Sunday, February 27, 2011

Oil Econ 1A - Why are gas prices so high? Why Drill Baby Drill is feckless!

Problem #1:  Supply and demand. The demand for gasoline is growing exponentially and permanently while supply can only grow arithmetically...and for a finite period of time. In other words, the growth in world population and increased availability of automobiles in places like China and India will push demand to the point where oil reserves will not be able to satisfy it...at any price. We are depending more and more on foreign production and the countries that produce it don't really like us much. Maintaining our OPEC supply means continual war.

American geophysicist M. King Hubbert in his widely accepted and time tested theory called Hubbert's Peak tells us that we reached the apex of our oil production capabilities sometime around 1970.  From there on, production will be more difficult and expensive. Tales of rich untapped reserves like the "Baaken Formation" in the Dakotas is a fairy tale. It is debunked both by FactCheck.Org and Snopes. Common sense tells us that we will run out of oil. If not now, some day, and the best policy is to proceed as if it were soon.

Problem #2: Wall Street Speculation produces an oil price totally unrelated to current supply and demand.
As in all cases, Wall Street heard the word "bet" and flocked to "Futures", taking the market to strange new places on the fringe of legality. In the 19th and early 20th centuries it bet on grain. In the 21st century it was oil. Despite U.S. petroleum reserves being at an eight-year high, the price of oil rose dramatically beginning in 2006. While demand rose, supply kept pace. Yet, prices still skyrocketed. This means that the laws of supply and demand no longer applied in the oil markets. Instead, an artificial market developed.


Problem #3: Unrest in the Middle East or political confrontations in other OPEC countries effect the speculation in futures and drive up prices or a change in government,  in a key oil producing country, as in Iran in 1979,can eliminate a source of supply.


The banal mantra of the oil industry and it's toadies, both political and citizenry, of DRILL BABY DRILL fits nicely on a bumper sticker but is totally void of any value as a solution. Make no mistake about it, the oil industry loves the shortage that we're seeing. Oil profits are better than ever.They are not the least interested in a supply increase that would decrease prices at the pump. 


Solution: Reduce and eventually eliminate the use of gasoline as automobile fuel. The hybrids have already shown the way. Electricity is the foremost renewable energy in terms of automobile fuel. Some people like their "muscle cars" and there will always be a need for power and size. There is no reason that these consumer demands cannot be accommodated with electricity in the near future. Recently an electric racing car beat all comers in drag races. And gasoline prices are only part of the reason to stop burning gasoline. The future of human breathing may trump prices. 


Electric cars are the future and longer we let the oil companies bribe congress into delaying it, the longer we will be raped at the pump.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Los Angeles rally for Wisconsin

I attended the Los Angeles version of support Wisconsin unions rally today. In spite of a forecast of rain in Los Angeles (which didn't materialize) there was a good crowd. I had to leave because my knee gave out on me but at 1:00 PM, they were still coming in. There was also a lot of positive reaction from cars driving past.

The crowd was orderly but enthusiastic. I would guess there were 3000 there when I left. Just a guess.

It was encouraging but I don't see Walker backing down. The public employee unions are doomed in Wisconsin. So is Walker, maybe:
"According to the AFL-CIO NOW blog, not all Republican governors agree with Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's plan to eliminate collective bargaining rights except in the case of wages for public-sector unions. SaysPennsylvania's Republican Gov. Tom Corbitt: "We’ll begin negotiations with the public-sector unions and anticipate we’ll conduct those in good faith." Also, notes Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott: "My belief is as long as people know what they’re doing, collective bargaining is fine."


"In Indiana, Gov. Mitch Daniels called on Republican state legislators to stand down on their push for a so-called right-to-work bill that seeks to ban agreements between unions and employers that would make union membership a condition of employment. Daniels argued yesterday that it would interfere with other legislative priorities, including education reform."


As Admiral Yamamoto said when the US Fleet was on fire in Pearl Harbor, Walker may have awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve.


Friday, February 25, 2011

Wisconsin, lobbying and electing your own staff.

Hours after it was learned that the Obama budget cuts $3.6 Billion from subsidies, the American Petroleum Institute, the main US trade association for the oil and gas industry, announced that it will use lobbying money to directly back political candidates. It's apparently cheaper and more effective to just elect their own staff. How dare the President of the United States stop giving them  public money. API has plenty of money to do this; they were the 7th most prolific spender on lobbying in the 2010 election. If you read this report, you will see that Koch Industries are the leading spender but their spending can be reduced next year having already put their man in the Wisconsin governors chair.

As reported in Thom Hartmann's blog, The executive vice president for government affairs said about the announcement, "This is adding one more tool to our toolkit...at the end of the day, our mission is trying to influence the policy debate." Could the timing of this statement, made right after Obama announced the subsidy cuts, serve as a warning to the President.

