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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Get your gasoline NOW

Is it a big deal?

Maybe not, but I can tell you, if you need gasoline and want to save money on it today, you should go get it right now.

This morning, gasoline was $2.35/gallon here in Independence.

Last night, in the overnight markets, oil went up $3.00 per barrel. From what the news said, this is an 8-month high. Apparently Nigerian refineries were attacked yesterday or some such, at minimum.

Usually always, when there is an international jump in the price like this, the price you and I pay at the pump goes up immediately, as you may know, even though this same gasoline was bought and paid for long before these markets, of course.

So expect the price to jump shortly, if not today. (I'm betting on today).

Besides, it's Summer now.

And it's the holiday, 4th of July weekend.

A guy's gotta make a buck, right?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

What should have happened

I read in The New York Times today that now, even "good guys" (their term) like the AARP are ending contributions to their 401(k)'s, in an effort to cut costs.

This drives me crazy.

Years ago, there used to be pensions because, as we all know, people age and need something to retire on in their later, aged years.

Pretty complicated huh? (read sarcasm)

It was only fair and intelligent, for pity's sake.

We work at jobs for decades and, in return, it just made sense that responsible companies would put a bit of money aside--yes, from profits--for each employee so two things would develop.

First, the good employee would be rewarded for good work and encouraged to stay with the company. (We used to reward lonevity at firms).

Secondly, at the end of those decades of work, the associate would have money to take care of themselves in their old age.

But that was thousands of years ago, it seems.

Companies decided long ago that those pesky, "expensive" pensions were costs that had to be cut so they were, bit by bit, done away with.

That was bad enough.

At the time, the Federal Government should have stepped in, I believe, and required companies to maintain the pensions. It was good, too, for the country, so people had these saved nest eggs and could live on them in later life.

But naturally not.

Fortunately, someone came up with a 2nd-best idea and that was to start these 401(k)'s. The companies would get a tax deduction and the employee could contribute to them and voila'! While not as good for the employee as the pension, since half of it was usually paid for by the employee, at least there would be, again, something for that same employee to retire on.

But again, the ugly, voracious, self-eating "free markets" and capitalism come along, seeing a pot of money, one that it also views as an "unnecessary cost" and does away with it.

So now, in 2009 America, the worker--the old "salt of the Earth" we used to celebrate--is totally and completely, with the exception of the pittance of Social Security, alone and on his/her own. And that's assuming Social Security will survive, which most people assume it won't.

If you are one of the lucky few who have been able to keep a job, through good times and bad, and also been prescient and disciplined enough and able to save all your working career, you're okay.

Maybe.

Probably.

Possibly

If you stay lucky.

If, on the other hand, you've ever been let go from a job or had some expensive health care or other problem or just plainly weren't lucky and thrifty and extremely disciplined, all--you're screwed.

Too many Americans, frankly, down through the decades, have fallen into this last group, especially given the current financial crisis striking the US.

And that's why the US Federal Government should have held up expectations of its corporations, so we could further strengthened the entire society and for the long term.

Instead, all that corporate money just fattens the wallets of a select few lucky, conniving, shrewd, manipulative corporate titans who end up with hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars. All the while the middle class shrinks and people start doing without important basics like health care, insurance, food, in some cases, and more.

I'm sure some free market capitalist, Republican, conservative, right-winger would defend this barbaric, unbalanced, unfair, inadequate and, really, broken system.

I sure can't.

Link to story: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/27/your-money/401ks-and-similar-plans/27money.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=Et+tu%2C+AARP%3F&st=nyt

Friday, June 26, 2009

Are we nearly numb to murders?

I got a copy of The Kansas City Star yesterday and read with near-disbelief from the "Public Safety" column of one 17-year-old man who was charged with a shooting death this past Sunday of another young man. Then, additionally, police are looking, for the person who shot and killed another young man of 22 years age "about 12:15 am Wednesday."

Added to that, online, I read a local blogger (Tony's KC Blog) with this headline: "3-year-old Shot, Killed and Found in Front Yard in KCK Quadruple Homicide."

It seems someone killed 3 adults and a child this past Monday in Kansas City, Kansas.

I'm struck by two things in these 3 articles: First, the columns brevity each time, even though they're homicides and second, the cavalier tone of the writing in all of them.

It seems the entire metropolitan area of Kansas City is extremely relaxed and accepting of homicides when it involves people of color.

It sure was shocking to me, the deaths themselves, the coverage of them and the city's reaction to them.

I guess this is who and what we've become?


