The Watering Hole, Monday, October 7th, 2013: All the Crazy That Fits

It’s been a while since I put on my hip waders and stepped into Newsmax, so here’s a few gems:

From “Rev. Billy Graham Prepares ‘Perhaps … My Last Message’” by David A. Patton:

“In an exclusive interview, the Rev. Billy Graham tells Newsmax that President Obama’s “hope and change” mantra is nothing more than a cliché and warns that the nation faces increasing threats to civil and religious liberties from its government.

Graham, who is preparing for possibly his last crusade, this time via video, said America is drenched in a “sea of immorality” and suggested that the second coming of Christ is “near.”

“Our early fathers led our nation according to biblical principles,” Graham wrote in response. “‘Hope and change’ has become a cliché in our nation, and it is daunting to think that any American could hope for change from what God has blessed,” he stated, an obvious reference to President Obama’s campaign motto.

“Our country is turning away from what has made it so great,” he continued, “but far greater than the government knowing our every move that could lead to losing our freedom to worship God publicly, is to know that God knows our every thought; he knows our hearts need transformation.” ~~~

Many believing Christians believe in a coming Armageddon, a final battle between good and evil prophesied in the book of Revelation.

Graham tells Newsmax it is not wise to “speculate” about the dates of such a battle, but he adds that the Bible says that there “will be signs pointing toward the return of the Lord.”

“I believe all of these signs are evident today,” Graham wrote, adding that “the return of Christ is near.

“Regardless of what society says, we cannot go on much longer in the sea of immorality without judgment coming,” he says.”

Next, from “Rove: Obama Wants to ‘Break the Republicans’” by Amy Woods:

“Republican strategist Karl Rove on Sunday described President Barack Obama’s behavior throughout the budget showdown as “stubborn obstructionism” whose goal is to “get more money and break the Republicans.”

“The stubborn obstructionism of the president … has a purpose, which is to try and get the Congress to agree to the Senate Democrats’ spending number, which is $91 billion bigger than the House, and bust the sequester, and end the 2011 spending agreements,” Rove said on “Fox News Sunday.” “He is attempting to put the responsibility for raising the debt ceiling and, in fact, naming the amount of the debt ceiling on the Congress and not on himself.”

Third, from “Rand Paul: Democrats’ Stubbornness Keeping Government Closed” by Sandy Fitzgerald:

“Paul denied that House Republicans led to the shutdown by refusing to fund the government.

“The House Republicans said they would fund all of government, and they did,” Paul said. “They funded all of government short of one program. So they really were never wanting to shut down government over this, they were wanting to fund government, and then have a debate.”

He further blamed Obama for his refusal to negotiate for the shutdown.

“When you say the president wants 100 percent of Obamacare or he will shut down the government, that’s exactly what happened,” said Paul. “If he [Obama] doesn’t get 100 percent of his way – his way or the highway – then they won’t do any spending bills that don’t include everything that he wants. That’s him unwilling to negotiate, that’s him being unwilling to compromise.”

Had enough? How about one more? From “Rep. Graves: Obama To Blame if Country Defaults” by Amy Woods:

“Georgia Republican Rep. Tom Graves said Sunday the party is “united” in its belief the government should re-open and negotiations with Democrats should continue to avoid a possible economic default over the debt ceiling.

“We have had a tremendous fight over keeping the government open and protecting Americans from Obamacare,” Graves said on “Fox News Sunday.” “There’s no reason to default. The president’s the only one demanding default right now.”

Sorry, but I have to throw this last link in, just for laughs: Another one by Bill Hoffman, “From Senate to Center Stage: Fred Thompson Makes Broadway Debut”. The author of the piece completely omits any mention of Thompson’s disastrous run for the Presidency, or the fact that Thompson’s most recent “acting” gig has been on ‘Reverse-Mortgage’ commercials.

This is our Open Thread. Have at it!

The Watering Hole, Monday, March 18th, 2013: Ezra, Budgets, and Photographic Wonders

I’m hoping to hear that Ezra Klein will be taking over the “UP with Chris Hayes” weekend show. Ezra has his own wonky way of explaining things so that a topic which would normally make one glaze over becomes understandable and interesting. His ‘I can explain blank in 20 seconds or less (sic)’ bit is something that I now look forward to when he subs for one of the other MSNBC regulars. Ezra’s writing is just as eloquent as his speaking: here’s an excerpt from one of his recent WP posts regarding the Paul Ryan budget proposal (once again called “The Path to Prosperity”):

“Ryan’s budget is intended to do nothing less than fundamentally transform the relationship between Americans and their government. That, and not deficit reduction, is its real point, as it has been Ryan’s real point throughout his career”.

Speaking of budgets, both Bill Maher and Chris Hayes recently brought up the Congressional Progressive Caucus’s Budget Proposal, which previously hadn’t had much mention anywhere. That fact is surprising to me, as the CPC’s budget is one that every liberal would support. Matthew Yglesias has a good article about it in Slate; here’s the pdf of what the CPC calls the “Back to Work Budget.” For the rest of the budget options: you can check out the official White House budget page here; the Senate Democrats’ budget, prepared by Patty Murray, can be reviewed here.

In the meantime, on a local level, the Brewster School District (which all of Wayne’s family attended), despite a budget increase (to be paid for by a school tax increase), is cutting staff, programs, etc., partly due to the loss of stimulus funding, the effect of sequestration, and unfunded State mandates. Too bad that the only budget proposal from Congress which really invests in education is the CPC’s.

