The Watering Hole, Monday, March 24th, 2014: Mixed Emotions

This past weekend’s reading brought an odd range of emotions:

HUMILITY: Geography is not my strong suit. When I was growing up, the continent of Africa was nearly always referred to as “the dark continent”, or “darkest Africa.” However, the amazing maps in “8 Maps That Will Change The Way You Look at Africa” help to shed light on “the dark continent” and its place in the modern world. Some of the maps are truly mind-boggling.

INCREDULITY: Why is David Vitter still a Senator? How was he not so shamed in his constituents’ eyes that not only did they not demand his immediate resignation when his diapered-DC Madam sexual habits were made public, they reelected him? And why is Vitter showing his face in public claiming that “…the Koch brothers are two of the most patriotic Americans in the history of the Earth…God bless the Koch brothers. They’re fighting for our freedoms.”? Steve Benen on The Maddow Blog can at least answer the the last question.

BETRAYAL: This one’s personal. My love-hate relationship with my beloved/cursed New York Jets is finally tipping over toward the ‘hate’ side. This weekend, the Jets announced their acquisition of former Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, and their release of hapless quarterback Matt Sanchez. My sense of betrayal has nothing to do with Sanchez–he sucked most of the time, but I wish him well. On the other hand, I wish that Michael Vick, of dog-fighting-ring/dog killer fame, would have his throwing arm mangled by a pit bull. Just enough to keep that scum out of football forever. In the meantime (well, when football season starts), I will boycott the Jets until that inhumane piece of shit is gone.

Damn, it's just a toy

Damn, it’s just a toy

Finally, to take that nasty taste out of your mouth:

CONTENTMENT: Although the story is five years old, it’s still heartwarming, and reinforces my opinion that animals are far better than humans. Mankind should really try to emulate Mother Nature.

In 2009, a fire in the Santa Barbara area had firefighters rescuing wildlife, including young animals separated from their mothers. The unlikely pair shown ended up together after their rescuers ran out of crates.
Rescued Fawn and Bobcat kittenfawn and bobcat kitten

This is our daily open thread–what’s on YOUR mind?

The Watering Hole, Monday, October 28th, 2013: Bill Maher: “You Cannot Have Both”

This past Friday night’s “Real Time with Bill Maher”‘s panel consisted of Michael Moore, a surprisingly quiet Al Sharpton, Valerie Plame, and Richard Dawkins. And while the group had some interesting discussions, the best part of the show came in Bill’s soliloquy at the end of the show. Crooks and Liars has the video, but I have borrowed their transcript, here:

MAHER: “Now, when it comes to raising the minimum wage, conservatives always say it’s a non-starter because it cuts into profits. Well, yeah. Of course. Paying workers is one of those unfortunate expenses of running a business… you know, like taxes, or making a product.

If you want to get rich with a tax-free enterprise that sells nothing, start a church.

You might think that paying people enough to live is so self-evident that even crazy people could understand it, but you would be wrong.

Michele Bachmann is not only against raising the minimum wage, she’s against having one at all. She once said “if we took away the minimum wage… we could virtually wipe out unemployment because we would be able to offer jobs at whatever level.”

Put that in your brain and smoke it. You could hire everyone if you didn’t have to pay them. And naturally, Ted Cruz agrees. Ted Cruz thinks it’s a good thing that when his Cuban father came to America he was paid $.50 an hour to work as a dishwasher, before becoming Charo.

When did the American dream become this pathway to indentured servitude? This economic death spiral where workers get paid next to nothing, so they can only afford to buy next to nothing, so businesses are forced to sell cheaper and cheaper shit?

Walmart employees can only afford to shop at Walmart. McDonalds workers can only afford to eat at McDonalds. And Hooters waitresses have to wear shirts they grew out of years ago.

Even if you’re not moved by the “don’t be such a heartless prick” argument, consider the fact that most fast food workers, whose average age by the way now is 29, we’re not talking about kids, are on some form of public assistance. Which is not surprising. When even working people can’t make enough to live, they take money from the government in the form of food stamps, school lunches, housing assistance, day care. This is the welfare that conservatives hate.

But they never stop to think, if we raised the minimum wage and forced McDonalds and Walmart to pay their employees enough to eat, we the taxpayers wouldn’t have to pick up the slack.

This is the question the right has to answer. Do you want smaller government with less handouts, or do you want a low minimum wage? Because you cannot have both.

If Col. Sanders isn’t going to pay the lady behind the counter enough to live on, then Uncle Sam has to, and I for one am getting a little tired of helping highly profitable companies pay their workers.”

Bravo, Bill – hear, hear!

O/T: Today my mum would have turned 93 – Happy Birthday, Mum, wish you were here.Scan10002

This is our daily open thread, got anything on your mind that you’d like to discuss?

The Watering Hole, Monday, February 25th, 2013: Who The Fuck is Ted Cruz?

I’ve been wondering just who the fuck this junior Senator from Texas, Ted Cruz, thinks he is. I know, everyone’s been comparing him to the late Senator Joseph McCarthy, due to his disrespectful and appalling attempt to besmirch former Senator Chuck Hagel’s reputation.

The Wikipedia bio of Cruz immediately provides some clues:

Cruz served as a law clerk to William Rehnquist, Chief Justice of the United States, and J. Michael Luttig of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Cruz was the first Hispanic ever to clerk for a Chief Justice of the United States.

In the landmark case of District of Columbia v. Heller, Cruz assembled a coalition of thirty-one states in defense of the principle that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees an individual right to keep and bear arms. Cruz also presented oral argument for the amici states in the companion case to Heller before the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

In addition to his victory in Heller, Cruz has successfully defended the Ten Commandments monument on the Texas State Capitol grounds, the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools and the 2003 Texas redistricting plan.

