Saturday, February 27, 2010

I Put A Spell On You

Shane Macgowan, Johnny Depp, Nick Cave, Bobby Gillespie, Chrissy Hynde and others have recorded this version of the song "I Put A Spell On You" as a fundraiser for Haiti.

Who Says Our Politicians Don't Get It? City Passes Law To Allow Residents To Sleep In Cars.

Sometimes it seems like our politicians just don't get it, are not paying attention to the fact that people are unemployed, have been for a long time, their savings are gone, homes are gone, hope is gone.

But just when cynacism creeps up to overwhelm us in despair, a local government shows that they do get it. Kind of. This article from the Ventura County Star:

Ventura program will allow people to legally sleep in cars
By Kevin Clerici

Cash-strapped individuals and families resigned to sleeping illegally in their vehicles in Ventura may soon get some relief.

Starting Monday, people can apply to be part of a pilot program that would allow certain vehicles and qualified participants to legally park overnight in one of two designated church parking lots.

City officials, however, are refusing to reveal the locations of the two lots, even though they have allocated $22,000 in public money for the program.

Applicants must pass a drug test, show proof they have lived in Ventura and possess valid vehicle insurance to be part of the program known as Safe Sleep Ventura, organizers said. The program is the first of its kind in Ventura County.

Under the plan, nonprofit groups and churches will provide three to five lots serving a combined total of no more than 15 vehicles at a time, Finley said.

Ventura lacks a year-round homeless shelter, and currently it’s illegal in Ventura for anyone to sleep in a car for more than four hours on public or private property except in an emergency.

“I think there is going to be more demand than the spots we have,” Finley said.

The purpose of the program, he said, is to provide some stability for people, particularly for those in crisis. A safe, legal place to park without fear of a citation, together with social services and case management provided by the Salvation Army and other local organizations, should help, he said.
Yeah. An apartment and a job would help more.

Free Derry, Bogside Artists

I had a post about a week ago with a video discussing the recent history of Northern Ireland. One part of what is called Northern Ireland was named Londonderry by the English. But the Catholics who reside there have proudly changed the name of the town to Free Derry.

Northern Ireland is a part of Ireland proper, but England claims it as a colony, and has moved Protestants into the area to make sure the Catholics continue to be oppressed and denied civil rights, education, and employment opportunity. Because it is a colony, because the people are oppressed, because it is founded in religious intolerance by the British, Northern Ireland is very poor. At least the Irish -- the Catholics are.

Bogside is an area of housing in Free Derry. Mostly Catholics live there. Very poor. Mass housing, not very fancy. The people who live there are victims of ongoing educational, housing, and employment discrimination which prevents them from sharing in the rights of citizenship. Bogside was the scene of English military occupation, killing, and rioting in the early 1970s.

Local artists in Bogside painted enormous murals on the buildings to memorialize those were killed during that time, and the ongoing struggle for civil rights and independence from England. The artists and the murals have received international acclaim, and there are tours that take people around to see the murals. Here is the website of the bogside artists:

Here's a sign put up by the residents of Derry, rejecting the English name of Londonderry, and selecting for themselves the name of Free Derry.

Here are some pictures of the area known as Bogside.

Free Derry - Bogside

Free Derry - Bogside

Free Derry - Bogside

Free Derry - Bogside

Here's a mural showing a protester standing up to British tanks.

Here's a mural of the people demanding civil rights. All these murals are painted on the sides of the buildings where the people of Free Derry live.

Bloody Sunday

Bernadette Devlin, one of the leaders of the civil rights movement. Notice the sign in the back of this mural saying the new name, "Free Derry," instead of the British name "Londonderry."

Annette McGavigan was a 14-year-old Irish schoolgirl who was gunned down in the streets of Free Derry by a British soldier.

This is a mural of the victims of Bloody Sunday, a day on which Northern Irish civil rights marchers were gunned down by the Protestants and the British.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Thursday, February 25, 2010

I Like Anthony Weiner. He's One Of The Good Guys.

I like Anthony Weiner. Why is it that the politicians in the House are more willing to speak the truth, take off the gloves and go mano-a-mano with the people who are destroying this country. Like the Insurance industry, and the Republicans. And check it out: the House has rules which apparently make it illegal for anybody to speak the truth in Congress.

Weiner: The Republican Party is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the insurance industry.

Republicans: Waaaah, waaaah, waaaah. Take it back, take it back. Mom, did you hear what he said? Waaah, waaah, waaah.

House: Sit down, Mr. Weiner. You're out of order. You spoke the truth.

Weiner: Can I please speak again. I wish to amend my statement. My new statement is this:

Every single Republican I have ever met in my entire life is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the insurance industry.

See what I mean? He's terrific. And truthful, too.

We're # 37 In National Ranking Of Healthcare Systems! We Beat Cuba, But Just Barely. And We Spend More Than Almost Anyone Else.

The World Health Organization ("WHO") ranked the healthcare systems of the nations of the world based on five criteria. In that ranking, the U.S. came in as #37. We beat Slovenia (#38) and Cuba (#39) but just barely. And we spend a whole lot more than other countries do. Note: the last ranking by the WHO was in 2000.

The World Health Organization also looked at how much countries pay for healthcare. As of 2005, the U.S. spent more as a percentage of our GDP than all other nations of the world, except one.

So we grossly overpay to get crappy healthcare. Are we really that stupid? We need Medicare for all, to let everyone who wants to buy into a nonprofit healthcare system. Anybody who wants to continue with private health insurance, and can afford to do so, be my guest.

You hear the Republicans screaming that our businesses can't compete because of labor costs in this country. But the truth is our businesses are hammered by a healthcare system run amuck, by greedy insurance companies and grossly overpaid doctors and hospitals, with drug costs two or three times what are charged to people in other countries for the exact same drugs.

We are being pecked to death by vultures. Isn't it time both political parties got serious, and acknowledged that the only way to stop these runaway healthcare costs, to save lives and businesses and jobs, is to begin allowing Americans to buy into Medicare on a non-profit basis.

Here is the WHO ranking of the world's healthcare systems:

1 France
2 Italy
3 San Marino
4 Andorra
5 Malta
6 Singapore
7 Spain
8 Oman
9 Austria
10 Japan
11 Norway
12 Portugal
13 Monaco
14 Greece
15 Iceland
16 Luxembourg
17 Netherlands
18 United Kingdom
19 Ireland
20 Switzerland
21 Belgium
22 Colombia
23 Sweden
24 Cyprus
25 Germany
26 Saudi Arabia
27 United Arab Emirates
28 Israel
29 Morocco
30 Canada
31 Finland
32 Australia
33 Chile
34 Denmark
35 Dominica
36 Costa Rica

37 United States of America

38 Slovenia
39 Cuba
40 Brunei
41 New Zealand
42 Bahrain
43 Croatia
44 Qatar
45 Kuwait
46 Barbados
47 Thailand
48 Czech Republic
49 Malaysia
50 Poland
51 Dominican Republic
52 Tunisia
53 Jamaica
54 Venezuela
55 Albania
56 Seychelles
57 Paraguay
58 South Korea
59 Senegal
60 Philippines
61 Mexico
62 Slovakia
63 Egypt
64 Kazakhstan
65 Uruguay
66 Hungary
67 Trinidad and Tobago
68 Saint Lucia
69 Belize
70 Turkey
71 Nicaragua
72 Belarus
73 Lithuania
74 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
75 Argentina
76 Sri Lanka
77 Estonia
78 Guatemala
79 Ukraine
80 Solomon Islands
81 Algeria
82 Palau
83 Jordan
84 Mauritius
85 Grenada
86 Antigua and Barbuda
87 Libya
88 Bangladesh
89 Macedonia
90 Bosnia-Herzegovina
91 Lebanon
92 Indonesia
93 Iran
94 Bahamas
95 Panama
96 Fiji
97 Benin
98 Nauru
99 Romania
100 Saint Kitts and Nevis
101 Moldova
102 Bulgaria
103 Iraq
104 Armenia
105 Latvia
106 Yugoslavia
107 Cook Islands
108 Syria
109 Azerbaijan
110 Suriname
111 Ecuador
112 India
113 Cape Verde
114 Georgia
115 El Salvador
116 Tonga
117 Uzbekistan
118 Comoros
119 Samoa
120 Yemen
121 Niue
122 Pakistan
123 Micronesia
124 Bhutan
125 Brazil
126 Bolivia
127 Vanuatu
128 Guyana
129 Peru
130 Russia
131 Honduras
132 Burkina Faso
133 Sao Tome and Principe
134 Sudan
135 Ghana
136 Tuvalu
137 Ivory Coast
138 Haiti
139 Gabon
140 Kenya
141 Marshall Islands
142 Kiribati
143 Burundi
144 China
145 Mongolia
146 Gambia
147 Maldives
148 Papua New Guinea
149 Uganda
150 Nepal
151 Kyrgystan
152 Togo
153 Turkmenistan
154 Tajikistan
155 Zimbabwe
156 Tanzania
157 Djibouti
158 Eritrea
159 Madagascar
160 Vietnam
161 Guinea
162 Mauritania
163 Mali
164 Cameroon
165 Laos
166 Congo
167 North Korea
168 Namibia
169 Botswana
170 Niger
171 Equatorial Guinea
172 Rwanda
173 Afghanistan
174 Cambodia
175 South Africa
176 Guinea-Bissau
177 Swaziland
178 Chad
179 Somalia
180 Ethiopia
181 Angola
182 Zambia
183 Lesotho
184 Mozambique
185 Malawi
186 Liberia
187 Nigeria
188 Democratic Republic of the Congo
189 Central African Republic
190 Myanmar

