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Monday, November 30, 2009

The Irish Hunger Strikers of Long Kesh Prison - H Block

I asked in a recent post where is our Rosa Parks, where is the person who will do or refuse to do something, will inspire the people of this country to stand up and demand their jobs, benefits, rights, justice. Maybe I should have asked where is our Bobby Sands.

Robert Gerard Sands was an Irish Catholic born and died in the occupied territory known as Northern Ireland, the leader of the Hunger Strikers in the Long Kesh Prison, and the first to die. The demands of the IRA were and are simple: the English should get out, and Ireland should be reunited and independent of all English rule.

The English stole all the land from the Irish Catholics, even passing laws making it illegal for Catholics to own land. Then the English imported Protestants from England, Scotland and Wales to be the landowners, the bosses, to rule over the Catholics. Eventually the "real" Irish threw the English out, but the English managed to hold onto that part of Ireland that they call "Northern" Ireland, although in fact it is simply a part of the nation of Ireland in the North, occupied territory, still partly subject to British rule.

One of the prisons in Northern Ireland was named Long Kesh. The English have changed the name, trying to re-write history, but the hunger strikers of Long Kesh have not been forgotten. Some call Long Kesh a concentration camp, since for decades the English practiced preventative detention, simply rounding up masses of Irish people and throwing them into prison, holding them without charges or rights.


In 1976 the English decided that they would no longer consider the IRA as prisoners of war, or political prisoners, and took away all associated rights. There is no doubt that the IRA is a political organization, paramilitary, resisting the British occupation of a part of Ireland, and the IRA members should properly have been considered prisoners of war. But England decided they would simply re-classify the prisoners and call them criminals. This is probably where Bush and Cheney got the idea of simply re-classifying prisoners to deny them the basic rights guaranteed to prisoners of war. There were a series of protests inside and outside the prison, trying to regain the prisoner of war status for IRA prisoners. The protests included a hunger strike which ended without success.

The IRA prisoners were routinely attacked by gangs of armed guards, beaten and brutalized. There was no justice for the IRA prisoners in Long Kesh.


In 1978, the IRA prisoners began a blanket and no-wash protest. They refused to wear the prisoner uniform issued by the prison and instead would only cover their bodies with a blanket. They also refused to wash or bathe. They also began to spread feces inside the walls of their cells, and to dump their urine buckets into the hallways to force the guards to deal with the same misery as the prisoners. The violence escalated. The prison guards routinely beat the prisoners. The IRA assassinated many of the prison guards. Protestant "loyalists" (loyal to England) assassinated many of the members of the H-Block support committee run outside the prison.


Finally, in 1981, the second hunger strike was begun as a last-ditch effort to gain rights for the political prisoners being held in the Long Kesh prison H-block. There were five demands of the prisoners:

1. The right not to wear a prison uniform;
2. The right not to do prison work;
3. The right of free association with other prisoners, and to organize educational and recreational pursuits;
4. The right to one visit, one letter and one parcel per week;
5. Full restoration of remission lost through the protest.

The hunger strike was a tactic used by the Irish historically in their ongoing struggle for independence from England. Since 1917, and before the Long Kesh hunger strikers, there were 12 Irish patriots who had died on hunger strikes, all standing against British rule.

Bobby Sands was the first prisoner in Long Kesh to go on the hunger strike, and his suffering grabbed the attention of the world. Among other things, he was elected to Parliament during the strike, which further enraged the despicable Margaret Thatcher, then-Prime Minister of England, and all the Protestants in Northern Ireland who supported her.



Margaret Thatcher refused to grant any rights to the prisoners or to intervene in any way to try to save their lives. International interest and concern grew. The Pope sent an envoy to try to negotiate a settlement. As media reported that Bobby Sands was near death, the English and the Protestants remained cold, responding that if he wanted to commit suicide he was free to do so.

Bobby Sands died on May 5, 1981, after sixty-six days of his hunger strike, at the age of twenty-seven, leading to rioting throughout the occupied part of Northern Ireland. 100,000 of his supporters attended his funeral. Thatcher continued her belligerant and arrogant attitude, stating that Sands chose to take his own life, and he was a criminal.

Nine more hunger strikers died in the following weeks. Thatcher continued to ridicule the deaths, calling them the "last card" to be played by these criminals.

Finally, the families of some of the strikers began to intervene and insist on medical intervention to save their lives. By then, the British had received much international criticism, and organizations on both sides began to get involved in trying to bring about a settlement. Finally one was reached with partial concessions to the prisoners. Quietly, and later, most of the prisoners' demands were met.

The ten hunger strikers who died in 1981 in Long Kesh prison are as follows: Bobby Sands, Francis Hughes, Raymond McCreesh, Patsy O'Hara, Joe McDonnell, Martin Hurson, Kevin Lynch, Kieran Doherty, Thomas McElwee, Michael Devine.

Margaret Thatcher became one of the most hated people in the IRA. Three years after the Long Kesh H-Block hunger strike, the IRA bombed the Conservative party conference being held in the Brighton hotel, killing five people. Margaret Thatcher narrowly escaped death in that bombing.


Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Catholics in Northern Ireland, began participating more actively in political elections after the hunger strike, and there is now a power-sharing arrangement among the Catholics and Protestants, although it is tenuous. Until England gets out altogether, and until Ireland is reunited, there will likely continue to be problems in Northern Ireland. It is a gerrymandered area that was cut off from Ireland proper, artificially created to set up an area in which the Protestants would have the majority, Protestants loyal to England and not to Ireland. It is a bastard political entity.

The death of Bobby Sands and the 9 other hunger strikers led to international condemnation of England and specifically of the bigoted Irish-hating Margaret Thatcher. IRA membership immediately grew in response to the deaths, and its fundraising improved dramatically. There were riots throughout Ireland and in parts of England.

The seat in Parliament to which Sands had been elected was next taken by Owen Carron who ran as an "Anti H-Block Proxy Political Prisoner." There were demonstrations and marches in Italy, in Paris (where thousands marched holding posters of Sands and chanted "The Ira will conquer"). Pravda described the death of Sands as "another tragic page in the grim chronicle of oppression, discrimination, terror and violence" in Ireland. Many cities in France re-named streets after Bobby Sands. In Iran, the government re-named the street that ran in front of the English embassy. It had formerly been called Winston Churchill Boulevard but was renamed Bobby Sands Street. Much of the American media unfortunately supported Thatcher during the age of Reagan. However, the Longshoremen's Union had a 24-hour boycott of British ships, and Irish bars in New York City were closed for two hours in mourning in honor of Sands.

There are murals all over Ireland honoring the Hunger Strikers who died, as well as memorials in countries throughout the world including one in Hartford, Connecticut, in Sydney, Australia, and in Havana Cuba.




Who knows better the brutal nature of the English than the people of India? The Hindustan Times reported that Margaret Thatcher had allowed a Member of Parliament to die of starvation, an incident which had never before occurred "in a civilised country." Certain members in the Indian Parliament stood for a silent tribute to Bobby Sands.

Here's a video that shows something of the Hunger Strikers and Long Kesh prison, H-block.



What could be learned from this? First, that all people want to be free and independent. Second, that an occupying foreign government can imprison and murder the local civilians, but every generation will give rise to another group willing to fight, kill and die for their freedom. Third, that when governments seek to torture, imprison without trial or justice, and deny basic human rights and dignity to the people of another land, to kidnap and imprison without trial, to deny prisoner of war status and rights in an effort to cover up injustice, those governments always will be exposed as corrupt, always will be internationally condemned, even if it takes a long time. Everything the U.S. has done in the middle east has already been done by other corrupt governments in other lands. The U.S. will fail, and its efforts are immoral and unlawful and wrong. History will judge the U.S. as having turned into just another empire trying to enslave the world and steal its resources.

