Monday, December 28, 2009

Favorite Limericks

Limericks are a few of my favorite things.  Most limericks by nature are traditionally racy, antomical or scatalogical.  This is how Wikipedia describes them:

The limerick packs laughs anatomical
In space that is quite economical,
But the good ones I've seen
So seldom are clean,
And the clean ones so seldom are comical.



However, I find that not so true as generally believed.  I've discovered limericks may be used in other contexts too, particularly for political humor - if there is such a thing.  A limerick may be clean, and contain political humor.  And of course, combined with the racy, doubly funny - at least to me.
Ogden Nash in the 1930's, 40's and 50's was the absolute master of the genre - and if you have never read him, I urge you to sample his witticisms. Here is a few typical Ogden Nash limerick from years ago.
 
An elderly bride of Port Jervis
Was quite understandably nervis
Since her apple-cheeked groom
With three wives in the tomb
Kept insuring her during the servis



There was a young girl from old Natchez
Whose garments were always in patchez
When she was asked why
She was wont to reply
'Cause whenever Ah itchez - Ah scratchez..



A novelist of the absurd
Has a voice that will shortly be heard
I learn from my spies
He's about to devise
An unprintable three letter word



There once was a girl from Madras,
Who had a most magnificent ass,
Not rounded and pink,
As you probably think,
But, was grey, had long ears and ate grass!



Over the years I've created limericks of my own, a few of which I will share here:

A MARINE FROM JACKSONVILLE
Once a young marine from Jacksonville
Tried seducing a girl with all his skill.
She turned him away with a sexy grin,
Saying, ‘I’ve no time for you my friend,
And, while I won’t do it my billy goat will.”



THE US CONGRESS
Of the US Congress, who can say?
Why they plot, sellout, stall or delay?
All we absolutely know for sure,
Their results resemble horse manure,
And the public always the ones who pay.



AN OLD REPLUBLICAN QUEER
An old Republican queer named Pete,
Minced as he walked down the street,
Wearing a shirt of bright red,
He smirked as he said,
I may not be thtrong, but I’m thweet!



A DEMOCRAT IN A TOYOTA
A Democrat out driving a Toyota,
Ran over a Republican Voter.
‘Thank goodness!’ he cried,
“He was on the wrong side,”
“And I don’t blame myself one iota!”



*CONGRESSMAN DON YOUNG
Alaskans giggled all a-tittering,
While Don Young sputtered, eyes a-glittering,
"Someone's pretending, who is he?"
"No one's a bigger twit than me!"
"What bastard is doing all my twittering?"



*Composed after Alaska Congressman Don Young discovered someone was 'Twittering' in his name.

AN OLD MAN FROM MAINE
There once was an old man from Maine,
Who down south one summer exclaimed,
"It's so Goddamned hot here,
I swear to be not here,
Ever in my life again!"



And, here is one by an unknown author, and with several versions. It is one of my all-time favorites:

 There was an old whore in Khartoum,
Who took a queer up to her room,
They spent the entire damned night,
In one HELL of a fight,
About who should do what and to whom.
 
Oh yes, maybe limericks are sophomoric, but they sure are fun!


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Got Snow?

Schools in Valdez, Alaska have never been closed because of snow.  Schools there have been closed only three times due to weather - high wind.   Valdez lies in a narrow valley surrounded by steep, high mountains, near the head of Prince William Sound.  Sometimes the way the wind funnels in there must be felt to be believed.  I’ll always remember flying out of Valdez one April day in a small twin engine turbo-prop airplane - the most bumpy and terrifying airplane landing or departure I have ever endured anywhere, anytime - and I’ve suffered quite a few of those flying around in Alaska.


This week, between Monday and Wednesday morning 68 inches fell in Valdez.  That’s almost 6 feet.  By Friday, 6-1/2 feet fell for the week, but still 6” short of the 5-day record set in 1996.

When told about a city paralyzed by 20” of snow, Valdez resident Tom McAlister said, "My God, our people don't even get out of bed for that . . . “

Valdez averages 330 inches of snow per year - that’s 27.5 feet for the mathematically inclined. The record so far is 581 inches in the winter of 1989-90 - but records have only been kept since the early 1970’s.

