Saturday, October 30, 2010

Let's Play a Game of Life or Death

It strikes me that we don't give much thought as to what band wagon we jump on, or where that band wagon might lead. Take for example the abortion issue. I listened to a radio talk show early this morning about abortion and there were callers from both sides, for the freedom of choice and that a woman should have a choice on what she does with her body, and those for the life of the unborn child. It was evident by the pro-life callers that they were not willing to compromise one iota on the issue. It seemed to be their position to save the child over ALL other considerations. I happen to believe that I know people like that and I know some that lean in that direction, although hesitantly. The show ended, both sides adamantly opposed to the other.

I wonder what reality would bring when faced with a choice that will break your heart. Let's play a game with your wife, your daughter or your granddaughter, all of child bearing age, to see what you really think. A game of "pretend" life or death. I make the rules.

First, let's give that woman a set of circumstances that life may hand her, unfortunate circumstances that none of your family would wish on her, but never the less has happened. Let's say that she was involved in an accident in her teenage years with which she must live with for the rest of her life. Let's say that the accident caused a physical impairment that could get worse if she were to ever get pregnant. Perhaps there are metal screws in her pelvic or spine that literally hold her together. She must be careful when not pregnant; keep her weight under control, be cautious of undue physical strain, etc. But, pregnancy is even more dangerous. In fact, if she were ever to get pregnant she could; 1) be paralyzed for the remainder of her life, or 2) die from carrying the child to full term. Those are the only choices - my rules.

Second, let's say a congressman or senator managed to get a law passed that made it illegal to have abortions. Finally, we have a law that makes criminals of women who have abortions! Yeah! Absolutely no abortion is allowed. You voted for a congressman with similar views. Perhaps you would have worded the law a little less severe, "tweaking" the words to suit your views. Perhaps you would have worded the law so that "some" abortions were allowed; such as for incest, rape, danger to the mother, etc. But, since you were anti-abortion, pro-life, any argument you may have with the exact wording of the law is way too late. Whether you like it or not, you got your wish.  My rules.

Question 1: You must give this woman a name and an identity. So, which woman in your family is she? Your wife? Your daughter? Your granddaughter? Your niece or your cousin? (Pick someone who will likely break your heart if something happened to her)
Question 2: Do you believe in the freedom to conduct your life the way you want to, even for life itself? Yes/No

Do not continue beyond this point without answering the above two questions--- be honest.

Game 1:
The person you picked is married to a good man, they are on their way to a good life, they have healthcare (even Obama-care!), and then boom! She learned during a doctor visit before becoming pregnant that she should not get pregnant. But, in spite of all they did to prevent it, she became pregnant. Something didn't work. A mistake happened, another unfortunate accident of life. The doctor gives her the gruesome diagnosis; carrying the baby to term will either kill her or paralyze her for life. The doctor said, however, that the baby would likely be fine through birth. She choses to abort the pregnancy and travels to a country where the procedure can be done. She is emotionally torn and severely depressed and wishes life hadn't dealt her the hand she has.

What's your choice?
What would your choice be if she ask for your help BEFORE traveling to get the abortion?
Which do you chose? The baby? Or the mother you've come to love?

Game 2:
The same conditions as in Game 1, except this husband and wife had no healthcare (not even Obama-care) and she did not know, because they had no doctor, that she should not get pregnant and, therefore, they didn't try to prevent a pregnancy. In fact, when she learned from the self-administered pregnancy test that she was pregnant, she was elated. If only they had healthcare and could have found out earlier. And, when you learned that you would be a grandmother, uncle, aunt, whatever, you congratulated them heartedly. You were glad for them. They delayed the doctor visits until the last resort - they cost way too much. As she neared the end of the Second Trimester, when the fetus is nearly fully formed, she begins to have pelvic and spinal pains that she can barely tolerate, so they finally went to a doctor. After a number of expensive tests, which they paid for until their savings was totally depleted and they requested state aid, they learned that if she carried the child to term, she would be paralyzed or die. In fact, the doctor said, one more day may be dangerous to the mother. They were in complete shock and denial. They didn't know what to do. There was no time to make a decision! The mother was in total despair. But, again, the doctor said the baby would likely be fine through birth.

What would you decide for your loved one? Which do you chose, the mother or the child?

Question 3: Do you believe in the freedom to conduct your life the way you want to, even for life itself? Yes/No (Does it agree with your first answer to the question?)

Were you willing to play the game of life or death?


Friday, October 29, 2010

Letter to Senator Boxer

Office of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer
112 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D. C. 20510

October 29, 2010

Honorable Senator Boxer:

I am writing to vent my frustrations, of course. Why else does anyone write to a member of Congress? I am also including a few suggestions to clean up the political election process. What a mess this mid-term election has been. The lies, distortion, deception, half-truths and scams we've had to listen to and that a mind-boggling $4.2 Billion dollars spent during this election is deplorable. How did we get here? I would like to hear Chief Justice Robert's opinion now about the Supreme Court's Citizen United decision. Do you think he would have a clue about how bad that decision was? Frankly, I doubt it. Even those touted to be the most intelligent legal minds we have in America appear to be idiots. Do something about that disastrous Supreme Court decision.

I have already voted – by mail. I voted for you. I presume it will be counted, but with all of the corruption in this election, I, for the first time in my life, have my doubts about that. I don't know who is honest and who isn't any more. I also have to tell you that my vote was only to keep the Democrats in power in the Senate and not because of anything the Democrats have accomplished in the past two years. In this election I can truly say that handing over the Senate to Republican obstructionist would be a disaster. A disaster, I'll add, that would be even worse than the financial disaster those very same Republicans caused. We would literally be handing over our government to corporate special interests. Of course, nobody knows which Senator or Representative, Democrat or Republican or Independent, is taking more from the super PACs, Chamber of Commerce or Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, so I may have voted for you and you may have the greatest debt to special interest for a quid pro quo vote that I find offensive. Who knows except you and your campaign manager, Senator Feinstein? I hope she reads this letter too, because she is just as susceptible to lobbyist and big money as you are. In fact, I hope you pass this letter around – including Republicans – because I don't see a single Senator who has a clue about what “the people” really want or need – even when Mitch McConnell spouts off about “the people” with every other word. If anyone is more clueless than spineless Democrats, it's Mitch McConnell. It should be glaringly clear that corruption in politics and truth and honesty in elections trumps all other important issues in this country, even unemployment and climate change. I never thought that I would live to see the day where so many nuts (Tea Party, if you like) are candidates for offices in our U. S. Congress and that our very democracy and Constitution is threatened by corruption. How do we fix a broken country when every member of Congress is corrupt? It can't be done.

That brings me to my first point, the most important issue in this country as far as I'm concerned, and that is to once and for all make political elections and the actions of members of Congress transparent. I'm talking about the whole spectrum of politics, from your votes on bills and why you voted the way you did, who you get money from, the lobbyist you talk to, the super PACs and PACs you receive money from, a cross reference from those who give you money to the bills you vote on and to your beliefs and ideology. With all of the capability of the Internet, I find it odd that Congressional behavior is still secret or so hard to pin down that it spins one's head. As far as I'm concerned, transparency in politics should be law of the land all the way down to the lowest electable office in a local community, the county clerk. If you think that's impossible, then think again. If Google can create a world-wide search engine that finds literally anything and everything anywhere, including a picture of your house, tracking the money to and actions of elected officials is a piece of cake. The other odd thing about this country's attempts to create a transparent political process is that all non-partisan organizations are non-profit organizations that depend solely on donations. Why is it that “we,” “the people” must donate hard earned dollars for a transparent process? How long does an organization that depends on charity last? Only as long as there is public interest. That's bizarre! is a perfect example. It is desperately needed, yet we must voluntarily pay for it. Why isn't it, or something like it, paid for by Congress? Why isn't a project like that, searchable, cross referenced, an easy user friendly system, already up and running in the Library of Congress? It's certainly not because there is a lack of skills and capability in this country, so, do it.

