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Friday, July 31, 2009

No one burns through money like Americans, Part One

Did you see this?

The United States put one billion dollars up for a "cash for clunkers" program for its citizens so people would trade their high-fuel burning cars in for new, more fuel-efficient cars.

Seemed like a good idea, right?

I guess so.

But we put up this one billion thinking it would take us through Novemeber.

November.

Autumn.

Do you know how long it lasted--this one billion dollars?

Some people refer to it as a week--but that's not really quite true.

One billion dollars for this one program was burned through in 5 days.

Holy cow.

Was that fast.

So Congress saw how popular and successful this program was and immediately, today, upon returning to this idea, put up another two billion dollars to continue the program.

I haven't heard anyone say anything negative--or even questioning--about this yet.

Everyone seems to think and agree that this was just a sooper-dee-dooper idea.

And maybe it is.

But shouldn't someone analyze this?

If it took us 5 days to go through one billion dollars (notice I spell that out every time?), how long will it take us to throw out two billion dollars?

Will that be two weeks?

Will that be fourteen days or less?

Who knows?

And here is where the questions come in, folks.

Does it make sense for the United States to throw out, first one billion dollars--now a total of three (billion dollars) for people to trade in their cars, when its the same US government that had to put out more billions of dollars, just earlier this year, to buy GM (General Motors, now "Government Motors") and Chrysler?

We took billions of dollars of borrowed--from the Chinese--money to buy our auto manufacturers and now we're taking billions of more dollars--three billion more, to date--to get the man and woman on the street, to buy these same cars.

And everyone's okay with this?

Shouldn't someone be asking about all these loans?

Shouldn't someone be analyzing this?

And why do I feel like we're all lemmings right now?

Link to story:
http://www.newsday.com/business/house-oks-another-2-billion-for-car-trade-in-program-1.1340180

Thursday, July 30, 2009

How desperate it's getting out there

This is, as I mention above, how bad things are getting out there:

Alabama's largest county is set to release 80 percent of its staff, due to low tax coffers, as it faces possible bankruptcy. Maybe you caught this on NPR this evening, as I did, on your way home from the office.

"Alabama's largest county, Jefferson County, is in financial turmoil. It can't make its payroll and plans to furlough two-thirds of its workers, about 1,400 people, on Friday."

"At the county courthouse in downtown Birmingham this week, residents waited in long lines for hours to take care of business before the cuts take effect."

This is really fairly stunning.

It isn't like we're talking Florida or Nevada or California, where we've known for a long time there were awful budget deficits that had to be dealt with.

The reason isn't just the worst downturn in the economy in 70 years, however, and that's the key here.

"Commissioner Bobby Humphryes says the problem stems from a court ruling that struck down Jefferson County's occupational tax, taking away about a quarter of the county's budget."

This ruling, on top of this economy, makes for a really horrible situation for Jefferson County, Alabama and its citizens.

Then, at the same time, news is out that Arizona is considering selling its state capital, to raise money.

While it's clearly a desperate move on the legislator's part, if they can make their plan work, I have to hand it to them. Check this out:

"...officials hope to sell the properties and then lease them back over several years before assuming ownership again."

That's genius.

Like I said, if they can pull off selling the capital, getting millions of dollars for it and then buying it back and have it work well, that is one incredibly clever plan.

Sure, it's born out of desperation but it's surely brilliant.

That is, if they can pull it off.

Link to stories:
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com/2009/07/arizona-may-sell-state-capitol-building.html
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=111341720

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Are we getting smarter--or dumber?

While driving home this evening, I heard a report on NPR about a very sincere elderly woman who was at President Obama's town hall meeting who asked him a question.

This very nice woman asked the President, with what seemed to be fear in her voice if the rumor she heard about the possibility of there being a clause in his health care reform that required a government agent--of some kind--that was to come around and ask each senior citizen how they wanted to die.

I was nearly stunned.

Think about this.

If for no other reason but the sheer numbers of people it would take to accomplish that, you would think everyone would know this is nonsense.

But the woman had heard it, her friend no doubt "swore it was true", and so she believed it. Or believed that it was possible.

And that's all it took.

What is it about us?

It seems like, even with computers--maybe even because of them--we're as superstitious or just out and out foolish as we've ever been.