Cruz also successfully defended, in Medellin v. Texas, the State of Texas against an attempt by the International Court of Justice to re-open the criminal convictions of 51 murderers on death row throughout the United States.

Cruz was endorsed by David Barton, founder and president of WallBuilders; the Club for Growth, a conservative political action committee; Erick Erickson, editor of prominent conservative blog RedState; the FreedomWorks for America super PAC; Princeton University professor Robert P. George; nationally syndicated radio host Mark Levin; former Attorney General Edwin Meese; Tea Party Express; Young Conservatives of Texas; and U.S. Senators Jim DeMint, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and Pat Toomey. He has also been endorsed by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and former Texas Congressman Ron Paul, Michigan Congressman Justin Amash, and former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania Rick Santorum.

Now there’s an all-star lineup of right-wing idealogues (shudder.)

Jane Mayer provides more information in her piece in the New Yorker:

Two and a half years ago, Cruz gave a stem-winder of a speech at a Fourth of July weekend political rally in Austin, Texas, in which he accused the Harvard Law School of harboring a dozen Communists on its faculty when he studied there…Cruz made the accusation while speaking to a rapt ballroom audience during a luncheon at a conference called “Defending the American Dream,” sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, a non-profit political organization founded and funded in part by the billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch. Cruz greeted the audience jovially, but soon launched an impassioned attack on President Obama, whom he described as “the most radical” President “ever to occupy the Oval Office.”…He then went on to assert that Obama, who attended Harvard Law School four years ahead of him, “would have made a perfect president of Harvard Law School.” The reason, said Cruz, was that, “There were fewer declared Republicans in the faculty when we were there than Communists! There was one Republican. But there were twelve who would say they were Marxists who believed in the Communists overthrowing the United States government.”

In a follow-up article, Jane Mayer discusses the response from Cruz’s spokeswoman (who actually responded in an interview with The Blaze-I provided the link if you want to hold your nose and dive in, the comments are psycho, too.)

And a couple of articles from Politicus.com provide some slightly more tongue-in-cheek descriptions Cruz’s recent spotlight-hogging performances.

Unfortunately, Senator Cruz has the backing of some people with deep pockets and too much power. Maybe that’s why he seems to feel that he can say anything, regardless of the truth, with little impunity. So far, the only good thing Cruz has done is to make John McCain and Lindsey Graham look almost honorable.

This is our Open thread, what’s on your minds?

The Watering Hole, Monday, November 12th, 2012: Wallowing in Filth

Thinking that I would just check the Patch local newspapers online to see the local reaction, if any, to the Obama re-election, I somehow ended up wallowing in the filth on the Washington Times.

Not that there wasn’t any filth in the local online ‘news’ – there were plenty of stupid, ignorant, and racially intolerant comments following the above article.

The second piece that I found in the Patch talked about the author’s experiences at the polls in Rockland County, NY (across the Hudson River), where, he alleged, poll workers were wrongfully denying certain non-white and younger voters’ rights to vote, and/or giving voters incorrect information. A woman commenter responded by listing several instances of alleged hanky-panky by Democratic pollworkers, among other things. Then the commenter threw in a link to The Washington Times, and I gave in and clicked on it. Naturally, I wish that I hadn’t. Reading many of the comments following that article made me want to shower, at the very least. However, I did at least run across a possibly useful site which includes a map of which States have, or are considering, photo ID voter laws.

Here’s a few more articles from the Washington Times that ought to raise one’s blood pressure:
- “The Rising Number of States Seeing One Party Rule”; and,
- “Companies Plan Massive Layoffs as ObamaCare Becomes Reality;

And if all this wasn’t enough, here’s some more crap from Newsmax.com: Fearmongering about “Currency Wars”; plus, just take a look at some of the “articles” listed on the home page at Newsmax.com: “FBI Suppressed Petraeus Scandal to Protect President“, and “Norquist to Newsmax: Don’t Surrender Bush Tax Cuts.”

This is our daily open thread–Had enough? I know I did!

The Death of a Nation (a retrospective on the W. Bush era, Part 9: THE CEDING OF GOVERNMENT)

Below is the final essay in my compilation which I collectively entitled The Death of a Nation. It was written in March, 2005, shortly after George W. Bush’s second inauguration.  Sadly, not much has changed in the nearly eight ensuing years. Today, in fact, on the veritable eve of the election of 2012, we as a nation are STILL faced with the possibility of what would be, in effect, a return to the policies of the W. Bush era, policies which failed so miserably but which still evoke obvious favor (and fervor) from corporate and ‘power/wealth’ entities.

(Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7, Part 8)

Will the voting public vote to continue the insanity, or will it — FINALLY — vote to reverse those insipid ‘conservative’ trends by returning full control of both Congress and the White House to that cluster of clear-thinkers that stands for The People and not for special interests? Time will tell, but one fact remains certain: any return to the failed policies of the W. Bush era will guarantee one thing: the process which WILL be the prime mover in The Death of (this) Nation will be accelerated to breakneck speed.

**********

The Ceding of Government

“The market economy is not everything. It must find its place in a higher order of things which is not ruled by supply and demand, free prices and competition. It must be firmly contained within an all-embracing order of society in which the imperfections and harshness of economic freedom are corrected by law and in which man is not denied conditions of life appropriate to his nature.”
 (Wilhelm Roepke, “Austrian” Economist)

I cite the Roepke quote because I’m rather fond of paradoxes, and a close examination of Roepke’s words seems to point at one (though I’m sure he didn’t so intend).  Roepke begins by stating the obvious, i.e., “The market economy is not everything . . .”  True enough.  The market economy ideally serves the physical needs of a given culture by providing such things as food, housing, tools, technology, and leisure entertainment for the public to enjoy, as well as work which is exchanged for a common medium of exchange (e.g. dollars), which in turn can be used to purchase goods from the marketplace which the buyer needs or desires to own.  Beyond that niche, the market economy is not worth much at all, especially when it comes to spiritual matters, or matters of morality, law, etc.  For those, people must look elsewhere.

