Cosmic Rats Multiply

Multiply Blog Archive 6
May 2 2010 through Nov. 9 2011

Good News Nov 9, '11
The Koch-Cain Train Has Left the Tracks Nov 3, '11
What Grows in a Political Desert? Bad Laws and Bad Attitudes Jul 21, '11
Suppress the Economy and Blame the President: the Republican Strategy Jul 7, '11 1:45 PM
If You Elect Rightwing Nuts, You Get Rightwing Insanity Jul 30, '11
Anthony Weiner Should Stay in Congress Jun 11, '11
Republican Budget Cuts Will Slow Recovery May 19, '11
The Next Step May 3, '11
A Stearn Reminder Apr 23, '11
Whose economy is this, anyway? Feb 28, '11
Collateral Damage in Tucson Jan 10, '11
JUSTICE WINS Nov 18, '10
To Disappointed Progressives Oct 27, '10
Oligarchy and the Truth About the Tax Cuts Aug 31, '10
Make Me End the War Aug 2, '10 4:07 AM
Beware the Republican Deception Jul 18, '10
understanding the Lies of the Land Jun 6, '10
Information Technology and Politics May 11, '10
Government Too Small May 2, '10

Good News Nov 9, '11 1:46 AM

I have heard good news today. It is not every day I can say that.  Victory for workers' rights in Ohio.  Victory for women's rights in Mississippi.  And even in my state of Arizona, sanity and moderation have defeated the extreme hate and cultural bigotry of Russell Pearce.  Democrats have won in municipal elections, including mayors of Phoenix and Tucson.  It's an encouraging sign.

NEWS RELEASE Nov. 8, 2011 Tonight's election results Andrei Cherny, Arizona Democratic Party chairman, issued the following statement tonight: Tonight, mainstream Arizona dealt a bitter blow to extremism. In choosing Greg Stanton as Phoenix's mayor, in electing Jonathan Rothschild as Tucson's mayor, and in recalling Senate President Russell Pearce, the voters have launched a new era of responsible leadership.

I congratulate Greg Stanton and Jonathan Rothschild, two honorable public servants who share the voters' priorities for their cities. For the first time in a generation, there will be Democratic mayors in both Phoenix and Tucson -- a victory not just for Democrats but for every citizen who cares about the future of these great cities. And I especially congratulate the voters of Legislative District 18 for their courageous decision to stop Russell Pearce's reckless reign of power over their district, the state Senate and the state of Arizona. Voters are fed up with overreach, abuse of power and attacks on common sense. They expect leaders who will focus on a stronger economy, safer streets and better schools. Tonight, voters are the real winners.

More Democratic victories tonight: Daniel Valenzuela, Phoenix City Council Paul Cunningham, Tucson City Council Regina Romero, Tucson City Council Shirley Scott, Tucson City Council John Williams, Surprise City Council

The Koch-Cain Train Has Left the Tracks Nov 3, '11 4:31 PM

In yet another instance of Republican self-destruction, Cain totally mishandled the revelation of his sexual harassment past.  He forgot, or didn't realize, that his constituency didn't care.  If he had said, "Yeah, I did that, and they were paid off, and I've changed my ways.", conservatives would have loved it.  Many of them still defend him, though the way he stumbled and denied and backpedaled showed he panics easily and has no integrity.

Even worse, Cain turns to Perry and says, 'You tattled on me!'.  Sounds a bit childish, doesn't it? The Republicans are a slapstick comedy of clowns.  We wait to see which one won't get up again after they fall on their faces.

If You Elect Rightwing Nuts, You Get Rightwing Insanity Jul 30, '11 7:48 PM

As July 2011 draws to a close, that has never been more obvious and clear than right now. As a Guardian editorial points out, before electing extremist Republicans to Congress, we failed to child-proof the system.  We should have repealed the useless debt ceiling law years ago.  It accomplishes nothing.  It must periodically be raised, and all Congresses until now have been responsible enough to perform this simple duty.

But the useless law has turned out to be a dangerous weapon in the hands of irresponsible Republicans.  Scrap the Stupid Debt Ceiling Law Why Do We Even Have A Debt Ceiling Law?  Blame World War One.

In the 14th Amendment, it says "The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned"

The only function of the debt ceiling is to pose the question "Will the public debt of the US continue to be valid?"  That is clearly a question that should not be asked, as the only legal answer is an immediate "Yes".  By having a public debate on the question, and by holding the answer hostage for another purpose, the House is committing an unconstitutional act.

How Republicans Screwed the Pooch Republicans say they want to save the country from Obama’s reckless spending. But as Paul Begala argues, it’s the GOP’s policies that have driven the nation into the ground. 'What the GOP seeks is a banana republic: a toxic blend of right-wing populism, anti-intellectualism, debt defaults, and an end to the ladder of economic opportunity.'

What Republicans want is what corporations want, and globalism has spoiled them.  They've had a close look at 3rd-world economies, places where they outsource to exploit cheap labor, and they say 'Why can't it be that easy at home?'  To understand their goal, you have to analyze the end results of all the items on their agenda, from attacks on social insurance programs, labor unions,  equal rights, environmental protection, safety regulation, financial   regulation, consumer protection, and democracy itself. 

Bob Greenstein, the widely respected president of the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, has done just that. His conclusion: The Boehner-GOP plan is "tantamount to a form of ‘class warfare.’ If enacted, it could well produce the greatest increase in poverty and hardship produced by any law in modern U.S. history. The right wing should ditch the tricorn hats and replace them with mirrored sunglasses. They truly are Banana Republicans.

 John Steinbeck said 'socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.' We see ourselves that way because the unceasing propaganda had drilled that notion into us for generations.  We obediently lie to ourselves, allowing the Republican party to continue to exist.

The answer is not one ideology or the other, but a humanitarian and properly regulated market economy, essentially what was crafted by FDR's reforms, which worked well. In his first Inaugrial address, FDR said  'More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return. Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.

Yet our distress comes from no failure of substance. We are stricken by no plague of locusts. Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for. Nature still offers her bounty and human efforts have multiplied it. Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply. Primarily this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind’s goods have failed, through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.

True they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.

The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.

Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow men.'

Read the whole speech. It is full of truth that applies as well today as in 1933.

What Grows in a Political Desert? Bad Laws and Bad Attitudes Jul 21, '11 2:00 AM

July 20, 2011: Instead of doing anything positive and useful, our Arizona Legislature has spent its time on bills that do nothing but push right-wing ideology Adoption discrimination This bill is not only useless, it legalizes bigotry and puts prejudice ahead of the welfare of children.

A TEA PARTY LICENSE PLATE? If Motor Vehicles can issue political plates, won't they have to do it for any and all political parties and organizations?  Isn't that what bumperstickers are for? Does Arizona really need a state gun? Well, now it has one.  It's a single-action Colt revolver.  What a surprise.  I was expecting it to be a semi-automatic with a 30-round clip.  Weren't you? So grab your Colt and join the new State Militia.  Anyone 18 to 45 is eligible.  And head for the border.

Schweikert putting brakes on surging solar industry Aren't Republicans supposed to be for HELPING small business?  The one fast-growing industry Arizona has, with the potential to create good jobs, Congressman Schweikert wants to kill!

 LOOSER GUN SAFETY If you read the story below, you'd think better training might be needed for concealed-weapon permits.  The legislaure voted to make training courses LESS accountable. July 11, 2011: Lori Klein, Arizona State Senator, Pointed Loaded Gun At Reporter Richard Ruelas's Chest A Republican advocate of gun rights, Klein blatantly disregarded basic gun safety while showing off her pink .380 Ruger.