What did the people of England gain from all of this? The "right" to sneer at the Irish Catholics? At what cost? Some of the sports teams from Scotland and England to this day, when they are playing against Irish teams, will sing and chant demeaning songs about Bobby Sands. So what the Protestants gained was the right to look down on the Irish Catholics. Lots of people died, but they don't care as long as they continue to be allowed to sneer at the Irish Catholics. Not very different from the current U.S. war against the Muslims in which American citizens are encouraged to sneer at the Muslims throughout the world. That is the "benefit" of Empire. No jobs, no healthcare, no education, but they get the right to look down on some other group of people, and cheer when they die.

Bobby Sands, "The People's Own MP":



I saw a great movie this week-end about the Hunger Strikers of Long Kesh Prison, named "Hunger." I highly recommend it. It's an incredible sacrifice, at 27, for a young man to give his life in a fight for the rights of his country, but to do it by starvation is unimaginable. The film makes it quite real. These people, the Hunger Strikers of Long Kesh prison, H-Block, were fighting for their rights, the right to political independence, the rights to justice. When will the people of this country stand up to fight for their jobs, their country, fight against the corruption that has turned our national government into just another auction house in which politicians sell their votes and corporations buy them? Where is our Bobby Sands?

Lyndon Baines Obama Prepares To Escalate War

On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, around 5:00 p.m., "The Commander in Chief ... delivered the orders..." [for the escalation of the U.S. War Against Afghanistan] according to Obama's press secretary Robert Gibbs.

It's always a bad sign when the President of the United States starts having his staff refer to him as the "Commander in Chief." Next it will be "Emperor for Life." Why can't they be satisfied with being called the President? "Commander in Chief" has such a militaristic tone to it. Yes, I know the Constitution says the President is the Commander in Chief, but do we need to always emphasize that over the primary role of the President, which is to preside over civil society, to help the people inside this country, to guide the Congress and provide leadership to create internal strength through good jobs, strong communities, affordable housing, education, healthcare.

I would prefer the president call himself the Commander of Cheese. He could issue a presidential order that the brie be placed out at least one hour before the guests arrive, and that St. Andre must be served at every meal.

Why do these men who are elected president become so enamored of the idea of being warmongers, of killing people in other countries? They think it makes them powerful instead of pathetic. They believe that, just like when they were children, they can be super-heroes just by the push of a button, ordering drones to kill bad guys, and ignoring the reports that they actually landed in the middle of a wedding and killed lots of civilians. No wonder people hate us with this type of madness being run out of our nation's capital, missiles being launched on a hunch, with no accountability for the death and destruction we cause to others.

Instead of all those photos of Obama reading about Lincoln and FDR, I wish we could have seen him reading about presidents who presided during peacetime, or presidents who were destroyed by the pursuit of war. But all these men seem to become so enthralled with the idea of becoming military leaders. They love the idea of bringing peace to the world by killing people who stand in their way. It doesn't work.

Lyndon Baines Johnson was a man who championed programs to end poverty, civil rights programs to help the excluded become part of the mainstream. But all his great society efforts were overwhelmed by his decision to escalate the U.S. War Against Vietnam. He listened to his advisor, McNamara, just as Obama is reportedly listening to his advisors, Generals McChrystal and Petraeus, even though neither one of them has shown a lick of common sense in all these wars. Too bad Obama doesn't realize that many of the military leaders just want to "win," no matter what the cost, even if they have to kill every single person in the country. Winning, like a football game, is everything.

The Nation recently titled their11/9/09 issue "Obama's Fateful Choice" re Afghanistan, and included many good articles from knowledgeable people as to why Obama should reject the general's recommendation that he escalate the war. For one, see Robert Dreyfuss's article "How To Get Out" at http://www.thenation.com/doc/20091109/dreyfuss (he recommends Obama fire McChrystal and Petraeus, immediately dismantle the U.S. empire being created in that region, withdraw most of the U.S. troops over a two-year period, convene an international conference involving all of Afghanistan's neighbors and all the major groups from inside Afghanistan and create a coalition interim caretaker government, and create a Marshall Plan type of financial program to help Afghanistan rebuild its country.) Sounds good to me. We helped to break it, we should help pay to fix it.

Nobody can explain why we're even in Afghanistan, or what it would mean to "win" that war. It's just more mindless killing, more death, more madness, more insanity. The Graveyard of Empires. Doesn't anyone in our government listen?

In the meantime unemployment keeps going up along with foreclosures, several of the major states of the nation are bankrupt, there are cut-backs in teachers, libraries, cops, firefighters, courts because the states have no money, millions cannot afford health care and the Congress's answer is to hand the health insurance and doctor and hospital and drug criminals billions in give-aways in the "health reform" proposal which does nothing to reform, does nothing to help, and does nothing to increase the health of the nation, although it guarantees very lucrative bribes and kick-backs to the Democratic politicians for years to come.

How many men in this country will support the escalation of this war even though they do not know why we are there, they are unemployed and facing foreclosure? How successful is the brainwashing done on men that they will support war and the killing of others at the expense of safeguarding their own families, or arranging for healthcare or housing or shelter. They think they're being heroic, but they're just stupid.

As for the rest of us, for most of the people who supported Obama, we have been sold out, betrayed. We have no one in the national government who is going to help us. And now the war is being escalated while the U.S. is secretly waging a new war in Pakistan, and planning one in Iran. This war escalation will also undoubtedly be used as the rationalization for why there can be no domestic programs to help the people of our own country. I did not expect Obama to have a magic wand or to make miracles, but I did expect him to at least try to set a new direction for the country. You know -- Change.

Obama is making a very bad decision, and a lot of people are going to die because he failed to read about Richard Nixon and Lyndon Baines Johnson and the war in Vietnam. Instead, Obama apparently sees himself as the victorious Lincoln or FDR. Delusions of "winning."

Somebody should send Obama a book about Johnson, or send him The Fog of War. I think he needs to change his reading materials.

"President Barack Obama has issued orders for the implementation of his Afghanistan strategy to military officials and cabinet members, spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Monday.
'The commander in chief delivered the orders,' said Gibbs, adding that the calls went out from the Oval Office between 5 and 6 p.m on Sunday afternoon, communicating his strategy to allied world leaders."

"Obama's strategy is believed to include an escalation of approximately 30,000 troops...."

See Sam Stein reporting at Huffington Post:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/11/30/gibbs-the-commander-in-ch_n_373860.html

Michael Moore is appalled by the decision to escalate the war. So am I.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-moore/an-open-letter-to-preside_b_373457.html

Finally, here is a link to the website for the Campaign for Peace & Democracy, and its petition calling for an end to the U.S. Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan. You can sign the petition or at least read it. http://cpdweb.org/stmts/1014/stmt.shtml

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

That Loud Sucking Noise You Hear Is The Sound Of Democratic Congressional Seats Going To Republicans.

(Here's a good slogan for the Republicans in 2010, and 2012. Go ahead Democrats, keep laughing at Palin. Who was it that said: "It's the economy stupid?" Wasn't it that Republican Bill Clinton? He won on that slogan.)

It's like talking to a wall. Or maybe it's like a bad dream that won't end. Didn't we all elect Democrats last year, send them money, make phone calls, put on bumper stickers and lapel pins and put out yard signs, go door to door, stand on streetcorners, to get Democrats elected, get a majority in Congress and take back the White House, because the Democrats promised that if we did that for them, they would devote all their energies to solving our problems and helping the people? Wasn't that the deal?

Then why is it that all I hear about the Democrats is that they are acting just like the Republicans, spending all their time soliciting bribes from the corporate interests and selling out the people? If you like e-bay, then check out C-Bay, where every member of Congress auctions off their office, their power, their vote to the highest bidder every single day. And guess what? The citizens are broke, and they are never the highest bidder.

President Obama is going to escalate the war in Afghanistan, send in more troops just like Lyndon Johnson did, more and then more again, because his advisor says he should. I've got a suggestion. Since nobody can explain why we are still in Afghanistan, since the only reason for going there in the first place was to find bin Laden (he's gone) and stop al Queda from holding training camps (they're gone), and since nobody in the government has any explanation as to why we continue to occupy that country, and since the only apparent reason is that the oil and gas companies want to run pipelines across Afghanistan but the people will not consent, then let's just leave.