Links to stories:
http://www.kansascity.com/115/story/1276063.html
http://www.tonyskansascity.com/2009/06/3-year-old-shot-killed-and-found-in.html
http://www.kmbc.com/news/19842729/detail.html
http://www.kansascitykansan.com/news/x135724968/Monday-murder-victims-identified

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Four insanities, to me, anyway

The reason I started this blog was because, during the George W. Bush administration, there were such crazy, insane things being proposed and even, too frequently, passed into law that I couldn't take it. This blog was a catharsis for me, to state what was wrong.

So today, in that vein, I'd like to point out four more things, going on now, that I believe strongly have no basis in logic or intelligence.

1) There is a woman in the Bush administration--Nancy de Parle--who heads up President Obama's health care inititative to change our system who made $2.3 million in the last year or so, from those same health care corporations.

This is insane.

That woman--any person--who is from the health care industry should not be in charge of changing the system.

She will not, in fact, change it. Not enough, anyway. Not the way we need. Not to benefit us, the users of health care in the United States. She's too invested in its maintenance.

2) Quote from The New York Times today: "The Supreme Court ruled Monday that the Clean Water Act does not prevent the Army Corps of Engineers from allowing mining waste to be dumped into rivers, streams and other waters."

Insanity.

This is so insane it makes me angry. I have to not think about this, it makes me so angry.

People will regret that corporations were allowed to do this--to dump mining waste into rivers, streams and other waters. It will be regretted and sooner, not later.

3) The Obama Administration is continuing to imprison people at Guantanamo Bay without charging them with any crimes, with no evidence of any wrong-doing and, on top of both those things, indefinitely.

As The Times says today--Bob Herbert, to be specific--this is not who we ever were. It's not who we should be.

4) Finally, Citigroup, which has done so horribly, business-wise, in the last year to two years (so much so that comic, satirist Bill Maher calls it "ShittyGroup") that it had to accept billions of dollars in tax money from you and me through the Federal Government is now planning to increase its pay to its employees--some by as much as 50%--because it can't hand out juicy bonuses (in your and my tax moneys) to those same employees.

So Citigroup has been a horribly-run business, it wanted to hand out bonuses, it can't so it's going to do an end-around and just hand out pay raises instead.


I would like less insanity in the world. All our worlds.

Links to related stories:
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/politics/wire/sns-ap-us-health-czar-boards,1,5907802.story
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/23/us/23alaska.html?scp=1&sq=&st=nyt
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/23/opinion/23herbert.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=&st=nyt
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/24/business/24citigroup.html?scp=1&sq=Citigroup%20has%20a%20plan%20to%20fatten%20salaries&st=cse

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I wonder how long this is going to take

From Summer June 09

Apparently, over the weekend, a water main blew on Southwest Trafficway at 39th Terrace, between 39th Street and Westport Road. For those of us who travel this, we know it all too well.

They were busy shutting off the water when it happened but check out this picture Monday evening and now, again, Tuesday evening.

Plate over hole?

Check.

Barricades?

Check.

Warning cones?

Check.

Big electric sign to get people over, to one last open lane?

Check.

City crews working on it so the street gets open quickly since it's a major thoroughfare?

Oh, heck no.

So as one writer on Tony's KC blog wrote today, "we have cool sports stadiums for losers, a train station but no trains, a war memorial that loses millions and a hip new downtown entertainment district that will probably last another year or two. Who cares about streets, bridges and sewers? The real estate crowd need to unload some more downtown lofts before KC files bankruptcy."

I'd add that we also have a City Council and Mayor who want to hand over 20.5 million dollars to a developer--on the front-end of the project--to develop a 30-acre eyesore in the worst real estate market in 70 years, since the Great Depression, when we don't need more commercial or retail sites, but we don't have good streets or sewers and other infrastructure.

But I digress.

The question is, how long 'til this little mess is cleaned up on the Trafficway?

Don't hold your breath.

20,500,000 dollars we don't have

Here's another outrageous situation, straight from the halls of city government in Kansas City, Missouri. Another conversation I can't believe we have to have at all.

Our Mayor and some on the City Council want to give--up front--$20.5 million dollars to one developer (the Block Company) in hopes they will develop 30 acres of land on 63rd Street, the becoming-infamous "Citadel Project."

Think about this.

If someone you knew came up to your door and said they would fix your roof for $8,000.00 and would do a bang-up job and you both agreed to it but then they threw in the caveat that you had to give them all the money up front, would you do it?