If someone were to ask whether Arizona is full of political corruption, I might answer with the question, Is the state run by Republicans? The answer to both questions is, of course, YES. It's sort of like asking if the Pope is Catholic.  I am a long-time resident of the Phoenix area, and I love the beauty and climate of Arizona and many of the people, but Republicans and conservatives have done serious social and economic harm here, and it should be put right. We, the people of Arizona need to organize and eject the reactionaries, regressives, and hate-mongers with whom our government is infested.

Suppress the Economy and Blame the President: the Republican Strategy Jul 7, '11 1:45 PM

The Republican strategy to keep unemployment high and delay growth and recovery in the economy in order to blame the President for it is both reprehensible and obvious.  The list speaks for itself.

Bills Republicans Have Blocked   By Matthew Desmond

On June 6th, the Senate opened debate on the Economic Development Revitalization Act of 2011, a bill to reauthorize and expand a long-running and consistently successful job-creation agency, the Economic Development Administration. The EDA has traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support, and this reauthorization bill was introduced with bipartisan co-sponsorship and passed out of committee without any dissent from Republicans. But after two weeks of debate, the bill was unanimously filibustered by Republicans and has now been pulled from the floor. Read more at

Here’s just a short list of some of the bills that Republicans have blocked, or attempted to block, since Obama became President:

Tax on Companies that ship jobs overseas-  A bill that would have eliminated a tax break that companies get when they ship jobs overseas. Republicans blocked this, allowing companies to keep the tax break they receive when they ship jobs to other countries.

Political Ad disclosure bill-  Would have required all donors to political campaigns to reveal themselves. Republicans blocked this, not once but twice.

Subpoena Power for the Committee investigating the BP Oil Spill –  Give subpoena power to the independent committee responsible for investigating BP’s role in the oil spill. Republicans attempted to block this.

The Small Business Jobs Act- would give LOCAL, community banks access to billions of dollars to loan to small businesses. Republicans blocked this, then attempted to block it a second time and failed.

The DREAM Act-  Gives immigrant youth who were brought here as children a path to citizenship by earning a college degree or serving the military for 2 years. Republicans blocked this.

Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”-  Would have repealed the law that forces gay and lesbian services members to lie about their sexuality and gives the military the right to discharge soldiers based on their sexuality. Republicans blocked this many times and Democrats were finally able to pass it with the support of just 2 Republicans.

Senator Franken’s Anti-Rape Amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill –  Makes it so that women raped overseas while working for foreign contractors have the right to have their case heard in an American court instead of having their case mediated by the company they work for. Only Republican men voted against this, but it passed.

Benefits for Homeless Veterans-  Would have expanded benefits to homeless veterans and homeless veterans with children. Republicans blocked this.

Affordable Health Care For America Act-  Prevents insurance companies from discriminating against you on the basis of “pre-existing conditions”. Requires that insurance companies spend 85 cents of every dollar that you pay on your actual health care. Limits health insurance companies profit margins. Republicans blocked this for months before it finally passed and have vowed to repeal it if they are elected.

Health Care for the 9/11 First Responders  who got sick from being at Ground Zero- Would provide billions of dollars in health care to help the 9/11 First Responders who were at Ground Zero on 9/11 and are now sick because of it. Republicans blocked this.

The Jobs Bill-  Offsets the payroll tax for 1 year for companies that hire new employees, or people receiving unemployment insurance. Also gives other tax incentives to companies hiring new employees. Republicans attempted to block this.

Wall Street Reform-  Puts stricter regulations on the banks, preventing them from becoming “too big to fail”. Curbs reckless spending practices that caused the banking crisis. Republicans attempted to block this.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act-  Pumped billions of dollars into state and local Governments to prevent us from sinking into a second Great Depression. Republicans opposed this but now want to take credit for the parts of it that we know are successful.

Oil Spill Liability-  Raises the liability on what companies can be made to pay to clean up after an oil spill. Republicans blocked this.

Immigration Reform-  Republican suggested comprehensive immigration reform until Obama supported it. Now they’re rabidly opposed to it and even voted against their own legislation. Republicans blocked this.

Unemployment extension bill HR-4213-  Would provide additional aid to the millions of Americans still on unemployment who are just trying to support themselves and their families. Republicans blocked this bill for 8 weeks before it finally passed.

Fair Pay Act of 2009-  Also called the Lily Ledbetter bill. Requires that women receive equal compensation to men for doing the same work. Republicans attempted to block this. The next time someone tells you that the Republicans care about the American people just give them this list of all the bill Republicans wanted to fail.

Some of you may feel that President Obama and the Democrats in Congress have not done enough to change things for the better.  In some areas I might agree.  But it is absolutely clear that what they have done and tried to do is headed in the right direction.  There is no one we could have elected who would have tried harder or done more.

Republicans have done nothing positive for the American people.  They have done only harm and blocked progress.  They are callously and intentionally slowing economic growth and keeping unemployment high and falsely trying to claim that it is the President's fault.

It is important to pay attention to what they are actually doing.  Those who helped elect Republicans should recognize their mistake and avoid repeating it.  And it may not help now, but we should be demanding loudly that House Republicans should stop talking about debts and deficits and start cooperating in improving the economy and job growth.  Let them know we know what they are up to, and that we don't like it.

--cosmicrat July 2011

Anthony Weiner Should Stay in Congress Jun 11, '11 8:27 AM

Congressman Anthony Weiner should absolutely not resign, and I condemn any politician who says that he should. We have had entirely too much of using sex as a political weapon.  Democracy, and the issues we must deal with are much too important to allow irrelevant personal scandals to affect it.  

Our news media are abandoning their vital role as investigators and revealers of real information that matters-- facts that are hidden by our government and by those who would corrupt it with their wealth.  Instead they feed us tittilating details of personal lives and encourage us to use those to decide who wins elections. The only way that idiocy is going to stop is when politicians refuse to let it affect their jobs, and we voters refuse to use it to in any way determine our votes.

Whatever one's opinion on what is proper sexual behavior, it is no more relevant in deciding the fitness of an elected official or a candidate than is race, religion, ethnicity or what flavor ice cream one prefers. This should be agreed across the political spectrum.  Scandals happen even more often to conservatives, even those who preach against sex.    

We have heard plenty about the Congressman's playful side.  We would do well to remind ourselves of his serious hardworking service to his constituents and to America as a whole. We need more Congressmen like Anthony Weiner, who will stand up for the people and call Republicans what they are. Even more than that, no matter what your political views,  those who represent those views in government should be judged only by them and their service to the public.


Republican Budget Cuts Will Slow Recovery May 19, '11 2:27 AM

SAN FRANCISCO (Politically Illustrated) – A proposed plan by Republicans to slash government spending will slow the economic recovery and lower growth by 1.5 to 2 percent, according to a report released by Goldman Sachs.

'This nonpartisan study proves that the House Republicans’ proposal is a recipe for a double-dip recession,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said in a public statement. “Just as the economy is beginning to pick up a little steam, the Republican budget would snuff out any chance of recovery. This analysis puts a dagger through the heart of their ‘cut-and-grow’ fantasy.' The report by Goldman also estimates a 1 percent drop in economy growth if a smaller bill, $25 billion in spending reductions, were to pass Congress.

'We are in the battle of our lives against a really right wing agenda,' Sen. Mark Miller (D-Wisconsin) said in a public statement. 'If we can’t do it at this point, we will fundamentally change the character of our country and our state for a generation.' The economic report comes as Senate Democrats meet to find more cuts in long-term spending to bolster a budget deal with House Republicans.

Where is John Boehner? Mr. Boehner is traveling on a fundraising tour.

The fact that the Tea-publicans' insane budget-cutting proposals would hurt the recovering economy was already  obvious to most of us, and given their ruthlessness, that is no doubt the intention.  Their strategy is to minimize economic growth and increased employment so they could blame that on the administration.  They do not care about the collateral damage to Americans struggling through hard times.  They are also only pretending to be concerned about the national debt in their attempt starve the  Federal government and make it harder for it to protect the people and the economy from predatory corporate greed.