Whatever the original purpose, it has now become just a misuse of our military to act as muscle and goons for the oil and gas corporations, who for decades have asked permission from Afghanistan to run pipelines across their territory, and for decades that permission has been denied. Why else are we there? We're not "helping" the people. We're "killing" the people. For what reason? And now Obama is going to announce that he will send 32,000 more troops into Afghanistan. Escalate the war.

But there's no rational explanation for continuing the U.S. War Against Afghanistan, now over 8 years long, longer than we spent fighting against Hitler and Japan combined during World War II. This has become a never-ending war designed to enrich corporate interests, establish a permanent empire with permanent bases in foreign lands to enrich a few oil corporations, while Americans die for greed, and their relatives back home have no jobs, are losing their homes, and have no healthcare. The Democrats are doing the bidding of the oil and gas corporations. At a cost to the U.S. public of $65 Billion/Year before the escalation, with $223 Billion spent on the war against Afghanistan since 2001.

Our economy has been destroyed by "free" trade agreements, tax cuts for the rich, and needless wars of aggression combined with looting of our treasury by Wall Street and the private war contractors. We cannot afford to continue along this path. We voted for change, but we're not getting it.

The Economic Policy Institute, the AFL-CIO, the Center for Community Change, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the NAACP, and the National Council of La Raza have just issued "An Urgent Call for Action to Stem the U.S. Jobs Crisis," link below. Is anyone listening? We have a crisis of unemployment and unaffordable housing and healthcare. Our economy is not working for the majority of the people.

The government is not being forthright in dealing with the unemployment crisis, hiding the real numbers in footnotes and appendages to the Department of Labor monthly reports. They are mimicking the nonsense we hear from the talking-heads on the financial networks, that Recovery Is here Hallelujah. Well there is no recovery for the American working people who are unemployed, and those who soon will be. Where are the jobs programs?

"The U.S. unemployment rate exceeded 10% in October for the first time in a quarter century. Nearly 16 million Americans who are able and willing to work cannot find a job. More than one out of every three unemployed workers has been out of a job for six months or more. The situation facing African American and Latino workers is even bleaker, with unemployment at 15.7% and 13.1%, respectively."

(How long before the Republicans start calling homeless shelters "Democratic Housing Projects?" I would if I was on their side. The Democrats referred to the shantytowns of the unemployed and homeless in the Great Depression as "Hoovervilles," after the then-president Hoover, who lost the election because he failed to help the people.)

"These grim statistics don’t capture the full extent of the hardship. There are another 9 million people working part time because they cannot find full-time work. Millions of others have given up looking for a job, and so aren’t counted in the official unemployment figures. Altogether, 17.5% of the labor force is underemployed—more than 27 million Americans, including one in four minority workers. Last, given individuals moving in and out of jobs, we can expect a third of the work force, and 40% of workers of color, to be unemployed or underemployed at some point over the next year."

http://www.epi.org/analysis_and_opinion/entry/an_urgent_call_for_action_to_stem_the_u.s._jobs_crisis/
I don't agree entirely with their analysis, or their fawning over the Democrats by praising the recovery efforts made. In fact, I don't agree at all with that praise. Way too little has been done, and way too much has been given to Wall Street and to Wars.

But look at the underlined sentence. These groups are predicting that at some point during 2010, 1/3 of the entire work force will be unemployed, and 40% of minority workers will be unemployed. The most recent Labor Department report showed 17% total "actual" unemployment including those forced into part-time work, and including those whose benefits have run out. Historically, black workers faced twice the overall number, which means that unemployment in the black community could be up to the 1/3 level already.

Below is a link to a good article by Michelle Chen at Air America in which they report that the unemployment rate among young black men is over 30%. They also report that among Americans who are employed, who have jobs, only 30% of them have what is considered a good job, meaning one with a living wage and with benefits. Only 30% of the jobs in this country are decent jobs. The ones we used to have -- such as manufacturing and construction -- were destroyed by reckless monetary and trade policies instituted by the federal government with full knowledge of the effect they would have. http://airamerica.com/economy/11-24-2009/black-unemployment-reaches-epidemic-levels/

In other words, the trade agreements and the monetary policy were intended to shift more of the wealth to the rich, and to crush the American workers. That's what was predicted, and that is what has happened.

"That loud sucking noise you hear is the sound of American jobs going south to Mexico" -- Ross Perot, candidate for U.S. President in 1992, arguing against the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Just as Perot predicted, the jobs went to Mexico and then went to China. And once the U.S. government decided to allow corporations to use slave labor, here and abroad, millions of illegal immigrants were trucked into the U.S. to take even more American jobs. What has happened was predicted and was caused by policies adopted by the U.S. government. They should be held accountable, and should be held responsible to fix the problems that they caused.

(How long before the Republicans start saying that "Democratic Jobs" consist of standing in line waiting for an unemployment check.)

Every person in the Senate is a Millionaire. They don't need to find a job because they are paid so much money in bribes and kick-backs. But maybe it's time they started to understand what it's like for average Americans.

For example. How about if everyone in Congress forgoes a paycheck, benefits, medical care, dental care, and agrees that any money given to them in bribes or kick-backs (what they call "campaign contributions") will go instead into the public treasury until unemployment is down to 2%. How about if they agree to live in tents on the mall and give up their homes so they can understand what it's like to be homeless. How about if they move their kids into failing schools and leave them there until all the schools in this country have adequate facilities, staffing and funding. How about a little shared sacrifice?

The Democrats are full of excuses and fables. They "saved" us by giving hundreds of billions of dollars of our money to the criminals on Wall Street. They have "saved" millions of jobs. Nonsense. They have done nothing to help the people. If they don't get real jobs programs, federally-funded programs now, and end these disastrous wars, they will lose their jobs too. I guess then they will understand what it means to be unemployed. Although they will always have their millions in "campaign contributions" to keep them comfortable.

I don't mean "make-work." We can start by re-building the infrastructure. Let's build a light-rail system across the entire nation. That will create jobs. Let's build clinics and hospitals in every community, non-profit, then staff them and run them for free. That will create jobs. Let's invest in green jobs and end our dependence on oil. Let's restructure agriculture, re-invest in local and family farms and eliminate agri-business from controlling our food source.

End the wars. Provide immediate medical and dental care, free of charge, to all unemployed people and their families, and to anyone who cannot afford to pay for the unconscionable amounts charged by the medical industry. Create a real jobs program. Stop caucusing with Joe Lieberman and stop sucking up to the Republicans.

Either the Democrats start creating good jobs for Americans and end these disastrous foreign wars, or they should pack up and get ready to go home.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ruling Class To Unemployed, Sick, Homeless Americans: We Can't Afford To Help You.

It's already started. All the screaming and alarm, the fear-mongering designed to force people to crawl under the coffee table, tremble. No, not the terrorists. Debt. The national debt, individual debt. China, that bad old China, we owe them so much money, it's all their fault because they manipulated their currency. Nonetheless, folks, we're broke so we cannot afford:

National Healthcare
Education for our children
Police
Fire departments
Teachers
Jobs Programs
Social Security
Medicare
Unemployment Insurance
FDIC for failed banks
Courts
Parks
Food Inspection Programs
Job Safety Programs

What have I forgotten?

This is the mantra we can expect to hear for the next 3 years of the Obama administration. The Republicans are singing it, Obama is singing it, the Democrats in congress have already begun singing it. All the money's gone. They gave it to Wall Street to "save" the banks and prevent a financial collapse. They had no choice, they say with a straight face, no choice but to give billions of dollars of taxpayer money to the people on Wall Street who destroyed our economy. No choice but to take millions of dollars in kick-backs and bribes from those same criminals on Wall Street.