And the answer, of course, is "Hell, no!"

Right. Exactly.

So here we have this sweetheart deal to give 20 and one half million dollars to this developer in hopes they'll fix up this dysfunctional eyesore.

That's all crazy enough but then it's also not been competitively bid.

I would have thought that non-competed boondoggles would have gone out with "W", Dick Cheney and that whole administration.

This is insane, people, and no way to run a government or a city.

Put all that lunacy on top of the fact that this is the worst real estate market in the last 70 years that has left loads of commercial and retail space open all over the area and it goes to further prove this is exactly the wrong, bone-headed, giveaway deal at the worst possible time since the Great Depression, no exaggeration.

And then there's the fact that Kansas City doesn't even have 20 and one-half million dollars to hand out for this project, anyway. (Banging head against wall).

And the people of Kansas City aren't raising hell.

Monday, June 22, 2009

And now for something completely different

I was listening, as I do every morning, to KCUR 89.3 FM radio, they were speaking with the EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson about the area.

Frank Morris was talking to her specifically about Brush Creek and how raw sewage goes right into it.

What?

Are we a Third-World country or what?

Why is there raw sewage in Brush Creek in Kansas City, Missouri--the middle of the city--in 2009?

How was this ever started?

When was it begun?

Why hasn't this been discontinued since the Clean Waters Act of 1970, 1971 or after the amendments of 1977?

Why do we have raw sewage in the middle of this city still, to this date? It makes no sense. It's irresponsible. It's inexcusable. It's unhealthy, for goodness sake.

Let's do try to get some Federal "green" money, to get this situation taken care of.

Besides having a place that's one we can be proud of, it's the right, decent and clean thing for us to do. It's good for us and for freshwater plants and animals, too.

I can hardly believe we have to have this conversation.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Obscene and grossly unfair

Blind justice?

Fuhgeddaboudit.

No, no, anyone who thinks justice is blind need only read the Kansas City Star newspaper this morning. It begins on page A4 under the headline "Prisoner's Release Spurs Ire of Family."

As well it should.

I wrote about this earlier, when it originally happened.

It seems a young 21 year old Curtis Mertensmeyer of MISSION HILLS, KANSAS (keep that address in mind) is to be released now, after having KILLED Daniel Reimann, 25, "as he was crossing Ward Parkway on foot near 55th Street."

Curtis killed another man while drunk driving, late at night near his home in one of the absolutely wealthiest neighborhoods in town. For this he, Mertensmeyer, served a whopping 120 days in jail.

Can you say "slap on the wrist?"

Check the stats:

"The victim's body was found 139 feet from the impact, his severed leg another 200 feet beyond that."

Nice, huh?

But wait, as they say, there's more--much more:

It seems this wealthy Mertensmeyer is a graduate of--where else?--Pembroke Hill and a student of Tulane University. Mertensmeyer "admitted drinking that night, speeding when the accident occurred and then fleeing the scene."

But besides the rich kid and his family getting justice at the expense of the poor schmuck, what really has to get you about this ruling by the judge--one Jackson County Circuit Court Judge John Torrance--is that he and the court ended up BLAMING THE VICTIM for getting struck by the other drunk driver and killed.

Check it out. The judge says "It is clear that the extreme intoxication of the victim was a significant contributing factor to his being struck by the defendant's vehicle."

That is beautiful.

So it's the victim's fault FOR GETTING STRUCK BY A CAR, DRIVEN BY A DRUNK DRIVER.

Wow.

I just thought the judge might admit the truth, and that is that the wealthy family and their position in society and their wealth is getting him off the hook but no. I should have known better than that.

In fact, the judge indignantly insists "that the defendant's ZIP code and family wealth played no role in his" (the judge's)"decision."

Yeah, right.

And pigs fly.

Listen to the state of Daniel Reimann's--the "guilty victim's"--body: "...head trauma, both femurs and pelvis broken, aorta cut, spinal cord severed, lacerated spleen and liver."

And let's not forget that amputated leg.

You wouldn't think it could get any worse, would you? But, oh yeah, it does. This all happened on Mother's Day.

And then there's the fact that Mertensmeyer was driving his Mommy's 2003 Saab (cheap car, you knew that, right?), he LEFT THE SCENE OF THE ACCIDENT and "Five days would pass before Mertensmeyer surrendered to authorities."

Sounds innocent, doesn't he?

So young Daniel Reimann was in the wrong neighborhood--in this case, an extremely rich one, and you know how THEY are--got hit by a car and it's his fault.