The Next Step May 3, '11 11:24 PM

What does it mean that Bin Laden is now certifiably deceased?  It was an event that was inevitable when the President, at the beginning of his term, terminated Bin Ladin's contract with the CIA and ordered him found and captured or killed. Long after AQ's usefulness in frustrating the former USSR in Afghanistan was over, the CIA maintained its connections with the organization. Bush-Cheney administration used him as a focus of fear-mongering necessary to pursue already-planned aggression.  Bush acknowledged more than once that Bin Laden was no longer a focus of his attention. The entire story of the CIA-ISI-AQ relationship is an interesting and revealing one.  

The Imperial Anatomy of Al-Qaeda, Part III , by Andrew Gavin Marshall The importance of the termination of Bin Ladin is not so much that  it was accomplished, but that President Obama made the decision to end the previous dual relationship when he took office.

 Alan Grayson writes: 'About a year after 9/11, I was sitting in an airport terminal, waiting for a flight, when nature called.   I turned to the young lady sitting next to me, and asked her if she would watch my carry-on baggage while I went to the restroom. She looked at me, she hesitated, and then she asked,  'How do I know that you’re not a terrorist?'  She wasn’t kidding. She looked a little scared.  

I thought about delivering some snappy retort, like  'I used to be a suicide bomber, but I quit, because I didn’t like the pension benefits.' I could see, though, that she was actually feeling some fear, so I looked her in the eye and said, 'I’m not a terrorist.'   She thought for a moment, and then she said, 'OK, I’ll watch your bags.'    And off I went.

  After that conversation, I realized that 9/11 had not only radically altered our national security priorities, but also the way that many people thought about others.  And the weird possibility grew in many people’s minds that any stranger could be a killer.   Now that Osama Bin Laden is dead, I hope that that feeling also is dead. The feeling that we live in fear. Judging by all the spontaneous celebrations, maybe that feeling is dead.   We have often heard the phrase,  'if _______, then the terrorists have won.'    Martha Stewart once told her employees that if not enough of them attended her company Christmas parties, then 'the terrorists have certainly succeeded.'  

Here is one formulation of that formula that we didn’t hear:  'If the terrorists make you feel terror, if they make you fear them, then the terrorists have won.'   I hope that that’s over, now.

  We spend roughly $3000 for every American each year on the U.S. military. There is a theory that the reason for this is that the military-industrial complex controls our foreign policy, in much the same way that the medical-industrial complex controls our health policy, and Wall treet’s money-industrial complex controls our economic policy. That public opinion is simply irrelevant. 

Maybe. But public opinion since 9/11 has been skewed by the real fear that many Americans have felt.  Urged on, of course, by certain parasites in the body politic who want us to believe that they are the only ones who can save us from the threat.  In George Orwell’s book Nineteen Eighty-Four, the fundamental basis for the totalitarian state that he portrays is the fear and hatred of the foreign enemy, Oceania. A siege mentality, brought about by endless war.

I hope that the death of Osama Bin Laden will mean the death of the siege mentality. The end of the perceived need for foreign occupations, and the end of foreign occupations. I hope for peace. Courage, Alan Grayson

I, too, hope for peace.  We should demand it. While terrorists were being manipulated, they were not obedient agents of their manipulators, and their real threat must be recognized.   But the successes we have had against them have not been because we invaded Afghanistan, and certainly not because we invaded Iraq, but in spite of those clumsy and ill-planned aggressions.

The longer we wait to stop occupying and creating death and destruction in the Arab/Muslim world, the longer it will take for the justifiable anger of the people there to subside.  The sooner we stop inflicting collateral damage, the sooner we can have less fear of BEING collateral damage.  Perhaps it is time to remind our Congressman, those of them who care and are sane,  that ending the war IS a priority, and that it always has been.


A Stearn Reminder Apr 23, '11 9:21 AM

By now most of us have heard how a Congressman from Florida, Cliff Stearns, has managed to deliver an unforgivable insult to a group of people that no sensitive and intelligent person would even think of dishonoring: the first-responders and survivors of the September 11 World Trade Center disaster.

Cliff Stearns is a Republican, a party not known for either sensitivity or intelligence.  He and others of his kind really wanted to deny long-term medical care to those injured and sickened by heroic attempts to rescue others, those who survived, and those who worked long hard hours and days to help clean up the mess. Unable to defeat the bill, Stearns managed to attach an amendment that, in effect, raised his middle finger at those the bill was to help. This was such an act of cowardly spite that it made me wonder what else this poor excuse for a Congressman had said or done.

Cliff Stearns Defends Torture Secrecy Yes, that's right: Stearns became angry because serious crimes would NOT be covered up. We've all heard the Republican claim that we're not drilling enough oil wells in the US, for which they want to blame environmentalists.  But when Stearns and other Republicans had the chance to vote for more oil drilling on land where oil companies already have leases, they voted AGAINST it. Republicans (Including Cliff Stearns) Vote Against Quick Oil Drilling On Existing Leases Of course, the behavior we have come to expect from Republicans is no less stupid and mean-spirited

113 Republicans(Including Cliff Stearns)  Vote Against Food for Hungry Kids, then Vote For Billionaire Tax Cut The politics of wealth and power: those who have most of the wealth have the power to get and keep even more of it.  They are not even hiding their intention any more.  Neither are the politicians who serve them, like Cliff Stearns.  They have become arrogant, unconcerned with normal human values.

Whose economy is this, anyway? Feb 28, '11 4:47 AM

Much of the disagreement over how to properly run an economic system comes from confusion, or simply lack of thought, about the basic question that should be considered first: What is an economic system for?  What is its purpose?  More specifically, for whom does it exist?

If we were to ask that question about a government, most of us would answer, "For all the people in the country."  The first 3 words in the Constitution's preamble are "We, the people". But about the economy, though the answer should be the same, we have not declared it with the same consensus of national principle.  Too much myth has been espoused that the economy runs itself.  That has never been the case, but that idea has too often resulted in having to fix it when it's broken rather than regulating it so that it doesn't break.

The system cannot be run for the sake of private enterprise.  That is like driving a car for the sake of the engine.  Private enterprise is the engine.  It is only a means to organize the production to fulfill the needs of the people.  When it doesn't do that, or fails to do it well, it is not meeting its purpose. Making a god of private enterprise, the practitioners of which then make a god of profit, is ruinous to the system.  It results in letting the system run out of control, so that it feeds itself to the detriment of the people, and it eventually self-destructs.

He have watched that happen.  Those involved in private enterprise never learn that lesson, because we have allowed them to believe the system is run for them; that they have been given the country's resources and its people to use in the quest for ever higher profits. That is exactly what they are doing right now.  They are making record profits, while seeking to provide less and less to the public for whose benefit they are actually supposed to exist.

We cannot continue to let the capitalists run the economy, any more than we should let the animals run the zoo.  The analogy is perfectly valid.  While some individuals who manage businesses are capable of rational and cooperative behavior, corporations as a whole have proven that they lack that ability.  That is the reason that the court decision that corporations are persons is so wrong.  They have more power than human beings, but do not have a sense of morality, ethics, or empathy.  They are immortal for as long as they have profit or wealth, and fear only sustained losses.  The people who manage and work for them are their servants, not masters.

Certainly there are individuals in business whose minds are just as amoral and greed-motivated as any corporation.  They are part of a culture which feels no responsibility to society as a whole. Efforts to reward private enterprise for the desired behavior meet with little success.  Often their own  resources exceed the ability of the government to provide incentives, and, as we have seen, rescuing those in trouble results in no acts of gratitude unless strict conditions are attached.

