretend it isn't theft. It's an agreement. Like a free trade agreement. Except because they had no government (because we killed them all) we had to "appoint" an American to be the pretend government of Iraq, and he signed all the agreements on behalf of the people of Iraq then snuck out of the country in secret. He pretended he was the leader of Iraq. Which goes along well with the pretend roses strewn in his path as he fled the country. http://onlinejournal.com/artman/publish/article_2000.shtml
It occurs to me that all these big shots with their big ideas, their four-dollar words, amount to nothing much at all. Because when we look at recent history, or at least recent decades, mostly what we see is the U.S. bullying the rest of the world, taking control of other countries' resources, stealing, lying, cheating, staging coups in any country where the government pledges to help its own people, setting up boycotts and barricades and flyovers in any country that defies the wishes of the U.S. And while this is going on, a few people inside the U.S., maybe the top 5% -- most of the politicians in D.C. and the Boys on Wall Street -- have stolen much of the wealth from the entire world. While poverty grows, suffering and misery grow as a direct result of their actions.
Babies do not have food, and now they don't have drinking water either. Isn't that a pretty good sign that the people running things -- the wealthiest people in the U.S. -- are doing terrible things to the world? When babies can't even have a drink of water when they're thirsty, but Wall Street criminals spend a million dollars for their useless children's birthday parties? When are we going to do what is right and necessary, which is to appoint special prosecutors, grab their assets, indict, and throw these people in prison. The politicians they bribed can be their cell-mates.
And indict every person responsible in any way for the international war crime of the U.S. war on Iraq, a war of aggression, and the torture, kidnapping, and murder that went along with it.
These people at the top wear thousand dollar suits and fly private jets because they have stolen food from the mouth of hungry suffering babies. The politicians and the Wall Street Boys work hand in hand to make themselves richer and the rest of us poorer. They hire the best and the brightest -- often academics, but sometimes industry leaders -- to come up with rationalizations and justifications for the crimes they have committed. It's the Friedman school. Or someone else's school. We're bringing civilization to the natives. No, we're making the world flat, or bringing everyone else into the 21st century, we're "rescuing" people, we're spreading knowledge. Or maybe we're bringing them to Christ. Are we "sharing" our knowledge? Is it manifest destiny?
It's all nonsense. Whatever theories, whatever big-shots are hired and PR firms retained, it always comes down to the same thing: a few people have stolen way more than their fair share, way more than they could ever spend or use, and they use that wealth for the purpose of getting more wealth. Like crack addicts, there is never enough. We're probably only beginning to pay attention now because these same people are beginning to do to us, the American public, what they've been doing to the rest of the world all along.
It's just this simple: if we are not going to enforce the criminal laws against the rich and powerful, then we have a failed state.
They say a good prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich. Prosecutor, meet the Boys on Wall Street and the politicians they have bribed: ham on rye with mustard. Now indict them.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Will Bush pardon Cheney? How about Libby? Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Ashcroft, Brownie? Is this like a savings account? Can Bush issue a future pardon -- one that takes place only if someone is charged with something? Like a Get Out Of Jail Free Card that they can pocket and use if necessary.
Does a U.S. presidential pardon carry any weight in an international war crimes tribunal? What about all the people who directed torture, or participated in it? What about Halliburton: will they receive a blanket pardon for financial and other mis-dealings? How about Blackwater? That is a U.S. company started by a guy named Eric Prince from Virginia who is, of course it goes without saying, one of the born-again purported Christian crucifix-waving crazy neocons who were so popular with the Bush administration, and who made hundreds of millions of dollars robbing the taxpayers blind through the privatization of this war on Iraq. Blackwater technically provides private "security." So instead of using the military for protection, the Republicans hired Blackwater for millions of dollars. And Blackwater in turn gave enormous amounts of money right back to the Republicans. See how that works? Blackwater has been implicated in murder in Iraq. Bush and the neocons insisted that any American is free to murder anyone in Iraq for no reason at all. Complete immunity. See why the Iraqis don't like us? And what if Iraq brings charges? Can Bush pardon every Blackwater person for a murder in Iraq?
What about international war crimes tribunals? Like Neuremburg? Does a Presidential pardon carry any weight there? What if all the Republicans say they were only following orders? Will that work? What if they say they had no idea what was going on?
Will Bush pardon every criminal on Wall Street? Every thief, every con artist who has looted our treasury? Does he have enough paper to do that? Did they order cases, extra reams to print out all the pardons for the Wall Street Boys? Have the Wall Street Boys agreed to kick back a percentage of their "Bailout" money to the Republicans? If so, would a pardon take care of that too?
What happens if Bush pardons every Republican who served in Congress in the last 8 years? What can we conclude if that happens? Will he pardon any Democrats? That would be fun.
How much does a pardon cost? Does the person who wants to be pardoned have to pay money to someone -- to the RNC, or maybe to an "agent," in order to buy the pardon? Is the Pope Catholic? In fact, good analogy because in the good old days the sinner Catholics could buy a special dispensation: give the church enough money and buy a pardon for all your sins. And elite white men in this country have always bought their way out of trouble. They even used to buy poor young men to take their place in the military to avoid going to war. That was before the National Guard champagne unit was set up so people like Bush could hide their way out of war. And before they set up the deferment con so people like Five-Deferment Dick (Cheney) could avoid serving by going back, again and again, and postponing service until the war is over.
So, will The Price Be Right? Who will buy their way out of Jeopardy? Who can name that tune, and who will be singing the prison blues? What about Ted Haggard? Does he qualify? Or was he ever charged with anything other than having sex [ with men] while Republican? I would bet my depleted IRAs that Abramoff will walk free. Isn't Tom Delay being "investigated?" Or have charges already been filed? Let's see, Republican, white elite male, from Texas, what do we think is the likelihood Tom will be pardoned? What about the bathroom stall guy? Or is there some secret rule that says gay Republicans cannot be pardoned -- pardoned for being gay. Not that he's gay.
How about the Aipac spies? Some federal government employee was caught handing classified information to Aipac. You know, like spies and stuff. But instead of anyone going to prison, the federal government keeps delaying the trial. Mukasey certainly has done nothing to move it along. And now there was some stupid ruling at the trial court level, so the federal government decided to appeal that too, and delay the trial even more. Raise your hand if you think the fix is in, and all these people will be pardoned. No trial, no public disclosure of classified information being stolen from the federal government and given to Israel's lobbying crew in the U.S. -- Aipac, the same people who give so much money to politicians in bribes. It's nice how that works out. As long as you pay money to bribe the politician, you can get away with anything.
If the people involved in the Aipac spy scandal get pardoned (or maybe have a plea deal combined with a pardon), I'm going to print out the news story and send it to every person sitting in prison because they had a trace of some drug in their pockets. To show them that they sit in prison because of a corrupt and injust system, as if they probably don't know that already.
Not that it matters. Congress has done nothing to stop these people from destroying the country. It's so unlikely anyone would do anything once Bush leaves. But still. I guess this is what they mean by "it pays to have friends in high places." You can get away with anything -- even murder -- if you know the right people.
