Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Public Theatre Presents: U.S. Military Dramatically "Withdraws" From Iraq's Cities The Day Before Iraq's Oil And Gas Is Put Up For Public Auction.

Call me a cynic, but I think there is a strong connection here. The play's the thing. Truth does not matter. It's just what kind of a story you can sell to the world.

First, the U.S. military supposedly "withdraws" from Iraq's cities yesterday, with much hoopla and pomp and circumstance. The puppet regime in Iraq even declare today a holiday. See? We left, we were not interfering. The Yahoo frontpage today said something to the effect that U.S. Military Completes Withdrawal from Iraq. They didn't even mention that it was just the cities.

Then today, Iraq's oil and gas is put up for public auction. Most of the oil companies are holding out for better terms, meaning they want all the profits, and undoubtedly are working together to bust down the Iraqi government to take what they offer. Or, then again, the whole thing may be staged for public consumption. "Well, we did the best we could," the Iraqi government will say later when they take a deal that gives the people nothing for their own resources, and gives the western oil corporations everything.

Is it possible that the U.S. "pulled out" of the cities to create the appearance that they were not in control at the time of the auction? You bet.

Besides, if we can leave the cities, why don't we leave the country? That's right. Because our military is waiting there to guard the oil fields for the corporations when they come in.

Remember in March of 2001 when Cheney had secret meetings with the oil corporations, and requested maps of Iraq be delivered to him to use in those meetings? He refused to disclose what was discussed in those meetings, and the right-wing Supreme Court backed him up. Some people speculated that Bush and Cheney somehow knew about the planned 9/11 attacks and were preparing for war against Iraq from the time Bush stole the election. Or maybe they would have started a war even without 9/11. I'm wondering if the Iraq military invasion program included directives to our military about which oil fields they should guard as soon as they got there? That is why we're there, after all. It's all about the oil.

The Stonewall Riots And Gay Rights. A Failure To Protest Injustice Against Others Is The Equivalent Of Weaving The Noose For Your Own Lynching.

What is it about the United States and sex? Children are taught that their (biological and natural) feelings of sexual pleasure are dirty. Worse still, if a child enjoys those feelings, or touches him or herself for pleasure, God will send them to Hell to burn for all eternity. Who came up with that one?

Adults are taught that sex is dirty. Women are taught that it is their duty to have sex with their husband whenever he wants, to "submit" to him, but if they enjoy sex, or have sex with a man to whom they are not married, God will send them to Hell to burn for all eternity. Men are taught that if they even think about having sex with a woman other than their wife, they are evil and despicable. Men are also taught that they are weak and unable to deny their sexual impulses, that women will try to force them to have sex when it would be wrong to do so, that they must shun women because women are evil and Satan.

Any questions? Any wonder we’re so screwed up? Is it possible that the reason our leaders insist on waging war against everyone always is because they’re all so sexually frustrated? Or does the government just use sex as a tool to gain political and financial control of the country?

Sunday marked the 40th anniversary of what are commonly called the "Stonewall Riots" (June 28, 1969). The Stonewall Inn was located in Greenwich Village in New York City. On that night, the police "raided" the place to arrest homosexuals, just like they routinely raided any business that served homosexual customers. But on that night, for the first time, the homosexuals fought back and all hell broke loose.

For most of us, it’s hard to imagine how oppressive our society historically was towards homosexuals. The police in many cities would routinely "raid" bars, coffee houses or restaurants if it was rumored that homosexuals frequented the business. In other words, simply by "allowing" a homosexual to sit at a table and drink a cup of coffee in the middle of the day, a business owner was putting themself at risk of having the police storm into the place, en masse, make every customer line "up against the wall" to be frisked and questioned, and any customers who were perceived by the police as being there for improper purposes – such as trying to meet other homosexuals – would be arrested. Their name would be printed in the newspaper. They would undoubtedly be fired from their job. They would be evicted from their rented apartment. Their families would often disown them as would any non-homosexual friends. The business owner could be shut down for running an immoral establishment.

In other words, the mere act of "being" homosexual, without any related conduct, could result in a person being completely banished from society, unable to find shelter or employment, unable to earn a living, rejected by friends, neighbors, acquaintances. It was a complete banishment. In Haiti, and other societies which practiced "dark" arts like voodoo, as well as in some modern cult-religions, the total banishment of a person from society is considered the equivalent of a sentence of death. That was the punishment for people who were discovered to be homosexuals: complete banishment, a form of social death.

In today’s world, many cities have communities where homosexuals live and work, openly, and of course there are legal protections against many forms of discrimination. But until very recently, there were no openly gay communities. There were just isolated individuals living in shame because all the professionals in the country said homosexuals were perverts and were trying to destroy the moral underpinnings of society. They were declared to be mentally ill, undeserving of shelter, employment, friendship, or support from their families. It was believed that they could change if they wanted, and they chose to live life as a pervert. Most gays lived in terror of being "found out." There were no places for gays to gather and meet other homosexuals, try to develop relationships or friends. Everything was secret and "in the closet."

Of course in the bigger cities, homosexuals would tend to frequent certain places which were known to tolerate homosexual customers. And the police would inevitably find out and begin regularly raiding the business. It was a fact of life.

During the post World War II "McCarthy" era of anti-communist repression, the focus of the federal government’s inquiries were often "homosexual-and-communists" allegedly working inside the federal government to destroy it.

The anti-homosexual fervor during the 1950s was as intense as was the anti-communist fervor. Anyone who was employed by the federal government and was discovered to be homosexual could and would be immediately fired. The justification was the claim that the communists might find out somebody was a homosexual, then blackmail them by threatening to expose them, and then the homosexual would have to become a spy for the communists.

There is a sociological theory about rising expectations: when things start to look a little bit better, people often begin developing big hopes for further improvement. So in the 1960s, we saw many disaffected social groups of people who organized to try to improve their position in society. Then, as now, everything was dominated by straight white men. So women got together and demanded that they have a voice, and that the institutions of society accept them as equal citizens with equal rights. Black Americans were involved in organizing for more rights from the 1950s on. Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, many groups began demanding something more from society. It is undoubtedly true that the beginning of the movement for equal rights for homosexuals, or at least an end to oppression, was strengthened and influenced by these other social movements in the 1960s.

For some reason, on June 28, 1969, when the police came for their routine raid on the Stonewall Inn, the people inside declined to go quietly. Soon a crowd gathered outside and a riot erupted. Of course for the police, the idea of homosexual men fighting back was simply unimaginable, since they assumed all homosexual men were sissies. Surprise!

The riots continued for several nights. Gays began to organize groups and committees to prepare a list of demands including the right to go to local businesses without being subject to raids and arrest.

The Stonewall Riots are considered a turning point in homosexual history. (At some point in time, the word "homosexual" was abandoned, and the word "gay" became more common for homosexual men). Following soon after those riots, many gay and lesbian groups formed inside New York City, several gay-themed newspapers were set up, and the influence began to spread across the country where gay organizations were created in other communities.