I need to explain why I voted for you, but to do that, I need to explain why I didn't vote for your opponent. The reason I didn't vote for Carly Fiorina is the ideological rut that she's stuck in, the same ideology that has been sold as a bill of goods to us for the past 30 or 40 years and that ultimately caused our economic meltdown. She is a typical free, unleashed market capitalist who could care less about the serfs and peasants she hires and fires. Do I need any other proof than the thousands of jobs she sent overseas? Your campaign ad is correct about that. Ironically, all of us were sold the idea that capitalism was the great equalizer, the answer to economic equality the world over, that those overseas employers would eventually raise their standard of living to ours and all would be hunky-dory. It didn't happen and it never will. There is no utopia after all. But, do you get it? Do you understand what unleashed capitalism (Republican capitalism) has done to this country? Twice in the past one hundred years! You would think we would remember the history of only 80 years ago, but we didn't. Will we ever learn?

Here's what happened. Starting about 30 years ago in the 1970s the average wage of the middle class began to level out and decrease year after year. Only a few days ago a report was released that said, once again, that the average wage in America decreased again, to $505 per week. In all that time productivity has gone up; women started working, technology improved, automation improved, all to make the average worker super-productive – and super-profitable for companies. Hewlette Packard, for example, Carly's old company, earns $406,000 per employee according to the latest data on TD Ameritrade. As of last year, it had 304,000 employees world-wide and, even though its US employees average around $84,000, the huge number of its overseas employees more than likely bring the overall average HP wage down to $500 or less per week, $26,000 per year. So, HP made $380,000 profit per employee last year, some of which went directly into HP CEO's pocket just like it did in Fiorina's day. The real problem is that for the long term Hewlette Packard is doomed, along with all other companies doing the same thing, because nobody earning $500 a week can afford their laptops. The only way those wage earners, the consumer, can buy a laptop is to buy it on credit. And, we already know how far credit goes. Not very far. There is a limit, and then the economy crashes – we saw it happen. Meanwhile, all of that profit transferred to the rich and the banks who suddenly found themselves with so much cash that they devised even more complex schemes to make even more money, such as Credit Default Swaps that insure the risk. With wages down and deeply in debt, the consumer has nothing left to keep the economy running. By sending those jobs overseas, Carly Fiorina put a nail in America's coffin as sure as an invading army could have done. That's why I didn't vote for her.

What to do? The only thing left to do if you really want to get the economy going again, and the government out of debt, and America going again is to realign the tax burden to redistribute the wealth back to the middle class. Less taxes for the middle class and higher taxes for the rich and corporations. You will need also to, somehow, start bringing up the average wage to a level relative to productivity. You really have no choice in this. There are a whole host of social problems that have and will continue to occur if you don't, including declining education standards, increase in welfare, increase in healthcare costs, diseases, ignorance and all that goes with that. Do I need to explain everything? It is a national security problem that threatens the foundation of America. Anger, frustration, insurrection, violence are only the beginning. You're going to catch a lot of flack for this idea. It is a socialist idea. But, it turns out, that capitalism is just as dangerous as socialism or Marxism when taken to extremes . It should be obvious to even the man on the street that a little moderation in the use of both economic systems will work a lot better than the extremes of either. In fact, no government exists for long using one or the other system alone. When our consumers can afford the products companies produce without relying heavily on credit, this country will be restored and the American Dream will be restored. You have to do it. CEOs of corporations should support this idea, too. That's what they do; they sell stuff to consumers.

I should mention that Carly Fiorina also has a different idea about what the American Dream is. She believes that “the Dream” is all about becoming someone like her; getting to the top, filthy rich and all powerful. But, that never was the American Dream. That Dream was only that an average person could be employed, make a livable wage, have a family and enough money to educate its children and own a home and the amenities that go with that. That's it. Fiorina spoiled that for thousands of her employees as most other corporations did when they refused to find other ways to become more efficient. They took the easy way out and hurt America by doing it.

In any event, I appreciate the opportunity to vent my frustrations with Democratic leadership and the Party of “No.” I hope you take the opportunity of your reelection to actually get something done this time and stop trying to compromise with Republicans. You failed miserably by not passing a public healthcare option because of so-called compromise. They have repeatedly obstructed your efforts and they've already said they're not going to compromise, so take them at their word – don't even try. And, stop the nonsense of the two-thirds vote and filibuster and for God's sake get a Senate President with some balls. Maybe that's Senator Schumer if you retain the majority in the Senate. If not, then stonewall the Republicans. They have no good ideas.


David Clark

cc: Carly Fiorina

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Revolution of The Stupid

As the election of 2010 nears, it seems that we are not going to come to our senses. The thing that will save us, or at least help, a dose of socialism and reality, will not happen, and we will blunder along in a Right-Wing fog for a while. Rather than read or "go find" the truth, the Right-Wing would rather pontificate their demagoguery. There are a few points in the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) Economic Outlook, that they really need to read, but it doesn't look likely that they will. But, here are the points anyway, just in case a Right-Winger, or someone that likes them, happens to read this blog:

1. "The economic recovery will take time because it will take time for the consumer to rebuild their wealth, for financial institutions to restore their capital basis, and for non-financial firms to regain confidence to invest in new plant and equipment." This trifecta creates a catch-22; any single one won't happen until the other does.

2. The CBO's projection, based on current law and the political popularity (i.e., the Tea Party) and unlikely chance of a "stimulus and the scheduled increases in taxes (resulting from the expiration of previous [Bush] tax cuts) will temporarily subtract from [economic] growth, especially in 2011." The "increase in taxes" the CBO is talking about is the tax increase to the middle class, not the rich. Why does "that" tax increase "subtract from economic growth?" Because the middle class, who is the "consumer," will not be able to "rebuild wealth" to become a consumer again until the middle class can spend more of what it earns. Read this again, please. And, in the real world, all economic growth stems from the consumer. Companies will not grow until someone buys their products, and companies will not invest in new plants and equipment until they can grow. Banks will not rebuild their capital basis until the consumer puts money in the banks, and consumers can't do that until they have money. Pretty simple, isn't it? You don't need a degree to figure that out. Even CEOs should be able to see that a healthy, wealthy middle class is good for them, better in fact than those outrageous bonuses or tax cuts.

In the meantime, while the popular Right-Wing movement is up in arms and shouting "NO" to any stimulus, the latest report on the average wages in America says that wages are going down, (AGAIN! - THIRTY STRAIGHT YEARS!), to about $505 per week for the average American worker! AND, that same report says that the wealthy increased their income BY FIVE TIMES in 2008 and 3.2 times, yet again, in 2009. So, to any Right-Winger who's reading this, I ask you: How the hell does the consumer buy something when they make only $505 a week? The answer is they don't - unless they get that credit card out again, which would be insane AT 19% INTEREST. By the way Mr. Banker, you borrow money at 0.25% interest and loan it at 19% interest. That's called USURY. And, if the rich are going to buy up all of the products companies need to sell to get the economy running again, they'd better start buying. The trouble is, though, that they don't have enough warehouse space to put it all.

But, what does the CBO say to do? What can we do to get the "the biggest bang for the taxpayer buck?" Here it is:

1. "A temporary increase in aid to the unemployed would have the largest effect on the economy per dollar of budgetary cost." We all should remember what happened to the Senate Bill that would have extended payments to the unemployed. A Republican Senator from Kentucky stonewalled that and every last Republican Senator obstructed the bill. The Party of "No" struck again. And then they blamed Obama! Go figure! (An aside: The Party of "No" has no bounds. It even stonewalled aid to Haiti which now has an outbreak of Cholera and needs the aid, and the Cholera could, by the way, spread outside of Haiti. Ah well, it must be compassionate conservatism. Or just stupidity. I prefer the latter.)

