Friday, April 30, 2010
Bealtaine (or Beltane) is the Gaelic name for both the month of May and a festival that traditionally took place throughout Ireland on the first day of May. The festival was also celebrated in Scotland and Wales.
Beltane marks the beginning of the summer season in Ireland. At the end of the day on May 1, the communities would light a big bonfire on top of a hill, all across Ireland. The bonfires were lit to drive out evil spirits and cleanse the community to prepare for the joyous days of summer and hopefully a bountiful harvest in the fall. All of the residents of the community would bring their own torch to the bonfire to get new fire, take it home, and re-light their own hearths as a symbol of a new beginning. Because the festival involved lighting fires, the first day of May was called "Laa Buidhe Bealtaine (Bright May Day).
The tradition of lighting bonfires continues in parts of Ireland and Scotland, and among some groups in the Irish diaspora.
Another part of the festival was the hanging of Mayflowers, or flower arrangements, on the doors and windows of the homes, and the erection of a May bush which was decorated with flowers and ribbons (similar to May poles).
Here is a video of a recent Beltane celebration.
4/30/75 (35 years ago) U.S. Flees Saigon, Finally Leaving Vietnam To The Vietnamese. Now Let's Get Out Of Iraq And Afghanistan.
The U.S. War Against Vietnam.
Vietnam is a small nation in Southeast Asia. It has been attacked and occupied by foreign countries for generations, and the people have developed a commitment to independence and resistence to being controlled by any foreign country. It was a French colony ("owned" by France) before World War II, and the French stole the resources, propped up a corrupt puppet regime as a "pretend" government, and enslaved the people.
During World War II, the Japanese invaded and the French fled, leaving the poor Vietnamese with no protection except themselves. Many of them fought valiently and heroically against the Japanese under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh. After World War II was over, Ho Chi Minh went to the leaders of the Allied nations (U.S., France, England, Soviet Union) and petitioned for Vietnam's freedom. He said that the people of Vietnam did not want to "belong" to France or anyone else, but instead wanted the freedom and independence that the allied forces had just fought for throughout the Pacific and Europe. They were turned down, and Vietnam was once again declared to be a colony of France -- to "belong" to the nation of France.
Not surprisingly, many of the Vietnamese did not accept this decision and began fighting against the French. Beginning in the early 1950s, the U.S. started giving money to France to prop up its colonial empire in Vietnam. The U.S. theory was that if Vietnam was "given" its freedom, they might become aligned with China, which became Communist in 1949, and the U.S. did not want Communism to spread. Therefore, the people of Vietnam would have to remain slaves forever. Or so the U.S. believed.
(Our allies, the South Vietnamese, execute suspect without inquiry or trial. Pictures like this were common, and helped to turn the American public against this war. This is a 1968 Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph taken by Eddie Adams, showing the execution of a young man by a South Vietnamese official).
The financial aid did little to help the French, who were quite masterfully routed at Dien Ben Phu. The U.S. began sending in military advisers, then special groups, and eventually troops. And this commitment continued for over twenty years, with the U.S. eventually taking over the entire war. The strongest country in the world, richest nation, biggest military, was nonetheless defeated by the people of Vietnam.
Vietnam was divided into two: South was Western-controlled and aligned. North was anti-Western, pro-freedom, and communist (or at least nationalist). Many people in the south were sell-outs and traitors, betraying their own people and even family. Many were just caught in the middle.
Some people in Vietnam burned themselves to death publicly in opposition to the U.S. war against their country.
The U.S. had by far the superior military force. The air bombing of Vietnam was probably an international war crime. See Errol Morris's "The Fog Of War" for a brilliant discussion of the war in Vietnam, and Robert McNamara's viewpoint decades down the road.
The "Body-Count" became a public relations tool during this war. Because the Viet Cong were such a poor group of people, the American political leadership just could not understand why the U.S. couldn't just crush them. But no matter what we did, they reorganized and fought back. The Body-count was designed to try to justify the increasing war commitment despite its growing unpopularity with the U.S. population. The military would report in that they killed so many people here, so many there, and the grand total would be reported as evidence of "success."
(First we dropped napalm on the villages, then the poor draftees were stuck carrying out the bodies of young children, hopelessly burned over much of their bodies, and trying to figure out exactly WTF this war was all about.)
We had "free fire" zones. John Kerry, to his disgrace, volunteered to be assigned to a free-fire zone. A free-fire zone was one in which the U.S. military were told that they should fire at anything that moved. So they would approach villages and, if they heard any noise, just open fire. Women, children, grandmothers, it didn't matter. It was "free." Free killing. No consequences.
We also used chemical warfare against the civilians of Vietnam. You'd never know it to hear the U.S. politicians proclaim chemical warfare as the most hated weapons of a monster like Saddam Hussein. But no, actually, we used them, contrary to various international treaties in existence after the World War I use of gas was declared abhorent. We dropped napalm, an herbicide, all over the country. It was supposed to kill every single plant that grows in the ground, and prevent anything from growing back for a long time.
We dumped white phosphorous onto the people. We dumped Agent Orange, another chemical plant-killer which, as it turned out, also killed people. Including many Veterans who came back to the U.S. and developed a series of horrible diseases including cancer, and died very young. And the United States denied until very recently that Agent Orange caused these problems. So we killed our young, betrayed our veterans. Same old story.
In Vietnam, it is estimated that 400,000 Vietnamese were killed from direct exposure to Agent Orange, 500,000 were born with birth defects caused by their parents' exposure to Agent Orange, and two million additional people have developed cancer and other serious illnesses from the effects of Agent Orange in their country. The United States has done essentially nothing to either compensate the Vietnamese victims, or take responsibility to clean up the chemical disaster it created in that country.
Most of the young men who went to Vietnam were drafted. They didn't want to be there. Most people didn't even know where Vietnam was, never mind understanding why we were in a war there. There was a tremendous gap between the officers and the draftees. The officers were often ROTC-trained college kids who learned the "correct" way to engage in war, but that way was suicidal in a jungle environment. They would order their men to walk down the middle of a road, for example, but time and again the men would be ambushed from the side and slaughtered. The draftees became so enraged at the incompetence of the military leadership that some began killing their officers -- a practice that was so common that it was given the name of "Fragging."