Consider:

--It seems we all get those superstitious emails we get, telling us if we only say some prayer and pass on that same email to 7 or 20 or whatever friends, something wonderful we've wnated to happen (maybe you have to make a wish) will happen "tonight at 11 O'clock" or some such;

--Then there's "glurge": "Glurge (a term which can be used to describe one story or applied to the genre as a whole) is the body of inspirational tales which conceal much darker meanings than the uplifting moral lessons they purport to offer, and which undermine their messages by fabricating and distorting historical fact in the guise of offering "true stories." Glurge often contains such heart-tugging elements as sad-eyed puppies, sweet-faced children, angels, dying mothers, or miraculous rescues brought about by prayer." Needless to say, glurge is disgusting and yet it bounces around our computers again and again;

--The increase, so it seems of really ugly and dangerous racism on the internet;

--A new wrinkle--and a clear outgrowth from the racism mentioned above--in our ignorance is the existence and increasing growth and proliferation of "birthers", who keep questioning the legitimacy of Barack Obama's Presidency because they just don't think he is a natural-born citizen of the US, for various, ridiculous, already repeatedly disproven reasons;

--Finally, there's all the conspiracy theories that fly 'round the internet involving everything from 9/11 to our "fake moon landing" in 1969 and who knows what all. It is a very long, tired, frustrating, confusing and nearly maddening list.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs seemed to hit on a very simple, poignant truth the other day when he said “Because for $15, you can get an Internet address and say whatever you want.”

And, sadly, lots of people will want to believe you.

We've given up intelligent, calm discourse for passionate heresay backed up by, frequently, not much more than intense sincerity.

Shouldn't we all be much smarter than this by now?

Link to story:
http://thinkprogress.org/2009/07/27/gibbs-birther/

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Corporate America

The corporation, as it exists today in America, will be a direct cause of the fall of America, with its need for virtually constant profits and increased profits, to the downfall of the common man--the man on the street--unless American's attitudes and our laws change.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

All you really need to know about health care and reform in the US

It seems we can't discuss virtually anything anymore, as a nation and people, without people getting unrealistic and/or emotional and/or ugly, etc., etc., doesn't it?

First, so many of us were furious at what our government was doing--and doing to us--during the previous 8 years in the "W" regime and now people are so upset because, frankly, they say a screaming Liberal, in the worst definition of the word, Socialist and, dare I say it? African-American is now President that too many people just flip out.

There needs to be much more rationality and pure facts out there in our discourse.

And so it particularly is with health care and reform right now in our country.

If President Obama proposed is, they're agin' it, whatever it is.

So let's get some clear, simple, true facts in a short list and keep these in mind in this debate.

Herewith:

1) There are nearly 50 million Americans without health care in this country--and it's not because they choose to be;

2) Our health care system is the most expensive system in the world;

3) We rank 37th, internationally, in mortality rates, proving that the system doesn't work right or well, particularly in lieu of its costs (see no. 2 above)

That's all.

That's all we need to know.

The system is broken, folks.

It's broken for corporations and businesses and individuals, all. It's broken and it's only going to get more expensive, if left unchecked.

Don't kid or fool yourselves, we need health care reform and we need it badly. There have been too many millions of people without health care in this country for entirely too long and the way this economy has gone (thanks in large part to the previous President, in a great deal of people's opinions), there is a high likelihood that many more of us could also end up on the list of people without health care.

To repeat: the system's broken. Badly broken. It needs to be fixed. And the sooner the better.

I'm just sorry the insurance companies, through their lobbyists and requisite money, are in the room, contributing to the "reform."


Have a great weekend, everyone.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

While the House of Reps in Washington does the right thing

Good news from the House of Representatives yesterday:

"'Pay-go' vote: The House on Wednesday passed, 265-166, legislation that would reinstate a "pay-as-you-go" statute that requires tax cuts or new benefit programs be paid for with tax increases or cuts to other programs. If the "pay-go" law is broken and new legislation adds to the deficit, automatic spending cuts would kick in to make up the difference. The bill, which now goes to the Senate and is endorsed by President Obama, would help put the government's books in order after an annual deficit that is projected to quadruple this year to more than $1.8 trillion."

Take that, Republicans--who voted it out of our government during those insane days of their rule from 2000 to 2008.