“It must find its place in a higher order of things which is not ruled by supply and demand, free prices and competition . . .”  Not so sure what he means here, at least in the so-called ‘Austrian’ context, but it does remain a fact that America’s market economy continues to evolve rapidly in ways which would, one might assume, change the fundamental and familiar supply-demand dynamics.  In the first place, America produces very little in the way of consumer goods anymore.  Anyone who doubts that should read the labels next time they visit the hardware store, department store, shoe store, etc. – “Made in USA” labels are rare as hen’s teeth these days.  That of course means that the manufacturing jobs are no longer in the US but rather have been ‘outsourced’ instead.  Levi Strauss, in fact, moved their entire operation out of the US, and now the bulk of their blue jeans are manufactured in Mexico.  They’re still sold in the US, of course, and look no different than they ever did; I assume the asking price is about the same as before which would allow a bit more profit for Strauss. Continue reading

The Death of a Nation (a retrospective on the W. Bush era, Part 8: CORPORATE)

The corporate influence on the (s)election of George W. Bush in 2000 (and in 2004, for that matter) was minimal compared with today’s corporate influences on elections, such disparity mostly thanks to the 2010 SCOTUS decision on the Citizens United case in which corporations were essentially granted the status of ‘people’ along with all the ‘rights’ implicit and inherent therein. And it’s been downhill ever since.

(Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7)

Today the trend is to move ever faster on the rapidly steepening slope that leads to the bottom of the abyss, the abyss defined by (and littered with) the remains of national collapse. Thus far and in this current 2012 election cycle, for example, the two campaigns have each spent over a billion dollars, the bulk of which was contributed by now unrestricted corporate interests and associated extremely wealthy individuals, each with axes to grind, and all with lots and lots of dogs in the political hunt. Very little of substance has shown itself in the campaign for the presidency, but the lies — particularly from the Romney ticket — have been constant and profuse. The current system stands as living proof that when funding is unlimited, so is the volume of baloney being served. The situation is, in a word, nonsensical.

Solutions? Overturn the Citizens United decision, either by legislation, by constitutional amendment, or by further judicial review (providing the current conservative majority on the Supreme Court can be finally reversed by upcoming presidential appointments); mandate public funding as the ONLY allowable source of electioneering capital; begin immediately the daunting task of educating the populace of the future in the reasons which underlie and which should DEFINE (and mandate) ethical behavior. In other words, redefine politics.

To refer to such process as a ‘daunting task’ is, indeed, a massive understatement.

Following are some (circa March, 2005) remarks and comments based on simple observation of the then-current dilemma brought forth by the vicious combination of power and politics via corporate agenda and money. Interesting how far we’ve slipped in the not-quite eight years since elapsed, but one thing remains certain: the future is ever more visible from the present — and it doesn’t look good.

**********

Corporate

 “Herein lies a riddle: How can a people so gifted by God become so seduced by naked power, so greedy for money, so addicted to violence, so slavish before mediocre and treacherous leadership, so paranoid, deluded, lunatic?” (Philip Berrigan)

Well, let’s see.  Maybe before we try to answer that we should come up with an example or two, some sort of marker which might suggest that links exist between business and political corruption.  Hmmm.  This could be tricky.  Oh well, in no particular order, since Bush took his first oath in January, 2001, a few come to mind:

1.    Halliburton Inc., VP Dick Cheney’s former employer (he was CEO), was apparently guaranteed a multi-billion dollar no-bid contract to rebuild Iraq – before the war even started.
2.    The White House knew in advance that the actual cost of the new (politically-expedient) Medicare bill (the one which gifted Big Pharma to the tune of roughly $140 billion) was going to exceed the amount listed for Congress to authorize by nearly a third, but invoked their own version of the Omerta code to keep it secret till after the bill was signed into law.
3.    Junk science – the forced result or the behind-the-scenes altering of research findings in ways which favor business (at the expense of scientific integrity and even public safety) has become a common practice.  The latest examples are typical: “Mercury isn’t really THAT dangerous” and “Yucca Mountain is a perfectly SAFE place to dispose of nuclear waste” – so long, that is, as no one looks too closely at the data.  Data?  What data?  Now where did I put that report?  It was here a minute ago.  Oh, well, what the hell. We all know it said what we wanted it to say – we ordered it be done that way.
4.    The so-called Healthy Forests Act did nothing at all to develop healthy forests; au contraire, instead it effectively re-opened to road construction the nearly sixty million remaining acres of old growth forest which Clinton had declared roadless, i.e. opened to the timber industry and logging, and eventually to motorized recreationalists (read: four wheelers, quads, dirt bikes, ete.). Continue reading

The Watering Hole, Monday, September 10th, 2012: Romney’s Ramblings

I’ve been reading through the transcripts of Mitt Romney’s campaign speeches, and I’ve noticed that he has several recurring themes and lies about President Obama:

- “President Obama sees a different America and has taken us in a different direction.”

- “A few months into office, he travelled around the globe to apologize for America.”

- “Ronald Reagan rallied America with “Peace Through Strength.””

- “We must pass a torch to the next generation…”

- “It’s really an election about the soul of America.”

- “Three years ago, Candidate Obama promised to address the problems of illegal immigration in America. He failed. The truth is, he didn’t even try.”

