Thursday, March 17, 2011


(1) "Inside Job," documentary.
(2) "All the Devils are Here," book.
It was the conservative idea of laissez-faire capitalism that ultimately caused the financial meltdown that has ruined many American lives; current and future lives. The dictionary defines laissez-faire as “a policy or attitude of letting things take their own course, without interfering,” especially in economical matters. Alan Greenspan was the the most important person and chief advocate of economic laissez-faire in the government from 1987 to 2007 as the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, the Central Bank of the United States. He told Congress every chance he got to “deregulate.” He said banks could “regulate themselves. They didn't need government to regulate them.” And, if Congress didn't deregulate, he did it from his seat at The Fed and through his influence at the U. S. Treasury. Deregulation is a big deal for libertarians like Greenspan, and Republicans, not only in finance, but in all of industry.
Deregulation began in earnest in the early 1980s. Wall Street finally had a sympathetic president, Ronald Reagan, in the White House. Donald Regan, a Merrill Lynch chairman and CEO, became Secretary of Treasury in 1981. Regan said, “Wall Street is in full agreement with this President.” On Wall Street, new financial tools were invented; the derivative, based on mathematical equations concocted by physicists. A new job title was invented; the Financial Engineer. Regulators turned their backs on bank mergers that conflicted with the Glass-Steagall Act and God said, “it is good.” The people became convinced. Alan Greenspan, who worked for Charles Keating at the time, became a White House regular adviser. Deregulation first effected Savings & Loan pseudo-banks, and greed took over. Charles Keating went to jail for Savings & Loan fraud. The “Keating Five,” Senators Alan Cranston (D-CA), Dennis DeConcini (D-AZ), John McCain (R-AZ), John Glenn (D-OH) and Donald Riegle (D-MI), were charged with ethic violations and investigated. Only John McCain managed to keep his job. Neil Bush, son of the Vice-President G. H. W. Bush, was on the board of the Silverado Savings & Loan and it cost U.S. Taxpayers $1.3 Billion to save its customers. Neil Bush wiggled out of the fraud charges against him and was only slapped on the wrist by the Office of Thrift Supervision for “breaches of...fiduciary duties involving multiple conflicts of interest.” Then, people forgot, history was changed, and everyone said “this too, will pass.” And, it did. Alan Greenspan was appointed Chairman, Federal Reserve. He became God.
In the early 1990s, as derivatives such as the Collateral Debt Obligation (CDO) and Credit Default Swaps began to be used more and more, and banks began to merge into global "too big to fail" banks with overseas locations, Greenspan turned his eyes away from the risky loans banks began making as much as he could. His Fed position really required him, by law, to oversee banks to a certain degree and to make sure that the banks had enough cash (capital) on hand for the loans they were making. He was certainly supposed to intervene if banks began lending too much to borrowers who had poor credit ratings, the sub-prime market. But, he turned his back on the problem so that banks didn't have to worry about violating the Glass-Steagall Act that strictly forbid commercial banks from risky “investment” gambling in markets. When banks absolutely couldn't avoid the Glass-Steagall Act, they got around the law by having their overseas branches and subsidiaries handle all derivative transactions. This not only hid the bank's Wall Street activity, it also helped the bank avoid paying corporate taxes.
While deregulation was gradually taking place, either by law or “getting around the law,” another laissez-faire idea was becoming the norm around the world: Privatization . This idea was to privatize government programs under private corporations. A number of countries followed suit by doing both, deregulating and privatizing, including Ireland, Greece, Mexico, New Zealand and Iceland, some with the help of huge loans from big U.S. investment banks such as Goldman Sachs, J. P. Morgan and Merrill Lynch. These banks securitized the loans to countries into bonds and Fitch, Moody's and Standard & Poor's all rated the bonds as AAA, the highest credit rating. And then the investment banks bought Credit Default Swaps, as insurance, to make sure they would get their money back in case any country defaulted on its loan.
Mexico, it turned out, was a bad risk in the 1990s. It wasn't quite the AAA rating everyone thought it was and it nearly defaulted on its sovereign debt. It was the high credit rating that was the primary reason that everyone agreed to the loans in the first place, and the big banks and credit rating companies received huge fees for giving it a high rating. The reason that Mexico went bust, however, was that privatization and deregulation didn't pan out like they thought it would. The Mexican Government had to pay for a program whether it was done by the government or by a corporation. While everyone says that corporations are efficient and governments are not, the truth is that corporations are hugely more expensive than government workers are. And, too, Mexican banks began risky derivative gambling as well. So, in order to save Mexico, the U.S. Government bailed out Mexico with a U.S. Guaranteed loan of $20 Billion in 1994, most of which was funneled back to the investment banks as loan payments. So, Goldman Sachs still got its money.
New Zealand appears to be a different case. It didn't need investment bank loans since it had a surplus and had no outstanding loans when it privatized. It also began deregulating much quicker than the United States did, and New Zealand's newly unregulated banks began taking on the same risky loans that American banks were taking on. Subsequently, New Zealand went into a six-year recession from 1991 through 1998 due to its liberalization of corporate regulations and privatization, and with the following 2008 global recession, it has one of the weakest economies in the world. Its businesses are still unregulated and it is becoming a poorer country as each year passes.
Other countries began to fail in the 1990s too, primarily because they adopted the American Capitalistic model; the laissez-faire privatization and deregulation. Mexico first, then came Russia, Asia, Latin America, Egypt, South Africa, the Ukraine, and others all in a short span of time. In all of those cases, three men led the battle to keep deregulation and privatization going; Alan Greenspan, Robert Rubin and Larry Summers. Rubin was the Secretary of Treasury under President Clinton at the time and Larry Summers was his deputy. These three men were called The Committee to Save the World.” The same committee had to save the United States' economy from a super-large hedge fund collapse in 1998 when the high-flying Long-Term Capital Management hedge fund collapsed. It was heavily invested in derivatives.