As of 2005, the U.S. is second (out of 193 nations) in the amount we spend on healthcare as a percentage of GDP.

We're #2 in how much money we spend for healthcare. But we're only #37 when ranked for how good our healthcare system is, how well does it work. Just how stupid are we? Why won't our politicians help us? They've spent an entire year with the Democrats saying "We need to reform healthcare to cut back on the obscene expense of our system." But what the Democrats propose is a tiny little blip, and will not solve the underlying problem, which is that we pay too much for our healthcare.

The doctors, hospitals, drug sellers and health insurance companies have monopoly control, and they charge us grossly excessive amounts. Because they can.

The Republicans' position on healthcare is: "We may need to reform it, but let's talk about it for a few more years." It's like these politicians have no idea that people are actually dying, actually going bankrupt every single day, going without their life-saving drugs, because of our out of control healthcare system.

We need change, and we need it now.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Thursday's BiPartisan Healthcare Summit: Will This Be The Last Time The Democrats Let The Republicans Make Fools Of Us All?

Tomorrow is the day. Once again, for the Seven Millionth Billionth time, the Democrats are asking the Republicans to make any suggestions they might have about how we can fix our broken healthcare system.

It is billed as a bipartisan summit, because bipartisan is the color of the year. We shall all join hands and sing in one voice, stand together united, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

See the guys in this video? This is how young we all were (or so it seems) when the government first began discussing the possibility of doing something to help the American people, whose scrawny corpses are being pecked clean by the predators in the Medical Industry. So much time has gone by, so many opportunities passed. We chose war instead of health. We chose corporate subsidies instead of life.

I would suggest they skip this whole silly forum. The Republicans want the citizens to die, or at least have no healthcare. No rights, no jobs, no money, no protection. Do we really need yet-another forum to hear them say the whole thing over again? Were the Democrats not listening? Or do the Democrats just want to use the insanity of the Republicans as their excuse for doing nothing. Or very little?

Will this be the last time?

The Government Must Begin A Program Of Medicare For All.

One of the reasons Americans are having such financial problems is because many of the sectors in our economy are subject to the monopoly control of just a few businesses. For example, Blue Cross (which changed its name to Anthem) is a major health insurance company throughout the country, often with little competition in any given state, and therefore they can dictate whatever prices they want. Hospitals are owned by a few major corporate interests (including the Catholic Church) and people often have no choices about which hospital to use.

The American Medical System has been taken over by criminals and thieves who are using our sick bodies as profit-making centers. They have a monopoly control of everything relating to healthcare, and Americans are the hostages. Our politicians take bribes from the Sickness Industry to prevent us from escaping. The corporate Medical Industry is going to bankrupt our country and kill us all if we don't stop them.

The public generally only has two choices: either pay the outrageous amounts Blue Cross charges, or go without health insurance and hope you stay healthy. Americans pay way more for healthcare than do people in other counries, yet we don't get anything of value for that money. We are grossly overcharged. The medical industry insiders get rich, the public goes broke, politicians get kick-backs and bribes from the corporate Medical Industry, and Congress fiddles while the country burns.

Recent polls have shown that the overwhelming majority of Americans want the government to provide a "public option" -- something like Medicare for All, and let Americans decide whether to buy into a Medicare system, or continue in the private healthcare and private insurance prison. But the politicians take bribes from the Medical Corporations and refuse to do anything to help the people of this country.

According to the National Geographic (chart above) we spend $7,200 per person per year on healthcare. Most of this money is paid to insurance companies, who simply take it all as profit. Yet despite that outrageous amount, the life expectancy for Americans at birth is currently only 78 years. In Switzerland, they only pay $4500 per year per person, but their life expectancy at birth is 82, four years longer.

In Canada, which has a national healthcare system in which all Canadians receive healthcare free of charge (paid for by the government), they only spend $3900/year but their life expectancy is longer than ours -- 81 years.

In France, which also has national healthcare, they spend less than half of what we do, about $3100 per person, but they have a longer life expectancy -- about 82 years.

What's the difference in these other countries? The doctors, hospitals, and drug companies are not allowed to overcharge the patients. The insurance companies are cut out of the middle, and not allowed to add 30% profit on top of every single penny spent for healthcare, which is what they do in the United States. Healthcare in other countries is seen as a basic human right, like an education, provided by society by using taxpayer money to fund the system, and operated on a non-profit basis.

Americans are victims of healthcare profiteering, groups of individuals who make millions off of grossly excessive charges for life-saving services. Our government refuses to help us. They will allow Americans to die rather than interrupt the Medical Industry in its profiteering. They also are throwing families into bankruptcy and heading our entire nation into bankruptcy by refusing to provide a real solution to the obscene profiteering by the Sickness Industry. None of the proposals by Democrats will do anything to stop this obscene medical profiteering.

We spend $7,200 per person per year for healthcare, or $28,800 for a family of four. Your average family only earns $55,000/year, which means over half of each family's gross earnings are paid out every year for healthcare. When you realize that most families are paying 40% for housing, that leaves 10% for everything else. Our country cannot continue to survive economically with this type of out of control spending.

Of course families do not directly pay the entire $28,800 -- the government pays part of this through various programs. Sometimes the employer pays for part. But where does the government get its money? From taxes on the employers and on families. So indirectly, every family is spending half of their gross income for healthcare, even when they are perfectly health and rarely go to a doctor -- the insurance companies take all that money. The insurance companies take most of this money and put it in their pockets as profit. We cannot afford to continue with this gross profiteering. Can't afford it as individuals, and cannot afford it as a country.

Medicare for All is the proposal that would end the healthcare profiteering, the Sickness Industry. Under Medicare for All, anybody under 65 could buy into Medicare for a monthly premium, much like they would pay for health insurance. But they would get healthcare on a non-profit basis, just like everybody over 65 does. This would accomplish two things. The people who chose to buy into Medicare (and you could bring them in by age groups, say starting with people over 50, then in a year go to people between 40 and 50), but for the people who buy into Medicare, their costs for medical care would immediately come down. The Medicare system would be improved by bringing in cash from people buying into it, and also by bringing in a healthier (younger) group of people.

All other citizens would also profit because once Medicare was available to the public, the private insurance companies would have to cut their costs to entice (compete for) customers. Doctors and hospitals would have to cut their costs too, because they would prefer getting paid a little more by private insurance than getting paid a little less by Medicare.

As for drugs, the government should allow any individuals or business to buy drugs in Canada or any other country where drug companies sell cheaper, then bring them into the U.S. The exact same drug company will sell the exact same drugs in Canada but charge half what they charge Americans. They are screwing us. And the drug companies bribed Congress to pass a law making it illegal for Americans to buy their drugs in Canada. Even people who live right on the border and could walk across are hostages to the drug industry and our corrupt politicians. So people go without their drugs and die, because of the corrupt monopoly control of our medical care system.