Enough about budgets…time to look at some spectacular photos, brought to you by The Weather Channel: first, a slideshow of unusual landscapes by photographer Marsel Van Oosten; then photographer Martin Rietz captures volcanic lightning in this group of photos.

This is our Open Thread. What’s on your mind today?

The Watering Hole, Friday March 1, 2013; Gone, Wasted, Broken — and Sequestered?

 Gone, Wasted, Broken –
An Elegy on America

Gone now, America’s halcyon days
Where Reason stood tall and grand in the sun;
Brilliance defined Her equanimous ways –
Gone now, expunged, all Her triumphs hard won.
E. pluribus unum: Her goal was clear;
One chosen from many, She alone rose
Reflecting the grandeur of cause sincere,  
Gone now, forever corrupted by woes.
Environments  Poisoned with gas and fume;
Waters  Mercurial, deadly as wars;
Broken  A people, too cold to exhume;
Uberty  Transposed to desolate shores;
Society  Crushed, then forced to concede
Hegemony – now become pow’r . . . and greed.     

We have to face the reality that we who call the United States of America our home reside in a nation that is either on the brink of a rapid decline or is already well on its way down that ever-steepening slope. Why is that? Why is it happening? What’s happened to ‘bring it on’?

The sonnet above is an acrostic attempt on my part to not only poetically summarize elements implicit in America’s national demise, but at the same time to surreptitiously name one of the recent major players in the process. Note the first letters in each of the three words in the main title: G_W_B; also note the first letters of each of the sonnet’s fourteen lines, in order: G_W_B_G_E_O_R_G_E_W_B_U_S_H.

George W. Bush and his administration were not, of course, the first shots fired in support of America’s national demise, nor were they the last. But when one recalls the upsurge in the nation’s status during the Clinton years and the almost immediate fall from grace following the ‘selection’ by the US Supreme Court of GWB as president in December of 2000, it’s not much of a stretch to presume that the Gone, Wasted, Broken premise picked up a lot of speed at that moment, and that the steepness of the downhill slope increased dramatically as well. Political corruption in support of greed and power — and war — has a way of slowly but surely not only causing havoc and suffering, but also of revealing itself as the culprit.

An obvious question remains: what’s the genesis? Why? Why should there ever develop — in a Constitutional Democratic Republic such as the United States — a movement designed to overturn and disparage the very things that make it possible for the nation to maintain a semblance of freedom and economic prosperity for all? Historically, the standout reasons most often reflect the intent on the part of the body politic to use the talents and ethics of The Many as tools, with but one single purpose in mind: to further enrich The Few.

When did America’s downhill slide commence? Technically, on the day of her founding. She was, after all, a nation built by fair-skinned European invaders on a “new” continent inhabited by aboriginals who were, by virtue of their dark-skinned nature, easy to spot, easy to hate, and, thanks in no small part to the slightly elevated technology brought to the continent by the European immigrants, they were also relatively easy to kill, to overwhelm, to control. And too, there were the Africans, brought by the Europeans to do the hard and demeaning work in the agricultural fields of the South — black slaves who were officially defined, in the US Constitution of 1787 (Article I, Section 2, Clause 3), as being the equivalent of three fifths of all other Persons. Historically, in other words, the United States did not get off to a particularly equanimous start . . . racial hatred and distrust were, in effect, parcel to her character and remain, to this day, as major players in her political profile.

A review of more recent history — roughly the last 100 years or so — exposes the up and down cycle which is defined by the relentless clash between (a) the never-ending quest on the part of The Few for MORE power, for MORE wealth, and (b) those charitable programs designed to appease the needs of We the people — The Many — those who are embraced by the Constitution’s first three words. A cursory review of history quickly reveals that the consequences of (a) are, almost without question, eventual (and potentially severe) economic recession and/or depression, often war, whereas the consequences of (b) are far more beneficent and include relative prosperity for The Many, attainable without the imposition of any level of “suffering” upon The Few — who nevertheless remain obsessed with their lust for wealth and power.

During his State of the Union Address on January 11, 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt suggested that the nation should implement a second bill of rights to include, for all Americans:

  • The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
  • The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
  • The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
  • The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
  • The right of every family to a decent home;
  • The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
  • The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
  • The right to a good education.

Roosevelt’s concept has since been labeled “Socialist” and “Redistributionist” (by representatives of The Few) and “Unfinished” (by spokesmen for The Many). Interestingly, Roosevelt included, when he characterized that which is commonly viewed as classic “rightist reaction,” words which were, indeed, predictive of America’s current dilemma. He said:

“One of the great American industrialists of our day—a man who has rendered yeoman service to his country in this crisis—recently emphasized the grave dangers of ‘rightist reaction’ in this Nation. All clear-thinking businessmen share his concern. Indeed, if such reaction should develop—if history were to repeat itself and we were to return to the so-called ‘normalcy’ of the 1920’s—then it is certain that even though we shall have conquered our enemies on the battlefields abroad, we shall have yielded to the spirit of Fascism here at home.” (bold highlight added)

Roosevelt equated “rightist reaction”  and the “‘normalcy’ of the 1920′s” with “the spirit of Fascism.” Imagine it. Then take a quick look around at the obtuse politics of America today. Consider the extreme Protofascist right wing’s so-called Tea Party and the notables amidst them, including, among numerous other “favorites,” newcomer Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas. Note also spokespeople for ‘the cause’ such as Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and virtually the entire broadcast staff at Fox “News”, and don’t ignore the nearly fifty members of the House of Representatives and its Tea Party Caucus, including such (presumed) luminaries as Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Steve King of Iowa.