Valdez is very popular with ‘extreme skiers’ because of its deep snow and steep mountains.   There is no ski area there, so skiers must hike up the slopes, or resort to ‘heli-skiing’ which is taking a helicopter ride to the top of the mountain and then skiing down the breath-taking slopes.

So, try to keeping things in perspective when you feel put upon by a few inches of snow . . .

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

TOO BIG TO FAIL?

Over the past several months, we in our 'capitalist' nation have saddled ourselves with a huge problem.   When any bank or company is officially deemed ‘Too Big to Fail’, that is the base acknowledgement the entity has the power to put our entire nation in jeopardy.  What else could it be?

The situation may be compared to a lollipop so big it will choke its user.  Or, to a check so big it overdraws the account it is written upon, or to a load too heavy for its boat.  Whatever, it is simply,  TOO BIG.  And dangerous.  And, out of balance. And, it needs to be corrected.


How did this happen?  I believe the source of our problem is pretty simple when boiled down to it’s essential cause:  GREED.  And, it has happened before.  Many times in fact.  Whenever the fetters are removed and greed is unbridled, it inevitably results in economic disaster in the end.  The most recent example is the 1929 depression.  Unbridled and uncontrolled capitalism created an enormous economic bubble which burst.  All bubbles must burst, or at least ‘deflate’ in the end.  Politicians of the time, recognizing the basic causes, established controls through regulatory measures to prevent such an occurrence again.  Wish that we still had their wisdom, acquired through experience.

But, our legislators, of tragically short memories and imagination under Reagan, and later Bush I, then Clinton, and finally Bush II, removed almost all of the regulatory controls.  ‘Greed’ in the form of unfettered capitalism  ‘reared its ugly head’ in Sarah Palin’s immortal words.   The dire consequences of allowing the ‘free market’ to have its way, unrestrained by regulation is now familiar to all.  Trillions of dollars of wealth world-wide disappeared into thin air, and people lost homes, businesses, savings, pensions and their social safety net.  It is a crime of monstrous proportions, putting Bernie Madoff's scams to shame.

And greed in conjunction with the ability to buy legislation through campaign contributions has resulted in 'capitalism' morphing into what can only be called a ‘Corpocracy’  - a social welfare system for big business.  The ridiculous extremes to which this has gone is evident to everyone who witnessed the multimillion dollar ‘bonuses’ given to the very people who created the problems in the first place.  Bernie Madoff must be looking on from his cell in bitter envy - cooling his heels in federal prison while the architects of the biggest Ponzi scam in the history of the world are happily sailing merrily around the playgrounds for the rich in their megayachts.

The corporate giants in the finance industries over the past decade went on an uncontrolled rampage which ran the international economy in the ditch.  The fix?  The common man, in the form of the taxpaying public is now saddled with the enormous costs of restoring stability to our economy - including ‘bailouts’ to the very businesses who created the problems in the first place.  Our descendants, down to our grandchildren are now mortgaged on the alter of big finance.  It amounts to economic enslavement of the majority of our public.


I see only two ways to correct this imbalance.  One is to enact legislation to control the excesses which created our current problems.  There is some movement in this direction, but far too little, and very obviously, far too late.  I fear because of the death grip financial industries and big business have on our legislation we will never be able to enact real and meaningful reform.  Especially needed is Campaign Finance Reform.  There IS NO LOGICAL REASON an industry,  company or corporation should ever be permitted to be considered a ‘person’ and have the same first amendment rights of an actual person as now is the case.  None.  No non-person entity should ever have the right to donate money to a political candidate or PAC.  Never, no time.  Corporations’ rights as ‘persons’ should be limited to their contracts and activities in commercial business.

Giving corporations rights as persons is a form of ‘double representation’ wherein both the corporate owners individually, and the corporations themselves are counted as persons.

The other possible way to correct the current enormous imbalance is a popular revolution of some kind, which I fear is what we will actually see at some point unless things change appreciably.  People can only be subordinated for so long before they rise up to throw off their yokes and hang their perceived masters from lamp posts.  We have seen this many other times in history too.  I am surprised the perpetrators of the current frauds upon the public don’t perceive this danger.  I hope I am wrong.  Revolutions are so messy, disruptive, and so, well, revolting.