Our democracy is being destroyed by our politicians taking bribes. The Supreme Court is packed with right-wing zealots who hate our democracy and believe in corporatocracy -- control of everything by corporations and CEOs with the citizens having no rights at all. We are headed over the cliff because our people are being crushed by profiteering. Healthcare profiteering is the most offensive because people are dying every day for lack of life-saving healthcare, while insurers get rich and politicians do too. If we don't stop this Sickness Industry, it will bankrupt our country and kill us all.

It's very simple. We need a Medicare for All system. Anybody who wants to can buy in. Discounted prices should be paid to doctors, hospitals, and drug sellers. And the health insurance industry should be cut out like a malignant cancer.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Wall Street To Public: Thanks A Lot, Suckers.

In the fall of 2008, Hank Paulson, representing Goldman Sachs although technically acting as the Secretary of Treasury, took a short hand-written note from his friends on Wall Street to Congress that said, essentially: "Give us all the money or we'll blow the whole place up." Congress responded by giving Wall Street Billions of dollars, no strings attached.

What do I mean by no strings? The biggest financial institutions in this country were screaming that they were about to fail, to collapse, and that if they did they would take down every business, every person in the country, they would tear the whole place down with them. And, further, they claimed that unless the federal government gave Wall Street Billions of dollars in taxpayer money, they would throw the whole world into a long depression.

Okay. I think the correct answer would have been: See you in hell, boys. Or maybe throw them involuntarily into bankruptcy, appoint a bankruptcy trustee, determine and liquidate their assets or have the government take them over. Then we, the citizens, would own these big businesses. We would own Citibank. We would own Goldman Sachs. We would own AIG.

But that's not what Congress did. Instead, Congress said: Okay, here's the money. Go. Have a good time. At the time, as I recall, 70% of the public was adamantly opposed to the bail-out of Wall Street. Well, I guess we know who Congress represents -- the folks that pay the biggest bribes.

What could they have done? What kinds of restrictions would have been appropriate? First, kick every shareholder or owner out, tell them their interest is worth zero, and before Congress put one penny of taxpayer money into those predatory criminal institutions on Wall Street, the current owners would have to take a walk. The public would become the 100% owners of the busiesses. Why should working Americans give their money to bail out rich shareholders? No reason at all. But Congress didn't do that.

And another thing Congress should have done is to say: Okay, we'll loan you some money, but every person who works there is going to take a haircut. Your top person will earn $100,000, period, no stock options, no golden parachutes, no special benefits. No bonuses. But Congress didn't do that either.

And another thing Congress should have done is to say: Okay, we'll loan you some money to stay afloat. But no more speculation. No more gambling. No more committing fraud on the world. No more bundling lousy mortgages then selling them for amounts grossly in excess of their value, calling them Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDOs) when they should have called them CRAP. Do you know how many hundreds of billions of dollars Wall Street and the big financial institutions stole from the public by selling bad mortgages and pretending they were good ones? Lots and lots and lots.

And another thing Congress should have done is to tell these crooks and liars that every penny we loan to them must be used only to loan to the public and clean up their own balance sheets. They can't take the money, for example, and go out and use the taxpayers' interest-free money to buy up their competitors and establish even a greater (worser) monopoly control of our country. But Congress didn't do that either.

So the same people who stole our money, shipped our jobs overseas, committed massive international fraud, looted their own businesses by stripping them bare and paying themselves hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses, those same people got an enormous taxpayer bailout, no strings attached. No bad deed goes unrewarded.

One of the results of the complete failure of the Obama administration to indict, prosecute, seize assets of the Wall Street criminals, one of the results of the decision of the Obama administration to pack the White House with Wall Street insiders and let them make all the financial decisions, is that everybody in this country has suffered terrible losses because of Wall Street -- everybody except the people on Wall Street. They got away with it, because nobody in the Obama administration is willing to stand up to them and take them down.

Wall Street insiders paid themselves $20 Billion in bonuses In 2009, one year after they defrauded the public in the Great Congressional Robbery of 2008. The Wall Street criminals must be looking out at all the poor citizens of this country, people buying rice and beans in bulk and terrified they're going to end up living in their cars, and they must be thinking: Thanks a lot, suckers.

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- Employees at Wall Street financial firms collected more than $20 billion in bonuses in 2009, the year after taxpayers bailed out the financial sector amid the economic meltdown, New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said Tuesday. The payouts were about 17 percent higher than the previous year's bonuses.

Total compensation at the largest securities firms grew beyond that figure and profits could surpass what he calls an unprecedented $55 billion last year, DiNapoli said. That's nearly three times Wall Street's record increase, a rate of growth that is boosted in part by the record losses in 2008 of nearly $43 billion, the Democrat said.

"Wall Street is vital to New York's economy, and the dollars generated by the industry help the state's bottom line," said DiNapoli. "But for most Americans, these huge bonuses are a bitter pill and hard to comprehend. ... Taxpayers bailed them out, and now they're back making money while many New York families are still struggling to make ends meet."

The projections would make the average bonus $124,850. In 2008, the average was $112,000, according to DiNapoli's office. For many of the biggest firms, total compensation was up 31 percent, while sector-wide the average was a 27 percent increase to over $340,000, DiNapoli's spokesman said.

Banks had been expected to hand out near-record compensation for last year's performance. Several banks earned huge profits in 2009, aided by billions in government bailout funds and a rebounding stock market.

The Problem With Healthcare Is That It's Too Expensive. "Pre-Existing Conditions" Is A Minor Problem.

As I mentioned in a post yesterday, the problem with healthcare in this country is that it's too expensive. But the bills proposed by the Senate, House, and President Obama do little to solve that problem. Instead, we have been barraged with representations that the biggest problem with healthcare is something other than the cost. Recently, we keep hearing that the most important problem Americans face in the healthcare field is that of pre-existing conditions.

"Pre-existing conditions" means that a person had a health problem before applying for insurance from some carrier. Some insurance companies will refuse to sell insurance to people with preexisting conditions. Some insurance charge more for people with pre-existing conditions.

The White House claims that 12.6 million Americans were “discriminated against” by insurers because of pre-existing conditions. That does not mean they were all denied insurance. Some of them just had to pay more to get coverage for the preexisting condition. I had a preexisting condition on a back problem at one time. I was not denied coverage, but I had to pay 10% more.

But let’s take the 12.6 million and pretend that 10 million of them could not get any insurance at all. Compare that number to the 45 million Americans who cannot get any insurance because it is too expensive. 10 million out of 300 million (total population) is about 3% of the population. It is a relatively small group of people, 3% of the total population, who have "pre-existing conditions" which either increase the cost or make it impossible for them to get insurance.

Probably 80% of the population cannot afford healthcare. So compare 80% to 3%, and which appears to be the bigger problem?

When I say 80% cannot afford healthcare, what I mean is that as long as they stay healthy, they’re fine. But if they get sick, they will find that their co-pays, excluded from coverage, deductibles and not covered at all will add up to more than they have available. That’s why people end up in bankruptcy from health problems. First they get big bills from the doctors and providers. And second, they have no income coming in while they are sick.

As for the preexisting conditions, six states have laws which prohibit insurers from excluding people based on preexisting conditions. I’m not saying their situation isn’t a concern. I’m just saying it’s not the big concern for the country. It is not the central, biggest, most important problem with healthcare.

For the majority of people and businesses in this country, the problem with healthcare is that it’s too expensive. That is the problem we need to resolve. The Democrats told us they were going to make healthcare more affordable. But their bill does not do that. Mostly their bill will order an additional 45 million people to buy private health insurance, which will bring between $100 Billion to $200 billion in additional revenue to the private insurance companies. It looks like the insurers and the medical industry drafted this law, it is so lucrative to them.

The obvious way to attack the problem of cost is to allow more Americans to opt out of private insurance and buy into Medicare. This will cut the costs for the people who buy in. But it also will put pressure on the providers and insurers to cut their costs, to compete and keep Americans in their private insurance program.