And they say they're for "small government" and keeping government costs in line.

Democrats first put "pay-go" into law, to keep spending down, Republicans took it out and now, Democrats are putting it back into law.

What ought to happen now is that our government decides to never again take this out of our laws. We don't need or want irresponsible spending period or ever again.

It's far weaker than the original plan put into effect in 1990 but it's still an improvement.

We need to push these people harder so they're more responsible with taxes, as we all know.

Link to story:
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5giSoolIfWOKtaayFimI6hMt5Du9QD99JR5LG0

Republican Senators are losing their collective minds

First, the good news: the Senate defeated a bill proposed by Republican Senators that would have allowed gun owners with conceal-and-carry permits to transport their weapons across state lines.

Thank God for that.

The bad news is that it was proposed at all.

At what point will the madness with guns for Republicans and the NRA stop?

Do we have to have guns everywhere, like fast-food restaurants, churches and banks--some on every street corner?

What proposal for the distribution of guns will they NOT come up with?

"The legislation, an amendment to the defense-appropriations bill...was opposed by more than 400 mayors, top law-enforcement officials and some of the victims' families from the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, in which the gunman killed 32 people before committing suicide."

I should think so.

But naturally, it was proposed by a bunch of Republicans and supported a few knuckleheaded Democrats, unfortunately, and the ever-present, ever-pushing NRA.

Lunatics.

Can you imagine how police departments would be against this? That's all they need is more guns, flowing through more states, willy-nilly.

Get this--that pea-brain Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid voted for it. Sure he's from Nevada but do the right thing, Senator. This was stupid and a mistake for the country.

This past week, as I wrote earlier, we had a lady from the Kansas Department of Education who was leaving the area's Starlight Theater that was shot by a stray bullet in that neighborhood.

She was killed.

She was killed with her 13 year old daughter in the car.

She was killed in front of her Mother-in-Law.

And we need more guns, flowing easier from state to state?

Link to story:
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/politics/2009520941_guns23.html

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Don't say good things never happen in the US Senate

The first one is that the Senate killed the F22 Raptor airplane program from a current defense bill.

Ya-hoo!

$1,340,000,000.00 of Pentagon-unwanted materiel. The Pentagon didn't want it so that means the US didn't need it.

"Immediately after the vote, Obama told reporters at the White House the Senate's decision would 'better protect our troops.'"

His point was, when we put resources in one place where they are not wanted or needed, we weaken ourselves in other areas where resources are, in fact, required.

And the President is right.

I just hope President Obama gets some serious credit from Republicans and Conservatives for killing this wasteful project and saving this money.

I'm don't have my hopes up.

The 2nd good thing that came out of the Senate today is that Senator Byrd of West Virginia was back in the Senate today. He had been hospitalized with an infection since May 15.

This brings up the fact that, God love him, at 91 years of age, Senator Byrd really needs to step down and let someone younger come in behind him to do the people's business. Sure, he's done a lot of good work, being the longest-serving Senator in the history of the nation.

But the time has come for Senator Byrd to step aside.

We wish him nothing but the best, now and always, to be clear.

Links:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090721/ap_on_go_co/us_defense_spending
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/07/21/senator-byrd-returns-to-s_n_242051.html

Monday, July 20, 2009

Clearly the number one priority for Kansas City suddenly

Yet another woman was killed in the last 24 hours by someone shooting randomly into a local neighborhood here in Kansas City.

"A woman died and a man was wounded early Sunday when they were hit by stray gunfire near 34th Street and Troost Avenue."

"The two apparently were victims of stray gunfire between two vehicles traveling south on Troost about 1:20 a.m. Before the killing, police received some calls about gunfire near where the victims were found."

As Mayor--and, really, any other leader in town--I think some emergency meeting needs to be called, to show they're doing something to try to solve this significant problem. But frankly, I don't know what they can do.

How do you get people all across the city to NOT shoot, randomly at each other or into their own neighborhood?

There is no logic or rational thought to doing such a thing so how do you appeal to intelligence and/or thought to get people--men, most assuredly--to not do such things?

This is a very difficult problem with no clear, easy solution.

Somebody better get right to finding solutions and if it isn't the Mayor, I don't know who it is.

The last thing any city wants to be known as, at any time, is "Murder Capitol of the Country."