FDR was spot-on correct when he equated the grave dangers of ‘rightist reaction’ in this Nation” to “the spirit of Fascism here at home.” We are surrounded constantly by both, and though they are not (yet) in the majority, their obstructionism has effectively brought the government of the United States to a standstill, and their threat to both the national and global economies is as immediate as it is pervasive.

Next up — scheduled for this day, March 1, 2013 — the latest effort on the part of the American Protofascist movement’s extreme right wing is to impose political minority control on the US Government. Popularly called the Sequester, it’s an economic abomination designed and intended (a) to derail any potential success America’s first Black President might ever hope to achieve in resurrecting the plundered economy and the overall National Failure brought forth by the previous administration, and (b) to return to the so-called ‘normalcy’ of the 1920’s” by the forced diminishment of financial/banking regulatory procedures as well as by the eventual destruction of each and every remaining vestige of that “Socialist” President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. Greed and Lust for Power have, again and as usual, quite literally devoured the American Right Wing. The overall consequence is surely to be the continuation of their implicit intention, i.e. the immutable national destructions noted above In Gone, Wasted, Broken, brought forward yet again by the errant economic philosophies embedded within the eternally negative “rightist reaction” to any and all legislative attempts designed to improve the quality of life of The Many, of We the people.

Also on the Protofascist agenda and currently surfacing as an issue in various states is the proposed modification of existing rules of Electoral College vote distribution. The goal is to take advantage of Article II (Section 1, Clauses 2, 3, and 4), plus Congressional District gerrymandering in a way which will shift the outcome of presidential elections to the Protofascist side of the ticket, potentially to guarantee election of a right wing President even if the popular vote goes the other way by virtually any margin, landslide included. Some might dare consider the concept to be parcel to suppression of the ‘one man, one vote’ ideal, and they’d be correct. But still, the issue would almost certainly be deemed ‘Constitutional’ by the nation’s highest court — although instead of ‘Constitutional’, the word “Putsch” may well be the more appropriate, more descriptive choice.

Perhaps in final analysis it was, indeed, George W. Bush himself who said it best of all the day that he announced:"This is Historic Times"

“This is Historic Times.”

Or, perhaps it would more behoove us to heed the words of Thucydides, who wrote, circa 400 BCE . . . The strong do as they can, while the weak suffer what they must” . . . and then proceed from there to explore whatever means might prove necessary to restructure and repair that reality once and for all. I suggest the latter course, noting that Thucydides also pointed out that “Praise is due to all who . . . refuse dominion, yet respect justice more than their position compels them to do.” Are We the people prepared to “refuse dominion”? Willing to respect justice”? Compelled to act to save our country, and then do it? Sadly, I have my doubts.

**************

This is today’s open thread — have at it!

The Watering Hole, Monday, December 3rd, 2012: Conservative BS on Taxes

Since I forced myself to wallow in some of the crap on Newsmax, I figured that I should share some of the sliminess with you all. Let’s start with the arrogantly delusional George Will, who manages to squeeze a lie into each paragraph of his dementia-driven article. Here’s just a few examples of Will’s drivel; he starts off with:

“With a chip on his shoulder larger than his margin of victory, Barack Obama is approaching his second term by replicating the mistake of his first. Then his overreaching involved healthcare — expanding the entitlement state at the expense of economic growth. Now he seeks another surge of statism, enlarging the portion of gross domestic product grasped by government and dispensed by politics. The occasion is the misnamed “fiscal cliff,” the proper name for which is: the Democratic Party’s agenda.”

- and -

“…he surely understands that the entitlement state he favors requires raising taxes on the cohort that has most of the nation’s money — the middle class.”

- and -

“Republicans…respond that because lower rates reduce incentives to distort economic decisions, they promote growth by enhancing efficiency. Hence restoration of the higher rates would be a giant step away from, and might effectively doom, pro-growth tax reform…Furthermore, restoration of the Clinton-era top rate of 39.6 percent would occur in the very different Obama era of regulatory excesses and Obamacare taxes. Hence Republicans rightly resist higher rates.”

On to forever-lugubrious John Boehner:

“I would say we’re nowhere, period,” Boehner said on a taped segment of the “Fox News Sunday” program that aired today. “We’ve put a serious offer on the table by putting revenues up there to try to get this question resolved. But the White House has responded with virtually nothing.”

Yet, from the same article:

“Obama has proposed a framework that would raise taxes immediately on top earners and set an Aug. 1 deadline for rewriting the tax code and deciding on spending cuts, according to administration officials. It calls for $1.6 trillion in tax increases, $350 billion in cuts in health programs, $250 billion in cuts in other programs and $800 billion in assumed savings from the wind-down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Next, we’ve got the ubiquitous Grover Norquist. Norquist, despite a growing number of Republicans attempting to put some daylight between themselves and the Norquist pledge, stated last week:

“Well, the Republicans also have other leverage. Continuing resolutions on spending and the debt ceiling increase. They can give him debt ceiling increases once a month. They can have him on a rather short leash, you know, here’s your allowance, come back next month…Monthly if he’s good. Weekly if he’s not.”