Two million Vietnamese were killed during the U.S. War Against Vietnam.
(Children flee napalm being dropped onto them by U.S. military planes).
Over the entire period of the U.S. War Against Vietnam, 3.4 Million Americans were sent to fight against the Vietnamese, 58,000 Americans were killed, and 150,000 were injured. http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0004615.html Between 20% and 30% of the 3.4 million servicemen and women suffered from post traumatic stress disorder when they came back to the United States. http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2006/08.24/99-ptsd.html Many of them never recovered and became homeless alcoholics and drug addicts, their lives forever ruined by that war.
No matter how many people we killed, no matter how many bombs we dropped, no matter how many villages we burned, the Vietnamese just kept fighting.
Finally, on April 30, 1975, the North Vietnamese converged at the outskirts of Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, and the U.S. evacuated in a panic. The stunning photos and news video for the two days of April 29 and 30, 1975, shown on televisions around the world, were from the the U.S. embassy building in Saigon, helicopters landing, packing in as many people as they could hold, then taking off in a white-hot panic and depositing the people in ships waiting off-shore.
(The U.S. military tried to hold back the South Vietnamese who massed outside the embassy in Saigon, desperately hoping the U.S. would let them get on the evacuation helicopters).
Many of the South Vietnamese people had worked with the Americans, and knew they would likely be killed once the Viet Cong took over the city. But not all of them could be evacuated. Many were left behind, which gave rise to the phenomenon known as the "boat people." Vietnamese people would cram into boats and set out to sea, hoping to reach land in another nation, willing to live in a refugee camp if necessary.
The reason the Vietnamese who came to the U.S. are so extremely radical and right-wing is quite simply because they were radical and right-wing in their own nations. They may have thought they were acting properly, but the fact is they sided with western nations (first France then the U.S.) that militarily occupied and controlled their country and killed many of their own people. It's hard to have much sympathy for anyone who betrays their own country and sides with an occupying force. Of course some of them were quite innocent, just caught in the middle.
To this day, the right-wing in this country insists that we should have stayed in Vietnam, nuked them all, killed all the people. Because they were humiliated at the thought of "losing" the war. These people are too stupid to ask whether we had any business being in that country in the first place. Vietnam never attacked us, never attacked any other country, didn't threaten us. We waged a war of aggression against Vietnam. Our reason was because we were afraid of China, now our biggest business partner. We were wrong to have invaded Vietnam, wrong to have waged the 20-year war against them, wrong to have killed 2 million of their people.
(Once it became obvious that Saigon was going to fall quickly, with relatively short notice, the evacuation of U.S. personnel began in haste. Ships were brought near the shore, and helicopters were sent to certain buildings in Saigon to try to evacuate the Americans and as many of the South Vietnamese who had worked with the Americans as they could fit in. When people ask "when will the helicopters begin landing on the roofs in Iraq," they're referring to this famous scene).
The scene at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon was one of terror and panic, as the South Vietnamese who had worked with the Americans gathered outside the walls, trying to get to a helicopter so they could be evacuated.
Just like in Iraq -- we had no business going in, we cannot "win" an unjust war, and the only thing we can do is to leave. But I guess President Obama hasn't figured that one out yet, so more people will have to die.
There are 5 million Iraqi refugees living in horrid conditions in neighboring countries. We have littered Iraq with depleted uranium from U.S. weapons, which has already caused a radical increase in birth defects and cancer from the last time we invaded them, and will do the same this time. There is something called the Gulf War Syndrome which has sickened and disabled a large percentage of the young people who served in the U.S. military in the first Gulf War. The U.S. government denies liability for that, just like they denied liability for the Agent Orange cancer and birth defects for many decades. And it is equally unlikely the U.S. will ever do anything to clean up Iraq, just as we have done nothing to help clean up (the chemicals) in Vietnam.
We really need to get out of this war business. The only people who profit from war are the owners of corporations like Halliburton and Blackwater. The people who suffer the most are the innocent civilians and the children from the working classes who are sent to fight, kill or be killed. End the wars. Bring the troops home. Not next year, but now.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
(From The Defenders Of Wildlife):
Right now, roughly 5,000 barrels of oil a day are being spilled into the Gulf of Mexico southeast of Venice, Louisiana – yet another awful outcome of the tragic explosion at what was supposed to be one of the safest and most advanced offshore drilling rigs in the world.
Help close the door on another drilling disaster. Urge the Obama administration to reject expanded offshore drilling exploration.
Delicate marine ecosystems – and the dolphins, sea turtles and other wildlife that need them to survive – are at risk. Local fisherman fear for their businesses, as an oil slick twice the size of Maryland nears the ecologically fragile Louisiana coastline.
The situation is so desperate that yesterday the U.S. Coast Guard lit contaminated portions of the Gulf on fire in a desperate attempt to eliminate the spill before it reaches the coast.
And as the tragedy unfolds, officials in the Obama administration are considering a proposal that could dramatically expand offshore drilling – and bring the threat of another tragedy like the one now unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico to your favorite beach.
Tell the Obama administration to reject Big Oil’s plans to industrialize our coasts. Submit your comments now.
Comments on the administration’s offshore drilling proposal are due Monday (May 3rd), so please send your message to federal officials right now!
It doesn’t take a dramatic explosion and monster oil slick to see the perils of offshore drilling. For some marine wildlife, the simple act of determining whether and where to site an offshore rig can be a prelude to disaster.
Seismic surveys conducted during oil and gas exploration potentially can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss, induce behavioral changes and even physically injure marine mammals like bottlenose dolphins found along the Gulf coastline and bowhead whales in the waters of Alaska’s Chukchi Sea.
Protect whales and dolphins from risky offshore drilling schemes. Say “No!” to more destructive oil and gas exploration off our coasts.
Exposure to petroleum also causes tissue damage in the eyes, mouth, skin and lungs of dolphins and other marine mammals. And because they are at the top of the food chain, marine mammals like polar bears and whales will be exposed to the dangers of bioaccumulation of organic pollutants and metals.
For the threatened and endangered sea turtles found along the Gulf Coast, expanded oil drilling could mean the difference between survival and extinction.