My God, Judge Torrance, that is magnificent.

Actually, though, it shouldn't surprise me at all. It's a slight twist on an old, old story. To wit, if you're poor--or in this case, just not as wealthy--it's your fault.

There are so many things stunningly obscene, grossly unfair, unjust and ugly about this, it's hard to name them all.

Foremost in mind right this moment is how Curtis Mertensmeyer, his Father, his Mother and one Jackson County Circuit Court Judge John Torrance can live with themselves.

I, for one, will be sure to remember Judge John Torrance's name, come election time.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What we need to get rid of

Face it, folks, the United States is broke.

We don't have enough money.

States are broke, the Federal Government is broke, counties, everyone, everywhere.

Broke.

No money.

So, because of this, it seems true that we must change the way we have functioned up to this point, since what we've done up to now has gotten us financially bankrupt. If you do the same things, over and over, but get the same results, it's the defintion of insanity.

Now that we are broke and realize and accept that, it seems things should evolve.

What I'm proposing today is things we should change. In fact, what I'm proposing is things we need to get rid of.

We need to do away with the following:

1) The Coast Guard. As Jon Stewart said on his "Daily Show" a few nights ago, we have a navy so why do we need another, 2nd water-based, boat- and ship-running police?

2) NATO. NATO is 60 years old. It was formed during World War II, for pity's sake. It was a response to countries and structures that no longer exist. We should not any longer support the function of an organization that existed in a completely different time and under absolutely different situations that don't, in fact, exist any longer;

3) Camp Pendelton, California. Someone tell me why we should have this old marine base on the beaches of Southern California any longer. We shouldn't. We need to do away with it, sell the land--in an "up" real estate market, of course--and take the profit. I'm not saying we exist for profit as a nation but it would be a far better and more appropriate use of all that beachfront and it simply makes sense;

4) Our hate, suspicious and animosity for and to the former Soviet Union. This really makes no sense any longer. They're in need of help and it's help we could give them. The flip side? We need them, too. We could and should be partners in helping one another. We both have things the other needs. We should be working together, now and as soon as possible;

5) The missile degense system we're trying to put in Poland, ostensibly, it would seem, against the former Soviet Union. This is another thing that makes absolutely no sense. We're broke and really can't afford this, for one. Th esystem we are trying to build is obscenely expensive and, to date, doesn't work. Secondly, we are no lnoger "the West" or the US vs. the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union no longer exists. Instead of saber-rattling, why don't we look for ways to work together instead? That makes sense. Saber-rattling doesn't.

There's more. There's a lot more.

I'll post more, in time to come.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Some good news--and a warning

Word is out today, in The New York Times, that a large semiconductor company in Taiwan, China--Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing--is exploring the possibility of switching--gradually, I'm sure--from making semiconductors to solar cells.

It makes some sense, it would seem.

The semiconductor market is older and more of a "mature" market, whereas solar cells would be a much newer, possible growth market they could grow into.

If successful, it would certainly help the company but China and Taiwan, too, of course.

Frankly, it could help us all, worldwide, to get lower costs for these cells so we could have far cleaner energy--almost completely clean energy, once the cells are created.

Think of it.

No burning coal. No carbon dioxide and dirt from that burning.

Once we can reduce the cost of photovoltaic cells to create energy, we could realistically at least shrink the power companies, if not, one day, do away with them.

That could free up people and economies all over the world.

So it's good news, really, but it's also a bit of a "shot across the bow" for the United States and US manufacturing.

We'd better get busy.

Link to story:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/13/business/energy-environment/13chip.html?_r=1&th=&adxnnl=1&emc=th&adxnnlx=1244934234-1WcPF2mUpImvmO9ps2Q+nA

Frustrating fights on several fronts--for all of us

More than anything else, it really frustrates me to hear working class people--people of not a great deal of money or "means", the middle and lower classes, if you will--rail against a new, government-sponsored single-payer health care system or other things we need.

Our health care system is broken, much as our financial system is, and needs fixing. The President is trying to bring solutions to the country.

Instead of fighting him and these programs, all of us in those middle and lower classes should be working with him, together, to bring about these fixes.