Hopefully we're not headed that way.

Link to story:
http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/story/1334396.html

Sunday, July 19, 2009

What we've become

We've become a nation that is more driven for business than nearly anything else.

We are a nation that lets corporations gain their annual increases in profits and obscene executive salaries, again, at the cost of our society and at the cost of that same corporation's own employees and even clients and customers.

People suffer, literally, so corporations can make more money. (See the following movies: "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room", "Food, Inc.", "Sicko", read the book "Sick" about our health care system, read nearly anything lately about Goldman Sachs, the banking industry in the United States currently, etc., etc.).

Then there's our gun culture.

Guns and gun holders are coddled so we can have all-important "gun rights" and people can have as many guns as they want and carry them virtually anywhere and do almost anything with them.

Yesterday, here in Kansas City, an innocent woman from Kansas, employed by the Kansas Department of Education went with her 13-year old daughter and Mother-in-Law to the venerable, old and well-known Starlight Theater to see a performance. While driving away, a stray bullet hit and killed her.

Can you imagine the horror of her daughter and Mother-in-Law?

But will anything be done about our culture that, in the first place, wants all these guns and that, secondly, uses them, at whatever time, place and direction they want?

Randomly shooting their gun in a city neighborhood.

The police had been in the area earlier that same day, on reports of people shooting their guns.

Then this happened.

So the police naturally came back.

Yesterday, I predicted here that the local newspaper would cover this story on the front page of this morning's Sunday paper.

Not so.

Apparently they were all set to go with other stories. They covered, instead, Tom Watson's golf game and his comeback, at his advanced age.

Great priorities.

And the "shooting season" of hot summer in town hasn't even really begun.

What we've become as a nation and city and culture--it isn't pretty.

Links:
http://www.kansascity.com/news/breaking_news/story/1333071.html
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eKYyD14d_0
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/index.html?curid=1959464
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0386032/plotsummary
http://www.sickthebook.com/

Saturday, July 18, 2009

It's gonna hit the fan in Kansas City now, folks

Sure, there were 62 murders in Kansas City up to today.

And that's 4 over the count at this time last year, right.

But today, everything changed.

Prior to today, not much was said or done about people dying in Kansas City because, frankly, they were mostly African-Americans.

And that's sad.

Horrible, really.

But today, a woman from the Kansas Department of Education was killed.

The fact that it's a woman will add to the troubles.

The fact that she's Caucasian will make bigger news.

The fact that it happened as she was leaving Starlight Theater will really make it much bigger news.

Finally, the fact that she was from Kansas will also add to the situation.

I can see the headlines in the Kansas City Star newspaper tomorrow morning now. It's going to be big and right on the front page.

And that will just be the beginning.

Link to story here:
http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/story/1332373.html

Friday, July 17, 2009

This is how messed up things are

You know things are messed up--system broken--when even corporations want the change that the people on the street want and need.

I have two examples.

The first was in The New York Times yesterday and dealt with credit card fees being too high.

Sure, we've been experiencing this and complaining about it for a long time--getting killed by it, actually--but finally it's getting to companies, too.

Seems MasterCard and Visa and all of them have been adding all these additional fees to simple transactions and, like the old saying goes, a few million here and a few million there and all of a sudden you're talking serious money.

Wal-Mart, Home Depot and 7-Eleven "have spent years unsuccessfully fighting the biggest of these costs, known as an interchange fee, which generates an estimated $40billion to $50 billion in income annually for banks that issue credit cards."

Forty to fifty billion dollars.

You can see why those companies love to tack on those little fees.

Understand, this is for credit purchases and ATM transactions, both.

Keep in mind here, too, for the Republican years of 2000 through 2008, folks, those wonderful folks in Washington were so deep in the pockets of these credit card companies, there was no way this was going to change.

Heck no.

So now, finally, though the Democrats aren't exactly saints, at least it looks, finally, like something is going to change here, and for the better. Between the man on the street--you and me--and other Big Business needing this, it looks as though it's going to change.

And thank goodness for that.

The other thing that pits the "little guy" in with Big Business is on health care.

I contend that this is another big reason why we're getting a solution to health care right now. "Big Business"--and by that I mean General Motors, GE and a lot of other, big "heavies" in the corporate world--are getting killed with high costs on their health insurance. They can't take it either.