Dredging of nesting beaches, collisions and noise disruptions threaten sea turtles. And hatchlings are particularly susceptible to oiling because they spend much of their time near the water surface, where spilled oil or tar accumulates.
Take action now to protect sea turtles, whales, dolphins and our coasts. Send your message to the Obama administration now.
For the Wild Ones,
Senior Policy Advisor,
Marine ProgramsDefenders of Wildlife
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
(Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman-Sux)
Lloyd Blankfein (a man of God, doing God's work here on earth, according to him), CEO of Goldman Sachs, was drug before a group of rich politicians in front of a TV camera on Tuesday. The apparent purpose of the proceedings was to make a circus-like atmosphere for the unemployed and hungry crowds of homeless people in the nation who wonder why their government refuses to arrest the Wall Street Criminals. The politicians pretended to be honest, and Blankfein pretended to care.
The politicians shouted and waved their hands in the air and used dirty words ("this was a shitty deal") as if they'd simply lost all ability to control themselves, pretending they were shocked to learn that Goldman Sachs had engaged in a massive international systematic program of fraudulent theft to aid them in stealing Billions of dollars from the people of the United States and much of the rest of the world.
Since most of the politicians take money from Goldman Sux to do its bidding, and could care less if the money was stolen from the poor citizens of this country, there was admittedly a somewhat comic element to the theatrics of the day. Only the poor citizens are not in on the joke.
Shortly after he began to speak, Lloyd Blankfein, a man of God, doing God's work here on earth, rose up and levitated the other Goldman insiders to float beside him, above the proceedings, join hands, and peer into their own souls. An enormous gasp went up from the audience as the group tumbled to their seats, recoiling from their vision of their souls, their futures, as The Rich Men In Hell. (And guess who's there with then? The politicians.)
Blankfein says Goldman undergoing "big soul search"
Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein said on Tuesday that the firm is undergoing "some big soul search" and is thoroughly reviewing its business practices.
"There's not a thing that will arise here and elsewhere that won't be the subject of some big soul search and some tightening up of standards," Blankfein told a U.S. Senate panel investigating the role the firm played in the financial crisis.
(The Rich Man In Hell)
H&H Bagels, located at Broadway and 80th St. in the Upper West Side of New York City is the largest bagel manufacturer in NYC, selling around 100,000 bagels per day. It is an extremely popular Bagel spot, some say the best in the city.
Although the bagel is not a food native to Puerto Rico, H&H is owned and operated by a man named Helmer Toro from Puerto Rico. The main store is located on Broadway and 80th St., but the bagels are made in a separate bakery facility on 46th St. at 12th Avenue.
H&H Bagels is so well-known that it has become a landmark in the city. It is often shown in TV shows and movies that film on the streets of NYC., including the movie You've Got Mail, and many different television shows including Entourage, Sex and the City, and Seinfeld.
From the New York Times:
Today Mr. Toro hears one question again and again: How did a Puerto Rican become a bagel maven? ...
Actually, he began to learn about dough and bread baking at the age of 12. One of 11 children, he worked after school at bakeries in the Bronx, where his family settled in 1958....
With no formal business training for guidance, Mr. Toro built H & H on instinct. One of his first decisions, in an effort to reach more customers, was to call in rabbinical authorities to make his bagels kosher.
"It was very good for business," said Mr. Toro, who rolled dough and made his product by hand for two years before buying an automatic bagel machine.
In the beginning, H & H had 20 employees. Today there are 120, with H & H's two red-hot ovens turning out bagels around the clock, seven days a week....
You can order H&H Bagels online and have them overnight shipped. Actually, thirty percent of their sales are now shipping to regions outside of NYC. They have pretty much anything you can imagine, including Plain, Onion, Garlic, Poppy, Sesame, Pumpernickel, Whole Wheat, Cinnamon Raisin, Sour Dough, Blueberry and, for people who cannot make a decision, "Everything."
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Madam Chairman: "Raise your hand if you're a sleazy despicable useless intraspecies predator who has dedicated his life to taking from others and creating a fat wallet which you can use to enslave the people in your life":
(Goldman Sux Gangbangers Finally Apprehended)
Madam Chairman continues: "Okay. Any of you who are not personally responsible for defrauding the world, any of you who did not participate in bankrupting the U.S. and all its people, please put your hands down":
Goldman Sachs, which according to Lloyd Blankfein is "doing God's work," which may be why I don't like religion so much, allegedly was selling mortgage-backed securities to their customers while betting they would fail (they didn't tell their customers they were pretty sure the mortgages were going to fail). They did fail, and Goldman made money on both ends of the deal.
Ben Stein's description of Goldman's conduct: it's like Goldman was an auto mechanic and "fixes" the customer's brakes, but knows they're going to fail and doesn't tell the customer. Instead, before the customer drives away, Goldman runs out and buys a life insurance policy on the customer's life.
I listen to the evidence about the criminals from Wall Street and how they have destroyed the economy of the world, stolen people's pensions by charging sneaky fees and looting them by churning, buying and selling irrationally to increase the broker's compensation, stolen people's savings and homes and jobs.
Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, standing in the midst of this entire country's economy broken down, people being thrown out of their homes, thrown out of their jobs, cities and states bankrupt, and this Blanking Prick says with a straight face that Goldman does God's work. Goldman Sachs has made Billions of dollars by looting the people of this country. That is Billions with a B. Why won't our government go get our money back?
Hank Paulson, a former Goldman insider goes over to the U.S. Treasury and takes taxpayer money and gives it to his friends at Goldman, so they can make even Billions more for themselves, Billions of dollars which they could never even spend in a lifetime, but they want the money knowing that it has been stolen from factory workers and school teachers and cab drivers. Who are these people?
Tobacco company executives who swear under penalty of perjury that cigarettes are not addictive, and who try to market cigarettes in cartoons so they can get children to start smoking. Where do these people come from?
The Bush people who lied and lied and lied, told one lie after the next to the American public so they could send the American military to invade Iraq, a country that never attacked nor threatened us, but their oil corporation friends wanted to invade Iraq and steal its oil, so the Bush people lied and lied and stole Trillions of dollars from the American public, so they and their oil corporation friends could have even more money, try to bring their fascist world view to dominate all the people of the world. How did these people grow up in my country? Why haven't they been indicted?
