Sunday Roast: Rebooting the American Dream

Truthout is publishing one chapter per week of Thom Hartmann’s new book, Rebooting the American Dream: 11 Ways to Rebuild Our Country.  This week’s post is an introduction, and the next twelve weeks will consist of one chapter of the book.

When Washington became president in 1789, most of America’s personal and

industrial products of any significance were manufactured in England or in its colonies. Washington asked his first Treasury secretary, Alexander Hamilton, what could be done about that, and Hamilton came up with an 11-point plan to foster American manufacturing, which he presented to Congress in 1791. By 1793 most of its points had either been made into law by Congress or formulated into policy by either President Washington or the various states, which put the country on a path of developing its industrial base and generating the largest source of federal revenue for more than a hundred years.

We need a modern day do-over of Hamilton’s 11-point plan that made America great, and in his book Thom Hartmann is offering up his own plan to do exactly that.

These are the chapter we can look forward to over the next weeks:

Chapter 1, “Bring My Job Home!” covers how economies work and why we need to heed Alexander Hamilton’s advice.

Chapter 2, “Roll Back the Reagan Tax Cuts,” points out how when top income-tax rates on millionaires and billionaires are above 50 percent, not only does the gap between the very rich and the working poor shrink but the nation’s economy stabilizes and grows.

Chapter 3, “Stop Them from Eating My Town,” covers the ground of monopoly- and crony-capitalism, an economic system born and bred when Reagan stopped enforcing the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890.

Chapter 4, “An Informed and Educated Electorate,” begins by showing how badly our news media has deteriorated, how it only caters to what people want and not to what they need, and how important it is that we take our media back from the profit-hungry corporations that have abandoned the public-service mission of media. Continue reading

Got the Blues. It must be Music Night!

One of my favorite bands of the late 60s was The Blues Project, which introduced many of us to Al Kooper, and which eventually morphed into Blood, Sweat & Tears. Their 1966 LP, Projections was (ahem) high on my list of headphone music, particularly the poignant Flute Thing and Steve’s Song (below). The lead guitarist didn’t get much attention, which is a huge mistake, because Danny Kalb is one of the finest blues guitarists you’ll ever hear. I have an LP (probably in pretty bad shape now) with Kalb playing alongside Stefan Grossman, also an exceptional blue guitarist. So we kick off with some blues, but Music Night always goes where it wither.

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The Watering Hole: November 12 – Disasters

How many of you have followed the hardships experienced by the passengers and crew of the Carnival Splendor until they arrived safely in San Diego today? To them, this was agony beyond the worst experience of any member of the human race. They survived an experience that will provide accounts to their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren at as the worst ever endured by human beings. And let’s not forget the neighbors!

In retrospect, human beings have had worse experiences. Natural disasters like tsunamis, earthquakes, cyclones, tornadoes, flood and plague have had a deeper effect on the human psyche. Unnatural events like wars and the Holocaust have had even deeper meaning.

To me the crux of the matter – human misery is described from the perspective of the victim(s). How does one equate the loss of a society to the loss of a child? The survivors of Carthage have felt as bad as the mother of a still-born.

This in turn brings one around to the viewpoint of those on the Carnival Splendor. From the accounts from the ship, there was no loss of life. Those surviving the experience were distressed by the loss of AC and lighting (The Casino had to close!) as well as having to endure meals of SPAM for their continued existence. From their accounts, life was beyond endurance. How does this compare to existence during the depression or in occupied countries during WWII?

As an aside, some individuals offered a compensating experience have taken the cruise line up on the offer. Their take is that “This could never happen to me again.” I wonder if we will ever develop the wider perspective beyond “me”

This is my own view.

This is our open thread. Please feel free to offer your own comments on this or any other topic.

From the Dragonfly’s Diary: Iudex, Ecce – Here Comes da Judge

TheZoo has recently decided to accept Guest Blogger posts, in order to inject a little diversity into the gene pool.  Enjoy!

I was a sophomore in college when I was asked by a faculty member to take on the mantle of Appeals Court Judge for the student traffic court. The university I attended had been undergoing significant growing pains when it changed two years earlier from only offering upper level classes, i.e. Junior and Senior level courses and graduate classes, to a four year institution.

Close to 90% of the students commuted to the campus at that time and the influx of freshman and sophomore students created parking problems, particularly at night.

The one and only case that I “tried” was also the first appeal made for a police citation. Prior to the hearing, I learned that a ticket had been issued to a vehicle that was parked in the No Parking Drop Off Zone in front of the University’s daycare center. The ticket was issued at 11:15 PM. The daycare center’s hours were 7:30 AM to 6:00 PM.

The student who appealed this citation was older than me, and I was 42 at the time. He explained that he normally arrived on campus early enough to secure a parking spot but on this particular night he was running behind schedule and parked there so he would not be late to a 7:30 PM class. Since classes ended at 8:45 PM and the library closed at 10 PM, I asked why he was still on campus at 11:15 that night. The reason was that he lived on campus, in one of the apartments near the daycare center. Since he left campus every morning at 7 AM for his job in Jacksonville, he saw no reason to move his car that night after class.

Upon further inquiry, I learned that he had been divorced a year earlier and had already been attending classes at night working on a Masters degree in accounting. His move to on campus housing made working a full time job and taking classes much easier on him.