Only one person in the Clinton Administration dared to challenge the three saviors, Brooksley Born. Clinton appointed her as the Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman from 1996 to 1999. Until then, Republican Senator Phil Gramm of Texas had prevented any regulation of derivatives by getting a law passed. But, Born saw that the law was limited only to certain derivatives, not to the stuff the banks were creating, so she attempted to regulate them, which would have put a damper on sub-prime lending and securitization of mortgages which, in turn, would have prevented the 2008 recession. But, the big banks and The Committee to Save the World went ballistic. They wouldn't hear of it and they attacked her with anger and ridicule and everything else they could think of. She lost the battle and the war in front of Congress when Republicans led by Senator Phil Gramm joined the three attacking her. Gramm eventually got the Glass-Steagall Act repealed in 1999; the final straw in deregulating the banks. After the meltdown, Brooksley Born testified to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission on April 7, 2010, on Alan Greenspan's policies. She gave him What for,” calling him a “failure.” But, it was much too late and even then Greenspan wouldn't admit his failures. He said he only failed “30% of the time.” It was a huge thirty percent!
To Greenspan, laissez-faire is a religion and he adheres to his cult-like belief to the end. For Rubin and Summers it appears to be a matter of pride of association; they saw themselves as smarter than everyone else simply because they hung around with people like Greenspan and they were connected to some of the most powerful bankers in the world. They had also held very high positions in the banking industry. It was all an old boys club, and they all considered themselves smarter than everyone else. As for the big bankers, they laughed all the way to the bank at Greenspan. While he preached ideology, they took the money.
In 2001 sub-prime mortgages caused a smaller meltdown, named “sub-prime one,” that got the attention of a number of states and cities and their state and city attorneys. By that time, Washington D. C. couldn't do anything about the banks since the Bush Administration had taken over. The only people who cared in Washington were Senator Paul Sarbanes and Sheila Bair, a Treasury under-secretary, and neither of them had enough power to do anything. Cleveland, Ohio attempted to stop predatory lending by outlawing adjustable-rate and balloon payment loans and mandating counseling for borrowers. But, Countrywide, Ameriquest, Citibank, J. P. Morgan and other banks lobbied the Ohio legislature to overrule Cleveland's city council with a weak state law.
A number of other states and cities were also trying to control and stop predatory lending and all passed consumer protection laws. Eliot Spitzer, New York's Attorney General, tried to take on Wall Street directly, but he was spurned at every turn and banks refused to respond to his subpoenas for data, and the government backed the banks, saying that the banks didn't have to answer Spitzer's subpoenas. It was Georgia's consumer protection laws that finally got the Federal Government involved again. But the Government, led by Greenspan, Rubin and Summers protected the banks, not the consumers. Under the Bush Administration, the Office of the Controller of the Currency (OCC) and the Office of the Thrift Commission (OTS) were the primary Bush bank regulators who took up the issue. They came out with regulations that said no state or city had jurisdiction over nationally registered banks, which caused all companies giving mortgages to sub-prime lenders to register as nationally registered banks. This was called the “Preemption” regulation and it allowed banks to do anything they wanted to and states and cities couldn't interfere. They preempted state and local laws to make their money, the laissez-faire banking attack.
Then, maybe one of the screwiest things happened. OCC and OTS began competing for banks to regulate. Banks were actually given a “choice” on which agency they wanted to regulate them. They “advertized for banks.” So, in effect, the OCC and OTS relaxed regulations even more too attract more banks, they became “buddies” with the banks, told Congress about their increased workloads and Congress gave them more money and people to regulate their list of banks. In effect, it doubled the size of the two agencies regulating banks and each were doing the same tasks. Instead of smaller government, the Republicans doubled it.
In 2000, Iceland had one of the highest standard of living in the world. It had one of the most pristine environments and beautiful landscapes. It got 100% of its power from renewable natural geothermal sources. It did not use coal, oil or nuclear power. Its environment was clean and pure. It had zero poverty. In 2001, Iceland began the purest experiment in American Capitalism. It privatized its three banks and deregulated all in one sweep of its banking laws. The banks began loaning money. Construction companies began ripping up the landscape for power oil and coal power plants. Polluting belching factories moved in. And so, by 2008 when the recession hit, the three banks owed over $100 Billion, over 7.5 times Iceland's Gross Domestic Product of $13 Billion and 11 times its government revenue from taxes. There was no way for Iceland to save its people from poverty. Iceland's populace were furious. They refused to bail out its banks and, instead, forced all of those who got it into debt to pay off the debt. By December 2010, Iceland's recession was finally said to be over. It was pulling itself out of the recession. Iceland is going back to its more socialist ways, and like Denmark and Sweden, its standard of living is coming back again. Iceland's banks were not "too big to fail," and I wonder whether that "too big to fail" idea wasn't just one more laissez-faire scam sold to us.
It seems to me that deregulation always seems to result in “meltdowns.” Today we have another type of meltdown; a nuclear power plant in Japan. And, while the power plant is melting down, our Republican House of Representatives are busy passing deregulating laws; such as the one that prevents the Environmental Protection Agency to control “green-house gases.” In fact, the House has passed a number of bills in the past week to prevent the EPA from doing a number of things that protect the environment, including regulating nuclear power plants.
Japan probably has the strictest nuclear power plant regulations on Earth, since it has more experience with the effects of nuclear radiation of any country on Earth. Yet, there is panic all around from the power plant meltdown. It is ironic that the Republican Party's voice, Fox News, and specifically Glenn Beck, are causing more panic than they are soothing people's nerves about the plant meltdown. But, that may be a Republican strategy too; to keep the population in a panic and therefore ignorant of the truth, and their eyes misdirected away from what's going on in Congress. It's just another diversion.
Someone should go to jail for meltdowns.