In the Newsmax article, Norquist continues in the same childish vein, threatening “Tea Party 2“:

“Republicans want to continue the Bush tax cuts, and the extenders and the AMT [Alternative Minimum Tax] package . . . it’s the president who’s threatening to raise taxes if he stamps his feet and doesn’t get his way.”

And in case you aren’t sickened enough by those three, there’s the Sue Ann Niven of the Republicans, Peggy Noonan, saying:

“The election is over, a new era begins — and it looks just like the old one…A crisis is declared. Confusion, frustration, and a more embittered process follow. This is the Obama Way.”

Got your blood boiling yet?

This is our daily open thread — it’s Monday, wake up and start discussing something!

The Death of a Nation (a retropspective on the W. Bush era, Part 3: FISCAL)

Mitt Romney is sounding so much more like the worst side(s) of George W. Bush with every passing day, with every ‘new’ political forum/event, that it’s starting to get freaky out there! In the following overview (written in late 2004 and early 2005) of the fiscal policies brought into play during George W.Bush’s first term, there are — everywhere embedded — highly visible shades of Mitt Romney, 2012; the dilemma, the curse of conservatism, remains, apparently a long way from its own demise. Stated another way, The Death of a Nation remains on schedule. Conservatively speaking, of course.  (Part 1 & Part 2)

**********

Fiscal:

“A modern gentleman is necessarily the enemy of his country. Even in war he does not fight to defend it, but to prevent his power of preying on it from passing to a foreigner.”  ~ George Bernard Shaw

In his first address to Congress on the budget, on February 27, 2001, not yet six weeks into his first term, George W. Bush said: “My pan plays down an unprecedented amount of our national debt.”  Perhaps the obvious dyslexia in his statement should have warned the nation that he had no “pan” to ‘play down’ anything at all, nor did he have a ‘plan’ to ‘pay’ anything down; but he did have a plan to pay back those who had financed his campaign, those who paid big money to elect a Texas dyslexic who had never succeeded at anything he’d ever tried across the entire span of his life.  If ever there were questions as to why corporate power interests were willing to finance the election of what has been, in effect, a literary nitwit to the top seat of power, they’ve probably all been answered in the four years that have since passed.  Let it be noted that when George W. Bush took office, the fiscal figures he inherited from his predecessor Bill Clinton were among the rosiest the US had seen in half a century: the budget was actually running a surplus, and the huge national debt burden was being reduced.  It took Bush only a few months to turn things around completely. Continue reading

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 Post-Debate Detox

Happy Hump Day!

Ok, The Presidential Debates, Round Two, is now history.

Who won?

Obamny?

Rombama?

The President certainly brought his A game this time, and closed on a slam-dunk with bringing up Romney’s 47% remark behind closed doors.

The moderator did a credible job of moving things along, but could have been better in cutting Romney off after the TV monitor showed his time was up, then not allowing Obama a chance to rebut.

Romney’s Etch-a-Sketch was in full play…again…in this author’s perspective.

What do you think? Think the President regained his Mo-Jo? Think Romney will continue to add to his momentum? Think Fox News will go apoplectic over Mitt telling the President, basically, to not interrupt Romney’s interruption, that he’ll get his turn?

OPEN THREAD.

GO FOR IT.

MAKE MY DEI.

The Watering Hole, Thursday, September 20th, 2012: Veterans for Romney?

So far, the one and only yard sign for Mitt Romney that I’ve seen read “Veterans for Romney.” Since I cannot imagine any reason why any veterans would support Romney, I started looking for further information.

The website vetsforromney.com only leads to more confusion: it consists of a photo of Romney with some people dressed in military garb, and a section entitled “Our Platform”; here’s a few bits of said “platform”:

A Responsive Department of Veteran Affairs (VA): As with most government agencies, the VA is growing to become a behemoth…

[sigh - Mitt, keep ignoring those eight years increase in the size of the government under George W. Bush, and keep ignoring the provable fact that President Barack Obama cut several hundred thousand government jobs.]

National Defense: The strength of this nation is built on the bedrock of a strong national defense. They call it low hanging fruit. It’s easy to target defense spending as the first area of cuts. unchecked spending threatens the sovereignty of our nation. Excessive levels of debt disrupt all financial units – whether it be a family, a business or a local, state or federal government. But, the knee jerk reaction can not be to axe away at defense spending while the current administration is unwilling to even mention, let alone seriously consider, reductions in entitlement programs. The strength of this nation is built on the bedrock of a strong national defense.

[Okay, yeah, yeah, strength, bedrock, defense, enough! Mitt, quick question: how do you reconcile this sentence with the one that immediately follows? "It’s easy to target defense spending as the first area of cuts. unchecked spending threatens the sovereignty of our nation."

However, that site led me to some interesting places. Clicking on “ISSUES” at the top brought me directly to…a page on Mitt Romney’s website. There is not one single word on this page regarding veterans, nor in the available links to a variety of “issues” (including “Human Capital”, a disgusting and degrading term.) So, Mitt, what about those veterans and military families?

Next…at the bottom of the “Issues” page is a box that says “Paid for by Romney for President, Inc.” I tried looking into “Romney for President, Inc” and found two sites: one which, oddly, lists Romney’s campaign staff along with brief bios of each; the second appears to be a business search site, simply listing the corporation, its address and a little contact info. Nothing there about veterans and their families, either.

