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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Not a perfect world but a lot more things going right of late

Yesterday the President signed the new "Hate Crimes" law into effect.

With him at the signing were the parents of murdered Matthew Shepard and the sister of lynched African-American James Byrd, Jr.

We've waited, as a country, for this law for so long and finally it's here.

Then, this morning, we find that that same President went, in the middle of the night last night, to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, to pay respect to 18 American soldiers who lost their lives in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

I know I covered this earlier today in another entry but adding the signing of this new law, on top of last evening's somber showing emphasizes still more what a big change and improvement this administration is over the previous one.

And it's far more that just trashing W yet again.

It's celebrating a much better trajectory and path, nationally, internally and internationally.

This just can't be emphasized enough, for me.

Some significant, good things are happening for the country and since they've come back-to-back, so to speak, it's worth just taking a moment to celebrate a couple of significant events.

Next thing you know, we'll be ending the Afghanistan War.

Links:
http://www.cbsnews.com/blogs/2009/10/29/politics/politicalhotsheet/entry5452143.shtml

http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2009/10/president-obama-pays-respect-to-fallen-troops-at-dover-air-force-base.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_James_Byrd,_Jr.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Shepard

http://www.trib.com/news/state-and-regional/article_59e387b4-c40a-11de-a91f-001cc4c03286.html

"Dignified transfer", rightly done

President Obama went to Dover Air Force Base last night, at midnight, from what I understand, to oversee the "dignified transfer" of 18 American Soldiers bodies back into the country last evening.

The link below can take you to a story on it and pictures of it.

It's so refreshing to see our President so dignified, himself, and respectful, more importantly, for these returning soldiers and their families. It's been a long time since we've seen that, sadly.

After seeing the pictures of the President, on the tarmac, with the soldiers and coffins, saluting and paying his respects, I have to say, it gave me chills.

Unfortunately, it also brought one more thing to mind, for me, after all the good thoughts about what a right, intelligent, sympathetic, empathetic action this was.

That is, I wonder how Fox "News" or Sean Hannity or Bill O'Reilly or Glenn Beck or even Rush Limbaugh can possibly, even in their sick, partisan minds, can or would describe this as anything but a good, right, just and, yes, patriotic function that he rightly performed and with great dignity.

I hope they don't touch the subject.

Link to story and pictures:
http://www.reuters.com/news/pictures/rpSlideshows?articleId=USRTXQ4KK#a=1

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

No "opt out" clause

The insurance companies keep doing what they can to take care of themselves--but take advantage of us.

First, we should have had the "single-payer" option with this coming health care reform so we can reduce what waste we can in paperwork, at minimum, that courses through our health care system.

There are 1300 insurance companies in the US and each one has their own forms, as we all know.

That creates untold waste in paper, time, energy and so, money.

Unfortunately, according to Matt Taibbi and Rolling Stone magazine, President Obama gave this $350 billion dollar a year savings tool away to the insurance industry and their lobbyists at the beginning of our negotiations for this reform.

That shouldn't have happened.

That wasn't in our best interests.

Second, we should have the "public option" for insurance, absolutely.

We are one of the only countries in the world that lets insurance companies make huge, ugly profits on health care insurance.

It's "blood money", for sure, let's be clear.

Government-run (yes, government-run) health insurance is the only thing that makes sense when it comes to being covered. Lots of other countries still have successful, private insurance companies and industries while, at the same time, having government-run health insurance, too. It can work. But we have to let it. (See any of the last 3 links below and/or do a Google search for "T R Reid Health Care").

We have to get the costs of health insurance down, that's all there is to it.

The ongoing annual increases are eating us alive--both businesses and citizens--you and me, out here in the real world.

Six to 8 to 13 percent increases (mine, this very minute, is an 8 to 13 percent increase option I have, depending on which deductible rate I accept), are devouring our economies. This inflation is unworkable, not just unacceptable.

And now we have the spineless, cowering Congress, kowtowing further for and to the insurance industry by throwing this ridiculous "opt out" clause in our negotiations.

The thought is, sure, if you must have this awful reform we don't want, then let's throw in the good-sounding "opt-out" idea, so if whole states don't want to go down this government-insurance way, they can choose to "opt out".

Except what it does is further guarantee insurance agencies their increases, at least for a few years, while strapping all the rest of us to ever-higher costs.