When the possible failure of a bank or insurance company, or combination, or any other entity can cause intolerable damage to the nation’s economic structure that entity has then become, ipso facto, “Too Big to Exist”.  That should be self-evident on the face of it to any reasonable person not blinded by ideological dogma.


And, that entity must be broken up into component parts, less dangerous to the public at large!


If you are interested in educating yourself on this subject, I highly recommend the current, and very topical book "BAD MONEY" by Kevin Phillips.  It is eye-opening in the extreme.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Homeless In Juneau, Alaska


“Get down off there!” - the shout came loud and emphatic.

*Startled, the homeless guy looked around.  A large policeman stood a few yards downhill with one hand on the butt of his Glock pistol and the other on his nightstick and with a seriously stern look on his face.

“What for?  What did I do?”  asked the frightened guy.

“You’re trespassing.  That’s what.  Now get your ass down here!” bellowed the stern cop.

Ralph, was shaken and visibly nervous, but nodded quickly and stumbled the ten yards or so down the steep slope to the level ground the cop stood on.

“What are you doing up there?” demanded the cop.

“Nothing.” said Ralph.

“You living up there?  Got a camp or something?” asked the rather large and intimidating policeman staring right at Ralph.

Ralph looked at his feet and said nothing.

“What about it?” demanded the policeman.  “I’ll run your ass in for trespass if you don’t speak up.”

“Yeah, I guess.” Ralph said.  “I got a sort of campsite up on the slope up there in the trees.  Until I can find a place to stay or something that is.”

“Well, you ain’t any more.” said the cop.  “All you guys camped out up there are on private property, and you’re trespassing.  We got complaints from the property owner and you’re outta there.  Right now.  Now, get gone while I’m still in a good mood!”

Ralph looked at the cop for a moment.  “Can I get my stuff?” he asked.  “I still got all my stuff up there.”

“Read my lips!” said the cop.  “I said, ‘Get gone!’ and I damned well mean it, before I run your ass over to detention.  And I mean right damned now!”


Ralph  turned and walked quickly away, before the cop had a chance to change his mind.  He’d had runs in with cops before.  Several times.  Maybe he’d try to sneak back and get his stuff after dark.  Before it got too cold.  He needed that sleeping bag.  He wondered where he could hang out until it got dark.

The homeless grey bearded man with the sad look in his eyes had been around some in his sixty years or so.  Now, he was in Juneau, Alaska in December, with no place to stay and no money.  No place to get out of the cold and it was sure to be colder tonight.  Ralph came to Juneau fifteen years ago to work on a fishing boat.  At first it was great.  He loved the work, and being on the water was wonderful.  So clean and elemental.  The work was hard but paid well when there was plenty of fish.  He got paid a share of the boat’s catch, and the guys were great.  Donny, the boat’s owner and business manager seemed to care a lot about the guys who did most of the work, two others besides Ralph.  It was almost like a family.  A family Ralph never had since leaving home at sixteen.

With no father at home and with his mother struggling to put food on the table, and three more younger kids to feed,  Ralph thought the best thing was to move on along to find some work and send money back as he could.  He lied about his age and got some minimum wage jobs to get by.  He couldn’t give much to his mom, but he tried.  He survived.  When he turned seventeen he’d joined the army - and was able to get an allotment to help support his mom and the other three kids.  Six months after joining up Ralph found himself slogging through the jungles of Vietnam as an infantry grunt on patrol in the boonies.

He hated the army and was scared to death every day in Vietnam - but the money was actually pretty good, especially with the combat pay thrown in.  And, when his year in Vietnam was up he asked his first sergeant to sign him up for another year ‘in country’, and then a year later, a third even.  The third was the bugaboo.  Halfway through was when Ralph got his ass shot off.  Or more correctly, blown off.  That was when somebody on his patrol set off a mine which killed two other men and loaded Ralph’s ass and back up with a ton of shrapnel.  But, it was his ticket home.

Two months in the hospital and some stateside time and then Ralph got his release from the army.  He hung around his mom’s for a week or so but soon headed out.  At first he seemed to do pretty well.  He got some pretty good work in construction, and then got a job with the power line folks as a lineman.  Hard work, but good money.  He got married even, but that didn’t last.  His wife said he was ’too into himself’ and left with a used car salesman.  After that Ralph just didn’t care much any more.  He quit the power company and banged around doing whatever work he could find.  Then he got in trouble with the law.