One of the other tabs on the Romney site was labeled “COMMUNITIES”, which was where I found “Veterans and Military Families for Romney.” Aha! I thought: now I’ll find something about why veterans would support Mitt Romney. However, the page does not seem to have any actual Veterans and/or Military Families writing or speaking in support of Mitt Romney. Aside the usual requests for donations, and offers to purchase “Veterans for Romney” merchandise, the only mention of the military is a story about “National Military Voter Readiness Day”, which apparently occurred this past Saturday, September 15th.

The “NEWS/BLOG”, linked from the ‘Veterans for Romney’ website, appears to be a work that’s not in progress. Underneath its amateurish appearance, it at least gives a sort of time-capsule, there are some gems of information about Romney’s reign in Massachusetts, such as a 2007 report by the Gun Owners’ Action League (GOAL). Here’s an excerpt:

General Comments:
In the first months of the Romney administration the Governor isolated himself to all but a handful of close advisors most of whom came from the business community. This caused the Governor to make some rather serious political missteps that could have been avoided through better communications. However, relations dramatically improved and in the end, GOAL had more access to this administration than any other since the days of Governor Ed King in 1979.

Okay, STILL no mention of veterans and their families, jobs, the V.A., etc.

Either Mitt Romney doesn’t have a plan for America’s veterans and military families, or it is extremely well hidden.

I want someone to ask Mitt Romney to tell America’s veterans whether he approves of the Senate Republicans’ filibuster of the bipartisan Veterans Jobs Corps Bill killing it until next year. I want someone to ask Mitt Romney why he refuses to cut a dime from the bloated Defense budget, yet will be happy to cut “entitlements” and the “behemoth” V.A., which benefit veterans and active military personnel.

Again I ask, why “Veterans for Romney”?

This is our Open Thread. Speak Up on any topic that you choose.

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, June 20, 2012: Does it really Matter?

Ok, so for the next few months, if you’re in a “swing” State, you’ll be inundated with SuperPAC commercials designed to get you to vote against your own best interests. We will also be systematically bombarded with messages from the Mainstream Media designed to influence our thinking.

IT’S ALL A SHOW. IT REALLY DOESN’T MATTER.

If the Powers That Be really want Obama out, all they have to do is raise gas prices to about $5.00/gallon. Instead, gas prices are going down, heading into the summer vacation season. That’s not to say they won’t go up between now and the election – but they are an accurate predictor of where our economy will head. So, pay attention to the pump, not the talking heads.

Ok, that’s my $0.0199 cents. And you?

OPEN THREAD
JUST REMEMBER
EVERYTHING I SAID
DOESN’T REALLY MATTER

 

Watering Hole – Monday, August 1, 2011 – Philadelphia Freedom

Today is our 30 year wedding anniversary and we will be spending the day in Philadelphia doing the “freedom tour”.

For most of my life, I have lived in the southeastern part of Pennsylvania.  During all these years, I have never seen the Liberty Bell.  With the looming shutdown of our government due to its inability to pay the bills or the closing of government buildings due to the cuts, cuts and more cuts, now could be my last chance to get to Independence square and see some of the artifacts that are part of our nation’s beginning.  It’s anybody’s guess as to what will happen if the US defaults on its debt.  One thing for sure is that government employees would be laid off, seniors would not receive their Social Security checks, veterans would not receive their benefits, and nursing homes could close which would create more job losses.  Basically, more people will be out of work and there will be less money to spend and BUSINESSES WILL SUFFER.  Default is NOT an option.  Our bills must be paid.

This is our open thread.  I won’t be around today as I will be searching for freedom. You will need to Speak Up and do all the chatting.

Continue reading

Sunday Roast, July 31st, 2011: If George Washington Had Only Foreseen…Oh, Wait, He Did

The current political environment is marked by a small minority holding the entire nation hostage to its demands, with special-interest groups and the wealthiest among us not-so-secretly directing the strategies of said minority. The term “public servant” no longer applies: today’s Congressional Representatives and Senators do not have the best interests of their constituents, or their country as a whole, in mind. What we are witnessing now is the beginning of the destruction of our government and our nation. Who would have thought that it could possibly come to this?

Actually, the first President of these United States, George Washington, thought that it could easily come to this. In his farewell address, published in The Independent Chronicle, September 26, 1796, President Washington warned of the influence and divisiveness of special interests:

“To the efficacy and permanency of your Union, a government for the whole is indispensable…This government, the offspring of our own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers, uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support. Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true liberty. The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.”

“All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.”

“However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

The “Father of Our Country” was truly an amazing man. It’s a shame that the like of him has not been seen since our Nation’s founding.

This is our Sunday Roast. What’s on your mind today?

Get Your Act Together! Now!

The Economist:

TODAY is July 19th. Two weeks from today, it will be August 2nd. On that day, or very soon thereafter, the Treasury will run out of room to use extraordinary measures to keep meeting its obligations without issuing any new debt. To avoid a default at that point, which most economists agree would be catastrophic, the Treasury will then need to slash spending immediately and precipitously—by about 44%. The process won’t be tidy; depending on what bills are coming due on a particular day, the shortfall will affect payments to state governments, public employees (including soldiers), payouts to entitlement beneficiaries, and so on. Absent an agreement to raise the debt ceiling, spending would be slashed by $134 billion over the month of August. That would represent a sudden fiscal consolidation of over 10% of GDP—enough, in all likelihood, to tip the economy into recession. And at some point, if no agreement were reached, default would become inevitable. (read all)

Anybody home in Republicanland? Are you sure you know what you’re doing? I am pissed. So, setting the economy on fire wasn’t enough in 2008? Want to blow it up one more time? A really spectacular blowup this time that destroys government, so Grover Norquist will love you all and rapture you into everlasting economic bliss, as promised for his true believers?