So, how do we get private industry under control and working properly in the national interest for all Americans? First, we must get business out of politics.  This has been made more difficult by the Supreme Court's bizarre ruling that corporations are persons, but ways must be found to greatly reduce the need for huge funds for political campaigns.  The licenses of broadcast media should include an obligation to air candidates debates and statements free of charge.  Private political advertising should be subject to an equal time rule for opposing viewpoints.  If we cannot limit campaign financing by its source, we should limit it as a whole, including spending by the candidate from personal wealth.

Corporations are licensed by states under a wide variety of state laws.  Some states compete for incorporation by providing permissive laws, resulting in little effective control.  Delaware, for example, is home to a disproportionate number of corporations.

Any corporation which does business outside of a single state should be licensed and regulated by the Federal government and required to comply with principles of economic responsibility.  For example, there should be a clear distinction between a manufacturing company and an import business.  Corporations with a manufacturing charter should be obligated to make their products in the US using American workers.  Importing parts would only be permitted with proof that it is impossible to produce them domestically.  Importers should be subject to strict scrutiny regarding labor standards in the originating factory, whether or not they are in direct control of it.  International trade can be beneficial to the economy, but it must not replace domestic production as it has too often been allowed to do.  There will be a need for import duties as long as there are unequal economies in the world.

Labor laws are important, but by themselves they are insufficient to ensure safe and humane workplaces and conditions, and wages that are a fair share of the wealth that workers create.  Labor unions with the right and power to collectively bargain are what built the middle class and kept it growing up through the 1970's.  We now need to rebuild it until the vast majority of working people have a living wage, able to provide for themselves and their families without going into debt, and able to save enough for their children's higher education. Workers rights must be established as inalienable and invulnerable to attacks like those in Wisconsin and other states.

It has been said been said by conservatives that assistance to the poor makes them lazy and unwilling to work.  If that were true, that might be a problem in an economy with full employment and a need for more workers. However, there is a similar dynamic that affects the opposite end of the spectrum.  For over thirty years we have been making our wealthy people lazy.  We have been making it easy for them to continue to accrue wealth without contributing more than minimally to the economy as a whole, primarily by taxing them at only half the rate that we should.  Naturally they and their Republican party are pleased with this and continue to claim they will create more jobs because of these lower taxes.  As most of us have noticed, however, this is far from true.

Contrast this with the many years of healthy economic growth, which included a steadily broadening of middle class prosperity, when the upper tax brackets paid up to 80%.  Bribing them to do more by cutting their taxes simply doesn't work.  It has the opposite effect than intended.  Meanwhile, the enormous negative effect on the Federal budget is an entirely unnecessary deficit.

Inadequate financial regulation has also added to the problem.  Rather than build manufacturing and service industries that would employ workers, those with money find it much easier to make more money speculating.  They produce nothing, but generate a high risk of a crash harmful to the economy.  Real estate speculation has been especially harmful by artificially generating much higher prices for homes, making them harder to afford for those with modest incomes.  It also creates the well-known housing bubble which unavoidably eventually crashes.

Another factor we will need to consider is the reduction in employment that is not caused by recession or outsourcing, but by increased automation.  The use of technology has, in the past. increased slower than it might have due to the negative effect it would have on employment, and as a result, on the consumer base.  But it has and will progress, and we must find ways to adjust our system to deal with it.  It is illogical for a society as a whole to exert more effort than is necessary to fulfill its needs, yet the system allocates individual incomes primarily for work done.  We will increasingly need to create a subsystem that translates gains in efficiency from automation into support for shorter work hours, and perhaps increased investment in creative endeavors and scientific research.

In summary, we must first acknowledge that the economic system, like our democratic government, belongs to all the people, and needs to be operated for the benefit of all.     We must remove the excess influence of the practitioners of private enterprise from politics in order to have an actual working democracy which can effectively control and regulate the economy.   Corporations must be Federally regulated so they do not abandon their responsibility to produce in America and employ Americans.     Imports must be kept from unfairly competing with domestic production.   With both labor laws and effective labor unions we must assure workers of a fair share of the value they produce.     Proper taxation of higher incomes must be restored to help balance budgets and provide real incentives to the holders of wealth to contribute to the economy.   Excessive speculation should be curtailed.     We need to plan for future effects of increased automation.

Economies do not go into recession because the people suddenly cease to need what has been produced for them.  They do so because we have allowed private enterprise to run and manipulate them for their own benefit.  It will not be easy to take back our democracy and our economic system, but the most important part is to realize that we must.

Collateral Damage in Tucson Jan 10, '11 2:43 PM

No doubt following the shooting in Tucson on January 8, 2011, in which Congresswoman Gifford was crtiically injured, 6 so far are dead  of 20 people shot, there will much discussion of the highly divisive political environment that may well have contributed to this violence. There should be.  People like Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, and others less well-known but often even more extreme, should be spotlighted.  The Sheriff of Pima County, whose department had jurisdiction in the case, made the point in the news conference that the political rhetoric full of hate and vitriol is not without consequences.

We have free speech, and we have the right to bear arms.  If both are to be sustainable, citizens need to use  maturity and responsibility in respect to both of those liberties. We also need to understand the source of the political extremism being spouted on the right wing of American politics.  It is not something that just appears spontaneously.  It is relatively unique to US politics, and it is sown deliberately by the pervasive and well-funded propaganda that a number of private corporate interests have been creating for decades.  The Limbaughs and Palins and Becks are just the visible portion of a vast iceberg of subversion of democracy through and for the controllers of wealth and the power it can buy.

Whether or not their rhetoric directly caused the multiple deaths and injuries in Tucson, it is clear that they do not care about the consequences.  They deliberately set out to cause irrational anger, to dehumanize their political enemies.  They do not care about the truth.  A complete lie or wild exaggeration often serves their purpose.

Those who fund them care even less, if that is possible.  Their purpose is not even ideological.  The ideology they support is the one that supports their greed.  To them, every human being matters only to the extent that he or she affects their profit. To them, six murders and 14 attempted murders in Tucson are only collateral damage in their war to control an ever-increasing disproportionate share of America's wealth.  It is an economic war, fought against the vast majority of people, primarily by political means, but ruthlessly, and by any means necessary.

We, the people, will lose this war unless more of us become clearly aware of its nature and inform ourselves about the identity and motivation of those who wage it against us. Most importantly we must remember that they will attempt to divide us, provoke anger between us, and use irrational arguments to confuse us.  The answer to that is calm reason and knowledge.  It requires no violence, no hysterical emotion.  Though they have most of the wealth, we still have the numbers, and the votes in a democracy that still works when we use it intelligently.



Organizations worldwide have called for the US and other governments to respect Wikileaks freedom of the press and freedom of expression.  Human rights groups should never have to caution American officials to respect their own Constitution as well as the international consensus.  It is troubling indeed when that becomes necessary.

According to Amnesty International, criminal proceedings aimed at punishing a private person for communicating evidence about human rights violations can never be justified. The same is true with respect to information on a wide range of other matters of public interest. 

UN Human Rights chief is concerned about pressure on WikiLeaks. Other organizations have spoken out: Reporters without Borders • Internet Society • Human Rights Watch • The Committee to Protect Journalists • Human Rights First Other whistleblower sites are springing up in places where they are needed.

JUSTICE WINS Nov 18, '10 8:07 AM

American justice is alive and well and has once again triumphantly asserted itself today: November 17, 2010: 'A federal jury convicted Ahmed Ghailani of one count of conspiracy to destroy U.S. property and acquitted him on more than 280 other counts, including one murder count for each of the 224 people killed in the embassy bombings. The anonymous jurors deliberated over seven days.'

Whether Ghallani might have been guilty of more, or not guilty of anything is not the question I am considering here.  The jury has decided, and no one but the jury had the right to decide. Naturally there are complaints from those who already felt that the American system of justice is much too fair; those who believe that an accused terrorist must be a guilty terrorist, and anyone who questions that must be one too.

