Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The birth of the Tea Party - The KKK without the costumes.

I was called to serve my country in 1950 during the Korean War. I was 21 years old. I wasn’t really into politics at the time. I grew up during the depression and pretty much saw FDR as a hero. That was the extent of my political interest. I grew up poor, very poor. I had no attitude regarding minorities – one way or the other. There were few where I lived. Although, I always lived on the wrong side of the tracks, communities, even poor communities, were segregated. My early years were in South Gate. Immediately south was Watts. I was raised LDS so I was expected to have an attitude of kindness toward other people. I didn’t always comply but I tried.

I had my first conversation with a black person (they were called colored then) in Basic training (there were just a few in my company). His name was Bernard Turner and he was funnier than a standup comic. He did a lot for our morale. I considered him a friend but never hung out with him. I don’t know why.

After Basic training, I was transferred to the 82nd Airborne. The 82nd was the elite of the Army and it was totally segregated. All the black troopers were in an all black unit. We were stationed at Fort Bragg, NC. This was 1951. It was my first real exposure to man’s inhumanity to man. I was appalled at how blacks were treated. If they wanted to go to a movie, they had to sit in the balcony. All the theatres I attended had balconies. They rode in the back of the bus. It was against the law for them not to. They couldn’t drink out of the same public water dispensers as whites. But I didn’t spend a lot of time worrying about it. I was white.

Sometime in 1951, Truman ordered the integration of all military units. Most said it wouldn’t work. My platoon was chosen as the first white unit in the entire 82nd to be assigned a black trooper. His name was David A. Dansby. He was from Atlanta, Georgia, and I’m sure was hand picked. He was quiet, friendly, intelligent and NON-CONFRONTATIONAL. I couldn’t believe how he was treated by my friends, particularly those from the South. Far from giving him some emotional room, the “nigger” jokes ran amok. Dansby was obviously irritated and hurt but he kept his mouth shut. I didn’t participate but neither did I do anything to stop it. I could have. I wasn’t afraid of anybody in my platoon but didn’t feel the need to get into fights over Dansby. He was not very big or physically imposing – probably about 5-10 and 170 pounds.

Like my black friend in basic, he was funny and personable. Gradually the guys grew to like him and the bad taste jokes pretty much stopped. We grew to respect his feelings. I was probably more his friend than anyone else. I had a car. I was driving to Fayetteville one day and I saw him waiting for the bus. I stopped and offered him a ride but he politely declined. I coaxed him but to no avail. I guess I knew but insisted on an answer as to why. He feared being seen in Fayetteville getting out of a car driven by a white man. I’m not making this up. In my best bravado, I told him that I wasn’t afraid of those locals. His reply was, “I am.” He took the bus. It piqued my interest.

Shortly after my discharge I was hired as a cop by the Anaheim Police Department. From that day forward, most of my friends were cops. I love cops. They are the best people in the world except for their attitudes about blacks; pure irrational hatred for the most part. I still wasn’t very political but I became more vocal in defending them when the civil rights movement developed. We had some heated discussions in the station house and in the local watering holes.

After the civil rights bill was passed the schools and neighborhoods were gradually integrated, people got to know them, made friends with them, played ball with them and married them. Racism, at least as it existed before, phased out and those who were unable to make the adjustment were outnumbered and learned that if they were too vociferous, they would be isolated. But their hatred continued to simmer down deep.

But we have entered into a new phase. We learned to accept our next door neighbor being black, the mixed marriages, seeing a black doctor and, in the south, letting them ride in the front of the bus. We grew to love, even worship in a sense, the black athletes who play on “our” teams. Most of us, at least more than 50% of us are even ready to have a black President; but not all.

The thin veneer of decency and tolerance of a relatively small group of our citizenry has been overcome by their reemerging and now un-controlled hatred. These people have taken over the Republican Party and have become irrationally vocal. You saw them at the Town Hall meetings where they completely blocked any dialogue.