Friday, March 11, 2011

No Honor at the Top

I've just watched "Inside Job," the Oscar winning documentary on who and what caused the global recession that we're in, and will be in for some time. I'm going to watch it again. It has a powerful message. If I were King for a Day, I would royally decree that everyone above the age of eighteen watch it - and test them on what they learned. Then I would lead a million people, or as many who can cram around Wall Street, Broadway, Nassau St., New St., Exchange Pl. and other New York City streets in that area and shout to high heaven for all of the criminals to come out of their buildings, something along the lines of what Micheal Moore did in his documentary, "Capitalism: A Love Story."  Mr. Moore's documentary also had a powerful message and right along with "Inside Job," it's another one that I'd force everyone to watch. And, if nobody came out of those buildings, as King I would order a swat team to drag them out. That's the problem with being a tyrant, as one with total power is inclined to become, I would likely condemn the innocent right along with the guilty. I'd like to think that there is at least one person in those buildings who is innocent or who "had a feeling" that what they were doing "wasn't right," or perhaps, and this is a stretch, refused to destroy their own company AND the global economy for the sake of their own wealth. I know. I know. The odds are against it.

Here's how much I think everyone should watch those documentaries: If I had the money, I would buy the rights to them and put them on YouTube for everyone to watch free of charge. I know. I know. The odds are against anyone watching the movies.

Here's why they should. Everyone I know... well, maybe not everyone. I know one person who doesn't have a pot, let alone a bank account, but as far as I know everyone else I know has at least a bank account. Most couldn't last a month if they lost their jobs, their paycheck, on the amount of money in their bank account. Some have a savings account. Some have a retirement account, and a few have investment accounts. All of them NEED to watch these movies. They NEED TO KNOW how close they are to losing those accounts. If they knew, maybe they can prevent it. And, the one who doesn't have a pot should watch it because they COULD HAVE a pot - after first extracting the head from the arse. Our cash in "their" bank gives them the capital to make loans.

A good, responsible bank keeps enough cash (capital) on hand (our cash) so it won't go bust if too many people don't pay off their loans. It's called a debt-to-capital ratio. When a good bank makes loans to people with good credit, it is very rare for 5% of the loans default. A bad, irresponsible bank goes broke when the debt-to-capital ratio is way out of whack, when it makes too many loans and it's taking way too much risk, such as Lehman Brothers had when it crashed. It had a 33 to 1 ratio, so if over a measly 3% of loans defaulted, and it did, the bank would run out of cash (our cash) to support itself. Actually, it was much worse than that for Lehman Brothers. It had as much as 20% loan default because it bought loans (Collateralized Debt Obligations) that banks had loaned to people who could not pay them off, subprime mortgages.

So, your (our) cash is used to make loans. When the loans are so bad and risky, all your/our cash can be lost. And, it was. When the banks are simply out of control, even the government may not be able to save your/our cash. In that case, the only people who wind up with the money (our money) are the big bankers. That's why you need to watch these movies. I know. I know. Odds are against it.

Out of all of the young people I know, only two have a chance of having a little bit more than the average person. If I count their mates, confirmed and apparent (assuming that current apparent fiancees makes the grade - I hope they do), that makes four people that I know who will "make it," or said better, who will get a bigger "piece of the pie."  One is a prime candidate for one of those Wall Street, high-flying jobs, but the lifestyle there is dangerous (more later about that). All of the other young people I know are "comfortable" and at the whims of Wall Street; with perhaps some cash in the bank but they have no idea how risky it is there. It could, if they keep sleeping, come falling down on their heads again and again, and like the past few years, they will bitch and moan about the money they lost, and perhaps keep listening to Limbaugh, but have no idea what hit them nor ever learn what happened. At least they won't hear the truth from Limbaugh. And then, while they're "liking" this and that on Facebook, they'll go do the worst thing they could do - they'll vote. Crap!

I know. I know. The odds of everyone wising up, or even waking up, are extremely high. So, what was the message of both documentaries? The unadulterated greed. It was so thick you could taste it. And, it is difficult to believe that a person would destroy their own company, their own country, the United States, and the global economy for their own sake, to get more money than anyone else and to destroy billions of jobs worldwide without the slightest twinge of conscience, but that's what they did. This is not normal behavior. It is psychopathic behavior. Not only that. When the U.S. Government had to bail them out - not to save them, but to save trillions of dollars in ordinary people retirement and savings accounts - they took another trillion dollars from taxpayers without blinking an eye. The average American has no clue how much damage Wall Street did worldwide. And, the guys who did it picked up their suitcases of cash and walked away with it. Not a single one went to jail or had to give any of it back. And the ones who replaced the criminals are doing the same thing again. The derivatives, the investment instruments that Warren Buffet called "weapons of mass destruction," are still being bought and sold without the slightest regulation. Commodities, such as oil, corn, soybeans, pork bellies that set food prices worldwide are still being bought and sold without the slightest regulation. Enormous wealth is still being transferred from the poor to the rich. The gap between haves and have-nots is still getting wider. Sooner or later, there will be a revolt. Someone's going to die just like they are in Libya, except it will happen in the good ole U. S. of A. And, the primary reason that there is not one iota of regulation throttling Wall Street greed is the Republican Party. The GOP doesn't like regulations.