2. Temporarily reduce employer payroll taxes, so they can hire more people. But, instead of doing that, Republicans are determined to reduce the "income tax" of the rich. There's a difference between "payroll taxes" and "income taxes." The rich don't use an income tax cut to hire more people. They would hire more people if their company's "payroll tax" was temporarily reduced.

The list went on, but each subsequent item had less effect on the economy and more effect on the deficit. Finally, the report said that "extending the [Bush] tax cut permanently" would cause an unsustainable budget deficit unless other "very, very deep" budget cuts were not done. So, whose ideas would be best for America? Democratic ideas? Or, Republican ideas? Read on...

First, however, we have to answer a question: Where did the deficit REALLY come from? The Tea Party and Republicans claim the deficit is Obama's spending on TARP and stimulus; they claim it was the $800 billion TARP (the amount varies depending on who is talking) and the $800 billion stimulus (I have no idea where they get that figure). Their claims are laughable. The TARP is actually making money at a whopping 8.5% return. As for the $800 stimulus, there never was a stimulus of that amount. I wish there was one at that amount. Perhaps unemployment wouldn't be so high if there was a stimulus of that size. But, no. The actual stimulus was probably less than $100 billion, a piddly amount. In fact, the money made from the TARP more than paid for the stimulus. So, where DID the deficit come from?

Our deficit came from primarily two Bush policies: 1) the tax cut he implemented in 2001 which cost the U.S. Government $700 billion over five years, and 2) the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, which have cost the government $3 Trillion dollars to date and growing. But, alas, this falls on deaf (and dumb) ears.

So, whose ideas are best? Democrat candidates seem to be focused on these ideas, albeit that some "blue-dogs" try to distance themselves from ideas that they think are too far left:

1. Extend unemployment payments.
2. Stimulate the economy for the short term and reduce the deficit later after the economy rebounds, including stimulus to states that are in deep budget trouble.
3. Extend, at least temporarily, the tax cut to the middle class, which would "redistribute" the wealth back to the middle class and give the consumer more money to spend, which would in turn stimulate the economy. This, however, is a socialist idea. Even Republics, like the United States, have socialist programs that support the society whether you like the word or not.
4. Let the tax cut to the rich expire, which would decrease the budget deficit by $40 billion a year (the top two percent of the population got one-third of the Bush tax cut).
5. Support public education by increasing funding to public schools.
6. Provide a "public option" healthcare solution, which would drastically reduce the cost of healthcare insurance that consumers (you and I) and the government (taxpayer) pays for healthcare. This, too, falls on deaf ears.

In light of the CBO report, these all seem to make sense to me. In light of EVERYTHING I read, and it's a lot, all of these things make a tremendous amount of sense to me. If I had my way, however, I would not do step 3, above. I would NOT extend ANY tax cut. After all, we (Americans) didn't raise much of a fuss when Bush started us down this road, so we should now pay the piper. In fact, we let Bush off scott free, and ironically he thinks his "only" mistake was not privatizing Social Security. He's on a different planet.

So are the Tea Party and the Republicans candidates. Here is a list of ideas Tea Party and Republican candidates are focusing on:

1. Eliminate the U. S. Government Department of Education. Since Republicans can't seem to get off of the "Charter School" kick, which is privatizing our school system and making each school a business (there's lots of money in charter schools, especially when the taxpayer pays for it), I guess all of our public schools would simply die away to be replaced by charter schools that we would pay for through local taxes. Watch your taxes go up then! But, instead of paying them to the U.S. Government, you would pay them to your city or county.
2. Eliminate or modify the First Amendment to the Constitution so that Congress can make laws regarding religion, presumably to outlaw Muslims, and perhaps Buddhists, Hindus, Catholics, Judaism and whatever other religion it deems unsuitable, and so public schools, if any are left, can teach creationism in science classes. With step 1, above, they can teach anything they want in a private, charter school. I would rather my child go to a public school, if any are left.
3. Remove the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution so that we can deprive life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to those born in the United States to parents of non-citizens, even when those non-citizens are here legally whether on a path of citizenship or not.
4. Remove the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution so that the people of a state cannot elect the senators that represent them. This could mean that a state can have more than two senators appointed by someone. Maybe the state Governor would appoint them, or perhaps the President would appoint them, or maybe the political party in power in the Senate at the time would select a state's senator, say a friend. It could also mean that a senator could be bought by corporations or Wall Street.
5. Eliminate or privatize Social Security. According to Sharon Angle and Rand Paul, the Social Security program is a socialist program and is unconstitutional. What's your grandma going to do then? Eat dog food or die, or both, I guess. Well, they're right on one thing. It is a socialist idea. Try living without it.
6. Eliminate the Internal Revenue Service and all income taxes. This too, according to the candidates, is unconstitutional, even though the Constitution says Congress can assess taxes (Article I).
7. Stop funding the Supreme Court and eliminate the Justice Department. Make all laws in Congress and have no court system for anyone to redress injustices. Whew! Article III of the Constitution creates the Judiciary. I have no idea how we are going to process criminals into jail once that happens. Maybe we won't need to. Maybe that the sheriff thinks your guilty is all we need. Maybe he can just invade your home, arrest you and send you off to prison and you disappear from the Earth is all we need to do.

Have I said enough? There's more along the lines of the above, but my God, isn't that enough for us to figure out that we don't want these people running this country? But, there is every indication that the House of Representatives will be governed by the people who have the above Republican ideas. And, if the Senate goes too, we are in trouble. Every idea that we call an American value is up for grabs. Our Constitution is threatened like no other time in history.

My real problem is that I personally know people who support the candidates with those ideas, in spite of any argument given that they are wrong, brainwashed and misguided. The other day, I noticed that someone "liked", one of the most extreme Right-Wing political "super-PACs" out there. One would think that the association would be repulsive to everyone. supports the most extreme skin-heads, neo-Nazis, conspiratorial, group of websites and groups in the nation. Its list of links "for further reading" is offensive to any person who loves America. It is also supported by corporate money, the Chamber of Commerce, the Koch Brothers, and others who are trying to buy the November election. I would like to think and hope that they didn't understand or know when they clicked that "like" button who they were really associating with. I hope that they don't know that is one of the most un-American websites in this election, against every American value they claim to support. I hope, because any other conclusion is unthinkable.

The other problem I have is an upcoming reunion next July. What will I do when I hear a comment that I am going to have to respond to? A comment that supports the list of un-American ideas above? What if I hear a bigoted comment? A comment against the Muslim mosque, which should be built because it is a Constitutional right whether they like it or not? Will I hear the term "rag head?" The "n" word? A "those Wet Backs" slur? Something that is offensive to me as well as my mixed-raced family? A slip of the tongue, said without thinking,, but never-the-less expressing the true mind? What would I be expected to do? Keep silent? I expect to hear one, or more slurs, rumor and innuendo, lies and half-truths. Should I put my family through that? Will being there and listening to it affect them? Likely. How will I explain such comments to my grandkids? Some would tell me to keep silent, to let it pass, but the fact is that I'm tired of the demagoguery, slurs, rumors, innuendo, ignorance and bigotry. The fact is that we need to speak up against this ignorance, or else we get more Sarah Palins and Sharon Angles and Michele Backmans. If I do respond, will I be able to keep calm about it or will I lose my temper? Will it split friendships forever? More than likely... Should I go at all?