Then I asked him what he did for a living? Even though I had already decided his case in my mind, when I heard what his job was I immediately rapped my gavel and declared him “Not Guilty!”  Case dismissed!

Oh, you want to know what his job was?  He was head of the Audit Division in the Jacksonville office of the IRS. My mama didn’t raise no dummy!


The Watering Hole: November 11 – Veterans Day

I do not know if anyone here remembers Armistice Day. Every November 11th, at the entire elementary school that I attended, the entire staff and student body would trudge down to the auditorium where at the 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month we would be given an injection of patriotism and told about our God-given duty to buy savings stamps for Federal Savings Bonds. I filled about a half-dozen books and lost each and every one during our move to Dallas from Baltimore in 1953.

As you might have well guessed, the saving stamp collection drives did not miss a beat but the stamp books that I accumulated in Dallas as well as the bonds converted from the stamp books were lost when the family moved to New Jersey. All-in-all I believe that I alone am the fount for about 20% of the national debt.

Getting back to the subject, on October 8th, 1954, President Eisenhower signed HR 7786 which changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day and declared it a Federal holiday.

Today, we have a different twist – In many school districts, Veterans day is not even observed neither as a holiday nor in ceremony. Religious holidays have filled the calendar to the extent that Veterans Day has become just another school or work day (Yes, Christmas and Good Friday are religious holidays). My granddaughter is going to school today and my daughter-in-law is going to work as well. My son has the day off and plans to celebrate by continuing on a law school assignment.

It seems that our nation is continuing to lose its patriotic values in the Tea-Party universe. The only whimpers that I hear are the desire to cancel provisions in the law that boost taxes for the super rich per the current tax bill (Signed by G. W. Bush.) and those that will end entitlement programs that have framed retirement decisions as well as assisting the most needy in our society for decades. – All in the names of Jesus Christ.

This is our open thread. Please feel free to offer your own comments on this or any other topic.

So, how do you plan to pay for it..?

Taxes.. What a wonderfully confusing and contentious subject. When President Bush enacted his tax cuts for the rich in 2001 and 2003, they weren’t paid for, and the way it was set up, they were set to expire in ten years.

A refresher course on “The Bush Tax Cuts” from the New York Times:

Why are the tax cuts set to expire on Dec. 31st?

The bills were written that way because the Republicans had only the slimmest of majorities — in fact, Vice President Dick Cheney had to cast a tie-breaking vote to pass the 2003 bill. To avoid a Democratic filibuster, the cuts were rolled into a so-called budget reconciliation measure, which cannot be filibustered. (It is the mechanism President Obama and the Democrats used to pass health care reform.)

But under Senate rules, reconciliation cannot be used for any bill that would add to the federal deficit after 10 years. The “sunset” provision that called for the measures to expire in 2010 meant that the deficit was calculated as if the higher tax rates were back in place for succeeding years, a step Democrats criticized as camouflaging the bill’s true cost.

In the years that followed, Democrats vowed to let the Bush administration’s tax cuts for the wealthiest taxpayers expire as scheduled after this year. In the 2008 campaign, Mr. Obama called for repealing the tax cuts for the rich in 2010, a year before they would otherwise expire. But once in office, he quietly set aside that promise because of the recession, proposing to let them lapse in 2011 as the original law provided.

Both parties agree on one thing: that the 2001 income tax cuts will be extended for everyone else — that is, for the roughly 98 percent of households in which couples have less than $250,000 in annual income or individuals earn less than $200,000. The fight is over whether to extend the income tax cuts of 2001 for the top 2 percent on income that exceeds that level, and whether to extend the cuts in capital gains and dividend taxes that were the heart of the 2003 bill.

The tax cuts were not paid for and thus added greatly to the current national debt (yes, the debt that everyone is so concerned about, especially [apparently] Republicans). (Oh, and did I already mention the two wars that Bush started that weren’t paid for..?)

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The Watering Hole: Wednesday, November 10, 2010: Hump Day

Now that the election is over, Republicans are free to do what they do best: screw the people who put them into office. Already, Boehner said there’ll be no ban on earmarks. A moratorium, yes. One that will likely expire upon swearing in the new Republican majority in the House.

Next, we have two Republican governors-elect saying they’ll turn down federal money to build high-speed rail in their states. So much for them receiving hundreds of millions of dollars to help their state economies.

Republicans said they’ve learned the error of their ways and have changed. Enough people believed them to put them in charge of the Nation’s purse strings. Now, they’ll get what they’ve voted for.

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to add your thoughts on this, or any other topic that comes to mind.

The Watering Hole: November 9, Burlesque Berlusconi’s Affairs

He is the ultimate politician. Totally vain, self-centered and immoral. He made his wealth with the alleged help of the mafia. He has many different lawsuits against him, for fraud, tax evasion, etc. He uses his office mainly to create legislation to get these lawsuits off his back. He has and had alleged and admitted affairs with underage girls and a penchant for prostitutes. His ties into the red light culture are said to risk Italy’s national security.  And he is convinced his actions are acceptable, he could be worse, he says, he could be gay. So, who is the “Worst Politician Ever”? You will find, they’re evenly distributed over the planet.

Who’s your favourite?

This is our open thread. Feel free to open up!