So, like I said, this is how screwed up our system is, on at least two levels, credit card fees and health care.

At least we're finally getting some help from our government and it isn't just attacking us, the way it did for those fateful, ugly, Republican, "pro-business", "to hell with the little guy" years.

All that good stuff said, however, one must keep in mind that the bankers virtually own our government and this falls into that grouping. Let's see if we get the change and improvements we need.

Link to story:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/16/business/16fees.html?th&emc=th

Update:

I see in the Huffington Post just now an article by Arianna, saying pretty much the same thing--but this time about Goldman Sachs and our screwed-up, unregulated banking system, particularly now that we've pumped so many billions (trillions?) of dollars into Goldman and the others.

Seems everyone thinks things are out of control and kilter--except Goldman Sachs, Tim Geithner, Larry Summers and other people in government who work (or worked) for Goldman. Ms. Huffington points out the venerable Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed piece about this yesterday which made them sound more like Robert Reich than the "always support business" rag they usually are.

See the article here:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arianna-huffington/shattering-the-right-vs-l_b_234582.html

Thursday, July 16, 2009


If/when you understand this, then it's easy to understand why it's important that we not have mass transportation, why we don't create our own electrical energy with photovoltaic cells on our own buildings--because then you don't need the electric company, etc. The more power we have, the less power the corporation has. The more power you have, the less power governments have.

Let's take back our own power.

Think about it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Important article

I haven't thought about or read anything in, of or from Rolling Stone Magazine since, what? I was a in my late teens?

I've moved on.

Reading about "rock and roll" was absolutely NOT a priority in any way. Heck no.

But recently, this past week, I became aware of the cover story by Matt Taibbi about Goldman Sachs and I knew I just had to read it.

You should, too.

Everyone should read this thing.

If you don't know that Goldman Sachs and its employees have been running the financial side of our government for some time, then you don't know Hank Paulson.

You really owe it to yourself and, no kidding, your country, to go to the Rolling Stone Magazine's site and read this article. Besides being a bit like a civics lesson, it can be and is much more. It's fascinating, for sure.

Today, too, the RS article is even more topical and relevant since G-S announced a whopping $3.4 billion turn-around profit within the last 24 hours.

Check this out from the PBS online news source:

"The bank's rebound is likely to assuage concerns that Wall Street remains hobbled by the credit crunch. The better-than-expected earnings report may set the tone for other big banks' earnings reports due in the days to come, including JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo."

Here's the good part:

"But questions are also being raised about how Goldman was able to so quickly return to profits even as it enjoyed a multi-billion dollar cushion from the U.S. government. On Monday, the Financial Times reported that Goldman executives sold nearly $700 million of stock during an eight-month period following the collapse of rival Lehman Brothers last September. Most of the sales, the newspaper reported, occurred during the period the bank had a $10 billion federal lifeline."

Questions indeed. But they'll never be asked or answered, let's not kid ourselves. This and the last administrations in Washington are far too complicit with Goldman to really do much about them.

One good, short, important quote from the R. Stones arcticle, I think: "organized greed always defeats disorganized democracy."

Translated: we're screwed.

But knowledge is power so let's get some more knowledge and then vote accordingly and not put up with certain crap that's been going on for too long.

You can find the article here:
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/29127316/the_great_american_bubble_machine/1

Link to PBS article here:
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/business/july-dec09/goldmansachs_07-14.html

Sunday, July 12, 2009

2 Contentions

I have 2 contentions about this planet and humankind that I believe are unequivocal in their truth:

The first is that the most devastating and negtive influence on the planet to the same planet Earth is man or humankind.

The second is that the most negative influence on the planet, its ecosystem and balance and because of this, our own situation, is the monopolization of land and so, wealth.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Ironies and coincidences

I've always thought that the irony of us wanting cooler summers, with air conditioners, bringing about global warming and climate change was one heck of an irony.

Here we all want to be cool in our homes and as we run our errands in our cars and what happens? It heats up the planet, ultimately, so the longer we try to keep it cooler, the worse it gets.

And that, then, brings me to a wonderful coincidence we can use to solve the pollution/global warming/climate change problems.

To wit, as we get warmer and warmer (it's been in the low 100's in Oklahoma and Texas this week, the more sense it makes to use all that sun and heat on photovoltaic cells to create our electricity.