They have kept their racism and hatred below the surface for the past thirty years or so because blatant racism became unpopular. Now the election of an African American president has brought it back to the surface. They are so blind with rage, they no longer care what decent people think. They have retreated into their own ideological commune. Of course there has always been the animosity between the right and the left that had nothing to do with race. But the re-emergence of racism has intensified that as well. Politics has become ugly and has to a large extent grown to define friendships. I can remember when you were more likely to get into a shouting match over whether your Ford was better than his Chevy than over who was running for president.

An example of this hatred can be seen in the opposition to Obama’s programs – particularly health care reform. Of course rational opposition to the health care reform that has just become law can exist. But there has been no rational debate. The opposition, aware that the status quo is not defendable, at least as it relates to the vast majority of Americans who don’t own insurance companies or who earn less than $250,000 per year, have resorted to mendacity, pure lies on the extreme and distortion as a minimum. The opposition has been fueled by hatred not logic and has resulted in the so called Tea Party. They are a potpourri of opposition and hatred. The most visible thread of commonality is their hatred of Obama.

Nothing will change these people. Obama’s programs have been weakened by intransigent Republican opposition but will, over time, improve the lot of the middle class, just as Social Security, Medicare and the banking reforms of the thirties did, but this will only be met with more hatred by the Tea Party people who would rather see our society go down the tubes than see a successful African American president.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Beware of the Banksters

Thom's blog
There are now Bankster Sharks in the Water...
In his New York Times column, economist Paul Krugman is ringing the warning bell and saying we are in the early stages of a "third depression." "This third depression," he writes, "will be primarily a failure of policy" as the world's leading governments focus "about inflation when the real threat is deflation, preaching the need for belt-tightening when the real problem is inadequate spending." It's truly bizarre to watch country after country across Europe fail to learn the lessons of the past and hang tight to the economic policies of Herbert Hoover and Milton Friedman when both have been tried - and failed - repeatedly in countries all over the world over the past 80 years. The only reasonable rationale for why these national leaders are willing to destroy their social safety nets, throw their working people into serfdom, and drain the resources of their tattered middle classes to reduce their national debts is that - unlike other times in the past - there are now sharks in the water. Those sharks are the banksters, liberated in 1998 and 2000 by Phil and Wendy Gramm and Bill Clinton, Larry Summers, and Robert Rubin. Now that the banksters have been deregulated and can run trillion dollar gambling casinos, one of their easiest targets are the countries that have a lot of debt - just like the corporate raiders and so-called "private equity" companies look for companies with lots of debt to take down, disassemble, fire all the workers, and ship the jobs to China. Because these bankster sharks are now fully empowered in the waters of international finance, the traditional tool used to get countries out of Depressions - stimulative spending funded by debt - places a country at a huge risk of a shark attack (known in banking as a naked short attack), which can quite literally destroy the economy of a nation. Until the banksters are brought to heel, the wealth of nations will continue to collapse while the wealth of the banksters themselves will continue to explode.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Good for business means good for America

"Milo chortled proudly. "I don't buy eggs from Malta," he confessed... "I buy them in Sicily at one cent apiece and transfer them to Malta secretly at four and a half cents apiece in order to get the price of eggs up to seven cents when people come to Malta looking for them." ...

"Then you do make a profit for yourself," Yossarian declared. "Of course I do. But it all goes to the syndicate. And everybody has a share. Don't you understand? It's exactly what happens with those plum tomatoes I sell to Colonel Cathcart."

"Buy," Yossarian corrected him. "You don't sell plum tomatoes to Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn. You buy plum tomatoes from them."

"No, sell," Milo corrected Yossarian. "I distribute my plum tomatoes in markets all over Pianosa under an assumed name so that Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn can buy them up from me under their assumed names at four cents apiece and sell them back to me the next day at five cents apiece. They make a profit of one cent apiece, I make a profit of three and a half cents apiece, and everybody comes out ahead."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Observations of a disappointed Liberal

I am very disappointed in President Obama; certainly not by what he has accomplished but by what he has failed to accomplish.