Keep in mind, we have to be unified and fight together with this White House and President on several fronts:

1) We have to push and fight back right now against the very wealthy, entrenched and powerful banking lobby which has virtually always gotten its way in Washington and which has been described as owning Congress, at least, if not Washington;
2) We have to fight the institutional investment firms;
3) We have to beat the hedge fund companies and their trillions of dollars;
4) We have to fight back against several fronts in this health care fight to fix our system:
a) We have to fight the doctors and their lobbies
b) We have to push back against “Big Pharm”, the drug and pharmaceutical companies
c) We have to win out against the hospital companies
d) We have to beat back the health insurance companies and their lobbies
5) We have to fight the oil companies and their ability to speculate on their products, raise the price of their products and cripple our household and national economies;
6) We need to fight the coal industry and its dirty mining and coal burning processes so we can clean up our air and reduce carbon and greenhouse gas emissions

So we have all this to do. It’s a big list and they are going to be long, tough, ugly fights, folks.

We have to hang together or we’re all hang.

And the President isn’t doing this because it’s fun or because he’s a “Socialist”, no matter what people like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly or others say.

He’s doing it because it’s good for the country—it’s good for you and me—and it’s the right thing to do.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Hear that, Bill O'Reilly? Rush? Mr. Beck?

From "The Progress Report":

"Paul Krugman writes today that, 'right-wing extremism is being systematically fed by the conservative media and political establishment.' He argues, 'Fox News and the RNC...have gone out of their way to provide a platform for conspiracy theories and apocalyptic rhetoric, just as they did the last time a Democrat held the White House.'"

And people are dying because of it.

To wit: In November last year, a minister was shot and killed just outside his church in Kentucky; yet another pastor was killed during his Sunday service, right in his church in Illinois in early March; Dr. George Tiller was killed in his church in Wichita and just yesterday, of course, a US Park police officer, one Stephen T. Johns, was killed at, of all places, the national Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC.

Let's hope this is the end of these killings and not just the beginning.

It's a terrific, true and poignant read.

See it here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/12/opinion/12krugman.html?_r=1&th&emc=th

Extremely predictable

This week, the President has really gone after a health care solution for the country, that's for sure.

His You Tube video last Saturday kicked it off and it's been a steady drumbeat ever since.

God bless him.

We need this and his solution badly.

Unfortunately, corporate America and a lot of doctors, at minimum, want nothing of it.

The absolutely don't want to kill their gravy train that is unrestrained price increases in the current system.

But it's killing us and it's killing the system.

It's broken. It doesn't work.

Millions of us have little or no coverage.

The mortality rate in the United States is rated number 37 in a worldwide ranking.

But don't tell some Americans that.

Corporate America has convinced them that the last thing they want is "Socialized medicine."

Well, I have news for them--"Capitalist medicine" isn't working, by a long shot. It's health care for the wealthy.

Anyway, the American Medical Association (AMA) came out this week, firmly against the President's plan.

No surprise. No surprise at all. This is to be expected.

The last thing they want to do is restrict their ability to make hundreds of thousands--or millions--of dollars, all on their patient's backs.

We need to get behind this remake of the American health care system, folks.


Link to story about doctor rebelling against the AMA's stance:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-chris-mccoy/dear-ama-i-quit_b_214318.html

Guns don't kill people

People with guns kill people.




Links:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeffrey-feldman/when-politics-turns-from_b_214061.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/greg-mitchell/what-are-white-supremacis_b_213987.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/06/10/shepard-smith-says-his-em_n_214013.html

Thursday, June 11, 2009

What used to be an arbitrary entertainment has become a "must read"

Have you kept up with the evolution of "The Huffington Post" blog?

Holy cow.

It seems, overnight, they've somewhat remade themselves into this fast-evolving, constantly-reporting "must read" you need to keep up with issues and events.

Just now, I went to it for a fun little Bill Maher video clip and ended up seeing, what? 4 or 5 different important, well-written articles about what's going on in our country and government. A lot of it had to do with health care and what's going on in DC and corporate America.

It seems it used to be something that was some fun and occasionally really important to see.

Now, the Post is this vital, rapidly changing, digital "newspaper", online, you have to keep up with.

It's really cool.

It's the antithesis of the static, paper-laid, day-old newspaper of yesterday, sadly for the newspapers and newspaper people and business.

Link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

2 pieces of good budget news

President Obama announced today that he thinks Congress should put back into effect "pay as you go" provisions into our budget laws.

Boy is this overdue.

I wrote about this what? A year or more ago?

The Republicans, of all people--the ones who said they were for small government and small government spending (yeah, right)--took "pay as you go" out of our laws during---when else?--the George W. Bush/Republican rule years.

"Pay as you go" means, as you may already know, that our government wasn't supposed to create anything it was to spend money on unless it had a source the money was to come from.