What does this have to do with Wisconsin? The Koch Industries success in putting their man in office serves as a model for the future of buying America. Governor, this year, President next year. Wisconsin is the best chance to make a rebuttal argument.

Let's hope that, like the cowardly attack on Pearl Harbor, this attack on the American middle class will also wake up a sleeping giant.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The hypocrisy of Walker exceeded only by the mendacity

There’s been a cacophony of sound coming from the supporters of Scott Walkers move to destroy the unions and middle class in Wisconsin. The vitriol of their dialogue is exceeded only by its mendacity.

Wisconsin public employees, particularly teachers, have been misrepresented to the extent that one has to assume deliberate lies. Just being wrong couldn’t be that far from truth. The mantra of the GOP and its Koch Brothers’ Teaparty is that they are overpaid and greedy. The average salary of Wisconsin public employee is $13,467 a year while the average salary statewide is $21,271.

It’s also a common claim that unionized public employees get their health insurance free. The do in fact get it cheaply. They pay 5% of the cost of the premium. But even if they paid nothing, it is not free. Benefits are, and have been for over 50 years, part of the total pay package that employees use to attract workers. They earn it with their labor just as they earn their wages. Walker supporters whine because unionized workers earn more than they do doing the same jobs. So join a union, that’s why they exist! Furthermore, benefit packages aren’t the issue, they have agreed to pay more, they have agreed to what Walker has in his budget. It’s not about money, it’s not about deficits, it’s about Walker’s promise to the Koch Brothers to eliminate the unions. Some have lauded the governor for not including police and firemen in his demand for no collective bargaining. This is more tawdry politics of division. He excluded them because he thought his proposals would produce violence. I wonder why he thought that. If he destroys the other unions police and firemen will be next. Does anyone, including the police and firemen, doubt it?

More shameful is that, despite his claim, the deficit has not been caused by union bargaining. The fact is that it is a result of his giving tax breaks to his corporate pals. Not only is this not job producing, is hypocritical.

Much of the vitriol is directed toward unions themselves asserting that they use threats, intimidation, coercion and violence. The only history of violence is in reaction to violence, for example, the Matewan massacre and the Haymarket riot. There were also minor incidents of violence in Los Angeles during the mid-thirties when the AFofL was organizing the construction workers. My father was involved when I was a boy. Before that lathers would follow the material laden trucks to the job sites where the contractor would open bidding.  Often the accepted price was not enough to pay for the gasoline they had used.  The AFofL convinced them to agree on a bottom price. There were fights with strike breakers. Those who are against the closed shop have an argument. It may seem unfair until you understand that closed shops are the result of the democratic process. Their net effect has been better working conditons for everyone, including non-union workers although the refuse to acknowledge it, and was responsible for the growth of the middle class after the war.

Some states have passed so called right-to-work laws. They would be more appropriately called right-to-work-cheap laws. I have built homes in Utah and California. When I was building, carpenter pay was 25% higher in California than in Utah. The per foot framing costs were the same. The savings by the cheap labor was not passed on to the consumer; it went to increased profit to the contractor. The disparity is further exacerbated by the lack of health care coverage. It is sadly true that there have been some corruption on the part of union leader but even with it, their union members continued to benefit from better working conditions and wages.  The problem of union corruption has been effectively, if not entirely, curtailed by the RICO laws of the 70s.

Wisconsin is the bulwark in America’s last stand in defense of the America that we know now.  Make no mistake about, the odds and big money favor Walker and Wisconsin is only the beginning. The Supreme Cour,t in giving Multinational corporations the vote, or better, the control over voting, has supported that. The citizen United Decision had nothing to with free speech as conservative supporters would have you believe. It’s about power. It gives Corporations, with their immeasurable available funds, the ability, and incentive, to control elections. In the not too distant future, the only competition in our elections may be between corporate bottom lines. Think of America as one big company town where everyone works for the company for a wage that they establish unilaterally, lives in company owned housing, price of which is determined unilaterally and buys food and clothing from the company store, the prices of which are determined unilaterally. This is not what Adam Smith had in mind. It happened in Matewan!



Sunday, February 20, 2011

On Wisconsin! How it got to this and where it will go.

It the GOPhonies were as good at governing as they were at getting elected the country would be much better shape; and make no mistake, the GOP is responsible for the shape it is in.  What they are best at is making people vote against their own vital best interests.

