Friday, February 25, 2011

Johnston: Walker's lying about 'contributions' and the media's parroting it

It is a lie when Gov. Walker says that Wisconsin public workers should "contribute more" to their pensions and health insurance.

They already contribute 100% of the costs. If you don't immediately understand that that's true, then read Johnston's very patient explanation.

By David Cay Johnston
February 24, 2011 |

IMF praised economic reforms of Libya, Egypt, Bahrain, etc. -- OOPS!

If you want to know which Mideast dictatorship will be the next domino to fall, don't ask the IMF. They thought everything was hunky-dory.

Just something to keep in mind when the IMF and World Bank are ramming structural reforms down poor and developing countries' throats. They really don't have a clue or seem to care about the consequences of their "tough love."

More broadly, global financial markets don't care about human rights,dignity or liberty. They like government stability and assurances for their investments.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Beast's epic prank on Wis. Gov. Scott Walker -- THE TRUTH'S OUT!

You can also catch an interview with editor and prank-call extraordinaire Ian Murphy on Lawrence O'Donnell's MSNBC show.



Koch Whore

By Ian Murphy
February 23, 2011 | Buffalo Beast





"He's just hard-lined—will not talk, will not communicate, will not return phone calls."

-Wisconsin state Sen. Tim Carpenter (D) on Gov. Walker (source)


Carpenter's quote made me wonder: who could get through to Gov. Walker? Well, what do we know about Walker and his proposed union-busting, no-bid budget? The obvious candidate was David Koch.


I first called at 11:30 am CST, and eventually got through to a young, male receptionist who, upon hearing the magic name Koch, immediately transferred me to Executive Assistant Governor Dorothy Moore.


"We've met before, Dorothy," I nudged. "I really need to talk to Scott—Governor Walker." She said that, yes, she thought she had met Koch, and that the name was "familiar." But she insisted that Walker was detained in a meeting and couldn't get away. She asked about the nature of my call. I balked, "I just needed to speak with the Governor. He knows what this is about," I said.


She told me to call back at noon, and she'd have a better idea of when he would be free.


I called at noon and was quickly transferred to Moore, who then transferred me to Walker's Chief of Staff Keith Gilkes. He was "expecting my call."


"David!" he said with an audible smile.


I politely said hello, not knowing how friendly Gilkes and Koch may be. He was eager to help. "I was really hoping to talk directly to Scott," I said. He said that could be arranged and that I should just leave my number. I explained to Gilkes, "My goddamn maid, Maria, put my phone in the washer. I'd have her deported, but she works for next to nothing." Gilkes found this amusing. "I'm calling from the VOID—with the VOID, or whatever it's called. You know, the Snype!"


"Gotcha," Gilkes said. "Let me check the schedule here…OK, there's an opening at 2 o'clock Central Standard Time. Just call this same number and we'll put you through."


Could it really be that easy? Yes. What follows is a rushed, abridged transcript of my—I mean, David Koch's conversation with Gov. Walker. Listen to the whole call here:



Walker: Hi; this is Scott Walker.


Koch: Scott! David Koch. How are you?


Walker: Hey, David! I'm good. And yourself?


Koch: I'm very well. I'm a little disheartened by the situation there, but, uh, what's the latest?


Walker: Well, we're actually hanging pretty tough. I mean—you know, amazingly there's a much smaller group of protesters—almost all of whom are in from other states today. The State Assembly is taking the bill up—getting it all the way to the last point it can be at where it's unamendable. But they're waiting to pass it until the Senate's—the Senate Democrats, excuse me, the assembly Democrats have about a hundred amendments they're going through. The state Senate still has the 14 members missing but what they're doing today is bringing up all sorts of other non-fiscal items, many of which are things members in the Democratic side care about. And each day we're going to ratchet it up a little bit…. The Senate majority leader had a great plan he told about this morning—he told the Senate Democrats about and he's going to announce it later today, and that is: The Senate organization committee is going to meet and pass a rule that says if you don't show up for two consecutive days on a session day—in the state Senate, the Senate chief clerk—it's a little procedural thing here, but—can actually have your payroll stopped from being automatically deducted—


Koch: Beautiful.


Walker: —into your checking account and instead—you still get a check, but the check has to be personally picked up and he's instructing them—which we just loved—to lock them in their desk on the floor of the state Senate.


Koch: Now you're not talking to any of these Democrat bastards, are you?


Walker: Ah, I—there's one guy that's actually voted with me on a bunch of things I called on Saturday for about 45 minutes, mainly to tell him that while I appreciate his friendship and he's worked with us on other things, to tell him I wasn't going to budge.


Koch: Goddamn right!


Walker: …his name is Tim Cullen—


Koch: All right, I'll have to give that man a call.


Walker: Well, actually, in his case I wouldn't call him and I'll tell you why: he's pretty reasonable but he's not one of us…


Koch: Now who can we get to budge on this collective bargaining?


Walker: …I think the paycheck will have an impact…secondly, one of the things we're looking at next…we're still waiting on an opinion to see if the unions have been paying to put these guys up out of state. We think there's at minimum an ethics violation if not an outright felony.


Koch: Well, they're probably putting hobos in suits.


Walker: Yeah.


Koch: That's what we do. Sometimes.


Walker: I mean paying for the senators to be put up. I know they're paying for these guy—I mean, people can pay for protesters to come in and that's not an ethics code, but, I mean, literally if the unions are paying the 14 senators—their food, their lodging, anything like that…[*** Important regarding his later acceptance of a Koch offer to "show him a good time." ***]

[I was stunned. I am stunned. In the interest of expediting the release of this story, here are the juiciest bits:]


Walker: …I've got layoff notices ready…


Koch: Beautiful; beautiful. Gotta crush that union.


Walker: [bragging about how he doesn't budge]…I would be willing to sit down and talk to him, the assembly Democrat leader, plus the other two Republican leaders—talk, not negotiate and listen to what they have to say if they will in turn—but I'll only do it if all 14 of them will come back and sit down in the state assembly…legally, we believe, once they've gone into session, they don't physically have to be there. If they're actually in session for that day, and they take a recess, the 19 Senate Republicans could then go into action and they'd have quorum…so we're double checking that. If you heard I was going to talk to them that's the only reason why. We'd only do it if they came back to the capital with all 14 of them…


Koch: Bring a baseball bat. That's what I'd do.


Walker: I have one in my office; you'd be happy with that. I have a slugger with my name on it.


Koch: Beautiful.


Walker: [union-bashing...]


Koch: Beautiful.


Walker: So this is ground zero, there's no doubt about it. [Talks about a "great" NYT piece of "objective journalism." Talks about how most private blue-collar workers have turned against public, unionized workers.]…So I went through and called a handful, a dozen or so lawmakers I worry about each day and said, "Everyone, we should get that story printed out and send it to anyone giving you grief."


Koch: Goddamn right! We, uh, we sent, uh, Andrew Breitbart down there.




Koch: Yeah.


Walker: Good stuff.


Koch: He's our man, you know.