It just makes sense.

And when you figure in the true costs of fossil fuels, particularly coal (the digging of it, the transportation, the burning and its requisite pollution and carbon dioxide release, at minimum), compared to the cost of these photovoltaic cells, it brings the cost of these cells down hugely.

Think of it--we would no longer need power plants, ladies and gentlemen. The truth is, you could and would generate your energy yourself, on your home. We would all generate our own power.

Think about it. Truly think about it.

NO MORE ELECTRIC BILLS.

It truly could be possible within our own lifetime--and I'm over 50!

A downside? The power companies go out of business.

Somehow, I think I can live with that.

It would free us from coal mining--a foul, dirty, hazardous and frequently deadly job. It could help free us from using Middle Eastern oil, the center of the world's oldest, longest and most heated and insane war.

With that, we should, truly be able to cut our defense budget dramatically (which we should do anyway, but that was--and will be again--another column).

It just makes sense and it's within our grasp.

We need to push our government harder to make it happen and as soon as possible.

Friday, July 10, 2009

More proof of a really down economy

This headline just came off my email, this Friday afternoon, from the Kansas City Business Journal:

Kansas City-area riverboat casinos draw less June revenue, fewer customers

And that, my friends, represents one of the strongest indications yet of how bad our economy is right now.

Sure, restaurant and other entertainment is down and has been for months but this is the first time, to my knowledge, that people are going to the casinos less and gambling away less money.

It isn't because they choose to save this money instead, I don't think, though the one silver lining of this terrible downturn is that the personal savings rate right now is up around 6 to 7%.

I believe less people are going to casinos and gambling because the money just isn't there--people don't have it at home. And they sure aren't going to get credit for it, not in this situation.

It's dark out there folks.

It's dark and what was the old sunshine isn't coming back. Don't look for it.

Links to stories:
http://kansascity.bizjournals.com/kansascity/stories/2009/07/06/daily46.html?ed=2009-07-10&ana=e_du_pap
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aome1_t5Z5y8

Thursday, July 9, 2009

President Obama better put an end to this

President Obama stayed in his hotel room last evening in Moscow, instead of having a ceremonial dinner with his hosts in thr Soviet governmnet.

Oops.

First, in Washington here at home, the President and his wife went to New York for dinner and a play.

I think people were surprised and there was some grumbling--particularly by Conservatives, Republicans and the Far Right, of course--but I think the American people gave them a pass. After all, they're human and it's a difficult job, right? I think most people figured they'd earned it.

Then, last month, the President and his wife went out on the town in Paris when they were visiting.

Again, the opinion, overall, was one of mostly acceptance.

But this time? I don't know.

The President and his family stayed in their hotel, instead, for dinner and entertainment.

Uh-oh.

"The first family enjoyed a relaxed evening at the O2 Lounge, the super-chic, super-pricey rooftop club at the new Ritz-Carlton..."

I think the President and First Lady better tone this stuff down, when it comes to the sacrifice of international relations, at minimum.

Mr. Obama's oponents are only too happy to paint a picture of him as someone who spends too much money, puts himself first and ignores the needs of his nation.

I can see it coming now.

And it ain't pretty, Mr. President.


Link:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/08/world/europe/08moscow.html?_r=1&th&emc=th

You should take some time to read this, folks

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20090629_the_truth_alone_will_not_set_you_free/

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Thank goodness. This is way overdue

It's reported today on the front page of The New York Times, among other places, that our government is analyzing curbs on the speculation of energy on the energy markets.

Thank goodness!

This is, as I said, above, long, long overdue.

Back in 2000, as I wrote here earlier, the "geniuses" at Enron got our government to do away with any government regulation of the energy markets.

What a mistake.

Sure, people and corporations could make great gobs of money but, in the meantime, companies like Enron could take energy out of, oh, say, a state like California with one sale, and then send it back in a new resale, to that same state.

Sound familiar?

It's why California had rolling blackouts all those years ago.

It nearly broke the state of California and its residents.

Sure, people were making those boodles of money, but the State of California--and, indeed, the whole country--was weakened, severely, both the state and the United States. It was an insane time for energy, energy trading and the people of California, who were at these trader's and corporation's mercy--or, rather, their lack of mercy.