Sure, he got health care reform passed and that was a good thing…even though most of us (liberals and progressives) wanted more. The plan he got was as good as he could have possibly gotten. And I applaud his efforts toward greening of America…as far as it has gone. He is still too cozy with oil.

His failures have been a direct result of a na├»ve desire to bring the republicans aboard. Everyone in America except him and the dino Rahm Emanuel knew it wouldn’t happen. The party of no told him so in every possible way. In a futile attempt at bi-partisanship, he let the stimulus package be reduced to the point of futility. All the liberal economists told him it wasn’t enough. He has learned nothing from the Roosevelt’s 2nd New Deal.

Banking and investment reform was weakened by his hiring those who were partly responsible for the financial melt down – Geithner and Bernanke. Resolution to the problem is simple; reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act and the other deregulation laws passed by Reagan. He also needs to step back from the Globalization process. It has created more problems that it has solved.

I am very disappointed in his Afghan policy. Like Iraq and Viet Nam, it is a loser and has absolutely nothing to do with national security or our “freedom.” There is no power on earth that can take it away from us except our selves.

I am not sorry I voted for him. There was simply no alternative. Unless the left produces a viable candidate, I will vote for him again but without enthusiasm. What is the alternative, McCain, Romney, Bobby Gindal?? I think not.

He is trying but he is no Roosevelt. A Roosevelt is what we need to bring back the middle class through revitalization of the unions and by bring back American industry to America. It is not too late for him to succeed but he has to step up and draw a line in the sand against those who have already drawn theirs.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Shut down the internet?

Thom's blog
Will the Internet be Shut Down?
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), along with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), introduced a bill called, The Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act, last week that would permit the President to effectively shut down the Internet by emergency decree. Lieberman said in a release announcing his bill, "Our economic security, national security and public safety are now all at risk from new kinds of enemies -- cyber-warriors, cyber-spies, cyber-terrorists and cyber-criminals." Joe Lieberman is so in love with war. But this raises a couple of larger questions. On the one hand, if our next president is another George W. Bush style hard-right demagogue and he decided that all the left-wing and progressive blogs were a problem, he could shut down the Internet. On the other hand, what if Sharon Angle and her friends who agree that Second Amendment gun rights are the remedy that right-wing Americans must use if they can't "succeed" at the ballot box this November, and they start assassinating progressive democrats like happened back in the 1960s, would you want President Obama or Biden to have the right to shut down the Internet so right-wing insurgents couldn't lead a violent overthrow of the US government? Is it even likely or possible? This bill is a dangerous infringement of our first amendment rights of free speech and assembly, particularly in as much as the new point of assembly is cyberspace. It's a classic example of right-wing overreach, and should be opposed by all patriotic Americans.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Can't tell the good guys from the bad guys without a scorecard.

Thom's blog
The Only American Part of BP was the BP Oil Disaster
The LA Times is reporting that the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that exploded in the Gulf "was built in South Korea. It was operated by a Swiss company under contract to a British oil firm. Primary responsibility for safety and other inspections rested not with the U.S. government but with the Republic of the Marshall Islands - a tiny, impoverished nation in the Pacific Ocean. And the Marshall Islands, a maze of tiny atolls, many smaller than the ill-fated oil rig, outsourced many of its responsibilities to private companies." On the other hand, early reports from survivors of the Deepwater Horizon explosion say that the problem was a major shouting-match fight between a BP official on the rig and a Deepwater Horizon official about how to cut costs and move action faster. The BP official won, the company saved money, and the rig blew up. CBS, which did the interview of the Deepwater Horizon survivor who told the story of the fight between the rig operator and the BP official, has since scrubbed the interview from its website, and President Obama, rather than vilifying the corporate criminals involved, is trying to shift the conversation to failures in the Minerals and Management Service, the government agency that had oversight over the permits for drilling. In that, he's following the first rule of modern American politics: Don't pick on the poor transnational corporations - they may well fund your next election campaign.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Big brother