Walker: [blah about his press conferences, attacking Obama, and all the great press he's getting.] Brian [Sadoval], the new Governor of Nevada, called me the last night he said—he was out in the Lincoln Day Circuit in the last two weekends and he was kidding me, he said, "Scott, don't come to Nevada because I'd be afraid you beat me running for governor." That's all they want to talk about is what are you doing to help the governor of Wisconsin. I talk to Kasich every day—John's gotta stand firm in Ohio. I think we could do the same thing with Vic Scott in Florida. I think, uh, Snyder—if he got a little more support—probably could do that in Michigan. You start going down the list there's a lot of us new governors that got elected to do something big.

Koch: You're the first domino.


Walker: Yep. This is our moment.


Koch: Now what else could we do for you down there?


Walker: Well the biggest thing would be—and your guy on the ground [Americans For Prosperity president Tim Phillips] is probably seeing this [stuff about all the people protesting, and some of them flip him off].


[Abrupt end of first recording, and start of second.]


Walker: [Bullshit about doing the right thing and getting flipped off by "union bulls," and the decreasing number of protesters. Or some such.]


Koch: We'll back you any way we can. What we were thinking about the crowd was, uh, was planting some troublemakers.


Walker: You know, well, the only problem with that —because we thought about that. The problem—the, my only gut reaction to that is right now the lawmakers I've talked to have just completely had it with them, the public is not really fond of this…[explains that planting troublemakers may not work.] My only fear would be if there's a ruckus caused is that maybe the governor has to settle to solve all these problems…[something about '60s liberals.]…Let 'em protest all they want…Sooner or later the media stops finding it interesting.


Koch: Well, not the liberal bastards on MSNBC.


Walker: Oh yeah, but who watches that? I went on "Morning Joe" this morning. I like it because I just like being combative with those guys, but, uh. You know they're off the deep end.


Koch: Joe—Joe's a good guy. He's one of us.


Walker: Yeah, he's all right. He was fair to me…[bashes NY Senator Chuck Schumer, who was also on the program.]


Koch: Beautiful; beautiful. You gotta love that Mika Brzezinski; she's a real piece of ass.


Walker: Oh yeah. [story about when he hung out with human pig Jim Sensenbrenner at some D.C. function and he was sitting next to Brzezinski and her father, and their guest was David Axelrod. He introduced himself.]


Koch: That son of a bitch!


Walker: Yeah no kidding huh?…


Koch: Well, good; good. Good catching up with ya'.


Walker: This is an exciting time [blah, blah, blah, Super Bowl reference followed by an odd story of pulling out a picture of Ronald Reagan and explaining to his staff the plan to crush the union the same way Reagan fired the air traffic controllers]…that was the first crack in the Berlin Wall because the Communists then knew Reagan wasn't a pushover. [Blah, blah, blah. He's exactly like Reagan. Won't shut up about how awesome he is.]


Koch: [Laughs] Well, I tell you what, Scott: once you crush these bastards I'll fly you out to Cali and really show you a good time.


Walker: All right, that would be outstanding. [*** Ethical violation much? ***] Thanks for all the support…it's all about getting our freedoms back…


Koch: Absolutely. And, you know, we have a little bit of a vested interest as well. [Laughs]


Walker: [Blah] Thanks a million!


Koch: Bye-bye!


Walker: Bye.



So there you have it, kids. Government isn't for the people. It's for the people with money. You want to be heard? Too fucking bad. You want to collectively bargain? You can't afford a seat at the table. You may have built that table. But it's not yours.  It belongs to the Kochs and the oligarch class. It's guarded by Republicans like Walker, and his Democratic counterparts across that ever-narrowing aisle that is corporate rule, so that the ever-widening gap between the haves and the have-nots can swallow all the power in the world. These are known knowns, and now we just know them a little more.


But money isn't always power. The protesters in Cairo and Madison have taught us this—reminded us of this. They can't buy a muzzle big enough to silence us all. Share the news. Do not retreat; ReTweet.


The revolution keeps spinning. Try not to get too dizzy.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

'Crisis' states OH and WI got TOP SCORES for funding their pensions

Yet more evidence that Gov. Walker's "fiscal crisis" either doesn't exist, or doesn't have anything to do with public unions:
"According to the Pew study, Wisconsin had about $77 billion in total pension liabilities in 2008.  But according to that same Pew study, those liabilities were 99.67 percent "funded," giving Wisconsin one of the four-highest of such ratios in the nation.  Other states had funding ratios as low as 54 percent.  For comparison, expert analysts and the Government Accountability Office consider an 80 percent level to be a good benchmark for pension fund stability, while Fitch Ratings considers 70 percent adequate."
So don't let the dishonest media tell you that gutting public unions in Ohio and Wisconsin -- states which both received top scores in the Pew study for funding their pension and non-pension retirement obligations -- is necessary because of their unfunded liabilities! 
By Zach Carter
February 22, 2011 | Huffington Post


$1.2 M tax credt displays Palin's rugged frontier self-reliance

Not only do you get paid to live in Alaska, you get paid to film there, thanks to Palin who signed a law to pay herself before she quit her job as Alaska's chief executive wealth redistributor. 
Corrupt hypocrite?  You betcha! 
'Sarah Palin's Alaska' To Receive $1.2 Million In Tax Credits
By Nick Wing
February 21, 2011 | Huffington Post
"Sarah Palin's Alaska," the 8-part TLC reality show, is set to receive $1.2 million in tax credits, helping the program's producers recoup a third of the $3.6 million they spent filming in the Frontier State.
According to a measure, signed into law by then-Gov. Palin in 2008, crews filming in Alaska are eligible to receive subsidies for around 30 percent of their operating costs.
The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports:
"The subsidies are in the form of transferable tax credits. Many of the companies claiming the tax credits do not have to pay much, if anything, in the form of Alaska taxes, so they sell the tax credits to companies. There have been reports the going rate is 80 to 90 cents on the dollar. Some have been sold the same day they were issued."

As the Anchorage Daily News points out, the California-based production company Jean Worldwide Inc., had filed for the tax credit, and will now be allowed to sell it back to companies who have larger liabilities in the state of Alaska.
Shayna Leah at Yahoo News seems to believe that Palin may have sought the law as governor with an eye toward her future ambitions.
"While other shows, like the Discovery Channel's Deadliest Catch and the History Channel's Ice Road Truckers, have also taken advantage of the taxpayer financed subsidy, Palin's show has profited the most.

"Palin, clearly thinking of her future strategic use of the generous subsidy in advance of her planned 2012 presidential run, created the law as one that would be good until 2013. It is funded with $100 million, though state legislators in Alaska are mulling over expanding the program an additional 10 years and $200 million if the program is successful. It is unclear how they plan to measure the program's success, other than by how much Palin takes advantage of it."  [Ha! - J]

While many supporters of the measure have claimed that it produces tangible economic benefits, the Daily News-Miner reports that the actual analysis of its impacts has been minimal and inconclusive, even as Alaska considers legislation that would "allow the state to maintain secrecy on production information."

Krugman: Wis. is about power, not money

Krugman is right on. The "bitter irony" is that tea partiers and conservatives have been duped into confusing the results of the Wall Street-caused financial crisis with the cause.