Want some new school program, Senator?

No problem. Tell us where the money is coming from and you may get it.

And it can come from a new tax--if you can get it to pass--or from closing down some other program or whatever but the final result of this is that THEY COULD NOT FURTHER DEFICIT SPEND.

And it was a great idea, this "pay-go" as it was called.

Doesn't it seem logical?

It's how you and I have to live, isn't it?

Nearly unbelievably, the Republicans did away with it. They just couldn't spend enough money, as it turns out.

The other bit of good budget news today is that some of the banks who took money from the government earlier this year have been cleared to pay it back. As it turns out, it comes to around $68 billion--one-third of the total amount given out.

Great news, indeed.

If this keeps up, with banks returning money to the government and President Obama setting us up for more responsible and, hopefully, less government spending, the Republicans have likely set themselves up to be irrelevant for the next few decades, at least.

Here's hoping.

Links:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/President-Obama-Calls-for-Restoring-Statutory-Pay-As-You-Go-Requirements/
http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/06/09/obama.paygo/index.html?section=cnn_latest

Monday, June 8, 2009

All Americans need to see this

So now the US has no moral ground to stand on here

News today tells of 2 young journalists who have been sentenced by a South Korean court--we use the term court loosely here--for crimes against the country. They are to serve 12 years in prison at "hard labor."

Of course, this was by a "kangaroo court", set up by the government and it was all done in complete secrecy. It was not disclosed who the ladies attorney was--who represented them--and most all other details were undisclosed.

"There are fears Pyongyang is using the women as bargaining chips as the U.N. debates a new resolution to punish the country for its defiant May 25 atomic test and as North Korea seeks to draw Washington into direct negotiations."

"The journalists were found guilty of committing a 'grave crime' against North Korea and of illegally entering the country, state-run media said."

"A Korean-language version said they were convicted of 'hostility toward the Korean people.'"

Apparently Kim Jong Il and the South Korean government are going to use the women as bargaining chips with the West, to get what they want, one way or another. What they want is almost irrelevant, to an extent. What's more important is getting the two women released and having South Korea and President Kim be more logical and intelligent regarding the world in general and nuclear weapons, specifically.

What's really unfortunate about all this is that the US has such a reduced moral standing to rail against any "kangaroo court", because of what we did at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in the last several years.

We captured and held "enemy prisoners" for years without declaring any charges against them.

Sure, they weren't reporters but they were, after all, human beings.

We used to be above that kind of action. We used to hold a higher moral ground.

Ever since Guantanamo Bay, we don't.

So why, now, should South Korea?

And how is it we can expect anything better of them?

Link to story:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=105092425&sc=fb&cc=fp

More bad news leftover from the previous administration and their horrific leadership

There is a Congressional oversight report that is to come out this Wednesday, detailing the waste in spending in Iraq and Afghansistan.

"In its first report to Congress, the Wartime Contracting Commission presents a bleak assessment of how tens of billions of dollars have been spent since 2001. The 111-page report, obtained by The Associated Press, documents poor management, weak oversight, and a failure to learn from past mistakes as recurring themes in wartime contracting."

But wait! There's more!

"U.S. reliance on contractors has grown to "unprecedented proportions," says the bipartisan commission, established by Congress last year. More than 240,000 private sector employees are supporting military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thousands more work for the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development."

"But the government has no central data base of who all these contractors are, what services they provide, and how much they're paid. The Pentagon has failed to provide enough trained staff to watch over them, creating conditions for waste and corruption, the commission says."

I could go on.

The point is, all Americans agree--left, right, Liberal, Conservative, everyone--that we need to cut wasteful spending in our government. This is one perfect, easy place to start.

Link to story:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090608/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/us_wartime_contracting_report

Sunday, June 7, 2009

So let's change it

CBS' show tonight, "60 Minutes" mentioned that we have given AIG $160 billion dollars, in an effort to prop them up and continue their organization because it was "too big to fail."

$160 billion.

Yow.

Can you imagine what we could have done with that for our schools?

Since we've come to the conclusion that they were this vague "too big to fail", it seems important to state that, when and if we come out on the other side of this financial crisis--God willing--then it's going to be time to break up AIG.

No organization should be "too big to fail."

If their size weakens our country, then this conclusion is surely unavoidable.

Let's dismantle AIG, and as soon as possible.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

We really don't want to consider what's going on with our economy

Another bank went down last night in Illinois.

That's 37 banks this year.

And it's not even July yet.

Let's see.

There were 25 banks that went down all last year.