From the Revolutionary war on through history, with the exception of 1929 to 1980, the party that has always represented the aristocracy has controlled the economic and social stratification of America. Their mantra has been throughout history the admonishment that the USA is a republic, not a democracy. They claim that democracy is bad because it is a situation where the mindless, soulless majority oppresses the individual and the spirit of God; their natural antithesis of that is a Republic which exists to protect the individual against this oppression. This is more of their sleight of hand used to obfuscate facts. Their view of government is that it's function should be to ensure the ability of the of the ruling class to exploit the working class and consumers. Since the working class and consumers represents the bulk of the populace they have had to:

  • suppress their suffrage 
  • convince them that voting against their own best interests is in fact voting for their own best interest, or
  • obfusctate the social issues to the point where the public ignores their best interests
They have been successful in doing all three. Minorities are still being denied the right to vote in some states. Another way is to gerrymander voting districts as they did in Texas and other states. The third way has been the most successful, although all three have worked and still work. They have done this by:

  • creating strawman issues, 
  • introducing the fear factor and blaming the majority party; communism, socialism, terrorism, etc., 
  • introducing emotional wedge issues such as gun rights, abortion, gay rights, etc.
  • exploiting the fact that many Americans think they will "win the lottery," ignoring the fact that nearly everyone ends up in the same social class to which they were born. The chance of someone born in the lower class ending up in the upper class is less than the chance of winning the lottery. In fact, their only chance of ending up in there is by winning the lottery. It's lower than the chance of a little league baseball player ending up in the majors. Contrary to the belief by many, George Bush and the Donald Trumps of the world aren't on 3rd base because the hit a triple, they were born on 3rd base. 

Their purpose in getting the people who they are exploiting to vote for them is simply so they can continue to exploit them. They want to retain and even increase their slice of the pie. Never mind that their bottom line can, and has done so, increase with a smaller slice of a larger pie, they want their slice to be bigger even if it means a smaller pie. It would seem irrational if you didn't consider the social aspects. They want to be elite. They despise the people who they exploit.

Income inequality to the extent that we see it now is not sustainable. Forget about fairness or Christian benevolence, it hasn't worked in the past and it will not work today. Concentration at the top decreases consumption and increases speculative investment. The lesson of 1929 and the recent housing bubble has been forgotten or is being ignored in the interest of getting a larger piece of a shrinking pie.

What we're seeing in Wisconsin is only the beginning. The Koch Brothers, atmosphere and social polluters nonpareil, have managed to create the Teaparty combining all four of the above factors with a healthy infusion of racial hatred. Make no mistake, the Koch Brothers', and other corporations', target is the middle class and the unions that created the middle class. The middle class resulted  from the New Deal legislation which gave the unions the right to bargain and from the regulation which prohibited investment banking. The New Deal created the longest period of sustained growth in history; and even though the upper income levels slice of the pie continued to grow in absolutes, it was not growing as a percentage. Ronald Reagan and his successful attack on regulations and the union through his amnesty legislation brought about the Great Recession of 08, and may yet, if the GOPhonies are successful in job-killing faux austerity plan. The Koch Brothers and multi national corporations aim to continue Reagan's supply side economics and Friedman's disaster capitalism and were aided and abetted in their power grab by the Citizens United decision and the no longer controlled infusion of campaign funds.

Americans continue to fuel the weapon of their own destruction. If Wisconsin fails, so will America.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wisconsin today, America tomorrow

Wisconsin is a microcosm of what's happening in America. It's big money vs human rights. It's Koch Brothers vs the middle class and the right to breath. Governor Scott Walker is trying to abolish all workers rights.

The Koch/Teaparty/Faux News lying machine has been cranked up. Representative Paul Ryan, while comparing the peaceful demonstrations to the Egyptian violence declares that the Wisconsin public workers are making more than their civilian counterparts. It's a blatant lie and Paul Ryan knows it's a lie


Governor Walker claims that his austerity measures are because of a budget deficit crisis. The fact is that Wisconsin is in good fiscal condition and the only reason there was a shortfall was because he pushed through $140 million in new spending for special-interest groups in January. "If the Legislature were simply to rescind Walker's new spending schemes - or delay their implementation until they are offset by fresh revenues - the 'crisis' would not exist."


This is nothing more that part of the GOP/Teaparty scheme orchestrated by the Koch Brothers and other financially powerful right wingers to destroy the middle class by destroying the unions. Wisconsin and Ohio today are fighting for the very existence of America as we have known it and you hear virtually nothing about it in the corporate controlled media. The people of Wisconsin deserve the support of progressives, democrats and the President who campaigned on "change we can believe in" should come to Madison and stand up for his base.


The attack on the middle class didn't start with the Teaparty, it started in 1980 when Reagan was elected President and began his systematic dismantling of the New Deal reforms that had led to the longest period of prosperity in US history and his emasculation of the union with his amnesty legislation which gave 3 million illegal workers citizenship and did nothing to employers who hired illegal workers.


Make no mistake about it, America is at a crossroad. The citizen United decision has opened the flood gates for corporate infusion of enough money to control every American election just as they did in the election of Scott Walker, the Teaparty candidate who is trying to destroy Wisconsin workers and the Wisconsin middle class. Wisconsin today, America next!



Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Why people believe Limbaugh, Beck and Faux News.