By Paul Krugman
February 20, 2011 | New York Times

Last week, in the face of protest demonstrations against Wisconsin's new union-busting governor, Scott Walker — demonstrations that continued through the weekend, with huge crowds on Saturday — Representative Paul Ryan made an unintentionally apt comparison: "It's like Cairo has moved to Madison."

It wasn't the smartest thing for Mr. Ryan to say, since he probably didn't mean to compare Mr. Walker, a fellow Republican, to Hosni Mubarak. Or maybe he did — after all, quite a few prominent conservatives, including Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santorum, denounced the uprising in Egypt and insist that President Obama should have helped the Mubarak regime suppress it.

In any case, however, Mr. Ryan was more right than he knew. For what's happening in Wisconsin isn't about the state budget, despite Mr. Walker's pretense that he's just trying to be fiscally responsible. It is, instead, about power. What Mr. Walker and his backers are trying to do is to make Wisconsin — and eventually, America — less of a functioning democracy and more of a third-world-style oligarchy. And that's why anyone who believes that we need some counterweight to the political power of big money should be on the demonstrators' side.

Some background: Wisconsin is indeed facing a budget crunch, although its difficulties are less severe than those facing many other states. Revenue has fallen in the face of a weak economy, while stimulus funds, which helped close the gap in 2009 and 2010, have faded away.

In this situation, it makes sense to call for shared sacrifice, including monetary concessions from state workers. And union leaders have signaled that they are, in fact, willing to make such concessions.

But Mr. Walker isn't interested in making a deal. Partly that's because he doesn't want to share the sacrifice: even as he proclaims that Wisconsin faces a terrible fiscal crisis, he has been pushing through tax cuts that make the deficit worse. Mainly, however, he has made it clear that rather than bargaining with workers, he wants to end workers' ability to bargain.

The bill that has inspired the demonstrations would strip away collective bargaining rights for many of the state's workers, in effect busting public-employee unions. Tellingly, some workers — namely, those who tend to be Republican-leaning — are exempted from the ban; it's as if Mr. Walker were flaunting the political nature of his actions.

Why bust the unions? As I said, it has nothing to do with helping Wisconsin deal with its current fiscal crisis. Nor is it likely to help the state's budget prospects even in the long run: contrary to what you may have heard, public-sector workers in Wisconsin and elsewhere are paid somewhat less than private-sector workers with comparable qualifications, so there's not much room for further pay squeezes.

So it's not about the budget; it's about the power.

In principle, every American citizen has an equal say in our political process. In practice, of course, some of us are more equal than others. Billionaires can field armies of lobbyists; they can finance think tanks that put the desired spin on policy issues; they can funnel cash to politicians with sympathetic views (as the Koch brothers did in the case of Mr. Walker). On paper, we're a one-person-one-vote nation; in reality, we're more than a bit of an oligarchy, in which a handful of wealthy people dominate.

Given this reality, it's important to have institutions that can act as counterweights to the power of big money. And unions are among the most important of these institutions.

You don't have to love unions, you don't have to believe that their policy positions are always right, to recognize that they're among the few influential players in our political system representing the interests of middle- and working-class Americans, as opposed to the wealthy. Indeed, if America has become more oligarchic and less democratic over the last 30 years — which it has — that's to an important extent due to the decline of private-sector unions.

And now Mr. Walker and his backers are trying to get rid of public-sector unions, too.

There's a bitter irony here. The fiscal crisis in Wisconsin, as in other states, was largely caused by the increasing power of America's oligarchy. After all, it was superwealthy players, not the general public, who pushed for financial deregulation and thereby set the stage for the economic crisis of 2008-9, a crisis whose aftermath is the main reason for the current budget crunch. And now the political right is trying to exploit that very crisis, using it to remove one of the few remaining checks on oligarchic influence.

So will the attack on unions succeed? I don't know. But anyone who cares about retaining government of the people by the people should hope that it doesn't.

Grapes of Wrath 2011

By James Quinn
February 15, 2011 | International Business Times

W. Williams: 'Republics' for Republicans, 'democracy' for mobs

Then call us a "constitutional democracy," Professor Williams. Same thing. So there, I solved the "problem."

Actually, with the exception of Britain, I don't know of any Western democracies without a constitution. (And the last time I checked, the mob hadn't yet taken over Britain and voted themselves rich.) So when we say "democracy" it's the same as saying "republic" or "constitutional democracy." When America was founded that wasn't the case, but thanks to the success of the U.S. model, it is today.

I'm not entirely sure why some U.S. conservatives insist on these semantics, but I think it has to do with their basic disdain for and distrust of ordinary people -- just like our Founding Fathers despised and feared the lower classes and called democracy "mobocracy." Elitism and classicm are alive and well among today's Founder-fawning conservatives, despite all their Palin-esque airs of Average-Joe folksiness to the contrary.

Case in point, Williams intentionally provocative opening sentence: "It is truly disgusting for me to hear politicians, national and international talking heads and pseudo-academics praising the Middle East stirrings as democracy movements."

Williams tries to qualify this statement in his op-ed but a sentiment this ugly really can't be redeemed or clawed back.

Whatever the outcomes of these protests may be, they certainly are democracy movements, where the people want more of a say in who runs their government and how it operates. The elitists, er, republicans, are showing their true stripes in light of the 2011 Mideast democracy uprisings.

By Walter E. Williams
February 22, 2011 |

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Chomsky on Wis. uprising, Obama's history of union betrayal

Here's Noam Chomsky's take on the uprising in Wisconsin, and Obama and the Democratic Congress's true allegiance to the rich over unions:

"... The great achievement in the lame-duck session for which Obama is greatly praised by Democratic Party leaders is that they achieved bipartisan agreement on several measures. The most important one was the tax cut. And the issue in the tax cut—there was only one issue—should there be a tax cut for the very rich? The population was overwhelmingly against it, I think about two to one. There wasn't even a discussion of it, they just gave it away. And the very same time, the less noticed was that Obama declared a tax increase for federal workers. Now, it wasn't called a "tax increase"; it's called a "freeze." But if you think for 30 seconds, a freeze on pay for a federal workers is fiscally identical to a tax increase for federal workers. And when you extend it for five years, as he said later, that means a decrease, because of population growth, inflation and so on. So he basically declared an increase in taxes for federal workers at the same time that there's a tax decrease for the very rich.

"And there's been a wave of propaganda over the last couple of months, which is pretty impressive to watch, trying to deflect attention away from those who actually created the economic crisis, like Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, their associates in the government who—Federal Reserve and others—let all this go on and helped it. There's a—to switch attention away from them to the people really responsible for the crisis—teachers, police, firefighters, sanitation workers, their huge pensions, their incredible healthcare benefits, Cadillac healthcare benefits, and their unions, who are the real villains, the ones who are robbing the taxpayer by making sure that policemen may not starve when they retire."

World-renowned public intellectual Noam Chomsky discusses the protests in defense of public sector employees and unions in Wisconsin.
February 18, 2011 | AlterNet

Memo to Obama: Help the small biz little guy

Large companies are sitting on $ billions in cash, and how much of that is thanks to extending their payment terms from 30 days to 60, 90, or even 120 days to their small-business suppliers?

Big businesses are tying up small business's cash because they can, and its hurting job creation.