Performed in this video by the Modena City Ramblers, who started as an Irish folk group but evolved into Italian-folk-rock music group with an international and political influence (they call it "combat" folk music). http://www.ramblers.it/biografia/biografia_1.asp?idpag=2&lang=eng
Monday, November 24, 2008
Turning and turning in the widening gyre,
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
The parallels between the early 20th century and now are undeniable. Back then we had a fearful and greedy ruling class terrified of the waves of European immigrants with their socialist demands for better wages and working conditions. The wealthy used the state (police and military) and also paid private security firms (Pinkertons) (like Blackwater) to help the business owners harass, beat up, murder the workers, sometimes deporting them (Palmer raids) or throwing them in jail or prison, to prevent working people from organizing to protect themselves as workers. This was the time of the IWW, Big Bill Haywood, the militant trade union movement, and business was in the business of crushing unions. Today we have the elite in both parties crushing unions and supporting the bankers, the wealthy, bailing out every big institution on wall street while many Americans are unemployed, homeless, and broke. Who represents the working people?
In addition to the fervid anti-communism inside the U.S. at that time, World War I saw mass chaos and destruction in Europe which spilled over into the U.S. when we sent our military to fight that war, and when our veterans returned home with little money but often scarred from their experiences. Then there was the Russian revolution. All over Europe conditions continued to be unstable, providing the right environment for fascism to flourish in Spain, Italy, Germany, a militaristic state in Japan, and a tinderbox of a world just waited for the next spark for the next war, even more devastating than World War I.
Yeats wrote this poem in 1919 and shared the view of the upperclasses in Europe who sensed an instability in the world and feared more war, more chaos. Even his references to relying on religion to try to interpret or understand what was going on around them ("Surely some revelation is at hand; surely the Second Coming is at hand") sound like a lot of the salesmen on Sunday morning TV asking the fearful citizens of the U.S. to send money to save their souls, because surely the end is near.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
It should be clear by now. Globalism is the new mob. But without the charm and sentiment. We've had 16 years of American presidents -- Clinton and Bush -- pushing onto the American public this twisted idea that we should celebrate and rejoice in the fact that our country is now officially part of the Neo-Slave Treaties -- what they call Free Trade, but what in fact is an international pact among the top 5% of the wealthiest people in the world in which they have agreed that all the rest of us should be slaves with no rights.
Is this an exaggeration? Well, let's think about it. Why would Daddy Bush and the bin Ladens be involved with each other, along with the heads or former heads of many of the wealthiest nations in the world. In what they call the Carlyse Group, a secret organization very generically described as a "private equity fund." Who belongs? They won't tell. Qui bono? Who benefits? They won't tell. What do they do? That's kind of a secret too. Except for the fact that the members are only people with a "high net worth" (their term, not mine), "sophisticated" investors. Which means they set up this secret organization for rich people to hide their wealth and pool it to take advantage of people around the world, try to take all the assets and all the wealth that exists. http://www.buzzflash.com/perspectives/2002/Bush-Carlyle.html And because they restrict membership to the select few, there is no oversight by the U.S. federal government. http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Carlyle_Group
"The collection of influential characters who now work, have worked, or have invested in the group would make the most convinced conspiracy theorists incredulous. They include among others, John Major, former British Prime Minister; Fidel Ramos, former Philippines President; Park Tae Joon, former South Korean Prime Minister; Saudi Prince Al-Walid; Colin Powell, former Secretary of State; James Baker III, former Secretary of State; Caspar Weinberger, former Defense Secretary; Richard Darman, former White House Budget Director; the billionaire George Soros, and even some bin Laden family members. You can add Alice Albright, daughter of Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State; Arthur Lewitt, former SEC head; William Kennard, former head of the FCC, to this list. Finally, add in the Europeans: Karl Otto Poehl, former Bundesbank president; the now-deceased Henri Martre, who was president of Aerospatiale; and Etienne Davignon, former president of the Belgian Generale Holding Company. " (From "Sourcewatch," link above).
Carlysle is just one of many "private equity groups." They all operate the same. They have as their members people who have insider information not available to the rest of us, along with the influence of their positions inside government, and their contacts, plus a ton of money. Do they support globalism? You bet they do. Their wealth grows, their conduct unregulated and done in secret. To what extent do the private equity funds direct and control the governments of the world? To what extent do these funds only act based upon the goal of maximizing profit with no concern for right or wrong, nationalism, law, or other such quaint concepts.
Who benefitted from the U.S. War on Iraq? The oil companies, for starters. They have gotten from the puppet government in Iraq no-bid contracts saying the U.S. and western oil companies have rights to Iraqi oil "worth billions." http://www.truthout.org/article/iraqs-complicated-oil-fields http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=15120Who else profits? How about Saudi Arabia, or the rich people from that country, also involved in Carlysle. Does it help Saudi Arabia to have their "friend" the U.S. oil companies controlling the Iraq oil? Of course it does. They can work together with their semi-monopoly and charge what they want. Anyone who thinks 2008 prices were high, just wait. It seems that the wealthy supported this war because it allowed them to get even richer. The American public paid for the whole thing by donating our military to act as private police for the oil corporations. And of course the people of Iraq have had their oil stolen by western oil companies, and 1 million people are dead.
Clinton told Americans that we would all benefit from the Neo-Slavery Agreements he was signing. But that's not true. Instead what has happened is that a small group of wealthy people got even richer, and most Americans have suffered economically. Many lost their good-paying jobs and ended up working in jobs where they can barely pay the bills. And now they've lost those jobs as well. During this same time period, most businesses have cut the number of paid holidays for employees, cut and eliminated benefits that used to be routine, and eliminated pensions altogether, while increasing management's share of the take by millions of dollars. The money that came out of the benefits packages previously given to employees went straight into the pockets of the management insiders.
As globalism grows, businesses set up off-shore P.O. boxes and simply stop paying taxes inside the U.S. That, combined with slashed wages for working people and higher unemployment, plus Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy and pointless wars, have served to use up all our country's money plus run up debt that will take generations to repay. The effect? Funding cuts for every single "protection" the government is supposed to provide the public: roads, bridges, education, all gone. Grover Norquist, a Bush insider, said he wanted to shrink the government down to the point that it would fit into a bathtub. If the U.S. government is broke, it is powerless, and there is no one in the world who is able to stop the Globalists from doing whatever they want to do. Wasn't that the goal all along?
What about the private equity groups? We don't know much about them. They can organize off-shore and thereby avoid paying any U.S. taxes, which is an enormous loss of wealth to this country. They can manipulate and control governments simply by bribing them. They have formed their own private corporate paralimitary organization which parallels the U.S. military and will probably steal away the best people, in the form of KBR, Halliburton, and Blackwater, "private" security and implicated in murder of civilians in Iraq. Wait till Blackwater is patrolling the U.S. streets to protect corporations and private equity against the people, killing civilians with immunity -- which is exactly what happened in Iraq. Oh yeah -- they also showed up and began patrolling in New Orleans after Katrina, although it's unclear whether they were brought in by Bush or by private equity. They have effectively silenced the Congress and the white house by paying U.S. politicians enormous bribes. How far have our politicians gone?
The private equity groups are the next step in the triumph of wealth over democracy. People have in the past been ruled by tribes, by kings, by clans, by religions, then by the nation-state. Well, get ready for the private equity rulers, the top richest 5% of the world, from every country, loyal to no nation, tied to no place, invisible, faceless, but having all the money and all the power, destroying governments either by militarily overthrowing them, by death squads, or simply by starving the country of all money so the government has no funds.