The proposed bills from the Democrats (Senate, House, and White House version) will not cut the health care costs for most Americans. It’s mostly something which will bring enormous donations into the Democratic party from the medical industry, and let the Democrats campaign on the misrepresentation that they have “reformed” healthcare. But the Democratic proposals do not solve the problems. They don't even try to solve the problems. It isn't the lack of success by the Democrats that's the biggest concern. It's their lack of effort. They don't even try to do something to really help the people.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Only Thing Worse Than The Republicans' Position On Healthcare Is The Democrats' Position On Healthcare.

Attorneys, real estate brokers, salespeople, sometimes even teachers and parents, routinely read books or take courses in the art of negotiation. I took a three day course myself. This is what I learned.

Assume there is a house worth $100,000. Your client wants to buy it for only $50,000. The seller is represented by an attorney or agent, and the seller wants to sell the property for $150,000. It is a given in this scenario that the fair market value of the house is $100,000.

In most cases, when people are asked to play the roles in this hypothetical, the matter is resolved -- the house is sold, transaction concluded -- at around $100,000. In a few cases, the house is sold for less, in a few cases it's sold for more. In a few cases, there is no deal because one side or the other took an extreme position. If one side takes an extreme position, that may cause all discussions to terminate.

What can we learn from this? First, get your facts straight before beginning negotiations. If you believe your position is weak -- let's say you believe the house is only worth $75,000 -- you will likely start with the wrong demand, and will end up selling for less than it's worth.

Two, figure out what the facts are, what is a reasonable position, and don't back off of it. If you are sure $100,000 is a fair number but the other side won't go above $75,000, you're better off walking away and finding another buyer. Why give up $25,000 if you're right in the first place?

Three, when the other side takes unreasonable positions, you might as well end the discussions because there will never be a successful transaction. If you gave them the moon, they would ask for a few stars on top of it.

What does this have to do with Obama and the Democrats and healthcare? If they really wanted to "reform" healthcare, then the first thing they needed to do was to get their facts straight. What needs to be reformed? In healthcare, the problem is that it's too expensive. How can that be changed? Not by talking about everything else in the world.

For example, as these discussions have gone on, and as the public has seen that the Democrats' proposals are sham, will accomplish nothing of value, the Democrats have hung their hat on the pre-existing condition issue. They trot out pathetic stories about sick people who cannot get insurance to tear at our heart strings. But let's remember our facts: the problem with healthcare is that it's too expensive, and the "reform" must reduce the costs.

Pre-existing conditions is a separate subject and only affects a few people. It is entirely separate from the central problem with healthcare, which is that it's too expensive. The Democrats could solve the problem of preexisting conditions by making Medicaid available to any family with pre-existing conditions who cannot get insurance. They would have to buy into it, but problem solved. But that is not the problem with healthcare. The problem with healthcare, the problem that is crushing the great majority of people in this country (as opposed to the very few who have pre-existing conditions) is that healthcare it too expensive. So why do the Democrats always refuse to discuss that? How can they expect to solve a problem when they won't even mention it?

Instead of talking about how they will bring down the costs for the majority, the Democrats cheer themselves by including as the centerpiece of their reform proposal the requirement that insurance companies must give insurance to people with preexisting conditions. The insurance company can charge whatever they want in the Democrats' proposal. They can charge $10,000/month if they want, but they've got to allow people to buy the insurance. Such complete nonsense.

Let's get back to learning the facts. Our central fact is that healthcare is unaffordable for most people. The best way to bring down prices would be to allow a large group of affected people to buy into Medicare on a non-profit basis. Start with anyone over 50, unemployed, or not part of a group policy. That would bring a healthier group into Medicare along with premiums they would pay, which would financially benefit Medicare. Since it would be non-profit, most people could expect at least a 1/3 reduction in what they pay now. This directly addresses the central problem with healthcare: it's too expensive.

Once the insurance companies saw this, and saw that in another year people from 40-50 would be allowed to buy in, the insurance companies would start to compete to keep their customers. Which means bring the prices down. Doctors, drug sellers all would start to compete because they would be paid less under the bulk-rate-discount set by the government in the Medicare program.

What was the central issue? Price. This is a proposal directed at that issue.

What the Democrats have done is failed to propose anything to accomplish the central problem: it's too expensive. Everything in the Democrats' bill is irrelevant. It appears the only reason they want to pass healthcare reform is so they can campaign on the representation that they passed healthcare reform. But nothing they have proposed will solve the central problem: it's too expensive.

Now we hear Obama has come out with his own plan. Terrible timing. And suspicious. As soon as the public pressure was mounting to get the Senate to pass a bill including a public option (whatever that means), Obama takes center stage and says no, his bill is better, and it has no public option. Thanks for nothing, Barack. It seems like the health insurance, drug dealers, doctors, hospital groups must have been very generous in their secret meetings with the Democrats early last year. Because the only thing the Democrats do is propose bills that will make their friends rich, and do nothing to help the public.

The Republicans' healthcare plan: do nothing. Die quickly.

So there you have it. The Democrats failed in the most critical step in any negotiation: know the facts. They have completely ignored the only fact that matters, which is that healthcare is too expensive. Because of that, either their negotiations will fail, or they will come out of it having sold the house (or sold the public) cheap, when we should have gotten full-price.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

This Is Not A Satire.

Who is the most embarrassing person in this Tiger Woods soap opera? Without question, that title goes to Gloria Allred.

Tiger Woods screwed around on his wife. He got caught. He lost his clean-cut public image and, more importantly, his sponsors. Now he's in "rehab" to learn how not to screw around on his wife. Well enough. I figure it's their business, nobody else's. He plays golf, for heaven's sake. Who can blame him for adopting self-destructive habits to escape the tedium of his life.

Most of the women we've seen who claim to have been sex partners with Tiger are pretty tacky women. And that's okay too. He's a golfer. He went for the easy shot.

But this, below, is the funniest thing I've ever seen. I thought it was a satire, but it isn't: it's for real. Gloria Allred, ambulance-driving attorney, is "representing" several of Tiger's bedmates. Although why they need representation is a mystery. Unless there's a book deal. Movie of the week? Nobody's claiming he raped them. They had sex. Adult, consensual sex. So why do they need an attorney?

I saw Allred a few days ago demanding that Tiger Woods publicly apologize to Allred's client, a porn star. Apologize for what? Watch below, and you will learn that the porn star gave up her "career" because Tiger wanted her to. So, according to Allred, he should apologize. Most important is that he must say the porn star's name in public.

Why? I'm guessing Allred knows her client has no claim whatsoever, no ability to extract money from Tiger Woods. So the only thing the porn star has to sell would be a story to a tabloid. And her story would probably be worth a lot more if Tiger spoke her name in public. Does Allred get a percentage of the sales price for the porn star's "story" about her and Tiger? Is the Pope Catholic?

For herself, the porn star demands Tiger meet with her to apologize in person to her. She doesn't say apologize for what. She knew he was married and had children. She had sex with him knowing that. Maybe she's the one who owes an apology to Tiger's wife. How can a porn star who has an affair with a married man claim that she is the victim? I guess that's why she hired a slick attorney like All-Red (that's why she always wears the red suits -- All-Red, get it?)

So, as this scandal plays out on TV, once again we see that it is not the principals who are the most disgraceful: it is the attorney.

It Is The Year Of The Tiger.

It is the Year of the Tiger. This is a picture of a South China Tiger, a baby recently born. I want one!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Northern Ireland - A Brief History of the Struggle

This is a terrific documentary about the struggles in Northern Ireland, called "Off Our Knees." The first woman you see speaking is Bernadette Devlin, now McKaliskey, one of the leaders in the Northern Ireland struggles at the time of the protests against the Long Kesh prison H-Block internments, and on Bloody Sunday.

Animal Love

Don't you just love those stories about an animal from one species that adopts, and cares for baby animals from another species? Here's another one.

There's this dove named Noah. He's missing a leg, and can't be released so he lives permanently in an animal rescue facility.

The animal rescue facility got five baby rabbits who had been abandoned (more likely their mama was killed). The babies were not doing well. Two of them died.

Noah started sitting outside the cage where the baby rabbits lived. Then one of the babies crawled over to Noah and snuggled under its wing. Pretty soon all the babies were living with Noah, under Noah's protective wings.

Nowadays, Noah and the bunnies are all doing fine.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sarah Palin Needs Her Own Sitcom.

