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Walldon in New Jersey ---- Marketingace in Pennsylvania ---- Simoneyezd in Ontario
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Thursday, September 29, 2011

The failure of democracy

I just put this post on my facebook page. After the NY Times discussed the worldwide failure of democracy yesterday on the front page, I felt I had to contribute a shared vision. Yes, democracy is DEAD. But what can replace it? I still don't know, but I have a feeling that it has something to do with the interconnectedness of the internet. This is a passage from a Frederick Maryatt book written in about 1820.

"The question now is," continued Alfred, "as two of the parties, France
and England, have proved so short-sighted, whether the Americans, having
thrown off their allegiance, have not been equally so in their choice of
a democratical government?"

"How far a modern democracy may succeed, I am not prepared to say,"
replied Mr. Campbell; "but this I do know, that in ancient times, their
duration was generally very short, and continually changing to oligarchy
and tyranny. One thing is certain, that there is no form of government
under which the people become so rapidly vicious, or where those who
benefit them are treated with such ingratitude."

"How do you account for that, sir?" said Alfred.

"There are two principal causes. One is, that where all men are declared
to be equal (which man never will permit his fellow to be if he can
prevent it), the only source of distinction is wealth, and thus the
desire of wealth becomes the ruling passion of the whole body, and there
is no passion so demoralizing. The other is, that where the people, or,
more properly speaking, the mob govern, they must be conciliated by
flattery and servility on the part of those who would become their
idols. Now flattery is lying, and a habit equally demoralizing to the
party who gives and to the party who receives it. Depend upon it, there
is no government so contemptible or so unpleasant for an honest man to
live under as a democracy."

"It is my opinion, sir, and I believe a very general one," said Alfred.

"How far the Americans may disprove such an opinion," continued Mr.
Campbell, "remains to be seen; but this is certain, they have commenced
their new form of government with an act of such gross injustice, as to
warrant the assumption that all their boasted virtues are pretense. I
refer to their not liberating their slaves. They have given the lie to
their own assertions in their Declaration of Independence, in which they
have declared all men equal and born free, and we can not expect the
Divine blessing upon those who, when they emancipated themselves, were
so unjust as to hold their fellow-creatures in bondage. The time will
come, I have no doubt, although perhaps not any of us here present may
see the day, when the retribution will fall upon their heads, or rather
upon the heads of their offspring; for the sins of the fathers are
visited upon the children, even to the third and fourth generation.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Too little, too late

All I have to say about Obama's new outspokenness. "Too little, too late." The only thing I can believe is that if he is re-elected, he will be the same wimpish guy he's been for the last 3 years. Sorry, but the leopard doesn't change it's spots that easily. I'm not funding him, and I'm not voting for him. Screw it all.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The irony of the people who vote conservative because "Someday I might be rich too!"

For every one middle-class person who manages to move up the wealth ladder and become rich, there are thousands of them that move DOWN the ladder and become poor. The average person is infinitely more likely to benefit from welfare, Food Stamps, and/or HUD someday than they are to benefit from a lower top-bracket tax rate. And yet--they vote for people who want to utterly dismantle the social safety net--the only thing standing between them and starvation if a crisis happens and everything falls apart.

It's like living on the Gulf Coast and choosing to buy blizzard insurance instead of flood insurance. It's like buying bulletproof glass for your car, but ripping out the seat belts and airbags. It's like raising the money to pay for your boob job by selling your kidneys.

Even if they lack a shred of human compassion, do they not at LEAST have some rudimentary sense of self-preservation? How can anyone be THAT stubbornly clueless? The American idea that any kid from the slum can grow up to be incredibly wealthy is a fraud, but it keeps the system going. People run up huge debts on their credit cards because the know they are going to make a lot more money tomorrow. There are a lot of people who buy lottery tickets for their retirement plan. They have no idea what 117 million to 1 odds means. The odds of dying in a meteor impact are much better than the odds of winning the lottery jackpot, or of starting out in the slum and making it into the top 10% income group.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Obama Must Tackle Wider Economy in Jobs Speech

By Ed Koch

Mr. President, your supporters along with the truly independent voters believe you are an excellent speaker, logical and forthright. Your detractors respond that your speeches lack passion and are glib.