- “American strength rises from a strong economy, a strong defense, and the enduring strength of our values. Unfortunately, under this President, all three of those elements have been weakened.”

- “This President’s first answer to every problem is to take power from you, your local government and your state so that so-called “experts” in Washington can make those choices for you. And with each of these decisions, we lose more of our freedom.”

This particular speech from January, 2012, in New Hampshire, probably has the most out-and-out lies of all the speeches I’ve read so far (read for yourself.)

Here’s the most hypocritical lie (and one that he reiterated at the RNC):

- “At the time, we didn’t know what sort of a President he would make. It was a moment of crisis for our economy, and when Barack Obama came to office, we wished him well and hoped for the best…”

I’ve also run across various and sundry WTF? lines:

- “As President, on Day One, I will focus on rebuilding America’s economy. I will reverse President Obama’s massive defense cuts. Time and again, we have seen that attempts to balance the budget by weakening our military only lead to a far higher price, not only in treasure, but in blood.”

- “Barack Obama has failed America. It breaks my heart to see what’s happening in this country. These failing hopes make up President Obama’s own misery index. It’s never been higher. And what’s his answer? He says this: “I’m just getting started.”

- “If a couple has a baby, the government will actually give them more support—in the form of food stamps, welfare, or other benefits—if they do not marry than if they do. Our safety-net programs penalize the decision to marry, instead of rewarding it. That’s just wrong. And that’s why I will eliminate these marriage penalties.”

- “God did not create this country to be a nation of followers.”

Romney’s campaign speeches also contain myriad Republican-hot-button-buzzwords, repeated ad nauseum, such as “freedom”, “opportunity”, “exceptionalism”, “entitlements”, “failure”, etc. In addition, Romney makes plenty of promises to uphold or strengthen various rights: States’ rights; corporations’ rights to conduct their businesses unfettered by Federal regulations; and, of course, the overarching rights of a collection of zygotes.

However, thus far in my research (ten speeches), one very important topic stands out which Mitt Romney completely ignores: Women’s issues and rights. Romney’s only mention of women:

- “We live in the most powerful nation that ever existed. And it all goes back to a few men and women who had the courage to stand – and even die – for their belief in liberty and equality.”

and

- “…I will hold fathers financially responsible for their child, whether or not they have married the mother.”

As I mentioned, I’m only ten speeches into a collection of about forty-five, so there’s a possibility that Romney may have discussed support for women’s rights in a later speech. But I’ve got the feeling that that possibility is slim-to-none.

This is our daily open thread — What would YOU like to ramble about?

The Watering Hole, Monday, June 25th, 2012: Two Images

Bainglorious (Image credit: Bain Capital/The Boston Globe

After seeing the above Mitt Romney photo for about the 100th time (this time accompanying a thread at TP), I decided to refresh my memory as to the origin of the photo. Checking a couple of search results, I noticed this, from the National Journal:

“Asked on Fox News Sunday about a whimsical ["whimsical"?] black-and-white photo of Romney and his colleagues at a private equity firm smiling and posing with money in their pockets, hands and teeth, Romney explained that the image was taken after they won their first round of investment, which he said was roughly $37 million.

“We posed for a picture to celebrate the fact that we raised a lot of money,” he said, adding that he anticipated the photo will surface repeatedly in the election if he becomes the Republican nominee. “I know there will be every effort to put free enterprise on trial,” he said.

Asked whether President Obama might try to paint him as Gordon Gekko, the famous corporate raider from the 1980s movie Wall Street, during a general election matchup, Romney said he anticipated just such a move.

“Of course he will,” Romney said, “in part because he has been the great divider.””

Romney’s official Massachusetts State Governor’s portrait

In my search, I also ran across an ad in the Boston Globefor a book about Mitt Romney, written by two of the Globe’s writers. Here’s a couple of teases from the ad:

THE REAL ROMNEY
By Michael Kranish and Scott Helman of The Boston Globe

Chapter 9: The CEO governor: “his campaign produced television ads designed to preemptively beat back any Democratic attacks. It was a lesson learned from the Kennedy onslaught eight years earlier, which had typecast him as a heartless corporate raider. This time Romney would define himself, instead of letting his opponent do it for him.”

Chapter 10: Health care revolutionary
It was a sunny October afternoon in 2008, and Mitt and Ann Romney were making a return visit to the Massachusetts State House to meet with the portrait artist Richard Whitney. Together they walked to the third-¬floor office Romney had once occupied, its broad windows offering expansive views of the Boston Common and bustling downtown. Whitney needed photos to paint Romney’s official portrait. Romney had been clear about the image he wanted to convey for posterity. Wearing a blue suit, white shirt, and striped tie—the dress uniform of a businessman—he would be sitting on his desk in front of an American flag, next to symbols of two things he held dear. The first was a photo of his wife, the center of his personal universe. The second was the Massachusetts health care law. “He wanted to be remembered for that,” Whitney said.

Apparently RMoney only wanted to be remembered for his historic health care law for as long as it was politically expedient, i.e., until President Barack Obama touted “Romneycare” as a basis for the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare.” Now, of course, RMoney says that repealing “Obamacare” is on his Day-One “To-Do” list upon his inauguration.

Meanwhile…an article in yesterday’s Boston Globe describes RMoney’s relationship with Michael Milken, the junk bond king – a relationship that continued even while Milken was being investigated for insider trading.

So, which image of Mitt RMoney do you think with be remembered by posterity?

This is our daily open thread — have at it!

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

 

Guest Blog by TerryTheTurtle: November 2012 – The First Citizens United Election and the Last of the American Democratic Experiment?