This was also why the world oil markets took the price of a barrel of crude up to $147.00 per barrel a year or so ago, giving us $4.00/gallon gas at the pump.

It crippled households, their budgets, states and their budgets and the whole country.

An extremely small group of wealthy people 'round the world were getting richer while the middle class, the poor and businesses were crippled and at the mercy of the price of a barrel of oil.

The reason it's so important that we pass these curbs and bring back some regulation of oil and energy markets is because we are in such a deep and worldwide economic recession (at least) right now and we need stability in these energy markets. If we don't know where our costs are going to be in the future, how do we know what we can invest in? It makes our economic crystal ball impossible to read, as if it's not tough enough already.

And all we're taking away is the action of people "betting", in essence, on the energy markets, so they can make money and that's insane. That betting (purchasing oil and energy stocks, in hopes they'll go ever higher) can have the effect of breaking nations, households and businesses banks and pocketbooks, a dangerous possibility.


Link:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/08/business/08cftc.html?th&emc=th

Monday, July 6, 2009

Scary, shallow stuff

Yesterday, I took a moment to read some letters to the editor in the local paper, The Kansas City Star, and got reintroduced to some pretty brutal ignorance.

One man wrote rather heatedly about how horrible the "Liberal Agenda" is:

Sick of the liberal agenda

"I would have to agree with Noelle Moll (6/29, Letters) that those pushing for government health care are playing with the numbers. But what are a few embellishments or downright lies when it comes to getting your agenda rammed down the throats of the American people? That’s business as usual for this administration and this Congress, whether it’s the bailout, global warming, the auto industry, funding for ACORN, health care, Big Oil — it goes on and on.

They lie to get elected, they lie to hang on to the power they receive once they get elected, and then they abuse it at the expense of the American taxpayer. And we’re supposed to respect them because they are elected officials, yet they have no respect for us. The government has no interest in facts if they get in the way of the agenda, and the media have no interest in the truth if it doesn’t sell."

Mark Haskell, Olathe

Big Oil? He's complaining about Big Oil now, when George W. Bush--Mr. Big Oil himself--already left the White House? That's rich.

I have news for Mr. Haskell--unless he's wealthy, that health care fix the President, Democrats and all us "Liberals" want is because, as most any doctor will tell you, the system is horribly broken, expensive and in need of repair and replacement and it's for all Americans. Mr. Haskell is, at minimum, middle class with health care coverage and, predictably, healthy up to this point and without any history of medical problems of his own.

Then there's the people from Central Missouri on Highway 13 who wrote "Obama is America's Hitler Goodbye Freedom" on the road.

Ai-yi-yi.

The last President we had--and that for all 8 years--took away all kinds of personal Constitutional rights and these people were fine with it. Apparently, if the guy doing it is white, it's all okay because, hey, he's "one of us", right?

But if the next President faces the same problems and he's from the "other party" and, worst of all, African-American, well, surely, then, he's coming to take our guns and put Socialism deeply into our government.

???

I don't know how you go from that first logic to the second but a lot of people both in this area and country, think just this way.

They're uninformed, they're angry, they're armed and they're convinced they're absolutely well-informed and correct, both.

A dangerous, dangerous situation.



Links to stories:

http://blog.showmeprogress.com/diary/3136/a-right-wingnut-interpretation-of-missouris-adopt-a-highway-program

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Trying to make sense of insanity

The last few days, Kim Jong Il--the wacko President of otherwise-starving North Korea--keeps lobbing 300 mile range missiles out of his country, inexpicably.

Really, that guy is such a wack-job. Who can explain this nutcase?

And unless you're watching the news closely--I don't think most Americans are, at least not this weekend--most don't know it's happening.

So far he's just an errant, harmless psycopath.

Let's hope he stays that way--harmless, I mean.

Then there's that other nutjob of the north--Sarah Palin.

Holy cow.

What was that all about, yesterday?

All of a sudden, Ms. "I'm really not stupid white trash" says she doesn't want to be a quitter but--love this--quits, as Governor of her state of Alaska.

Talk about inexplicable.

Now the guessing starts. Maybe you've heard some of it:

--Is she running away from some internal problem she has either with the state or somehow with her family or something? (Always a possibility, clearly).