It's insane.

The insurance industry and their lobbyists are throwing millions of dollars at our representatives in an effort to get what they want and stiff the American public.

Don't fall for it, folks.

"Opt-out" is not in our best interests.

Far from it.

Now, today, Joe Lieberman says he will filibuster to keep the "public option" out of this bill.

(Bang head here)

Links:
http://www.rollingstone.com/nationalaffairs/index.php/2009/08/19/matt-taibbi-on-health-care-reform-sick-and-wrong/

http://www.rollingstone.com/videos/video/29735557
/matt_taibbi_on_healthcare_sick_and_wrong

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=114209669

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=112172939

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/21/AR2009082101778.html

http://fora.tv/2009/09/14/TR_Reid_The_Healing_of_America

Saturday, October 24, 2009

More good things from this White House

Notice came yesterday from the US House of Representatives that a new agency is finally being created to "regulate home loans, credit cards, savings accounts and other financial services."

The agency is to be called the Consumer Financial Protection Agency.

Let's hope it has some teeth and can do its job and do it well.

It's unfortunate, I think, that we need this additional function in our government and yet another new agency but I think it's important we do, indeed have it.

If we learned anything from the last couple of years, it's what can happen when business isn't regulated so out-and-out theft doesn't occur under the heading of "business as usual."

Considering what's happened to our banking, mortgage and credit sectors and what literally thousands of unscrupulous lenders did, first to their clients and then, ultimately, to our economy, what with our banking and credit crisis and collapse, it seems incredible anyone could voice any complaint about it.

But the bankers and business sector is, let there be no doubt.

The thing is, we need to get the banking and insurance (and all other corporations and their lobbyists and money) out of our government.

And the only way to do that is to have true, complete, bold, in-your-face campaign finance reform, with the corporations thrown out of both the process and ultimate legislative product.

But the American people, sadly, don't connect those dots.

Until that happens, until we all truly revolt for this result, it will remain more of the same, regardless of the political party in power.

There are two things about this, though, that are worth noting--one a question, the other an observation:

First, it would be good to know if this important work couldn't be done within an existing agency, like Commerce or something, so we don't create yet another bureaucracy that ends up living for it's own success.

Second, unfortunately, it's not a sure thing that this consumer protection agency will be created. Bankers and their money being what they are--and our government being how it is, subject to yet more lobbyist's money, etc.--this may not get out of Congress. It's too early to tell.

Sure, we're doing somewhat better now, as citizens and consumers, with this Administration and political party, compared to the previous one but we won't have that true, complete reform unless and until we all push mightily for said campaign finance reform.

That's the only thing that will finally get all the ugly money out of our government that is corrupting the officials, the process and the ultimate legislation.

God, I miss Molly Ivins.

Link:
http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_FINANCIAL_OVERHAUL?SITE=TXMCA&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT
http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_SHRINKING_FINANCIAL_OVERHAUL_ANALYSIS?SITE=TXMCA&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT

Friday, October 23, 2009

Terrific, entertaining, even important new read

Looking for a terrific read?

You want to be educated?

You want to be entertained and laugh?

You want to have a book you can recommend to others, when you're done with it, most likely?

Go to this link and read the excerpt NPR put on their website this morning by Tracy Morgan from his new book "I am the New Black."

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=114009203

Here's a brief excerpt of the excerpt:

"Let me make one thing clear right now: I'm not writing this for your sympathy, and I don't feel like any kind of hero. I'm not God's gift, but my life wasn't dumb luck either. As you'll see, I made a series of choices — some bad, most good — that led me here. I don't want your praise, but I do want to be an example. Not the kind of example the principal suspends for throwing food at the teacher or the cops arrest in front of his friends for spray painting eat my ass on the school. I want to be an example of a guy who made something of himself out of nothing. A guy who overcame the odds of a tough childhood, who worked hard, who didn't let his surroundings get the best of him and lead him to jail or the graveyard. Where I ended up — being a comedian, a TV star, and a movie actor — might be unique but my story is not. When a child is born, it's born with a heart of gold, but the way of this world can turn that heart cold. I'm still a good person and I thank God for that — He's working with me on it."