The "Gay Pride" parades which take place in many communities in this country are on the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.

Stonewall memorial sculpture:

The right-wing devotes itself to continuing to attack gays, hoping to raise the hate level in our country and to increase the oppression on them as well as on everyone else.

What can we learn from the gay-rights movement? First, that we the people have given the federal and state government very limited rights to act on our behalf, but we did not give them the right to dictate to us what are acceptable sexual practices among consenting adults. I think it was Justice Douglas who referred to the constitutional right of the citizen to simply be "left alone" by the government. There are limits and restrictions in our constitution on the right of the government to intrude into our private lives. They are not supposed to tap our phones, plant bugs in our homes, peep through our windows, read our mail, photograph our actions, or other wise attempt to direct or control us, or punish us, based on our personal decisions. It's none of their business. As long as we don't rob a bank or kill somebody, they need to butt out.

Second, that all these things are connected. When we allow the government to persecute gays (or Muslims, or Arabs, or blacks) or deny any group (such as women) equal rights or opportunities, the government will inevitably add more groups to the list and try to take away all our rights.

Third, that we all need to defend our liberties and beat back the government. Keep an eye on them. Protest when they ignore us (such as by continuing these wars when we have demanded that they be ended) or oppress us or others. Defense of one is defense of all.

A failure to protest injustice against others is the equivalent of weaving the noose for your own lynching.

For more on the McCarthy-era attack on homosexuals-and-communists, see

Monday, June 29, 2009

Military Coup in Honduras. President Beaten, Kidnapped, Forced Into Exile. Questions Raised Whether The U.S. Is Behind This Coup.

President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras was overthrown in a military coup on Sunday. The military attacked his residence in the early morning hours while he and his wife were sleeping, beat him, bundled him, kidnapped him, and removed him from the country and against his will out of the country and into exile in Costa Rica. The military coup is supported by the right-wing in that country that wants to have a dictatorship to control the nation. President Zelaya is a leftist/liberal, aligned with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Evo Morales of Bolivia. Most countries in the world have demanded that the the President be allowed to return to office. The new dictatorship claims that they are now the government, and that they will refuse to step down.

In a bizarre move, President Obama (or is it Orwell) declared, through his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, that it wasn't really a "coup." This position was not supported by any other nation in the world but then again, no other nation is so likely the sponsor of the coup. Apparently by claiming it wasn't really a coup, the U.S. remains free under existing law to funnel millions to the military dictatorship so they can secure their right-wing control over the entire nation.

The United States and some of its well-funded fascist thugs from the Reagan era, the Iran-contra and death-squad folks, have continued their efforts to install military and fascist dictatorships throughout South and Central America. They have on several occasions attempted to have a coup against Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

President Zelaya was elected in 2005, and his term would expire in 2010. The primary government in Honduras was set up under the military dictatorship which governed, at Reagan's direction, in the early 1980s. It is designed to keep control of most issues in the hands of the few, and prevent the citizens from having much input. Zelaya wanted to have a referendum to ask the people whether they want a constitutional convention to change some aspects of how the government is run. It is believed that Zelaya wanted to change the constitution so that he could run for a second term. The military, the Congress, and the Supreme Court in Honduras are all right-wing, and they have joined together in supporting the military coup, and installation of a military dictatorship.

The Supreme Court of Honduras just ruled that Zelaya's efforts to have a referendum to ask the people if they wanted to convene a constitutional convention was illegal. Zelaya was backed by a majority of the labor unions and social movements in the country, who have been demonstrating in the streets ever since the Supreme Court's ruling.

Below are excerpts from an article at Z-Net titled
Obama's First Coup d'Etat: Honduran President has been Kidnapped.
June 29, 2009 By Eva Gollinger

"President Zelaya's wife, Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, speaking live on Telesur at approximately 10:00am Caracas time, announced that in early hours of Sunday morning, the soldiers stormed their residence, firing shots throughout the house, beating and then taking the president. "It was an act of cowardice", said the first lady, referring to the illegal kidnapping occurring during a time when no one would know or react until it was all over. Casto de Zelaya also called for the "preservation" of her husband's life, indicating that she herself is unaware of his whereabouts. She claimed their lives are all still in "serious danger" and made a call for the international community to denounce this illegal coup d'etat and to act rapidly to reinstate constitutional order in the country, which includes the rescue and return of the democratically elected Zelaya."

"Presidents Evo Morales of Bolivia and Hugo Chávez of Venezuela have both made public statements on Sunday morning condemning the coup d'etat in Honduras and calling on the international community to react to ensure democracy is restored and the constitutional president is reinstated."

"Reports coming out of Honduras have informed that the public television channel, Canal 8, has been shut down by the coup forces."

"Just minutes ago, Telesur announced that the military in Honduras is shutting down all electricity throughout the country."

"Those television and radio stations still transmitting are not reporting the coup d'etat or the kidnapping of President Zelaya, according to Foreign Minister Patricia Rodas. "Telephones and electricity are being cut off", confirmed Rodas just minutes ago via Telesur. "The media are showing cartoons and soap operas and are not informing the people of Honduras about what is happening". "

"The situation is eerily reminiscent of the April 2002 coup d'etat against President Chávez in Venezuela, when the media played a key role by first manipulating information to support the coup and then later blacking out all information when the people began protesting and eventually overcame and defeated the coup forces, rescuing Chávez (who had also been kidnapped by the military) and restoring constitutional order."

"Honduras is a nation that has been the victim of dictatorships and massive U.S. intervention during the past century, including several military invasions. The last major U.S. government intervention in Honduras occurred during the 1980s, when the Reagan Administration funded death squads and paramilitaries to eliminate any potential "communist threats" in Central America. At the time, John Negroponte was the U.S. Ambassador in Honduras and was responsible for directly funding and training Honduran death squads that were responsible for thousands of disappeared and assassinated throughout the region."

[The OAS condemned the coup.]

[Honduras was devastated by Washington's dirty wars in the 1980s, which caused many Hondurans to flee to the United States for work. The money they send back to their families is one of the largest sources of income for the nation of Honduras. The country also receives a large amount of assistance through the program known as USAID, which in fact funds right-wing organizations in that country.]

[Conveniently enough, the United States already has a military base inside Honduras with 500 military personnel, so if we decide to intervene military to prop up the new military dictatorship, we're all set with accommodations.]