Those are the kinds of people who join lynch mobs, or favor dictatorships who dispense verdicts arbitrarily regardless of the law. Justice does not begin with the trial in court.  It depends on the correct procedures being followed for arrest, gathering and handling of evidence, and the rights to an attorney and to avoid self-incrimination being assured.

It should go without saying that justice cannot include torturing a suspect.  Confessions made in order to get the pain to stop are not credible evidence of anything. 'In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial...' Thus begins the Sixth Amendment.   'Speedy' may be subject to some interpretation, but 9 years certainly isn't it.

The decision to imprison terror suspects in Guantanamo without  indictment, trial, or legal counsel for many years; the decision to torture some of them; the decision to declare some evidence secret and therefore unusable-- these are what make the truth harder to determine when the trial finally happens.

Yet even with these handicaps, a fair trial can and has been conducted.  Finally, for one of the accused detainees, we can say that justice has been done.  To say that a jury of New Yorkers would let a terrorist off easy is absurd.  Yet they took their job seriously and convicted him only on what the prosecutor was able to prove. The rest of those who are still imprisoned without trial cannot be presumed guilty of anything.  They are still only accused suspects.  We will not know whether they are guilty or innocent until their trials are held.  

Some of those suspects in future trials may be found innocent.  We may find it embarrassing that we have imprisoned some innocent persons for many years, and we should.  A lesson must be learned. Each trial, regardless of the outcome, will serve to remind us how important how important justice is to our country.  We were manipulated into abandoning our some of the most important protections of our Constitution by authoritarians. Now, justice is back.  Let's make sure it sticks around.

-cosmic rat  November 17, 2010

To Disappointed Progressives Oct 27, '10 6:37 AM

Democrats, liberals, and progressives: We elected Barack Obama enthusiastically, not just as the only alternative to the disaster waiting to happen that John McCain and Sarah Palin would have been.  Our enthusiasm was based on a strong hope of a serious and long-needed alteration of the way America related to the rest of the world, and a hope for laws and policies that would protect all Americans from the greed and influence of corporate power.

We also elected as many Democrats as possible to help get this done.  Those of us who were realistic knew that none of this would be easy, and that the new President and Congress faced unprecedented problems, most of them the direct result of the incompetence and malfeasance of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, though some of the economic disaster was the culmination of the policies begun by Ronald Reagan.

Nevertheless, some of us were disappointed at the continuation of the Afghan war, a conflict just as pointless as the one in Iraq.  We are disappointed that Guantanamo is not yet closed, and that too few war crimes have been prosecuted. Still, despite an extreme and heavily corporate-funded full-scale attack by the right wing, the record of achievement of Obama and Congress has been impressive.  Not everything; not perfect, but better than any other President has done in so short a time.

Now that right-wing attack threatens to cripple further progress.  Under normal conditions, the extremists running as Republicans wouldn't stand a chance, but 10 percent unemployment is not normal conditions.  That figure, last seen during the Reagan administration, makes enough people nervous and unhappy that they listen to any opposition, no matter how untruthful that opposition may be.

We know that unemployment can't be fixed overnight.  We know it is the result of a Republican caused recession.  And we know that Democratic policies will improve the economy sooner than Republicans would. But because the economy isn't fixed yet, more people will believe lies because they are looking for someone new to blame.

Regardless of any disappointment we may have, this is no time to abandon the cause of progress.  The alternative is not just lack of progress, it is regression: going backward.  Backward into the bigotry of yesteryear, the authoritarian control over our private lives; the cold disregard for the needy; the loyal service to corporate wealth. Two years is not nearly enough time on which to base a judgment of a President and a Congress, especially not in the middle of a recession, and not when we are being attacked with ever dollar and every lie the Republicans can muster.

We still have the structure of a government of and by the people.  The extent to which the people are not in control is exactly as much as we fail to care, fail to act; fail to vote. Let's do it.

-cosmic rat, October 27, 2010

Oligarchy and the Truth About the Tax Cuts Aug 31, '10 3:51 PM

I have encountered a few people in discussions who claim that our American system of government is not a democracy but a "republic".  Of course saying it's a republic tells you almost nothing about it.  Any government but an absolute monarchy can call themselves a republic.  The question is, what kind of republic?  The authors  of the Constitution did their best to give us a democratic republic with protected individual rights.  What we do with it, how we actually run it, can vary from the free democracy they intended to something far less than that.

Overall, we have increased the level of democracy over the years, both by including all the people in it, and getting rid of undemocratic things like appointment of Senators and protecting the voting and other rights of citizens from restriction by state governments.

But from the beginning there have been some who push back against this trend, with the viewpoint that ordinary citizens can't be trusted to run their own government. Behind that is the notion that the interests of the people are not the interests of the rich and powerful.

I found the following, two commentaries by individuals that were published on MSNBC's site that explain this very well.  The first deals with the competing philosophies, and the second with the biggest current example of the difference between government by the many and government by the few:

Ron Indiana Oligarchy: Almost on a daily basis I hear conservatives call the Obama administration all sorts of “ism”. Socialism and communism are the most common. But there is another form of government that may not be in their vocabulary. Oligarchy is a very old term, Greek in origin. Webster’s dictionary defines it as “government (run) by the few, a small group exercising control for corrupt and selfish purposes.”

In our own history we have had a few who believed in oligarchy. Alexander Hamilton comes to mind as he married into the wealthy Schuyler family and represented urban, mercantile interests. Hamilton loved efficiency, order, and an organized government. His opponent was Thomas Jefferson who spoke on behalf of rural and populist interests. Despite differing philosophies, Hamilton was able to create a national bank and a national mint. Through his efforts he created a solid phalanx of wealthy businessmen who stood behind his principles.

My goodness, some of these themes are reappearing today: Bankers, Wall Street businessmen, big oil companies all lining up with Republicans. Today corporations are spending their money to control elections. In some cases the wealthy are using their own money in an attempt to buy an election. (Looking at you Mitt Romney.)

And then there is the last phrase of the definition, “a small group exercising control for corrupt and selfish purposes”. Sounds like greed to me. Lowering taxes for the rich, denying health care for the middle class, deregulating oil, finance and housing; all for selfish purposes, all Republican positions.

And I’m not done. Cutting Social Security, opposing civil rights, repealing Medicare and Medicaid, disregarding the First Amendment Freedom of Religion clause, opposing the Fourteenth Amendment defining American citizenship, and opposing the immigration clause in the Constitution are all positions that harm the middle-class, and neo-conservatives support these positions. I’m beginning to think it’s time to add a new word to our lexicon: oligarchy.

       Reply#1 - Tue Aug 31, 2010 9:11 AM EDT US Navy Disabled Veteran - Retired Ron, Super post. I saw several comments yesterday on tax cuts and thought I would respond here today. Too crowded yesterday. The tax cuts issue just will not go away any time soon. We are now seeing the air waves peppered with ad’s saying cutting taxes to big business especially big oil will create jobs. Exxon in 2009 paid ZERO income taxes, how much lower do you want to go. Should, we the American people pay them?? A few comments taken from Think Progress, NYT, WSJ.

When the GW Bush Administration took office the National Debt was at $5.73 Trillion Dollars. When he left, the National Debt had increased to $10.63 Trillion Dollars, an increase of 85%. When Clinton’s Administration left office they left a $86.4 Billion Dollar budget surplus and created 23 million jobs with a tax rate higher than today’s. Under the Bush’s Administration of mismanagement and incompetence, they left America with a $1.5 Trillion Dollar deficit. This is the deficit that our President Obama has inherited and is still dealing with 20 months after the fact.