Look what a great job they've done, they tell us now, with a straight face. The Democrats have actually put on a silly back-patting celebration recently, claiming that because they gave hundreds of billions of dollars to Wall Street, they "saved" the nation. If they had not given hundreds of billions of dollars to Wall Street, they claim, we would have had serious economic problems. Well, Democrats, look around. I don't know about you, but everybody I know is having serious economic problems. Everybody except the criminals on Wall Street and the politicians they own.

Here's the question I have: what is the purpose of belonging to a nation, being a citizen, joining together, living together, combining our resources if not to create a better life for our own citizens? But none of our politicians are doing that. They act as if the only reason the U.S. exists is to militarily threaten, bomb, invade, attack, occupy all the other nations in the world. Give all the money to the military and to the corporations. Use our military to destroy and/or subdue the people of the world so that U.S. corporations can go into other countries and steal all their resources. Everything for the rich, nothing for the rest of us. That is how our government is run, like a pack of thugs, goons, punks, liars, criminals, thieves. Instead of "Land of the Brave Home of the Free" we should call it "Land of the Rich, Home of the Traitors." These politicians were elected by the citizens and have the sole duty to act in our best interests. They do not act in our best interests. They sell their office and they betray the people.

Yes, no question Bush and Cheney created the terrible problems we face. Although we should mention that the Democrats in Congress sat silently like cowards and did nothing to oppose Bush and Cheney. Some of them even enthusiastically endorsed and supported the illegal wars, the kidnapping, the torture, the murders. The Democrats are in power now, and instead of changing things (like they promised to do) they have ratified most of what Bush and Cheney did, have used their power to enrich themselves by soliciting bribes from corporations, are continuing the wars and starting new ones, and are doing nothing to help the people.

We're continuing wars, starting new wars in Pakistan, settling in for the permanent occupation of Iraq, escalating the war in Afghanistan, are in the process of taking over 7 military bases in Columbia to use to launch coups and/or military invasions of other countries throughout South America, just sponsored a coup in Honduras. Everything for the military, everything for empire, everything for corporate theft of overseas resources, everything to help the corporations create more slave-labor nations for their use, and nothing for the people.

That will be the explanation. President Obama, Senator Reid, all you Democrats, what are you going to do to help the citizens of this country, to create jobs, to provide affordable healthcare? Response: we cannot do anything because we must pay down the debt, and cannot afford anything for the people.

They're actually getting all puffed up about this ridiculous health care bill the Democrats have put together, acting like they're doing something for us. The Democrats in Congress keep saying they will "fight" to get this bill approved, but it's such a terrible fraud on the public. Most of the money goes to the health insurance industry, the doctors groups, hospitals, and drug dealers. The Democrats have already received hundreds of millions of dollars from the insurance industry, doctors, hospitals and drug dealers as bribes to make sure nothing is done by Congress to help the citizens.

For the majority of the population, out of the $800+ Billion in estimated costs, we get nothing. A few extremely poor people may get a clinic, but for the rest of us, there is nothing. No reduction in charges. Why can't we have national health care so that every citizen can go to the doctor and get treated, go to the dentist and get their teeth fixed, just as a matter of basic decency? I saw a doctor for 15 minutes in the emergency room and was billed $1200. People cannot afford to pay the unconscionable charges of the medical industry. But this bill by the Democrats does nothing to help the citizens, does nothing to reduce the charges. Thanks for nothing.

Unemployment, as shown by the animated map below, is increasing at an ominous rate. The unemployment rate reported by the Department of Labor does not give us the true story of the problems. They admit in their tables that when you include people who have been out of work so long that their unemployment benefits have expired, and include people who can only get part-time work even though they want full time, and cannot support themselves with part-time wages, then the actual national unemployment rate is about 17%. Other economists note that the Department of Labor also does not include all the self-employed people -- insurance sales, tax preparers, CPAs, lawyers -- who simply have no work. If they were also included, the actual unemployment might as 25% or more. Isn't it time to panic? Isn't it about time the government paid attention to the citizens of this country instead of spending all their time figuring out how to murder the citizens of other countries?

It's hard to read the map in the animation below, but the simple story it shows is that the darker the shading, the higher the unemployment. It has engulfed both coasts and is on the march towards middle America. Exactly when are the Democrats planning to do something to help us?

Nothing for the People. Everything for Wall Street. You know that song "It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas? I think we should change the lyrics to: "It's beginning to sound a lot like Clinton ....

Under the Clinton administration, the government passed "free" trade laws to allow U.S. corporations to take as many jobs as they want outside of this country, throwing millions of Americans out of work. Nobody should be surprised that the plan has succeeded. Thanks again, Bill. Barack Obama and the current Democrats in Congress have promised us that they would fix the problem, get us back to work, help the people. So far they've violated every single promise they've made. Do they really think people will vote for them again after this level of betrayal? I won't.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Glass Broke Itself. The Jobs Moved To Another Country. The Democrats Blew It.


I took Spanish language classes beginning in the 4th grade. I loved being able to speak another language with my classmates, however limited we were in vocabulary and grammar. The sentence structure is different. That's why they teach you not to try to translate from English to Spanish. Just "think" in Spanish, and it will be easier. One of the things I loved about the language was the lack of blame. Instead of saying "Mary broke the glass," we were taught to say "the glass broke itself." I thought that was such a terrific idea. The shoe lost itself, the pants covered themselves in grass stains.

I've seen the same structure become a part of our current information-delivery process from the Democrats in control of our country. The Democrats who promised they would help us, but who have only helped themselves to bigger bribes, more illegal and unconstitutional wars of aggression, more cover-ups and theft. Those Democrats, the ones we got elected and who have been spitting in our faces ever since.

For example, let's talk about unemployment. "Real" unemployment is reported at around 11% by the Labor Department but, when the people who have been thrown off the unemployment rolls are included, and the people who lost their jobs but get part-time or temporary work here and there, but not enough to support themselves are included, the "real" unemployment rate is generally considered to be around 17%. This does not actually cover the whole group of unemployed, however, because it leaves out all the self-employed, independent contractors, whose work has all but disappeared in the last few years.

As many companies became more sophisticated in how to crush their workers, they fired employees and hired contract workers that they paid per hour, but no benefits, no paid holidays or vacations, no pension, no guaranteed work beyond day-to-day. When those independent contractors, many of whom are professionals, are not given anymore work, they are not included in the figures of the unemployed, because among other things, they don't qualify for unemployment insurance. So it is entirely possible that our actual unemployment rate is over 20%.

We are told that many of the jobs are not coming back. The jobs left the country, just like the glass broke itself. We are told that a manufacturing job making cars, for example, got up and got a passport and moved somewhere else. As if "Jobs" as a category have self-will, decision-making abilities.

http://www.rgemonitor.com/roubini-monitor/257995/a_tale_of_two_american_economies

No. The jobs did not leave the country. The U.S. corporations took the jobs out of the country and gave them to slave labor in third world countries. The U.S. politicians encouraged and assisted the corporations in taking the jobs out of the country. Who else remembers Bill Clinton explaining that Nafta was good because even though all these jobs would leave the country, we would all be so rich we wouldn't have to work for a living -- we'd just spend our days monitoring our stock portfolios and trying to decide how to spend all that money. Didn't quite work out like that, did it.


Tech was a bust, of course, a big fraud on the public. And when the market burst at the turn of the century, Greenspan decided to create another bubble, this one in real estate, by lowering interest rates that are paid by banks to the U.S. government to borrow money. And Clinton and Rubin eliminated many of the financial regulations which were in place to prevent the financial institutions from stealing all our money. The result was that real estate ballooned, the cost of housing tripled, loans were made to people who did not qualify, people could no longer really "afford" to buy a home except with funny loans that temporarily led them to believe they could afford to buy, and now we have foreclosures, empty neighborhoods, an entire industry (real estate) in shambles, and many peoples' lives are ruined.