Jeffrey Leonard, CEO of the Global Environment Fund and chairman of the Washington Monthly, has a simple solution:

"[President Obama] can take a simple but meaningful unilateral action: issue an executive order mandating that all companies with federal contracts pay their suppliers within thirty days of invoice. Net 30 has long been the policy of the federal government itself in paying contractors. Virtually all major corporations today are in some way federal contractors, and they should be held to the same terms that they enjoy in their dealings with the federal government. Such an order would cost the government no money. But it would make cash flow faster down the value chain to small business suppliers across the economy, and this could free up more capital for job creation. And the symbolism of a president willing to stand up for the little guy being squeezed by big corporate America would be worth its weight in political gold!"

Evil Koch brothers fund Wis. GOP as well as Tea Parties, CATO, Americans for Prosperity, Heritage... the list goes on and on

If there is a real billionaire puppet master in America it sure aint George Soros, but rather the diabolical libertarian Koch brothers.

Wisconsin Gov. Walker and many Republicans in the state legislature received their biggest donations from the Kochs.

The Kochs have a libertarian ideology and they are using the Wall Street bailouts and burst housing bubble as pretexts to advance a long-held agenda to gut the public sector.

Wis. Gov. Walker hiked spending, declared fiscal crisis

Wisconsin's budget office said the state could end with a $121 surplus this year! So why is Governor Walker going after union's collective bargaining rights? The fiscal crisis is a pretext for a conservative union-busting agenda.

Meanwhile, Walker and his GOP buddies pushed through $140 million in new spending for special interests in January.

The whole thing stinks. Yet instead of analyzing Wisconsin's budget, the mainstream media has taken Walker's bait, making the debate all about lazy, overpaid public-sector union members, and taking away forever their right to collective bargaining, which is a fundamental human right recognized by the UN and International Labor Organization.

By Brian Beutler
February 17, 2011 | TPM

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Medved: Conservatives dead wrong about Obama's intentions

Usually Medved is a sanctimonious bore who sucks at reviewing movies, wants everything to be rated PG, and simply recycles other conservative two-bit pundits' throwaway opinions, but I have to say Medved hit the crazy nail on its nutty head this time. Listen to one of your own, conservatives!

(Thank goodness it's not just pinko-liberals like me sounding the alarm about the other side calling our rightfully elected President some kind of Manchurian candidate and crypto-Islamist/cypto-Marxist who hates his country which he took an oath to defend! By all means you have the right to disagree with his policies, hate the way he looks, or even call him nasty names, but to sincerely believe that he hates his country... where can we find any common ground if that's what you really think?)

Some conservatives call the president the political equivalent of a suicide bomber: so consumed with hatred that he's willing to blow himself up in order to inflict casualties on a society he loathes.

By Michael Medved
February 14, 2011 | Wall Street Journal

Some conservative commentators may feel inclined to spend Presidents Day [Washington's Birthday! - J] ruminating over Barack Obama's evil intentions, or denouncing the chief executive as an alien interloper and ideologue perversely determined to damage the republic. Instead, they should consider the history of John Adams's White House prayer and develop a more effective focus for their criticism.

On Nov. 2, 1800, a day after he became the first president to occupy the newly constructed executive mansion, Adams wrote to his wife Abigail: "I pray Heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof."

More than a century later, Franklin Roosevelt ordered the inscription of these words on a mantel piece in the State Dining Room, inviting serious consideration over the extent to which divine providence responded to the earnest entreaty of our second president.

In terms of wisdom, some of Adams's successors who "ruled" under the White House roof most certainly fell short. James Buchanan comes to mind—or Jimmy Carter.

When it comes to honesty, skeptics might also cite heaven's mixed blessings, reviewing a long history of presidential prevarication. Richard Nixon almost certainly lied about Watergate, as did Bill Clinton about his amorous adventures.

But in the deeper sense that Adams longed for "honest men" to occupy the White House, the nation has fared much better: Those who rose to the highest office worked hard, took their responsibilities seriously, and sincerely pursued the nation's good—in order, if nothing else, to secure a positive verdict on their own place in history.

Even the most corruption-tarred presidents, Ulysses S. Grant and Warren G. Harding, agonized over the demands of the office and drew scant personal benefit from the scandals involving unworthy associates. They both retained the profound affection of the populace while they lived and drew massive outpourings of grief at their funerals. Both (especially Grant) have begun a recent rise in the estimation of historians.

John F. Kennedy may have suffered from sex addiction (and a host of other secret maladies) while Franklin Pierce drank heavily in the White House (in part in mourning for his 11-year-old son who died before his eyes in a train accident two months before the inauguration). But neither man ignored his duties, and both had previously demonstrated their love of country with courageous military service.

In short, the White House record of more than 200 years shows plenty of bad decisions but no bad men. For all their foibles, every president attempted to rise to the challenges of leadership and never displayed disloyal or treasonous intent.

This history makes some of the current charges about Barack Obama especially distasteful—and destructive to the conservative cause.

One typical column appeared on Feb. 5 at the well-regarded [um, that depends who's doing the regarding - J] American Thinker website, under the heading: "Obama Well Knows What Chaos He Has Unleashed." Victor Sharpe solemnly declares: "My fear is that Obama is not naïve at all, but he instead knows only too well what he is doing, for he is eagerly promoting Islamic power in the world while diminishing the West."

These attitudes thrive well beyond the blogosphere and the right-wing fringe. On Jan. 7, Sarah Palin spoke briefly on Laura Ingraham's radio show, saying, "What I believe that Obama is doing right now—he is hell-bent on weakening America." While acknowledging that "it's gonna get some people all wee-weed up again," she repeated and amplified her charge that "what Obama is doing" is "purposefully weakening America—because he understood that debt weakened America, domestically and internationally, and yet now he supports increasing debt."

The assumption that the president intends to harm or destroy the nation that elected him has become so widespread that the chief advertising pitch for Dinesh D'Souza's best-selling book, "The Roots of Obama's Rage," promises to "reveal Obama for who he really is: a man driven by the anti-colonial ideology of his father and the first American president to actually seek to reduce America's strength, influence and standard of living."

None of the attacks on Mr. Obama's intentions offers an even vaguely plausible explanation of how the evil genius, once he has ruined our "strength, influence and standard of living," hopes to get himself re-elected. In a sense, the president's most paranoid critics pay him a perverse compliment in maintaining that his idealism burns with such pure, all-consuming heat that he remains blissfully unconcerned with minor matters like his electoral future. They label Mr. Obama as the political equivalent of a suicide bomber: so overcome with hatred (or "rage") that he's perfectly willing to blow himself up in order to inflict casualties on a society he loathes.

On his radio show last July 2, the most influential conservative commentator of them all reaffirmed his frequent charge that the president seeks economic suffering "on purpose." Rush Limbaugh explained: "I think we face something we've never faced before in the country—and that is, we're now governed by people who do not like the country." In his view, this hostility to the United States relates to a grudge connected to Mr. Obama's black identity. "There's no question that payback is what this administration is all about, presiding over the decline of the United States of America, and doing so happily."