25.

Do you know how many banks went down in 2007?

3

Yeah, 3.

And there's still more than 6 months to go before we're through with 2009.

And there's still the whole state of Michigan and GM and all those employees in so much trouble, of course, what with the bankruptcy up there this week. That will cause more financial problems, naturally.

And the whole state of California is about, what? 7 days from insolvency (another word for bankruptcy).

And then there are all the states with severely reduced revenues due to all the cutbacks and reduced values of properties and more company/employee layoffs.

Finally, for this column only, it's a widely-held assumption we haven't even begun to feel the full effects of the credit card defaults that are strongly believed to be on their way. That will be many more millions of dollars lost, presumably.

And that just starts the economic conversation.

So there are a great deal of things to consider, when it comes to our near-future economy.

I don't think the average guy on the streets is taking this all in.

That's probably a good thing.

Links to stoies:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/06/business/06bizbrief-SMALLBANKINI_BRF.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1244318975-veyJLaVthRyc4Y3as1DDZw
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com/2009/06/bankruptcy-filings-reach-6000-day.html

Friday, June 5, 2009

This is WAY overdue

Finally, an SEC that is doing what it was created to do--protect the American public from thieves, charlatans and crooks.

Of course, it's way overdue but hey, we'll take it.

It seems the SEC is finally accusing Angelo Mozilo, the former head of the now-defunct Countrywide Financial, of securities fraud and insider trading.

We all know Countrywide and Mr. Mozilo as the scumbag organization and the scumbag, respectively, who brought so many billions of dollars of bad mortgages to the country. In the meantime, Mr. Mozilo lined his pockets with many billions of dollars.

In referring to Countrywide's products, Mr. Mozilo called the loans "toxic" and "poison". His own words.

It's been common knowledge from coast to coast, that Countrywide and Mr. Mozilo were dirty and had run an illegal, shameful operation but the SEC hadn't done anything yet.

The time has finally come.

Thank goodness.

Great news on an otherwise bad business news day.

In the meantime, there are stories out right now about the banks who have been in so much financial trouble and who brought the country to the current financial crisis and nightmare we're in, still being in control of their friends up in Washington (read: the Senate and House) and that Senator Max Baucus isn't letting single-payer lobbyists in the health care field into his negotiations over our health care system.

We're screwed.

Link to stories:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/05/business/05insider.html?_r=1&th&emc=th#
http://www.propublica.org/ion/bailout/item/another-tale-of-successful-bank-lobbying/#10943
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/05/business/economy/05bankrupt.html?em
http://www.truthout.org/060509K

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Problems?

By and large, I think President Obama is doing and has done some terrific things, for sure, since gaining office this year.

Doing away with Guantanamo is an improvement for the country--re-establishing a nonpolitical Justice Department is huge, nominating Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court recently, the list goes on.

But there have been, as there always are, missteps.

Hey, they're all humans there at the White House but these missteps have seemed rather avoidable.

The first, I think, was the goofy gift he gave to Britain's Queen early this year.

(WTF?)

But that was really a minor problem or issue and we can all laugh about it and recover.

Then there was this odd oversight of the President's and French President Nikola Sarkozy's and Britain's Prime Minister. I mean, why would you NOT invite the one person to the D-Day commemoration WHO WAS THERE? (That being the Queen).

That just didn't make sense.

Now, in the very rare, overly-sensitive, odd and forever war-torn place that is the Middle East, the President made a very smart speech to the Muslim world and the rest of us.

In it, he said many wise, true and possibly difficult things.

He called for fairness and "give and take" from all sides involved. He asked for concessions from both sides and a lot more.

All good.

But one thing President Obama didn't do on this trip to the Middle East was include a stopover in Israel. I think that's a glaring omission and I'd love to hear an official explanation for it. I'm not saying he HAD to go or needed to go or that it was a huge mistake, at all.

It might possibly be one, though, and I'd love to know the reason he didn't make this stop.

(Link to story: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090604/ap_on_go_pr_wh/obama)

Where the President really hurts himself and his political party, though, is on spending, without doubt.

When now former President Bush proposed spending the trillions he said he wanted and needed to bail out the banks and support the economy, we all knew he was stupid and at the end of his Presidency.

For President Obama to continue this huge spending reflects especially badly on him and his Democratic Party because it makes it far too easy to paint him as the old cliche': "a tax-and-spend Liberal".

It's old but extremely effective and it makes a sort of "Achilles heel" for the President.

He needs to get away from this big, deficit spending, for the country's sake and his own.