I think there’s no secret that as a foreigner, I view the American democratic system with an outsider’s eye. It’s the view of one who has not been taught in school from the first day that the American Democratic Experiment is unique, unparalleled and somehow ‘divinely ordained’. It may have been once, but IMO it now more resembles the last days of the Roman Empire when a horse could be Senator  (or even higher office?) and seats were bought and sold in order to ‘rubber-stamp’ the sociopaths and megalomaniacal dictators who ran the place into the dust while plying the plebs with ‘bread and circuses’.

IMO, The SCOTUS ruling on Citizens United (CU) has delivered a fatal blow to the American Democratic Experiment. I think many of you sense it, but until this November’s election is done and the impact of the unlimited corporate money which is on its way now from the American fascist establishment into the election process, you won’t be able to appreciate just how deadly that ruling is.

At the time it was passed, dissenting Justice Stevens wrote:

[Citizens United] “threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the Nation. The path it has taken to reach its outcome will, I fear, do damage to this institution.” He wrote: “A democracy cannot function effectively when its constituent members believe laws are being bought and sold.”

And Stevens took a swipe at corporations too:

“Stevens discussed how the unique qualities of corporations and other artificial legal entities made them dangerous to democratic elections. These legal entities, he argued, have perpetual life, the ability to amass large sums of money, limited liability, no ability to vote, no morality, no purpose outside of profit-making, and no loyalty”

Let’s recap briefly the new rules of the game that Citizens United brings.

1. Anyone and that means any person, or corporation (even foreign owned or registered ones like Halliburton) can spend whatever they want to say whatever they want to influence you the voter as to who to vote for. Money equals free speech under Citizens United and it doesn’t matter where the money comes from and it is the money that decides which ‘free speech’ you hear and which you don’t. Spend just one evening watching Fox ‘News’ and you know what this means.

2. The people and corporations who will spend the most money are the ones who have the most to spend and are most likely to gain from ‘buying’ an election – that is the rich, the 1%, who will have their bought-and-paid-for politicians write the rules in their favour so that they will accumulate even more wealth.

3. They don’t have to tell you who they are in some cases (e.g. 501c4s like the NRA and Karl Rove’s patently fascist SuperPAC for some reason), and even if they do, you won’t know who and how much until *after* the election is decided.

St. Ronald Raygun (yes, really!):

“It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first.”

So welcome America to the ‘Best Democracy Money Can Buy’ - this 8 minute video recaps all I have said here and more and also calls for a constitutional amendment to redefine persons and therefore undermine CU. I for one, have no confidence that an amendment will go anywhere – to start with it would require 67 Senators who do not owe their office to corporate money to be ready to vote and November 2012 is coming first. IMO CU is an irrevocable and fatal wound to the American Democratic Experiment (1776 – 2010 RIP) – it was a good run everyone.

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, 1/11/12: And the Winner is…..

When I think of the commentary on the major networks as they announce the results of the primaries…trying to make the inane exciting…stretching on and on and on and on and… well, you know…. filling the time as they wait for those last few precincts to report (are there some precincts that delay reporting just to mess with the networks?) I am reminded of that most famous of all horseraces:

And the Winner is….!


Open Thread: On your marks; get set; POST!

There are holes…

There are big holes…

There are really, really, big holes…

And then there’s this…

… a really, really, really big hole…

That’s the Bingham Canyon Copper Mine, southwest of Salt Lake City in Utah. The world’s largest open pit mine, the Bingham is two and a half miles wide, three-quarters of a mile deep, and covers approximately 1,700 acres, or a little over two and half square miles.

You gotta admit… that really is… quite… the… hole. I came across that picture by accident the other day, just surfing the Intertubes, and it kinda blew me away… that is one big farker, and man-made to boot.

It got me to thinking about the really nasty things that we humans do to our planet, and usually in the name of making as much money as possible, as quickly as possible, and the long term consequences be damned.

Another truly notable, really, really, really big hole that humans made is the grotesquely spectacular Mir Diamond Mine Crater, in Russia. The picture is real, btw… it has not been photoshopped for effect.

Located at Mirna in Eastern Siberia, the Mir is over 1,722 ft deep (1/3 of a mile) and has a diameter of 3,900 ft (3/4th of a mile). Helicopters are forbidden from flying over the Mir; several have been sucked in by the down drafts. Here’s more about the Mir if you’re interested, and here’s a nice collection of some of the biggest man-made holes on the face of the Earth, if you can stomach it…

Of course, not all holes are made just for money… some result when we disagree with each other…

This beauty…

… believe it or not, isn’t a picture taken on the face of the Moon, it’s the Sedan Blast Crater in Nevada, the result of a nuclear test back in 1962. If you look carefully at the picture, around five o’clock (lower right side) you can see a viewing platform for visitors, with the road leading up to it. Yes… the Sedan Crater really is that big. According to the good people of Wiki, “Because the craters at the NTS had features similar to the topography of Moon craters, Astronauts for Apollo 14 visited Sedan in November 1970″.

Though nowhere near the size of some of our other holes, it is still nonetheless impressive, considering it was created in mere seconds, the aftermath of this explosion

Here are some stats for you to grok over… the Sedan was a mere ten kiloton blast and still managed to move 6.6 MILLION cubic yards of dirt, or 12 MILLION tons of weight, and left a hole over 300 feet deep and more a quarter of a mile across…

That is one incredible hole… all the more so for being produced by flipping a switch, whereas the Bingham is the byproduct of a century’s steady mining. Here’s an overhead shot of the Nevada Test Area that’s home to the Sedan Crater… it’s like the Earth has broken out in some sort of nasty rash, huh?