[For the record, I alerted ya'll to Limbaugh's crazy conspiracy rants when they happened. - J]

Regardless of the questionable pop psychology of this analysis, as a political strategy it qualifies as almost perfectly imbecilic. Republicans already face a formidable challenge in convincing a closely divided electorate that the president pursues wrong-headed policies. They will never succeed in arguing that those initiatives have been cunningly and purposefully designed to wound the republic. In Mr. Obama's case, it's particularly unhelpful to focus on alleged bad intentions and rotten character when every survey shows more favorable views of his personality than his policies.

Moreover, the current insistence in seeing every misstep or setback by the Obama administration as part of a diabolical master plan for national destruction disregards the powerful reverence for the White House that's been part of our national character for two centuries.

Even in times of panic and distress, we hope the Almighty has answered John Adams's prayer. Americans may not see a given president as their advocate, but they're hardly disposed to view him as their enemy—and a furtive, determined enemy at that. For 2012, Republicans face a daunting challenge in running against the president. That challenge becomes impossible if they're also perceived as running against the presidency.

Mr. Medved hosts a daily, nationally syndicated radio show.

Peaceful Mideast change a blow to Al Qaeda

Very interesting analysis. Sometimes what doesn't happen is more significant than what does. Al Qaeda's deafening silence in the wake of the peaceful revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt is a great example.

Yet as this piece warns, the gains of peaceful demonstrators could be rolled back; and if they fail; or the military cracks down; and if we don't give peaceful democrats all the support we can, then al Qaeda's silence could be replaced by deadly gloating. They could cite the impotence of peaceful protests as more reason to support violent jihad to overthrow intractable Mideast autocrats.

That's why I was heartened by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's announcement Thursday that the U.S. is committing $150 million (still a drop in the bucket -- about one month's worth of Mubarak-era U.S. aid to Egypt -- and pennies compared to what America is spending in Iraq and Afghanistan) to support democracy and civil society in Egypt.

We can't take our eye of the ball!

By Mike Shuster
February 16, 2011 | NPR

Inflation bogeyman's gonna getcha!

In Boogeyman, it's all slight of hand.

For months now I've been hearing a lot about the (hyper-?)inflation fears of conservative gold bugs and 'Bama haters. (As I've noted before, gold is a hedge against uncertainty, not against inflation.) I wonder if any of these scaremongers looks at actual inflation?

True, the recent and significant rise in commodities prices is troubling, but its effects in 2011 in the U.S. will probably be "a ripple," although food prices may have contributed significantly to fomenting revolution in Tunisia and Egypt. Lately commodities prices have very little to do with Obama or the U.S. period, (growing U.S. demand for biofuels excepted), and much more to do with demand in China and speculators reacting to droughts in Australia, fires in Russia, political upheavals in the Mideast, etc.

What really bothers me about these inflation scaredycats is that they forget about real U.S. workers who have no job, or a part-time job, or a job that pays much less than their previous one, although their basic needs haven't decreased. A rise in food prices of 1-2 percent is unwelcome but pales in comparison to a 20-100 percent cut in monthly income. In the West, inflation is the bogeyman of the comfortable.

And *macroeconomics 101 tells us that an economy operating way below capacity with large unemployment cannot have high inflation. In fact, just a few months ago the Fed was more worried about deflation, which is bad for several reasons.

So I file all this inflation talk away in the "Obama's going to take away your guns" category. It's impossible to refute because it's pure speculation about some future event that probably won't happen, but since we live in the present I can't say the nutjobs are definitely wrong. (Although they are definitely wrong.)

* For us to have significant inflation right now, we'd have to have a leftward shift in the Aggregate Supply curve, meaning business costs would be rising faster than productivity. In fact, U.S. annual average productivity (output per worker per hour) increased 3.6 percent from 2009 to 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics; and wage increases were about 1.5 percent September 2009 on September 2010 vs. a 1.1 percent increase in consumer prices, hardly Zimbabwe-type increases.

Washington state graphic: Who votes how?

I must point out that this super graphic from WA state is indicative of a national trend. Indeed, Red States tend to be federal welfare queens.

'Course, if you want to dig deeper, then you see that all major cities, even in Red States, tend to vote Democrat. It's the 'burbs and the vast swathes of nothing that vote Republican.

What does all this mean? I'm not quite sure. But cognitive dissonance is nothing new to conservatives and Republicans. To be charitable, let's remember that famous quote from writer F. Scott Fitzgerald: "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function." Red State welfare queens obviously have no problem with hating Big Gubument while collecting all kinds of federal goodies. So doggoneit, Red Staters are possessed of a first-rate intelligence!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Poll: Majority of GOP voters is certifiable

This survey reveals that a majority of Republicans are birthers who don't believe Obama was born in Hawaii. And most of them doubt his professed Christian faith; they think he's using it to conceal his true diabolical Muslim faith. Even the GOP Speaker of the House insisted "it's not my job" to inform his deranged Republicans that Obama is a natural-born U.S. citizen, even though Speaker Boehner believes it himself.

These people see multiple (sometimes contradictory), hidden, sinister motives behind everything Obama says or does. His very birth is a source of controversy for them. (Messiah, anyone?) He cannot please these rabid reality deniers except by his total political surrender, and even then they would call him a "pushover" or "too weak!" I know it, you know it.

All this goes to show that Obama should give up on bipartisanship (read: appeasement) and go hard Left on the issues that enjoy popular support from Democrats and Independents, such as: ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; preserving Social Security; raising taxes on the top 3-5% of income earners; raising the payroll tax ceiling; investing in roads, bridges, and renewable energy infrastructure; regulating risky financial derivatives; re-instituting Glass-Steagal to separate deposit banks from casinos; and ending tax breaks for companies that export U.S. jobs, just to name a few.

Obama supporter Mary Schaeffer argues with critic Gary Henderson near a birther billboard,  November 2009.
By Frank James
February 15, 2011 | NPR

Birther Poll

By Elyse Siegel
February 15, 2011 | Huffington Post

D.C. becoming more genuinely itself?

Washington, D.C. is inexorably on its way from being a "chocolate city" with a rich vanilla swirl to becoming a majority-white city.

Residents know the process of gentrification has been going on for some time now, and the results haven't been all bad, I have to admit (if you can afford its prices); but I can't help feeling the city will lose a lot of its flavor and vibrancy when it becomes accessible only to the wealthy and priveleged.

Then again, when D.C. becomes a virtual gated community for the rich, then the city will be more genuine, as a perfect analog of the pay-to-enter Congress and White House which dominate it, instead of the city being used as shabby servants' quarters.

By Alex Kellogg
February 16, 2011 | NPR

Liberal-effete NPR: Renegade robots the only modern Myth?

"Looking across the last 50,000 years of storytelling it's hard to find fundamentally modern narratives that rise to the level mythology. Until you consider artificial intelligence, AI."

I do agree with liberally slanted NPR that robots turning against their human creators represents a new type of human Myth, but I vehemently disagree that it is the only modern contribution to mythology.

He-llo, ever heard of zombies, NPR ?! You're showing your elitist, effete stripes. NPR readers, too. Only one online commenter, a female of all people (Erin Bell), even sort of mentioned zombies but she got it all wrong and called them renegade robots of a sort.