I've been thinking about the Sarah problem. What to do, what to do.

Then it came to me, so obvious. Sarah Palin needs her own sitcom. "Kind of" true to life.

She would have the cute but silent husband, the curmudgeonly much older not very kindly Senator who plucks her out of obscurity and puts her on center stage to the horror of the world.

There would be the insane drug addict radio guy who loves her but knows she'll never leave her cute but silent husband, so the drug addict consoles himself by consuming mass quantities of cheeseburgers and fries while snorting piles of cocaine.

The rest of the cast would include her unmarried daughter who gets pregnant then becomes a spokesperson for no-sex-before-marriage, and a group of delusional UFO-sighting losers who wear hats with tea-bags hanging around the brim, and stained T-shirts that say "We Love Sarah." You-betcha.

Opening credits would show Sarah running through a field full of oil rigs wearing short-shorts, throwing her hairpiece in the air.

I've even got the theme song, sung to the tune of "How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria." But it would be called "How Do You Stop A Problem Like Sa-rah."

How do you solve a problem like Sa-rah?
How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?
How do you find a word that means Sa-rah?
A flibbertijibbet! A will-o'-the wisp! A clown!

Many a thing you know you'd like to tell her
Many a thing she ought to understand
But how do you make her stay
And listen to all you say
How do you keep a wave upon the sand

Oh, how do you solve a problem like Sa-rah?
How do you hold a moonbat in your hand?

When I'm with her I'm confused
Out of focus and bemused
And I never know exactly where I am
Unpredictable as weather
She's as flighty as a feather
She's a dummy! She's a demon! She's a fraud!

CPAC (ConMen, Predators, And Crooks)

CPAC is meeting in D.C. CPAC is a right-wing group that gets together once a year to share their racist jokes, cartoons and postcards, sell UFO T-shirts and I Heart Dick lapel buttons, plot to spread their hate and racism and sexism across the country, and get shitfaced and/or laid by the female groupies who actually attend these meetings.

Here's an on-line female person named Katie, in her recliner, telling the world how excited she is that she will going to CPAC this year. What exactly excites her? First, she'll get to see Glenn Beck in person. Glenn Beck, the psychotic paranoid delusional tearful idiot from TV. And the second thing that she's excited about: the Food! She apparently saw Palin getting nailed for writing things on her hand, so Katie decided to write her speech on her feet instead.

Hey Katie: We're laughing at you. Not with you.

So what is included in the gift-bags that they give out to the people who attend CPAC?

1. For the "religious" men, the special Ted Haggard gift bag: a Bible, a condom, and some methamphetamine.

2. For the frequent-flyer men, a pair of tap shoes and a map to the nearest men's restroom.

3. For the radio personalities: 10 large bags of greasy potato chips, 10 cheeseburgers with large fries, a few bottles of viagra, and a cleaning bucket full of cocaine.

4. For the left-overs from the Bush-Cheney regime: handcuffs, slantboards, wetsuits and whips.

5. For the Log-Cabin men: a closet.

6. For the women who love Sarah Palin: a wooden cross they can climb up on to self-crucify, with a plaque on the cross that says: "I'm persecuted because of my kids. Not because I'm stupid."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

John Mellencamp For Senate From Indiana: He Was Born In A Small Town, Lives In A Small Town in Indiana.

There is a groundswell of support to draft John Mellencamp to run for Senate to take Evan Bayh's old seat representing Indiana. John Mellencamp is a progressive, part of the rock and roll hall of fame, politically involved for a long time. A veteran of the Farm Aid efforts to raise money to help save small farms in this country. He was born in a small town and lives in a small town in Indiana.

I think it's a terrific idea. Mellencamp would be lot better than the white-bread Evan Bayh who's strapped verbal grenades to his chest for his last days as a Democrat. It would be a shame to see the seat go to another conservative Democrat.

From the Village Voice:

John Mellencamp Proposed to Replace Evan Bayh in Senate Race By Roy Edroso, Tuesday, Feb. 16 2010

​Now that Indiana Senator Evan Bayh is out of the picture, some people are pushing for John Mellencamp, aka John Cougar, aka John Camp Cougarmellen, to run on the Democratic line for his seat.

Mellencamp is from Indiana, where he was born in a small town, and lives in Bloomington, which he asserts is a small town; he also predicts that he will prob'ly die in a small town. ...

Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation, has suggested a Mellencamp candidacy, as has Roger Ebert. A Facebook page has been put up for that purpose, with 238 members at present.

Mellencamp has been to the White House, but only for musical rather than political events. He has ventured into politics but rarely, with an open "Take Back Our Country" letter ("Take it back from political agendas, corporate greed and overall manipulation") and such like. ....

Here's a link to the Facebook page set up to draft John Mellancamp for the Senate:

WTF Is The Red Cross Doing Hoarding All That Money?

Americans have given the U.S. Red Cross $255 Million to use to help the people of Haiti who are victims of that horrible earthquake.

To date, the Red Cross has only spent, or committed (whatever that means) to spend $80 Million.

What are they waiting for? That's less than 1/3 of the money given. The Red Cross is generally limited to providing emergency services, not long-term relief. They do not, as far as I know, build homes for people, or build schools. They use money to provide emergency food, shelter, maybe medical, to people in need.

So where does the rest of the money go? I don't like the U.S. Red Cross, for lots of reasons. But putting that aside, we know that the medical situation in Haiti is a life-or-death one for many people. Why hasn't the Red Cross given some of this money to Doctors Without Borders, who are on-site, were there before the earthquake and have traveling teams with portable emergency rooms ready and available to help the people. But they do need assistance to save lives. So instead of the Red Cross sitting on all this money, why don't they give it to somebody who is able and willing to do something to save lives in the emergency that exists right now.

I'm going to follow up on this story, and see whether the Red Cross ends up just fattening their own bank accounts with money given to them for Haiti. Or, worse yet, give the money out to Haitian millionaires to use to build new palaces, much like the Red Cross did after 9/11, giving money to the multi-millionaire families of stockbrokers who died. That's not what people intend when they give a "charitable" donation. They don't intend that the money be used to pay obscene salaries and bonuses to Red Cross insiders. And they don't intend that the money be given to rich people.

Steve King, Republican From Iowa, Is A Cruel, Despicable, Vicious Pig.

The victim:

Steve King is a Republican representative in Congress, from the 5th District of Iowa. Last week-end he bragged about seeing a racoon trying to find shelter from the snow, and he took out his gun and shot the poor animal just to show how macho he was. He has now come under "fire" so to speak, of the verbal variety, from groups like Peta.

The Killer, Steve King:
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has weighed in on Rep. Steve King (R) killing a raccoon that tried to crawl its way into his Iowa home — and not surprisingly, the animal welfare group isn’t too pleased.

PETA spokesman Jaime Zalac said King should pick on someone his own size, “not a small animal seeking warmth in a blizzard.”

“It doesn’t give you comfort in your representatives when a member of Congress finds it amusing to boast of shooting a desperately cold animal who is 100 times smaller than he is and whose only misstep was trying to get into a large, warm house,” Zalac said in a written statement. “I hope he’s not on any committees that make decisions regarding cruel and unusual punishment. Decent people would call animal control for help, not get on Twitter to boast about having a really, really big gun.”

King tweeted on Feb. 9 that he killed the raccoon with a Desert Eagle pistol when he spotted it crawling into his house. In an interview last week, King told HOH that he felt he needed to kill the critter because he believed it was rabid and could potentially hurt his family.

And King insisted he appreciates wildlife, noting he often sees deer, rabbits, squirrels and other animals on his property.

Such a tough guy. I wonder if he called 911 for back-up before he shot this little animal in the head?

I hate Republicans. This guy is also adamantly against any kind of healthcare reform, bragging on his website that all Americans should have free "choice" in healthcare -- the freedom to die on the streets if you can't afford it. He wants to make sure the medical industry is free to make as much money as possible.