It was silly and stupid, really.  Ralph was hanging around with a guy from work who invited him over for a wiener roast and a few beers.  But it was more than a few beers.  This guy, who weighed about 300 pounds, hung out with a woman who was a deaf mute - and both of them drank like fishes.  Before long they were drunk as skunks, except for Ralph, who only had three or four beers himself.  But, Ralph was fascinated by the deaf mute woman and her strange sounding vocalizations, and somehow his interest got misconstrued by his fat friend who knocked him down.  What made it bad was the fat guy then just laid on top of Ralph and rolled around.  He wouldn’t get off and Ralph couldn’t get out from under.  He panicked, but managed to get his tiny pen knife hanging on his belt opened.  Pinching about a quarter inch of the blade exposed in his hand, he jabbed his huge friend in the side and belly until the guy finally screamed and rolled away.  But, then the deaf mute woman viciously attacked Ralph with the barbecue spatula.  He had no choice but to cut and run.

That might have been that, but Ralph worried about the the knife.  He thought it would be considered a ‘deadly weapon’, so he pitched it in the first trash bin he came to.  As it turned out, that was the very worst thing he could have done.

The fat guy swore out a complaint and Ralph’s arrest soon followed.  He was appointed a public defender since he had no money, and his lawyer said it was a legitimate self-defense, except for that discarded pen knife.  That made things into obstruction of justice and destruction of evidence.  Ralph got eighteen months in the slammer.  And, he did every day of it.  They said he had a bad attitude.  They were right.  He was pissed at the world and got in countless fights in jail.  After his release he did another two year’s probation, and reported to a court appointed probation officer once a week.  It was thoroughly humiliating and a real pisser.

After that Ralph couldn’t keep his mind on anything.  He had nightmares about Vietnam almost every night, often waking up in terror, reliving the wet heat and the jungle patrols, and the day he got his ass shot off.  He went to the Veterans Administration for treatment and was told he had an obvious case of PTSD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  They gave him pills and advice, but the bureaucracy bothered him, so he quit going.

He only occasionally had contact with the rest of his family, maybe once in every two years or so.  His mom died and his siblings went God knows where.  Ralph was depressed most of the time feeling himself a failure and a loser.  The fishing job in Alaska became his salvation.  With that, for several years Ralph was pretty happy.  He got a little apartment with another guy and things were cool.

Then Donny, the boat’s owner died.  It was sudden.  The guy just keeled over at the supper table one night having liver and onions with his wife.  That was that.  The job ended, and the boat got sold.  Ralph was too old to get another fishing job, so he just took whatever pickup jobs he could find.  It wasn’t enough.  He gave up the apartment and became just another homeless guy in Juneau, Alaska.

The problem with Juneau, is, if you don’t have any money you can’t leave.  It’s not like other places where you can just walk away or hitchhike maybe.  The only way in and out of Juneau is by air or by water - ferry.  Both cost money.  Lot’s of money in fact.  Ralph didn’t want to leave anyway.  Juneau was the only home he knew - even if he didn’t have an actual home.

Even without a place to live a person can get by in Juneau.  A  fair number of people had semi-permanent camps in the woods overlooking downtown.  Many were bums and just plain drunks, but quite a few were like Ralph - just unfortunate, down-on-their-luck guys who couldn’t make enough money to live in a house or apartment, but could make enough to eat and live in a camp in the woods.  If they were let alone that is.  If asked, they all said that’s the way they wanted to live.  “Just leave us alone.” was the motto.

But, like almost every other place in America, the powers-that-are in Juneau would not abide the homeless in their city.  It just ‘looked bad’ they said.  “They drive away business” was another frequently heard complaint, and, “they’re all just a bunch of alcoholics and thieves” was often heard.  All that was true, to one degree or another.  But, instead of applying some imagination and a bit of money and effort to fix the problem, the powers that be chose instead to attack it with a full frontal assault by law and fiat.  Simply put, it became illegal to be down-on-your-luck and homeless and exist in Juneau, Alaska.