I think it could go a long way to being required reading for the KCMO School District for teens but, much more than that, for anyone in a tough situation. It looks to be funny, informative, educational, inspirational and helpful, all at once.

Food for thought.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

An education and warning

I hope you--and lots of people, nationwide--watched the "Frontline" special on PBS last evening named "The Warning."

It was about how our unregulated markets were allowed to be created, first, but then, further, how they were allowed to propagate, complete with rules that allowed out-and-out fraud and manipulation of the markets, with the thought that completely, utterly free markets were important and good and that they could and would regulate themselves.

They did and, because of the lack of regulation, they also collapsed.

Last evening's one-hour report told of one woman's attempt to regulate the quantity of trades--so we know how much or our economy was tied up in it--as well as regulating, again, possible manipulation and fraud.

So now, here we are in 2009 after two collapses in our markets and where are we?

After seeing it, I had to ask: How could you not come to the conclusion that we are in very much the same place, without having learned any lessons?

Goldman Sachs and Citigroup and all these people are still in power, the bonuses are still being paid out, there were no penalties, we still allow fraud and manipulation in commodity futures, we still don't regulate the trillions of dollars in hedge funds, etc.

It's hard to be optimistic about either what happened in the 1990's and its collapse, the recent collapse, now, in the 2000's and into the future.

If you didn't see "The Warning", you need to.

Links: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/warning/
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/25/AR2009052502108.html
http://blogs.reuters.com/rolfe-winkler/2009/10/20/brooksley-born-on-frontline-tuesday/

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Kansas City Star and good work

You can say what you will about the Kansas City Star and I'll admit, the coverage and newspaper isn't what it used to be, for sure, but this weekend, with the story yesterday--Saturday, Oct. 17--on "concierge medicine" and today, Sunday, 18th on money going through Jefferson City and also about Rod Jetton, they really made up for themselves.

Two fantastic, important, well-written stories that told us where we are and what's going on in our society, locally, regionally and even nationally.

They were important stories and articles. It was good coverage.

To those who didn't read them, you need to, in an effort to know what's going on in our society--to know what's right and what's wrong.

That, and the small article today about the Kansas City, Missouri School District Superintendent John Covington and what he plans.

I can come to no other conclusion but that it was good, intelligent and, again, important coverage that shouldn't be missed.

You can't expect anything more from a local newspaper.

Links:
http://www.kansascity.com/637/story/1513951.html
http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/story/1514294.html
http://www.kansascity.com/healthyquestions/story/1513257.html

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Let's call it what it is: Wealthcare

Let's not call what we have in America "health care" any longer. Let's be honest.

It's "wealthcare"--health care for anyone and everyone with money.

That's what we have and it's getting worse.

There is a terrific, front-page article in The Kansas City Star today that shouldn't be overlooked, partly because the Star can't do that many insightful articles any more, what with their much-reduced staff but also because it gives great, cutting-edge information on yet another new wrinkle in our health care system.

It's called "concierge medicine" and if you assume that, because it has a French name it's more expensive, you'd be correct.

It works like this: You pay, say, $1,000.00 up front, PER MONTH--that already puts most of us out of this option--then approximately $125.00 more per month. For that you get virtually unlimited access to your own personal family physician.

Want to see him or her that day? Sure.

Need to see him or her that evening? No problem.

For that much money, it shouldn't be a surprise.

Get this--the doctors still recommend you carry insurance, on top of these costs, of course, to cover "hospital visits and specialist's care."

Sure, it's terrific, personal coverage but at what a cost. Holy cow.

Understandably, as it says in the article, doctors are going crazy with our current system of health care because it pays them for procedures. This means that, the busier they are, the more they get paid so the more their practice gets paid.

Let me repeat a familiar refrain: This is no way to run a health care system.

It's crazy.

It's paying the doctors to just fix problems after the fact, instead of helping us all stay healthy ahead of time.

But as long as we keep going back in and paying our insurance premiums, and the doctors work like little rats in a cage and the clinics and hospitals keep their costs down--by denying care, frequently, and minimizing treatments and reducing the amount of time a patient sees a doctor and the amount of time we're actually healing in the hospital--then the system works great.

Except not at all.

This is another, gross extension of this crazy system that's been created here in the US since the 60's, when corporations have taken over health care.

All they see and want is money and profits and the more and bigger, the better.