From Bill Moyers speech to History Makers on January 27th, 2011:


Thomas Jefferson proclaimed that, "Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government"? And wasn't a free press essential to that end?
Maybe not. As Joe Keohane reported last year in The Boston Globe, political scientists have begun to discover a human tendency "deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information." He was reporting on research at the University of Michigan, which found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in new stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts were not curing misinformation. "Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger." You can read the entire article online.
I won't spoil it for you by a lengthy summary here. Suffice it to say that, while "most of us like to believe that our opinions have been formed over time by careful, rational consideration of facts and ideas and that the decisions based on those opinions, therefore, have the ring of soundness and intelligence," the research found that actually "we often base our opinions on our beliefs ... and rather than facts driving beliefs, our beliefs can dictate the facts we chose to accept. They can cause us to twist facts so they fit better with our preconceived notions."
These studies help to explain why America seems more and more unable to deal with reality. So many people inhabit a closed belief system on whose door they have hung the "Do Not Disturb" sign, that they pick and choose only those facts that will serve as building blocks for walling them off from uncomfortable truths. Any journalist whose reporting threatens that belief system gets sliced and diced by its apologists and polemicists (say, the fabulists at Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and the yahoos of talk radio.) Remember when Limbaugh, for one, took journalists on for their reporting about torture at Abu Ghraib? He attempted to dismiss the cruelty inflicted on their captives by American soldiers as a little necessary "sport" for soldiers under stress, saying on air: "This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation ... you [ever] heard of need to blow some steam off?" As so often happens, the Limbaugh line became a drumbeat in the nether reaches of the right-wing echo chamber. So, it was not surprising that in a nationwide survey conducted by The Chicago Tribune on First Amendment issues, half of the respondents said there should be some kind of press restraint on reporting about the prison abuse. According to Charles Madigan, the editor of the Tribune's Perspective section, 50 or 60 percent of the respondents said they "would embrace government controls of some kind on free speech, particularly when it has sexual content or is heard as unpatriotic."
No wonder many people still believe Obama was born in Kenya, not Hawaii, as his birth certificate shows; or that he is a Muslim, when in fact he is a Christian; or that he is a socialist when day by day he shows an eager solicitude for corporate capitalism. Partisans in particular - and the audiences for Murdoch's Fox News and talk radio - are particularly susceptible to such scurrilous disinformation. In a Harris survey last spring, 67 percent of Republicans said Obama is a socialist; 57 percent believed him to be a Muslim; 45 percent refused to believe he was born in America; and 24 percent said he "may be the antichrist."
The bigger the smear, the more it sticks. And there is no shortage of smear artists. Last year, Forbes Magazine, obviously bent on mischief, allowed the right-wing fantasist Dinesh D'Souza to tar Obama with a toxic brew so odious it triggered memories of racist babble - a perverted combination of half-baked psychology, biology and sociology - that marked the heyday of the Ku Klux Klan. Seizing upon the anti-colonial views of Obama's Kenyan father, who had deserted the family when the boy was two years old and whose absence from his life Obama meditated upon in his best-selling book "Dreams of My Father," D'Souza wrote that, "Incredibly, the US is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s. This philandering, inebriated African socialist, who raged against the world for denying him the realization of his anticolonial ambitions, is now setting the nation's agenda through the reincarnation of his dreams in his son."
In a sane political world, you might think at least a few Republican notables would have denounced such hogwash by their own kind for what it was. But no. Newt Gingrich, once their speaker of the House, whose own fantasies include succeeding Obama in the White House, set the tone by praising D'Souza's claptrap as the "most profound insight I have read in the last six years about Barack Obama." D'Souza, said Gingrich, has made a "stunning insight" and had unlocked the mystery of Obama. I could find only one conservative who stood up against this trash. David Frum, the former speechwriter for George W. Bush, wrote on his blog: "The argument that Obama is an infiltrating alien, a deceiving foreigner - and not just any kind of alien, but specifically a Third World alien - has been absorbed to the very core of the Republican platform for November 2010." Once again, the right-wing media machine had popularized a false narrative and made of it a destructive political weapon.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Coldest Winter or Beware of the military geniuses

David Halbertstam’s The Coldest Winter lays America’s forgotten war out naked for the world to see. He traces the preceding historical events from Chiang gaining power and the Japanese occupation of Korea through the Chinese Civil War and the bifurcation of Korean into two diametrically oppose countries; one a puppet state of Russia ruled by Kim II Sung a Russian trained Communist, the other a US occupied state ruled by Syngman Rhee, a US trained Capitalist. The only thing they had in common was a desire for a united Korea, free of any foreign control. Both were bound to accept control by their sponsor out of necessity. The Korean people didn’t want what either Sung or Rhee, the USSR or the USA wanted.