Let's think about this. Let's say the upper management in some large Wall Street institution pays themselves millions in bonuses and then secretly puts their personal money into a private equity fund. Then they learn of a great opportunity. Do they give that to their company where they are salaried? Or do they give it to the private equity firm where they will reap enormous profits? Is it really any wonder that the financial institutions are claiming to be broke when the insiders looted them over the past many years? During the past few years, most of the top management in most U.S. corporations started paying themselves tens of millions, in some cases hundreds of millions of dollars as "bonuses," and "golden parachutes." Where do you think they put their money? Private equity funds?
To whom does a private equity firm owe loyalty? It's not tied to any country. No patriotism clouds their decisions. When the former president of the U.S. is involved in Carlysle along with the bin Ladens of Saudi Arabia, there is no loyalty to the U.S. in how they move around the trillions of dollars in secret wealth that they have hidden in these private equity funds. And how can a former president and former top-level employees of our government make money off of the destruction of their own country? Have they no loyalty? Remember, globalism is dedicated to crushing American workers to the point that they are "competitive" with third world workers [meaning as poor as third world workers] so capital can roam freely from country to country and never have to pay much to get work done.
It isn't just George H.W. Bush the former president who is involved. Unfortunately the investors and members are a "secret." They won't tell us. Just like Paulson and Bernanke won't tell us who they gave that $350 billion to. Did they give it to foreign countries, or businesses in foreign countries? What about the car bailout? Why would anyone think that these auto companies have any loyalty to the U.S.? What if we give them $25 billion, but they nonetheless shut down the factories and move the jobs to Brazil, as one Brazilian spokesperson said was already in the works? [GM Brazil-Mercosur President Jaime Ardila was quoted as saying GM plans to invest $1 billion worth of the American tax-dollar bailout money they expect to get to beef up their manufacturing facilities in Brazil. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/bailout-watch-235-gm-outsourcing-one-billion-bailout-bucks-to-brazil/ Why is Congress so stupid, or so corrupt, or so unwilling to do anything to save our country, to "protect" the people of the United States?
Let's talk about Congress and the corruption. They take money. They all do. They take money, then they vote as instructed by the people who gave them money.
They admit that they took the money. But they claim that they are never influenced in their votes by people having given them money. Nobody is stupid enough to believe that. In fact, it's a real insult to the American people that these politicians continue to mouth these lies to us. We should have a law that makes it illegal for any politician to take any money. Until we get that law, these politicians will continue to sell us out in exchange for the bribes they receive every day from the wealthiest people in the world.
Here's what Congress should do. First, pass a law making it illegal for any American to have money in a secret private equity fund. The SEC should monitor and regulate all investment companies, public or private. Their transactions must be public. Aren't we entitled to know, for example, if a private equity firm with U.S. and international investors bet on 9/10/01 that airline stocks would go down? Somebody made that bet, but they never told us who. Yet they supposedly know the financial institution through which the put was placed, one that oddly was formerly run by a guy now at Blackwater, a guy whose brother oddly works at the CIA. Don't we deserve to know the truth about this? http://www.buzzflash.com/articles/lindorff/038 Why didn't the Bush administration ever tell us who did that? Was it an investment vehicle, "private" and secret equity fund in which he, or his family, or his friends had an interest? If it was such a fund, and we found out that none of the Americans involved bothered to blow the whistle, wouldn't that be treason?
Americans should not be allowed to conspire with rich people from other countries in an effort to destroy the U.S. These private equity firms, like many of the large investment firms in the U.S., need to be broken up and restricted. No one group or entity should be allowed to accumulate so much money that they can manipulate the market and bankrupt the country, which is exactly what's happened.
What we need is protectionism. How ironic that the Bush administration and so many of the leaders in our country are trying to make "protection" a bad word. That is their job, when you think about it -- to protect us. Instead, they act like whores. They don't care one bit which john is paying for the hotel room, as long as they get their money. In the meantime, the one thing they do not do is the job that they applied for in the first place: to represent the American people, to protect us from those who would do us harm. Can you imagine a cop saying the public shouldn't demand that they be "protected" from the criminals? These are the same criminals that say if we complain about poisoned food being sold to us, then we want a "nanny state." No, we just want a government that is working for us instead of trying to destroy us.
Protectionism is good. What it means is that the government, everyone with any authority in this country, has one job only: protect the American people. Protect our jobs, protect our wages and benefits, protect our health, protect our educational system, protect our communities, protect our retirement. Protect us against all who seek to harm us. If someone comes along and says they want to shut down American businesses and throw Americans out of work, then it is the precise job of our government to stand up and fight them. If someone wants to take their jobs to a third world country to be done by child labor, then our government should say fine, but you'll never bring one item into this country. You're barred buddy, we're cutting you off. Pick a team.
When Bill Clinton left office he was given hundreds of millions of dollars -- maybe a billion dollars by now. Much of it from the biggest financial companies in the U.S. who benefitted from the "free trade" policies he slid through Congress while the public was being deceived. At the same time that American working people have been seeing their lives devastated by neo-slave policies, outsourcing, fraudulent financial practices, usurious loans, Bill Clinton has received more money that most people can ever imagine. Was he being paid as compensation for him having sold out the American people? One could make that argument.
Of course the final touches were rammed through by Bush and Cheney. But Clinton set it up. And this most recent bail-out has been enthusiastically supported by both parties, both corrupt parties who claim to be representing the American public while stuffing their own pockets with bribes.
In order to solve this problem, we do not -- decidedly do not -- need to add environmental and labor standards to the next round of neo-slavery agreements. Who cares? It does not help an unemployed U.S. auto worker if he knows that the slave labor in Thailand is getting protective goggles and rest breaks. It is a silly diversion from what should be our position: no more jobs leave the country. No more hb1 and other immigrant-coyote labor rings scams should be allowed to bring millions of high-skilled workers into this country every year to take American jobs at radically reduced wages. (Bill Gates hired Ralph Reed to "lobby" Congress to let Microsoft bring in as many workers as they want from India and Pakistan to take American jobs, often at as much as $11,000 per worker less than an American would earn. These temporary immigrant workers also are a subservient employee base because if they speak up and are fired, they've got something like 30 days to find a new job or they are deported). It ends.
Globalism is the enemy of all working people. As Americans, we should stand up for ourselves. But don't be fooled by the claim that there is some altruistic motive of these globalists to "bring jobs" to poorer nations. They are in fact simply employing 8 year old children and working them 16 hour days at cents per day, throwing them out if they get sick, using and abusing them without conscience. Globalism is the enemy of working people everywhere in the world.
Every country, all working people, need protection from the private equity funds, the Globalists who are destroying people, communities, resources around the world more effectively, with greater profit and secrecy, than did Hitler's tanks rolling across Europe. The Globalists have outright killed 1 million Iraqis without giving it a second thought, in order to steal their oil. They must be stopped. All their spokespeople, the mouth pieces, the ones who are on the news shows and say the world is flat, you can't fight progress, globalism is inevitable -- they're lying. And getting paid to do so.