Monday, October 25, 2010

How it Happened

Richard Wolf, Economics Professor, has an excellent description of the melt down, and the reason it happened.

Friday, October 22, 2010

When the Fox Persuade Us that Our Hen House is His

How many Foxes are headed toward our hen house? A legion. I am stunned that Republicans appear to be making a comeback after the destruction they've caused. Karl Rove, Dick Army, Fox News, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, the Koch Brothers, Rush Limbaugh, the Tea Party, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Rupert Murdoch, Goldman Sachs, all and more are headed our way and they are all slick, silky-tongued Foxes. They have all of the platitudes on the tip of their tongues in defiance of the historical proof on the error of their ways. The Foxes only tell you what they want you to hear. They only teach you want they want you to know. And, before you know it, your hen house is theirs.

A good example is Texas Governor Rick Perry. I'm stunned that Governor Rick Perry was still leading the polls over Houston Mayor Bill White at the end of September. You would think that a man who allowed an innocent man to be executed, because he was "bad man," according to Perry, would slink out of sight. Want to know why Perry called Todd Willingham a bad man? Because his last words cursed his ex-wife - not because Willingham was guilty. In fact, overwhelming scientific, forensic evidence discovered in the last few weeks before the execution proved that Willingham was an innocent man - he did NOT start the fire that killed his children. The fire was NOT arson. The fire was caused by an accidental electrical short. But, in those last few days his ex-wife changed her mind and her testimony and claimed, falsely, that Willingham confessed to her that he had set the fire. She lied - he did not confess to her. But, it was enough to for Governor Perry to ignore Willingham's request for a delay until the new evidence could be heard in court. Perry let Willingham die in the death chamber. Is it any wonder that Willingham's last words cursed his ex-wife when she came to the window to look at him strapped to the death chamber table? Here is the story, Cameron Todd Willingham, Texas, and the death penalty : The New Yorker.

And, so, the word got out that Texas put an innocent man to death, again, and a stink arose and Perry's excuse was, "he was a bad man." All of the so-called conservatives and the Republican Party were on Perry's side and the so-called liberals were outraged. I say "so-called" because the conservatives and the GOP were really not very conservative and the liberals were the ones trying to conserve the institutions (real conservatives "conserve" institutions) of "innocent before proven guilty," emphasis on "proven," and the idea of "due process and protection against false charges" which had not happened for Willingham before he died. In reality, the ones raising the stink were the true conservatives. So, where were all of those who shout about freedom and Tea Party liberty and the Constitution? They were silent. Or they "knew" he was guilty - of something - and they gave Perry a pat on the back. "Good riddance," they said. There are apparently more so-called freedom and Tea Party lovers in Texas than those who really want freedom and liberty and Constitutional rights. All of the yelping Foxes have convinced Texans that Perry is the "chosen one," and Perry is still ahead in the polls. Mind boggling!

I'd say that the Foxes have taken over Texas' hen house, and its statehouse. I have no problem it if wants to secede from the union. Good riddance. But, the disease is spreading like wildfire. Big corporate spending is buying the United States' hen house, and we're going to regret it. We are going to follow Britain; tax cuts for the rich and corporations, deep budget cuts that jerk the rug out from under the poor and middle class, and in the end - a huge disastrous transfer of money, the last cent they have, from the middle class to the rich - the top twenty percent will own everything.

The fact is that history has proven, over and over again, that when so few people, 20% of the population, own 80% or more (currently 83% in the U.S.) of the economy, the economy falls into a depression. If we have learned from history, then we will have to tax the rich and reduce taxes for the middle class and the poor. That redistributes the wealth to the people who will buy something with it. If you don't believe that, then ask yourself a few questions. Who can buy more televisions? Twenty-percent of the population? Or 80% percent of the population? The answer is 80% can buy more. Who can buy more tubes of toothpaste? 20%? or 80%? The answer is 80%. The answer is ALWAYS 80%!

Would you rather listen to all of the cute sayings, those platitudes, of the GOP, Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and Fox and Friends? Or would you rather listen and learn from history? When are you going to speak up? When are you going to share the truth? When are you going to vote? If you don't, then we are done - we lose everything, from freedom, liberty and the Constitution to the last pennies in our pockets. We're sunk.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Ironies Galore. What Will We Get? Right-Wing Justice or Constitutional Justice?

The Supreme Court has decided to hear the case of Al-Kidd v. John Ashcroft, G. W. Bush's Attorney General, according to this: Justices to Hear Appeal Over Liability for Detention - Ashcroft is appealing and he is claiming he is IMMUNE to law suits or prosecution for any illegal policy while in office. I can see that this case will be a real irony, and a problem, for the five Right-Wing Supremes. Will they decide for the King? Or will they choose the Constitution?

At the heart of the case is whether a public official, John Ashcroft, is immune from being sued for the policies he implemented while serving as Attorney General. So far, two courts, an Idaho Federal District Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals have ruled in favor of Abdullah Al-Kidd and against Ashcroft. So, will the Supreme Court reverse two judgments against Ashcroft? If it does, then it will be saying that a public official can do anything they want and not worry about being held accountable.

Al-Kidd was arrested and held as a "material witness" and hailed as the "second most important" arrest "in the country" by both Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller in their fight against terrorism in public statements and Congressional testimony. But, Al-Kidd was never called as a witness to a case, nor was he ever charged with committing or planning a terrorist act. In fact, there was not one iota of proof that he did anything illegal or that he had one iota of information that could be used as a witness against a terrorist. And, Al-Kidd had already told the FBI all he knew before he was arrested. Ashcroft and the FBI had nothing; zilch, and they never did. They did, however, concoct a number of false statements for a court-issued warrant for Al-Kidd's arrest. And, they did use extreme interrogation techniques to question Al-Kidd, such as keeping him naked, never letting him sleep, and holding him in small, isolation cages. His arrest and detention was all done because the agents "thought he was guilty or was planning something." They had no evidence for the slightest "probable cause" arrest. And so, two courts upheld Al-Kidd's claim that he could sue Ashcroft and the agents - that Ashcroft and the FBI agents violated his constitutional rights, under the Fourth (unlawful search and seizure) and Fifth (among other things - held without due process) Amendments, by arresting and holding him.

The ironies are galore. On the one hand, Attorney General Eric Holder, under a Democratic Administration, is defending Ashcroft, of a Republican Administration, against the very things that Holder has claimed to be unconstitutional; such as illegal wire taps, violation of civil rights, invasion of privacy, illegal search and seizure, etc. If Holder wins, then he himself is protected and immune from prosecution for the things he does in office, even when a court decides that he acted illegally. Of course, he could say, "trust me. I won't do anything bad." That doesn't sooth my skepticism. On the other hand, if the five conservative justices overturn the lower courts, and say that Ashcroft is immune, they are protecting Eric Holder in a Democratic Administration by giving him immunity, and all future public officials, of course. They are also confirming, once and for all, that the constitution is indeed dead, as Justice Scalia claimed in a speech once. If it is dead, then we are ready for a King... or a dictator. It's all a matter of time and which President, now or in the future, wants to take up the scepter and crown.

Oh well. We could look at the bright side. If the Constitution is dead, then we won't need congress, and that means that all the Tea Party congressional candidates won't be needed after all. Or, maybe they will help the matter along. LOL. By then, however, all those that didn't vote will, perhaps, understand to late that voting for qualified people matters. Another irony.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Retirement Account Management Fee Ponzi Schemes That Really Piss Me Off

I'll bet that most people that have a retirement account or two have someone else managing them and that they pay Management Fees. I'll also bet that those accounts are heavily invested in Mutual Funds or Exchange Traded Funds that also charge Management Fees. So, on top of the fee you pay your broker to manage your account, you are also paying the Fund Managers to manage those funds. And, I'll bet that when everyone looked at those fees and saw that they range from 0.75% down to 0.15%, they said, "Oh. That ain't much. That's a piece of cake." Hahahahahahahahahaha, were you fooled!