The Republican Party's philosophy, laissez faire, letting things take their own course in regards to markets and business, has become "normal" in our culture. Even economic professors teach it, especially since the 1970s. It's what all of us have been led to believe. Bootstrap living. Can't make it? Pull yourself up, or die, you lazy ass! The fact is that when greed rules, when it dominates the culture over the airwaves and in colleges and universities, someone is going to be left behind whether they're lazy or not and however hard they try to pull themselves up from their bootstraps. The fact is that if greed isn't controlled, governments fail, societies fail and everyone suffers. I have to agree with Studs Terkel. He said, "competition is the wrong idea. Cooperation in society is what we need for all to live a good life," or words to that effect. Laissez faire is the wrong idea. Allen Greenspan was wrong. Ben Bernanke is wrong. Larry Summers is wrong. Tim Geithner is wrong. And, since President Obama is surrounded by the same criminals who caused the meltdown, he is wrong by accepting their advice. The truth is more likely that he faced an ultimatum, follow them or be a one-term president. Washington D. C., including the Presidency, is owned, lock, stock and barrel, by Wall Street regardless of who is president. Still, any Democrat is a thousand times better than the worst Republican. At least a Democrat typically has the working people and general society in mind, even if they can't do anything about it.

Frankly, there is nothing right about laissez faire. The idea that businesses and corporations can do any thing they want and that a buyer, i. e., me, must beware of what we buy because it could be junk, a scam, illegal, a dupe, a fake or otherwise doesn't live up to its claimed use is preposterous. If I put my money in your bank, Mr. Banker, I expect you to use it wisely and to not risk it foolishly and pay me a good interest rate for the use of my money. And, if you are foolish and lose it, then I expect you, not the government, to pay it back, even if that means selling off all of your assets, including the shirt on your back. It's the same with anything else I spend money on. If I buy a $100,000 car, it damn well better give me an erotic massage every day. I had better feel GOOD about it. Otherwise, you don't deserve to be in business. There will always be a need for a consumer to be aware and educated of personal financial risk when buying goods, and to be thrifty with their money and to save always.  But, there should never be a time when corporations and businesses can run roughshod over consumers just because they can.

I guess if you watch the movies, at least you may learn enough to ask your bank a few questions, such as how secure your money is. Perhaps you can find a clue about how your bank does its business and whether your money is at risk more than at other banks. Credit Unions seem to be safer. They are regulated better and are less risky. If you invest, you should at least think about how greedy the executives are who run the companies of the stocks you buy. Perhaps that will give you a clue on what stock to buy, when to buy it and when to sell it.

Here are some questions to ask your bank.
1. What is your debt-to-capital ratio?
2. Do you, your corporate headquarters or a subsidiary you own buy and/or sell Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDOs) or any other derivative?
3. Do you, your corporate headquarters or a subsidiary you own buy Credit Default Swaps?

Here are good answers:  If 2 and/or 3 are "Yes," get the hell out of that bank.

1. The correct answer is: Less than 10 to 1 debt-to-capital ratio. This means that your bank has $1.00 cash on hand for every $10 or less that it loans out, so it is 10% capitalized. It means that your bank can sustain its business (and your money) even if 10 percent or less of its loans default. Over 10% default rate is rare when all borrowers have good credit.

2. The correct answer is: NO. If it does, then more than a 10 percent default is possible and it's likely that the bank's borrowers don't have good credit, and the bank should have an even lower debt-to-capital ratio, say 5 to 1. Otherwise, you're money could be lost if not for the government guarantee, up to $200,000 (may have changed to $100,000).

2. The correct answer is: NO. If it is Yes, then your bank is gambling with no risk loans and likely loans to people who have bad to zilch credit ratings and can't pay the loan off. In fact, your bank may be counting on the person not paying off the loan; it's making more money from the Credit Default Swaps than if the person paid off the loan.

I guess you could ask one more question: Is your bank connected, in any way, with Wall Street trading, whether stocks, options, commodities or derivatives? If it is, then consider moving your money to another bank or credit union, preferably a locally owned one.

All exchanges, including the hidden derivative exchange, fluctuate based on recommendations of Wall Street analysts of one kind or another; stock analysts, commodities, options, credit ratings, derivatives, mortgages, corporate loans, and on and on.  If there's something that can be traded, there is an analyst for it.  Usually, investors buy and sell investments based on analysts' recommendations.  Companies plan their sales, production and services on "meeting" analysts predictions. Derivatives are packaged based on analysts' best ratings. The price of oil, corn, soybeans and pig bellies are determined by how much caffeine an analyst has with his morning dose of cocaine, or how much the guy snorted the night before, or how tired he was after he paid for a $1,000 prostitute. They make a lot of money, live fast, drive the most expensive cars and use cocaine and any handy beautiful woman. They rub elbows with traders and bankers to make deals, sometimes fraudulent deals, and money. They're not interested in investors, customers, their company or the United States or its citizens.

I heard the most honest assessment of Wall Street analysts this morning that I've ever heard. In the midst of the Middle-East oil instability, a wishy-washy jobs report, increased unemployed claims, a Euro evaluation problem, and China's first time ever trade deficit, the news broadcaster said, "Wall Street analysts have no idea how markets will be affected." Well, they have never had any idea how markets will be affected.