I haven't even mentioned the fact that entire states are on the edge of bankruptcy. What will be the effect when California declares bankruptcy? Its current expenditures are grossly in excess of its income, partly because its citizens are out of work, its businesses are closing down, so nobody's paying taxes to the state. Arnold, the typical Republican, wants to sell off all the assets of the state: sell the lakes, sell the forrests, sell the water, sell the land, sell everything to his wealthy friends, and leave the state permanently broke, much like a third world country whose assets were stripped away and the people left with nothing.

Beyond that, what happens when states are bankrupt? Services are cut. Schools will be closed. Teachers are laid off, so class size will double or triple. Police and fire will be let go, libraries closed. Roads will not be maintained. The courts are already shutting down one day/month to save money, but what happens when it's one week/month? No more justice system, or at least not one that works. Parks will be auctioned off to Arnold's rich friends. It would be ironic if the only profitable industry in the entire state turned out to be the Medical Marijuana stores. With this level of misery among the citizenry, who could blame people for just lighting up and zoning out.


I wake up every morning thinking I'm on a lower deck on the Titanic, and I wonder what all that screaming from the other passengers is about. Then I remember: it's not a boat going down, it's my country.

http://ampedstatus.com/the-critical-unraveling-of-us-society

What are the Democrats doing to help the people of this country in the worst depression since 1929? Nothing. They did not create the problem. But they told us for years that if we would get them into office, they would fix the problems. Instead, they have simply started grabbing up the bribes for themselves. They're just like Republicans: liars, warmongers, corrupt to the bone.


And this isn't a question of the public not giving the Democrats enough time. Time to do what? Every single proposal they have come up with since they took office is designed to further crush the American people. Giving hundreds of billions to Wall Street, no strings attached? They claim they needed to save the banks, but even assuming that was true (which I don't believe) why wouldn't they attach strict conditions to any assistance? Like slash salaries, no bonuses, pass usury laws, things like that. No, this wasn't to save the banks -- it was just another giveaway of public money to the companies on Wall Street that funded the Democrats in the 2008 elections. The same Wall Street businesses that have created this international financial disaster were given money by the Democrats. They should have been thrown in prison and had their assets seized.

Sarah Palin? She's a red herring. Khalid Sheik Mohammad? Red herring. Tea-baggers? Red herring. Glenn Beck? Red herring. Republicans, Boener, the drug addict on the radio? All red herrings. The Democrats are in complete control of the government. They have the majority in both houses of Congress and the president is a Democrat. The Democrats in Congress can pass any law they want, and Obama will sign it. They are simply choosing not to help the people. That's why we hear so much about the red herrings. It's a diversionary tactic.

I keep getting e-mails from Democratic groups, Obama groups asking me to give money to help keep the Democrats in office. They've got to be kidding. Why would I? What have they done for me? Not a thing. But the e-mails are hysterical talking about how awful these other people are, what a danger to society. I don't know about that. I'm beginning to think that somebody who is openly nuts like that crazy Bachman lady is less a danger than somebody who is slick and deceitful. At least with the first category, you can see them coming and try to duck. With the Democrats, we're all so stupid we not only invited them into our homes, we actually gave them our money. And then they partied with Bernie and all the other con artists, and laughed at us behind our backs.

The Democrats are pursuing the corporate foreign-war agenda of Bush and Cheney. Not only are we staying permanently in Iraq (or at least for 30 years, until all the oil has been stolen) but we're escalating the war in Afghanistan, we're secretly conducting a war in Pakistan, are planning a war against Iran, have just staged a coup against a democratically-elected president in Honduras and are funding the fascist who took over, a man we trained at the School of Americas, we are in the process of taking over 7 military bases in Columbia from which the U.S. plans to attack and overthrow the governments of Venezuela (Hugo Chavez), Bolivia (Evo Morales), Nicaragua, maybe Brazil. Why would the U.S. want to attack those countries? Because U.S. corporations have been running those countries and stealing their resources for years now, but populist movements have led their governments to take back control of their own resources.
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article24002.htm

Billions of dollars, hundreds of billions of dollars of our money, often borrowed money, being spent to have our military occupy, destabilize, murder, bomb, destroy countries all over the world. You know what they say: a billion here, a billion there, eventually it really begins to add up. All that money being spent on the military should be spent here in the U.S. to create jobs for Americans. Instead, we get nothing but the hatred of people all around the world because we are killing their people and stealing their resources.

http://www.coha.org/unsettling-revelations-regarding-u-s-lease-of-colombian-military-bases/

Even this stupid healthcare. What a joke it's been. The Democrats keep telling us that they can't give us anything because the Republicans won't let them. But the Republicans have no power. The Democrats could have used 51 votes to set up a national healthcare program, and give every American the opportunity to buy into a non-profit healthcare system. But before the first word was spoken in D.C. about healthcare, Obama held secret meetings with the health insurance industry, the hospital owners, the drug sellers, and the doctors' lobbies, and cut a deal with them. What's that deal? Well, why do you think the meetings were secret? To prevent the public from knowing what really went on. My best guess it that the Medical Industries have all promised to pay big bucks to the Democrats in exchange for the Democrats failing to provide the people with a national healthcare system. At least that's a reasonable inference. Secret meetings; public announcement there would be no single-payer; lots of talk about a "public option," which turns out to be less than nothing; no restrictions on insurance premiums or other charges. Thanks for nothing.


The Democrats broke themselves. They deserve to lose the elections in 2010 and thereafter. They are not doing anything to help us, and the sooner that progressives realize that, the sooner we will get down to the hard business of creating a new political group that will really represent the working people in this country.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hell No, She Won't Go.

This is a terrific story about the collapse of empire, the degradation of the citizens of our country, the brutality of the U.S. government in its quest to steal the resources of all the world, expand the empire, plunder, pillage, ignore and destroy families, women, babies. What a disgrace.

There is a woman named Alexis Hutchinson who is a cook in the Army. She is also a single mother with a baby, an infant under the age of one. She was ordered to deploy to Afghanistan but did not get on the flight because she had no one to take care of her baby while she was overseas. She told her superiors before the flight that she had a sudden problem with finding care for her baby. The Army told her tough luck, stick the kid in foster care, but get her ass on the plane.

Hutchinson explained that her mother had originally agreed to take the baby, but at the last minute decided she simply could not do it. Hutchinson's mother, the baby's Grandma, was already caring for three other family members who have health problems. Isn't that just so typical of modern America? When people have problems or get sick, it all falls on the women to care for them, usually with no help whatsoever from the government. And now, when a woman with an infant who's not even a year old suddenly has no one who can take her baby while she's gone, the military tells her to stick the kid into institutional care. With strangers.

What does the military care about babies, anyway? Who exactly is it that we've been killing in Iraq and Afghanistan? It certainly includes lots of babies. So don't look to the military for compassion or support for the babies of the world.

Hutchinson has been arrested by the military. She's being held on a base. They took the kid away from her, too, and put the baby into some institutional care facility on the base. Think about that for a minute. The military arrested this young woman, 21 year old woman, and took away her infant son and stuck him into some military institutional facility. Any reason mom couldn't keep the kid, other than to torture her? Finally, they let grandma take the baby, at least for now. I'm surprised they didn't deploy the kid, too.

As soon as the mom got an attorney, the military started backing down from their position. Now they say they would never force a single woman with an infant to stick the baby into institutional care. Now they say that.

It turns out that Grandma had originally said she could keep the baby. But life has a way of piling up on all of us, even the grandmas in this country. And now Grandma's own mother got sick, so she's taking care of her, and her sister got sick, so she's taking care of her too. Grandma also has another daughter who has special needs, and she has to take care of her too. In order to get by, Grandma runs a daycare out of her home. Poor Grandma, sounds like she's got a tough life. Ultimately, Grandma realized she could not take on an infant on top of everything else. Who can blame her? Well, actually, the U.S. Army can. Suck it up Grandma, Uncle Sam is holding your daughter in jail, so either you take the baby or they'll stick it in a home with a bunch of strangers.

I'm thinking of Rosa Parks. Rosa Parks was a poor black woman who worked for a living every day, and every day she would get on the public bus at the end of the day for a long ride home, and every day she would have to go to the back of the bus, behind some line they drew on the floor, and if there were no seats in the back of the bus then she had to stand the whole way home, even if there were empty seats in the front of the bus. Black people were not allowed in the front of the bus.