They must be psychopaths or sociopaths. But why are there so many of them? What is it about our society that allows these people to succeed? Is it greed? That the only thing we really value is people who are able to steal a lot of money?
Psychopathy is defined as a personality disorder characterized by an abnormal lack of empathy combined with strongly amoral conduct, masked by an ability to appear outwardly normal. It is similar to sociopathy. Both concepts are today described under the general category of "antisocial/dissocial personality disorder."
A research named Hare writes that psychopaths "use charisma, manipulation, intimidation, sexual intercourse and violence" to control others and to satisfy their own needs. "Lacking in conscience and empathy, they take what they want and do as they please, violating social norms and expectations without guilt or remorse". "What is missing, in other words, are the very qualities that allow a human being to live in social harmony."
According to Hare, psychopaths are glib and superficially charming; ... some psychopaths can blend in, undetected, in a variety of surroundings, including corporate environments. [And do very well on Wall Street].
These people belong in prison. They have bankrupt the world. They have destroyed people, stolen their pensions, their homes, their jobs, and left them in despair. They are directly responsible for people who have killed themselves, marriages have broken up, kids can't go to college, people can't go to the dentist to hold onto their teeth, people sink into a haze of alcohol and drugs and die young. These Wall Street criminals should be charged with murder, as well as felony fraud and theft.
At the end of World War I, and over the next decade, Wall Street did the same thing: they stole money from the entire world, engaged in widespread fraud and felony theft, and bankrupt the entire world. And they got away with it. The U.S. government failed to indict these criminals, seize their assets, throw them into prison, which is what should have happened to every single one of them. But the U.S. government did nothing, probably because most of the politicians were close personal friends with the rich white men who ran Wall Street.
The failure of the U.S. government to either stop these Intraspecies Predators or imprison them for their crimes certainly contributed to the rise of fascism, to World War II, and the deaths of 100 million people. Isn't there some lesson to be learned? That when the most powerful people in the world refuse to enforce the laws against their friends, when they let the rich get away with thieving and murder, it will create uprisings and chaos, and eventually wars and widespread deaths because people around the world just can't accept this level of injustice.
When is somebody in our government going to stand up for the people? When will they stop this organized crime syndicate called Wall Street, seize assets of every person above the level of receptionist who worked there in the last 10 years, and start throwing the insiders into prison. For life. Why is it some 22 year old with a dot of cocaine will do 5 years, but these Intraspecies Predators from Wall Street get away with everything, even murder? There is no justice in this country.
According to this video, Tim Geithner is into this Wall Street con up to his elbows and has no business working for the government. The government has given Trillions of dollars to Wall Street, no strings attached, but they refuse to disclose to the public how much money in total has been given away. When Obama goes out and brags that TARP money has been repaid, just keep in mind that the TARP money was just a tiny bit of the total that was given to these criminals. Most of the money given to them will not be repaid.
As we watch Goldman Sachs and all the other Wall Street criminals paying themselves Billions of dollars in "bonus" money, keep in mind that it is your money, it was stolen from you, it was given to them by our government with no strings attached. We need an independent prosecutor, we need to get all of this stinky mess out in public, and we need to throw some people into prison.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Why No Criminal Charges Against Goldman Sachs? They Were The Second Largest Contributor To Barack Obama In 2008.
Now that corporations own our politicians, our government and our courts, they can get away with anything. Nobody will stand up to them. Which is why it was somewhat of a surprise that the SEC filed a civil claim against Goldman Sachs charging them with fraud.
Personally, I suspect it's a sweetheart deal. It will let the Democrats look good for this year's election, while they pretend to clamp down on Wall Street but actually do nothing. And it will allow Goldman to "settle" the claim, in exchange for a full release and confidentiality provision, which will get them off the hook for the really big crimes that we'll never even hear about.
Since John Roberts thinks Goldman is a "person," why can't we send the Blanking "person" Blankfein and all the other Goldman insiders to prison? Why no criminal charges when they steal billions of dollars?
Hint: Goldman Sachs was the second largest contributor to Barack Obama's campaign in 2008, in bundled contributions from their employees. http://www.opensecrets.org/pres08/contrib.php?id=N00009638&cycle2=2008&goButt2.x=11&goButt2.y=4 (#6 and 7 were Citigroup and J.P. Morgan.) Wall Street loves Obama, and paid him a lot of money. Now what is the likelihood that Obama is going to see his most generous contributors sent to prison?
We need an independent prosecutor to take Goldman-Sachs and all its smarmy insiders apart, bring such charges as are appropriate, including criminal if proper, and throw some corrupt Wall Street asses into prison.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Goldman Sachs developed a strategy to profit from the housing meltdown and reaped billions at the expense of clients, a Senate investigation has found.
Top Goldman executives misled investors in complex mortgage securities that became toxic, investigators for a Senate panel allege. They point to e-mails and other Goldman documents obtained in an 18-month investigation. Excerpts from the documents were released Monday, a day before a hearing that will bring CEO Lloyd Blankfein and other top Goldman executives before Congress.
Blankfein says in his own prepared remarks that Goldman didn't bet against its clients and can't survive without their trust.
The Securities and Exchange Commission this month filed a civil fraud case against the bank, saying it misled investors about securities tied to home loans. The SEC says Goldman concocted mortgage investments without telling buyers they had been put together with help from a hedge fund client, Paulson & Co., that was betting on the investments to fail. ....
But Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, said Monday: "I think they're misleading the country. ... There's no doubt they made huge money betting against the (mortgage) market." ....
The subcommittee, which is investigating Goldman's role in the financial crisis, provided excerpts of e-mails showing a progression from late 2006 through the full-blown mortgage crisis a year later. Levin said they show Goldman shifted in early 2007 from neutral to a short position, betting that the mortgage market was likely to collapse.
"That directional change is mighty clear," Levin said. "They decided to go gangbusters selling those securities" while knowing they were toxic.
[Goldman Sachs] earned a blowout $3.3 billion in the first quarter. [Goldman made $3.7 billion from its short positions].