See the documentaries, and if you want to know more, read "All the Devils are Here."

I know. I know. Odds are against anyone watching the movies.


Monday, March 7, 2011

News Wrap - March 7, 2011

The noise this morning is Libya and the price of oil.  The suggestion is to take oil from the National Reserves, the oil the United States keeps for "emergencies."  I say again, EMERGENCIES.  That's bullshit.  "Well," they said, "it won't really help the situation in the Middle-East and it won't stop the real reason the price of oil is high.  BUT!" they said, "It will boost the people's confidence."  CONFIDENCE?  CONFIDENCE?  Are you effing kidding me?  I'll tell you what will boost CONFIDENCE.  Stop the commodity speculating on oil prices on the Chicago Board of Trade!  That's what will boost CONFIDENCE.  When speculators can't drive up the price of oil just because they're afraid that the price of oil will go up, that's when the price of oil WILL NOT GO UP.

Food prices was in the news this morning.  High food prices in the Middle-East (and now China too) are the primary cause of the uprisings and revolution, which in turn is prompting Senators McCain and Kerry to talk about military intervention in Libya, and other places.  The price of corn is sky high because thirty percent of the U.S. Corn crop is now being used to make ethanol, which of course is Bush's fuel crop that was supposed to get us off of Middle-East oil.  IT WAS SUPPOSED TO WEAN US OFF OF MIDDLE EAST OIL!  Bullshit.  All it did was cause the cost of corn to sky rocket which in turn made it TOO EXPENSIVE TO BUY FOR FOOD!  And, oh yeah, commodity speculators buying CORN FUTURES drove the price up even HIGHER.

The city of Vallejo, California was in the news today.  It filed for bankruptcy a year or so ago.  Thirty-percent of its police have been laid off and they don't patrol half of the streets anymore.  All of the fire stations in the city have closed.  They call fire fighters from Benicia, Martinez, Fairfield or Hercules, all several miles away.  Usually by the time the fire truck arrives, whatever is burning HAS BURNED DOWN.  They need JOBS, they say, so they want to bring in Target and Walmart and Home Depot, big box stores.  Bullshit.  TARGET, WALMART AND HOME DEPOT are the stores that DESTROYED YOUR CITY, IDIOTS.  It is those stores THAT TOOK ALL OF THE BUSINESS AWAY FROM THE STORES YOU HAD, IDIOTS.  But, I suppose that the big box stores will come in to finish the job, to turn Vallejo into a ghost town.  Just like a drug addict, you have to hit the bottom before you realize your next step is into the grave.  Then too, there are some that never realize when they're at the bottom.

Homeless in San Diego was in the news, along with the twenty-effing year of the so-called WAR ON HOMELESSNESS.  Bullshit.  The only thing happening in San Diego for the homeless is a retired guy who volunteers to hand out water to the homeless.  WATER?  WHAT ABOUT FOOD?  He has no organizational support.  THERE IS NO ORGANIZATIONAL SUPPORT.  THERE IS NO EFFING ANY KIND OF SUPPORT!

Then there are the NEW HOMELESS who have lost their homes BECAUSE WALL STREET BANKERS CHEATED THEM!  Listen and weep.  AND, THERE IS NOT ONE SINGLE EFFING BANKER IN JAIL!  Bullshit.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Those Rascally Teachers!

Proposed Cuts Strike Teachers as Attacks on Their Value to Society -

No Child Left Behind! He stumped,
And we hired more teachers on the cheap.
And we passed laws to reduce class size,
so they could better teach our brats and creeps.
Oops! Bankers took all the money,
Like rats they scurried out of sight,
"Don't blame us!" bankers pleaded,
As they duped us in the dark night.
"We are only lowly bankers,"
"The real culprits are the unions!"
Like sheep we ganged up on the teachers,
because they wanted a decent living,
but reason flipped on its head,
sees villains where good is instead.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Monsanto - Playing God

A story came up this morning that piqued my interest; Monsanto's Genetically Modified (GM) crops, specifically GM Alfalfa. Monsanto is a St. Louis, MO, based agri-corporation that sells seeds, fertilizer, livestock drugs and anything else related to farming to farmers for crops and livestock. I sat up fully alert. Alfalfa. A chill went down my spine and a shadow crossed over my heart, the hairs stood up on the back of my neck. It was as if I had seen ghosts, the ghosts of mankind. And, included among the ghosts, right along with me, were the ghosts of all of those sitting around waiting for Jesus and not doing much else. I might say that they appear to be sitting around watching Charlie Sheen embarrass himself or the latest craze on American Idol and not paying any attention at all to what's happening in the world around them. So, why did a short sound-bite length story about genetically modified alfalfa provoke such a reaction? Here's the rest of the story.

Right along with its misleading marketing hype to sell its seeds, Monsanto tracks all farmers using its seeds with the attitude of an overlord, a dictator. It is ruthless with its customers, and once a customer it is very difficult for a farmer to escape Monsanto's strangle hold. It has been known for some time that Monsanto uses very imperious methods to make sure farmers buy its seeds every year, even to the point of suing farmers for saving seeds from a crop for future planting. Monsanto says it has a patent and trademark, a legal claim, on the "design" of those seeds (and any seed grown from its modified mother or father seed) and therefore a farmer cannot save seeds from a genetically modified crop for the next year's planting. The seeds are not the farmer's seeds, Monsanto claims. Monsanto owns those seeds. Well, I've heard that Monsanto has recently solved the problem of having to sue a farmer and pay all of those lawyers; they have created a "self-destruct" seed, a "Terminator" seed. A Terminator seed is one that can be planted only once and any seed grown from the original seed self-destructs. So, for example, the corn kernels from an ear of corn produced from a self-destruct seed will not grow if planted again. That is an astonishing achievement, to modify a gene so that whatever it produces will not reproduce no matter how hard Honey Bees work to pollinate the crop.