Weighing in at niggling 10 kilotons, the Sedan would be considered tiny when compared to today’s bombs with their 10 megaton yields (that’s 10,000 kilotons…). You read that right… we now have nuclear bombs a thousand times more powerful than the Sedan, or Little Boy, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

I can only imagine the size of the hole one of those would leave in the Earth. And not only are some of those nukes a thousand times more powerful, we have, en toto, an estimated 8,500 of them and the Russians 11,000. Overwhelming, innit?

Here’s a truly frightening collection of atomic test photos… click on one of them and you’ll get a slide show… the pictures are even more impressive that way…

And yet all it took to produce this mess was eighteen guys with box cutters… go figure…

Then… there are other kinds of really, really big holes that human beings are capable of producing, intentionally or otherwise…

Like the kind our beloved banking class blew in the country’s economy back at the heights, er… the depths… of the subprime mortgage fiasco…

The above chart shows the value of the S&P 500 over the last ten years. Note the enormous slide in the index starting in late 2007 just as the economy was beginning to bear the first brunt of massive numbers of bad mortgage defaults, soon to be followed by even bigger losses due to bad bonds based on those bad mortgages.

The S&P 500 index is such a broad based index that it is commonly used to gauge the overall health of the stock market and even the US economy. Please note just how much it finally dropped at the low point in early 2009, losing nearly half its value.

Now THAT is one spectacular hole and represents several TRILLION dollars of value vanishing in a greasy puff of smoke. Thank you ever so much, Wall Street! No wonder Warren Buffet once described derivatives as “financial weapons of mass destruction”.

It’s now way half past 2011 and with an estimated million homes in foreclosure, several million more in the pipeline, and 870,000 already in the hands of banks, we’re STILL climbing out of that last crater and will be for quite some time to come…

And of course, the usual suspects (the bankers) saw nothing… heard nothing… and know nothing… ‘cept that CEO Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, the bank that has become the poster child for Wall Street shenanigans, has lawyered up…

And that other hole, earlier in the decade… around 2002 to 2003? That’s the hole blown in our economy by the dot-com collapse… again gratis our beloved banksters. And the smaller, yet significant drop in late 2001? That’s the aftermath of 9/11.

It makes one think… it do. It seems that as our machines grow more and more powerful and our ability to manipulate our environment increases, the potential for destruction, deliberate or otherwise, grows proportionally too.

Dr. Frankentstein, meet your monster.

I think it’d be fun to start a list of really, really big holes here… we could call it the “A List of Really, Really Big Holes”… but that’s too many words, so maybe we should just call it “The ‘A’ Hole List” for short…

Soooooooooooo… which really, really big holes do you think should be on our little A List?

***TRoS snaps fingers***

One more just came to mind… and this humongous ‘A’ hole definitely belongs on the list…

There… if that hole doesn’t belong, then none of them do… talk about yer weapons of ass destruction…

Watering Hole, Friday, October 21st: O-C-C-U-P-Y W-A-L-L S-T-R-E-E-T

As I believe I’ve mentioned before, the one redeeming feature in “The New York Post” is the puzzle page, particularly the word game in which you’re given a particular word and have to make as many five-letter words as possible out of that word.  The rules are simple:  no proper nouns, no plurals ending in ‘s’, no foreign words.  For my own amusement, I often play this game with a word or phrase of my own choosing.

The other day I sat down and started playing around with the phrase “OCCUPY WALL STREET.”  As I started jotting down five-letter words, I noticed that many of the words were pertinent to the actual OCCUPY WALL STREET movement.  Obviously, many were not, but there seemed to be a striking number which were applicable to the protests.  I’ve listed all of the words that I came up with, in vaguely alphabetical order, below the fold.  If anyone comes up with a word that I missed, please let me know and I’ll add it. Continue reading

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, August 10, 2011: Hump Day: Wisconsin Votes to Reaffirm its Committment to Destroying Unions

Not too long ago, Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker, together with a Republican Controlled legislature, took unprecedented steps to destroy public unions in the State. The Unions reacted with massive demonstrations and a recall effort.

Tonight, the good people of Wisconsin voted overwhelmingly to support 4 out of the 6 Republicans targeted for recall, essentially giving a resounding affirmation to the GOP’S efforts to destroy unions across this country.

As of this writing, with all but a couple of precincts reporting, 183,215 Cheeseheads (and I use that term affectionately) voted for the Republican incumbant and 164,542 voted for the Democratic challenger.

So, Wisconsin, enjoy your victory. Kiss unionism good-bye and welcome in a brand new era of Corporate dominance.

This is our open thread. When’s the last time you looked for the Union Label?

Watering Hole – Monday August 8, 2011 – Crises of Capitalism

This video is a little more than 11 minutes in length.  It’s an interesting perspective.  Last week was bad news week.  Can it get any worse?

This is our Open Thread today.  My apologies for not having much more to say at this point.  Perhaps you have something to add to the conversation so Speak Up!

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?

The Watering Hole: June 11 – Edwin Armstrong

On June 11th in 1935, Edwin Armstrong first publicly demonstrated FM radio.

This man invented virtually all of the technologies used to transmit and receive radio frequency signals used today. From kids walkie talkies to cell phones and everything in between. He did not make any contributions to digital transmission, but he could be excused as he died in 1954.

He was pursued by false claimants and corporations that saw their cash cows in peril. A Supreme Court, totally unenlightened in the nuances of electronics and Maxwell’s Equations ruled against him in cases involving  AM transmission and reception with AT&T.

His invention of FM was challenged by RCA. On losing in court, RCA described the system as inferior to AM. RCA managed to have the FM spectrum moved from the 48-54 MHz band to the present 88-108 MHz. The excuse for doing this was to make room for the newly developed TV frequencies. All of Armstrong’s prior sets became useless artifacts. The 48-54 MHz band was assigned to channel 1 of the TV band. There is no channel 1 on today’s TV sets as the band taken from FM has a broadcast range that is too long to be useful. Channel 1 frequencies were later assigned to an amateur radio band. Armstrong was already a broken man.