Your speech this Thursday could be one of the most important you have ever delivered. The following are my suggestions for what the speech should include in order for it to resonate with the American people.

You have announced that the speech will deal with jobs and, of course, that is the priority issue, but I suggest you go further. Most economic observers I’ve read believe that our economic recovery is being stymied by the housing bubble which, three or more years after it burst, has not been dealt with.

Millions of Americans have been in foreclosure proceedings. That resulted in their losing their homes, their most significant asset. Millions more will meet the same fate if the foreclosures are not dealt with and ended.

Your administration has relied on the banks to deal with the problem by primarily writing down interest on debt. Some have done so and others have not. In any event, that approach has had little success.

I propose, as many have, that the bankruptcy laws be amended immediately to empower bankruptcy judges to reduce principal as well as interest. Opponents of this proposal generally respond, “moral hazard,” meaning it would encourage future borrowers to borrow more than they could repay.

If “moral hazard” were the standard, why were the banks, which made decisions that were financially devastating to this country, bailed out to the tune of billions of dollars by laws enacted by Congress and signed by you, as well as actions taken by the Federal Reserve?

Remember, Mr. President, that banks were given those billions to provide liquidity to businesses, but instead used the taxpayers’ monies to buy U.S. Treasury bonds to enhance their balance sheets with the interest received.

Mr. President, you should propose a quick new foreclosure-bankruptcy proceeding that could restore full title to the homeowners and keep them in possession. Help them with the same alacrity as you did the car manufacturers. Of course, that needs the approval of Congress. You can propose, but Congress must dispose. If they won’t, the country will hold them responsible in the election of 2012.

Jobs, jobs, jobs, is the nation’s cry. I suggest, as I’m sure your advisers have, that you look to what FDR did in the depression of the 1930s. Again, you can propose, but the Congress will dispose. You should propose work programs comparable to the WPA, PWA, CCC, and a host of others.

Call in regional business leaders and ask them, region by region, what they need immediately to make it possible for them to hire workers. What tax incentives do they need to hire? When I was mayor, my approach to helping revive New York City’s businesses in 1978 was to get out of the way and use government to help, not hinder. I believed then and I do now that business people know more than government does about how to generate economic activity.

The Republicans are not wrong in some of their complaints concerning the federal government’s interference with the economy. One is our tax code as it affects business. But their vision is limited. It is the whole tax code and its loopholes favoring the rich that must in fairness be revised.

You should immediately appoint a blue-ribbon committee to examine that code and recommend how to eliminate the unfairness that exists. Eliminate the loopholes, make all taxpayers pay their fair share under progressive tax rates, with all income from whatever source subject to the same tax rates.

Currently, some taxpayers, who derive their income from the stock market, described as “unearned income,” pay only a 15 percent tax, whereas most citizens derive their income from what is known as “earned income” coming in the form of a salary check and pay rates of up to 35 percent. It is not fair and it is not right.

Mr. President, on Thursday you can send a message to the nation that you have heard their voices and you will stand up for them. In the words of your first campaign, “Yes We Can.”

Mr. President, after I wrote this commentary, I read The New York Times on Labor Day and saw the letter of Congressman John Conyers, D-Mich., with whom I served when I was in the Congress from 1969 to 1977, before I was elected mayor of New York City.

His letter serendipitously deals with the issue of mortgage foreclosures. He believes legislation should be adopted “allowing homeowners to reduce their mortgage debt to no more than the current value of their property.”

Conyers points out that that was done in 1986 to help family farmers. Conyers is the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee in the House and was not long ago its chairman.