I'm thinking of Rosa Parks, and I'm wondering if this young Army woman was white, and her little baby was white, whether anybody in the U.S. military would have thrown this young woman into jail and taken her baby away from her, whether they would have told her to stick him in foster care. I'm just thinking that some babies, white babies, are cared for. But the non-white babies are too often considered disposable. Just like their mothers are.

And all of this for what? To pursue an ongoing war against the people of Afghanistan for reasons nobody can articulate. Four airplanes were hijacked in the U.S. on 9/11 2001 mostly by people from Saudi Arabia, funded by rich people from Saudi Arabia. And in response, W and Cheney invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. Not Saudi Arabia. We have now been in Afghanistan for over eight years. For what? Originally, we were going to go get bin Laden, but then W allowed bin Laden to escape and go into Pakistan, where he has been left alone. Most of his supporters left Afghanistan too. So then we decided that we weren't just looking for al Queda, we were now going to fight against "Insurgents." That means anybody who opposes having the U.S. military occupy their country. But who wouldn't? Nobody wants to be occupied by a foreign power. And the young lady whose baby they've taken away, the young lady they've thrown in jail and traumatized and humiliated, the young lady they are threatening to give a harsh prison sentence, what was the imperative nature of her assignment in Afghanistan? She's a cook.

And now, the Congress has just voted to send another $46 million to Columbia, of all places, to begin sprucing up just one of seven military bases the U.S. is taking over inside that country for the purpose of -- get this -- fighting against terrorism. One military representative has admitted that the U.S. plans to occupy Columbia, in seven permanent bases, and use that as the jumping-off point to attack all the other countries in South American who do not please the Empire, countries that are considered to be anti-American, like Hugo Chavez in Venezuela (lots of oil there), Evo Morales in Bolivia, Nicaragua, all the countries that are entering into their own trade agreements for their mutual benefit. What's wrong with these people? Don't they realize that they are just colonies of the U.S., that they have no rights?

Poor Ms. Hutchinson. Poor women and babies everywhere, poor people, poor world. The U.S. military is on the march intent on expanding its Empire to every country in the world. We're doomed. Where is our Rosa Parks? Where are our leaders who can inspire the citizens of this country to demand an end to this madness, to sit down or stand up or march or do something. When an empire begins stealing women's babies, and murdering other women's babies, isn't that enough to rouse the citizenry?

Monday, November 16, 2009

The First Thing We Do, Let's Kill All the Lawyers.


"The First Thing We Do, Let's Kill All The Lawyers."

These are the words spoken by that great citizen Dick the Butcher in Shakespeare's Henry VI. Dick the Butcher was a follower of the anarchist Jack Cade. As you've probably read a few million times, Dick the Butcher wanted to kill the lawyers because he feared they would stand up for democracy and all that is right and good in the world. Hah!

I suppose attorneys as a group are no worse than politicians, stockbrokers, bankers, brokers, salespeople. But maybe that's the point. We expect them to be better. Why? Because they spent 3 years studying the Constitution, the original creation of our country, the ideals and principles upon which it was founded, the sacrifices of so many, the progress made over the years to include those originally excluded like women, blacks, other minorities. They study the great legal writers of our nation who have explained the importance of democracy and equality and freedom, the importance of defending our constitution and the Bill of Rights. And because they have studied all this, we expect attorneys to be law abiding, to have a love of country, to want to uphold and enforce the laws and the principles.

Sadly, most attorneys are quite the opposite. They learn early in their training that they will be judged by their bosses mostly based on the number of hours they bill to clients, that they can flat-out lie about work they claim to have done and nobody will say a thing about it, that they can lie to the court and, if they get away with it, there will hi-fives all around. If they overbill and overcharge the clients, better still. There simply are no ethics or scruples inside most law firms. It is all about bringing in the money.

Let me give you just one quick example. Most attorneys have a written contract that they and their clients sign that reflects the terms and conditions under which the attorney will represent the client. It does not say anything about charging clients $150/hour for a secretary's time in stuffing an envelope, but that is exactly what many of them do.

Many attorneys no longer have legal secretaries and instead only hire paralegals, who have to be qualified legal secretaries, but also have an additional two-years of training and a certificate issued by the state. The paralegals are paid around $36,000/year, around $20/hour. But the fact is that mostly they spend their days doing legal secretarial work. Attorneys have never historically billed clients for secretarial work. But they do now. They just hide it from the clients because it is so unconscionable. When a secretary faxes a copy of a letter to a client, or makes a copy of it and puts it in an envelope to the client -- it is often billed to clients as "Paralegal Services, Transmission of Communications." Although the paralegal is only paid $20/hour, the clients are charged $150/hour for the secretary's time. Attorneys don't disclose to clients that they are being billed for secretarial work, never mind that they are being billed at 7 times the actual cost.

That's just one example of the thievery that is typical in the legal profession today. I could provide hundreds.

Now let's look at the other side. There are a few attorneys who volunteer their time to work for poor people who could not otherwise afford an attorney. The volunteers usually are retired attorneys who want to keep their hand in, or women attorneys who are basically shut out of most paying legal work in their community. That's about it for the other side.

I have been an attorney for over 25 years. I cannot practice law unless I am a dues-paying (emphasis on dues-paying) member of the state bar, which charges me $410/year in exchange for which I get a plastic card that says I'm still an attorney, and a lousy magazine. The only thing worth reading in the magazine is in the back, where it lists all the attorneys who have been suspended or disbarred, or resigned with charges pending, or sometimes fled the country, because of their illegal or incompetent work as attorneys. It's a good way to keep track of my former classmates. Because of these criminals attorneys, the rest of us have to take courses that instruct on ethics. Things like "Don't steal your client's money." "Don't have sex with your client." "If you agree to do the work, then do the work." I have to pay money to take courses to listen to people tell me things that a 6-year-old already knows.

The widespread foreclosures and loss of homes across the nation has been a great money-making opportunity for lawyers. There are lots of reasons lawyers might want to stay away from this field, but the prospect of taking money from terrified and desperate homeowners has just been too tempting for many in my profession. Of course the lenders are pounding on the homeowners on one side, the attorneys are robbing them blind on the other. No particularly good answers here.

Here's the thing. Let's say somebody borrowed 100% financing on a home, paid $500,000, now it's lost 30% of its value and is only worth $350,000. Plus, to make things worse, let's say one of the home buyers lost their job. Or maybe when they originally bought they figured the property would increase in value and they would sell it in 5 years, take money out, use that as a downpayment on something else. One way or the other, homeowners cannot afford the house, and they're behind in their payments. They cannot sell it and pay off the existing loan because they owe $500,000, but the house is only worth $350,000.

Some people and lawyers think that people should fight to keep their homes on the assumption that the value will soon go up again. I'm not a seer, but personally I don't think so.

What is a loan "renegotiation?" Some people think they can convince the lender to just write off a big chunk of what's owed. Give the homeowners a new loan for $350,000, and forgive the additional $150,000 that's owed on the existing loan. Fat chance. And if you multiply that by the number of houses in default, no chance at all.

So what's the answer? I would say walk away. Negotiate with the lender to take back the property. But that's not legal advice for anyone -- it's just my own opinion. There's no reason to fight to continue to pay $500,000 on a house that's only worth $350,000. People would be better off negotiating a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure, walking away, go rent or live with the relatives, then maybe try to buy something somewhere down the road. But that's just my opinion, not legal advice. Homeowners need to get tax advice before doing anything because forgiveness of debt can be treated just like income, and create a tax problem.

Attorneys see opportunity here. And advertise on TV to desperate homeowners that they should call some 800 number and an attorney will help them renegotiate their loans. Which sounds good, right? Well, not exactly. It turns out that many attorneys demand a flat-fee up front before they'll do a thing, then once the homeowner pays, the attorney writes a letter to the lender, the lender blows them off, and the attorneys says sorry, homeowners, you're out of luck.