If you've never been there,  Juneau, Alaska is a beautiful place, summer or winter.  A salt-water channel crowds the narrow strip of level land the city sits upon smack dab against an almost vertical wall of 4000 foot mountains virtually overhanging the city’s downtown area.  Tall Hemlock and Sitka Spruce evergreens almost stick their limbs into the downtown office buildings and shops.  Yards away from the city center, bears, mountain goat and deer play.  The bears enter town at night and become problems raiding unsecured garbage cans.  In fact, there is a city ordinance against bears too - that is, against persons leaving unsecured garbage for them to raid.  A very sensible ordinance it is too.

Juneau began as a mining town, based on gold.  Huge gold mines once existed virtually downtown, and their hundreds of miles of tunnels still lace the mountains nearby.  Mines require vast amounts of electricity to operate, and these built their own dams and hydro-electric plants.  Some of the electricity was also sold to the residents and businesses of Juneau.  In the early 1900’s a private company was formed to buy electricity from the combined mine dams and resell it.  That was the birth of “AEL&P” - Alaska 
Electric Light and Power company.  In 1972, AEL&P purchased all the dams and associated electrical generating properties from what remained of the mining companies, the last of which had ceased production early in WWII.

However, since 1973 most of AEL&P’s power has come from the Snettisham project,  built at US government expense, and later purchased by the State of Alaska.  The state made a contract with AEL&P allowing the company to sell electricity generated at Snettisham. In exchange, AEL&P must maintain the plant and pay off 35-year bonds issued by the state when it bought Snettisham from the federal government. That includes the 44 miles of towers and transmission lines used to deliver the power.   AEL&P has an option to purchase the Snettisham project but has declined to do so.  Why should this privately owned company so so, when it was virtually given to them with no investment on their part?

Yet, this is the very same company which failed to provide recommended avalanche protection for the transmission towers.   Seven towers were wrecked by an avalanche in early 2008.  AEL&P simply raised electrical rates almost 500% to cover their costs of repairs - and then some I would guess.  One of the repaired towers was damaged AGAIN in early 2009 by yet another avalanche - still not provided with protection.

Why am I giving you this information about a privately owned power company in far off Juneau, Alaska, and how is that pertinent to the homeless Ralph’s predicament?  Very simple really, this private company owns the land where the homeless, Ralph among them, made their camps in Juneau.  And, this is the same privately owned company which demanded the police evict all homeless persons from their camps.  That was the extent of their ‘homeless solution’.

When Ralph sneaked back to the campsite after dark, he discovered all his possessions, along with everyone else’s, had been gathered up and destroyed by the Juneau Police Department, enforcers for the powers that be.  Ralph did not sleep that night.  He was too cold and he was too busy walking around trying to stay warm.   But I’ll bet Joe Corbus, the majority stockholder of AEL&P didn’t have a problem.  I imagine he slept warm, comfortable and unbothered in his million dollar mansion down on the shore of Gastineau Channel, in Juneau, Alaska.  And, I’ll bet too, he dropped at least a dollar bill in the collection plate at his church the following Sunday as well.

 *’Ralph’ is a fictitious character, based on several different characters I know in Juneau, Alaska.  But, AEL&P and Joe Corbus are all too real.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Reality Denial Disorder




Once a rich politician, arch-conservative
Clinging to blind partisan dogmas, hallucinative,
Compelled always entirely to misstate
And implacably unable to play straight,
Became incredibly, regressively, degenerative.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
 "Is something wrong with the Senator?" asked the new intern of an aide to the senator.

"Waddaya mean?" said the older and far wiser aide.

"Well, I've only been here a few weeks I know, but it sure seems like he doesn't pay much attention to things, or what people tell him.

"Like what?"

"Well, like I spent over three weeks doing research for him on this National Health Act bill.  He just looked at the cover page on my report and threw it in the trash.  I haven't got much experience under my belt yet, but I do have my master's degree in political science and graduated #2 in my class.  I do know how to bear down and do good, solid, factual research."

"Oh that," said the more senior aide.  "He probably just doesn't like whatever real facts you uncovered.  It  was nothing against you personally, or your work."

"You mean the Senator doesn't care about facts?" asked the intern incredulously.