P.S. I'm surprised this sensible piece appeared in such a dubious source as Newsmax.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

I'm going to go out on a limb and make a prediction. I don't usually make predictions, but I'm going to do so today. The lead up to tomorrow's jobs speech by Obama is going to prove to be full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. What we're going to get is a rehash of proposals he's already put forth - extending an already existing payroll tax cut (which at best will have a neutral effect on jobs), putting a few millions of seed money into an "infrastructure development bank" (whatever the hell that is), and one or two other worthless or nearly worthless proposals, all of which will be shot down by Republicans anyway. If you're going to get shot down, you might as well go out with a bang, but Obama is dedicated to going out with a whimper. As T.S. Eliot wrote:

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

Public Servant Panders to the "Anti-Christ"

Does this make you as mad as it makes us?

"Wall Street is our Main Street —love ’em or hate ’em. They are important and we have to make sure we are doing everything we can to support them unless they are doing something indefensible.”Who said that? Some Goldman Sachs executive? John Boehner? Nope - it was Kathryn Wylde, a board member of the New York Federal Reserve whose job is to represent the *public*.Does that sound like a public advocate? Wylde is standing in the way of an investigation by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman that would investigate mortgage fraud by Bank of America, and open the flood gates to actually prosecuting major financial firms for breaking the law. Wylde is derelict in her duties; she should step down?

Rick Perry: Governor for Sale

by Katrina vanden Heuvel , The Nation, August 23, 2011
There’s a saying in Texas when someone has the swagger of success without the accomplishments to back it up: He’s all hat and no cattle. Put another way: he’s acting like Texas Governor Rick Perry (R). Perry has been elected governor three times and has proclaimed his state a model worth replicating at the national level. Yet Texas has the highest number of residents without health insurance in the nation, among the worst-ranked food stamp programs, one of the highest child poverty rates, the lowest percentage of residents with a high school diploma and one of the highest teenage birth rates. These are stats that deserve swears, not swagger. Texas’s political system is also as brazenly capable of corruption by money and special interests as that in Washington, and unabashedly so. Long before the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United allowed unlimited contributions to begin flowing into national super PACs, Texas had some of the most lax campaign finance laws anywhere. At the state level, there are no limits on the amount of money individuals can contribute to candidates, allowing wealthy donors to directly bankroll campaigns. In such an environment, Rick Perry didn’t just survive, he flourished. He didn’t just embrace the system, he shattered records with it, raising more than anyone in Texas history. Indeed, for as long as Perry has been governor, the governor’s mansion has been ostensibly for sale. Consider the numbers: Throughout his campaigns for governor, Perry raised $102 million, half of which came from just 204 sources. According to the Los Angeles Times, nearly half of those donors have received tax breaks, appointments or large business contracts. Half have received payments from two funds, sponsored by Perry, to funnel tax dollars to private business.

An Obama Believer Counterpunches

Anyone for a counter-counter punch?

Obama Will Triumph -- So Will America
By Frank Schaeffer
Before he'd served even one year President Obama lost the support of the easily distracted left and engendered the white hot rage of the hate-filled right. But some of us, from all walks of life and ideological backgrounds --
including this white, straight, 57-year- old, former religious right wing agitator, now progressive writer and (given my background as the son of a famous evangelical leader) this unlikely Obama supporter -- are sticking
with our President. Why?-because he is succeeding. We faithful Obama supporters still trust our initial impression of him as a great, good and uniquely qualified man to lead us.Obama's steady supporters will be proved right. Obama's critics will be remembered as easily panicked and prematurely discouraged at best and shriveled hate mongers at worst.

The Context of the Obama Presidency

Not since the days of the rise of fascism in Europe , the Second World War and the Depression has any president faced more adversity. Not since the Civil War has any president led a more bitterly divided country. Not since the introduction of racial integration has any president faced a more consistently short-sighted and willfully ignorant opposition - from both the right and left.As the President's poll numbers have fallen so has his support from some on the left that were hailing him as a Messiah not long ago; all those lefty website's and commentators that were falling all over themselves on behalf of our first black president during the 2008 election. The left's lack of faith has become a self-fulfilling "prophecy"-- snipe at the President and then watch the poll numbers fall and then pretend you didn't have anything to do with it!Here is what Obama faced when he took office-- none of which was his fault:

# An ideologically divided country to the point that America was really two countries
# Two wars; one that was mishandled from the start, the other that was unnecessary and immoral

# The worst economic crisis since the depression
# America 's standing in the world at the lowest point in history
# A country that had been misled into accepting the use of torture of prisoners of war
# A health care system in free fall
# An educational system in free fall
# A global environmental crisis of history-altering proportions (about which the Bush administration and the Republicans has done nothing)
# An impasse between culture warriors from the right and left
# A huge financial deficit inherited from the terminally irresponsible Bush Administration. And those were only some of the problems sitting on the President's desk!