Thom's blog
Tea Party or Trash Party?
The tea party and their corporate-funded backers FreedomWorks complained that the individual mandate in the new health care law was unlawful. Now, local chapters of the tea party and FreedomWorks are collaborating to plan a protest in Gwinnet County, Georgia, to voice their latest grievance against a serious, excessive, and oppressive exercise of massive governmental power - mandatory home trash collection. Yes, seriously. They're protesting the county's requirement that people dispose of their trash. Where were these idiots when REAL governmental power abuses were going on as people were being arrested at Bush/Cheney rallies for having Kerry bumper stickers on their cars, or the government was kidnapping often innocent people and torturing them to the point of becoming mental vegetables? Where were they when Bush and Congress ended Posse Comitatus - the 1870s law that says the military may not turn its guns on citizens within the US?

observations of a Liberal Mormon

I was born in 1929. My country was born in 1776. I have witnessed more than 1/3 of our nation’s life. I have seen incredible change. My first trip to town which was a post office, mercantile and a pool hall, was in a wagon. I remember the advent of the automobile, airplane, telephone, radio and television. It doesn’t seem that long ago. I have seen my country go through a lot of different phases; war, peace, economic depression and economic boom. I have served in the military (Korean War). I grew up poor and fatherless. My mother was on welfare when I was in HS and my brothers were in the service during WWII. I served in the 82nd Airborne which is based in North Carolina. I saw, first hand, the treatment of the “colored” by the people in the South. I served in law enforcement for 25 years and remember when minorities, particularly African Americans were systematically excluded from employment as cops. I can remember black kids and Mexicans not being permitted to use the public swimming pool in Fontana. I have worked in the private sector as a construction worker and built houses for 25 years as a general building contractor. I have worked in government and I have worked in the private sector. I have a degree in Economics and a Master Degree in Public Administration. My personal experience and observations have shaped my world view or “weltanschauung,” as the Germans call it. I have learned to trust government more than business. During the depression, government helped us; business exploited us. To me, it really is that simple. I have a deep concern for those who are poor and suffering. Yes, I have become a “Bleeding Heart Liberal.” When people call me that, I am not insulted. I grew up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints (LDS), a Mormon as people call us. I wasn’t always active but I am now. Mormons are the most humble, generous, loving decent people I know. They take care of their own poor and are always ready to lend a hand. Every family, every member is fellowshipped by a fellow Church member. Recently, I had heart surgery and while still recovering my bathtub developed a leak in the supply line. My “Home Teacher” was at my home within an hour of when I called and repaired the leak. Mormons do not need a lot of help from the government. But most aren’t Mormons and do not have that advantage. I am not JUST a Mormon, however, I am also a member of the larger group of citizens of the world in general and the USA in particular. I have studied the scriptures, the New Testament and the Book of Mormon. The scriptures tell me, along with common decency, that we ARE, in deed our brothers keeper. They tell me, and I can only speak for myself, that capitalism is not divine. It’s a system developed my men to make money. There is nothing wrong with that, it works, for the most part for all our benefit. It is the most efficient system extant and we need to preserve it until we have a better one, one created by God. Capitalism is based on greed. It is Darwinian and the sole purpose is to make a profit. If a profit can be made by helping people, it does it. If a profit can be made by exploiting people, it does it. We can only preserve it by protecting against its excesses and by providing help for those who are left out of the process. It is fragile and can be replaced. It nearly was in the Depression era. Failure to provide for those excluded foments dissatisfaction and leads to insurrections. Not only do we need to make the system more secure for sake of the system, we need to take care of those excluded because the scriptures tell us to and we like to remind everyone that we are mostly Christians. In Mark 10:21, Jesus tells a young man that to be perfect he must sell his possessions and give to the poor. The same conversation is reported in Matthew 19:21. A better economic system is depicted in Acts 4: 31-37 where everything was held in common. No, I’m not advocating socialism; we are not ready for it; still too much greed and sloth. But I am saying that socialism is not evil and attacking a social program by calling it “socialistic” is counter productive and non-Christian. We Mormons are commanded even further to take care of the poor, without trying to separate the truly needy and the malingerer, by King Benjamin in Mosiah 4: 16-23. If we are to survive as a capitalist society, we need to make adjustments. If we want to say we are Christian, we should be Christian. A society should not be evaluated by its ability to make war but rather on its desire to take care of each other.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

They get the profits and we bury the dead.