[Essentially the accusation is that Goldman was selling to the world the mortgages, or collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), while at the same time but in secret Goldman was betting that the mortgage market was going to collapse. Collateralized Debt Obligations means this: they bought millions of dollars of lousy mortgages from banks, pushing banks to loan money to every tom, dick etc., knowing full well many of those mortgages would not be repaid, people would default; they took all the mortgages, mushed them together, then sold off percentage interests to people, which they call CDOs. This actually made it harder for investors to examine the mortgages, since they only bought a fraction of thousands of different mortgages. It was a con.]
Our government is funded by taxes assessed on the citizens and on businesses. In theory, we have a progressive income tax. That means that people who make very little money pay a small percentage of their income in taxes. People who make a lot of money theoretically pay a large percentage of their income in taxes. But it doesn't really work out that way because the politicians in Congress take bribes from rich people to write special provisions into the law that allow rich people to avoid paying taxes.
Think that's an exaggerated claim? It isn't.
For the average American working person, they work all year, get a paycheck, and taxes are withheld from their paycheck and sent automatically to the government. There are few ways they can cut their taxes.
For rich people, the tax laws are full of loopholes which allow them to cut their taxes.
Just look at the 1031 exchange. Let's say rich person buys a building for $1.0 million, and now it's worth $2.0 million. Instead of "selling" the building and paying tax on the gain, they sell the building, put the proceeds into a bank account, buy a substitute building within a certain period of time, and pretend that they never sold at all. That way they avoid paying taxes by pretending that they are not really selling the building, they are "exchanging" it for a new building. And in a 1031 exchange, they don't have to pay taxes on that $1.0 million. It's a con.
The capital gains tax is the biggest con. Capital gains is a concept that relates to the profit made on the sale of an asset. Let's take the same building. Purchased for $1.0 million, and sold for $2.0 million. The seller has received $1.0 profit, or gain, or income from that transaction. But they don't want to pay taxes. So the rich people (who are the only people who make significant amounts of money buying and selling large assets) bribed Congress to create an entirely separate category they call "capital gains." "Capital gains" means the gain, or profit, earned on sale of an asset that has been owned for a certain amount of time. Instead of paying tax as income, the seller only pays 15% taxes, no matter how much money they earn from selling assets. This 15% is the current tax rate for capital gains.
In recent years, most rich people have restructured their earnings so they can characterize every penny they earn as a "capital gains." For example, we hear the CEOs of some big corporations bragging that they only take $1.00 in income per year from their corporation. This is intended to fool the public into thinking they are sacrificing their own interests for the benefit of the company. But that's a lie. The truth is that they receive millions of dollars in other forms, such as stock options, life insurance, pensions, healthcare, so that most of what they receive will not be subject to income tax. On the stock, they buy low then turn around and sell high, but only pay capital gains, or 15% taxes on what really is just disguised income.
The effect of capital gains tax is to let rich people pay less and less taxes. Which means our government services are under-funded (schools closed, cops laid off), and working people have to pay more out of pocket just to survive, and/or they receive fewer services.
In 2007, for example, the wealthiest households in the United States reported the highest incomes ever since 1992, yet they paid the lowest tax rates.
Between 2006 and 2007, these wealthiest households saw their gross income or receipts rise by 31%, but they paid only 16.6% in income taxes. Contrasted, for example, to 1995 when the highest income Americans paid 30% income tax. These wealthiest Americans in 2007 claimed that 66% of their income was from capital gains, and therefore only subject to a 15% tax. It's a con.
For example, back in 1992 when capital gains was taxed at the rate of 28%, rich people only claimed about 1/3 of their income was capital gains. Now that the capital gains tax rate has been slashed to 15%, the same rich people claim 2/3 of their income is capital gains. And guess what? Part of the Republican platform is to eliminate taxes on capital gains altogether, which would mean that these rich people would get most of their astonishing income tax free.
Contrast this obscene increase in money paid to the rich with the devastating freeze on wages and income for most Americans. You want to know why these Wall Street criminals are so rich, and the rest of us are barely able to pay the bills? It's an institutional program, it is nationwide, it is supported by congress through corrupt laws, it is intentional, and inescapable for most Americans.
In the one-year period from 2006 to 2007, the wealthiest Americans saw their income increase by 31%.
From 1992 to 2007, the wealthiest American's income increased 399%. In horrible contrast, during that fifteen year period from 1992 to 2007, 90% of Americans saw their income increase by only 13% -- not even 1% per year, and certainly not close to being enough to keep up with the radical increases in the cost of housing and healthcare. It's not an accident that most of us have less money, and the rich throw their money around like kings. Welcome to serfdom.
See this recent item reported at the Nation magazine ("Tax Evasion"):
What should be done? There should be no separate tax rate for capital gains -- it should be taxed the same as ordinary income.
All income of any type in excess of $250,000 should be taxed at 90%. Why? People who earn that much money don't need that much money. It's all discretionary money -- they can throw it away, buy themselves gold-coated shower curtains, private airplanes and homes around the world, but they don't need the money. They can best afford to pay it in taxes.
Second, if it is taxed that much, people would lose the incentive of our current system which encourages them to steal the public blind. Wall Street criminals have been stealing from us and the world for at least a decade, without any consequences. If they had to pay 90% of what they steal in taxes, many of them wouldn't risk going to prison to continue their criminal enterprises.
Third, the people who have profitted from the insane policies of recent decades (including the WTO and free trade treaties, tax changes, wars) are the rich. The debt in this country has been caused by those same policies. The rich should be taxed to pay off the debt. Let's see how loudly they scream about paying down the debt if they're the ones who have to pay it.
Fourth, a democracy cannot survive when a small portion of the people are so obscenely rich. The way our government works today, the politicians all take bribes from the rich, then do as the rich dictate. The only reason we have the "free" trade policies of the corporate front group the World Trade Organization (WTO) is because corporations paid enormous bribes to get those treaties passed. The reason our jobs have been sent overseas is because our politicians took bribes to change the laws and let those jobs be taken overseas.
The reason our markets are flooded with cheap and often dangerous products from third world countries is because our politicians took bribes then voted to eliminate tariffs, eliminate quality control or other restrictions designed to protect the public, and voted to allow rotten, filthy, sometimes deadly food to be imported and dumped into our supermarkets. Buyer Be Damned.