So it's comes down to this. David Stockman, the legendary Reagan budget chief who presided over the Gipper's supply-side tax cuts, announced that the "debt explosion has resulted not from big spending by the Democrats, but instead the Republican Party's embrace, about three decades ago, of the insidious doctrine that deficits don't matter if they result from tax cuts." The next day, the former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan, who famously helped sell the 2001 Bush tax cuts to Congress, declared them simply "disastrous."

Sadly, Stockman and Greenspan are just about the only voices in the Republican Party speaking the truth about the fiscal devastation wrought by the expiring Bush tax cuts. After all, the national debt tripled under Ronald Reagan, only to double again during the tenure of George W. Bush. And as it turns out, the Bush tax cut windfall for the wealthy accounted for almost half the budget deficits during his presidency and, if made permanent, would contribute more to the U.S. budget deficit than the Obama stimulus, the TARP program, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and revenue lost to the recession - combined. Of course, you'd never know it listening to the leaders of GOP.

And that's just the beginning. Here, then, are 8 of the biggest Republican Lies about the Bush tax cuts: Lie #1: Democrats Plan Across the Board Tax Hikes on January 1st First the Democrats did not plan anything. The tax cuts were signed into law (via reconciliation) by President Bush and his administration; they imposed the 10 year time frame. When the time runs out in January, an the cuts expire, everybody will get a tax increase back to President Clinton’s schedule, but this is on the Republican Party, NOT President Obama. And President Obama’s plan will only increase the taxes on the 2% that got 50% of the benefits last time. Continued on #2.

Lie #2: Democrats Want a $3.8 Trillion Tax Increase Of course, this second Republican fraud is merely the flip-side of the first. Restoring upper bracket tax rates to their Clinton-era levels will impact only a sliver of American taxpayers (richest 2% that got most of the bennies the first time around). Families with a taxable income of $250,000 ($200,000 for individuals) will see their rate go up 3% - 5% depending on their bracket. Everybody else will stay at the current rates. The plan presented by President Obama will reduce the deficit by $830 Billion Dollars.

Lie #3: Tax Cuts Pay for Themselves The new CBO data show that changes in law enacted since January 2001 increased the deficit by $539 billion in 2005. In the absence of such legislation, the nation would have a surplus this year. Tax cuts account for almost half -- 48 percent -- of this $539 billion in increased costs." How about the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget? Their budget calculator shows that the tax cuts will cost $3.28 trillion between 2011 and 2018. How about George W. Bush's CEA chair, Greg Mankiw, who used the term "charlatans and cranks" for people who believed that "broad-based income tax cuts would have such large supply-side effects that the tax cuts would raise tax revenue." He continued: "I did not find such a claim credible, based on the available evidence. I never have, and I still don't.". And guess what, we do not either.

Lie #4: The Bush Tax Cuts Didn't Add to the Deficit CBPP found that Bush tax cuts accounted for almost half of the mushrooming deficits during his tenure: Lie busted. And as another recent CBPP analysis revealed, over the next 10 years, the Bush tax cuts if made permanent will contribute more to the U.S. budget deficit than the Obama stimulus, the TARP program, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and revenue lost to the recession put together. This was and is the most asine lie yet.

Lie #5: Expiring High Income Tax Cuts Will Hurt Small Business Of course, they're not talking about small business. As CNN concluded in October 2008, "fewer than 2% of small business owners would pay more under Obama's plan." But in case there was any doubt about the Republicans' deception on the point, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center quickly put it to rest: Out of 34.7 million filers with business income on Schedules C, E or F, 479,000 filers fall into the top two brackets, according to an analysis of projected 2009 filings by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. The other 34.3 million - or 98.6% - would be unaffected by Obama's proposed rate hike

Lie #6: The Estate Tax Devastates Small Businesses and Family Farms The Tax Policy Center quantified just how few family farms or small businesses are actually impacted by the estate tax proposals under consideration: We estimate that under the Obama proposal, 100 family farms and businesses would owe tax. (We define such estates as those where farm or business assets are valued at under $5 million and comprise the majority of estate assets.) The Lincoln-Kyl proposal would cut the number to 40. Even under current law, fewer than 2,700 family farms and businesses would owe tax. To date we have not had any report on a single farm paying the estate tax, Rachael Madow, NYT, WP, etc., same story.

And that wasn't good enough for Arizona's Jon Kyl, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate. Thanks to his obstructionism in December, the estate tax temporarily expired for one year as of January 1, 2010. (Barring new legislation in Congress, in 2011 the rate will jump back up to its pre-2001 Bush tax cut level of 55%, starting at $2 million per couple.) That could cost the U.S. Treasury billions this year. In the mean time, the message from the GOP to the wealthiest Americans is "die here, die now, pay less."

Lie #7: The Bush Tax Cuts Helped All Americans As the Center for American Progress noted at the time, "for the majority of Americans, the tax cuts meant very little," adding, "By next year, for instance, 88% of all Americans will receive $100 or less from the Administration's latest tax cuts." And as the New York Times uncovered in 2006, the 2003 Bush dividend and capital gains tax cuts offered almost nothing to taxpayers earning below $100,000 a year. Instead, those windfalls reduced taxes "on incomes of more than $10 million by an average of about $500,000." As the Times revealed in a jaw-dropping chart: "The top 2 percent of taxpayers, those making more than $200,000, received more than 70% of the increased tax savings from those cuts in investment income."

Lie #8. Extending Bush Tax Cuts for the Wealthy is the Best Way to Stimulate the Economy Analyses from the Congressional Budget Office and former McCain economic adviser Mark Zandi concluded that upper class tax breaks provide just about the lowest return on investment (32 cents on the dollar) of any federal stimulus activity. The Washington Post said out of 11 stimulus policies it looked at, the tax cuts provided the smallest bang for the buck.


Make Me End the War Aug 2, '10 4:07 AM

Many Democrats are disappointed with the President on one issue: war.  Even though he has not opposed the war in Afghanistan as he did the one in Iraq, most of us feel that Obama is, above all, a peacemaker.  We have hoped he will recognize the futility and harmfulness of remaining in Afghanistan. He may already know that, but not yet be able to act on that knowledge.

FDR was, of course, a consummate political leader. In one situation, a group came to him urging specific actions in support of a cause in which they deeply believed. He replied: 'I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it.'

He understood that a President does not rule by fiat and unilateral commands to a nation. He must build the political support that makes his decisions acceptable to our countrymen. He read the public opinion polls not to define who he was but to determine where the country was – and then to strategize how he could move the country to the objectives he thought had to be carried out. 

A breakdown of the 308-114 Tuesday vote showed that 102 Democrats opposed their president on war funds, an increase of 70 from last year. Twelve Republicans also voted no.

When Michael Steele accidentally spoke the truth (while hypocritically trying to condemn President Obama for any possible reason) that 'the one thing you don't do, is engage in a land war in Afghanistan', he was condemned by BOTH the Republican and Democratic leadership. In an interview, Republican Lindsey Graham said he feared an unholy alliance between left and the right to oppose the war.

This is only speculation, but I think it is possible that President Obama wants to end the Afghan war/occupation just as much as he wanted to end the one in Iraq.  I believe he is fully aware that the invasion was unnecessary, and continuing to remain beyond the time needed to gracefully exit only makes things worse.

However, though he has the authority to simply make it so, much as he could also order an end to "don't ask", he knows that doing so would probably ignite an explosion of opposition from war-loving Republicans.  We have seen the reaction when the administration chose to follow the rules of justice in questioning and trying terror suspects. The bloodthirsty Republicans seem to favor throwing the Bill of Rights out the window.  One can only imagine what would happen if he ended the war.

And some of the Democrats who voted for the war funding may have done so just out of loyalty to Obama.  Others may actually favor continuing the war. The economic consequences must also be considered in a recession.  Let us not forget that war supports a wide range of industries manufacturing weaponry and supplies, and transporting them.  How much unemployment would result when those orders are drastically reduced?