This makes health care even more a matter of good health for the wealthy and little or nothing for the middle- and lower-classes.

It provides further proof that our system is grossly broken.

We need both the single-payer option so there is only one form for all care--instead of the 1300 different forms there are now, one for each insurance company in the country--and we need the "public option" for health insurance to keep costs for coverage much lower.

At best, with the proposals now going through Congress, we may get the public option. Hopefully, it won't be too watered-down as to be meaningless.

Push for reform, folks.

We need it badly and it will help all of us.

Just not the insurance companies.

Then go read this article in The Kansas City Star, if you haven't already. You need to know what's going on.


Link to original story: http://www.kansascity.com/746/story/1513257.html

Article on "Wealthcare" from The New Republic:
http://www.tnr.com/article/books-and-arts/wealthcare-0

And go here, to The New Republic, for a large selection of articles on our current health care status: http://www.tnr.com/blogs/the-treatment

Friday, October 16, 2009

The importance of this acknowledgement can not and should not be overlooked

A quote from far-right-wing Pat Buchanan from The McGlaughlin Group, earlier this evening:

"The Iraq War was a war of intervention, it was a war of choice, it was an unnecessary war."


The admission of this is such a blatant indictment of the George W. Bush Administration, it should not be overlooked or under-considered.

But it will be.

This makes me nearly weep for the over 4,000 soldiers, their families, friends and loved ones who lost their lives in this admittedly big mistake called the Second Iraq War.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

It's hard to not think we're blowing a ton of money

President Obama signed a bill was today to send $7.5 billion dollars to Pakistan in aid.

Seven and a half billion.

Yowza.

And maybe it's a good idea but you'd have to have a lot more information to know this is the right thing to do than what the lay person on the street has, for sure.

Pakistan is one poor country and it's so full of needs. It's particularly difficult to think this money will be well-used when a report from The Guardian UK reports that "Up to 70% of US Aid to Pakistan is 'misspent'". (See link, below).

So that news today comes on top of word from President Obama and the White House that they plan to give every senior citizen in the country $250.00 as part of the stimulus plans.

Forget the fact that the cost of living dropped in the last year 2 points, in effect giving the seniors additional money, now we're throwing money at them, too.

NPR reported that this is likely to "buy votes" of this very important voting lobby.

The cost for that little give away?

13 more billion dollars.

Yi.

At what point do we stop?

At what point to we quit borrowing from future generation's finances?

I'm a liberal to the core, socially, but I think this is all just way too much and that we need to rein in spending and drawn down the outlays from the treasury.

Links:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20091015/pl_nm/us_pakistan_aid_usa
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/feb/27/pakistan.usa
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=113805482&ft=1&f=1003

Someone please make him go away

Dear God, Clay Chastain has reared his ugly head yet again.

Holy cow.

What is it with this guy?

Can he not just go away?

Clearly this is the only town that will give him the attention he wants and clings to so dearly.

I think, if it weren't for the Kansas City Star and maybe local TV news stations, he might truly go away.

But here he comes again.

We need light rail, as a city and I'm all for it and it makes so much sense, even if gasoline is hovering a little over $2.00 per gallon but, geez, Clay Chastain?

It's clearly all about himself and not the rail.

Give us a break, Clay.

Go home.

Enjoy life.

Heck, get a life.

Get a hobby.

Do something but let Kansas City be Kansas City, right or wrong.

Give us a freaking break.

Take your ego and go home.

Permanently, this time.


Link:
http://www.kansascity.com/news/breaking_news/story/1508431.html

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Growing yet more governmnet

I thought I'd never quote Ronald Reagan but here goes: "There they go again."

Have you read or heard where President Obama wants to create yet another new governmnet agency--this time to oversee regulation of banks and the loans they create and offer?

Are you kidding me?

At what point will we stop growing government and its agencies and spending?

Here's a thought--between the FDIC, the Federal Reserve, the Commerce Department and the Consumer Protection Agency--all of which already exist, thank you very much-- couldn't one of those groups handle these functions, Mr. President?

Must we create yet another agency to do this work?

This reminds me of just after 9/11 when then-President George W. Bush created a new agency--"Homeland Security"--when it seems that the question should have been asked whether or not the FBI and/or the CIA or some other agency could not or should not have been able to handle these functions.