Given this backdrop, Halberstam reports the machinations that lead up to the invasion of South Korea by North Korea. It is a war that never needed to happen. It was provoked by the failure of Secretary of State Dean Acheson in a routine speech to include non-Communist South Korea in America’s Asian “defense perimeter.” That oversight caused a reluctant Stalin to unleash North Korea’s army for what Kim promised would be a three-week blitzkrieg to reunite all Korea. He very nearly succeeded.

If McArthur’s Far East Command had not been asleep at the wheel, adopting a racist total disdain for N. Korean military capabilities and totally neglecting the capabilities and needs of the American troops in S. Korea, the invasion would have been nipped in the bud at the outset, or perhaps would never have been attempted.

He paints a disturbing picture of how General McArthur, a proven military genius, became so caught up in vainglory and total rejection of opposing views and dismissal of those expressing them that he created his own universe of reality. It would appear from the authors reporting that this may well be all too typical in the military hierarchy; MacArthur’s example just being the epitome.

His reaction to the overwhelming success of the N. Koreans was initially denial and then a Hail Mary that, if unsuccessful would have led to a double Dunkirk at Pusan and Inchon.  Success at Inchon was a stroke of luck. Had North Korea heeded China’s intelligence, it would have been a turkey shoot and the war would have been over. Emboldened by the success at Inchon and his egomania, he swept into N.Korea, ignoring all military protocol of unity of command, logistics and communications, and despite intelligence reports that the Chinese were amassing hundreds of thousands of troops at the Yalu River and making inevitable the resulting defeat. In the face of the disaster, he never accepted responsibility and blamed Truman. Convinced that his aura would overcome the democratic process of civilian control of the military, he broke all rules of military discipline and was subsequently fired.

He was toppled off his pinnacle adulation when caught up in some glaring lies in a Congressional investigation of his firing. He retired never having attained the political power he sought.




Sunday, February 13, 2011

Where have all the Muckrakers gone?

There are, in the body politic, economic and social, many and grave evils, and there is urgent necessity for the sternest war upon them. There should be relentless exposure of and attack upon every evil man whether politician or business man, every evil practice, whether in politics, in business, or in social life. I hail as a benefactor every writer or speaker, every man who, on the platform, or in book, magazine, or newspaper, with merciless severity makes such attack, provided always that he in his turn remembers that the attack is of use only if it is absolutely truthful.
_____Theodore Roosevelt


Inspired by the "grave evils" in our society and body politic in the early 20th Century and the lack of exposure by the print media which was controlled, as now, by the businesses that owned them or advertised with them, a group of writers, by books or through independently owned magazines, wrote scathing articles and books that brought about reform. These are described by Wikipedia:


 Lincoln Steffens published “Tweed Days in St. Louis”, in which he profiled corrupt leaders in St. Louis, in October, 1902, in McClure’s Magazine.[7]

Ida Tarbell published The Rise of the Standard Oil Company in 1902, providing insight into the manipulation of trusts. One trust they manipulated was with Christopher Dunn Co. She followed that work with The History of The Standard Oil Company: the Oil War of 1872, which appeared in McClure's Magazine in 1908.
Upton Sinclair published The Jungle in 1906, which revealed conditions in the meat packing industry in the United States and was a major factor in the establishment of the Pure Food and Drug Act. Sinclair wrote the book with the intent of addressing unsafe working conditions in that industry, not food safety.
Ray Stannard Baker published "The Right to Work" in McClure's Magazine in 1903, about coal mine conditions, a coal strike, and the situation of non-striking workers (or scabs). Many of the non-striking workers had no special training or knowledge in mining, since they were simply farmers looking for work. His investigative work portrayed the dangerous conditions in which these people worked in the mines, and the dangers they faced from union members who did not want them to work.
The Treason of the Senate: Aldrich, the Head of it All", by David Graham Phillips, published as a series of articles in Cosmopolitan magazine in February, 1906, described corruption in the U.S. Senate.
The Great American Fraud by Samuel Hopkins Adams revealed fraudulent claims and endorsements of patent medicines in America. This article showed light on the many false claims that pharmaceutical companies and other manufactures would make as to the potency of their medicines, drugs and tonics. Using the example of Peruna in his article, Mr. Adams described how this tonic, which was made of seven compound drugs and alcohol, [8] did not have “any great potency”[8]. Manufacturers were selling it at an obscene price and hence made immense profits. His work forced a crackdown on a number of other patents and fraudulent schemes of medicinal companies during that time.
There were many other works by many other great Muckrakers, which brought to light a variety of Issues in America which were addressed during the Progressive era.[8]
We are in worse shape today that we were then. The Citizens United case has effectively turned the United States Government over to Multinational Corporations whose interest lie only in profit. Profit at the expense of their employees, customers and country. Today, the media, all of it, is owned by a handful of multi-national corporations. Don't expect any exposes to come from them.
We need some 21st Century muckraking. 