Even if we passed a strict public financing law, politicians would continue to find ways to take bribes from the rich. One way to re-gain control of our government, to try to salvage what's left of our democracy, is by cutting the rich off at their knees, taxing them to death to use their language, and restoring the middle class and whatever is left of our democracy.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Eva Cassidy was a young American singer/musician who died at the age of 33 from melanoma. She achieved international fame after her death, although is less known within the United States. This is a stunning and heartbreaking version of this song.
I lived in the Mission District in San Francisco for many years. It is a terrific neighborhood. When I read that a new movie was coming out about my old stomping grounds, starring Benjamin Bratt, and titled "La Mission," I figured this would be a must-see for me.
La Mission gets a very good review from Rex Reed in The New York Observer: http://www.observer.com/2010/culture/fathers-and-sons
Benjamin Bratt ... has carved a distinguished career as an actor of integrity and vision. But none of his achievements have been more honest, passionate or remarkable than his... [role in the movie] La Mission....
(Taqueria La Cumbre - best burritos in San Francisco)
Set in the colorful Mission District in San Francisco, in which the Bratts grew up ... La Mission focuses on a rigid Latino symbol of old-world machismo named Che Rivera, played with so much testosterone by Mr. Bratt that even his painted-on tattoos threaten to jump right off his abs and kick you in the groin. Che is an ex-con and a recovering alcoholic who works as a San Francisco bus driver; he has a special talent for making over low-riding Chevy convertibles equipped with hydraulic lifts....
[Che discovers that his son is gay, and violently rejects him].
(24th St. Bart on Mission St.)
La Mission, carefully directed by Peter Bratt and beautifully photographed by award-winning cinematographer Hiro Narita (Never Cry Wolf), explores the human side of a culture we know almost nothing about, in a world usually exploited on film to depict drugs and danger. .... Mr. Bratt [gives] an intense, multilayered performance as a man who must learn there is more to masculinity than a pair of fists.
(24th St. Bart)
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Miguel Piñero was a Puerto Rican who lived most of his life on the Lower East Side of New York City. His father abandoned the family when Pinero was only 8 years old, leaving Pinero's mother to survive on welfare with five children.
As a young man, Pinero got into gangs and crime, and was repeatedly convicted of juvenile crimes and imprisoned in juvenile detention facilities. As a young adult he continued with his criminal activity, eventually being sent to Rikers. During this time he also became a drug addict, a problem which would lead to an early grave.
By the time Pinero was 25 years old, he was in Sing Sing Prison. That is when he began to write, plays and poems, as part of an inmates workshop. People in New York began to hear about this talented young man, which opened doors for him when he got out of prison.
His play "Short Eyes" was about Pinero's experiences in prison. When he got out of prison, that play was presented at the Riverside church. Joseph Papp was there, and liked it so much that he arranged for the production to be moved to Broadway. It won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award as the best play of the year.
Also in the 1970s, Pinero was one of the co-founders of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, a place for performing poetry relating to the experience of Puerto Ricans in New York (Nuyorican). (The cafe has survived: http://www.nuyorican.org/). The cafe was located in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, a fairly run-down area at the time known for an abundance of junkies, slum housing and crime. Most people called the area the Lower East Side. The Puerto Ricans called it Low-Eas-zide and called Puerto Ricans who lived there Low-eas-Ziders. It was a neighborhood seemingly drenched in urine because so many junkies collapsed in alleys and stairways, urinating all over themselves. But, in the midst of that poverty and despair, creativity began to bloom.
Pinero's play Short Eyes was later turned into a film. Pinero got an acting role in the movie, as well as in other movies including Alphabet City (which was the name for Avenues A-D on the Lower East Side), Fort Apache, The Bronx, and Breathless. Pinero also wrote for the TV series Baretta and Miami Vice.
Piñero was considered a talented writer with a personal and intense way of depicting problems in modern society.
Miguel Piñero was a drug addict for most of his adult life, and he died of cirrhosis in his young 40s. His ashes were scattered across the Lower east Side, as he had requested at the end of "Lower East Side Poem":
Just once before I die
I want to climb up on a
to dream my lungs out till
then scatter my ashes thru
the Lower East Side...."
(Benjamin Bratt in the movie "Pinero," poem "Seeking the Cause").
New York City Hard Time Blues (Miguel Pinero)
Big time time hard on on me blues
Big time time hard on on me blues
New York City hard sunday morning blues
Junkie waking up
bones ache trying to shake
New York City sunday morning blues
the sun was vomiting itself up over
the carbon monoxide detroit perfume
strolling down the black asphalt dance floor
where all the disco sweat drenched Mr. Mario's
summer suit still mambo-tango hustled
to the tunes of fiberglass songs
New York City sunday morning means
liquor store closed
bars don't open 'til noon
and my connection wasn't upping
a 25 cent balloon
yeah reality wasn't giving me no play
telling me it was going to be sunday
24 hours the whole day
it was like the reincarnation of the night
before when my ashtray became
the cemetery of all my lost memories
when a stumble bum blues band
kept me up all night playing me cheap
of hard time
hell we all know times are
the morning will be giving up to the noon
and soon I'll hear winos and junkyard dogs
howling at the moon
made the shadows
at jake's juke saloon
as a battalion of violet virgins
of deflowered songs
men poured their
fantasies of lust into young boy's
crying hard luck tears in beers
...New York City december sunday morning
was whippin' my ass in a cold blooded fashion
treatin' me like a stepchild
putting a serious hurting on me
watching me bleed
thru my sleeves
as I tried to get high
shooting up caffeine without saccarine
that some beat artist sold me down
on eldredge st.
but that's the ghetto creed
that the strong must feed
everything was happening faster than the
speed of sound
my whole seemed like it was going down
I wonder who ever wrote that tune
about being back on top in june
nigger forgot about september and december
now that's a month to remember
when each cold day becomes like a brick wall
and you're the bouncing ball
yeah I kept seeing my fate being sealed
by the silk smooth hands of the eternal bill
who keeps rattling my door knob
pressing my avon ding dong bell . . .