Not only did it seem as though one or another already-existing agencies could have handled these functions, without creating a new and, in my mind, wasteful agency but, once created, it wasted, it is reported, billions of dollars.

Three quick examples:

--After spending more than $4.5 billion on screening devices to monitor the nation's ports, borders, airports, mail and air, the federal government is moving to replace or alter much of the antiterrorism equipment, concluding that it is ineffective, unreliable or too expensive to operate.

--In its effort to create a virtual shield around America, the Department of Homeland Security now plans to spend billions of dollars more. Although some changes are being made because of technology that has emerged in the last couple of years, many of them are planned because devices currently in use have done little to improve the nation's security, according to a review of agency documents and interviews with federal officials and outside experts.

--The contract to hire airport passenger screeners grew to $741 million from $104 million in less than a year. The screeners are failing to detect weapons at roughly the same rate as shortly after the attacks.

Heck, the wasteful spending at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was so bad so quickly that our own government did a report on its waste. (See 2nd link, below).

This whole recent example of the DHS being created when, I contend, it likely didn't need to be created anyway and then went off on a mulit-billion dollar wasteful spending blitz, shows precisely what I'm speaking of.

We create agencies we shoudn't and that we don't need AND THEN they go off wasting millions and billions of dollars of tax money.

Can someone say "stop!" please? Or how about "Don't!"?

So, again, I'm asking, cannot SOMEONE at the Commerce Department, the FDIC and/or the Federal Reserve possibly do these oversight jobs we need done--admittedly--of the banks so we, the consumers, don't get ripped-off WITHOUT creating yet another money-gobbling government agency?

PLEASE?

(And keep in mind--this is from a liberal, folks. A fiscally-conservative, socially-liberal liberal).

Link:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091009/ap_on_go_pr_wh/us_obama_consumers_6
http://oversight.house.gov/Documents/20060727092939-29369.pdf
http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2005/06/billions_wasted_1.html

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Like Vietnam, we need to get out

I've been reading several articles in the last few days about Afghanistan and the Afghanistan war the previous administration got us into.

It seems everyone is talking, lately, about our status there now and what, exactly, we should be doing in the short- and long-term.

I think if we consider a few basic statistics and some raw, hard data about Afghanistan that we can see the only sensible thing to do is, as I said above, treat it like Vietnam and get the hell out and as soon as possible.

The following information comes from Frank Rich's article in The New York Times today:

--"the number of Qaeda insurgents there has dwindled to fewer than 100, according to the president’s national security adviser, Gen. James Jones";

--"American intelligence officials now say that 'there are few, if any, links between Taliban commanders in Afghanistan today and senior Al Qaeda members'”;

--"we will never build a functioning state in a country where there has never been one";

--we cannot "score a victory against the world’s dispersed, stateless terrorists by getting bogged down in a hellish landscape that contains few of them", describing Afghanistan;

--"The Congressional Research Service estimates that the war was running $2.6 billion a month in Pentagon expenses alone even before Obama added 20,000 troops this year";

--"The existing Afghan “army” is small, illiterate, impoverished and as factionalized as the government;"

--"Afghanistan is not Iraq. It is poorer, even larger and more populous, more fragmented and less historically susceptible to foreign intervention." Thinking that we've had "success" in Iraq is virtually completely unsupportable in my view and many others and even if you do think we've been "successful", the war and difficulties we face in Afghanistan are far more vast and troubling than Iraq;

This is the big one, for me:

--"Gen. David Petraeus stipulates that real counterinsurgency requires 20 to 25 troops for each thousand residents. That comes out, conservatively, to 640,000 troops for Afghanistan (population, 32 million). Some 535,000 American troops couldn’t achieve a successful counterinsurgency in South Vietnam, which had half Afghanistan’s population and just over a quarter of its land area";

This all, for me, brings up the following questions which Mr. Rich wrote of today:

--Why are we dealing and working with Hamid Karzai who is known to be part of greedy, corrupt and graft-laden government that is benefitting mightily from overseeing this country, which is in such a mess? and

--Why are we doing anything but writing scenarios to get out of Afghanistan as quickly, safely and intelligently as possible, given even these few facts, above, other than to "save face" for America?

--Are we too proud to do the right thing for our soldiers and our country?