Here's the way it is. Pay attention. I recently moved one of my retirement accounts from a "Managed Account" to an account where I have complete control because I analyzed the management fees and threw up my lunch. Here's the results of my analysis. All of the fees, yields, costs and profit are annual numbers. The Market Value (Mkt Value) is based on the latest exchange quote. I also had to change my paradigm, and that meant that I had to get the idea that this account is for "MY PROFIT," not some damn fund or account manager. So, get that idea in to your head. As you can see, even though those management fees are really, really small, they cost me a whopping 63.66% of the profit from the account! Holly cow! By the way, ETF means Exchange Traded Fund. Those are the same as Mutual Funds, except they're traded throughout the day on the stock exchange. Profit is what I get after the fee is paid.

ETF  Shrs    Value     Fee  Yield     Cost    Profit  % Profit
DWM   172   $8,020   0.48%  2.10%   $38.50   $129.93   22.86%
EEB   172   $7,857   0.69%  1.11%   $54.21    $33.00   62.16%
GSG   144   $4,442   0.75%  0.00%   $33.32   ($33.32) (100%)
HYG    56   $4,992   0.50%  7.89%   $24.96   $368.94    6.34%
ICF   101   $6,395   0.35%  2.85%   $22.38   $159.88   12.28%
IEF   417  $41,633   0.15%  2.82%   $62.45 $1,111.61    5.32%
IJT    98   $6,197   0.25%  0.70%   $15.49    $27.89   35.71%
IWD   133   $8,001   0.20%  2.26%   $16.00   $164.83    8.85%
PWY   589   $8,016   0.73%  0.81%   $58.52     $6.41   90.12%
PZI   246   $2,494   0.86%  2.29%   $21.45    $35.67   37.55%
SHY 1,066  $89,949   0.15%  0.93%  $134.92   $701.60   16.13%
TLT   100  $10,558   0.15%  4.51%   $15.84   $460.33    3.33%
VOE   195   $9,582   0.14   0.05%   $13.42    ($8.62) (280%)
VOT   125   $6,790   0.14%  0.00%    $9.51    ($9.51) (100%)
VUG   109   $5,058   0.14%  1.46%    $8.48    $79.97    9.59%
Cash       $28,616   0.00%  0.05%    $0.00    $14.31    0.00%

Sub-total $249,603                 $529.46 $3,424.92   14.04%
Account Mgmt Fee     0.75%       $1,872.03 $1,370.89   57.73%

Totals                           $2,401.48 $1,370.89   63.66%

Is it worth your time to manage your account yourself? It is for me. I can use that $2,400 per year for something else other than Christmas gifts for fund managers. And, I can be choosy. For example, I can get rid of all of those ETFs that are taking large percentages of my profit and keep or increase my holding of those that pay better. I can also look at the prospectus of those that I like and buy the same stocks or bonds they buy without buying the ETF itself.

And another thing. If you look carefully, you'll see signs of gross mismanagement. The plan that I chose at the beginning was the "Conservative" plan. It looks to me like I got the wasteful plan. For example, the plan bought a small number of shares in the ETFs with the greatest returns, and an inordinate amount of shares in the ones that cost the most. Awk! I'm paying for them to do that? The fact is, after I looked into it, that machines do all the buying and selling and the so-called "re-balancing" the account. People don't do anything. So, in effect I'm paying a programmer to program algorithms to manage my account. I'm a programmer, and I know that they can't be trusted.

There is a caution about buying bonds, though. You have to hold them until they expire, which may be years. If you buy bonds, build a "Bond Ladder," so that some are always expiring every year. You don't have all of your money tied up in long term bonds by doing that. So, for bonds, I may keep the bond ETFs, because I can sell those off anytime I want.

Thought you'd like to know.


The Fence I'm Straddling has Barbed Wire - Ouch!

Sometimes it's hard to be a liberal however one likes the meaning of the word. It is equally hard to be a conservative with respect to wanting to conserve institutions that work and get rid of or modify the ones that don't, which is, by the way, the true meaning of conservatism, or at least a truer meaning than the one touted by so-called conservatives nowadays in the radical Tea Party and its radical friends. David Brooks is usually "too" conservative for me, although I don't see him as a radical, but in this Op-Ed Columnist - The Paralysis of the State -, I can't disagree with him. I'm straddling the fence again and I'm uncomfortable.

As a general rule, I hate union busting for a couple of reasons. First is that unions have been somewhat successful in making sure the everyday worker is paid a reasonable, living wage or at least paid a wage that is not less than the wage of ten, twenty or thirty years ago. Unions built the middle class, and it is the middle class that has driven America to a level of prosperity that so-called "management" would have never been able to do. Management, as I interpret it to mean, are those CEOs that pay themselves multi-million dollar bonuses and stock options, and other ridiculously expensive benefits. The middle class built America because the middle class had "Purchasing Power." Well, all of that turns out to be only half true. Management, it seems, according to a recent report that I've forgotten where to find, has managed to sell us hocus pocus, voodoo capitalistic ideals that management knows best over the past forty years and so the everyday Joe worker has not really seen an increase in wages since the 1970s, if you count inflation. Perhaps I heard that from Robert Reich, who seems to have his facts and logic together. So, it makes sense to me to "redistribute" a little of the top wealth back to the middle class and the poor through tax changes, i.e., tax the rich and not the poor or middle class - that is if you want them to buy anything.

There are some cases of union busting that simply fly in the face of all reason, and that's what I hate about union busting. Take the case of Gibson County's Commissioner Bob Townsend's attempt last year. As I understand, the Gibson County Local 215 employee union is now operating without a contract, so he was somewhat successful. If Townsend had made a reasonable attempt to bargain with the union, I probably wouldn't have said a word, but he didn't. In fact, there was every appearance of graft, favoritism and corruption at the center of it. The fuss was all about the County's health insurance policies, purchased through the so-called "city and county" insurance agent, the one and only John Dyer, for non-union workers and the "group" insurance policy purchased by the union . I suspect that the group policy is the better and less expensive policy, because group policies usually are. But, Dyer, it seems, has the sole right to sell the City of Princeton and Gibson County their insurance policies. Was he the only agent in town? How about competitive bidding? The other troubling aspect in the comedy skit was the Princeton Clarion, the newspaper. While there was trouble in River City, the Clarion said not one word other than reporting, verbatim, what was said at an "open and public" County Commissioner-Employee meeting that included both union and non-union people. It didn't "investigate" one iota of the situation. Instead, it reported on a lost dog and the November garage sales and other such articles, and lamented on the coming of Winter in its Op-Ed pages. Big deal! Later, after I joined Facebook and befriended the Clarion, I learned that the Clarion is basically a Tea Party newspaper and it won't investigate nor print anything contrary to Tea Party views or the shenanigans of Republican administrations. In other words, anyone reading the paper will never know about hanky-panky at the County seat. That's usually the case in union busting, it's all rigged against the worker and for the rich managers, including newspaper publishers. If I lived there, I'd send Andrea Howe, the editor, an email every day telling her the "what for." And, I would keep sending them until she either quit or got off her ass and did some real investigating. I sent her a couple anyway. She didn't respond when I asked a few pointed questions.

But, David Brooks, and the study he cites, has a point. When unions become too big and begin to have enough influence to elect their bosses, then we need to worry. That the unions have become big enough for states to pass laws that give them 90% of their working salaries for retirement is outrageous. When did we ever believe that we can afford that? But, the real question is, why wasn't there a BIG STINK raised when it happened? Where were the newspapers and news media back then? Silent, like the Princeton Clarion is on the Gibson County back-room favoritism, wheeling and dealing with John Dyer.