"Nah," said the aide.  "Not unless they agree with his own doctrine he doesn't. And, like always, his doctrine is strictly in line with that of his major campaign contributors.  My guess is the Senator's just trying to train you into his ways.  You know, he's been in Washington a long time now and has developed a pretty bad case of RDD."

"RDD?  What the hell is that?"

What's RDD?  Oh hell.  I guess you ARE still pretty wet behind the ears, aren't you?  RDD is "Reality Denial Disorder".  It's a very common disease, and almost all top politicians get it by their second  terms in office.  Damned few of them don't.  Their party doesn't matter.   It's pretty serious and clouds their judgement and affects their personal lives too.   Else, why would anyone ignore obvious cause and effect realities to pick up some queer in a public restroom or fly off to Argentina to meet some bimbo?  RDD can be pretty serious all right."

"Reality Denial Disorder?  I never heard of it!" said astonished intern.  Is it like a neurological disease?"

"Well, I don't know if there have been any formal studies on RDD or not, but everyone who's been around politicians any time at all time knows about it - and that's what we call it.  It's a lot like ADD - Attention Deficit Disorder.  You know, they just can't or won't get their minds around anything not in line with their own dogma.  It's a psychological impossibility for them."

"RDD!" mused the intern.  "Well, I guess I must still have a lot to learn."

"Oh yes," replied the aide.  "There's all kinds of things to learn about our senator.  Important things.  For example, he also has HPD, NPD, and worst of all maybe, GCD!"

The intern stared at the aide in dismay.  "What in hell is all that?" he implored.

"I guess I'm gonna need to get you a book." the aide replied.  "HPD is "Histrionic Personality Disorder".  You know, when someone gets all dramatic and works up an artificial passion.  NPD of course is "Narcissistic Personality Disorder", which is self-explanatory and pretty damned bad all by itself, but when it comes coupled with GCD, it's almost impossible to deal with. GCD is "God Complex Disorder" if you don't know that one.  Our senator has it all.  He's such a major pain in the ass, if I weren't trying to work myself up to a lobbyist job, I'd tell him 'sayonara' and 'kiss my ass' today."

"Well, I'm sure glad you enlightened me on all this." said the intern.  "In fact, right now I feel like I've just come down with a bad case of HWD myself."

"HWD?"  asked the aide.  "That's a new one on me.  What in hell is that?"

"Oh hell, you know." said the intern.  "That's that good old  'Hank Williams Disorder'." 

"I'm moving on!"

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Irony Versus The Art of Disinformation

(Click on photo to enlarge)

The caption beneath the picture of the glacier reads:

"TAKU GLACIER, ALASKA, IS A RIVER OF ICE STRETCHING 270 SQUARE MILES, YET THE PETROLEUM ENERGY HUMBLE SUPPLES AMERICA COULD MELT IT AT THE RATE OF 7 MILLIONS TONS A DAY!"


Perhaps a more prophetic ad was never run in history:   In 1962 Humble Oil ran a two-page ad spread in Life Magazine.  Humble merged with Standard Oil to become the oil industry giant EXXON, now EXXON-MOBIL.  Blogger David Roberts places this one in the running for "All Time Millenial Award for Maximum Irony".   I totally agree!

The ad itself reads as follows:

"EACH DAY HUMBLE SUPPLIES ENOUGH ENERGY TO MELT 7 MILLION TONS OF GLACIER!


This giant glacier has remained unmelted for centuries.  yet, the petroleum energy Humble supplies -  if converted into heat - could melt it at the rate of 80 tons each second!  To meet the nation's growing needs for energy, Humble has applied science to nature's resources to become America's Leading Energy Company.  Working wonders with oil through research, Humble provides energy in many forms - to help heat our homes, power our transportation, and to furnish industry with a great variety of versatile chemicals.  Stop at a Humble station for new Enco Extra gasoline, and see why the "Happy Motoring" Sign is the Worlds First Choice!"

The supreme irony is that EXXON-MOBIL is the same company which spent millions to disparage the idea of mankind cause climate change.  Using proven tobacco industry tactics, EXXON financed (even founded!) 'think tanks' with many millions of dollars to dispute scientific findings and muddy the waters over this issue.  The right-wing big business lobby is still at it today, using any means fair or foul to cast doubt over an issue upon which about 95% of all scientists agree.