"[T]he ambassadors of Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua in Honduras were reportedly kidnapped along with Foreign Minister Patricia Rodas. "

"Opposition forces in Honduras, led by a US-funded NGO Grupo Paz y Democracia, have stated via CNN that a coup has not occurred, but rather a "transition" to democracy. [Note how Obama and Clinton told the same lie -- it isn't a coup, it's a severe disruption in a democratic norm. This is a bullshit phrase and a lie.] Martha Diaz, coordinator of the NGO, which receives USAID funding, has just declared minutes ago on CNN that "civil society" does not support President Zelaya nor his "illegal quest" to hold a non-binding referendum on a potential future constitutional reform. She justified his kidnapping, beating and removal from power as a "democratic transition". Again, this is eerily reminiscent of the coup d'etat in Venezuela in April 2002, when so-called "civil society" along with dissident military forces kidnapped President Chávez and installed a "transition government". Catch live blogging at

"Dan Restrepo, Presidential Advisor to President Obama for Latin American Affairs, ... stated that Obama's government is communicating with the coup forces in Honduras, trying to "feel out" the situation. He also responded to the reporter's question regarding whether Washington would recognize a government in Honduras other than President Zelaya's elected government, by saying that the Obama Administration "is waiting to see how things play out" and so long as democratic norms are respected, will work with all sectors. This is a confirmation practically of support for the coup leaders. Restrepo also inferred that other countries are interfering in Honduras' international affairs, obviously referring to Venezuela and other ALBA nations who have condemned the coup with firm statements earlier this morning."

The Washington Post reported today that the Obama administration claimed the coup in Honduras was not a coup. I wonder whether Obama would say the same thing if an armed crowd of Marines burst into the White House in the early morning hours, threatened to kill him and his family unless he did what they said, then took him against his will out of the country and dumped him somewhere, warning him never to return to the U.S. Do we think Obama would understand, if it happened to him, that yes, Obama, it is a real coup.

Washington Post Headline: "Clinton: U.S. Not Declaring Events in Honduras a 'Coup' "
By Mary Beth Sheridan Washington Post Staff Writer Monday, June 29, 2009 5:15 PM

"Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said today the U.S. government is refraining from formally declaring the ouster of Honduras's president a "coup," which would trigger a cutoff of millions of dollars in aid to the Central American country. "

"Her statement appeared to reflect the U.S. government's caution amid fast-moving events in Honduras, where President Manuel "Mel" Zelaya was detained and expelled by the military yesterday. But the move could put Washington at odds with the rest of the hemisphere, which has roundly condemned the Honduran military's actions. "

"We are withholding any formal legal determination," Clinton told reporters at a State Department briefing. She acknowledged, however, that it certainly looked like a coup when soldiers snatched a pajama-clad Zelaya and whisked him off to Costa Rica.

Later in the day, President Obama said the U.S. government believed the takeover was "not legal" and that Zelaya remained the country's leader.

[This reminds me of that video I posted last week in which AG Eric Holder refused to answer Sen. Feingold's question of whether the warrantless wiretaps of the Bush administration were illegal. Sleazy, slippery, sneaky people we've got in the Obama administration. I thought we were going to get sunshine, opennness, honesty, but this looks like Reagan Part Duex. ]

"Gibbs called the military coup a "severe disruption in any sort of democratic norm" and said U.S. policy is aimed at returning to that norm. "

"U.S. foreign aid to Honduras totaled $43 million in 2009, according to budget documents the administration submitted to Congress. Under the Foreign Assistance Act, no U.S. aid can be given to countries whose elected heads of government are removed by military coups."

Honduras's New Government Vows to Maintain Power
By Juan Forero Washington Post Foreign ServiceMonday, June 29, 2009 4:04 PM
Venezuela, June 29 --
"Honduras's new government vowed on Monday to remain in power despite growing worldwide opposition to the military coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya."

"This coup will be defeated," [Hugo] Chavez said in the meeting in Managua, also attended by the leaders of Ecuador,
Bolivia, Nicaragua and other countries allied with Honduras. "We have to be very firm, very firm. This cannot end until Jose Manuel Zelaya is returned to power, without condition."

Another article quoted a Venezuelan representative as saying that an American named Otto Reich was involved in staging the coup. "We have information that worries us. These is a person who has been important in the diplomacy of the US who has reconnected with old colleagues and encouraged the coup: Otto Reich, ex sub-Secretary of State under Bush. We know him as an interventionist person... In 2002 he tried to deny the lawfulness of Pres. Hugo Chavez." Mentioning episodes of the dark history of Reich in the hemisphere, he concluded, "We suffered the First Reich, the Second Reich, and now we are suffering the Third Reich." He said Reich is operating under an NGO.

Otto Reich served in the Reagan, and both Bush administrations. He is a Gusano (Worm) -- a right-wing Cuban-American and was involved in the Iran-Contra scandals and death-squads sponsored during the Reagan administration. He was also allegedly involved in the U.S.-sponsored efforts to stage a coup to overthrow the democratically-elected presidency of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. He sits on the Board of Directors of the School of the Americas.

Here's an article that says two of the leaders of the Honduras coup were trained at the School of the Americas in Georgia. Nasty old U.S. fingerprints all over this thing.

The School of Americas is a torture school run by the U.S. government in Georgia. We pay to bring to that school the military and police squads from central and south America, and to train them to torture and murder. We then send them back to their own countries where they will eagerly await the call from the U.S. to tell them to start the coup. Venezuela claims that Reich is involved (through some phony front-organization) in this coup in Honduras. Reich sits on the Board of Directors of the School of the Americas, and reportedly the top general in Honduras leading the coup was trained at the School of Americas.

It is really critical that everybody oppose this coup. It could well be the beginning of a new era of U.S.-sponsored coups in Central and South America. the U.S. response is highly suspicious. Here the U.S. government has been crying big crocodile tears over an election in Iran, but they've got not much more than a yawn when a democratically-elected president is ripped from his home by an armed military force of 60 and forcibly removed from his own country under threat of death. This stinks.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Improbable American

Watch this terrific, amazing video about a self-proclaimed burned-out druggie CBGB club guy from New York City who now lives in Pakistan where he set up and runs a hospital and medical clinic to help the very poor people in the Kashmir. He has no medical degree. He has no college degree. He just does what he can and somehow, that turns out to be an awful lot in a part of the world that is this poor.

Then ask whether our country should continue to attack and drop bombs on these people, or whether we should follow this young man's example and start helping other people in the world.

Poster Boy

"Poster Boy" is the name of a New York City graffiti artist who creates collage out of public billboards and subway posters by cutting the posters up with a razor, then re-applying the pieces to make whatever art he wants. His identity is apparently unknown or uncertain.

A man was arrested in early 2009 and charged with being responsible for some of the Poster Boy graffiti in New York subways, but he denies being Poster Boy.

To make things more uncertain, the original Poster Boy has called publicly for many graffiti artists to do the same as he is, so it is unknown whether the person arrested is the original Poster Boy, or just a supporter.

His work generally is critical of society, and he turns the public advertisements and billboards against the person or company that paid to put it up. He has been called Zorro with a razor blade, and a guerrilla artist.

There is a group in the UK called "Cutup" that does similar public art. Some of his work has been shown in galleries.