The other "real" question is what is the most significant "cost" that makes a high pension necessary in the first place? What makes the unions scream so loud? The answer is: HEALTH INSURANCE. And, the real point to that is that perhaps we could pay Joe worker a real, honest-to-goodness wage if we didn't have to pay the outrageous Health Insurance Blackmail. Then, taking the next reasonable step in that argument, there is the one thing that we could do that would punch the Health Insurance Companies squarely on the nose: Pass the Public Option law and circumvent the Insurance Companies entirely. But, that too is a Republican No-No vote. Go figure.

So, from union busting, graft, favoritism, corruption, health insurance loving, bug business loving to not investigating and reporting those things by right-wing news media, I still see Republicans as the Party Without A Clue, but I have to agree that powerful unions are just as dumb and greedy in their demands on taxpayers. That barbed wire on the fence I ride sometimes hurts.

I guess we could go one step farther, too, and that is to ask: How did we come to a time when Unions and Corporations have so much clout in our elections as to elect the people who will return favors? I guess we could take that to the Supreme Court case: Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission. Wonder who bought the five Supreme Court Justices who made that decision and, by the way, changed the law? Are you really thinking they were not paid for? If so, you're delusional.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Why We Can't Vote Republican and Why We Can't Depend on Charity and Why We MUST VOTE.

It's all about ideology, and it's personal. The reason it's personal is because of all of the people I know, both friends, family and associates, I know only two or three who might be, I say "might" because I don't personally know whether they are or not, considered in the top twenty percent who own eighty percent of America's wealth. They certainly appear wealthy, or at least they act like it. Nearly everyone else I know is just like me, smack dab in the middle class, and some are perhaps in the lower percentile of the middle class. A few I know are dirt poor. Those that I know in the middle class have more hope for either continuing to have enough to stay where they're at, or climb the ladder to the upper class. I've noticed, however, that those who are poor have no hope, and it breaks my heart. Government help for them has run its course; they've had their so-called job training, but have no job; they've reached the end of welfare; they have no money for further education; they've lost their mobility; they've lost their driver's license because they can't afford the car, insurance, renewal fee or the court cost to get their license back; and they've been rejected by every employer they've applied to. Charity, to them, means a few dollars every month or so, but nothing to sustain them until they get back on their feet. Charity is fickle. It's good for some, for a short time, but not for most. They have no hope and no place to turn. They've dropped off the edge of the Earth. They are unknown and unheard.

I'm not saying that all of my perceived wealthy friends are Republicans. Some hold very similar views to mine. But others do not. Once at a family reunion several years ago, I heard an extended family member, who believed in the Republican ideology, complain bitterly about welfare. He said, vehemently, "it's forced charity!" He resented paying taxes that were eventually used to pay welfare to the poor. It was the same complain that in President Reagan's Administration lead to limiting welfare because of the imaginary "Welfare Mom" who, they claimed, was cheating, and so welfare was reduced. Those unfortunate poor on welfare who were not cheating, the great majority, got less and hope diminished. The number of poor increased. It was the same complaint that in the mid-1990s lead Newt Gingrich, then the Speaker of the House, to pass legislation to limit welfare, and the freedom of welfare recipients to spend the money the way they saw fit, in a "work for welfare" scheme that ended the welfare payments after five years. And, those that the scheme did not benefit after five years on welfare, and who may have still had a chance while they received welfare, lost all hope of ever climbing out of the deep, deep hole circumstance, luck, and/or the American Capitalistic "system" put them in. They dropped out of sight and mind. So, even after two experiments with welfare, the ranks of the poor continued to increase. The complaint, however, hasn't changed. It is still the most often repeated complaint, in some form or another, by Republicans today. It's "Forced Charity!" It is resented by Republicans. And, right along with that complaint follows the second complaint, "they're spending the money we give them on junk!", or on Las Vegas, or on games, or on something that is not really "necessary," as, of course, defined by Republicans. So, just like the hope that disappears, and always will for those invisible poor, the complaints continue and is never resolved until Welfare itself is completely eliminated. What do we do then? Let the poor starve? But, Welfare increased in spite of all efforts to reduce it, because the number of poor increased. More and more of the middle class migrated to poverty and filled the ranks of poor and welfare recipients. Today, one in seven American's are in poverty. That should frighten you because while that migration was happening, more and more of America's wealth migrated to the top twenty percentile of American's. Deregulated "Trickle Down" didn't work, and it never will. You and I could be next to join the ranks of the poor, unless by some miracle, against all reasonable odds, we elevate our condition to the wealthy. What welfare, call it safety net, is next? Social Security? Medicare? You're retirement fund? They are all targets of fraudulent Republican ideology.

There is another reason, but perhaps not the last, that I take personal offence toward Republican ideology. I gave a large portion of my life for the ideals that were the ideals of my youth, mostly Christian ideals of helping the poor, giving, treating my fellow man fairly, and the American ideals of freedom, liberty, truth and justice. It all appears to have been wasted time. And, even though the greater majority of Christians in America seem to be following the Republican ideology, I don't see a single Christian or American value expressed in Republican policies or ideals. All I see is resentment, injustice, half-truths and lies, unfair treatment, selfishness and greed, intolerance and false gospel. One person who I know who has been taken by Republican ideology mentioned that they "continue to pray the prayer of Jabez every day" for their own benefit. That prayer, mentioned once in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10, two sentences in the entire Bible, is the basis of the so-called Gospel of Prosperity making the church rounds recently. I was appalled. Oh, they are wealthy, so I guess it could be said that the prayer worked. But, I wonder. Did the wealth come before the prayer? Or the prayer before the wealth? How much of saying they pray that prayer is self aggrandizement, pride in front of friends, showing off the favors from God? Are "they" the "chosen?" Is it "Look at me, I'm Blessed?" I also wonder that if that particular prayer is answered, what payment is expected in return? To those that much is given, much is expected. I suspect that, one way or another, that payment will be made whether they payee wants it or not. Is payment to sustain a society not worthy? Is only Charity worthy? If it is only Charity that is worthy, are we not required, then, to give a constant stream of charity to sustain the poor? I would say that when society is just, fair and equal, then payment to the society is required in the form of taxes because that is the only consistent way to sustain those in poverty. It is even required when all government efforts are to make its society just, fair and equal. I don't see anyplace where today's Republicans are supporting the causes of justice, fairness and equality, even though they go to great extent to say the do. They have blocked every effort to support the poor, and the unemployed for that matter. To some that follow Republican ideals, the payment will be a fall from grace, to others it will be a fall from revolution. I wonder if they will be surprised when it happens. When the ranks of the poor increase to the point where a country cannot sustain itself, revolution is inevitable. That happens when so few have so much.

I haven't heard our current situation, that of the precarious edge to America's downfall being so close, expressed as well as I've heard Robert Reich express it. For that reason, I've added his blog to the list of my favorite blogs. I don't know if he is a religious person, atheist, or somewhere in between, or if he believes in another religion. But, he speaks the truth. That should be good enough for anyone. Read his blog. Listen to him speak. Educate yourselves before it's too late.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Republican Obstruction, Corruption, Price Overruns or Milling About Like Cattle?

Someday I'd like to know the truth. I usually agree with Paul Krugman since he IS an Economist, studies the problem in depth and IS a professor who teaches this stuff. Also, most other economists agree with him. His perspective makes a lot of sense to me; stimulate in times of recession to boost the economy, and save through budget constraints in times of growth and excess. In fact, that little truism is repeated over and over in those Proverbs, written and unwritten, passed down to us through history. But, sometimes I wonder. Take his Op-Ed about the cancellation of a new rail tunnel from New Jersey to Manhattan, Op-Ed Columnist - The End of the Tunnel - New Jersey's Governor Christie, a rising star of the Republican Party, cancelled the project because of price overruns.