Hackers recently got into computers at a legitimate climate change research center.   Emails and other documents stolen from there were then published  - in Russia of all places.  The attempt is to show a 'coverup' by scientists who agree on human influenced climate change - a huge majority of all scientists - and further muddy the waters.

The timing of this release of course,  has no relevance to the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference scheduled to begin December 7, 2009.  Yeah right.  Just like the timings of the current releases of new recommendations for the frequency for pap smears or breast cancer exams has no relevance to the national health care debate or the passing of the National Health Act.

Can we, the public, ever learn to effectively counter all the billions of 'influence dollars' spent by corporate vested interests?  Not bloody likely given recent history!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

On Becoming Non-Republican


I've never joined a political party, but I used to think I was more Republican than anything else. I voted for the occasional Democrat, yes.   I had great respect for what I read of Harry Truman who was before my time.  But the preponderance of my votes over the years went to Republicans, including more than once I  pulled the 'straight Republican' lever in the booth.   Republicans seemed to talk more my way and I eventually began to think of myself as 'Republican' even though I never formally joined the party.

I was cheered in the early 80's when my neighbor in New Bern, North Carolina was elected city mayor as a Democrat, and the very next day switched parties.   I did wonder a little at the time at the oddness of that.  It did seem a bit on the duplicitous side - but no matter.  Republicans seemed more like me, and therefore, her becoming one seemed justified.   I ignored the duplicity.

Then I moved to Alaska - a solidly 'Red State' then and now, almost.  I didn't move there because it was a Republican state, but didn't mind that either.  The people I met seemed more open and natural than the ones I'd known back east.  I think it's just the  'western' way.  I lived in a small island village in southeast Alaska and loved it.  We were in the midst of the largest national forest in the country - the Tongass National Forest.  I worked everyday with a guy who cheerfully identified himself as a 'tree hugger', and an officer in a small environmental group interested in protections for the forest.  He invited me to a meeting.  I didn't think I had much in common with the tree and bunny hugger crowds but went anyway out of curiosity.


The people I met at the first meeting - only a half dozen or so active folks - seemed salt of the earth and passionately dedicated to their cause.  There was a carpenter, a fisherman's wife, a couple commercial fishermen, a shipbuilder, a traveling fruit and vegetable trucker, a retired wildlife biologist and a few others.  Most were solid members of the local community and just plain folks.   One woman was the real spark plug and the cohesive glue holding the group together.  As an ex-Forest Service employee she had inside knowledge of how things worked in that peculiar bureaucracy. She was also one of the bravest people I ever knew.  In the interests of privacy, I'll simply call her 'Astra' here, after the Greek goddess of justice.

As an outsider from back east I was viewed with some suspicion, but I was intrigued and came to more meetings, eventually joining the group and becoming involved.  A year or so later I even became a vocal activist too and an officer of the group.  How did this come about?

At the time there were two huge pulp mills in the Tongass region, one of which was Japanese owned.  Both were multi-national corporations holding 'sweetheart' deals with the Forest  Service in the form of long-term contracts (fifty years!).   When the pertinent facts were boiled down to reality, particularly the fiscal ones, the stark result was the virtual corporate rape of a US national forest at American taxpayers' expense.  At the time, every timber industry job on the Tongass National Forest ended up  costing the US taxpayer $40,000 to $60,000.  Today it is even higher - much higher. As an actual, real fiscally conservative American I could not understand this.

But the timber industry, like all resource extraction industries maintains a powerful lobby.  The entire Alaska congressional delegation - all Republican at the time - were all doing the bidding of timber, oil and mining interests. They were vocal and strident in their defense of big  timber interests.  But,  American taxpayers were (and still are) being cheated at their own expense.  A real tragedy was that precious irreplaceable old-growth forests, valuable for lumber, were being chipped up to make toilet paper.  Trees not chipped up were shipped 'in-the-round' overseas to Japan and Korea. There was little effort to add value to the commodity.  Alaska, and the Tongass National Forest were treated as part of a third world country - no American jobs were involved beyond the acts of felling and transporting the timber,  and the taxpayer subsidized acts of building the access roads.