We need Protectionism. Create industries with good-paying jobs right here inside the U.S. No imports of cheap goods from third world countries -- let them sell to their own people. Any U.S. company that takes jobs outside the U.S., through whatever secret methods, will not be allowed to bring products back in. No more setting up offshore P.O. Boxes to avoid paying taxes inside our country. We need to produce all our own food both to "Protect" ourselves against possible future wars, in which we could be cut off and starved, and because the U.S. companies are making billions importing cheap poisoned food from third world countries and selling it to Americans. And no more U.S. agribusiness flooding the markets of third world countries with cheap staples, like they did with rice in Haiti, and undercutting local farmers to put them out of business, then jacking up the prices so the people starve to death. It needs to end.
Globalism is the new Mob. But without the charm and sentiment. It needs to end.
From the Aztec language Nahuatl, a combination of the words ahuacatl (avocado) and molli (sauce). Generally refers to pureed or mashed avocado seasoned with condiments
1/4 red onion
1 clove garlic
1 jalapeno (remove seeds)
Cube and mash into the bowl 5 avocados
Add 4 drops Tabasco
Juice of 2 limes
Mix all together, then fold in 2 diced/chopped tomatoes
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Breadlines, Christmas, 1931
We need to name our depression, the one that started maybe a year ago and that will go on for a decade. The one that has evaporated almost all the savings and assets of the working people in the U.S., wiped out pensions and piggy banks, taken homes and cars and jobs and happiness and hope. That one. We need to call it the Bush-Cheney Depression.
We should use that phrase at every opportunity, even when it's inappropriate. If somebody asks on Thursday whether you would like some butter for your rolls, get it into the sentence somehow, such as by saying "Well now that we're in the Bush-Cheney Depression, I guess none of us will be eating butter for much longer."
The Republicans are already calling this the Obama Depression. Can you imagine such lies? Oh silly me, I already told you it was the Republicans saying it. It would be better to say can you imagine a Republican telling the truth? I can't.
I would like Bush and Cheney's names to live on in infamy long after they are gone, like Judas, and Brutus, and Benedict Arnold, people who are traitors, who sell out their own country, who turn their backs on their own people.
We still teach our kids about the Great Depression. So it's more than likely that generations from now, children will also be hearing about this one -- the Bush-Cheney Depression.
Of course back then, in the Great Depression (in contrast with the Bush-Cheney Depression), veterans got mis-treated just like they are today. A group of men who had been promised a bonus -- a fairly small amount of money -- if they signed up to fight in WWI, never got that money. So they got together, began agitating and organizing, and finally had a "march on Washington," set up tent cities, and said they refused to leave until they were paid. The U.S. government eventually chased those veterans out with police and violence. Some of them were dumped in Florida and died in a hurricane out in the middle of nowhere, homeless, exposed, abandoned by their government. Kind of like we do to veterans today. They were called the "Bonus Army." Maybe the military recruitment posters should have a shot of these poor men.
October 29, 1929 was called "Black Tuesday," the beginning of the Great Depression (as opposed to the Bush-Cheney Depression). Then, as now, the Wall Street Boys were flying high. Only difference is back then they were largely responsible for causing the disaster and they took it like men -- throwing themselves out of the high-rises. Today the Wall Street Boys are so used to living in disgrace and shame that they think nothing of this. In fact, once they realized they had stolen all the money from all the citizens, and the only thing left was a tiny sum in the U.S. Treasury, they immediately planned their last heist -- to steal that too.
One of the most popular songs of the day was Brother Can You Spare A Dime. Written in 1931. Lots of references to the veterans being abandoned by their country after making such sacrifices to fight in World War I.
Brother, Can You Spare A Dime? (Gorney and Harburg)
They used to tell me I was building a dream. And so I followed the mob
When there was earth to plow Or guns to bear I was always there Right on the job
They used to tell me I was building a dream With peace and glory ahead.
Why should I be standing in line Just waiting for bread
Once I built a railroadI made it run Made it race against time.
Once I built a railroad Now it's done Brother, can you spare a dime?
Once I built a tower up to the sun Brick and rivet and lime
Once I built a tower, Now it's done. Brother, can you spare a dime
Once in khaki suits Gee we looked swell Full of that yankee doodle dee dum
Half a million boots went sloggin' through hell And I was the kid with the drum!
Say don't you remember? They called me Al. It was Al all the time
Why don't you remember? I'm your pal. Say buddy, can you spare a dime?
The sad truth is that most of the judges are former prosecutors, come right out of the D.A.'s office. So if you can't get hired in the first place in the D.A.'s office, your chances of becoming a judge are miniscule. And who gets hired in the D.A.'s office: Marathon Men. White Republican males. Women and non-white applicants: See Clerical And Maintenance Openings. So when the Marathon Men show up for trials, and see it's one of their own on the bench, they know they've got an easy street in front of them.
I'd like to see some of these Tough Guys, some of the Marathon Men, go after the real criminals for a change. The Wall Street Boys, the biggest criminal enterprise ever in the history of the country. And the people in Congress who have aided and abetted them in their crime spree (their Gang). I can just see the movie promos: "Bigger than the Mafia, Worse than the Medallien Cartel, More Brutal Than A Bad Cold: The Wall Street Boys." So where's our Elliot Ness? Is there one in any of the prosecutors -- D.A.'s office, attorney general -- is there a one in this country who is willing to go after the big boy criminals for a change?
We know the prosecutors are Tough Guys when it comes to doggedly pursuing the 5 year old who kicked over Timmy's trycycle. Not to mention the 8 year old they've got locked up now who allegedly killed his father and another man. Although the "confession" looked to me like story-time at school, the kid is so confused. Or maybe the kid's nuts, who knows. But there is something about seeing some really big cops with weapons hovering over an 8-year-old kid who has been denied any adult to protect his interests -- no mom, no attorney, no guardian, no adult on the kid's side -- just some big cops, armed and dangerous, and a little 8 year old kid. The good news is they got him to confess. Kind of. The bad news is you have to wonder how far we're going to sink in this system.
I can hear the conversation in the law and order crowd: send the 8 year old to prison, get him some 250 pound bunkmate to rape him for a few weeks then bring him back here, see if he's willing to confess then. How many times have we heard the "good guys," the ones on our side, joke about the fact that if they send someone to prison, they'll be raped. Rape as an official policy of the state. If you know it's going to happen, and do nothing to stop it, then you're responsible. I guess that means us.
Of course most D.A.'s offices at the local level spend their time prosecuting gang-bangers and low-level drunks and druggies. It's not a commonly known fact, but when people are brought in for the first arrest, under the Bush legal system, instead of just taking a mugshot they are also imprinted with a permanent barcode in the back of their head. That makes it easier to process them for the rest of their lives as they go up and down the conveyor belts of the criminal law system.
Most of the local prosecutions are of fairly stupid kids, occasionally violent but always poor, who are assigned state-appointed attorneys with no experience and no time, and little ability to really help the accused. The D.A. always overcharges -- a dot of cocaine is not possession, it's possession with the intent to sell. Sell to the kindergarten kids, or that's what the D.A. will claim. They always grossly exaggerate the charges, threaten the defendant that he will be railroaded into a 20 year sentence if he does not confess to lesser charges. So he confesses, they do a plea deal, he jumps on the conveyor belt and the electronic meter reads his bar code, his career begins. And the Tough Guys in the D.A.'s office open the next 100 files.