I totally agree with Krugman that it was really STUPID and shortsighted to cancel the project, whether it had a price overrun or not. An investment like this adds billions of dollars every day to the economy of New York, New Jersey and America. In other words, New Jersey, New York and the U.S. WILL BE PAID BACK. I know that's hard to see if, like me, you don't live in New York or New Jersey. But, it is projects like this that actually lower our taxes, and that's because it increases the revenue to local and federal governments - much more revenue than than those counterintuitive tax cuts do. This is a big deal.

What I don't know the truth about is whether Governor Christie is being an obstructionist, or whether he's just had enough of price overruns. This Washington Post article actually has me sympathizing with him. What started as a $5 billion cost to New Jersey, that will pay one-third of the total cost, in 2005 has now grown to $10 to $14 billion. If he's simply had enough of price overruns, then I can't disagree with him. I've had enough of that too. What's with price overruns, anyway? It happens EVERYWHERE.

There is another project in progress that is also a big deal, even to people who don't live here. That project is the Bay Bridge retrofit/replacement now under construction, and yes, you guessed it. It, too, is running way over the original budget. In fact, almost three times the original budget. The Eastern Span, the part that will be replaced and that was originally estimated at $2.5 billion, is 15 months behind schedule and now estimated to cost $6 billion! So, not only can the contractors complete the thing on time, they can't complete it at a reasonable cost.

Then there is the Chinese steel we're using on the Bay Bridge project that, according to reports, is causing most of the delay. It is delivered late, and when it does arrive we find that it is below specifications and we can't use it. The Yuan, too, is changing the price of the steel. China is now "floating" its currency, which it manipulates to its own advantage of course, so that the price of some things are rising, especially contracted material, while pricing other materials to undercut ours. It's a dog-eat-dog world, and we're not winning.

I'm always suspicious of cost overruns in low-bid contract bidding. If I were a corrupt contractor dealing with a government, I would submit a low bid just to get the job, then run the prices up to cover actual costs. Politicians hardly ever know what they're doing in contracting anyway, and they can always be corrupted with favors and money as well. I doubt that it will ever end.

I'm glad that we, here in California, are continuing the Bay Bridge project in spite of the overruns because we will be paid back. Governor Schwarzenegger is doing a good job in spite of all of the crap and Sarah Palin, etal., criticism he has to put up with. The tolls went up from $4.00 to $6.00 to help pay for the overrun, which ironically drove drivers away from the bridges and increased riders on the Bay Area Transit System, that is also in debt, to the point that it, too, may make a profit. Go figure. I guess when we stop competing with ourselves, we may get at least one thing right! But, it's not over yet, so we'll see. There is, after all, the Meg and Jerry show to watch in November. Does anyone seriously think Meg Whitman will do better than Governor Christie, whatever his true reason?

I guess the real truth is that nowadays we don't know what the hell we're doing, and if we do get something right, it is entirely accidental. And, if that's the case, perhaps we should THINK before we vote. We should REALLY learn who and what we're voting for, and whether they or it REALLY IS GOOD FOR US, before we vote. While I sympathize with Governor Christie, I don't agree with his cancellation approach. There were other alternatives. But, I feel like a one-legged man in an ass kicking contest, or just one more of the herd milling around smartly; impotent. I guess if the Tea Party takes over, we'll soon be in a stampede - over the cliff. I don't see them thinking, in which case, milling around is better than a stampede.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Economic Equality - Why The Hell Didn't We See This Story on Prime Time News?

This was a shock. A Study: Most Americans want wealth distribution similar to Sweden | Raw Story conducted by the Harvard Business School and Duke University says that a whopping 92% of Americans would prefer the Swedish distribution of wealth over our own! This story was carried by National Public Radio (NPR) today, but it is not on any other single major news source. It's not on CNN, Fox, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, U.S.A Today, Wall Street Journal, CNBC, New York Times or Washington Post. You really have to ask, "Why?"

Of course, the story is fresh off the presses; it's a 2005 study! And, the alternate news picked it up just last month! We can't expect the major news sources to be prompt. So, we'll have to wait to see if the major media picks it up. But, isn't it obvious why they, the prime time media, haven't so far? It is because the owners of those news corporations, the haves, want to keep the have-nots ignorant of the true wealth distribution in this country. They are afraid they'll lose what they have. They may have to pay another one-percent in taxes. According to the study, "they," the top 20% of the wealthiest own 84% of the wealth in America. Whew! I feel left out!

Ironically, if given a choice, 92% of Americans, including the wealthy, would choose a more equitable distribution. That is like saying to Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, and all their friends, including Republicans, "shove it." I wish they would.

Here's the study (PDF):

Sweden, by the way, has a robust capitalistic-style economy, with just as much freedom as we do, so you really don't have to pee in your pants about socialism, although there is a bit of that too, that is if you consider taking care of your citizens socialism. You're more likely to "make it" in Sweden than you are here in America.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Sam Zell, Just Another Lewd, Obscene Con Man after all.

When Sam Zell bought the Tribune Corporation, I thought the Contra Costa Times would be saved, as well as the Los Angeles Times. I read both of these newspapers and they were good newspapers back then. Man, was I mistaken, and naive. Sam Zell, it turned out, was just another con man out to make a bundle on the backs of the employees and the bankruptcy of a company. He was just another Private Equity firm that typically uses other people's money to make millions and ruins the companies they buy by putting it deeply in debt to pay themselves. Go look at the Simons Mattress Company as a good example. It's a miracle we have jobs in this country at all. The article, At Sam Zell’s Tribune, Tales of a Bankrupt Culture -, says a lot. Back then, the details of the deal were not known to the general public. I thought that Zell had put up "all" of the money. It turns out that he used the employees' pension fund to pay for the greater majority of the cost of the Tribune leaving the employees with nothing. What a sleaze bag.

But, the Contra Costa Times continued to be a good newspaper for several months, then it was sold to the Bay Area News Group, a group of Sam Zell's buddies and part of the scam in the whole transaction, and the newspaper changed. You wouldn't have noticed the change, though, if you were not following the right-wing movement and didn't know the right-wing language. I noticed it. I knew the language and the antics they pull. The first thing I noticed was the advertisements in the form of fake news and the change in opinion columnists. The new columnists were decidedly right-wing. It came to a head for me in August 2009 and I sent this letter to Contra Costa Times warning them (as if I have any influence - laugh out loud!). The final straw prompted me to write this, because of a blatant lie printed in the Contra Costa Times as a pseudo-ad/news item. I cancelled my subscription. "It's only an ad," they editor said. "Why would you cancel because of an ad?" She asked. "Because it's a lie," I said. "If you can't write the truth, what good are you." I was pissed. "We present both sides," she said. "Bullshit isn't the side of anything," I said. Maybe I busted her eardrum when I slammed the phone down. But, I'm sure she went on oblivious to what she'd done and without the slightest tinge of regret, just another airhead.

At the same time I stopped reading the Los Angeles Times for the same reason. By that time, the editor at the L.A. Times had been fired because he refused to fire a few journalists. Zell, it was reported, wanted them fired because he was going to replace them with so-called "other" journalists who did nothing more than Google searches for the latest news, very similar to what I (and CNN) do, and are no better than news junkies and not real journalists at all. I began to have a different opinion of Zell and I began to search out news articles on Zell and learned that he's just another greedy, obscene con man.