Of course some attorneys try hard to get the lender to make a deal, but if they don't want to make a deal, there's really nothing the attorney can do. In general, there is very little an attorney can do for homeowners in default in today's market. So the question is whether an attorney soliciting clients under a representation that they can help, when it's highly unlikely they can, represents some kind of fraud.

Well it's certainly lucrative, because there's been lots of TV time purchased by attorney-groups set up to take advantage of the foreclosure disasters. One of the biggest attorney-advertisers in one area just resigned from the bar because he was getting nailed for advertising and taking money from homeowners, then allegedly not doing anything to help them. It also turns out he had a prior sex-with-a-minor conviction that he had never reported to the bar. Oops!

One group of attorneys had set up a series of related businesses that were supposedly going to help homeowners keep their homes. Here are the names of the some of the businesses the attorneys set up: "Safe Haven," "Home Loan Negotiators," "Your Dreams Come True." It would almost be funny if it wasn't so tragic. No, actually, it is pretty funny.

Now let's look at the other set of scummy low-lifes in this foreclosure mess: the lenders. You know, the lenders, the banks, the Wall Street scum who bribed our politicians in the first place to artificially hold down interest rates and loan them money at 1%, the lenders who bribed our politicians to eliminate all regulations in the banking industry, the people who created this mess in the first place.

What would you expect the lenders to do in this or any other situation? Bribe the politicians to pass another law. The new law makes it illegal for attorneys to get a retainer up front, to get money up front from a client in order to assist the client in trying to renegotiate a loan.

What's wrong with that? If the client is already broke and facing foreclosure, the only way an attorney is likely to get paid is if they get something up front. This is fairly standard practice in the law. You get a retainer up front -- say $2500 -- put it into a trust account, bill against that amount. That way the attorney will be sure to get paid something for their time. Although most attorneys may not be thieves, they're also not stupid, and if they cannot get a retainer up front, they will not take on this work.

So the banks bribe the politicians, the politicians pass a law making it illegal for any attorney to get any money up-front in connection with representing homeowners in foreclosure. That means few attorneys will be willing to do that work. Which means the lenders are free to shove down the homeowners' throats ridiculous loan modificiations by which the homeowners will likely be indebted for 100 years, with lots of additional fees tacked on.

What should have happened? Well first of all, Bill Clinton and Bob Rubin and all the scummy politicians in Congress and all the criminals on Wall Street should never have changed the laws regulating banking, because that is what led to this problem. Alan Greenspan should never have held interest rates down so low for so long, because that caused real estate to balloon in value and cost, leading to the unaffordable loans currently in foreclosure.

What's the answer? First, implement immediate regulations going back to the old days. Nobody can borrow more than 80% of the value of a home, and must put 20% of their own money as a down payment. This will cause real estate values to drop back down to where they should be, which is about 4 times the gross income of the average working person.

Second, the federal government should intervene on behalf of homeowners in foreclosure in homes with loans $500,000 and under, and allow those homeowners to deed the home back to the lender with a forgiveness of any balance owed in excess of the current value of the home, and no tax consequences to the homeowner as the result of any forgiveness of debt. Those same homeowners should also, by law, have any negative consequences as a result of this transaction removed from their credit history within 3 years. The effect of this would be to force many of the banks to go ahead and re-write the loans down to the current real value of the home, since that's all they will get after they go through the foreclosure.

Third, the federal government should establish one standard "loan renegotiation" form, or law, with the allowable terms and conditions, without fees, and without extending the term of the loan beyond 30 years. This form should be posted on-line. Any other renegotiation terms a lender attempts to insert will be declared void.

Fourth, the federal government should start charging all the insiders a fair rate for borrowing money, maybe starting at 2.5% but quickly going up to 5%.

Fifth, the federal government should pass laws making all lenders including credit card companies subject to a usury law with 10% being the maximum interest rate that can be charged, outlawing late fees or other fees.

That would stop the foreclosures, stabilize the housing market (at a lower valuation which is where it's headed anyway), stop the raping of the public by the credit card companies, give people a chance to get back on their feet, and stop the chaos inside so many communities from the instability in the housing market.

After that, the next thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers. Except for me, of course.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Eight Modest Proposals

Here are a few points I posted over at Truthdig the other day, which I thought were worth repeating here.

1. Reinstate a progressive tax system. The first $30,000 of an individual’s income should not be taxed since it is probably the minimum necessary for basic living expenses. All compensation or consideration, including deferred consideration for insiders, over $250,000 should be taxed at 90%. Any amount paid by a business to any employee in excess of $250,000 in a year should not be tax deductible by the business. Eliminate capital gains and other preferential tax laws which allow rich people to avoid paying taxes. Tax estates at 90% of everything over $500,000.00. Eliminate the sales tax and all other fees which are regressive and have a more severe impact on lower-income people (i.e. the soda pop tax).

2. Make it illegal for any politician to take anything of value, or for anyone to offer anything of value to any politician, for any purpose whatsoever. This includes cash, contributions to campaigns, jobs for spouses and kids. Prison time for those who ignore the law.

3. Make all politicians comply with strict new blue sky laws. Make it illegal for any communications to take place between any politician or their associates and any person or entity on any subject that could, under any conceivable circumstances, come before the body of which that politician is a member. End the private meetings like the ones Obama had with the health industry. No more secret communications. Everything must be public. E-mails, phone calls, luncheons, dinners—everything must be public, recorded and posted online within 24 hours. This is equally offensive when Obama has secret meetings and cuts deals with the health insurance industry, and when Cheney has secret meetings and cuts deals with the oil industry. These politicians work for us, and they have no right to have any secret communications with anyone unless it involves a life or death national security issue. Something like the identity of an undercover CIA agent.

4. End the private charities. They are just a tax cons. People put money into a private account under their own name, call it a “charity,” pay out 5%/year, and avoid paying taxes on the money they put into that account. Cap the tax deduction for charitable contributions to $1,000/person per year.

5. Make it illegal for any politician to work for, or accept anything of value from, any person or business which had any dealings with the body to which the politician belonged for a period of 5 years after the politician leaves offices.

6. Stop expecting the Democrats to help us. Let’s make our own platform and tell politicians that we will only support them, and vote for them, if they commit to our platform.

7. Recommit the national government to serving the people. Not the businesses. Businesses are not citizens. Politicians have no right to put the interests of businesses or foreign nations in front of those of the citizens. Yet the opposite is our current situation. The government proudly announces that they have saved the banks and brokerage houses, they have saved Iraq, they are sending the military to occupy Columbia, they are standing firm behind Israel. What about the citizens of this country? Where are our jobs? Where is our national healthcare plan? Where is our pension program? We are supposed to be first, and none of those other groups should even be on the list. We the people, just us folks.

8. The national government must immediately create and implement a plan for our nation’s future which includes a living wage and good jobs for all citizens, a fully-funded government-provided pension, a national healthcare system (perhaps modeled on the one in Israel funded 1/3 by business, 1/3 by individuals, 1/3 by a government fund, and to include dental), and a new national housing plan which requires all communities to build apartments and affordable condominiums, because the suburban single family residence is economically and environmentally unsustainable.

Another Texan Went Postal in 1966. Al Queda In Austin?

More evidence that there is an organized group in Texas known as Al Queda in Texas is provided by the case of Charles Joseph Whitman who, 43 years ago, killed 14 people with a gun (very similar to the 13 killed last week by the Major). Is there something about Texas? In the water? In the politics? In the violence? In the pro-gun ideology of the morons who run it? Or is it Al Queda in Texas?

In August of 1966, Whitman killed his wife and mother then went to the University of Texas at Austin, ascended to a tower and took up position on the observation deck on the 28th floor, from which he began firing his guns and killing people who were walking on the campus. He was shot and killed by the police that same day. He killed 14 and wounded 32. The Major last week killed 13 and wounded 29. Coincidence? Or part of a master plan of Al Queda in Texas?