True, saving thousands of lives is worth it, but this is the worst possible time for any negative impact on the economy.  While ending the war will immediately save huge sums of taxpayer money, a good thing in the long run, it is spending, not saving, that will hasten the end of the recession. The point is not that we should delay ending the war, but that it would be very politically difficult to do.   Polls, however, are showing increasing disapproval of the war, now a majority opinion.  For some time a larger majority have felt that even if we defeat the Taliban, it will have no lasting effect.

The President is not going to say 'make me do it', but it is possible that he is hoping we will. I think we should.  And if any rightwingers want to get on board that "unholy alliance", by all means do so, but it will be much more effective if, just for this issue, we downplay the partisanship and ideological sniping.

-cosmicrat  Aug. 1, 2010

Beware the Republican Deception Jul 18, '10 8:18 PM

We have been hearing it for years. Republicans, and now their corporate-created offshoot, the 'Tea Party' are constantly whining about deficit spending and the national debt, except of course when THEY are doing the spending for needless wars and inflated military budgets. Somehow they hope we'll believe that spending is only bad when Democrats do it.

Some people do believe them, especially those who see no difference between a national budget and a personal one. But right now is a critically important time to understand that there IS a difference, and how the Republican lies fit into their strategy.

In more prosperous times, it is a reasonable notion that we should try to reduce or eliminate deficits, and when there is steady economic growth it is relatively easy to do that. This is not the time. A serious recession, barely saved from being a depression by quick and decisive action, requires concentration on recovery. We need to make sure that unemployed Americans can survive, and that state and local budget shortages do not unemploy those providing vital services. Stimulus spending is necessary. More will probably be needed.

This is the absolute WORST time for a 'cut spending' message. Even the Republicans know that, and that is why they're intensifying their selling of that very message. They hope Democrats will attempt to cut back on spending in response, that this hesitancy will slow the recovery, which they can then blame on the Democrats.

It's a clever plot, and one that could work if we fail to understand what they are up to, and that they are not concerned about the effects of the economy on the American people, only on winning.

Another common Republican lie is the claim that Social Security is in danger of running out of funds. In fact, it is not. There is plenty of reserve in the fund that will cover the "baby boom" generation for many years to come. Their deception is based on the fact that the fund is in the form of US bond securities, which they call 'IOU's'. These securities are redeemable whenever needed, and are earning interest in the meantime. Storing the fund as piles of cash would not be any more secure, nor would it be wise management.

Understanding the Lies of the Land Jun 6, '10 5:30 PM

You may have thought that the high frequency of untruth that emanates from the right wing-- Republicans, TP'ers, "conservatives"-- are just a result of their inherent character defects.  Well, you'd be right, but there is more to it than that.  They lie because lying works.  It's effective as a political tactic.

Political disinformation is somewhat like commercial advertising.  A great deal of that is exaggeration.  We're used to every product being called the best of its kind.  But the actual falsehoods used by unscrupulous politicians and advocates go much further.

Lies will almost always be caught and rebutted by the other side and often by the news media as well.  But between the time the lie is publicly told and the time it can be countered with the truth, the lie is free to influence those who believe it.  Even after the truth is announced, it may not be heard on the same media outlet where the lie was disseminated, leading to further delay.  Meanwhile, the lie will be repeated over and over, ignoring any truth to the contrary.

What makes disinformation so effective in politics is that a significant number of people are predisposed to believe things said by those with whom they already agree on other issues, those whose attitudes and personalities seem similar to their own; those of their preferred party, or those of their religious, ethnic, or racial identity.

And many of those predisposed to believe the lies will continue to believe them and repeat them to others even when they are confronted with proof that they are false. So we see the amazing effects, contrary to logic and reason, of totally fictional political statements.  Such tactics would not work at all in the realm of commercial advertising, and probably damage the reputation of any company that tried it, but politics contains an emotional, perhaps tribal mindset that leaves many people vulnerable.

One of the most absurd lies, started before the 2008 election, was the allegation that Barack Obama had not proved he was a natural-born citizen.  The flimsy theories  ignored his birth certificate, verified by the state of Hawaii, along with a birth announcement in a newspaper.  Variations of the theory also ignored US citizenship laws and historical facts.   Nevertheless there are some who still to this day continue to perpetrate the claim.

While Congress was working on the health care bill, someone came up with the "death panel" lie, alledging that some government group would decide whether to continue treatment for ill elderly people.  There was no such provision.  That was only one of the lies about health care reform, and they are still being spread even after passage.  One of the most insidious is that it is "government run" which is implied to be a bad thing, even though real government run health care has proved to be better and lower in cost.  But the compromise reform is not government run health care.

The effectivness of prevarication for the Bush-Cheney administration to start two unnecessary wars was a lesson learned by the ruthless of the right wing, and they adapted it to their minority position.

Almost anything that makes news results in a new attempt at spreading a lie or a negative spin aimed at the President, Democrats in general, or both.   Of all foreign policy problems, the one most in need of a solution is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Because of US support for Israel, we are a target of anger for everything that Israel does that offends the Muslim world.  Whether that is fair or not, whether a given Israeli action is justifiable or not, that is still the fact.  Indeed, though we are not in control of everything Israel does, we have failed to exert restraining influence when we should have.

So, when President Obama responded with strong criticism  to Netanyahu's arrogant disregard of an important step in preparing for a peace agreement, a freeze on settlements in the West Bank and Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem, the right wingers immediately start claiming that Obama is pro-Muslim and anti-Israel.  And now, when Israel outrageously and inexcusably has killed 9 civilians on a humanitarian mission to aid Gazans, though the official response has, if anything, been too mild, they continue with that theme.

On this subject, though, the idea that one is either completely for Israel or entirely against it is mostly falling flat on its face.  Almost everyone understands the concept that even among friends, approval is  conditional on the acceptability of behavior.  A responsible friend, or national ally, will try to calm, advise, and guide people or countries who act too aggressively, especially when their actions can endanger others as well.

Right here in my state of Arizona, a great deal of misinformation has been spread nationwide about the supposed illegal immigrant problem. The technique used in turning this into a major issue is to assume that a problem exists and then immediately begin arguing about how to solve it, distracting entirely from the degree of seriousness of the situation.  Immigrants are called a "crime" problem, although the fact is they are less likely to commit crimes than the average citizen.  The only crime most of them have done is violation of immigration regulations in the pursuit of the jobs that are available. Crime in general, even in the border areas, has been on a steady decrease for some time.   The facts contradict the myths

The problems that can actually be identified as real and not imaginary are not critical, and can be best solved by a reform of the immigration limits.  So why hasn't that been done?  The same business interests that create the demand for immigrant workers do not want those workers to be subject to the labor laws that citizens and legal workers would be, nor perhaps to payroll tax rules as well in many cases.

Exactly what undocumented workers are being paid is hard to determine for obvious reasons.  It is often assumed, but by no means certain, that it is less than minimum wage.  If payment is in cash, avoiding payroll deductions, the employer has already saved that amount, and the net pay may be no different than a legal worker would receive.

What can be logically assumed is that the employers of illegal workers are unable or unwilling to pay enough to attract unemployed citizens to their work force.  At what rate would unemployed Americans accept work picking fruits and vegetables, jobs as food processors, dishwashers, landscapers, roofers, and construction workers?  And how much would that rate, including the cost of legal payroll deductions, increase the employers' labor costs, and necessitate how much higher prices of their products and services?

Those who know the answer to that, the employers themselves, aren't saying, probably because they don't want to admit how they know.  Naturally the numbers would vary considerably depending on the type of work.  This would be valuable information to have, in order to determine the actual economic impact of having an entirely legal work force.  

Arizona has previously passed a law, still on the books, prohibiting businesses from hiring illegal workers, with a penalty including loss of their business license.  It has had little effect, and only minimal investigation and enforcement. Until we answer the question of cost, and, if necessary devise a means of transition from one work force to the other, change in immigration law is going to be resisted and the current use of immigrant workers will continue.