If you want to contact King and tell him what a despicable pig he is, here is his contact information

e-mail: (his website includes a contact form)
Phone: (202) 225-4426
Fax: (202) 225-3193

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Children of Chernobyl

Remember Chernobyl? A few years after the U.S. nuclear facility accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, a nuclear facility in the Ukraine, named Chernobyl, also had a leak. Do you know what happened to those people? The children of Chernobyl, unborn at the time of the accident but born since that time to parents whose genetic make-up was seriously altered by the nuclear accident, those children have suffered the most. There are special projects in Ireland to help the children of Chernobyl. Here is a documentary describing the effects of that nuclear accident on the children.

Nuclear Power Plants Kill. Shame On Obama.

There have been no new nuclear power plants built in the last 30 years in this country, ever since the accident at the nuclear power plant in Three Mile Island. Among other things, the financial institutions will not loan the money for nuclear power plants to be built or operated because they know the risk is too great that there will be an accident, and/or leakage, people will get cancer and die, and they will be sued.

Can you imagine Wall Street shying away from a risky investment? Well, they do in this case.

Not to worry. Barack Obama has come out and proposed that the U.S. government will provide or back every loan needed to start building new nuclear power plants. The first one will be in Georgia, far from where Barack, Michelle, and the kids live. Pity the people of the state of Georgia.

Remember all the green jobs Obama promised us? A new direction, development of green technology, super-fast new trains, public transportation, better homes, all of that? Air, wind, solar power development? Remember that? Well, it was just a big hoax. It turns out that Obama is so far up the Republican's noses that he's coming out their eyeballs, supporting the same policies pushed by Bush and Cheney to put millions of American lives at risk to develop nuclear plants, which are known to fail, and known to kill. What change?

Evan Bayh's Ambition Always Exceeded His Talents.

I'm not sure I can stand another news-cycle of The Great Lectures by Evan Bayh. Now he's all puffed up with self-righteousness proclaiming himself The One Innocent Man and condemning every other person in Congress or, perhaps, in government. He apparently sees himself as heroic. I'm not sure why. Maybe he sees himself running for the top spot with Sarah in 2012. They could call themselves "A Team Of Quitters."

He's about as white-bread and ineffective as a politician can be. He is rumored to have wanted the V.P. spot for several cycles now, and his name was on several lists of possibilities. But alas, he was passed over. Perhaps that is because his nickname is Mr. Republican, not a good choice for a Democrat.

Listening to lectures from Evan Bayh about corruption is like listening to a prostitute lecture on the importance of honoring a purity ring.

Evan Bayh obviously got into politics not because of his own talents, but because of his father's considerable reputation (Birch Bayh). Evan Bayh is not the richest Senator, and probably not the most corrupt. But that doesn't mean he's an honest man. His personal net worth is listed as between $1.0 and $3.0 million, but most of his money (93%) is invested in Healthcare. Remember that?

Click on the above link, then click on Assets (for Evan Bayh), and you will see that senator Bayh has 93% of his investments in health "services."

The problem with healthcare in this country is that it is too expensive. Too many do-nothings paid big salaries for using their political connections. We would have to add Evan's wife Susan to this list, having been paid over $2.0 million by Wellpoint, one of the biggest health insurers in the country. In fact, Susan has apparently used her husband's connections to get herself a series of obscenely well-paid positions in the healthcare field. If Evan Bayh was truly an honorable man, he would have asked his wife to avoid working for such a major industry when it created such an obvious appearance of a conflict of interest.

What is the likelihood that Evan Bayh would vote for a non-profit healthcare system to be made available to all Americans, like Medicare for all, when he and his family were making millions off of the existing system, the one that is grossly and obscenely overpriced? Shouldn't Evan have recused himself from even commenting on this subject given his wife's lucrative employment? I would think so.

Let's put some money on this. I say Evan Bayh will be a lobbyists for the health industry within hours of his leaving the Senate. He will finally be in the right position: get paid lots of money for doing almost nothing except colluding with the corporations that are hell-bent on destroying our citizens.

Bye-Bye, Bayh.

It's Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday)

The term "Mardi Gras" is French for "Fat Tuesday." In Spanish it would be Martes Grande. Mardi Gras has been celebrated for hundreds of years in countries throughout the world. The celebration takes place within a few days before today, Fat Tuesday, which is always the Tuesday right before Ash Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday is a holy day in the Catholic Church (and some other religions), the beginning of Lent, 46 days before Easter Sunday. On Ash Wednesday, members of the church go to mass and palm fronds are burned, with the ashes smeared on the foreheads of the church members. Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, which is considered a period of repentence. Many Catholics give up something during Lent -- like candy for the children, meat for some adults -- as a sign of repentence for their sins, and sacrifice. Putting ashes on the forehead signifies repentence, a reminder that we will all return to ashes some day.

Remember, O man, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return. Genesis, 3:19

The days (and sometimes weeks) leading up to Ash Wednesday are celebrated in many countries, and notably in New Orleans, Lousiana, with a city-wide carnival, people dressing up in costumes and partying through the nights, parading through the streets, enjoying their last days of celebration before the 46-day period of Lent.

"Cajun" is a term that is used to refer to a certain group of people in southwest Lousiana. They originally moved from France to Canada, to an area known as Acadia, which included parts of Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Maine. When the English took over, the Cajuns were thrown out in what was called Le Grand Derangement, and many of them moved to Lousiana.

Once in Lousiana, the people of French origin intermarried with all the other groups in the area, and it is the product of those people who are called "Cajun." In that area of Lousiana, many of the people still speak French in their own homes, and observe their own unique culture, which is reflected in their food, language, and music. "Jolie Blon," is a cajun song known and preformed world-wide. It is sometimes called the Cajun National Anthem:

We all know about the parties in New Orleans, with the beads and the costumes. But did you know that in Polish-American communities around the country, today is celebrated by the making and eating of a Polish pastry called paczkis, like a jelly donut dipped in sugar. Ummmm. Happy Mardi Gras. Eat some donuts, they're good for you this one day out of the year. Even if you're not Polish.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Corporate Looting: Usury As A Weapon in Modern-Day America

Usury is a sin (according to the Catholic church). It has been condemned by writers for thousands of years, and most civilizations have made it illegal. But not ours. We concern ourselves with our neighbors' sex lives, but if our neighbor works in a credit card company charging 25%, or 50%, or even 80% interest on loans, that's okay. But it really isn't okay to exploit the misfortune of others.

Here's a good quote from an article below, discussing usury, from a Catholic encyclopedia, giving a religious view on the subject:

"Lending money at interest gives us the opportunity to exploit the passions or necessities of other men by compelling them to submit to ruinous conditions; men are robbed and left destitute under the pretext of charity. Such is the usury against which the Fathers of the Church have always protested, and which is universally condemned at the present day."

"Dr. Funk defined it as the abuse of a certain superiority at the expense of another man's necessity; but in this description he points to the opportunity and the means which enable a man to commit the sin of usury, rather than the formal malice of the sin itself. It is in itself unjust extortion, or robbery."

"The sin is frequently committed. In some countries are found the exaction of interest at 30, 50, 100 percent and more. The evil is so great in India that we might expect legal provisions to fight against such ruinous abuse. The exorbitant charges of pawnbrokers for money lent on pledge, and, in some instances, of persons selling goods to be paid for by installments, are also instances of usury disguised under another name."

Most states have usury laws, which are laws that prohibit anyone from charging an excessive or unconsionable rate of interest on a loan. Generally the maximum interest that can be charged is around 10 - 12% per year. So why is it that the credit card companies charge grossly in excess of that amount?

Because they bribed the politicians to write laws saying that they are exempt from the usury laws. All of the rest of us are subject to the law. But the corporations bribed the Congress, and the government of each state, to pass a special law saying that the credit card companies are not subject to the usury laws, and they can charge however much they want.

This would be shocking in the most backward, corrupt military dictatorship in the world. But in a modern-day democracy, it is unspeakable. Most civilizations have protected the people by having usury laws, to prevent the rich and powerful from taking advantage of those with few resources. But not our country. In our country, the people's basic rights are sold off by our politicians for money, bribes and kick-backs, and we end up with fewer personal rights than people had thousands of years ago.

This week-end, several news media reported about a credit card company now charging 80% (79.9%) interest on all charges on its card. This credit card company is located in South Dakota (probably because they have laws which shelter criminals like this corporation from consumer rights). The name of the credit card company is Premier Bankcard. Of course they are claiming that they have to charge 80% to cover their costs of business and the "risks" of issuing credit cards. The fact is they are simply greedy, lawless, and eager to pick the bones of the near-bankrupt citizens of this country.