[edit]

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Time to stop talking and do something about This (dis) Honorable Court!

Everyone is always talking about the intent of the Founding Fathers but nobody is doing anything about it. It's time to do something!

Article III - The Judicial Branch 

Section 1 - Judicial powers
The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behavior, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services a Compensation which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office. (Emphasis mine)

Could there be any doubt that the behavior of Scalia and Thomas was not "good" in the Citizens United case? Or that Alito's attendance at Conservative fund raisers is "good behavior?"

Couldn't Chief Justice Roberts be impeached for violating his own stated standards of jurisprudence? Is that "good behavior?" Never in the history of This Honorable Court, has it been so outrageously political and partisan. They no longer even bother to mask it. They are up front and open.

Now Clarence Thomas is about to descend to a new low with his refusal to recuse himself on the issue of health care. It's nearly a quid pro quo across the table, money for his vote.

Thom Hartmann sums it up best in today's blog:


Thom's blog
These 74 Members of Congress should call on Justice Thomas to be impeached.
74 Members of Congress penned a letter to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas asking him to recuse himself should the high court take up the constitutionality of Obamacare. Justice Thomas's wife - Ginni - recently started a new lobbying firm called Liberty Consulting with the purpose of bringing, "voice to principled citizens and the tea party movement in the halls of Congress through governmental affairs efforts." Considering she will likely be paid by organizations to convince Members of Congress to repeal the healthcare law - there will certainly be a considerable incentive for Justice Clarence Thomas to rule against the law should it come to the Supreme Court.

The bias here couldn't be any more obvious. And the federal recusal statute - the law by which judges are supposed to operate by clearly states - "Any justice, judge, or magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned..." For example if, "He or his spouse... is known by the judge to have an interest that could be substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding." Of course - this statute didn't prevent Justice Thomas from ruling on the Bush v. Gore decision back in 2000 - that handed George W. Bush the presidency - even though his wife worked for the Bush transition team. And it didn't prevent Thomas from hearing the Citizens United Case last year even though he often takes part in political strategy session organized by the billionaires Koch brothers who directly benefited from the Supreme Court's ruling in that case. We are seeing flat out corruption in the highest court in the land.

The Constitution of the United States gives Congress the power to oversee the duties of the Supreme Court - and if 74 Members of Congress ask Thomas to step down - then he should. Better yet - these 74 Members of Congress should call on Justice Thomas to be impeached.

-Thom

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Americans should remind themselves daily of what the GOPhonies have done to this country.

The GOPhonies (with or without Teaparty) is the party:


  • That wants health insurance companies to be able to refuse coverage for preexistent conditions, put a cap on amount the will pay, not cover adult children of clients, place profits above health care, and, in short wants to cancel health care reform.
  • That insisted on a deficit busting tax cut for the people who least need it and will not increase employment.
  • That appointed the Supreme Court Justices who sold the government to multi-national corporations with the Citizens United decision.
  • That deregulated Wall Street and the banks and caused the recent banking collapse and the current unemployment. 
  • That is talking about repealing the 1965 Voters Rights Act.
  • That filibustered 119 times in 2009 - an unprecedented amount.
  • That campaigns with the mantra that government doesn't work and then proceeds to prove it.
  • That opposes alternative fuels and clean air.
  • That opposed Medicare because it would end our free society.
  • That opposed every piece of legislation that would have ended the recession.
  • That opposed the women's right to vote.
  • That opposed integrated schools. 
  • That has straddled the back of every effort to make American's better off and JUST SAID NO!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Happy Birthday, President Reagan - Thank God for term limits.

Reagan was the epitome of tax and spend.

As governor in California spending increased 177%
As president, he tripled the debt spending on useless programs like"Star Wars".

As governor in California, he raised taxes to the tune of 30% the state general fund.

Always a friend of law enforcement, he refused to cut the personnel budget for the CHP but cut out funding for vehicles, resulting in six man cars for a while.
As president he signed a tax increase that was the biggest in this century up to this point.

As president, he cut and ran after the bombing in Lebanon.

He has been branded as a rino by conservatives.

He broke the unions by bringing millions of cheap workers by his amnesty act.

But his defining contribution to the destruction of the middle class and to the most inequality of income distribution was dismantling the Glass-Steagall Act which enabled bankers to run ponzi-like schemes which nearly destroyed American banking and created the unemployment that we are immersed in today.

Happy Birthday, President Reagan, with great presidents like you, we don't need any bad ones.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Corporate toadies are at again.

Not satisfied with the fact that the Citizen's United decision will enable them to buy the rest of the government and emboldened by the Koch Brothers' Teaparty owned House, they are going to try to disenfranchise black voters.


We have entered into a new phase in American, or I should say UnAmerican, politics. We had 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.