The Soviets had to do it--and did--and somehow survived. If it's the right thing--in this case, withdrawing from Afghanistan, you just do it, eventually.


Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/11/opinion/11rich.html?th&emc=th

Addendum:
http://www.alternet.org/blogs/video/143097/the_human_cost_of_war%3A_the_images_the_corporate_media_doesn%27t_want_you_to_see/

Saturday, October 10, 2009

General McChrystal on Afghanistan

A direct quote:

"We could do good things in Afghanistan for the next 100 years and fail because we're doing a lot of good things and it just doesn't add up to success."

Questions we need to ask, as a country, about Afghanistian:

If there was, originally, a good reason for us to be in Afghanistan, the question has to be asked why we are still there, all these 8 years later and what our plans are for the future?

What is/are the goal(s)?

Do we have a/any goal(s)?

If we are to "win" this war, how will we know when we did?

At what point is the cost in people and materiel simply not worth what we expend?

More later today.

Friday, October 9, 2009

What the heck?

How would you like to have had press secretary Robert Gibbs' job this morning?

How would you like to be the one with the job of calling your boss--the President of the United States--to tell him the Press just informed you he was being given the Nobel Peace Prize?

Yowza.

I think both of them must have had the same first response. That is, "Are you kidding?"

I mean, I'm a big fan and long-time supporter of this President and a lot of his efforts, especially in view of the previous office-holder, but this President has only been in office 9 months.

And he's considering escalating the war in Afghanistan right now, keep in mind.

But apparently President Obama is such a refreshing change from President George W. Bush and his policies that so much of what he's done and is doing is so supportive and positive and fresh for the world that this group thought he needed to be rewarded for his work to date.

It must be a giddy day at the White House.

Link: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/eu_nobel_peace

For a good, brief read, go here for the text of the Nobel citation for the President:
http://www.reuters.com/article/GCA-BarackObama/idUSTRE5981RA20091009?virtualBrandChannel=11604

Two updates:

Apparently the White House has notified the Nobel organization that President Obama will go in person to receive the award. This will be a great time for him to make a moving speech, imploring nations to work together.

And the harping and criticism from the Republican Party has already begun.

Sad. Really sad.

Link:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/09/obamas-nobel-prize-inspir_n_315167.html

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Why is virtually no significant media outlet covering what is possibly one of the biggest stories of the decade?

Did you hear this?

There was a brief mention of Russia, China and Saudi Arabia discussing dumping the US dollar as the currency the value oil is pegged to.

Here's the entry from NPR:

"-- The Independent -- Arab States, China, Russia, Japan And France Are Discussing Not Using Dollar For Oil Trading: "In the most profound financial change in recent Middle East history, Gulf Arabs are planning -- along with China, Russia, Japan and France -- to end dollar dealings for oil, moving instead to a basket of currencies including the Japanese yen and Chinese yuan, the euro, gold and a new, unified currency planned for nations in the Gulf Co-operation Council, including Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Qatar. ... The plans, confirmed to The Independent by both Gulf Arab and Chinese banking sources in Hong Kong, may help to explain the sudden rise in gold prices, but it also augurs an extraordinary transition from dollar markets within nine years."

It was just a rumor and the reputed participants denied the rumor.

At first.

But in the article I show the first link to at the bottom of this entry, supposedly this conversation did, in fact, go on by OPEC members and it was broadcast, to the shock of reporters.

And it was November, 2007.

So this is the 2nd time this has been publicly considered, apparently.

If this should go forward, folks, the change for us in the US would be extremely far-reaching, in all likelihood.

Here's the way The Independent described it:

"In a graphic illustration of the new world order, Arab states have launched secret moves with China, Russia and France to stop using the US currency for oil trading."

"The decline of American economic power linked to the current global recession was implicitly acknowledged by the World Bank president Robert Zoellick. "One of the legacies of this crisis may be a recognition of changed economic power relations," he said in Istanbul ahead of meetings this week of the IMF and World Bank. But it is China's extraordinary new financial power – along with past anger among oil-producing and oil-consuming nations at America's power to interfere in the international financial system – which has prompted the latest discussions involving the Gulf states."

I don't think the American public is paying attention, either, or knows this kind of thing might be being considered and what it might possibly mean to the nation--and themselves.

It wuold likely knock America down, financially--and considerably.