my pockets were crying the blues
telling me that I ain't fed them a dollar in years
and was it clear that they couldn't hold
anymore unpaid debts . . . traffic tickets . . . or promissory notes
and hey that was when I wished I was back in
L. A.laid back
hollywood . . . driving down to malibu
hollywood U. S. A . . ..hey hey USA hollywood
seedy looking film producers smile at you
over a burrito with taco bell breath
explain the plots to fellini movies
they aint ever seen
hollywood . . . down to malibu
at two a. m. if you get tired
of cal worthington shit-eating grin
you walk out on him hit santa monica blvd
and watch the manicured thumbs caress the
homosexual airs of rolled up jeans and silver buckles
as westwood camaro rides very slow very low
down western ave
...go into some bar on alvarado
and temple listen to some mariachi music
or stroll into some dive joint off sunset
sit in some naugahyde booth
with some dishwater blond
with sagging breasts
wearing a see thru blouse
and listen to all her 1930 starlet dreams
as she smokes all my cigarettes
but i'm in new york city
crying the junkie blues
welfare afro hairdos sprout out
of frye boots
yeah punk rockers hitting on you
for subway fare three times
soon the mohair slick lines
at penn station are getting impatient
wanna get home
make the scene with a magazine
or with a plastic doll
'cause the missus got another headache
gaze at the farrah foster poster
that adorns his horny teenage son's walls
I wish I could cop a bottle of muscatel
stroll thru the bowery with a pocket
full of wino dreams
but sunday morning in New York City
for the junkie there ain't no pity
we just walk the streets with loaded dice
and hear people say there goes miky
they call him the junkie christ . . .
At some point in his brief life, Pinero partnered up with a young artist from the West Coast named Martin Wong. Wong had come to New York, and ended up spending time with Pinero on the Lower East Side. Wong himself died young, at the age of 53. Much of his art displays the conditions of urban life that he witnessed while with Pinero in those years on the Lower East Side, before Pinero's death.
Friday, April 23, 2010
Thursday, April 22, 2010
George Grosz (1893-1959) was born in Berlin, Germany. He volunteered to fight in World War I, called "the war to end all wars," but was discharged in 1917. He had become quite disillusioned with war, as had a group of young German artists he would soon join.
After the end of World War I, there was civil unrest in Germany, fighting between different groups trying to gain political power. Grosz fought in what was called the Spartakus uprising in 1919, and joined the communist Party. He left the CP within a few years, disillusioned with its dictatorial style of politics.
Grosz was one of many young artists in the teen years of the early 1900s whose art was very critical of modern life. He became known for his pictures of post-World-War-I Berlin, under the rule of the Weimar Republic, and his perception of urban life at that time. Many young Germans were disgusted with the war and the general decadence they saw in their country.
Grosz depicted fat (rich) businessmen, in contrast with the injured or wounded soldiers returning from the war, prostitutes, and wild sexuality.
After he moved to the U.S., Grosz changed his style and painted more conventional nudes, landscapes, and calmer visions. He claimed that part of his self had been frozen in Germany, but was renewed after he came to the U.S. His later works never gained the same status as his post-war pieces.
A deeply disillusioned man, he saw humanity as essentially bestial and the city of Berlin as a sink of depravity and deprivation, its streets crowded with unprincipled profiteers, prostitutes, war-crippled dregs and a variety of perverts. A communist, his feeling of social outrage stimulated him to produce the most biting drawings and paintings. -Trewin Copplestone
In Grosz's Germany, everything and everybody is for sale. All human transactions, except for the class solidarity of the workers, are poisoned. The world is owned by four breeds of pig: the capitalist, the officer, the priest and the hooker, whose other form is the sociable wife. He was one of the hanging judges of art. -Robert Hughes
Pablo Neruda, Sonnet VI:
Lost in the forest, I broke off a dark twig
and lifted its whisper to my thirsty lips:
maybe it was the voice of the rain crying,
a cracked bell, or a torn heart.
Something from far off it seemed
deep and secret to me, hidden by the earth,
a shout muffled by huge autumns,
by the moist half-open darkness of the leaves.
Wakening from the dreaming forest there, the hazel-sprig
sang under my tongue, its drifting fragrance
climbed up through my conscious mind
as if suddenly the roots I had left behind
cried out to me, the land I had lost with my childhood---
and I stopped, wounded by the wandering scent.
Happy Earth Day to all the liberal, tie-dyed, granola-eating, candle-making, Birkenstock-wearing, incense-burning, bicycle-riding, anti-war, recycling, Woodstock-celebrating, composting, pinko, tree-hugging, pot-smoking, commie, Hippies.
You were right all along.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Today Is Equal Pay Day. If Only Women Got Equal Pay and Equal Opportunity. How About A Little Respect For Women Workers?
Women must work 110 more days per year than men do in order to equal what men earn in wages. Put differently, if men did not work from January 1 to today, but women did work full-time, and both groups worked full-time for the rest of the year, they would earn about the same. That is because women continue to be paid less money for their labor -- about 23% less on average, regardless of what job they do.
Women in this country continue to be treated with no respect. That is largely the result of the right-wing, the Republicans, and the religious right. The efforts to improve the status of women in this country, efforts promoted in the 1960s and 1970s, were under a full-scale assault by the time the 1980s rolled around. The right-wing always needs to divide working people: make the men bash the women, white bash the black, keep working people looking down on each other so they cannot organize, work together for their common good. Because the truth is that all working people deserve a fair shot.
Today is called Equal Pay Day.
But there's no point in just focusing on equal pay. I have hundreds of stories about women earning less than men for the exact same job. When I got my first full-time job out of law school, after graduating top of my class, magna cum laude, I was grateful to have a job and a paycheck. But within a few months I was called in by a partner and told I was already getting a raise. I was thrilled because I thought it must mean I was doing a terrific job. It wasn't a small raise -- it was a 20% raise in my salary.