Of course it's even more awful when you realize that most of these credit card companies borrow money from the federal government at around 0% interest. As of December, this same company was only charging 9% interest on their credit cards. I'm guessing the unemployment and foreclosure rates have gone up so far that these vultures decided to move in for the kill, set a new higher bar for the obscenity of U.S financial businesses.

The only reason we do not have usury laws which apply to financial businesses is because of corruption. The big financial businesses pay bribes to our politicians to get them to vote on laws saying that credit card companies do not have to obey the usury laws.

If we had usury laws capping interest at 10% for credit cards, many Americans would have thousands of dollars more per year in their pockets, money paid as interest which keeps them from ever getting out of debt. It's like the old coal-mining towns: people worked full-time (now two adults work full-time instead of just one), they get shelter, food, clothing in very limited amounts, but at the end of the month the company takes all their money, and they never get ahead, they just go deeper in debt every month. That is what we have in America today.

This is from New Advent, a website which includes writings on the history of the Catholic Church, and its historical position on different issues. Below is a discussion of the Church's view on usury, or excessive rates of interest charged on loans. I've only included this as evidence of the fact that ancient societies, thousands of years ago, had rules against usury. It often was seen as a religious issue -- a sin -- a prohibition of taking such extreme advantage of your neighbor, a prohibition against greed. Of course in our country, Greed is good.

In the article INTEREST we have reserved the question of the lawfulness of taking interest on money lent; we have here to consider first, usury as condemned by all honest men.

Plato (Laws, v. 742) and Aristotle (Politics, I, x, xi) considered interest as contrary to the nature of things; Aristophanes expressed his disapproval of it, in the "Clouds" (1283 sqq.); Cato condemned it (see Cicero, "De officiis, II, xxv), comparing it to homicide, as also did Seneca (De beneficiis, VII, x) and Plutarch in his treatise against incurring debts. So much for Greek and Roman writers, who, it is true, knew little of economic science. Aristotle disapproved of the money trader's profit; and the ruinous rates at which money was lent explain his severity.

On the other hand, the Roman and Greek laws while considering the mutuum, or loan for consumption, as a contract gratuitous in principle, allowed a clause, stipulating for the payment of interest, to be added to the bond. The Law of the Twelve Tables allowed only unciarium fenus, probably one-twelfth of the capital, or 8.33 per cent. A plebiscitum, lex Ganucia, 412 a.u.c. went so far as to forbid all interest whatever, but, at a later period, the Roman law allowed interest at 1 per cent monthly, or 12 per cent per annum. Justinian laid down as a general rule that this maximum should be reduced by half (L. 26, I, c. De usuris, IV, 32). Chaldea allowed interest on loans (cf. Law of Hammurabi, 48 sqq.). No absolute prohibition can be found in the Old Testament; at most, Exodus 22:25, and Deuteronomy 23:19-20, forbid the taking of interest by one Jew from another.

In the Christian era, the New Testament is silent on the subject; the passage in St. Luke ... A certain number of authors, among them Benedict XIV (De synodo diocesana, X., iv, n. 6), believed in the existence of a Patristic tradition which regarded the prohibitory passages of Holy Scripture as of universal application. Examination of the texts, however, leads us to the following conclusions: Until the fourth century all that can be inferred from the Fathers and ecclesiastical writers is that it is contrary to mercy and humanity to demand interest from a poor and needy man.

The vehement denunciation of the Fathers of the fourth and fifth centuries were called forth by the moral decadence and avarice of the time, and we cannot find in them any expression of a general doctrine on this point; nor do the Fathers of the following centuries say anything remarkable on usury; they simply protest against the exploitation of misfortune, and such transactions as, under the pretence of rendering service to the borrower, really threw him into great distress.

The question of moderate rates of interest seems scarcely to have presented itself to their minds as a matter of discussion. The texts bearing on the question are collected in Vermeersch, "Questiones morales de justitia" II, n. 359. The councils condemned in the first place clerics who lent money at interest. This is the purpose of the 44th of the Apostolic Canons; of the Council of Arles (314), and of the 17th canon the First Council of Nic├Ža (325). It is true that a text of the Council of Elvira (305 or 306) is quoted which, while ordering the degradation of clerics, would also have punishment inflicted on laymen, who obstinately persisted in usurious practices; but the mention of layman is of extremely doubtful authenticity. It may then be said that until the ninth century canonical decrees forbade this profit, shameful as it was considered, only to clerics.

Nevertheless, the 12th canon of the First Council of Carthage (345) and the 36th canon of the Council of Aix (789) have declared it to be reprehensible even for laymen to make money by lending at interest. The canonical laws of the Middle Ages absolutely forbade the practice. ... [Th]e Third of the Lateran (1179) and the Second of Lyons (1274) condemn usurers. In the Council of Vienne (1311) it was declared that if any person obstinately maintained that there was no sin in the practice of demanding interest, he should be punished as a heretic (see c. "Ex gravi", unic. Clem., "De usuris", V, 5)....

Theologians and canonists of the Middle Ages constructed a rational theory of the loan for consumption, which contains this fundamental statement: The mutuum, or loan of things meant for immediate consumption, does not legalize, as such, any stipulation to pay interest; and interest exacted on such a loan must be returned, as having been unjustly claimed. This was the doctrine of St. Thomas and Scotus; of Molina, Lessius, and de Lugo. Canonists adopted it as well as the theologians; and Benedict XIV made it his own in his famous Encyclical "Vix pervenit" of 1 November, 1745, ...

While Luther, Melanchthon, and Zwingli condemned loaning for interest, Calvin permitted interest on money advanced to rich persons; ...

Economists generally uphold the theoretical lawfulness of interest on loans. For a long time civil law was in agreement with canon law; but as early as the sixteenth century, Germany allowed interest at 5 percent; in France, on the contrary, interest on loans was forbidden until the Decree of 2 and 3 October, 1789. ...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Poetic Justice.

Jim Bowles, president of ConocoPhillips Alaska (an oil company) died this week-end. He and friends were using snowmobiles in Alaska, in a wilderness area, and were buried in an avalanche.

See, here's the thing. Snowmobiles are noisy, obnoxious, polluting toys for rich oil executives who want to drill baby drill without regard to destruction of the environment and all the living creatures who occupy the environment. So when his toy triggers an avalanche that kills him and some of his scummy friends, I say good.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Which Side Are You On, President Obama?

(Rahm Emanuel aka Iago whispers into President Obama's ear. Will Obama play the role of the foolish Moor, Othello?)

There is a good article at buzzflash, discussing the way in which the Democratic leadership has systematically worked to destroy the grassroots progressive organization of 13 million people who came together to get Barack Obama elected President. One year after that election, most of those 13 million do not bother responding to e-mails from the Democratic Party because they always ask for one thing: send more money, but other than that, shut up and stay away.

When Rahm Emanuel called progressives F-ing Retards because they were putting pressure on Blue dog Democrats to try to get real healthcare reform, Emanuel's arrogance, love of corporations and disdain for the people lost Obama an awful lot of supporters.

Rahm Emanuel, the F-ing A-Hole, loves corporations and loves war. But he hates the people who got Obama elected. My theory is that Emanuel wants to run for President, and figures if he can line up all the corporate money, he can buy that office just like he bought himself a seat in Congress.

If Obama wants support from the grassroots, he needs to get rid of Emanuel and start doing things for the citizens, stop asking us for money. We're all broke, Mr. President. That's because there are no jobs programs, nothing to help citizens, no healthcare, no housing programs, all the money has gone to escalate the wars and give bigger bonuses to Wall Street. Thanks for nothing.

People in this country are fed up with being raped by Wall Street. Yet what do we see this week, but our President, Barack Obama, coming out publicly in support of the multi-million dollar bonuses being paid once again to the heads of these looting and pillaging financial institutions. Tens of millions of Americans have been financially ruined by these criminals on Wall Street, and Obama is out publicly defending their "right" to continue the looting.