AT&T and RCA were his most determined tormentors and their efforts drove him to suicide on January 31, 1954. This was perhaps the worst travesty of justice in the history of patent law. His widow persevered in court and collected damages from this ruthless gang.

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

The Next Progressive Era

Gar Alperovitz claims that the bombing of Hiroshima was a matter of economics and that the underlying purpose was how to run a global economy that favored American goals while preventing another economic depression.
Alperovitz is Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland. He is one of the founding principals of The Democracy Collaborative. Previously, he was a fellow at King’s College at Cambridge University, a founding fellow of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution and a guest professor at Notre Dame University. He has also served as a legislative director in the US House of Representatives and the US Senate, and as a special assistant at the Department of State.
In an interview with Keane Bhatt at Truthout, Alperovitz states that he believes in “planned trade” where restrictions are placed on imports  so that the US can rebuild its manufacturing base.  He also believes that local non-profit “land trusts” will be a model for achieving “meaningful democracy”.

A land trust is simply a nonprofit corporation or a government agency that owns land, so that when development occurs, the profits of that development accrue to the owner, which in this case is public or nonprofit. And that’s very important in the context of gentrification, because if there’s a housing boom and the prices go up, poor people are kicked out because the prices are too high. So, if the land trust owns the land under the housing, it can stabilize housing costs. They already do this in many parts of the country because they are nonprofit corporations committed to low- and moderate-income housing.

Another example: when a city builds a subway system, land prices go up and the land becomes very valuable around every exit, because it’s a high-traffic area and commercial development is possible. So, who should own that land? If the city gives it away or sells it, then profits are made by the real estate developers. Many, many cities don’t do that now. They own the land and lease it so that they can make the profits from that implicit form of land trust, and pour it back, usually, into support for the mass transit system. That’s conventional now. What’s interesting about these various forms of democratizing ownership is that they’ve spread around the country in the last decade and a half and their numbers have gone from just a handful to hundreds. They answer a problem nothing else can. So, land trust development is an interesting example of what happens when there’s great pain. Traditional answers don’t work, and democratizing ownership in one or another way very often becomes a pattern.

You can read the entire interview here.  It is well worth the time.

Gar Alperovitz’s views offers hope and in this time of uncertainty, we need positive ideas and not more negative, fear-provoking disinformation from both our government and the media.

Sunday Roast: The Real Boston Tea Party

The Tea Party got its start in 2009, when the Koch brothers-funded, right-wing, big corporation loving, group “Freedom Works” picked up on the silly and selfish rant by Rick Santelli, wherein he called for a “Chicago Tea Party,” due to his opposition to President Obama’s idea to help out homeowners who were in trouble with their mortgages.

Low information voters all over the United States began turning out in droves that summer of 2009 to protest that they were “Taxed Enough Already” and reeling from the dreadful hazard of providing health care to all Americans, delivered hundreds of thousands of teabags to a park near the White House, and were seen sporting hats with teabags stapled to the brims.  They proclaimed themselves “teabaggers,” until the snickers and guffaws caused them to research the term with the Google, and then they retreated to calling themselves “tea partiers.”

They remembered to bring their signs with clever (and usually mis-spelled) tax-related sayings; they gleefully marched with their signs featuring the President as Hitler, an African witch doctor, and the Joker — although what those signs had to do with taxes or health care is still a mystery to me; and they held their Gadsden flags high in the breeze.

What they didn’t remember to do was actually read the history behind the Boston Tea Party.  To put it factually and bluntly, if this were 1770s America, the tea partiers would be loyalists to the British Crown.  What!?

Thom Hartmann explains it clearly in the video above — in case you didn’t remember your grade school history classes (I’m looking at you, teabaggers) — or if you just never knew in the first place.

The real Boston Tea Party was a protest against huge corporate tax cuts for the British East India Company, the largest trans-national corporation then in existence. This corporate tax cut threatened to decimate small Colonial businesses by helping the BEIC pull a Wal-Mart against small entrepreneurial tea shops, and individuals began a revolt that kicked-off a series of events that ended in the creation of The United States of America.

They covered their faces, massed in the streets, and destroyed the property of a giant global corporation. Declaring an end to global trade run by the East India Company that was destroying local economies, this small, masked minority started a revolution with an act of rebellion later called the Boston Tea Party.

Yep, that’s it.  A protest against the King giving a huge tax break to the biggest corporation in existence at the time, which would have the effect of crippling colonial merchants.

No, it was not a protest against excessive personal taxes or taxation of corporations — this is what Freedom Works and the Koch brothers would like us all to believe, and luckily for them, the tea partiers bought it, hook, line, and sinker; and they have happily and diligently worked against their own interests ever since.

This is our daily open thread — Do you think we can find common ground with the tea party, and find a way to work together against our common enemy?

The Watering Hole: February 24 — Punking the Imperial Walker

Part 1:

Part 2:

I listened to the entire twenty minutes of this conversation — the things I suffer through for my Zoosters — and I am not going to ask the same of you.  Here’s a brief run-down:

Scott “Imperial” Walker, who is apparently notoriously unavailable to the phone, readily takes a call from “David Koch,” who is actually Ian Murphy of the BuffaloBeast.  I admit it, I was astonished to hear Scott Walker begin to report to “David Koch” as if it were nothing new or unusual.  It was absolutely mundane, run-of-the-mill ‘here’s what’s going down in Wisconsin’ reporting to his loathsome corporate over-lord.

 

Can an Imperial Walker get some walkies?