Thom's blog
They Get the Profits and We Bury the Dead...
Pro Publica is reporting internal investigations over the last 10 years show BP systemically ignored its own safety policies from Alaska to the Gulf of Mexico to California and Texas. The classified documents show management neglected aging equipment, put pressure on employees not to report problems and cut short or delayed inspections to reduce production costs.
Meanwhile, OSHA reports that two refineries in the US owned by BP account for 97 percent of the most what OSHA called "egregious willful" violations of all the refineries in the country, even after 15 Americans died at the explosion of a BP refinery in Texas City, Texas in 2005. The Minerals and Management Service reports that in the years since George W. Bush was appointed president by five Republicans on the Supreme Court in 2001, Oil spills in US waters have more than quadrupled, with BP being the company with the highest average number of spills - and this was before the blowout in the Gulf.
BP's response? They've hired former Huffington Post editor Hillary Rosen to help with PR, and Tony Podesta and The Podesta Group - along with 27 former congressional and White House staffers - to lobby Congress, the White House, and the Press to limit damages to BP and tamp down calls for criminal investigations against BP and its executives.
Americans now support pursuing criminal charges related to the Gulf spill and 80% give the federal government's response a more negative rating than the response to Hurricane Katrina.
They're also spending a small fortune buying space on Google and other search engines to make sure when people look for oil spill information the first thing they see is BP's point of view. And they're giving millions now to the big television networks for what they call advertising, but others are wondering if its an attempt to encourage the networks to temper their coverage of the oil volcano and BP's complicity in the death of the 11 men who died on the Deepwater Horizon. This is the problem with monopoly crony capitalism - they keep the profits, we pay the expenses and bury the dead, and the companies get so big that both accountability and competition are destroyed.

Bottom line

1st Lt. Milo Minderbinder: Nately died a wealthy man, Yossarian. He had over sixty shares in the syndicate.
Yossarian: What difference does that make? He's dead.
1st Lt. Milo Minderbinder: Then his family will get it.
Yossarian: He didn't have time to have a family.
1st Lt. Milo Minderbinder: Then his parents will get it.
Yossarian: They don't need it, they're rich.
1st Lt. Milo Minderbinder: Then they'll understand.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Thom's blog
Like the tobacco executives - BP won't see jail or handcuffs....
The Obama administration announced yesterday that it has started civil and criminal investigations into the volcanic oil spill in the Gulf. AG Eric Holder says he will "prosecute to the fullest extent of the law" any people or companies that have broken the law. BP's market value plummeted $21.1 billion yesterday as the Florida panhandle is bracing for oil slick expected to hit shore today. The oil slick arrival coincides with the Panhandle's summer tourism season. While the White House is sounding tough about a criminal investigation, former prosecutors and other experts on environmental law suggest that BP executives probably won't see the slammer or wear handcuffs, but perhaps just pay some fines out of their multimillion dollar salaries. Like the tobacco executives who lied to congress then flew back to their private yachts on their private jets, the BP, Halliburton, and Transocean executives who each blamed the other for the homicides in the Gulf have already walked out of Congress as free men, back to their own private jets and private mansions. The giant pharmaceutical company Pfizer, for example, recently pled guilty to a huge felony and paid over a billion dollars - the biggest criminal fine in history - for taking actions that probably led to the death of people because of the illegal mis-marketing of drugs. But no Pfizer executives went to jail. If you're Martha Stewart and you support Democrats and you do a small-time crime, you hit the slammer; if you're an oil or drug billionaire and you kill people and destroy the world, you get to fly home to a private island while your company pays a fine that it gets from consumers by raising prices. Meanwhile, the Republican Five crazies on the Supreme Court say that if you're an average criminal - as opposed to billionaire criminals who have entire law teams to shield them - you must know the law before you can be protected from the police keeping you up to for twenty or thirty hours for prolonged interrogations, even if you're innocent.