You know what? YOU ARE THE PITS!

Greek people go hungry, because your rating agencies saw fit to play monopoly with their assessments and caused the worst currency crisis ever. Hey, just a hint. If the agencies and banks thought Greece’s debt was a problem, why not stop lending before? Maybe because you could get top interest and then socialised your losses to a point where the beast you so busily starved can’t do anything to relieve you anymore? Now it’s time for bilking, eh?

Being able to eat to sustain yourself is by now considered an entitlement obviously in the US. We don’t want that over here, we don’t think like you do, we actually practise a Democracy on Christian principles of caring for our neighbour! Now you are about to present us with another economic crash three years after the last one, which we, using our socialist methods, mostly rode out fairly well. But we won’t be able to just right now. We can’t breathe anymore.

Corporate greed Republican-style caused the stock market crash in 1929 and gave the Fascists here the final push into government. With the most terrible consequences imaginable. In 1945 Europe was reduced to rubble.

This time around fascism rears it’s head on your side of the pond, the consequences may well play out on your soil. So be careful what you wish for. And don’t expect any help. We can’t, your style of capitalism has already stripped us clean.

You’re on your own.

The Watering Hole, Wednesday, July 6, 2011: Harrumph Day

An argument has been put forth that the 14th Amendment allows the President to continue to pay the country’s bills even after the debt limit has been reached. The relevant portion of the 14th Amendment states:

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

This was, in the context of the Civil War, an affirmation of the debts incurred by the North, and a repudiation of the debts incurred by the South. It was saying to the countries and businesses that backed the South that they backed the wrong horse, and would not be reimbursed. It also told those that previously owned slaves that they would not be compensated for their loss of “property.”

But does this grant the President the power to continue issueing checks when Congress has prohibited the government from borrowing funds to cover the checks?

No.

Article I, Section 8 states the Congress shall have the power to borrow money on the credit of the United States. The Congress. Not the President. So, when the government has borrowed all that Congress has allowed, it can borrow no more. Government spending is automatically capped at the same level of government income. The President lacks the authority to incurr any additional debt.

Thus the 14th Amendment’s reaffirmation of the validity of the debts of the United States is not in conflict with the Article I, Section 8′s granting of authorty to Congress to create the debt in the first place.

This is our Open Thread. If you have an ox to gore, an ax to grind, a beef of any sort, or just want to gripe about he tripe in the lame-stream media, you’ve found the right place. If you have words of wit and wisdom, love and beauty, prose or poetry you wish to share, you’ve found the right place. During the day there may be other tidbits appearing below this thread. Just go see, or you might miss it.

The Watering Hole: April 23 – Inspiration

On April 23rd, 1910, Teddy Roosevelt delivered these core words during a speech in NYC:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, he at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Few remember that speech or what was said at the time, but these words reflect on the dilemma that we face today. The speech is really moving when we consider the petty politics that are going on now, only 101 years later.

Remember: (A Man, A P)lan, A Canal—(Panama)? How will either Bush or Reagan be remembered for anything but massive deficits? Bill Clinton actually placed the country back on a solid economic footing. Now if only Barack Obama could grow a backbone…

For the entire speech go here (Scroll down for the complete text.).

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to present your thoughts on any topic that comes to mind.

Senate Republicans vow to raise taxes.

Republicans in the Senate have unanimously joined forces to oppose any extension of the Bush Tax Cuts for the middle and lower class, unless they get their way and extend it for the rich as well.

Without the Republicans on board, the Bush Tax Cuts will expire at the end of this year, raising taxes for everyone. Obama would like to keep the tax cuts in place for those earning $200k or less ($250k for couples). While any extension of the Bush Tax Cuts adds to the deficit, the break given to the upper crust of society adds $700 billion to the government’s flow of red ink over the next 10 years.

So, do we go another $700 billion into debt and let the rich keep that much more of their money? Do we want our grandchildren paying off that debt? Or do we want to gut the social safety net for the poor and for our seniors, so that the rich can have $700 billion more to play with?

Financial Regulation: The President’s Speech on Wall Street Reform

Source: The White House

This is a full transcript of President Obama’s Speech on Wall Street Reform in Cooper Union. A video is not yet available.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Everybody, please have a seat.  Thank you very much.  Well, thank you.  It is good to be back.  (Applause.)  It is good to be back in New York, it is good to be back in the Great Hall at Cooper Union.  (Applause.)

We’ve got some special guests here that I want to acknowledge.  Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney is here in the house.  (Applause.)  Governor David Paterson is here.  (Applause.)  Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.  (Applause.)  State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is here.  (Applause.)  The Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg.  (Applause.)  Dr. George Campbell, Jr., president of Cooper Union.  (Applause.)  And all the citywide elected officials who are here.  Thank you very much for your attendance.

It is wonderful to be back in Cooper Union, where generations of leaders and citizens have come to defend their ideas and contest their differences.  It’s also good to be back in Lower Manhattan, a few blocks from Wall Street.  (Laughter.)  It really is good to be back, because Wall Street is the heart of our nation’s financial sector.