Look, does anybody recall any stories about Greek, Roman, Chinese, or Native American heroes battling armies of the walking dead? No.

And there are like a thousand times more movies and books about zombies than there are about sentient renegade robots. And way better ones, too. Tell the truth: how many of you ever fell asleep watching that Kubric classic of the evil sentient machine genre, 2001: A Space Odyssey, vs. falling asleep watching Night of the Living Dead or Dawn of the Dead? I rest my case.

HAL: "Just what do you think you're doing, Dave?"
Dave: "Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz....."

By Adam Frank
February 16, 2011 | NPR

Monday, February 14, 2011

Limbaugh defines an unacceptable protest

If you have any doubts about what Rush and his ilk consider an acceptable protest, read this:

"I don't want to call it a mob, the protester bunch. And, folks, they're all leftists. They're feminists. They're avowed socialist, leftist, communists, environmentalists. I don't believe that this is just spontaneity. I think this is classic. This is rent-a-mob. I don't doubt that there are genuine grievances felt by some of the people in this group, but this is not a spontaneous, gee, nobody knew this was coming moment. This is the result of organizing. This is just classic community organizing in Egypt."

See, it had to be "spontaneous" to be genuine, meaning: every protester had to come independently and simultaneously to the conclusion that he needed to be out there risking his life and livelihood, fighting a corrupt and oppressive regime. Anything even slightly more collective than that is "community organizing," which as we all know is the 8th deadly sin.

"This is rent-a-mob," he said! Who rented them? How much did more than a million people cost to rent for 18 days, and were they paid in dollars or Egyptian pounds, and where did they pick up their money? Did they earn extra for getting hit with tear gas or pummeled with batons? I really wish Rush would elaborate on this shocking conspiracy.

Back to reality.... If we let these far-right bozos talk for 3 hours a day 5 days a week, eventually they can't contain themselves and reveal their true elitist feelings. Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, et al despise normal people and democracy, that's all there is to it.

February 11, 2011 | The Rush Limbaugh Show

Herbert: Lesson in democracy from Egyptians

If you've ever been witness to a massive protest gathering like the ones in Egypt over the past few weeks, then you understand how insane and cynically duplicitous are the conspiracy theories which charge that someone or some organization was "behind" it all. Nobody can force or snooker people into doing what millions of normal Egyptians did. Indeed their genuineness was what made their exploits so beautiful and inspiring.

When the likes of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh see millions of people motivated to take to the streets for weeks on end, facing down tanks and police, and risking their lives and livelihoods, and winning, it scares the bejusus out of them, because their goal is to keep fed-up, average Americans convinced that organizing, protesting, getting angry, and risking one's reputation is never ever worth it, that it come to nothing, and what's worse, that it's anti-American and sinister. (Unless, of course, it's a bland, agendaless, made-for-FOX event for status-quo-supporting whites.)

The truth is that nothing will change unless normal people get angry, get organized, and start making life uncomfortable for the rich and powerful. Many of us, especially on the Left, were inspired but ultimately duped by Obama's hope for change. We thought he'd do the heavy lifting for us, despite the soul-crushing weight of a Wall Street cash machine on his back. We thought voting for him was an accomplishment. (Yeah, we did get our first black president, which meant something for all of a few weeks.) Well shame on us, shame on me. Turns out it wasn't nearly enough. It was only a start. We haven't held his comfortable Ivy League feet to the fire. And we haven't gotten out of our homes and cosy routines to do our part. Unforgivably, his top aide called us "f***ing retards" for demanding real health care reform; then the "vichy Left" snarkily, smugly excoriated those who do get angry, loud, and organized by organizing to denounce organizing. Those events were a real nadir. Let's hope we learn our lesson from Egypt and support each other instead of backstabbing.

But back to Egypt's inspiring optimism.... In a positive variation on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail, we can rejoice in Egypt because a victory for democracy and people power anywhere is a victory everywhere. Such achievements remind us not only what is at stake, but what is really possible.

(P.S. - I'm well aware that events in Egypt are touch-and-go, and real democracy and majority rule are by no means guaranteed there. However the possibility of bad outcomes does not negate the power and beauty of Egyptians' accomplishment in January-February 2011. Only in films and fairy tales does one seminal event turn the tide and guarantee a happily-ever-after. America's Revolution did not guarantee our democratic republic would survive or live up to its promise, nor did an Abolition Movement, Civil War, Progressive Movement, Women's Right's Movement, or Civil Rights Movement. Democracy is a work in progress. The monied elites are always trying to roll back the people's gains; and for the past 30 years in the U.S., they've been winning. Nevertheless, we draw inspiration from our and others' past accomplishments because they remind us that, together, we will prevail.)

By Bob Herbert
February 11, 2011 | New York Times

While millions of ordinary Americans are struggling with unemployment and declining standards of living, the levers of real power have been all but completely commandeered by the financial and corporate elite. It doesn't really matter what ordinary people want. The wealthy call the tune, and the politicians dance.

So what we get in this democracy of ours are astounding and increasingly obscene tax breaks and other windfall benefits for the wealthiest, while the bought-and-paid-for politicians hack away at essential public services and the social safety net, saying we can't afford them. One state after another is reporting that it cannot pay its bills. Public employees across the country are walking the plank by the tens of thousands. Camden, N.J., a stricken city with a serious crime problem, laid off nearly half of its police force. Medicaid, the program that provides health benefits to the poor, is under savage assault from nearly all quarters.

The poor, who are suffering from an all-out depression, are never heard from. In terms of their clout, they might as well not exist. The Obama forces reportedly want to raise a billion dollars or more for the president's re-election bid. Politicians in search of that kind of cash won't be talking much about the wants and needs of the poor. They'll be genuflecting before the very rich.

In an Op-Ed article in The Times at the end of January, Senator John Kerry said that the Egyptian people "have made clear they will settle for nothing less than greater democracy and more economic opportunities." Americans are being asked to swallow exactly the opposite. In the mad rush to privatization over the past few decades, democracy itself was put up for sale, and the rich were the only ones who could afford it.

The corporate and financial elites threw astounding sums of money into campaign contributions and high-priced lobbyists and think tanks and media buys and anything else they could think of. They wined and dined powerful leaders of both parties. They flew them on private jets and wooed them with golf outings and lavish vacations and gave them high-paying jobs as lobbyists the moment they left the government. All that money was well spent. The investments paid off big time.

As Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson wrote in their book, "Winner-Take-All Politics": "Step by step and debate by debate, America's public officials have rewritten the rules of American politics and the American economy in ways that have benefited the few at the expense of the many."

As if the corporate stranglehold on American democracy were not tight enough, the Supreme Court strengthened it immeasurably with its Citizens United decision, which greatly enhanced the already overwhelming power of corporate money in politics. Ordinary Americans have no real access to the corridors of power, but you can bet your last Lotto ticket that your elected officials are listening when the corporate money speaks.

When the game is rigged in your favor, you win. So despite the worst economic downturn since the Depression, the big corporations are sitting on mountains of cash, the stock markets are up and all is well among the plutocrats. The endlessly egregious Koch brothers, David and Charles, are worth an estimated $35 billion. Yet they seem to feel as though society has treated them unfairly.