Okay, maybe I've lost you. Maybe you don't yet see how dangerous this is. "So what?" you might ask, "we're feeding the world." Want to bet? The truth is that this is a path to starvation and the self-destruction of the human race and anything else that lives from eating food crops. And, we've taken this path for one reason: to satisfy the greed of companies like Monsanto. Before I explain the implications, I need to sidetrack to a commonly held belief. Humans, as a whole, believe that they are immune to environmental pollution and evolutionary changes in the things they eat. Humans believe that toxins, insecticides and antibiotics that we put into the environment only affect frogs, birds and fish. Not so. The fact is, just like frogs who suddenly appear with seven legs, what we eat, breath and wash with effects our chemical and genetic makeup so that we produce defective offspring. "Defective" is a harsh word, but it's accurate.

A genetically modified self-destruct seed breaks the cycle of life; it cannot reproduce itself. The cycle for a plant is: A plant grows and produces pollen; a Honey Bee or butterfly collects the pollen, flies to another plant of the same genus, exchanges the pollen of the first plant with the pollen of the second plant thereby impregnating (it has sex) the second plant, the seeds drop to the ground, germinates in Mother Earth's womb, and a new plant grows with the same genes as its two parent plants. Whoala! We get a new plant and food. Not true with a self-destruct seed. A pollinated seed from a self-destruct plant may fall to the ground, but nothing grows. It is immediately extinct. The only way to grow the crop again is to buy new seeds from Monsanto.

We also know that when a GM plant grows next to a non-GM plant, the non-GM plant can easily be pollinated with the pollen from the GM plant. A Honey Bee doesn't know the difference, and doesn't care. It goes about its business in complete innocence. The offspring's genes, taking the genes from its two parents, will be modified with the GM genes. The plant becomes extinct in the next cycle. It's like a virus that spreads, one bad apple that rots the entire barrel of apples. Whoosh, it's gone from the Earth in the blink of an eye. Monsanto has created yet more demand for its seed in an exponential upward spiral of demand. We either use Monsanto's seeds, or we starve.

So, what does Monsanto do when it "GMs" a seed? It forces the plant to create new insecticides to fight off insects. It forces the plant to create antibiotic serums to fight off naturally occurring bacteria. It forces the plant to create toxic poisons to fight off other pests, such as rats, rabbits and other natural enemy animals of the plant. And now, it forces the plant to kill itself. So, right along with all of the antibiotic medicine that you drink in milk every day, because we now overdose milk cows with tons of antibiotics that Monsanto's Devil labs concoct to make a larger profit, you're also getting a dose from food crops. You also eat the insecticides and the toxic poisons that plants generate. Cooking the plant doesn't remove those chemicals. In fact, cooking may make an entirely different chemical solution that is even worse for you.

What do we get? Perhaps autistic or physically deformed children, mentally handicapped children, mentally "challenged" children. I've been particularly interested in news and studies of these and other deformities over a number of years. I've also read of super-bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics because we take too much antibiotics. Then there is the epidemic of allergies. An allergy is caused by a hypersensitive immune system to a plant, bug bite or some other stimuli. Or, our epidemic obesity problem. Everyone is getting fat in spite of the things we blame and do. In fact, we may be prescribing what we think is a good diet to combat our national obesity problem without realizing that the genetically designed food we prescribe is causing the obesity! It would be shocking to learn that.

Several years ago, I read a neurological study on homosexuality. I used to believe that homosexuality was a choice, but I could never convince myself that any reasonable person would make that choice, especially in the face of so much social opposition. I've also read the usual tripe put out by organizations such as The Family Research Center and people like Tony Perkins and James Dobson, both of whom put out fake and misleading studies on homosexuality and proclaim to high Heaven that there is a "cure." That doesn't appear to be true, at least not yet. Out of all of the material that I've read, it is the neurological study that makes the most sense to me and it all came down to one question: Why is a person attracted to the same sex?

A few months ago I watched a 60-Minute episode, or was it a Diane Sawyer special, that talked about babies with deformed genitals, and who required corrective surgery to be able to reproduce. If my memory serves me, some of these babies were so deformed that the sex of the child could not be determined, and corrective surgery was "guessing." Then there is also hairspray used by women that has been linked to genital deformities in boys. It goes on and on.

It appears to be the same with homosexuality. According to the neurological study, published in Newsweek Magazine a few years ago, similar deformities occur in the chemical solution that occurs at birth. I visualize the chemical mix as sort of a witches' brew in a cauldron, a stew of chemicals being stirred to create a human being. And, the chemicals continue to be added and stirred even after the sexual identity can be seen with an ultrasound and for a few months after birth. A cup of pheromones here, a half-cup of hormones there and a dose of testosterones, along with a few other powerful chemicals makes the baby boy or girl. It takes just one slight mistake to make something else entirely different. The result is a mind and chemical makeup that tells the child that they are not what they appear, that they are the opposite sex of their physical appearance. They are attracted to their own sex.