Now, since I last spoke here two years ago, our country has been through a terrible trial.  More than 8 million people have lost their jobs.  Countless small businesses have had to shut their doors.  Trillions of dollars in savings have been lost — forcing seniors to put off retirement, young people to postpone college, entrepreneurs to give up on the dream of starting a company.  And as a nation we were forced to take unprecedented steps to rescue the financial system and the broader economy.

And as a result of the decisions we made — some of which, let’s face it, were very unpopular — we are seeing hopeful signs.  A little more than one year ago we were losing an average of 750,000 jobs each month.  Today, America is adding jobs again.  One year ago the economy was shrinking rapidly.  Today the economy is growing.  In fact, we’ve seen the fastest turnaround in growth in nearly three decades.

But you’re here and I’m here because we’ve got more work to do.  Until this progress is felt not just on Wall Street but on Main Street we cannot be satisfied.  Until the millions of our neighbors who are looking for work can find a job, and wages are growing at a meaningful pace, we may be able to claim a technical recovery — but we will not have truly recovered.  And even as we seek to revive this economy, it’s also incumbent on us to rebuild it stronger than before.  We don’t want an economy that has the same weaknesses that led to this crisis.  And that means addressing some of the underlying problems that led to this turmoil and devastation in the first place.
Now, one of the most significant contributors to this recession was a financial crisis as dire as any we’ve known in generations — at least since the ’30s.  And that crisis was born of a failure of responsibility — from Wall Street all the way to Washington — that brought down many of the world’s largest financial firms and nearly dragged our economy into a second Great Depression. Continue reading

GOP Eating Its Own Over the Non-Budget “FudgeIt”

Yesterday, the GOP (GOP: Got (zer)O Plans) released its 19 page non-budget manifesto (which comes with its own pack of Crayola Crayons), consisting of several pretty pictures, the ubiquitous tax cuts for the wealthy, drill here-drill now, and non-healthcare non-reform (if you are lucky enough to be able to afford healthcare, you gots you some healthcare.  Don’t worry about the things we don’t cover.  We’ve got you non-covered!)

Steve Benen  summed up the plan pretty well:

“Republicans propose a simple and fair tax code with a marginal tax rate for income up to $100,000 of 10 percent and 25 percent for any income thereafter.”

So, Bush/Cheney lowered the top rate from 39.6% to 35%, which cost hundreds of billions of dollars and helped create the largest budget deficits in American history. Now, the very same GOP lawmakers want to send the top rate from 35% to 25%, at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars, all in the name of deficit reduction.

How much would this cost? The “detailed budget” doesn’t say. What it would do to the deficit? The “detailed budget” doesn’t say. What would Republicans cut to pay for this massive tax cut for the wealthiest Americans? The “detailed budget” doesn’t say. How much would Republicans raise or spend over all? The “detailed budget” doesn’t say.

Last night, Keith Olbermann and the Washington Post’s Chris Cellizza talked about the new Republican non-budget proposal, you know, the one which doesn’t contain an actual numbers….referring to it as the GOP FudgeIt.

Now, Politico reports that the GOP is split on its own support of its own non-budget.

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) raised objections to an abbreviated alternative budget “blueprint” released today — but were told by House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) they needed to back the plan, according to several Republican sources.

But he and Cantor were reportedly told by Boehner and Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.) they needed to move more quickly to counter Democrats’ charge they were becoming the “Party of No,” according to House GOP staffers.

The 19-page document, prepared by Pence’s office, was distributed two days after President Obama criticized Republicans for trashing his detail-crammed 142-page budget outline without producing a credible alternative.

Note to the GOP: [T]o party activists everywhere: when your top rivals are begging you to do something, it’s rarely a good idea to take their advice.

Anyway, back to the Politico article:

In his egocentric rush to get on camera, Mike Pence threw the rest of the Conference under the bus, specifically Paul Ryan, whose staff has been working night and day for weeks to develop a substantive budget plan,” said a GOP aide heavily involved in budget strategy.

“I hope his camera time was gratifying enough to justify erasing the weeks of hard work by dozens of Republicans to put forth serious ideas,” the person added.

Still, when he was asked what purpose today’s preview served, Ryan directed me to Pence’s office: “You’ve got to ask the conference this question, I can’t answer that question.”

Cantor and Ryan were reportedly “embarrassed” by the document — believing it was better to absorb a week of hits from Democrats than to be slammed for failing to produce a thoughtful and detailed alternative.

The goal, aides say, was to make Obama’s team eat their words by producing a “killer” alternative with far less spending and greater tax cuts.

Ouch. Killer indeed. I wonder if that was an arm or a leg they just ate.

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Republican “budget” — There are no numbers…WTF?

AND the Republicans’ only actual budget plan is the BIGGEST TAX CUT IN THE WOOOOORLD!

Anyone making more than a $100,000 would pay the top rate; those under would pay 10 percent.

The “top rate” being 25% — down about a whopping 10% from what it is now.  Actually, since I’m just an impoverished student, wouldn’t that raise my taxes?  R dudes, I’ve got issues with that…

It’s just lame stunning adorable how John Boehner (R-OH) tried to make out that President Obama was a liar two nights ago by holding up his cute little copy of the Republican “budget” — no numbers!! :lol:today, and announcing:

“Two nights ago, the president said, ‘We haven’t seen a budget yet out of Republicans.’ Well, it’s just not true, because here it is, Mr. President.”