The authorities remove and destroy his art as soon as they find it. So the only evidence of his art generally are the pictures that people take of it -- proof that it existed at some point in time.

Here's a link to an article about him in New York Magazine:

Remember when the New York Post ran the drawing showing a monkey being shot and killed, and it clearly was supposed to be President Obama being murdered? This was his response.

This is a trash-can inside a subway station.

Sean Bell was a young black man whose friends took him out to a club, the night before his wedding, for his last night as a bachelor. When the young men left the club, police opened fire on their car for no apparent reason (nobody claims these young men had done anything wrong), killing Sean Bell and seriously injuring two other young men, shooting 50 rounds into the car. Three of the five detectives involved were indicted on criminal charges and tried, but acquitted.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Sad Week.

Today is a sad day. It's been a sad week. All the media is covering the death of Michael Jackson with a footnote for Farrah Fawcett and Ed McMahon. We seem to have a pattern of days, weeks of national catharsis, crying, sincere pronouncements about how life is short, be kind to the people around you, be sure to tell people how much they mean to you because you never know when your turn will come. Media people, tough news-announcers, politicians, all get a little choked-up, a little weepy-eyed, making statements about those who have died.

But think about it, people. We're waging war against numerous countries in the middle east. Why no connection? 50 people killed here, 64 there, some at a wedding, children in a school, people at a grocers just trying to buy some food for their families. What is the disconnect? Those people in Iraq must go to funerals every week, for young people, completely unexpected deaths, murders really, with no possibility of justice. The entire population of Iraq and Afghanistan have probably been sad for years now because their people keep getting killed. By us.

I heard the House of Representatives had a "Moment of Silence" for Michael Jackson. I wish they'd have one for peace. Have one for ending the wars. I don't begrudge Michael Jackson -- I'm sad he died too. But I'm also sad about all the people we've killed, all the people we will kill tomorrow and next week, all the children in the middle east who won't enjoy a summer, won't play in the sprinklers or eat a bar-be-que because we are attacking their country. I'm sad because the Democrats seem less interested in peace than even the psychotics under the Bush regime. I'm sad about the prospects for this country, for the unemployed, for global warming, for peace. And I'm really sick and tired of reading about rich doctors who are nothing more than drug pushers, whose patients die, but they never get prosecuted for murder. If that's what happened.

It is a sad week.

Roy Orbison, "Crying."

Ray Charles and Barbra Streisand, "Crying Time."

Kathleen Battle and the Boys Choir of Harlem, "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot."

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson (8/29/58 - 6/25/09)

Michael Jackson was a cute kid. Here he is at 11 years old performing with his siblings in the Jackson 5, on the Ed Sullivan Show.

When he got older he became a solo performer, and the world stood up and cheered.
He was baaaad. But not really. He was cool. He could sing, he could dance, he could write, he could perform. He was a presence, a star. They named him the King of Pop, and his album Thriller sold 50 million copies, more than any other album ever in the history of the world. And he wasn't just popular in the U.S. -- he was a star in every country in the world.

He had a lot of plastic surgery and other "cosmetic" procedures done to change his appearance. In the end, he was ambiguous, ambivalent, uncertain, part black or was he. Male, but really more female. He was growing up before the world's eyes, but, remarkably, like a predecessor to Benjamin Button, he seemed to keep getting younger, getting smaller, always rail-thin like a teenage girl and never growing into the body of a man. He was beautiful.

He could dance like Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly and a whole lot more than that.

In the end, time, life, money, fame, success, drugs, maybe people who wanted something from him, were dependent on him, or just made lots of money off of him, all combined to allow him to have everything he wanted, and he destroyed his own life in typical tragic style. He went too far, had too many procedures done and ended up looking like a monster, unable to go out in public without draping handkerchiefs across his face to hide the hideousness of the doctor's work.

And the stories came out about him spending too much time with young boys, having young boys sleep in his bed with him when he was a grown man. There was a story about him paying a large amount of money to the family of one such boy, and it was suggested the payment was to keep them from reporting him to the police. Then there finally was a criminal trial, allegations of him sexually molesting a young boy. He was acquitted. But only by the jury in the courtroom, not by the public. The fact that he slept with young boys was enough for most people.

I don't think people are born twisted. Something happened to him. I blame his parents who either did it to him, failed to protect him, or failed to pay enough attention to realize something was going on, and get him help.

Too many drugs, too many combinations of drugs, let him stay thin like a young girl but also become drunken and stumbling in appearance like an old man. His face was monstrous, and the doctors could no longer help him no matter how much money he had. Well, it doesn't matter what he looks like now. He's dead. He wanted a comeback. I guess he'll get one now, in a fashion.

But there was a time, long ago, before all these bad things came about, when he was quite simply F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S!!

Make A Phone Call. Save A Life. (Troy Davis).

The State of Georgia is planning to execute a man named Troy Davis. But the overwhelming available evidence suggests that Troy Davis is innocent. For example, seven out of nine witnesses who testified against him at his trial have now recanted their testimony. We all know that cops and D.A.s "coach" witnesses, or coerce witnesses, to say things that are not true.

In this case, the majority of the witnesses now say their testimony was untrue. There was no physical evidence that tied Troy Davis to the crime for which he was convicted. The crime was the murder of a police officer, and, again, we know how overzealous the police and prosecutors can be in trying to get a conviction against someone they think is a "cop-killer." And overzealous cops and prosecutors often mean the wrong person was convicted, and there was not a fair trial.

The District Attorney in Savannah can reopen the case and stop the planned execution.

Call District Attorney Larry Chisolm and demand he reopen Troy Davis' case
[CALL 912-652-7308]

Tell him the state you are calling from so they will know that people all over this country are aware of the injustice in the Georgia legal system, and we are watching to see whether the state will do anything to remedy this injustice.

Farrah Fawcett (2/2/47 - 6/25/09)

Farrah Fawcett has died at the age of 62 after a long, and very public course of medical treatment for anal cancer, which apparently is related to colon cancer. A documentary was made by a friend of hers to show Fawcett as she went through the various medical treatments, including some which were considered experimental, including flying to Germany for treatment.

At one point in the documentary, when she appeared half-dead already because she was throwing up and had lost so much weight, somebody said "Well, that's what cancer does to you." And I thought "Well, that's what chemotherapy does to you." Her friends and the people who loved her all said that she fought hard against the cancer, which struck me as a silly thing to say. You can't "beat" cancer by fighting hard, or being a good person, or being dedicated or courageous. It's a disease, not game-show competition. And the decision of how to proceed, which treatment to undergo, is clearly an agonizing one.

Farrah Fawcett seemed to come from nowhere, in the late 1970s, and immediately become a national pin-up girl. She was very pretty, and had a great body. Her pinup photo was reportedly very popular among the boys. And all the girls wanted to have their hair cut just like Farrah's.