"Help" from the Right?
What did the Republicans and the religious right, libertarians and half-baked conspiracy theorists -- that is what the Republicans were reduced to by the time Obama took office -- do to "help" our new president (and our
country) succeed?They claimed that he wasn't a real American, didn't have an American birth certificate, wasn't born here, was secretly a Muslim, was white-hating "racist", was secretly a communist, was actually the Anti-Christ, (!) and was a reincarnation of Hitler and wanted "death panels" to kill the elderly!They not-so-subtly called for his assassination through the not-so-subtle use of vile signs held at their rallies and even a bumper sticker quoting Psalm 109:8.They organized "tea parties" to sound off against imagined insults and all
government in general and gathered to howl at the moon.They were led by insurance industry lobbyists and deranged (but well financed) "commentators" from Glenn Beck to Rush Limbaugh.The utterly discredited Roman Catholic bishops teamed up with the utterly discredited evangelical leaders to denounce a president who was trying to actually do something about the poor, the environment, to diminish the number of abortions through compassionate programs to help women and to care for the sick! And in Congress the Republican leadership only knew one word: "No!"In other words the reactionary white, rube, uneducated, crazy American far
right, combined with the educated but obtuse neoconservative war mongers, religious right shills for big business, libertarian Fed Reserve-hating gold bug, gun-loving crazies, child-molesting acquiescent "bishops", frontier
loons and evangelical gay-hating flakes found one thing to briefly unite them: their desire to stop an uppity black man from succeeding at all costs!"

Help" from the Left?
What did the left do to help their newly elected president? Some of them excoriated the President because they disagreed with the bad choices he was being forced to make regarding a war in Afghanistan that he'd inherited from the worst president in modern history!Others stood up and bravely proclaimed that the President's economic policies had "failed" before the President even instituted them! Others said that since all gay rights battles had not been fully won within virtually minutes of the President taking office, they'd been "betrayed"! (Never mind that Obama's vocal support to the gay community is stronger than any other president's has been. Never mind that he signed a new hate crimes law!) Those that had stood in transfixed legions weeping with beatific emotion on election night turned into an angry mob saying how "disappointed" they were that they'd not all immediately been translated to heaven the moment Obama stepped into the White House! Where was the "change"? Contrary to their expectations they were still mere mortals! And the legion of young new supporters was too busy texting to pay attention for longer than a nanosecond. "Governing"?! What the hell does that word, uh, like mean?"The President's critics left and right all had one thing in common: impatience laced with little-to-no sense of history (let alone reality) thrown in for good measure. Then of course there were the white, snide
know-it- all commentators/talking heads who just couldn't imagine that maybe, just maybe they weren't as smart as they thought they were and certainly not as smart as their president. He hadn't consulted them, had he? So he must be wrong! The Obama critics' ideological ideas defined their idea of reality rather than reality defining their ideas-say, about what is possible in one year in office after the hand that the President had been dealt by fate, or to be exact by the American idiot nation that voted Bush into office. Twice!Meanwhile back in the reality-based community - in just 12 short months President Obama (and none of this was good enough):