Ian Murphy as “David Koch” just allows Scott Walker (sorry, I won’t call him Governor) to ramble on and on, talking about his cleverness in stopping the paychecks of the Democratic members of his legislature, by a devilishly clever plan to lock the checks in their desks in the statehouse; blathering on about ‘agreeing’ to talk to the minority leader if all fourteen runaway members come back to the state, but it’s all a ruse to get a quorum, and dammit if those Democrats are too stupid to figure it out; and gushing one and on about how tough he is, and how he’s like Reagan dealing with PATCO and the Berlin Wall all rolled into one super-fabulous package.  Damn, the public sector union members in Wisconsin really don’t know what they’re dealing with, do they?

Walker is a guy who says Andrew Breitbart does “good stuff” and Joe Scarborough is “one of us,” so are we really surprised that he gleefully planned for his little union killing “bomb” to drop immediately after the totally awesome Super Bowl win by the Green Bay Packers?  It’s in the phone call with “David Koch,” people, I listened to the whole thing.

Here’s a gem, spoken by Walker himself:

This is about public sector unions.  You are actually having taxpayers money being used to pay to lobby for spending more of taxpayer’s money.  It’s absolutely ridiculous.

That’s rich, isn’t it?  Walker is funneling millions of taxpayer dollars — money Wisconsin apparently can’t afford to spend because of the looming “budget crisis” — to the very rich and big business, in the form of tax cuts.  But that’s A-okay, because as long as wealth is being re-distributed UPWARD, it’s not a fucking problem in Rightwing Fucktard World.

Bottom line:  What’s happening in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, and elsewhere is a coordinated effort by Republican governors to do the bidding of self-interested billionaires, who couldn’t care less about the “small people” in this country, and crush the unions and the middle/working classes in the United States, in order to wring the very last dollar out of our pockets and leave us a destitute Third World country.

What!?  Isn’t that a bit over the top?  No, not at all.  People like the Koch brothers no longer need customers to buy their wares.  They are too rich to care.  If their portfolios drop by a fraction or two because Americans are too poor to buy what they’re selling, they will simply pull up stakes and move to another country — and start all over again.

I’d say the Koch brothers et al are trying to kill us, but to do that they’d have to care.   They won’t actually kill us.  They’d rather leave us in poverty, to suffer like the scum they believe us to be — and that includes you, Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin.

Image source

This is our daily open thread, got anything to add?

The Watering Hole February 7 Back to the mines…

“The first-century CE satirist Juvenal wrote, “Long ago the people shed their anxieties, ever since we do not sell our votes to anyone. For the people—who once conferred imperium, symbols of office, legions, everything—now hold themselves in check and anxiously desire only two things, the grain dole and chariot races in the Circus” (Satires 10.77-81). Juvenal’s famous phrase, panem et circenses (“bread and circuses”) has become proverbial to describe those who give away significant rights in exchange for material pleasures. Juvenal has put his finger on two of the most important aspects of Roman chariot races—their immense popularity and the pleasure they gave the Roman people, and the political role they played during the empire in diverting energies that might otherwise have gone into rioting and other forms of popular unrest.”

Barbara F. McManus, The College of New Rochelle

It’s the morning after this nations most lavish corporate media chariot insurance, soda pop and nachos extravaganza. An early highlight was a temple diva’s botch of the national anthem, for which the media will drag her through the cyber streets for a brief time. How ’bout those legions in Afghanistan, eh?

This is our Daily Open Thread, what’s in your mind?


The Watering Hole January 24… Compilation

‘Mr. Bill’ …  petroglyph, Pony Hills, New Mexico

Following along on the theme of communication, it continues to amaze me the capability we enjoy to communicate thoughts, photographs and general knowledge through present day technology. Nearly instantaneous sharing of data nearly everywhere, it is not without it’s side effects. Cyber bullying, car crashes and people walking into fountains;  Corporate Consumption Culture, Inc.  is succeeding beyond it’s wildest dreams. It has convinced a large portion of society that it must be in communication at all times, even if it has nothing to say. For a person to feel that watching a movie on their cell phone is more important than paying attention to where they are and what they are doing is very sad, not to mention dangerous.  Myself, out of idle curiosity, I’d like to know the topic of the text conversation the woman who took a header into the fountain was engaged in.

TIA, Total Information Awareness, was the pet project of John Poindexter, disgraced National Security Adviser under Ronald Reagan, a convicted but never punished felon:

http://hereinreality.com/bigbrother.html

They have found a way to compile and store data on everyone and everything, and make the citizenry pay for it. Through your cell phone, internet and cable fees. We saw how fast the telecom industry caved to the “Defense Department” following passage of the Patriot Act. Hell, before it was even passed.

Most new electronic gadgets now come with an embedded GPS chip. For a fee, it can be activated so that you can find out where you are. ‘Big Brother’ will not pay a fee to find out where you are, or if it does you the taxpayer will pay it.

If an individual chooses not to have this level of communication, they are in essence penalized or at the very least disadvantaged. Job opportunities, banking, bill paying, shopping… all become much slower, if even possible, if one tries to use cash, checks, or more traditional means of commerce.

The dumbing down of America continues at a brisk pace, and is being compiled. History will delete anything that doesn’t have the potential to turn a profit.

This is our Daily Open Thread. Your comments on this or any related, unrelated or irrelevant topics are welcome!

The Watering Hole: October 19 – Old Bread

Archeologists have discovered that bread has been part of the human diet for at least 30,000 years. I wonder how that would compare to this 12 year old (as of 2008) McDonald’s hamburger bun (the one on the left):

Actually, no examples of 30,000 year old bread exist today (Unless a McDonald’s bun that old can be located).

Another issue that comes up is that bread has been around since 24,000 years before the Heavens and the Earth.

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