In later years Fawcett struggled to try to be recognized for something other than her looks. She was briefly in a TV show called "Charlie's Angels," then left that and got parts in a few films, but was panned for the efforts. She had high-profile and sometimes volatile relationships with men, and was seen publicly appearing to be messed-up on drugs or alcohol, which added notoriety and brought attention of the not-too-good type. But she also acted in a few TV movies and showed that she was a very talented actress, such as "Burning Bed," in which she played the victim of spousal abuse, and "Small Change," in which she played a woman accused of murdering her own children. She also hooked up with Ryan O'Neal, himself another "burster" who gained quick and instant fame early in his career then seemed to have descended into the tacky problems of alcohol, relationship issues, and screwed-up, neglected, abandoned kids. A very sad story on both parts.

Farrah Fawcett was embraced by the revisionist, reactionary forces who were reasserting control of the nation in the late 1970s, the right-wing that would soon re-invent history to claim that the U.S. "lost" the war in Vietnam because we didn't try hard enough, that people who smoke marijuana become serial killers, that women who have sex before marriage are sluts, that "real men" are still cowboys or marines and long hair is for homosexuals. The morons, in other words. The same group of people who would soon put the senile B-movie actor Ronald Reagan into office to loot and bankrupt the country and sponsor death squads throughout central America. The same group of people who later put George W. Bush into office. Those people.

I think they wanted to resurrect the Marilyn Monroe image of the 1940s and 50s, the idea that women should either wear house dresses with heels and stay home to clean and cook and raise kids, or they should be sex kittens, pinups, for the sexual gratification of men when they leave home, and go out into the world. She was from Texas, she had all-American blonde (and sexy) looks, and these men could look at her and pretend that it was 1950 again, and all was right in the world.

Of course this has nothing to do with her. She was just another young, pretty woman who was offered fame and fortune to pose for some sexy photos, and probably never imagined that it would govern and maybe destroy much of the rest of her life.

She was 62 years old. She had cancer. She died from it. That's pretty young, and it's very sad.

Want To Learn A Foreign Language? Or Refresh Your High School Spanish?

Here's a pretty cool website where you can learn a foreign language online, for free. They include the full textbook, and many tapes for learning to speak and understand. For example, in the beginning Spanish language tape they say Buenos dias, then they pause and you repeat what they said. The accompanying 700-page text starts with common phrases, such as Buenos dias, and an English translation.

The U.S. government's foreign service group developed its own programs to teach foreign languages to their employees. Those programs are considered part of the public domain, and are therefore made available to the public, free of charge, on this website.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

June 25: Torture Accountability Day.

June 25, 2009, is Torture Accountability Day. The Democrats continue to ignore the law, to ignore us, and refuse to enforce the laws against the rich and powerful people in this nation. There are laws that make it illegal to torture. The U.S., under the Bush administration, created a program of torture. They tortured people to try to get them to "confess" that Iraq had some involvement with 9/11 (which it did not) so that Cheney and his Oil Corporation friends could use the U.S. military to invade Iraq, and let the Oil Corporations steal Iraq's oil.

Although Obama has made some generalized statements against torture, there are reports that it is continuing in various locations around the world where the U.S. is holding people they have kidnapped, refused counsel, no charges, no evidence, just torture. This needs to stop.

Go to this website
. The Torture Accountability group is demanding that there be investigations, hearings, and prosecutions if the evidence supports it, of the following people from the Bush Administration who, the evidence shows, had direct involvement in and responsibility for the torture conducted by the U.S.:

George W. Bush
Dick Cheney
Jay Bybee (now a 9th Circuit Court of Appeal Judge)
Alberto Gonzales
John Yoo
Douglas Feith
David Addington
William Haynes
Stephen Bradbury

Attend an action if there is one near you. Or write a letter to your local paper, post a comment on a local blog, make a sign, talk to somebody. Demand that the people responsible for international war crimes including torture be investigated, prosecuted, imprisoned, and held accountable for their crimes.

Call the Attorney General, Eric Holder at 202-514-2001.

Fax him at 202-307-6777

or send him a free fax:

Ask him to begin prosecution of people who are responsible for the torture conducted by the U.S.

A nation that refuses to enforce the law against the rich and powerful is not a democracy.

The U.S. is a party to the U.N. Treaty on Torture and is legally obligated to prosecute the people against whom there is any evidence of torture. We've got the people. We've got the evidence. And we've got a new administration that refuses to enforce the law. This is not acceptable.

Summer Songs: Martha & The Vandellas, "Heat Wave."

Don't Whine. Organize.

Okay. I'm personally disgusted and disheartened. But it is a legitimate criticism to say that being disgusted is not a plan for life. Certainly it is not a worthy theme song for anyone who claims to be a progressive.

Let's talk about what the situation is, and what are the available options.


The Democrats In The Bush-Cheney Years

The Democrats have been overwhelmed in recent years by the Bush-Cheney administration and their fanatical supporters, including Rupert Murdoch's Whorehouse, the 24-hour-per-day Fascist propaganda organ for the right wing which promotes war, hatred, and violence. It has been a somewhat terrifying time for many people in this country, although I think the Democrats mostly have been terrified at the thought of losing their own job.

The response of many Democrats has been to simply go along with Bush-Cheney, try to wait it out without drawing too much attention to themselves. Maybe they were afraid of being shot by the crazies who supported Bush-Cheney, a legitimate concern. But those who voted for the Wars, who voted for the tax-cuts, who supported silly new laws to make it a crime to burn a flag, who supported imprisoning more and more non-white poor young men as a solution to a failing economy, those who supported "free" trade policies which took more and more good-paying jobs out of this country and threw more and more Americans out of work, seem to have the heart and soul of Republicans.

But nonetheless, the Democrats are all we've got. So when they started telling us several years ago that we need to elect more Democrats so they could get the majority in Congress, we needed to fund-raise and make phone calls and campaign to elect Democrats, and donate, then donate some more, many of us got on board. Okay. We'll do our part. Save the nation.

Democrats Get Controlling Majority in 2008

Now the Democrats have control of both houses of Congress and the white house. Even though people blame Obama for the apparent failings so far to change anything, the fact is that Obama has no authority to pass laws. Congress is charged with the responsibility to pass laws. Congress holds the purse strings when it comes to war. Only Congress has the authority to declare war, to authorize war. So let's see how they're doing.

Democrats Provide Working People With No Economic Assistance

The economy is the key to people's ability to have a decent life. But from the Democrats, when it comes to helping the working people, nothing so far. No jobs programs from Congress. Obama has a big "recovery" program but it has pennies for a jobs-creation program, compared to billions in give-aways to the Wall Street criminals. Congress has failed to raise minimum wage to a living wage -- it probably should be double what it currently is. No discussion of that. Congress refused to cap interest rates on credit cards. I just got a notice from my credit card company that they are raising the interest rates to 14%. So they borrow money from the government for .25% -- 1/4 of 1% -- and they loan it to me for 14%. Do you know what an incredible con that is? But Congress refused to cap how much they can charge in interest, which should be tied within a few points of what they pay to borrow. If they pay 1/4 of 1% to borrow, maybe they should be capped at 3%. But 14% is outrageous.