Pay attention, people.

We'd better be watching what's going on in the rest of the world.

Finally.


Link:
http://tpzoo.wordpress.com/2007/11/19/opec-leaders-debate-ditching-the-dollar-during-private-talks-which-were-mistakenly-televised-to-reporters/
http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2009/10/afghanistan_pakistan_mcchrysta.html

This is the most complete and important article to read, of these three:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/the-demise-of-the-dollar-1798175.html

Then again, Mish Sedlock thinks it's balderdash:
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com/2009/10/ridiculous-hype-over-secret-oil.html

Monday, October 5, 2009

Who is the "war monger", anyway?

There is a fascinating new study of the former Soviet Union's population out right now, that shows its population is decreasing, and strongly, by the millions.

I heard of it this morning on NPR but after doing the most rudimentary search on the internet, I found--quickly and easily--that this has been going on for some time.

I'll get into some data in a second but what this means is, I think, that we can and should stop "fighting the last war"--the Cold War--and start thinking in new, intelligent, positive, current-moment ways. If we did and do, I think it's painfully obvious we can--and again, should--decrease our military budgets and spending.

After all, it's the military budgets of the former Soviet Union that was, in part, to blame for its collapse, if we'll remember.

That data:

"Russia's population has fallen by 6.6 million since 1993, despite the influx of millions of immigrants, according to a U.N. report released last year, and by 2025 the country could lose a further 11 million people."

"Recent Kremlin efforts to reward women for having more babies have caused a surge in the birth rate, the U.N. has said, but won't make much difference in the long term."

"Population levels in many developed countries have stagnated and are expected to fall by 2025, but Russia's population, currently around 142 million, has been in retreat since 1992. Russia's mortality rate is among the highest in the developed world, with average life expectancy for males at barely 60 years."

"For reasons that are not fully understood, Russians suffer very high levels of cardiovascular disease. But most experts blame the country's overall high death rate on alcohol. Drinking has been linked to everything from liver disease to Russia's high number of murders, suicides and fatal accidents."

Oh, and here's a beauty. Does the following sound familiar, ladies and gentlemen?

"The U.N. has also urged Russia to overhaul the health system to provide more efficient care..."

It surely sounds as though we have a lot more in common with these people--our former enemies--than we think.

The fact is, I think we could and should work with these people, yes, for the betterment of their country for peaceful, humanitarian goals and put little American flags on everything we do.

If we would tie ourselves in their minds to bettering their country, they would see us in a new, positive light.

The additional fact is, our country grossly overspends our GNP and GDP on military hardware.

It's obscene.

It's stupid.

The military industrial machine has taken over our government and our country and we need to wean ourselves off this section of our production.

The US, folks, spends $623 billion per year (as of FY08) on our military budget.

The entire rest of the world spends $500 billion.

Is this not insanity?

Who, exactly, is the "war monger" here?

The number 2 position is China, sure, and as of what must be the latest, most accurate data--FY04--they spent $65 billion.

$65 billion vs. our $623 billion.

You know what this means?

This means China is far more able to spend on infrastructure and on business and--here's a novel idea--their people than we are because they aren't filling warehouses with guns and bombs.

Who do you think will be better able to succeed, financially, in this scenario? The country stockpiling weapons or the nation bettering their country?

Let me suggest we get a heck of a lot more rational and merely cut the military budget in half--down to a mere $300 billion dollars--and put the balance into oh, I don't know, how about health care and schools and roads?

And while we're at it, could we look into finally get out of Germany and Italy, too?

Doesn't that seem to make a heck of a lot more sense than the insanity we're perpetrating now?

Link to stories:
http://www.voanews.com/english/archive/2006-03/2006-03-08-voa62.cfm
http://geography.about.com/od/obtainpopulationdata/a/russiapop.htm
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=113490614
http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/spending.htm

Here's an idea for taxation and corporations

Question and proposal: Why don't we have a minimum 10% tax on all businesses in the United States, regardless of deductions?

It could and should serve as a minimum requirement for working, living and benefitting from being in this country and having exposure to its markets.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

100 failed banks next week?

Three more banks failed Friday evening, making the total number of failed banks this year here in the US right at 98.

So, any bets on 2 more going down next Friday evening so it comes to an even 100 (or more?).