Don't bother protesting that you have nothing against the people in Texas, or that it never occurred to you that they were "different," not like us, a little off, not to be trusted. I mean for God's sake, just look at Rove and W, then get honest about it. There is something terribly wrong in Texas. I agree with Joe The Worm Lieberman: it must be Al Queda in Texas. Texas, the State that loves guns and the death penalty. And not much else, as it turns out.

Was Whitman a Christian? Did anyone inquire at the time? Did it matter to the dead people?

It did turn out that he had quite a few problems, including having come from a home noted for both physical and psychological abuse, he himself was using speed, he had complained repeatedly about blinding headaches. Turns out he had a brain tumor.

They don't call it the Kansas Chainsaw Massacre, right? It's Texas that's known for the violence. All men in Texas must own a gun, to compensate for their tiny limp dicks. No, that's just a California joke. They claim they own guns to Defend Democracy. But maybe they really own guns because they're all part of Al Queda in Texas.

Texas trained and funded and armed this lunatic Whitman, who also happened to be a Marine by the way. The U.S. today seized the assets of Iran under some vague claim that they "support" terrorists. Well, so does Texas. Why don't we seize the assets of Texas and all the people who live there. I could sure use some of it.

The most important part of the history of Texas to the white people who run that state is The Alamo. The Alamo which, according to the Official Story, which is a lie, consisted of a bunch of Real Men Americans who Stood Up For Democracy and Fought Off The Enemy Invading Armies Of Mexico. Gave Their Lives For Freedom. Yeah, sure they did.

The real story is this. Some white men from the U.S. started going down to Texas and buying up land to run ranches. So far so good. Then they started importing slaves from the U.S. to do their labor. But Mexico had a law that made slavery illegal, so the Mexican government told the U.S. people that they had to get rid of the slaves. Then the Americans decided screw the government of Mexico, we're going to steal all the land and claim it belongs to the United States. So these "heroic" white men who died at the Alamo were actually defending slavery and their own right to steal other people's lands. Doesn't sound quite so heroic when you put it that way. Although the coonskin hats were definitely a cool touch.

They've got a crazy governor who wants Texas to leave the union, become an independent nation. I wonder if Al Queda in Texas is part of the governor's preparations for having his own militia to defend themselves in case any one of the other states try to force them to come back. I say good riddance to bad rubbish. Adios to Al Queda in Texas.

Stressed-out Crazed Shrink goes Postal? Or Al-Queda In Texas?

An Army psychiatrist went postal last week at a military base in Fort Hood, Texas, killing 13 people in the process and wounding many others. The psychiatrist is a Major named Nidal Malik Hasan. He is a medical doctor (M.D.), with a specialty in the field of psychiatry. His job was to counsel military people who had already been in war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and/or were set for deployment, and/or were going out for repeated deployment. Some of his patients, of course, had suffered terrible physical injuries as well as psychological and emotional damage.

For a long time, the military refused to even acknowledge that sending men and women off to war to slaughter or be slaughtered caused a long-term, sometomes life-long and severe psychological condition known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The military simply refused to admit that it existed, refused to provide treatment to those who suffered from it, and refused to acknowledge the high number of suicides and family violence being committed by the vets who suffered from these problems.

And who is expected to deal with all of this? Military Shrinks, like Major Hasan.

Why does someone decide to become a shrink? It's a similar question for prison guards. Does somebody decide to become a prison guard because they have a borderline-criminal or violent personality and want to spend their lives brutalizing others of a similar bent? Or is it the job that changes people, takes an otherwise healthy person who becomes a prison guard and, based on years of watching unspeakable violence among inmates, the person becomes an oddball, perhaps somewhat violent and brutal in defense of themselves? There's a debate there, but no clear answer.

Same for shrinks. How many people who go into the field are primarily motivated by their own personal or family history of psychological problems? Or, does the job of sitting 40 hours/week listening to people who are unrelenting in their suffering simply change a person, make them depressed and maybe a little nuts themself?

Throw in the fact that it is now undisputed that the U.S. wars against Iraq and Afghanistan are being waged primarily for the purpose of stealing oil, stealing and controlling land to run pipelines full of oil and gas out to the coast to be taken away by western oil corporations. Assuming Major Hasad has any ethnic consciousness or religious affiliation whatsoever, how would he be affected as a Muslim by seeing the center of the Muslim world being exploited, still or again depending on one's perspective, seeing Muslims being slaughtered for no reason, seeing his own country and the military to which he had devoted his life engage in war based on lies and covering up the massacre of completely innocent civilians who just happen to be Muslims. What effect?

Who knows. But it could push somebody over the edge.

I'm pretty sure that if the shooter's name was Melvin Saperstein, Joe Lieberman wouldn't be screaming in the Senate that this is Terrorism with a Capital T, Al Queda in Texas. If the shooter was a Born Again Christian, what effect? How about a Catholic? Would the media coverage be any different? Would the politicians be so quick to condemn this person if he wasn't a Muslim? Would they at least leave it to the justice system to investigate before mouthing off? Obviously the Major went nuts. Does that matter?

They want to charge him with the murder of 14 people because one of the victims was pregnant. This is a whole sneaky way to get around the abortion rights of women. By claiming that a pregnancy is a "person" who can be "murdered," that really puts anyone who aborts a pregnancy at risk of being charged with murder and sent to prison. Of course this is Texas, the death penalty capital, but it will be a military trial.

Who wants to bet this Major will be executed, and quickly? I have a very old man who lives behind me, I'd say he's close to 90. He was wearing his military hat yesterday, I think 101st Airborne. We spoke briefly. He said he hopes they kill this guy, and do it fast. I don't think we need to bother having a trial. Both my neighbor and Joe Lieberman have identified the nut-case Major in Texas as being part of Al Queda in Texas. Kill the Bastard. It's the American way.

I've got a better idea. The U.S. military trained this guy, provided him with training facilities, taught him to kill, gave him funds, gave him shelter and food. In Texas. Isn't that the basic reason we claim to have attacked Afghanistan? I think we should invade Texas. Bomb that state. They are obviously supporting Al Queda in Texas, providing them with money, weapons, training. Let's have some Shock 'n Awe in Houston. And they've got oil, too! So we can steal that. Perfect.

All over this country, for decades, we've seen people who because of personal stresses in their lives, have a mental breakdown, get a gun and go out and shoot a bunch of people. It's so common that we've got a name for it: Going Postal. I guess it must have happened a few times at the post office. Yet you don't see people stigmatizing post office workers, or claiming we need the national guard to occupy our cities to protect us from the mailman.

Yet suddenly, when it is a Muslim military guy who does it, the country immediately calls it Terrorism. Al Queda in Texas. But this practice of giving guns to everyone, glamorizing violence, raising violent children, one generation brutalizing the next inside the homes in secret, giving them these hideous war video games and telling them that killing is fun, sending almost every generation off to needless wars (at least after WWII) makes mass shootings and gun violence a very American habit and custom. Like Thanksgiving.

Somebody should tell Joe Lieberman to STFU. Stop with the al Queda. I hope this Major gets some good attorneys, although I doubt he will. Most importantly, we need to start recognizing that the price of Empire, the cost of waging wars in each generation, is a violent nation full of men who are right on the edge, who often are violent at home (ask the cops about domestic violence), who brutalize their wives and children in secret behind closed doors, who have a high rate of suicide, alcoholism and drug addiction, and who occasionally Go Postal.

Of course Joe Lieberman wouldn't know anything about military service since he managed to duck service, hiding in the Ivy Leagues to avoid going to war himself. Another yellow Senator who cheers the slaughter of other people's children.

Thirteen people dead in Fort Hood. It's a tragedy. But the estimates are that we have murdered possibly One Million Iraqis. Anybody want to give a speech about that? How about Joe Lieberman: any compassion for the one million dead Iraqis in the U.S. war based completely on lies? Not one bit of sympathy. Maybe that's ultimately what made the Major Go Postal.