As Jane Mayer pointed out in her celebrated New Yorker article, "The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry — especially environmental regulation." (A good hard look at their air-pollution record would make you sick.)

It's a perversion of democracy, indeed, when individuals like the Kochs have so much clout while the many millions of ordinary Americans have so little. What the Kochs want is coming to pass. Extend the tax cuts for the rich? No problem. Cut services to the poor, the sick, the young and the disabled? Check. Can we get you anything else, gentlemen?

The Egyptians want to establish a viable democracy, and that's a long, hard road. Americans are in the mind-bogglingly self-destructive process of letting a real democracy slip away.

I had lunch with the historian Howard Zinn just a few weeks before he died in January 2010. He was chagrined about the state of affairs in the U.S. but not at all daunted. "If there is going to be change," he said, "real change, it will have to work its way from the bottom up, from the people themselves."

I thought of that as I watched the coverage of the ecstatic celebrations in the streets of Cairo.

Ohio class warfare case study has national implications

FOXNews opinionater turned Ohio Governor John Kasich and his GOP henchmen want to fire Ohio state employees and cut the salaries and benefits of those who remain. Taking Rahm Emanuel's advice never to let a good crisis go to waste, Kasich is using Ohio's projected $8 billion budget deficit as a pretext to fire teachers and cripple unions. Among the provisos which he supports are an end to collective bargaining and binding arbitration for public-sector employees, automatic 1-year continuation of outgoing contracts in the case of a dispute, and making it illegal for them to strike. This despite that fact that strikes in Ohio are extremely rare, and since 2008 binding arbitration has resolved fewer than 2 percent of public labor disputes.

Indeed, an irrefutable study on Ohio's labor force by Rutgers University professor Jeffrey H. Keefe shows that public-service workers are actually underpaid 3.3 percent compared to private-sector workers of similar education and hours worked.

Moreover, according to the 35,000-member Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, state workers have taken five pay cuts in the last nine years and saved Ohio $250 million in its current contract alone.

On February 9 at the first reading of SB5, more than 1,000 firefighters, police, corrections officers and other public workers stormed Ohio's Statehouse in opposition. Why so upset? Because the bill, proposed by GOP State Senator Shannon Jones – which Gov. Kasich said "of course" he supports – would eliminate: (1) collective bargaining for all state workers, including those at universities; (2) binding arbitration for local police officers and firefighters, who also could not strike; (3) health insurance as part of labor negotiations, and require government workers to pay at least 20 percent of the cost; and (4) automatic pay increases and mandatory sick days for teachers from state law.

The Ohio Tea Parties and the rest of the GOP state apparatus naturally support the bill, as they believe that all union members, especially public union members, are lazy and overpaid compared to lean, mean private-sector, non-union workers. And of course state employees and union members tend to vote Democrat precisely because they know Republicans have it in for them -- which makes the GOP hate them even more. Ohio's Tea Partiers are counter-mobilizing as this goes to post.

Yes, state workers' compensation makes up about 1/3 of most states' operating budgets, but in fact recent state budget shortfalls are due to the Great Recession with resulting lower tax receipts and higher demand for state services like Medicaid and unemployment benefits -- not any sudden increas in spending on state salaries. And the more ominous problem of unfunded state retirement benefits -- which Newt Gingrich and other Republicans lately argue calls for national legislation to allow states to declare bankruptcy and erase their liabilities to state workers, bond markets be damned -- has been building up for years. The Wall Street crash just made it worse. State workers are not actuaries, accountants, or elected legislators charged with a fiduciary duty to prudently set aside and invest these funds. Therefore, it is completely unfair to attribute the states' fiscal irresponsibility to everyday state workers. (Source:

Republicans will cut public-sector jobs and wages and cripple public unions in the bad times in the name of balanced budgets -- but does anybody seriously think they're going to undo all that when the economy recovers? No, these "emergency" measures will be permanent. Conservative idealogues smell blood and they're going in for the kill. They are patient but ruthless hunters; now is their time to pounce.

This death struggle is being waged in other budget-strapped states, which show a similar picture as described above.

Ohioans, Americans, don't let them win!

Friday, February 11, 2011

War Nerd: Wanna see what Afghanistan's really like?

I admit it, I didn't have the heart to watch the video after reading Gary's description of it. Viewer discretion is advised.

Concluded the War Nerd: "I'm telling you: once you see how guerrilla warfare works, you have two reactions: you're downright awed by how simple and brilliant it is…and it makes you sick."

'Bama, get 'em the hell outta there!

The War Nerd On Af-Pak: Losing the Long War, One Man at A Time
By Gary Brecher
February 10, 2011 The Exiled


What do Egypt and U.S. have in common?

What media outlet do both autocratic Egypt and the freedom-loving U.S. try to shut down?

I'll give you a hint: it starts with an 'Al-' and ends with a '-zeera.'

Al Jazeera Becomes Chief Media Target Of Egyptian Government
By Ryan Lucas
February 10, 2011 Huffington Post


Al Jazeera English Blacked Out Across Most Of U.S. [UPDATED]
By Ryan Grim
February 4, 2011 Huffington Post


Thursday, February 10, 2011

MB360: FIRE burning down U.S. middle class

Financialization Era – how banking welfare captured our economy and ravaged the wealth of the working and middle class. Building profits through financial debt leverage.

By mybudget360 February 10, 2011

The American banking system has transformed the economy into one enormous speculative casino with bells and whistles and free cocktails for those that participate. The problem of course is that most don't have excess income to drop into the financial slot machines. Now banking in better times should be seen as the lubricant of the economy. It allocates capital to areas in the economy where actual real growth was occurring. Today the financial sector operates as an incestuous industry funding growth in its own industry. A snake swallowing its own tail but when the inevitable end comes, it is society that is forced to pick up the tab. Ultimately profits have to come from something real and not just skimming imaginary profits from interest. This banking welfare is largely a reason why our economy is faltering on the vine and Wall Street banking profits are soaring. It is no coincidence that as debt pilfered the economy that financial profits soared. We are living in era that can be dubbed the financialization of the American economy.

Debt leverage and banking profits go hand in hand

financial profits as a share of debt

Source: Peak Watch

The above chart really highlights the destruction of our economy in a rising debt era. In a low debt era financial profits were held in check from the 1950s to the early 1980s. Financial profits as a share of GDP hovered around one percent. That all changed in the 1980s and finally reached an apex in our Great Recession. The financial sector grew its profit margins at a time where more Americans were borrowing and going into debt to finance a lifestyle that was setup for a solid middle class. Yet the middle class was not there and many used debt to play a game of pretend for a few decades. All this was playing out during a time when the top 1 percent that were heavily vested in the banking sector were usurping wealth from the real economy.

It is no coincidence that during this time our workforce has shifted from manufacturing to finance:


Source: Macromon

We have done a complete 180 turn here. In 1947 the manufacturing sector contributed 25.6 percent to our entire GDP base while the FIRE sector made up 10.5 percent. In 2009 FIRE makes up 21.5 percent while manufacturing is down to 11.2 percent. Given the massive fraud, corruption, scandalous rent seeking behavior, and graft why should we be happy with all the bailouts given to this sector? The financial industry has largely become one giant casino and the stock market no longer reflects the health of the US economy. Most banking profits are now being made overseas as this nation's bailouts are going to global banks that are now fueling the growth and speculation abroad. This is what Americans get in exchange for trillions of dollars of bailouts to what are largely legalized loan sharks.