I'm thinking it's a pretty sad, unfortunate, expensive, unnecessary inevitability.

I hope not but I'd bet on it.

And I try to only bet on "sure things".

But the real question is, where is the bottom? At what point will the bank failures stop?

And no one can even begin to guess at that answer.

Link: http://www.propublica.org/ion/bailout/item/bank-failures-at-98-ytd

Terrific, even important, art exhibits in town right now

 
It turns out, this is really quite an art weekend for Kansas City.

Last evening was "1st Friday" in the Crossroads area, of course and while that's behind us, two exhibits are available right now, very different from one another, that are "can't miss" exhibits.

The Kemper Gallery of Contemporary Art has an exhibit of pieces by Wyeth family members--N.C., Andrew, James and Henriette--that is a knockout. Thanks to the Kemper family, of course, for both the gallery itself and now for several of these artworks, you can enjoy quite a range of talent and style.

Then, at Union Station, you can see a terrific display of Andy Warhol originals.

They're being shown as part of a Bank of America sponsorship and tour of the country. It's inexpensive, at only $12.00 per person and it doesn't take 2 or 3 hours to see.

I would recommend you go down at 2 or 3 in the afternoon, though. When we arrived, at about 1:30 pm, we had to pay $5.00 to park. My immediate, knee-jerk reaction was to dislike it. But then I got to thinking about supporting Union Station and this type touring exhibit and I thought it made sense and was fair. However, when we came back to the car an hour later, the barricades and money-takers were gone. It made no sense. We were back to feeling taken advantage of again. Oh, well.

One last note, I've put some pictures up from Union Station and our tour at my photography blog: www.kcphotogblog.blogspot.com.

Have a great weekend, y'all.
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Friday, October 2, 2009

Get out and see this movie!

Starting today, Michael Moore's new movie "Capitalism: A Love Story", starts today here in Kansas City and across the rest of the country.

It's another good, important documentary and an important one for us to see so get out there and check it out, folks. Let's learn more about what the corporations are doing to us, for pity's sake.

And the thing is, he's both funny and factual in it so don't think it's all just dry.

Link to theaters and times here in KC this weekend:
http://www.google.com/movies?hl=en&near=Kansas+City&dq=capitalism+a+love+story&sort=1&mid=ae3788caa2fc2e3e&ei=9iHGSsXwO47aNvaO4fMH&sa=X&oi=showtimes&ct=movie-link&cd=1

Link to movie's official site:
http://www.capitalismalovestory.com/

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Crazy, Right-wing, gun-loving Arizona

Did you see where Right-wing Arizona went koo-koo recently and got a few more extremely conservative laws on their books as of yesterday?

Oh, yeah. Guns and abortion.

I won't touch the abortion subject here but I couldn't pass up their gun ideas.

"The new laws allow guns to be kept in cars on campus, as well as on public and private properties."

Makes you want to send your son or daughter to ASU for college, doesn't it?

Here's the part that really gets me:

"Another new gun law allows licensed gun owners to carry concealed weapons into bars and restaurants unless there is a sign on the property prohibiting firearms, according to state legislative documents."

You got that right.

Arizona is going to let people take their guns into bars.

That's always a good idea, don't you think? Guns and alcohol, your safest bet.

Fortunately, at least the head of the university sees the insanity of this:

"ASU President Michael Crow said in an Arizona Board of Regents meeting Friday that allowing concealed weapons in locked vehicles on campus goes against the environment he wants for the University.

'Our job as university presidents is to create an environment for openness, tolerance, communication, understanding — all these things,' Crow said. 'The public projection of weapons is a counter to the creation of that environment.'"

I'd love to hear what stand the local police groups had to say about allowing guns in bars and on university campuses.

To tie in with this story, I was doing some research to respond to a comment sent me by a reader and found an article from April, 2008 that showed that gun-related deaths in Hawai'i are the lowest in the nation and that this coincides with their stricter gun laws.

In yer' face, NRA.

I repeat, "more guns" is never the answer.


Here's the link to that story and data:
http://archives.starbulletin.com/2008/04/26/editorial/editorial01.html

and this one:
http://archives.starbulletin.com/2008/04/25/news/story01.html

While this links you to a story about Arizona's new laws:
http://www.statepress.com/node/7967