There were a lot of articles about his con jobs, but two stand out as pure greed. The first was a report on his and Stewart Resnick's Kern County Water Bank, a huge man-made lake. While Resnick is the majority owner, Zell keeps his involvement hidden in the back rooms of Sacramento politicians. The big deal about the "Water Bank" is that California pays it to store water from the Sacramento Delta, a major habitat for every fresh-salt water fish that spawns in California rivers, so that water from the delta can be used for Southern California's population, primarily Los Angeles. The Bank is supposed to be managed to save both the delta and provide drinking water in an arid region. But, Resnick, and Zell, of course, don't do that. They are killing the delta. They are paid by the State of California to store the water, then they charge water utility companies in the south outrageous prices for the water, which, of course, are passed on to customers. They manage the water to keep prices high, you can bet on that. They could care less about the delta, or even if the delta is able to supply water to south in twenty years. They're happy if they get their short-term profit. It's all a sleazy water con job.

Zell's other con job had to do with rent controls in Contra Costa County. The county set limits on a number of mobile home parks to keep the rent low for low income, mostly elderly on Social Security, renters. The low rents, however, keep the property value low. Zell bought a number of those properties, about ten acres each, for less than $5 million each. That's an outrageously low price for California property! He then sic'd his 20-plus lawyer legal team on Contra Costa County to eliminate the rent controls, which, if eliminated, would cause the property values to raise to market value, $20 million or more for each property. When that didn't work, his legal team put a voter proposition on the county ballot to eliminate the controls by voter approval. I don't know whether that worked or not, but I hope it didn't.

Zell is a con man. There's no doubt about it. I see that Resnick is funding Jerry Brown's run for governor. I'm sorry to see that, if it's true. I'm sure Zell is in the mix as well. And, I'm sure that both are deeply involved with Meg Whitman, too, although maybe not with direct contributions to her campaign. She doesn't need outside donations. Wonder what would happen if everyone voted "None of the Above?" Would we get better choices on the ballot? Probably not. Is there an honest businessman or politician out there?


Monday, October 4, 2010

What's the difference? Cheap Business Loans or Tax Cuts for the Rich.

The answer is none, there is no difference. Whether a corporation or small business (they're not so small) gets cheap money through loans at the Federal Reserve Window or whether they get tax cuts, they will hoard the money. This New York Times article explains what companies are doing: Companies Borrow at Low Rates, but Don’t Spend - We don't want them to hoard the money. We want them to spend it on new employees. Hiring new employees. Jobs. They're waiting on the economy to improve, but the economy won't improve without jobs.

You have to wonder whose side they're on. I can tell you the answer to that. They are on their own side. They could give a hoot about democracy, the U.S. Government, the U.S., your savings account, your retirement account or whether you are feeding your kids or homeless. None of that matters. The only thing they're concerned with is their cash balance; the bigger the better. They can go into "global" markets in China or Brazil and not be effected one iota with the unemployment here at home. They could give a shit.

The fact is that we have to take off the kid gloves we've been using for corporations and the small-business rich. It is time, way passed the time, that they support this country. It is way passed the time that "we" support this country. All of us, corporations and those not-so-small, billionaire small businesses, must pay back the taxes that we didn't pay during the Bush years. Unless, of course, we don't care about our country.


Friday, October 1, 2010

Rupert Murdoch - He's either a liar, a hypocrite or he has no idea what his own Fox News does

Yesterday, Rupert Murdoch testified in Congress on illegal immigration, and it was good testimony, reasonable and sensible. What!?! In fact, his testimony was so reasonable that it was 180 degrees from what is typically on Fox News Cable. He sounded sincere. Watch this video and make your own decision. I have to conclude that Murdoch has either lost his mind or he doesn't watch and doesn't know what's on his own cable network.


Short Memories and Being Cute

Sometimes I wonder if those who follow Fox News and the Tea Party, and all of their friends, are just trying to be cute in front of their friends and neighbors. From all poll indicators, the GOP and Tea Party are making a comeback. That's a very sad thing to see, especially now so soon after those very same people devastated this country. They clearly say what they intend to do - or I should say undo. They clearly intend to halt and shut down the government to undo it, too. That would be a disaster, and likely the final nail in our coffin.

It is clear to me that "they" know not what they do. "They" don't know how close America came to a much more devastating disaster in the recession that they caused. They think that because Bank of America, General Electric, Ford, McDonalds and a million other companies are still churning out money (hording is more descriptive), appliances and hamburgers that everything is hunky-dory. They don't know that McDonalds just barely made its payroll the first week of Bear Sterns' crash, so close to shutting down many of its restaurants because it couldn't get credit. They don't know that General Electric was on its knees, threatening the layoffs of one hundred thousand workers in one quick sweep. They don't know that millions of small businesses tottered on the edge of extinction.

On the day that the first T.A.R.P was voted down in Congress, within minutes of the vote, I was on the phone to my Congresswoman demanding, in a rage, what the hell she thought she was doing voting against it. Was she stupid? Did she not understand that when credit is stopped, that millions of people lose EVERYTHING? Jobs? Retirements? EVERYTHING? Did she not understand that we faced 30% or 40% or higher unemployment? What are you thinking? I raged. My call was one of thousands, from everyone who followed the market. The T.A.R.P. went for a re-vote and Congress approved it. Secretary Paulsen, however, fumbled the ball and gave away the money without strings attached. President Obama's Administration has reversed as much of that "give-away" as they could, however, and the government is being paid back.

The government is, as an example, selling its AIG preferred stock for an $18 million dollar profit, the end result of bailing out AIG, one of the biggest criminals in the financial crisis. It is very unfortunate that we had to bail out AIG, but the taxpayer made money by doing it. I would really like to see the AIG executives go to jail, as would most people. What is really ironic is that the Republicans are the ones gaining in the polls, and they are the same people who are protecting the AIG executives the most! Where is the logic in that? The latest estimate of the total cost of the T.A.R.P is now down to a piddly $50 billion - not $700 billion, as the Republicans continue to say. They're lying.

Steven Pearlstein says he saw the crash coming in this article, Yes, it may finally be time to get back into stocks. He says he got "out" before the bubble burst because he saw it coming. If he saw it coming, then he's one of only a handful that did. In fact, it was so rare for anyone to have seen it coming, that I have my doubts about his prescience. He was just lucky. Now, he says, it's time to get "back in." In my opinion, he's a year and a half late. He should have gotten back in at the bottom of the market in October 2008. But, he is right about one thing. We've been in a market rally since the crash and it's about over.

The other day I sent an email to all of my investment club partners about the coming election. I said that between now and the November election, if we get the chance, we need to take as much profit as possible by selling the stocks we own that are in a profitable position. Of course, if we can't take a profit, then we'll have to hold the stocks. They are good stocks. We can wait. But, why get out now? Like Pearlstein says, Wall Street isn't going to like Tea Party Senators and Representatives. The Tea Party may have some rich corporate donors, but Wall Street, as a whole, doesn't like them. Wall Street isn't stupid, while all of the Tea Party candidates appear to be. They show every intent to shut down the government, in a childish fit, if they don't get their way. Wall Street won't like that and neither will your retirement account.

We may not like Wall Street gambling, but we should like Wall Street investing. Those are two different things. We should NOT like Wall Street gambling with the Social Security Trust Fund, but we should like investing the Social Security Trust Fund, under appropriate government controls, in a well balanced portfolio. Without Wall Street investing, our Individual Retirement Accounts would be zilch. But, we don't want our IRA accounts to be used for gambling. We need government controls. We need to vote for the people who will control high-risk gambling, not eliminate investing. So far, Republicans are not willing to do that. But, if there's a way for voters to be stupid, they'll figure out how to be it. Stand by for heavy rolls.