Years later I became friends with the office manager in the firm, and she told me that she was the reason I got that raise. The firm told all potential employees that they paid 80% of whatever the highest-paying firms in the city were paying. They had always done that. But they had always hired men. I was the first female attorney hired in that firm. And they paid me 20% less than they had paid the men. When the office manager realized how low my pay was compared to the new-hires from the previous year, she confronted the partners and told them that they needed to increase my pay immediately or they would leave themselves open to a lawsuit. It was many years after the fact when I learned the truth, but I was still pretty shocked to see that their automatic impulse was to cheat me because I was female.
Years have gone by, and I have continued to practice law. What I have seen happen to the women in my graduating class makes me sad. Many of them left law altogether. Some of them married well, so they didn't have to work, and had the option to stay home. But that would be true for women in all professions, yet you do not see this massive disappearance of women from other fields such as teaching, medicine, or businesses. Some of them changed fields. Many of them simply disappeared, driven out of a profession that is fundamentally brutal in its demeaning and ridiculing and exclusionary attitude towards women. It isn't a question of the field being tough; it's a question of being verbally abused and assaulted by men who basically hate professional women, hate the fact that a woman attorney might beat them in court.
The local court system in the county where I live has 18% of the judges female. It has been that way for at least 15 years. Last year they hired 6 commissioners (like baby judges): 5 white men, 1 female (18%). Women are 50% of the community, 50% of the lawyers, but 18% of the judges. This is intentional discrimination.
The bread and butter of law is business and real estate work. Women are in particular kept out of those fields. Women are allowed to practice family law, or poverty law (where you can't make a living). But they are mostly excluded from the bread and butter practice -- the type of practice where you can actually earn a living.
I practice in a medium-sized community. When I moved here there were no women in business or real estate law. 15 years later, there's 1 besides me. This is not a coincidence. The exclusion is as high as a prison wall.
Women are excluded from the local firms after about 5 years. They may be hired out of law school, but they will be gone by 5 years. They are excluded from the courts other than as research attorneys, the lowest level job for attorneys inside the court. Research attorneys are 80% female; commissioners and judges are 80% male.
The young male attorneys who tend to be selected to become judges are not the smartest, not the best attorneys. I know many of them, and some are at best mediocre. Some of them have no trial experience -- they never had even one trial. Yet that is the work of a judge: to preside over trials. They are white and male, and that is the ticket. I have known women who applied to become judges, and Hispanic men and women who applied, and they were rejected based on absurd excuses or claims that they were not competent.
After 5 years, women simply disappear from the profession of law. They are not included in the male attorney breakfast groups, lunch groups, networking groups, poker games the judges hold at their homes for male attorneys, golf games the judges play with male attorneys. Dinner dates. Women are excluded altogether. Most of the work is directed by attorneys, from one to the next. Women are excluded from referrals as well.
So while I would welcome equal pay, I would welcome even more equal opportunity. The courts should start by moving towards 50% women as judges. They should let the old boys' networks in the local firms know clearly that if they fail to have women as 50% equity partners, they will not be favorably viewed in the courts.
When the primary institutions in our legal system are themselves guilty of systematic and deliberate racism and sexism, why bother passing laws saying that we should all be treated equally. Who are we kidding?
Monday, April 19, 2010
We should pass a law making it illegal for anyone to build baby coffins. There is no excuse. And we need to pass a law making it illegal for anyone to do anything which will create a need for baby coffins. No more killing babies. No more allowing them to die. No more turning away from their tiny little cries and labeling them "collateral damage." Just because they're not rich or powerful does not mean we should keep killing them. What is wrong with us?
Of course that means no more war. Or, at least, none unless it is absolutely necessary to protect our country or people from the threat of imminent violence. Otherwise, no more war.
For example, when the Saudi terrorists attacked us on 9/11 (assuming that's who did it), we should not have attacked Afghanistan, one of the poorest nations in the world. How absurd is it for the U.S. military, largest and richest in the world, to send its mighty weapons to the stone-age nation of Afghanistan where the people are so poor that they starve, and live in caves, and know nothing of 9/11 or Saudis or even of airplanes. How can we justify bombing entire villages of people who had no involvement whatsoever in the 9/11 attacks? How many babies have we killed in Afghanistan?
(15 years ago a young male American, Tim McVeigh, planted a bomb in a federal building and blew it up, killing 168 people who never knew him, never did a thing to him. The building had a daycare center in it. McVeigh made sure the bomb went off when the building, and the daycare, were full of people, during the workweek. Lots of babies murdered.)
What if we had simply gone to Afghanistan after 9/11, told them we want bin Laden and al Queda. See if we could buy their cooperation. You know -- like corporations buy the politicians in Congress, like the politicians buy hookers and cocaine, like the CEOs buy mansions and wives. Why didn't we try a transactional approach first: you give us Osama bin Laden, we'll give you money. Wouldn't that be the decent thing to do? It would have saved a lot of babies' lives.
The nuclear bomb we used at the end of World War II was supposed to be the weapon to end all weapons -- and we had it. Nobody could touch us, because we had the superweapon. Until everyone else got it. Isn't that what children do? Dream of the bigger weapon, the most powerful, the baddest of all so that we can always win the war? Children. Not adults.
(As always, in Oklahoma City we counted on our civil servants, the heroic firefighters, to try to save our citizens, save the babies.)
Now we have drones. Predators. People sit in rooms in the U.S. and look at computer screens of images from satellites. At random, they push a button and drop bombs on anything that moves. They kill babies all over Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, but never even see the corpses. No baby blood or brains splatter on these men who are safely ensconsed in their air-conditioned war rooms, far from the dying, far from the pathetic little cries of the babies.
(As always, people came to the spot of the Oklahoma city bombing and left personal property items for the dead, for the babies, little things that maybe the baby or child loved. Something that perhaps magically can pass through this world to another one and send love to the dead baby, now gone, alone, never to be comforted by a mother or father again).
What's the thinking here? We can send drones from far away, nobody can stop us? How about when the other nations all get the same technology? What then? Will we all get magic cloaks to make us invisible? Will we go back to the space-shield of that demented senile old B-movie actor Ronald Reagan? Isn't it time we took weapons and war out of the hands of men who are so immature and self-absorbed that they refuse to acknowledge the most obvious truth: it's still murdering babies. Nothing has changed. Killing babies is not the work of civilized people. Or decent ones.
We need to stop killing babies. No more baby coffins.