Paul Krugman had a great article earlier this week, which he titled "Clueless." His best line: "Oh. My. God." Paul Krugman has a column at the New York Times, teaches at Princeton, and is a Nobel prize winner. He is an economist and an all-around pretty smart dude. Many people wonder why Krugman and other nationally-known and respected liberal economists have been shut out of the current administration, which instead has turned to Wall Street insiders like Tim Geithner, Bob Rubin and Larry Sumner, to be in charge of our economy, to the continued benefit of Wall Street, and to the continued suffering of the people of this country.

Excerpts from Paul Krugman's column, "Clueless":

"I’m with Simon Johnson here: how is it possible, at this late date, for Obama to be this clueless?" ...

"President Barack Obama said he doesn’t 'begrudge' the $17 million bonus awarded to JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon or the $9 million issued to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. CEO Lloyd Blankfein, noting that some athletes take home more pay."

"The president, speaking in an interview, said in response to a question that while $17 million is 'an extraordinary amount of money' for Main Street, 'there are some baseball players who are making more than that and don’t get to the World Series either, so I’m shocked by that as well.'

“'I know both those guys; they are very savvy businessmen,' Obama said in the interview yesterday in the Oval Office with Bloomberg BusinessWeek, which will appear on newsstands Friday. 'I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free- market system.'”

"Obama sought to combat perceptions that his administration is anti-business and trumpeted the influence corporate leaders have had on his economic policies.".... [emphasis added].

"Oh. My. God."

"First of all, to my knowledge, irresponsible behavior by baseball players hasn’t brought the world economy to the brink of collapse and cost millions of innocent Americans their jobs and/or houses."

"And more specifically, not only has the financial industry been bailed out with taxpayer commitments; it continues to rely on a taxpayer backstop for its stability...."

"The point is that these bank executives are not free agents who are earning big bucks in fair competition; they run companies that are essentially wards of the state. There’s good reason to feel outraged at the growing appearance that we’re running a system of lemon socialism, in which losses are public but gains are private. And at the very least, you would think that Obama would understand the importance of acknowledging public anger over what’s happening." ...

"We’re doomed."

Assuming President Obama for some irrational reason is not a fan of Paul Krugman, then perhaps before he began cheerleading for more multi-million bonuses for the criminals on Wall Street who have destroyed the lives of millions, he could have read a recent article by the acclaimed economist Joseph Stiglitz, Professor at Columbia University, or simply reviewed Professor Stiglitz's recent testimony before Congress.

Unlike Rahm Emanuel, Tim Geithner, Larry Sumners, and the other Wall Street insiders and beneficiaries (Rahm Emanuel was the biggest recipient of money from Wall Street when he was in Congress, called "Wall Street's favorite politician") who have gotten rich off of bonuses, Joseph Stiglitz, like Paul Krugman, does not work for Wall Street. Professor Stiglitz, like Paul Krugman also a Nobel prize-winning economist, has warned that the existing financial system in this country is the cause of our current problems. The lack of regulation, the lack of enforcement of anti-trust and anti-monopoly laws which has created these "too big too fail" institutions, the failure to hold these companies and insiders responsible for the damage they cause to society, the focus on bonuses for short-term gains, are all responsible for what he calls the Great Depression that now envelops our economy.

Here are excerpts from and a link to the article from Buzzflash by Bill Berkowitz, discussing the way in which Rahm Emanuel and the other Democratic Party insiders have eradicated the entire 13-million-member grassroots citizens who worked to get Barack Obama elected President.

"If you’re anything like me, it’s likely that sometime over the past fifteen-+ months since the election of Barack Obama, you’ve asked yourself, Whatever happened to the millions of activists/hopetivists that enthusiastically participated in, and/or contributed to, Obama’s presidential campaign?"

"By the time the 2008 presidential campaign was over, Obama for America had 13 million e-mail supporters, 4 million donors, and 2.5 million activists connected through the My.BarackObama social network and some $18 millions left in the bank, Rolling Stone magazine recently pointed out. Long-time Republicans were amazed by OFA’s success: 'This would be the greatest political organization ever put together, if it works, Ed Rollins, Ronald Reagan’s campaign manager, told Rolling Stone’s Tim Dickinson. 'No one’s ever had these kinds of resources.'”

"Why did the Obama administration give up such a massive political advantage? Was it saving its troops for the proverbial political rainy day? Was Team Obama so taken with the notion of bi-partisanship that it didn’t understand the realty of the conservative movement’s commitment to the 'permanent campaign'”?

"In the February 18, 2010 edition of Rolling Stone, Tim Dickinson provides some much-needed insight into what happened to the missing millions in an article titled 'No We Can’t: Obama had millions of followers eager to fight for his agenda. But the president muzzled them – and he’s paying the price.' In the end, the dissolution of the grass roots movement was a result of a number of things, including the resignation of David Plouff, Obama’s campaign manager, the prevailing notion that insider politics trumps grassroots activism, and a series of massive miscalculations on the part of Obama’s key advisors -- most notably Rahm Emanuel, the president’s chief of staff – and the Democratic Party’s leadership."

"Take the health care reform debate for example: Last summer, while the Tea Partiers were grabbing headlines and cable news television time by rocking town hall meetings across the country in opposition to healthcare reform, Obama’s multitudes remained silent. While poll after poll appeared to indicate majority support for a “public option,” Team Obama refused to embrace that position or any position close to it. Confused and angered by what appeared to be a lack of both direction and political will on the part of the administration, grassroots activists stayed away from the fray – and they were encouraged to do so by the Obama administration. Thus, there were no major demonstrations or rallies in support of healthcare reform legislation." ...

"[A]lmost immediately after Election Day, 'Obama’s grass-roots network effectively went dark for … failing to engage activists eager for their new marching orders,' Dickinson notes."....

Rather than using OFA to engage millions of voters to turn up the heat on Congress, the president yoked his political fortunes ro the unabashedly transactional style of politics advocated by his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. Health care reform … was no longer about mobilizing supporters to convince their friends, families and neighbors in all 50 states. It was about convincing 60 senators in Washington. It became about deals.”

"When the Common Purpose Project -- made up of groups like Change to Win, Rock the Vote and MoveOn – was formed to run ads putting pressure on conservaDems to support healthcare reform, Rahm Emanuel 'put a stop to the campaign.' Dickinson reports that at one of the meetings of the Common Purpose Coalition, Emanuel showed up and 'yelled at the assembled activists, calling them ‘fucking retards’' and telling them he wasn’t going to let them derail his legislative winning streak.”

"According to Dickinson, Emanuel effectively “locked down the OFA” preventing them from going after any conservative Democrats. Instead of using a mobilized, enthusiastic, and active base, Emanuel pursued politics the old-fashioned way; “horse-trading, backroom talks, one-to-one lobbying.” One White House ex-staffer told Dickinson that administration officials felt that “unleashing a massive grass-roots army is only going to backfire on us.” ...

"Ultimately, it will be the actions of the Obama administration that will either motivate the grass roots to get back into the fray or convince them that not much has really changed in Washington after all."

Here's a link to another good article at Common Dreams. It describes the complete failure of the Obama administration to do anything to help working people, and in particular its failure to support the unions, the same unions that helped Obama get elected. So far, despite repeated promises to pass the Card Check provision to make union elections easier, the Democrats have completely failed to do that. All pro-labor nominees have been rejected or ignored by the Democrats in Congress, and they keep threatening to tax union health benefits rather than cap the amount that the health insurance companies, doctors, hospitals, and drug companies can charge.

Also see this article by Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, about the Republicans' refusal to confirm Obama's nominations to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The nominees are highly qualified. Nonetheless, the Democrats are letting this one slide, like so many other things. The NLRB is charged with the responsibility of enforcing certain labor laws, including the right of workers to organize. The Republicans pack the NLRB with pro-corporate pawns. Isn't time we got somebody on that board who is pro-working people? Is there anybody in our entire government who cares about the working people in this country?

The Obama administration came out this week and claimed that there would be approximately 100,000 new jobs created per month this year. Assuming that happened (and so far, we keep losing jobs), that would mean 1.0 million new jobs by the end of the year. The problem is that we've lost 8 million jobs over the past 2 years. What about that? How long are people supposed to wait? How much do the people have to lose because of the looting of this country by Wall Street, our corporations sending our jobs to other countries? When will somebody stand up for working people in this country?

Which side are you on, President Obama?