What I'm wondering is whether there's a prosecutor in this entire nation who is tired of going after children, morons and losers, and is willing to step up and go after the big boys. The Boys on Wall Street. They have just committed the biggest crime ever in the history of this country, maybe the biggest economic crime ever in the history of the world. They paid enormous amounts of bribes to Congress so Congress would look the other way and do nothing to stop them. Which is exactly what happened. And now they're going to get away with it.
What do we see from the co-conspirators in Congress, those who sold out their public office for money, those who allowed this crime to be committed on an ongoing basis, and did nothing to stop it? We see stern lectures. All the CEOs from the auto industry were forced to fly to D.C. in their private jets and sit in a chair for a few hours while the politicians gave them a "stern talking-to." On camera. Congress apparently thinks this is a Harry Potter movie, and they're all headmaster of the school. We don't need no stinkin' lectures, we need people thrown into prison, and we need someone to go get our money back. Let's see how long the Wall Street Boys hold out if they are stuck in Attica with an affectionate 250 pound bunk-mate.
Get the money back. You get me one good prosecutor, and I'll give you a laundry list of charges to be brought against the Wall Street Boys. Fraud. Bribery. SEC violations. Fraudulent transfers of assets to avoid paying creditors. But all Congress does is push their half-glasses down on their collective noses and give us a big televised Tsk-Tsk.
Congress is complicit in this criminal activity. They have an actual and apparent conflict of interest and are legally incapable of investigating these crimes. For the 2008 elections, Wall Street and their related industries (securities, investment, real estate, business, business services, finance, commercial banks, hedge funds, insurance) gave about $180 million to the candidates for the white house. http://www.opensecrets.org/pres08/indus_topall.php?cycle=2008 What are they buying other than immunity from prosecution?
Private equity and investment firms are secret front groups where rich people pool their money and go around the country and the world, in secret, doing nasty business and increasing their already obscene wealth. The reason it's private and secret is because they don't want us to know what they're doing. Congress should end the whole private equity practice which only became popular under Bush, when rich people suddenly had so much money that they didn't even know what to do with it. Private equity and investment firms, before Bush a tiny part of the economy, are now a preferred place for rich people to hide their money. Congress leaves them completely unregulated. Maybe that's because these private equity firms have paid the politicians $50 million since Bush took office. http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/indus.php?ind=F2600 Quid pro quo anyone?
And that's just one tiny part of the financial sectors which have been shoveling millions of dollars at the politicians during the Bush years. Is it any wonder the politicians in Congress gave $700 billion of my money to Wall Street. What's their cut? Congress is in this up to their eyeballs. They need to appoint a special group of both public and private attorneys to begin criminal prosecutions and civil attachment proceedings. We need something akin to a class action lawsuit and one judge appointed to oversee the whole thing.
Phase I should be investigations with subpoenas. While that's going on, the judge should issue orders of attachment to seize all the assets of the Wall Street Boys and hold them in a public fund to be administered by the court. For heaven's sake, you get some low-level drug dealer and they seize the car. Why haven't any of the Tough Guys in this country seized a few yachts, the bling, the cash. If you want to really make the Wall Street Boys squirm, take away their coke stash. Seize their apartments and homes and car.
While the investigation is pending, individuals across the country should be allowed to file claims, but those lawsuits would be stayed until criminal prosecutions are completed.
We need to start sending people to prison. Anything less is unacceptable. We need to start with the Wall Street Boys and then go on to Congress and anyone in the White House who is involved in these crimes.
I'd suggest talking to Hank and Ben, see what they did with that $350 billion of my money that they took a couple of weeks ago. As I understand it, Ben says he refuses to tell (like he thinks he's in a secret group in a tree house), and Hank says he's too embarrassed because maybe he didn't do it right, so he's not saying anything. I know a cell and a 250-lb cell-mate who's got pin-up photos of these guys scotch-taped to his wall. If it's good enough for an 8-year old child, then it's good enough for the Wall Street Boys and everyone who has aided and abetted them.
And oh yeah: Phase II will be Congress. Make them pay into a public fund every penny they took from Wall Street during the past 8 years. Make them publicly testify about every communication inside Congress and/or with any Wall Street lobbyist. Is it true that the credit card industry handed them a pre-written law saying people can no longer discharge credit card debt in bankruptcy, along with a big wad of money, and they agreed to pass that law. http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/2662/ In exchange for money.
Isn't it true that they have known for years that the credit card companies were acting as loan sharks charging poor people 30% and higher on loans, (when the usury law restricts everyone else to only charging about 10%) and the only reason they didn't do anything to change that is because the credit card companies paid them money to sit on the sidelines and do nothing while Americans got their collective knee-caps broken by these thugs and thieves. Yeah, I could think of a few questions.
So come on Tough Guys, come on Marathon Men. You've been telling us for years what tough guys you are. Now prove it.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Many countries have laws making it straight-up illegal for any government employee to accept anything from anyone, other than family gifts. There are good reasons for this. It is not necessary that there be actual influence peddling, vote-selling, corrupt actions, in order for money paid and taken to undermine and destroy a country. It is only required that there be the appearance of impropriety, because that destroys the confidence of the citizens in the integrity of their government. If, for example, a judge accepted a gift from the lawyer representing Client A, it is inevitable that Client B, in a trial in front of that judge and against Client A, will feel that the judge is corrupt. After all, he has taken something of value from the lawyer for the other side. Regardless of anyone's secret intent, this creates the appearance of impropriety. If the cop accepts free meals or fixes traffic tickets, or the politician's kid is let go without being charged while the non-politician's kid is charged under the same facts, all of this leads the public to conclude the system is corrupt, the insiders cheat, and so should they.
It's despicable that our Congress is so corrupt. All the Senators, all the Representatives take money from Wall Street, for example, then look the other way while Wall Street steals everything in this country including the little kids' piggy banks. Congress takes money from the credit card industry which literally hands them a new law that the credit card industry wrote, which law is intended to make it impossible for anyone to discharge credit card debt through bankruptcy. And then after Congress takes money from the credit card companies, they vote to pass that law. If it's not corrupt, it sure smells like it.
But we need to stop not only Congress and the white house from taking money. We also need laws prohibiting anyone who leaves federal office or employment from taking certain kinds of money for at least 5 years after they leave office. Otherwise, it looks like the former-employee is being paid for having improperly used their office. For example, Bill Clinton pardoned Marc Rich, a convicted felon. And before he did that, and while Clinton was still president, Marc's ex-wife paid $450,000 to an entity Bill Clinton had set up to collect contributions, which he named the Clinton Foundation. And another of Marc Rich's friends gave $1.0 million to that Foundation. Then Clinton pardoned Rich. Did he buy the pardon? It certainly looked like it. Hard to argue otherwise. But whether he did or not, it created the appearance of impropriety and made all of the Democrats look cheap and dishonest.
Ever since he left the white house, Bill Clinton has gone around the world collecting hundreds of millions of dollars from foreign countries and exceedingly rich people. Some might argue that this is money being paid to thank him for passing the free trade policies of the 1990s which authorized U.S. businesses to take jobs to third world countries and use child, prison, and slave labor. Which has destroyed manufacturing inside the U.S. He was also instrumental in deregulating the financial companies, and look where that's led us.