As for ending the war as they promised they would do, they didn't. Instead, they keep voting to give billions more for war, to extend the wars indefinitely, to expand the wars, to kill more people, drop more bombs. Nothing for the working people and citizens, but everything for war. All of which is a corporate subsidy because we are in the middle east to provide private security for the Oil Corporations as they steal Iraq's oil, build a pipeline across Afghanistan. Maybe next steal Iran's oil. It's all about oil. And corporate control.

Speaking of which, not only is our reliance on foreign oil the direct cause of our starting wars to steal oil, it is also destroying the planet. The Democrats know this. So where is our major green push from Congress? To get off of oil. Green jobs, R&D money, development, funding? New community planning, new shelter/home/apartment designs, materials, concepts. Where is the Congress's major new proposal -- like A New Deal, or The Great Society -- where is the Congress in funding green work, developing industries, creating jobs, getting the universities involved, retrofitting people's homes, creating non-automobile transportation? Where are they on this subject? Not much there either.

On Health care, which they claim will be a radical reform to help the people -- all the rumors have it that there will be no real change, no help for the people. The Medical Industry -- Doctors' lobbies, Hospital groups, Drug Dealers -- have paid so much money in bribes to Congress that Congress will do nothing to stop them from continuing to rob us blind.

So all in all, the Democrats have been a complete failure. And worse -- it is a betrayal of everything that they promised they would do.

Organize: Where? How?

So what should we do, besides whine?

The traditional answer is we need to organize, to get enough people to take action to force the government to work for us instead of working for corporate bribes.

But how, where?

"Organize": The Unions

Traditionally, the term "organize" refers to the union movement, which was very active in the early part of the 20th century, then became somewhat complacent post-war as the anti-communist insanity was directed against them. Some of the unions began siding with the conservatives. After all, when unions become nothing more than an insider organization staffed by white men who get big paychecks, and whose job is to pay bribes to politicians and work with management to guarantee jobs and benefits and pensions and good wages to other white men, to exclude non-whites and women, then the unions actually become a reactionary force in society. By adopting those policies which benefit the insiders, they lay the seeds for their own destruction.

I know people who were union organizers in the 70s, trying to get the established unions to recognize that what was called "women's work" was a great place for expanding unions. But the white men who ran the unions saw "workers" as being macho men, and actually felt like they would be embarrassed to associate with the lower caste of people known as women workers. For example, the typesetters union was all white men, working on big typesetting presses, hard work. But along came computers, and the likely new typesetters suddenly became the class of workers who are typists -- women. But the typesetters union refused to go after the women, refused to include them, so laid the seeds for their own destruction.

The same is true for the building trades unions. They were mostly white male, except the separate laborers union was mostly black male. Male, notice -- women rarely were allowed on a job and if they were brought in, they were subject to malicious sexual harassment -- not off-color jokes, but actual threats of rape, groping of breasts. Not just boys having fun -- malicious conduct designed to force women out of the field. Some of the building trades unions simply became hiring halls for an insider exclusive group of white men. Instead of expanding their union, reaching out to other groups and people, they became a reactionary racist and sexist force, aligned with the conservatives in government. A few decades down the road, the buildings trade unions were undercut by developers hiring coyotes to bring illegal immigrants in by the truckload to take the jobs. If the unions had been more inclusive, had continued to expand their organizing and increase their strength by alliances with other workers, and had brought in women and non-whites, they would have been in a much stronger position to protect their jobs.

So the biggest problem with the unions is that they are sexist and racist, and short-sighted. Why didn't they include as a non-negotiable demand that the pensions be funded on an ongoing basis. In other words, everytime Employee A gets a paycheck, the boss must immediately transfer into Employee A's retirement account a certain amount of money so Employee A's pension will be fully-funded when he retired. And the Employer can never touch Employee A's pension money. It is safeguarded and protected. But the unions didn't take care of that. We now have retired autoworkers who will lose their pensions because the company did not fund the pensions for those employees -- just planned to pay it out of future earnings. A terrible mistake.

Some unions, many unions have agreed to two-tiered plans. They destroy unions. Here's how that works. Company agrees to continue paying current employees at a certain rate, providing them with benefits and pensions. But they get a two-tiered provision in the new contract that says new employees will receive a lot less money per hour, and receive a lot less in benefits. They did a two-tiered contract in one of the grocery stories I go to, and within a few months all the Adults disappeared -- I swear, the place was staffed with 14-year-old checkers within 6 months. All the long-term employees who had the higher pay were re-assigned, often to stores that were a long commute from home, to force them out. Two-tiered contracts are deals with the devil made by the existing employees to benefit themselves, selling out newer employees, and always leading to destruction of the union.

The male-only leadership continues to be a problem with unions. Women don't really want to pay part of their already diminished wages to a bunch of men, mostly paying themselves over $200,000/year as union "leaders," when the unions do not include as a non-negotiable demand the elimination of sexism in hiring, promotion, and wages -- by employers and by the unions themselves.

Some of the newer more aggressive unions seem to be following very questionable policies. For example, doormen and cleaning crews in commercial building (i.e. offices) in one City were earning about $10-12/hour through their union. But the commercial property owners fired the union workers, busted the union, and started hiring all illegal immigrants at $5/hour (thanks to the program by Bush and Fox to flood the U.S. market with millions of desperate illegal immigrant workers from Mexico). Nobody did a thing to stand up for the Americans who lost their jobs. But soon, a new union came along to represent the illegal immigrants (scabs one might say), and promised them what? First, that if they joined the union, the union would fight to get them $6/hour. And second, if they joined the union, they would have protection against being deported.

So the union comes in, "fights" with the property owner to get $6/hour, but the property owner gladly pays because it means he's protected against having the "American" workers come back and demand the full $12/hour they were making. It's a huge benefit to the property owner. The union works with management to screw the Americans. And the union I'm thinking about has a group of insiders who are paid over $200,000/year for their "organizing" efforts. This same union fought against single-payer healthcare in California because their management friends didn't want it.

Unions have been under assault, there's no question, particularly accelerating under Reagan when he fired all the air traffic controllers and busted the unions. But they also have been uninspired in coming up with a real program to fight outsourcing, fight against companies taking American jobs to other countries, fight against all these "free" trade agreements which have allowed cheap imports to flood our country, throwing more Americans out of work.