To further highlight how the financialization of America has harmed the economy we need only look at the stagnant wages of American families. 2000 to 2010 was the first decade where the median household income fell since the Great Depression era of the 1930s. This all happened during a time of unrestrained financial speculation and growth. What happened in the 1920s? Rampant financial fraud by banks so it is no surprise that we ended up in the same place. The only difference today is that after the crash nothing has changed. We still have the same financial sector in full operation. Half of American workers make $25,000 a year or less. This is such an important point because it demonstrates how the quality of life for many has gone negative in the last ten years. On this path the financialization of the country will continue to throw more off the middle class pedestal (or at least what remains of it).

To further demonstrate the casino like nature of our stock markets just look at the actual trading volume for various markets over the last 60 years:


Source: BIS, Wikipedia

This is a fascinating look at how much stock markets have become like casinos.

"In 1956 for example total dollar volume traded on various markets amounted to $534 billion. At the same time US GDP was $425 billion. Most of the trading occurred in boring and safe government securities. Fast forward to 2000. $508 trillion is traded and US GDP is only $9.8 trillion!"

What is even more insane is the amount being traded on the foreign exchange markets. $343 trillion was traded when global GDP is roughly $54 trillion. How can this be? The global stock markets are largely vacuums sucking the life and productivity from working class people all over the place. Investment banks make their profits as rent seekers and leech onto productive sectors of the economy that actually make things.

The financialization of our country has led us to a situation where bailouts are handed out to investment banks without any oversight because so much wealth is aggregated in these few hands. These industries have bought out our government and have laws and regulations that are stripped down to the point where all the above is allowed. Maximum leverage and if things go bust the taxpayer will be forced by their bought out politicians to bailout these sectors. Since the debt needs to be repaid, many in their local communities are witnessing rising taxes and cuts to local services. This happens under the guise that people need to tighten up their belt. Of course this happens at a time when global trading markets are leveraging their volume tenfold the amount of global GDP. Don't be fooled, the real culprits here are the banks and the financial sector. There is graft in many areas of the economy but this is the nucleus of the mess. If things keep going forward in this financialization phase there will be no middle class in the US in 10 to 20 years.

King Abdullah to Obama: Don't humiliate my fellow dictator pal!

"Meanwhile, the Egyptian military has been accused of being involved in both the disappearance and torture of Egyptian citizens, including the use of electric shocks.

"Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights in Cairo, said hundreds, and possibly thousands, of ordinary people had 'disappeared' into military custody across the country. Many were still missing.

"'Their range is very wide, from people who were at the protests or detained for breaking curfew to those who talked back at an army officer or were handed over to the army for looking suspicious or for looking like foreigners even if they were not.'"

But oh no, the last thing we want to do is offend the precious feelings the oppressor, autocrat, and torturer Mubarak. Gimme a break.

Report: Saudis Warned Obama Not to 'Humiliate' Mubarak
February 10, 2011 FOXNews


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Why Egypt won't be another Iran

I boiled this analysis down to its key points for you all:

"...the Iranian regime led by Khomeini murderously repressed and sold down the river many in the opposition who supported the uprising in the 1970s. 'The specter of that is very frightening to many Egyptians. Egyptians are very nervous about repeating what happened in Iran.'"

"'No representative system can take root in Egypt without the Brotherhood's participation. But, after spending the last half century battling Islamist political forces, the military leadership will have trouble overcoming its deep disdain for the Brotherhood.'"

"Iran has a lot of oil, and it can afford to be 'more reactionary and revolutionary.' Egypt is dependent on tourism, shipping through the Suez Canal and trade with neighboring countries. 'These types of things bind it to more moderate policies.'"

Could unrest in Egypt produce an Iranian-style regime?
By Joe Sterling
February 4, 2011 CNN


'Older generations have eaten younger ones'

"In many countries the young are being crushed by a gerontocracy of older workers who appear determined to cling to the better jobs as long as possible and then, when they do retire, demand impossibly rich private and public pensions that the younger generation will be forced to shoulder."

"The older generations have eaten the future of the younger ones," former Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato said.

You Boomers who are in good health and making good money want to keep working until you're 80, and then collect every dime you're entitled to under Social Security.
Whereas we in Gens X and Y will have to work till we're 80 (or dead) just to survive.

But here's a solution, which I have long advocated, as opposed to the false solutions of more same-old technical schools or even more STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) graduates in the U.S.: apprenticeships, which by definition match skills training to the needs of markets:

"These days there's a newfound appreciation for an ancient work arrangement, the apprenticeship, because it greases the transition from learning to doing. Germany and Austria experienced milder youth unemployment in the global downturn partly because of blue-collar apprenticeship programs."

If you Boomers would teach some youngins what you know, you could do the country some good, instead of hoarding all the jobs while demanding Social Security and Medicare payouts!

The Youth Unemployment Bomb
From Cairo to London to Brooklyn, too many young people are jobless and disaffected. Inside the global effort to put the next generation to work
By Peter Coy
February 2, 2011 Bloomberg Businessweek


FOX focus group agrees: Obama is Muslim

This just goes to show that the Red State heartland of America is irrationally opposed to Obama and wants to believe the worst about him, no matter what he does.

Obama should take note. These people will always hate, fear, and distrust him. He can never win them over. He should veer hard Left to re-energize his base, and enough of the independents will follow along.

UPDATE (02.14.2011): One reader said I was insulting Islam to say that believing Obama was a Muslim was "to believe the worst about him." Poor phrasing on my part. Just to clarify, I meant that believing somebody would conceal his true religion with another one for political purposes is to believe the worst about somebody.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Buchanan: 'Does the USG believe what it professes to believe?'

Asked Pat Buchanan:

"If the advancement of our democratic ideals imperils what the U.S. government says are our vital interests, is there not something fundamentally wrong with our Middle East policy?"

To which I answer: Yes, there is something fundamentally wrong, because we've never tried advancing democratic ideals in the Mideast, except at the point of a gun in Iraq, and the worst place in the world to start a democracy from scratch, Afghanistan.

It's quite self-serving to defend the brutal status quo in the Mideast, which we have vigorously supported at the expense of would-be free peoples there, by using the potential results of our discontinued support of oppression as a bogeyman. If 9/11 taught us anything, it's that angry people -- not angry governments -- pose the most immediate threat to our security. We've fooled ourselves into accepting the illusion of safety and stability provided by smiling "pro-American" autocrats. Meanwhile, underneath, those autocrats' seething populations see exactly what is going on and are boiling over in anger.

It's time to choose sides -- the people's, not the autocrats'. Dubya's desired wave of democratization across the Mideast may be happening right now, in spite of, not because of, our overseas adventures. Will we ride that wave, or be crushed by it? The status quo may soon be washed away, no matter what we do.

Ideology vs. the National Interest
By Patrick J. Buchanan
February 8, 2011 Human Events