Others would argue it's just influence peddling. Or future influence, since everyone thought Hillary was the likely candidate for 2008. However you look at it, it seems really sleazy. When Ronald Reagan left office, the nation was stunned when he accepted $2.0 million from Japan for an appearance in that country. Small potatoes compared to the hundreds of millions Bill has raked in.
Bill Clinton has not just received money in his own name. I think $110 million is money paid to him and Hillary for the "personal" money. But that's just the beginning. He's set up lots of different places to put money. And much of the money is from "secret" sources that Bill refuses to disclose. Like stuffing wads in different pants' pockets, and this guy has more pockets than a pool table.
There's the "foundation," an institution set up to fund his library and create an international charitable organization that gets major corporations together once a year for a lavish gathering in New York City where the corporate representatives dine on exotic fare and sympathize with the starving masses, bringing checks from the corporate entities to pay into the charity bucket, networking, and presumably trying to consolidate their position in taking over the entire world.
Bill Clinton's foundation has reportedly received $500 million in contributions from foreign countries such as Saudi Arabia, from major corporations, from rich people. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/18/us/politics/18clintons.html?adxnnl=1&fta=y&adxnnlx=1227128529-zcJUrhxll7NP3DOQeRn69Q
The Bill Clinton presidential library fund (apparently part of the foundation) is one of the pockets into which Bill has been stuffing big wads of money ($170 million?) including a reported $10 million from Saudi Arabia, $1.0 million each from various middle-eastern governments, and the $450,000 reportedly paid by the wife of fugitive Mark Rich immediately before Clinton agreed to pardon Rich. Clinton has claimed that the library fund is a charity, that the donors may remain confidential, and he has consistently refused to identify those donors. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp%20dyn/content/article/2007/12/14/AR2007121402124_pf.html
The Washington Post link below is to two of Hillary Clinton's financial disclosure statements, for 2005 and 2006, while a Senator. Just for an example, in 2006, General Motors paid Bill Clinton $200,000 (6/15/06) for a "speech"; Mortgage Bankers Association paid him $150,000 for a speech on 10/23; Jewish National Fund paid $150,000 on 11/8 and the Simon Wiesenthal Center paid him $150,000 on 3/5; something called the Biotechnology Industry Org. paid him $150,000 on 4/11/06; IBM ponied up $200,000 on 4/30; Cisco $150,000 on 5/18; Citigroup paid $150,000 on 11/15; The Latin American Institute of Education Communication ponied up $300,000 on 11/16. And that's just a small part of it.
The current thinking is that if questionable practices are "disclosed" by the politicians, then that solves the problem. If the public doesn't like it, they can throw the politician, or the party, out of office. But that's nonsense. The public doesn't have time to figure out who is giving money, for what purposes, and the politicians always lie about it. We need strict laws to get money out of politics.
As for Hillary Clinton, given the money her husband has taken in recent years, the mere disclosure does not solve the problem. Her ability to be fair and unbiased in representing the U.S. would be called into question because of the hundreds of millions of dollars in wealth given to the Clintons by special interests and foreign nations in recent years. She should decline the offer.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
First, they underprice and use other unfair business practices to destroy their competition, then swoop in and buy them up for cents on the dollar to gain even more ownership and control. Second, once there is no real competition, they can raise their prices to reap grossly excessive returns. Third, with the wealth they accumulate, they can control the media and propaganda in this country to convince the public that the mega-business is working for them. And fourth, they pay bribes to politicians to buy their votes or, if a politician is not for sale, they fund massive campaigns to get that politician thrown out of office and replaced with someone willing to take the money and betray the public.
Teddy Roosevelt got the nickname of "Trustbuster," because while he was President of the U.S. he set out to break up these enormous conglomerates that were quickly turning the U.S. into a kingdom with a few rulers instead of the democracy it was intended to be.
The modern day Republicans, on the other hand, are all whores. They love the system of monopoly ownership because they receive such enormous kick-backs and bribes from the business owners. They are joined by way too many Democrats who sell out the public for a dollar, betray the people, and learn to lie like a Republican.
From the time that Bush stole the election in 2000, the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice (whose job it is to break up monopolies) was Going Out Of Business. As a result, monopoly is now once again common and democracy has suffered. (See, International Herald Tribune article: During 8 years in power, the Bush Justice Department has brought exactly one lawsuit against a business for anti-competitive activities -- Bush Justice Department policies make it impossible for anyone to pursue anti-trust claims: http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/09/09/business/antitrust.php ).
Ask, for example, why your community signs long-term exclusive agreements giving one TV cable company the exclusive right to provide cable TV in your community. Monopoly power. The cable companies tell the local community that here's the offer, we will not provide any cable in your city if we have to compete with other cable companies. So the cost of cable TV has gone from its modest beginnings of maybe $20/month to now well over $100 in many communities. There is no competition and their contracts say they can charge whatever they can get away with. Plus the $3.50 "rental" charge hidden at the bottom of your bill for the "lease" of the TV remote. Do you know what that adds up to when you charge it to an entire nation? It adds up to companies that can buy the politicians and run the entire country without any regard to the citizens.
Of course it isn't just the cable TV industry in media that is a monopoly. The media itself is owned and controlled by fewer people and companies. Start with Rupert Murdoch, a neocon right-winger, despicable human being who sells trash, gossip and deceit to the public to dumb-down America and keep the citizens from ever realizing that this scum from down-under has taken over our media. TV, radio, newspapers, too many of them bear the filthy stamp of Rupert Murdoch and Fox.
Of course Fox News does not report news. It is a propaganda arm of the Republican party. There have been many former Fox News employees who report that Roger Ailes, head of Fox News, would receive instructions from the Bush white house every morning telling him what the white house wanted Fox News to "report" to the public that day, what phrases to use. "Mushroom Cloud?" From the time the white house decided to tell the public that Iraq had nuclear weapons set to be launched against this country, a complete lie, not only every person in the Republican Party but also every person at Fox News used the term "Mushroom Cloud" in every sentence. "Smoking gun?" Same thing. In the few days since Obama and the Democrats won the last election, I've heard dozens of these Republican robots use the phrase: "Rigid left-wing ideology." By which they mean that most Democrats believe that all our nation's children are deserving of a home, food, medical care, and a good safe school. We're so "rigid" like that.
We used to have laws in this country to prevent media consolidation and mis-use. Those laws have been weakened if not eliminated by the Bush Regime. For example, it used to be true that if someone owned a TV station in a city, they could not also own a newspaper. The idea is that the citizens should receive news and analysis from many different sources. If only one person, or one business, "owns" all the TV, radio, and newspapers, then they can simply tell the public lies, cover up the truth, destroy the ability of the public to learn what's really going on. Just like Fox News does. Of course Murdoch is not alone in his consolidation of media ownership. He's just the most vile example.
One of the issues for Obama will be to reinstate strict limits on media ownership. Another would be to shut down TV stations like Fox News that are mis-using the public airways. They're not reporting news -- they're just selling Republican lies. They've even got Karl Rove working there. I rest my case.