#Continued to draw down the misbegotten war in Iraq

#Thoughtfully and decisively picked best of bad choices regarding the Afgan war

#Gave a major precedent-setting speech supporting gay rights
#Restored America 's image around the globe
#Banned torture of American prisoners
#Stopped the free fall of the American economy
#Put the USA squarely back in the bilateral international community
#Put the USA squarely into the international effort to halt global warming
#Stood up for educational reform
#Won a Nobel peace prize
#Moved the trial of terrorists back into the American judicial system of checks and balances
#Did what had to be done to start the slow, torturous and almost impossible process of health care reform that 7 presidents had failed to even begin
#Responded to hatred from the right and left with good humor and patience
#Stopped the free fall of job losses
#Showed immense personal courage in the face of an armed and dangerous far right opposition that included the sort of disgusting people that show up at public meetings carrying loaded weapons and carrying Timothy
McVeigh-inspired signs about the "blood of tyrants" needing to "water the tree of liberty".
#Showed that he could not only make the tough military choices but explain and defend them brilliantly

Other than those "disappointing" accomplishments -- IN ONE YEAR -- President Obama "failed"! Other than that he didn't "live up to expectations"! Who actually has failed... ...are the Americans that can't see the beginning of a miracle of national rebirth right under their jaded noses. Who failed are the smart ass ideologues of the left and right who began rooting for this President to fail so that they could be proved right in their dire and morbid predictions. Who failed are the movers and shakers behind our obscenely dumb news cycles that have turned "news" into just more stupid entertainment for an entertainment-besotted infantile country.Here's the good news: President Obama is succeeding without the help of his lefty "supporters" or hate-filled Republican detractors! After Obama has served two full terms,, after his wisdom in moving deliberately and cautiously with great subtlety on all fronts -- with a canny and calculating eye to the possible succeeds, , after the economy is booming and new industries are burgeoning, , after the doomsayers are all proved not just wrong but silly: let the record show that not all Americans were panicked into thinking the sky was/is falling! Just because we didn't get everything we wanted in the first short and fraught year Obama was in office not all of us gave up. Some of us stayed the course. And we will be proved right.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

In nationwide actions, nurses demand transaction on Wall Street tax to repair country

By R. M. Arrieta


—The largest U.S. nurses union, National Nurses United, sponsored soup kitchens and street theater actions across the country on Thursday, while calling on Congress to support a half-cent Wall Street transaction tax “to pay for the devastation it has caused on Main Street.” Some 10,000 nurses and community participants took part in actions in 21 states, including California.Wall Street speculative activity is directly linked to the 2008 financial meltdown, which triggered a recession from which the country has yet to emerge.

“It’s time for Wall Street financiers, who created this crisis and continue to hold so much of the nation’s wealth, to start contributing to rebuild this country, and for the American people to reclaim our future,” NNU Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro said.

The union sent all 535 members of the House and Senate a certified letter last week asking them to “take the pledge” to help U.S. families that are hurting. Nurses visited the home offices of 61 lawmakers with the message that Americans need jobs, healthcare, food and a secure retirement. They say the half-cent tax would help rebuild educational, health and social programs that were cut during the recession.

NNU has 170,000 members, including 75,000 in California, who are part of the California Nurses Association.

“People are suffering from poor nutrition, the loss of homes or shelter or the loss of retirement security. ... Wall Street bailouts did absolutely nothing for main street," NNU Vice President Zenei Cortez told supporters at the one-day San Francisco soup kitchen in front of the Federal Building.

In Southern California, about 200 people went Rep. Baca’s (D-San Bernardino) to demand that he join the Tax Wall Street movement. According to a local newspaper report, he signed a life-size version of a pledge to support legislation to establish a transaction tax. Six or seven Congress members have signed the pledge, according to an NNU spokesman.

Of the 100 highest paid U.S. corporate chief executives, 25 took home more in CEO pay than their company paid Uncle Sam in 2010 federal corporate income taxes, the Institute for Policy Studies revealed in a new study this week (as reported by In These Times here).

According to the report, “Employment levels have barely rebounded from their recessionary lows. Top executive pay levels, by contrast, have rebounded nearly all the way back from their pre-recession levels.

This contrast shows up starkly in the 2010 ratio between average worker and average CEO compensation. In 2009, we calculate, major corporate CEOs took home 263 times the pay of America's average workers. Last year, this gap leaped to 325-to-1.”