I understand the concept of One Big Union, an international perspective. But you need to fight for the jobs of the people in your own country if you expect to grow. Not based on racism or xenophobia, but based on the right of people to be employed, the right to have laws enforced so employers can't throw Americans out of work and replace them with slave labor illegal immigrants. Fight for the rights of all Americans, women and minorities included, instead of having unions remain white men's clubs. And the union insiders should stop paying themselves so much money, and start respecting their members by capping their own paychecks to some nominal multiple of the amount their dues-paying members are earning. Set an example for honesty, fairness and real democracy instead of taking advantage of terrified poor people, desperate for protection.

I think it's 10% of the private jobs are unionized today. And there's lots of infighting. So the unions strike me as a highly unlikely source for organizing people in this country. They may be re-made, but as of today their primary political activity consists of paying bribes to politicians. They can't even get the majority Democrats to pass EFCA. That's a disgrace. It shows that the Democrats are no longer the party of labor, and they don't care one bit what the unions think about it.

Organizing On A Community Basis

So what else? Some people suggest organizing on a community level. Neighborhood by neighborhood. Go knock on your neighbor's door. Engage them in conversation about healthcare. I don't think so. We don't have community in this country, for the most part. We have residences, dwellings. Places where people live as long as they have a job and can pay, and in today's environment there will be lots of moving around by people in foreclosure, unemployed, going somewhere else trying to find work, get a new start. Our society is structured in a manner designed to increase isolation. Go home and watch TV. We should try to change that, but for now, for purposes of using community as a basis for organizing, I can't see it.

Besides, there is little people have in common simply as a result of residing in the same neighborhood. Location of residence says nothing about political beliefs and leanings, gun-loving, hunters, progressives, religious fanatics -- they're so mixed in together. They can live alongside each other, but trying to organize blindly is like making cold-calls from a phone book in trying to sell a product. Lots of effort, little results.

Organizing: Within The Churches

Of course there are the churches which, historically, have in some cases gotten involved in progressives issues such as help the poor or end the war. But many of the churches are extremely conservative. I would suggest this also is likely too much effort, little likely results. Except in the case of churches which have a well-established history of social justice programs and concerns.

What's left? Two things:

Issues Organizing

1. Issues Organizing.

This has worked well in the past on some issues. The problem is that if Congress does something, or votes something, the issue may be co-opted. For example, the anti-war movement should be strengthened. But there is so much public deception about these wars, no draft, lots of mercenaries and private contractors, no real news, it seems this would be easy to co-opt. I think Obama already has done that. When he announced that he had a plan for a phased withdrawal from Iraq -- in the future -- which didn't mean all the troops would leave -- and wasn't writ in stone in any event -- many people seemed to say "Great, war over." But it's not over, and this administration does not plan for it to be over until every drop of oil is sucked out of the sand of Iraq.

Issues organizing, in order to have ongoing viability, needs to include many different issues. Which makes it begin to look more like a political party.

Organizing: Within A Political Party

2. Political Party.

Another alternative is for people to organize and get active inside a political party.

Within The Democratic Party

The first option is to work from within the Democratic party to try to change it. I do not think this will succeed until and unless strict laws are passed to cut down on the corruption. I would include the following as a minimum:

(a) Campaign Finance Reform, Bribery, Kick-Back Laws. Make it illegal for any candidate to accept any money or anything of value from anyone for any purposes. They get a paycheck, that should be the end of it. Same for any promise to pay in the future. Same for spouses, parents, siblings, kids. Have publicly-funded campaigns, and limited campaigns. It does the public no good whatsoever to have hundreds of millions of dollars spent on these political circuses. It's just decorating corruption with sparkly lights.

(b) No Future Employment Or Compensation For Five Years. We need a law making it illegal for any politician to go to work for, or accept money or anything of value from, any business, or industry that benefitted from any government contracts during the time the politician was in office. For five years. Five years after they leave office, they can do what they want. Until then, nothing. End this disgraceful practice by which a politician leaves office and is showered with hundreds of millions of dollars in kick-backs from foreign countries and corporations that benefitted from the politician's actions while in office. No money received at all -- not wages, not consulting fees, not even in these ridiculous "private" charity scams that have become so popular.

(c) No Ex-Parte Communications. We need a law making it illegal for a politician (or their staff) to receive or originate any communication with any person about any issue which is, or may come before the Congress, except for communications made as part of a public record, recorded or documented at the time of the communication, and immediately disclosed to the public.

Here's the idea. Take a Judge. He's got a trial scheduled in a few weeks in which Attorney A represents Dog-bite Victim who is seeking to recover money from Dog Owner, represented by Attorney B. Let's say that Attorney A and Judge both attend a dinner party, and Attorney A wants to talk to Judge about his case, about his client, about dogs. Let's say Judge listens. The Attorney A could be disbarred, and the Judge could lose his job too. That's because the laws of most states make it illegal for any attorney (or party) to communicate with a Judge about a matter before the judge, or scheduled to come before the judge, unless the other side is present or given notice and the opportunity to be present at the time of the communication, the communication is recorded or documented, and the other side has an opportunity to respond. You don't get to take the Judge in the corner and try to butter him up about how good your case is, when the other attorney isn't even there.

We need the same laws in Congress. Why should the Defense Industry be able to send lobbyists to meet with the politicians and convince them to support some new weapons contract, when the meetings and communications are in secret, the public is excluded, and none of us really know what went on in the communication. Were bribes offered or solicited?

I don't see any reason for any politician or their staff or agents or representatives to ever meet or communicate with a lobbyist or industry or business representatives in private. If the politician wants to learn more about some proposed weapons system, they can hold public hearings at which the public can "attend" either by real-time streaming on-line, or televised hearings, made available on-line for years. Written communications should be scanned and likewise available. We need to stop the secret meetings. Bring some sunshine and light to Congress and try to kill off the rot.

New Political Party

The other alternative to trying to organize within a political party would be to start a new political party. Create a platform with specific positions, demand politicians agree in advance to support each of those positions if they want to run as part of this new party. Would the party likely win immediately? No. Might it throw the election to Republicans? Possibly. Another alternative is that there would be a new conservative party started. After all, if only 20% of the country identifies themselves as Republicans, that leaves 80% up for grabs, many of whom consider themselves to be independent.

We hear a lot of speculation about the Republican Party being on its last legs. I think the Democratic Party is as well. They are just too corrupt. The fact that they did nothing during the Bush years to protect the people, the fact that Bill Clinton changed the party to be the Corporate Party, the fact that now they have the majority of the Congress and yet they do nothing to help us, suggests to me that the party is committed firmly to a policy of corruption, bribes, and kick-backs. They believe they will continue to receive the support of the majority simply because they can always raise the bogeyman "Remember Bush." I do remember. But what I remember is that the Democratic Party, my party, did nothing to help me, or to protect me, from the fascist administration of Bush-Cheney. That's what I remember.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Stories From The Great Depression - From The National Archives.