I guess a person can continue to follow the likes of Tony Perkins and James Dobson and proclaim from the hills that it is God's punishment, but I personally think that if God is punishing anyone, it is all of us who have allowed it to happen. After you take away all of the religious arguments, it still comes down to a group in the population that cannot sustain itself; it cannot reproduce itself. That's the final, objective word. What we really have is an innocent child who becomes an adult who is then hated by most of society through no fault of their own. We have another leper we can ridicule and cast out.

Of course I don't know that Monsanto can be directly linked to any human deformity, but it seems very likely to me. It is ironic that, while out of one side of our mouth we condemn the causes of deformed life, and out of the other side we promote conditions in which companies like Monsanto not only survives, but exceeds beyond reason. Oh well, an alternative is waiting on Godot. Let's do that.

So, what's all this have to do with GM alfalfa? When I was a kid, we planted alfalfa and a few months later we were mowing, raking and bailing it. Usually, within another month or so, we did it again. The hay would usually get thicker as time went on, because the bees would be pollinating the plants that in turn grew more hay. A hay field would go on and on for three or four years, growing and regrowing while we mowed, raked and bailed it. A self-perpetuating crop. We fed a lot of cattle. I guess Monsanto's hay won't reproduce anymore. Maybe it won't regenerate itself longer than one year. It and the cattle that eat it become more expensive. Perhaps the cattle that eat it won't be quite as healthy. Perhaps the people who eat the cattle or drink the milk won't be so healthy, and in fact may be disabled or challenged. And, when the modified genes are spread everywhere, perhaps alfalfa itself will become extinct. That will rise up the food chain to humans who eat the cattle that eat the hay.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A True Story

This story is true, or at least as much as I know and heard of it.  The moral of the story is about how much we really know and how much we accept as truth.  It's about a woman who developed breast cancer in the 1980s, and her courage and her despair facing that disease.  I, like most, went along with the standard practice and belief at the time.  In a sort of detached way, not really knowing the full implications of the disease or the treatment but knowing only what I heard, that it was a killer and that it could be treated if caught early enough.  A mastectomy was a cure, in most cases, if the disease hadn't spread.  I believe it still is the prescribed treatment along with chemotherapy.  And so in that manner her treatment began and progressed.

It was only a few months ago that I entered a debate with the owner of a trucking company on the benefits of the healthcare reform, among other things, that was then being debated in Congress.  He was against it, "too expensive," he said. During the course of the debate, I claimed that people died from lack of healthcare.  He laughed at that, "lol," he typed, "Name one person," he challenged, "that has died from lack of healthcare insurance."  If I had had my wits about me and a better memory and a quicker mind, I could have told him her name, and named a number of witnesses to boot.  "Take that you son of a bitch!" I could have said.  But, I didn't.  My short memory and narrow purpose of mind stood in the way.

One day a few hours after a chemotherapy treatment, and violently ill from the treatment, she came out of her house to me and pleaded, "I can't take this."  Dumbfounded, and ignorant, I tried to console her and I utterly failed and for several hours I fretted over what to do.  Was there no other way?  She was so miserable.  I was so happy to see her minister stop by.  He said the right words, "You HAVE to do the treatment.  We are counting on your courage.  Your family is counting on your courage.  You can't give up."  He was right, of course.  She continued the treatment which appeared to be successful.  The surgeons who performed the mastectomy "thought they got it all."

I don't recall how she paid for the treatments or the surgery.  Perhaps her health insurance paid for it, but later events hint that perhaps they didn't.  I should have asked, but like most, I didn't.  I simply assumed that it did. But, the cancer returned.  They had not gotten it all and it spread to lymph nodes and bones, or so I was told.  But this time I was told that she had no way to pay for treatments.  Her insurance wouldn't pay for it.  I don't know nor was I told, that I remember, why her insurance wouldn't pay.  Was it a denial of care that we've heard so much about since those days?  Was it a "precondition" that is now the basis of refusal to provide care?  And, again, I accepted that fate without question.  What could one do?  It's a flip of the coin, those who can afford it get it, others don't.  We are dealt our hand of cards and it is those that we must play.  I recall being angry at the circumstance, but I wasn't angry at the "system," the insurance company or the government.  Nor was I angry at the culture that had developed over the years that told us to accept the "common beliefs" that insurance companies are right, that profit is right, that a system that prefers corporate profit over human needs is right.  I believed in actuarial tables that determine who is insured and for what and how much it costs, not human need, and with the healthcare data collected over the years, some diseases are simply too expensive for insurance companies.  Instead, I was angry at fate, at chance, and the bad luck that she encountered.  I was angry at the things I had no control over.  It didn't dawn on me to be angry at anything else.

By the time I saw her again, she was emaciated, skin and bones.  How ridiculous were other things that we've come to accept and that I heard during that visit.  For example, one person wanted to "go to the store" for her, to buy her "low-calorie" food.  I was outraged.  For the love of God, the last thing she needed was a diet.  She need fat on her bones!  Fat to supply the energy she needed to stave off the disease she had for as long as possible.  But, it was just another sign of how much our society has adapted to the propaganda we so readily accept.  It wasn't that, however, that gave me a clue as to how barbaric we've become, at how barbaric our choices are when we choose the "system" over humanity.

It turned out that the only way she could get treatment, and an extremely remote chance for a cure and survival was to join a "test" group, a study of a new cancer treatment a drug company wanted to market.  I believe it was Johnson & Johnson who was conducting the drug trials.  And, according to normal practices, one-half of the study group would take the new drug and the other half would take a placebo.  Nobody knew the identity of anyone in either group, so we didn't know whether she was taking a placebo or the drug.  But, it was free, so she flipped a coin, the results of which she was not told.  But, she secretly, and quietly, knew as her treatments began.