Dead-on posting from "A New Way Forward"

Another rare posting I didn't create, but want to enter because it's that good:


This is the age old fight for power between large corporations and regular people

June 3rd, 2009 by tyc

People are starting to wage a battle with the financial companies, but if people don’t really start to see the battle for what it is — a fight for power between the banks who currently control Congress and the public who untimately pays for it — we’ll again lose any chance for real reform that restores our political system and economy in the interest of working families doing better than they are now.

Arianna Huffington argues that we could have had some structural reform happen after Enron, but the way politics are usually played, the fight for reform usually is assuaged by the companies for politeness’ sake and then completely dwindles:

Remember how during the 2008 campaign there came a moment when candidates hoping to win the White House realized they had to declare that, like Obama, they were all in favor of “change”? Hillary did it. McCain did it. So did Romney. Giuliani too.

In the same way, today everyone agrees that we need reform of our financial system. Even Wall Street knows it is inevitable.

So the question becomes: are we going to get real reform or are we going to get the DC version of “reform”?

The citizens who are fighting with ANWF are trying their hardest to not let that happen. We simply can’t lose our chance to create real structural reform that can ACTUALLY put large corporations back in their place. Push for breaking up the banks, please!

As Rep. Brad Miller wrote on Talking Points Memo,

It will be a fierce battle, even with the full support of the Obama Administration. “All of the signature economic reforms the President has promoted…are under siege,” The Nation reports. “Without a grassroots uprising that challenges business as usual in Washington, we aren’t likely to get the change we were promised, much less the change we need.”

We’ve won some battles. A couple of weeks ago the President signed into law the credit card reform bill that Carolyn Maloney introduced. A few weeks ago the House passed a solid bill–not perfect, but solid–to reform mortgage lending that I introduced along with Mel Watt and Barney Frank.
But we can’t possibly anticipate and prohibit every new predatory financial product that the industry claims is “innovation.” Requiring the industry to show that innovative new financial products are a positive contribution to society–and get approval before selling the products to consumers–fundamentally changes an industry desperately in need of fundamental change.

That is the kind of change that we cannot achieve without a “grassroots uprising that challenges business as usual in Washington.”

Link to original post here:
http://anewwayforward.org/blog/?p=344

Back from Mo Rage:

And folks, the foxes who raided the chicken coop--the big bankers who screwed us all, individually and nationally and got us into this financial crisis, Goldman/Sachs, etc.--are the very same foxes who are supposed to be cleaning up this banking mess, now.

And they're getting paid handsomely, now, too--again--to do it.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Things to come

It seems as though, here in the Midwest, most "people on the street" types are all carrying on in our business and personal lives as usual and that's to be expected.

Kind of.

And it's a good thing. Panicking, for whatever reason, doesn't help anything.

But all of the big, bad financial news in the last year, compounded by the most recent troubles of what is now referred to as "Government Motors", GM, and their nearly-unimaginable bankruptcy and the financial wreck that is California portends quite bad news.

And not just for Californians and GM employees.

I'm not going to start making any predictions here about what's going to further happen to whom because of all this but the ripple effects of these two crises alone is so huge it's almost impossible to predict the continued falling out.

The question almost becomes, "Who WON'T be effected by these messes?"

And then there's the credit card defaults and bankruptcies, still to come, we've been warned about.

It ain't over, folks.

The fat lady ain't singin' yet.

Links to related stories:
http://money.cnn.com/2009/06/03/autos/gm_desperate_final_days.fortune/?postversion=2009060310
http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/view/104622
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/18/opinion/18kim.html?em

Monday, June 1, 2009

Yet more gun violence

Okay, Dr. George Tiller was gunned down, shot and killed by another right wing, gun-toting nutcase yesterday as you no doubt have heard by now.

Irony?

The gunlover shot him down in Dr. Tiller's church.

Wow.

What a nutjob that one must have been.

So what just came across my computer on internet news just now? This title:

"Shooting leaves 1 soldier dead, 1 hurt at Arkansas center"

Some gun-nut didn't like something else and so, went on a shoot, in Arkansas.

Insane.

Insanity.

I'll keep asking:

At what point are we going to somehow either thoroughly educate people on the need to curb gun violence or just out and out reduce the number of guns we have in this gun-toting, gun-loving, violence-ridden United States?

We need a solution, people.

Guns really do kill people.

Link to story here:
http://www.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/06/01/arkansas.recruiter.shooting/index.html?eref=rss_topstories