President Obama's Proposed Changes To Banking Regulations

Here is a link to an excellent article by William Grieder about some of the glaring deficiencies in the proposals President Obama made last week to change the regulations for the banks. Supposedly to prevent future economic disasters such as the one we are now experiencing.

I would go even further than Mr. Grieder.

First, of course, there is no mention of restrictions on loans. Perhaps that is to be covered elsewhere. But for many decades the lending rules on residential real estate were as follows: the borrower can borrow 80% of the current fair market value of the home; the down-payment of 20% must be their own money, not loaned to them by someone else; and the borrower can borrow no more than three times gross income. That way, when the loan is made, the property has a value 20% greater than the amount of the loan. If there was a default, the lender takes the property and does not suffer a financial loss (to be paid by the taxpayers).

This would bring property values back down to where they need to be -- an affordable level. If the average American family has a gross income of $60,000, that means the maximum they can borrow is $180,000, and they can afford to buy a home for about $220,000 but they need a $40,000 down payment. Housing prices must come down to the point that they are reasonable and affordable. If they don't, if Obama does not put new restrictions on lenders, then we will just see more and more waves of foreclosures, and further radical and disruptive collapses in the housing market, in years to come.

The federal treasury, the taxpayer's money held and managed by the federal government, should not be turned over to private individuals for them to use to control our country, turn it into a dictatorship-of-the-banks. Which is what we have now. They take our money and use it to corrupt our government.

Here's how it works. Our government is currently loaning money to the Banks and to Wall Street (jointly the Financial Criminals) for .25% interest per year -- 1/4 of 1% interest per year is all they pay. The Financial Criminals take that money, turn around and loan it to Americans for between 8% to 25% per year. What a racket.

Here's the question: why should the Financial Criminals be allowed to sit in that privileged, cushy, lucrative position and take all the money paid by American working people for a loan? Put differently, why do the Financial Criminals get to borrow money from the government at .25%, but the rest of us don't?

It's not right. It's not good. It has the effect of transferring wealth from your average working person to the parasitic class of usually white men who constitute the Financial Criminals. Why would we want to profit and benefit them so much? Why do we punish your average American working person by depriving them of the opportunity to borrow money from the federal government at .25% per year? That's a much better deal than I got on my car loan. I'm a citizen. Why does some scummy corporate Wall Street entity get to borrow at .25%, but I've got to pay 8%?

There is no benefit to society to supporting a system which has the effect of transferring so much money from your average working American into the hands of a few, wealthy, generally dishonest and criminal white men with big offices on Wall Street. Just think of the amount of debt most working people have -- credit card, department stores, car, home -- then ask why the average person should be required to send so much money every month to a few privileged white men on Wall Street so they can become richer than the rest of us can imagine. If people could just pay off their loans at .25% directly to the federal government, they'd be out of debt in a few years.

When President Obama announced his financial "reforms" last week, his prefaced his statement by saying that the current problems we have are the result of all of our wrongdoing. We did this to ourselves. The American people are at fault. If you're out of work, broke, in debt, in foreclosure, homeless, hungry, it's your own fault for being so greedy.

According to the President, the average working person, who maybe buys a new pair of running shoes at some cheap import store once a year, and other than that never buys anything for themself, who can barely afford food for their families, who cannot afford dental so they just have the bad teeth pulled and get more toothless as the years pass, who cannot afford medical care so they die young, the average person is to blame. Not the Financial Criminals, not the politicians who have accepted hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes from Wall Street and the Banks, not the Clinton administration that stripped away regulations to allow Wall Street to plunder and loot our country. No. The fault lies with Joe the Unemployed Factory Worker. Come on Obama. I expect that kind of garbage from a Republican.

If people had a living wage, they wouldn't have to use credit cards because they could afford to live without borrowing every month. So how about passing the EFCA law, Democrats? No unions, no living wage, no jobs, no job security. That's not the fault of the working people -- it's the fault of the Corporations, the CEOs, and the corrupt politicians who have passed laws to let these Corporations take jobs out of this country and to fire people who try to organize unions.

If people didn't have to pay 20-25% interest on their credit cards, they would be paid off already. The crushing debt imposed on Americans is the fault not of working people, but of the Credit Card industry and the corrupt politicians that refuse to make credit card companies obey the usury law, which restricts interest to about 10% max. That's not the fault of working people -- it's the fault of the Financial Criminals and the corrupt politicians.

The foreclosures are also not the fault of working people. Here's what happened: Greenspan slashed interest rates to boost borrowing and spending to try to cover up the disastrous tech collapse in about 2000. He held the interest rates down for so long that it had an artificial and deceptive effect on the housing market. Let's say a house that sold for $250,000 in 1995 with interest at around 6%: monthly payment would have been around $1400, affordable for a two full-time working parent home. By deregulating the Banks and allowing them to make funny loans, and by slashing interest rates, people could borrow a lot more money but pay relatively little per month. All people want to know is how much will it cost me per month. So the same house increased in price to $750,000. Interest at 2%, monthly payments would still be around $1400.

Of course most people could not afford a $750,000 loan in reality, and eventually the loan "adjusts" upwards, people default, foreclosures are the result. As well as the property plunging back down to its "real" value. If we've had a 30% drop to date, hold on, it's still got to go further down before housing is affordable given average wages (and unemployment) in this country. So actually, that too was the result of political actions by Greenspan, inaction by Congress, and greed by the Lenders and the real estate developers. Not the fault of your average working American who, after all, needs shelter. If the price of housing goes up 3 fold, you can't blame people for paying what they have to pay to have a roof over their heads.

Here's what should happen. Banks should be considered something like a public utility. Like the company that delivers water to our communities. The water is owned by the people. The company that delivers it is entitled to a reasonable payment to cover their costs (and maybe a little profit). But they are not allowed to charge as much as they want, to deny people something as basic as water. The charge is (or should be) regulated by the government, since the people own the water to begin.

Banks should be treated the same way. Any lender should be. They can borrow money from the federal government but lending should be restricted, as well as "fees" and interest, to allow the bank to pay their costs and make a modest profit. The federal government should charge the banks more than .25% interest, but the interest the banks can charge to the public should be radically lowered.

President Obama also suggests that any bank that makes a loan then sells it should be required to keep a 5% interest in that loan. That's nonsense. As Mr. Grieder points out, the Bank will just charge the borrower another fee and recoup that 5% up-front.

Here's what should happen instead. Bank makes a loan. They can sell a small percentage of the loans they make to another regulated bank. But the loans cannot be sliced up and sold off in pieces. Any lender who buys the loan must keep 100% of the loan. And all banks must keep a large percentage of the loans they originate. There is no benefit to the people of this country to allowing their mortgages to be securitized -- bundled with thousands of other mortgages, sliced into small percentages, sold around the world. It is in fact simply a highly speculative gambling scheme that encourages fraud, deceit, unsavory practices. There is no benefit in allowing it to continue, and it should be halted.

So, my advice is this: back to the drawing board.