When do you think old Boney realized he’d taken the President’s bait, and made a serious miscalculation by presenting this “budget?”  Before or after reporters remarked, “There’s no detail in here” and “What’s your goal?” and “What about some numbers?”  OUCH!

From Nate Silver at 538.com:

The Republican “Road to Recovery” budget alternative, rolled out today by John Boehner, has been criticized by left and right for its lack of specificity and its promise to eliminate the national debt while significantly cutting taxes. FiveThirtyEight.com, however, has received an advance copy of additional details prepared by the Minority Leader’s office. Although some elements of the proposal are still under discussion — Eric Cantor is said to want to eliminate North Dakota rather than Idaho, while Thaddeus McCotter has suggested using the balance of TARP funds to purchase scratch-off tickets — the final plan can be expected to contain most or all of these components.

From Nate Silver and 538.com

Here’s Ezra Klein’s take on his most favorite “budget” ever:

There are no numbers. Let me repeat that: The Republican budget proposal does not say how much money they would raise, or spend. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a “budget” as “an estimate of income and expenditure for a set period of time.” This is not a budget. It talks about balancing the budget but doesn’t explain how. It advocates tax cuts but doesn’t estimate their costs. It promises to cut programs but doesn’t name them.

Apparently, the real Republican “budget” will be out next week.  Boehner whined something about the President not presenting HIS budget until several days after he laid out the blueprint in his sorta SOTU address.  Sheesh…

The Republicans wildly exaggerated the size of President Obama’s sizable health care proposal, saying it’s “nearly $1 trillion dollars,” when actually it’s only $634 billion.  I guess when you’re a Republican used to spending money like a drunken sailor for the last eight years, it’s hard to tell the difference.

Here’s Ezra again on the Republican health care plan:

The Republican proposal, as you might expect, doesn’t actually have a health care plan. But it does have this: “Republicans will be on the side of quality versus mediocrity, affordability versus unsustainable debt, and freedom of care versus bureaucrats in control. And we will be on the side of patients, doctors, and the American people.” They are also in favor of good things rather than bad things, moving forward rather than going backwards, the hobbits rather than the orcs, and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom.

That Ezra is a funny guy.

Dear Republican Congress,

If you want us to take you seriously, please stop presenting “budgets” with no numbers, stop trotting out non-plumbers who are not named Joe as the “ordinary American” face of your party, stop kowtowing to that drug-addled rage-aholic Rush Limbaugh, and for heaven’s sake, stop letting Newt Gringrich contradict himself in front of recording devices of any kind.

Yours truly,

A concerned citizen ♥

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President Obama’s budget: Four principles

Truthout

The budget fight is going to be an ugly one.  The Republicans will fall on their fainting couches, declaring they will NEVER vote for such an abominable budget.  The Blue Dogs and ConservaDems will be ambivalent on their fences, while lapping up money for their districts.

Meanwhile, President Obama is getting things done.  These are the four principles he expects to be met with this budget:

First, it must reduce our dependence on dangerous foreign oil and finally put this nation on a path to a clean, renewable energy future. There is no longer a doubt that the jobs and industries of tomorrow will involve harnessing renewable sources of energy. The only question is whether America will lead that future. I believe we can and we will, and that’s why we’ve proposed a budget that makes clean energy the profitable kind of energy, while investing in technologies like wind power and solar power; advanced biofuels, clean coal, and fuel-efficient cars and trucks that can be built right here in America.

Second, this budget must renew our nation’s commitment to a complete and competitive education for every American child. In this global economy, we know the countries that out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow, and we know that our students are already falling behind their counterparts in places like China. That is why we have proposed investments in childhood education programs that work; in high standards and accountability for our schools; in rewards for teachers who succeed; and in affordable college education for anyone who wants to go. It is time to demand excellence from our schools so that we can finally prepare our workforce for a 21st century economy.

Continue reading

And I thought Madoff was a thief..

Money on pallets in Iraq

Where did all the money go to?

The Maddoff ponzi scheme is fraud of the first order. Billions have been lost, but there is an even bigger and nastier case of fraud out there. The Independent reports, that some $ 50 billion have been lost in corruption and outright theft in Iraq. And the culprits seem to be US Army officials.

In what could turn out to be the greatest fraud in US history, American authorities have started to investigate the alleged role of senior military officers in the misuse of $125bn (£88bn) in a US -directed effort to reconstruct Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The exact sum missing may never be clear, but a report by the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) suggests it may exceed $50bn, making it an even bigger theft than Bernard Madoff’s notorious Ponzi scheme. (read story)

Unlike the Madoff crime story, which affected mostly people who could lose millions and still be wealthy, this crime had more vulnerable victims. The Iraqi people who are still not having electricity, clean water, functioning hospitals. And American soldiers, too. There’s the shoddy infrastructure they were faced with and there was the anger among Iraqis that helped fuel the civil war which cost so many soldiers’ lives. A few made a fortune from their blood.

If I knew how, I’d create a BushcrimesWiki (if there isn’t any yet) to keep track of all the misdeeds of your former President’s administration. If the Democrats refuse to look, as Paul Jamiol put so aptly in his cartoon, it’s up to us to create the pressure necessary to get Bush/Cheney tried in a court of law. The buck ultimately stops at their door.