But the thin veneer of decency and tolerance of a relatively small group of our citizenry has been wiped away by 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 and, in fact, with the influx of mega dollars from the corporations, including multi-nationals, they don't have to worry about what decent people think. The barrage of 30 second sound bites will control how they think...or at least how they vote. Never mind that they will be voting to destroy America. Thom's Blog, copied below, says it all. 

Republicans are exploring a new strategy - repealing the 1965 Voter Rights Act...
Who's screwed? Voters. Republicans are exploring a new strategy to win elections in the future - repealing the 1965 Voter Rights Act. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli recently said that his state has, "outgrown racism" and should be exempted from many of the requirements of the Voting Rights Act - which prevent state lawmakers from carving out congressional districts to suppress or isolate minority voters or use tactics to intimidate minorities.

In an interview with ThinkProgress - former Republican Senator Norm Coleman agreed with Cuccinelli and admitted that Republicans have a lot to gain if the Voting Rights Act is repealed, saying they could pick up as many as 15 to 20 new seats in Congress. So let's see - the Republicans want to flood our democracy with secret, corporate cash - they want to require voters to have expensive government ID - they want to take down organizations like ACORN who help register minority voters - they often practice voter caging to purge potential voters off the rolls if they move out of a house and forget to update their address - and they engage in the most negative campaigning to turn voters off altogether and suppress the turnout.

Now - they want to gerrymander districts to limit the impact of the minority vote. Do these guys even want a democracy? Or - do they want decades of rigged elections to bring about one party rule...like Egypt.

-Thom

Thursday, February 3, 2011

How our economy got screwed up


The story behind America's broken economy

EPI this week unveiled its State of Working America Web site—featuring a comprehensive set of charts on income, jobs, poverty, and other economic data—along with the book Failure By Design, which explains the economic policies that laid the foundation for the Great Recession. Together, the Web site and book offer a detailed picture of the state of the economy and the economic challenges facing many working families.

Web site makes data more accessible
For the first time this year, EPI has published The State of Working America as a Web site, presenting  more than 200 accessible charts on topics including jobs, income, wages and poverty, economic mobility, health, and wealth. The online format helps users search by topic and demography and also offers an interactive feature, When Income Grows, Who Gains, that tracks income trends from 1917 through 2008 and lets users compare patterns of income distribution for any period within that 91-year time frame. Between 1986 and 2000, for example, the richest 10% of Americans saw 77% of the country’s average income growth, but in recent years they have captured much more. Between 2000 and 2007, all of the country’s income growth went to the top 10%, while average incomes for the lower 90% actually declined.
Economic policy did what it was designed to do
In Failure By Design—The Story Behind America’s Broken Economy, Economist Josh Bivens argues that this growing economic inequality was no accident, but rather resulted from economic policies that weakened labor unions, allowed the value of the minimum wage to erode, and promoted trade agreements that protected corporate interests over worker interests. Bivens also outlines how the Federal Reserve in recent decades shifted its focus from targeting low unemployment to targeting low inflation, which resulted in higher rates of unemployment, even during periods of economic growth.
“The good news is that policy does what it is designed to do,” says Bivens. “The bad news is that we designed it to funnel lots of money to the very rich.”
The Great Recession Three Years Later
December 2010 marked the third anniversary of The Great Recession, and the latest national and state unemployment data for that month offer another clear indication that the job loss of this historic downturn has been larger and more persistent than in any other recession since the Great Depression. A new report, The Recession’s Long Tail, by Policy AnalystRebecca Thiess, analyzes the recession three years after it began – and a year and a half after it officially ended.
Three years after the start of the recession, the labor market still has 5.2% fewer jobs than when the downturn started. That marks a larger decline than at any other single point in any post-war recession. Unemployment has been above 9% every month since the recession officially ended in June 2009, and the economy today is short 11 million jobs compared to its pre-recession peak (when factoring in working-age population growth). Records for long-term unemployment have also been shattered by the Great Recession. In December 2010, 44.3% of unemployed workers had been out of work for six months or longer.
EPI in the news
--The Economist cited EPI data in a story about growing economic inequality.
--New York Times columnist Bob Herbert cited EPI research in a piece about Social Security and why it is not the cause of the federal government’s long-term deficit.
--A Washington Post op-ed by Harold Myerson cited data from The State of Working America on growing income inequality.  The Post also cited EPI research showing how proposed austerity measures to reduce domestic spending to 2008 levels would trim domestic programs to their lowest level as a share of the economy in more than 30 years, endangering as many as 600,000 jobs.
--The Kansas City Star cited data from the new State of Working America for a story on the sluggish economic recovery.

Paul Ryan, the new House Budget Committee Chairman, has presented “A Roadmap for America’s Future,” containing proposals that would enrich the wealthy at the expense of the middle class. A new EPI Briefing Paper by Policy Analyst Andrew Fieldhouse outlines how the dismantling of social insurance programs combined with the middle-class tax hikes Ryan proposes would lead to “an unprecedented reversal of progressive U.S. tax policy.”



Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Corporate States of America's representative Darrel Issa

Thom's blog
Unless You're Big Business, You're Screwed!
Republican Chairman of the House Government Oversight Committee - and small-time criminal turned into the richest man in Congress - Darrell Issa is outsourcing his job to corporate CEOs. Back in December - Issa asked more than one hundred businesses to outline what federal regulations he should attempt to strike down with his new powers as Chairman. And though Issa intended to keep the responses from the corporate community to his inquiry private - unlike the personal information of people who've filed Freedom of Information Act requests - which he wants to make public - the organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington uncovered more than 30 of these responses. The wish-list of deregulation includes: dismantling the EPA - repealing lead-paint restrictions - ending coal tar and hydraulic fracking regulations - and ending required flammability tests for children's mattresses.

Basically - free reign to pollute the environment - contaminate our drinking war - poison our families with lead - and mass produce fire traps for children...that's what the business community wants Darrell Issa to let them get away with. Republicans are busy renaming House Committees - like removing the word "labor" from the Labor and Education Committee - and removing the words "civil rights" from the Civil Rights and Constitution Subcommittee. I suggest they go ahead and rename Issa's Government Oversight Committee too. Let's just call it the "Unless You're Big Business, You're Screwed" Committee.

-Thom

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

It's rational for belly robbing insurance companies to hate PPACA, but stupid for the average person.

It's not surprising that Judge Vinson ruled against the PPACA it is precisely what he was selected to do, but I would expect that his argument for the ruling might be a little more rational. He compared (unfavorably, even) the Obama Administration's complicated (and increasingly endangered)  effort to bring health insurance to 30 million Americans with the efforts of King George III and the British East India Company to tax the tea the colonials quoffed. 


Vinson further writes:
The uninsured can only be said to have a substantial effect on interstate commerce in the manner as described by the defendants: (i) if they get sick or injured; (ii) if they are still uninsured at that specific point in time; (iii) if they seek medical care for that sickness or injury; (iv) if they are unable to pay for the medical care received; and (v) if they are unable or unwilling to make payment arrangements directly with the health care provider, or with assistance of family, friends, and charitable groups, and the costs are thereafter shifted to others."
Hello, Judge Vinson, that's who the bill is talking about. 


This, however, is not about reason, law, decency, health care or democracy, it's about power. If this reaches the supreme court, guess what they will decide.  A majority of Americans elected Obama to, among other things fix the health care system. The legislature passed the bill and the president signed it. It was not the best bill but it is a huge step forward. The majority of Americans do not want it repealed. As the other provisions kick in, even more will support it. 


Never has a bill drawn as much mendacity in it's opposition, not just misinterpretation but blatant lies. 


They're still lying about it, even if its provisions are reaching out to help people.


The term of abuse, “ObamaCare” is a deliberate attempt by the Republicans to MISLEAD AMERICANS INTO BELIEVING THAT PPACA CREATES GOVERNMENT RUN HEALTH CARE, when all it does is properly regulates the industry, thereby ENDING THE UNFAIR ADVANTAGE PREVIOUSLY HELD BY INSURANCE COMPANIES. Further, fact is that SEVEN PRESIDENT BEFORE OBAMA TRIED TO ENACT ESSENTIALLY THE SAME BILL.

The Republicans want to repeal a bill that:
1. Makes it illegal for health insurance companies to end coverage when you get sick
2. Makes it illegal for health insurance companies to deny coverage for conditions they unilaterally deem, “pre-existing.”
3. Allows you to include your college-age children (up to age 26) on your family policy
4. Makes it illegal for health insurance companies to set lifetime coverage limits
5. Covers preventative care

Republicans believe you are so DUMB that they alerted you to their plan to REPEAL this bill, and STILL EXPECT YOUR VOTE. Are you really so dumb, Republican or not, that you would vote for anyone who admittedly plans to act against your best interest? 



Right wingers like to invoke the constitution when it's convenient but ignore it when it isn't. Losing the argument that it's a bad law, they fall back on the argument that it violates the constitution and we just can't have that. It's OK to require, by law, a woman to carry an unwanted pregnancy to full term but they find it onerous to require people to buy cheap health insurance so they will not be a burden on their fellow Americans.  They find it OK for the constitution to be irrationally interpreted to define a corporation, even a multi-national one, as a citizen and permit them to buy elections, but they fought tooth and nails to prevent changing a constitution that counted a black person as 2/3 of a person and denied voting rights for women. 


I can understand corporations, health insurance corporations and others fighting for that. I can understand greed. I don't like it but it's rational. 


What I can't understand is people who are materially and obviously helped by PPACA supporting that greed with their votes. Yes, I can understand greed but I have a problem with stupidity.