Another effect of consolidation of ownership is that the owners themselves turn out such complete garbage. Look at the film industry and the people who run it. They are garbage and they turn out garbage. Of course they're rich so they can get away with it. Intelligent scripts with good acting are almost unhead of in "the" movie industry. Instead we have 14 year old semi-nude girls with enormous breast implants "flirting" with 60-year-old pot-bellied disgusting-but-rich men (like the guys who own the movie industry), car crashes, swearing, screaming, demeaning language and behavior, lots of guns to teach kids that guns are cool, lots of violence, lots of bling.
The same is true of the few rich people who have monopoly control of popular music. We even saw Donald Trump, the master of tacky, send a group of MBAs into a studio to write and produce their own song, which he then tried to sell. These people despise talent. They have none, and earn money by doing quick-sells of garbage to the public. They need to destroy talent because if the public gets a taste of it, they won't buy what these people are selling.
One of the responses to the total destruction of journalism, movies, TV, and popular music has been what is called the "Indy" movement: Indy Journalism, Indy Music, Indy Movies, Indy TV. Largely due to the amazing courage and commitment of Robert Redford who walked away from the safe role of a studio big-money movie star and director and committed many of his most productive years to the creation of a formal support system for independent film. "Independents," working apart from those who control the field. Usually working on low budgets and barely getting by, but often producing wonderful results.
IFC is starting a new show tonight about the media -- a series of documentaries. Don't know if they'll be any good, but I applaud them for the effort. IFC is also home to Z Rock, an original series that premiered this year that represents the best of the movement: hysterical. Great writing, acting, the whole package. And of course Sundance continues to excel.
Whatever happened to the idea that independence was desirable? That's what we need. If we had a series of independent smaller businesses working on the transportation issues we face, instead of the small people all having been crushed by Big Auto, I guarantee we would not be seeing the level of disintegration in the auto industry in this country. It's the same thing: a few rich powerful men set out to destroy their competition, gain a monopoly, grossly overcharge the public for tacky inferior products, bribe Congress, loot their own businesses, then sit back and wait for the money to roll in.
The car companies have conspired to force every American to buy a car and to stop mass transit from ever becoming a public priority. Now they want a bailout? I'd ask them to pay back every penny their executives have made in the past 40 years while they starved R&D and sold big trucks for quick cash, then ask Congress to pay back all the bribes they've taken, then kick everyone out of management and let someone else get in and develop mass transit that will work. (See Huffington Post article re GM Murdered U.S. Mass Transit: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/harvey-wasserman/gm-must-re-make-the-mass_b_144154.html ).
The IFC Media Project (From their website)
"This new IFC original series, produced by Meghan O'Hara (FAHRENHEIT 911 and SICKO) and Nick McKinney (The Daily Show and Morgan Spurlock's "30 Days"), reveals the truth behind the news. The thought-provoking series examines the current state of investigative journalism and how it affects our perceptions of the world around us. The first episode tackles the third rail of American journalism – the relationship between the U.S. and Israel.
The six-part series launches Tuesday, November 18th @ 8:00 PM ET on IFC."
NOTE: I'm no fan of hunters. Teddy Roosevelt was a hunter. The story has it that he went on a hunting trip and had no luck -- had not managed to kill any animals that day. So some of his aides trapped a bear, roped it, clubbed it almost to death, tied it to a tree, then brought Teddy over so he could shoot it, which he declined to do on the grounds it was not "sportsmanlike." I'd say hunting will be a real sport when the bears get guns and men have to run for their lives to avoid being murdered for no reason at all. Anyway, the story made the rounds and inspired a toy-maker to make a small stuffed toy bear to sell to the public, which he named the "Teddy Bear."
Monday, November 17, 2008
Unfortunately these veterans were used by the government then thrown away, ridiculed, discarded when they returned home. The failure to include in the actual price of war all the residue creates a myth that the cost of war can be quantified. But what about those who are not killed or injured in an observable way during combat, but come home and find their entire lives ruined?
And there's been absolutely no government response to the international studies showing that the depleted uranium that the U.S. has left littered all over Iraq since that first Gulf War has radically increased the birth defects, leukemia, and cancer for the children and people in Iraq. (600% increase in leukemia). This article describes the depleted uranium the U.S. left in Iraq as "Cancer As A Weapon." http://www.counterpunch.org/du.html
The failure and refusal of the U.S. government to remove this deadly substance that it put onto the land of Iraq is an ongoing international warcrime even without the war.
Despite the refusal of the U.S. government to acknowledge that veterans had been significantly damaged by "something" in Iraq, veterans groups around the country organized and have continued fighting for the government to admit the truth.
Well, they finally did. Now that the Bush regime has looted the country, they finally acknowledge that yes, these men and women have been seriously injured. Of course now there's no money to compensate them, but at least the Wall Street Boys got their billions safely tucked away.
Among the long list of ailments, are depression, memory loss, thinking problems which make it harder to work. This Scientific American article discusses a study showing that the symptomatic gulf water veterans show actual physical brain deterioration on MRI tests. http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=gulf-war-vets-brain-deficits&ec=ypi
In case anyone wondered whether you can trust the government, a report commissioned by the federal government less than two years ago announced, in September of 2006, that there is no such thing as gulf war syndrome. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B07E2D71531F930A2575AC0A9609C8B63&scp=2&sq=gulf+war+syndrome&st=nyt
Finally, a congressionally-appointed investigation announced today its findings that gulf war syndrome is real, it does exist. Hopefully this will lead the way to real help for the almost 200,000 veterans who are afflicted. Cause is still unknown but many believe it is exposure to chemicals in Iraq or possibly to depleted uranium. http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/news/news-us-usa-health-gulfwar.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=gulf+war+syndrome&st=nyt&oref=slogin
UPDATE 11/18/08: Truthout article re same with excellent discussion: http://www.truthout.org/111808A
Sunday, November 16, 2008
But in southern California when Labor Day is greeted by a chorus of unhappy children, the residents wake each morning wondering when the Santa Ana Winds will return. The Santa Ana Winds, the hot, dry, sometimes 100+ mile per hour winds that pick up a spark from a backfire and turn miles of coastal properties into one big marshmallow roast, the winds that lift up truckloads of sand from the desert and carry it in seconds to the homes of the residents miles away, that bring 90 degree heat and 10% humidity so that everything dries up -- eyes, nose, throat, the grass, the trees, people's nerve endings, everything one big tinderbox.
And then the fires come. First one, often in a place that nobody except the residents ever even heard of because it is a new development, a claptrap collection of overpriced crowded stucco homes with small lots and no trees, given its own name, sometimes with wrought-iron 5' tall fencing around the exterior so the developer can charge an extra $50,000 per home by calling it a "gated" community, as if that would keep out everything that might harm the people who borrow more than they can afford, with adjustables, people waiting for the "adjustable day" with the same dread people used to have at the thought of "judgment day," the people who drive long distances to work, who never see the other family members living in the same home, the people who wonder whether it was such a good idea to buy this overpriced kindling pile with the tacky fence on the exterior. Their places are often first to go up. Flames, smoke billowing so high that the man in the moon must wonder how anything could survive.
Then the media swarms. All of them because Southern California Fires are Big Business, particularly right after an election when most people have turned their TVs back to the sit-com stations, tired of too much news reporting about nothing. So they come with their trucks and their reporters all dressed up in their fire wardrobes, trying to look as if they are part of the professional fire-fighting teams. But finding soon enough that their hair gel and contact lenses are no match for the winds, heat, and flames that they face.