--Is she setting herself up for a run for President in 2012? And to this I say--God, I hope so. I can't stand hearing her rambling, incoherent speeches and/or her delivery but, hey, the Republican Party will go further down in flames if she's their candidate. Fortunately, some Republicans of the far-right don't know this.

One entry on Associated Press I saw earlier today declared that yesterday's move hurt her and took her out of any possible run for the Presidency. Others certainly think the opposite, that that's just what she's gunning for.

Get this--did you see where contributions for her for that same candidacy have shot up big time in the last 24 hours, since her announcement?

I was stunned.

There really must be some wealthy, very small minority that thinks she's a good candidate for the highest office in the land (world?).

God bless those people and their money. We can all watch her go down in more flames.

I will say, if you haven't watched the 12 minute and 46 second video of that announcement on YouTube or some news channel, you should. It's vintage Palin. She hasn't changed. (Read: hasn't learned anything).

As a side, closing note, I flipped on Faux News yesterday, after Mrs. Palin's announcement, to see what BillO the Clown would say about it. I thought it would give him terrific fodder for his show.

My mistake.

BillO phoned in a pre-recorded show on the biggest Hollywood stars last evening.

Big mistake on Bill's part, I think. Instead of having a big, important show, with breaking material, Billy went on an early Independence Day weekend vacation.

Oops. He missed out and so did his true viewers.

Ah, too bad, huh?

Have a great Independence Day holiday, y'all!

Links to stories:
http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/07/04/nkorea.missiles/index.html?iref=mpstoryview
http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/07/03/palin/index.html?iref=mpstoryview

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Celebrating Independence Day, sure

But a successful country and system?

That seems at least questionable now.

Here we are, about to celebrate another Independence Day, here in America--the birth of our nation, our independence from tyranny and/or another foreign power dominating us and our independence to do what we wish.

This seems a particularly good time to evaluate the status of this Union and all this Independence.

And this evaluation takes the form of questions:

1) Does it seem like a successful, working system if we spend more than any other nation for health care, so much so that that same care is much more of a privilege than a right?;

2) Does it seem like this system of ours works when we're ranked 37th, internationally, in terms of mortality, on top of that expensive health care sytem?;

3) Does it seem like our system works when 46 million of us have NO health care, at all?;

4) Does a working, successful system have 25,000 deaths per year due to handguns?;

5) Does a working, successful system of any kind have its largest state in bankruptcy, which further threatens the financial security of said system?;

6) Does it make sense that we incarcerate and imprison more people than any other nation on the planet in both raw quantities and as a percentage of our population--both?;

7) Does it make sense for the "wealthiest" nation on the planet (now a questionable claim, it should be said) doesn't have mass transportation, for the betterment of the people and that same nation?;

8) Does it seem like a functioning system would have cities collapsing from the inside out (Detroit, St. Louis, Kansas City, etc.) and even one, from the outside, in (Phoenix)?;

9) Does a successful, functioning system have cities whose residents feel they must continually move out to the farthest reaches of those same cities, just so they can have less violent and more sane lives? (or so they can escape people of other color, however you want to phrase that);

10) Does a positive, successful system support--or have to--the purchase and possession of guns of all sorts for perceived "protection" and "self-preservation"?

All these things apply to us, here in the United States, right now.

Does it seem like this all works?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Can we stop kidding ourselves?

I pose a question for you today:

If you're "middle class" in America, but you live better than 90% of the people on the planet, is the term "middle class" accurate?

To wit, say you're living in a $200,000.00 house out in a former corn field with a bunch of other suburbanites, you travel the 1/2 hour in to your job in the city each day with all the other travelers, your house is what? 3,000 square feet, it has a lawn sprinkler system, it's either brand new or looks it, the household income is, again, what? $125,000.00 to $150,000.00 per year (I'm trying to shoot low here and stay well under that magic $200,000.00/year range), you go on regular, dependable vacations, you have a late-model automobile, etc., etc.

You get the picture, I think.

This, in America, is considered solidly "middle class". There are lots of people for whom this is an accurate description of their social and financial status.

And, again, it's WAY over 80% of America's population, in terms of wealth and status and, I believe, much more than 90% of the world's population's status and financial situation.

So could we stop kidding ourselves, just to feel good?

It's decidedly NOT "middle class."