The half that took the placebo is called the "control" group.  The common propaganda is, of course, that the control group is compared to the group who receives the drug and thereby shows how effective the new drug is.  But, if one thinks about that, and the fact that the control group will die, it is really a barbaric test.  The researchers are fully aware that the placebo group will die, and they watch them die while the test proceeds.  They watch them die without the slightest thought, or twinge of conscience, of their dying.  How has it come to a point where we believe that half of a group of people must die in order to see how the other half are able to cope with a new product?  Couldn't the control group have been given an older and known cancer drug and provided just as much of a controlled comparison and knowledge that a placebo did?  It seems to me that an older and known drug would have provided more of a control in the results of the study.  How can a placebo be a better known substance than an older and known quantity?  Except in this case it is known that death will occur.

I heard comments from various people while she underwent the test treatments, never said in her presence.  "She's not getting the drug," they said.  They knew.  She wasn't sick enough after the treatments.  Had she been getting the drug, a strong chemotherapy drug, she would have been physically ill.  Her cancer was progressing, and soon it was beyond cure.  Pain medicine became her primary thought.

If there is any doubt that our inhumane culture is in need of being flipped on its head, then the message wasn't received.  Hey!  Republicans!  Message received?


PG&E: A Letter to the Gods

Senator Diane Feinstein
331 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D. C. 20510

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

Congresswoman Barbara Lee
2267 Rayburn HOB
Washington, D. C. 20515

February 28, 2011

Honorable Senators Feinstein and Boxer and Congresswoman Lee:

I'm writing to bring your attention to what I believe is an egregious injustice perpetrated against the citizens of California, by California's Public Utility Commission, and specifically against the customers of Pacific Gas & Electric's (PG&E) through its gross neglect. I'm going to use the word “egregious” a lot in this letter. It seems to me that holding people responsible for their egregious gross negligence is once more slipping through the cracks or conveniently overlooked. PG&E's story of neglect began a long time ago when it turned its eyes away from keeping an accurate inventory of its gas lines, maintaining those gas lines and knowing whether those gas lines are welded or one-piece pipes. There is, of course, no telling what else it failed to keep track of. It clearly is not focusing on its primary business. Its eyes are elsewhere, such as dubious political campaigns and voter propositions. And, of course, there is the slap to the face of California citizens when PG&E's CEO and executives take enormous salaries, bonuses and stock options while they neglect their responsibilities.

I am also not going to quibble over specific dates, or number of deaths, or the number of homes that have been destroyed, or the number of times the Public Utility Commission has allowed PG&E to raise its rates, as PG&E claimed, “to maintain its gas lines.” Five million dollars here, ten million there, all to maintain gas lines that it clearly did not do. I'm not going to do the research to find the supporting data. We all know it happened.

Even though the story began long ago, I'm going to pick up the story from last year's 2010 special ballot and election in California. I believe it was in June 2010. In that special ballot, the voters of California were presented with the proposition that, if voter approved, would prevent local communities from obtaining an alternative source of power, other than PG&E, unless communities held their own special election and achieved approval of two-thirds of its voters, a super majority. The ads were blatant lies and deception, essentially saying, “don't let your local government fool you... require two-thirds approval for selecting...” a power company that competes with PG&E. It was all hogwash painted with whitewash. The truth was that a two-thirds vote is not Democracy or democratic. It's was a farce. But, the negligence was that PG&E spent between $40 and $45 million on the farcical campaign while the money it spent on the campaign could have been used to: 1) reduce rates to its customers, or 2) to maintain its gas lines and keep an accurate inventory, or 3) both without raising rates one cent. It turned out that not doing item #2 cost lives.

One thing to note, here. The proposition was not approved by the voters. Do I need to point out that those voters are, in fact, PG&E customers? We can, therefore, deduce that PG&E spent its customers' money on things that its customers did not approve of. We in fact paid for a political campaign that we did not approve of. It seems to me that that is misrepresentation and, perhaps, fraud. It seems to me that that action is suitable cause for a class action law suit. It also seems to me that the Public Utility Commission is grossly negligent in allowing PG&E to fund such a campaign while it is approving rate increases that are intended for specific purposes, such as gas line maintenance.

Everyone also knows what happened only a few months after the special election; a gas line running through San Bruno leaked and exploded. It killed a number of people. It destroyed around fifty homes. It cost the state of California, insurance companies, the county and the city of San Bruno untold, but countable, amounts of money responding to the disaster. It cost human pain that cannot be counted, unless we use some arbitrary statistical amount concocted by PG&E or an insurance company. The investigation into the explosion by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is ongoing. In fact, a quick look at NTSB's investigations into pipe line explosions and leaks shows an astonishing number of them across the nation. Has every Gas and Electric company gone the way of PG&E, neglecting its primary mission for politics?

The situation at PG&E and the PUC stinks to high heaven of fraud, collusion and corruption. PG&E is a chartered corporation, and I presume its charter explains, in much detail, the primary purpose of its business. I also presume that its primary business is not politics or pushing propositions on voters or lying about the ulterior motive of the propositions or about eliminating its competition by deceiving California voters. PG&E is, after all and however much it denies it or wishes it wasn't so, a public utility company. Funding a political campaign is, therefore, a huge conflict of interest.

The situation deserves a complete investigation into PG&E's business practices and the PUCs' members' dealings with PG&E. I would suggest a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigation into both PG&E and the PUC. I don't think the NTSB is the only one who should be investigating PG&E.



Governor of California