Then the next fire starts. Another community. Something new. Then it becomes a part of the cable news coverage, breaking in to the very cute and always wearing his New Orleans compassionate face of Anderson Cooper who says things like "well I hope everyone will be careful," because he is nice. Then the others chime in. What is the right thing to say when an entire community is in flames?
We have helicopters from the news stations, pilots and reporters so very grateful to be covering something other than the commuter traffic or the errant and probably drunk car driver being chased recklessly through the streets by squads of L.A.'s finest, all to the cheering throngs of unemployed residents who position themselves at intersections to wait to see the chase, not knowing what's going on but cheering anyway because they are so bored, because the police represent "the establishment" (or the man), the same invisible ruling class that will not give these people a job, so they cheer the fleeing driver even as he endangers their lives and those of everyone else, because he's probably "one of them," and he's thumbing his nose in a big way.
Then comes the next fire and the next, so that pretty soon every news station is showing the satellite photos: "See, see, we've got fires stretching from San Diego all the way up to Montecito." As if we may just have outdone ourselves this time.
Montecito is where extremely unbelievably rich people live. I think if you're not rich and you venture onto their streets, they just shoot you dead then throw your body in a ditch for the hungry coyotes to feed on. Montecito is also where some of the scummiest of the scummy, thieviest of the thieves, criminalist of the criminals from the Wall Street Boys, the Hedge Fund Scum, began buying up the land in recent years to hide money, in some areas essentially buying up most of the coastline so that normal people no longer have access to the beach. They've bought the ocean. Maybe the fires will take it back. Maybe the fires will run from the mansions of Montecito right down to the waves of the Pacific Ocean, reclaim the beaches for the people.
One of the interesting responses to these types of disasters is the question of how the officials, the people with money, characterize the disaster. On Friday, for example, a trailer park burned down, I believe 500 trailers melted, gone, and all the poor people with their very few worldly possessions are now laying on cots in school gymnasiums wondering when they will be thrown out onto the street and where they will go then. People who live in trailer parks do not have emergency funds. That's because they're so poor that every day is an emergency for them. Getting something to eat qualifies for an emergency if you're hungry enough.
My bet is that one of those rich churches in Southern California -- I guess you could call them "gated" churches because you have to be rich to afford the price of admissions, can't get into the parking lot if your car costs less than $100,000, the women can't get in unless they bring a certificate of recent plastic surgery and the men have to bring tax returns showing they fall into the "qualifying" tax bracket -- otherwise they should go to the valley with their own kind -- I think one of those churches will send some over dressed (but very young looking with large breasts adorned with enormous jewel-encrusted crucifixes) ladies into the gymnasiums for a photo op, to be published in the L.A. Times Society Section to show that not only are they incredibly young-looking and well-dressed with huge breasts and diamond-studded crucifixes around their necks, but they also have compassion for the trailer park people. Then they'll start a charity collection box in the back of their church, over to the side, with a small hand-lettered sign saying "For the Poor Trailer Park People," and people will bring either a can of string beans or onion rings to drop in there so the trailer park people can have a nice Thanksgiving. Or at least they could if they also had a turkey. And a pot to cook it in. Then of course a place to eat it. But it's the thoughtlessness that counts, right?
When the fires are in any communities that end in "Hills" or "Beach," then the response is different, then we have governors, presidents, senators, representatives, movie stars, Silicon-Valley billionaires all speaking out in favor of the wealthy, committing public funds to assure that the wealthy will be fully compensated (and a lot more if you get the right attorney) for their losses. Trailer park = private, personal, unfortunate. "Hills" or "Beach" = national tragedy.
How many of the burned-down homes were under-water? In Montecito, for example, people who bought in the past few years would have paid $2.0 million at a minimum. Property values are down 40%, which means the house is now worth $1.2 million. Insurance pays the full mortgage. So it looks like the Hedge Fund Scum in addition to looting our treasury on their way out of town will also get every single penny back from the mansions they bought all over California in recent years. Pity.
Santa Anna was the name of the President of Mexico at the time of the Alamo. Remember the Alamo? Where our childhood heroes like Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie valiently defended our nation. Well, actually, they were in Mexico now that I think of it. And the real dispute between the Yankees living in Mexico and the government of Mexico was that the Yankees brought slaves, and slavery was illegal in Mexico. Oops. And the Yankees also attacked and drove out the Mexican military -- drove them out of their own territory -- in 1835, so the Mexican attack on the Alamo was kind of a response to that. But other than that, "Davy, Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier."
Some people think the Santa Ana winds were named after the Mexican president, much despised in the U.S. because he killed our guys, and despite what the facts are, we all are still pissed about that whole Alamo incident.
Other people say the name of the winds comes from a Spanish term, winds of the devil, and has nothing to do with the president of Mexico.
This much is clear: politicians, real estate developers and people will come and go, but the Santa Anas will beat us every time. Given the fact that this is a desert subject to earthquake and fire, given that water is scarce and the roads impassable, it might be that an intelligent approach would be to stop the construction of new homes and assist people to relocate to more sparsely-populated states. I think California may have reached its limit.
Friday, November 14, 2008
It's no secret that the Bush administration has consistently held interest rates down to obscenely and absurdly low levels. The Boys on Wall Street have been allowed to "borrow" money from the public at ridiculously low interest rates (i.e. 1%), then turn around and loan that same money to the public through financial institutions and charge 6% (mortgage) 8% (car) or 25% or more on credit cards, which are the only loans for which the majority of Americans qualify. That means on credit card loans, the financial institutions are making a 24% return on the money while doing nothing except paying some off-shore 8 year-old billing clerk to generate a bill every month. These low interest rates have contributed to creating the bubble which has burst all around us and to further consolidating wealth in the hands of the few.
But low interest rates have created another problem. The traditional mechanism by which the government has historically been able to stimulate the economy when we were headed into a (recession or depression) is to cut interest rates. Well, that tool has been eliminated by this Bush policy. So what now?
Rising unemployment (Goldman Sachs is predicting unemployment will reach 8.5% by the end of 2009) means cuts in consumer spending, triggering more layoffs, more business closings, more hard times. What to do?
Paul Krugman, Professor of Economics and International Affairs at Princeton, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, New York Times columnist, and all-around really smart guy is weighing in on the debate in an article at today's New York Times entitled "Depression Economics Returns." (Link at bottom of this post).
According to Krugman, we need an immediate and emergency stimulus package to get money into the hands of the public and keep our economy from crashing:
"[W]ith no possibility of further interest rate cuts, there’s nothing to stop the economy’s downward momentum. Rising unemployment will lead to further cuts in consumer spending, which Best Buy warned this week has already suffered a “seismic” decline. Weak consumer spending will lead to
cutbacks in business investment plans. And the weakening economy will lead
to more job cuts, provoking a further cycle of contraction."
"To pull us out of this downward spiral, the federal government will have to provide economic stimulus in the form of higher spending and greater aid to those in distress — and the stimulus plan won’t come soon enough or be strong enough unless politicians and economic officials are able to transcend several conventional prejudices." [He includes on his list of conventional prejudices the fear of creating more debt or of acting too quickly].