Unfortunately the rhetoric of those making an issue of immigration does not even touch on actual causes or solutions, but focuses on the immigrant workers as the villians, and secondarily targets Hispanics in general, citizens or not.  They will be the object of profiling, and it will be especially their communities that will suffer most directly from reduced cooperation with law enforcement.

The fact that the Arizona Republican agenda is not one of solving immigration problems but of suppressing the Mexican-American citizens is illustrated clearly by two other actions: banning ethnic studies courses in high schools and the attempt to purge language teachers who have accents.  The message is clear: reject Hispanic culture and ethnicity. There is more to this issue:   

The challenge facing American voters is now more than just becoming informed and evaluating the facts.  It is to avoid becoming misinformed and distracted by emotions, irrelevancies, and ideological agendas.  Above all we must be aware of the increased willingness of corporations, Republicans, conservatives, and right-wing extremists to lie to the public.

Information Technology and Politics May 11, '10 9:07 AM

President Obama spoke recently at the commencement of Hampton College. Naturally the subject was education, and its increasing value and necessity in today's world.  It was not a controversial speech, nor was it meant to be.  Of course that did not stop some of the right-wing haters of anything or anyone progressive from twisting one paragraph into something ominous, accusing Obama of favoring censorship or hating computer technology:

"Meanwhile, you're coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don't rank all that high on the truth meter. With iPods and iPads; Xboxes and PlayStations; information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment. All of this is not only putting new pressures on you; it is putting new pressures on our country and on our democracy.

It's a period of breathtaking change, like few others in our history. We can't stop these changes, but we can adapt to them. And education is what can allow us to do so. It can fortify you, as it did earlier generations, to meet the tests of your own time."    Obama does not say that the media, the many devices we can use to access it, or the availability of information, are bad things. Obviously he has embraced information technology and used it well, to his advantage

Information is a very valuable thing, and of course it should be freely available to everyone, which it increasingly is.  But the ability to access more and more information does not eliminate the need to process it, evaluate it; think about it.  If it to be useful to us, we must do that.  That's what our brains are for-- they are not just hard drives to store data.

The pressure the President spoke of is the increased need to think as the flow of data is accelerated.  To avoid that, as many do, is to let others form one's opinions, or simply to ignore it all. This need to adapt to fast-flowing information would be necessary even if the untrue portion were due to unintentional error, but all the more so because of calculated misinformation.  Lying is nothing new in politics, but it has increased exponentially and pervasively as a right-wing tactic.  That has intensified political differences, and is changing the nature of our system. But when we learn more fully to adapt, we find that it is also easier to find the truth than in the past, so the potential remedy is there as well as the problem

Government Too Small May 2, '10 10:13 PM

There are those who imagine  if the Federal government were to be weaker (which they call "smaller") and do less, that Americans would somehow have more liberty. Of course they don't answer the question, "liberty to do what?", though it is usually clear that the answer is "to pay lower taxes".  No doubt those with interests in businesses with Federal regulations might have other answers.

For the majority of citizens, infringements on liberty are much more likely to come from state and local governments. Most Americans are generally aware that a weaker, more limited form of government was formed prior to the current Constitution.  The United States of America was first created by and governed under the Articles of Confederation for the first ten years of its existence.  

Because it was a failure, it has not been emphasized as part of our history.  Both in print and in practice it was more like the UN or NATO than a central national government.  Perhaps this period should be more intensively studied and taught in our schools.  It is even more important to know what not to do than to point out what turned out well.

Glossing over the first 10 years has also obscured from recognition those who served their country as part of its government, notably the first 10 Presidents.  Some argue that because there were differences in their powers and that of the Confederation USA they headed, they shouldn't be counted.  Their exact title was "President of the United States in Congress Assembled"  The USICA was the government: a single body with  legislative, executive, and judicial powers and duties.  Presidents were not just the head of Congress but were in charge of a cabinet-like committee to administer, whether or not Congress was in session.  Their terms were limited to one year.  They were elected by Congress, which in turn was elected by each state's legislature.

The weakness of the first US government resulted in several problems, such as the inability to effectively make and enforce treaties, but perhaps most importantly it lacked the power to enforce taxation to meet its obligations.  This very nearly could have led to a military coup at one point because it was unable to pay the army as promised. The War for Independence was nearly won. The Newburgh Conspiracy   was a plan to effectively demand payment of back salaries of both officers and enlisted men.  It was only by the heroic persuasion by General George Washington that this was narrowly avoided.

About a month later the war ended and the army was mostly disbanded, but the pay issue was not resolved until many years later. There has been some disagreement about who should be recognized as first Presidents.  There were also a series of Presidents of the Continental Congress, but until the Articles of Confederation were ratified in March of 1781, the United States did not yet exist- it was an association of states- "United Colonies"- an alliance rather than a union.

Presidents of the United States in Congress Assembled [1] Samuel Huntington March 1, 1781 to July 6, 1781 (resigned for health reasons) Huntington was also the last President of the Continental Congress. Samuel Johnson of North Carolina, was elected on July 10th, 1781 but refused to accept the office.

[2] Thomas McKean July 10, 1781 to November 5, 1781   During his term the British surrendered at Yorktown, ending the war.

[3] John Hanson November 5, 1781 to November 4, 1782  (first full term) Hanson became the first President to be elected for an annual term as specified in the Articles of Confederation, so some count him as first, even though  Huntington and  McKean had served in that office after the ratification of the Articles. 

[4] Elias Boudinot November 4, 1782 to November 3, 1783 The son of French Hoguenots who fled to New York to escape religious persecuton, he was appointed commissary general for prisoners of war by Washington, and remained concerned for prisoner welfare even afterward.  He signed the Treaty of Paris, which was ratified the following year.  Boudinot was also an advocate for black and Native American rights.

[5] Thomas Mifflin November 3, 1783 to June 3, 1784 As president he signed the ratification of the Treaty of Paris on January 14, 1784 (Ratification Day). This legislation marked the official end of the Revolutionary War and established the sovereignty of the United States

[6] Richard Henry Lee November 30, 1784 to November 23, 1785 As a delegate from Virginia in the Continental Congress,Lee first proposed declaring independence on June 7, 1776.  

[7] John Hancock November 23, 1785 to June 6, 1786 He was known for his excellent penmanship and legible signature.  Hancock was frustrated by the government's ineffectiveness.  He was elected President but never attended at Congress, resigning his position early.

[8] Nathaniel Gorham June 1786 - November 13, 1786 Shay's Rebellion   began in August 1786 and provided alarming evidence that more injustice and less liberty resulted from a weak government than would from a strong one.  Americans who had once thought themselves Revolutionaries found themselves in the position of being counter-revolutionaries. The Shay cause was undeniably just, but justice was not available.  The rebels were defeated with a mercenary force.

[9] Arthur St. Clair February 2, 1787 to October 29, 1787  In 1791, General St. Clair led an expedition against the natives that resulted in the worst defeat the United States Army would ever suffer at the hands of Native Americans. Although an investigation exonerated him, St. Clair resigned his army commission.

[10] Cyrus Griffin January 22, 1788 to March 4, 1789 Griffin was born in Farnham, Virginia (1749). While attending at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, Griffin married Christina Stewart, daughter of James Stewart, the sixth Earl of Traquair. They secretly eloped and escaped through the hills of Scotland because the Earl had forbidden contact between Christina and Griffin after Cyrus announced his intentions. 

Although we may not have memorized their names, and are not likely to start, it is worthwhile to pay attention to them and the US government over which they presided.  That government's failure was no fault of theirs.  It had a fatal flaw.  It was a "small" government in a time when we needed one that was at least medium in size.

--captain rat