After I moved to Alaska also came Newt Gingrich's  'Contract With America' and the 'conservative Republican' capture of Congress.  If things were bad before they quickly got worse.  The final straw for me was when Gingrich as Speaker of the House  threatened to 'train wreck' and shutdown the US government over the budget - and partly did so in fact.  Apparently that was too much for lots of others too and Gingrich was eventually forced to resign as Speaker.  Roundly castigated, Gingrich  petulantly gave up his house seat and quit Congress altogether.  Nor was he the only one.  A whole slew of Republicans left Congress voluntarily (i.e., QUIT) saying it was 'no longer any fun' under a Democratic administration.  Incidentally, I've noticed the same phenomenon of Republican quitters lately too, with Sarah Palin being a prime example.

I contrasted the so-called conservative Republicans with Astra,  the head of our little environmental group.  Here was a person, an otherwise unexceptional wife and mother, who sacrificed most of her personal time, not a little money, and heroically faced a great deal animosity and slandering by powerful and ruthless forces arrayed against her.  She was publicly attacked in the local and regional papers, ostracized by many in the community and continuously threatened with lawsuits known as 'slap suits' designed to discourage opposition to the corporate rape of our publicly owned forest.   Specialists were hired by the industry group, 'Alaska Forest Association' to form opposition groups disguised as 'grassroots' organizations.   Local loggers and other industry employees joined up and held loud meetings, much like the 'Teabaggers' of today.  Some even physically threatened Astra and her family with destruction of her property, assault, personal injury and death.  Yet she persevered through it all.  As I said, she is one of the bravest people I ever met.

But, Astra was very effective, using every legal option available to her, including the support of major national and regional environmental groups.  Today, because of their efforts, those two huge pulp mills are gone from the Tongass National Forest, and some of the timber harvest there now receives at least a modicum of value added processing.  With the mills gone, the level of harvest is now down to about 10% of its former volume, although still very heavily subsidized by the taxpayers.  At least the old growth forests left aren't being slaughtered wholesale to make toilet paper anymore.  In my mind Astra is a genuine hero.

Through Astra's example, and with the scales falling from my eyes,  today when I see the label 'Republican' my reaction is to look the other way.  At my core I'm a moderate.  I've watched the GOP be captured by radical fringers intent on ridding the party of all moderate or progressive elements.   The end result is the GOP morphing into a club for an weird assortment of non-intellectual, belligerent southerners, evangelicals, militia types and disgruntled westerners who regard thoughtful deliberation with anyone as a social disease. And, my heretofore 'middle of the road' leanings are now considered by GOPers as 'liberal', 'socialist' and worse.  So be it.  The GOP 'Big Tent' of yore is now down to a doll house on the edge of a cliff. Fortunately for everyone,  I believe that to be a decidedly self-limiting situation.

Today's GOP extremism reminds me of the words of comedian Pat Paulsen who only half-jokingly 'ran for president' in Richard Nixon's time as a member of the STAG party (Straight Talking American Government).   When asked if he considered himself 'left-wing or right-wing', Paulsen's priceless and very apt response was:

"Well actually, I'm kind of a middle-of-the-bird.  I've always felt that if you have too much left-wing or too much right-wing, all you do is fly around in circles."







Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Quitter who Twittered


There was once a dim witted twit who twittered,
She quitted her governor's job with all its glitter.
And, promised to never, ever leave Twitter.
But soon did so with nary a back-look nor  titter.
Then, later behold! About-faced and unquitted Twitter!

Yes, this dim-witted twit recanted and re-twittered,
She twittered about this and that and the other,
Death panels, Russia and Obama's mother.
Hoping everyone forgot the job so blithely quittered.

Oh, she twittered, and twittered and twittered,
On subjects she hardly knew quit from quinolla,
She expounded on Levi, McCain, Trig and Angola.
On Sesame, governments, church and pipefitters.

She shamefully twittered and twittered and twittered,
While the country grew quite weary and so jittered,
All tired of her nonsense and now sadly embittered,
While the sheen on her star dimmed and quite flittered.

Nonetheless, she persistently, mindlessly twittered,
Ignoring all pleas, imprecations and screams,
Plugging always her twisted, evangelical dreams,
Until husband Todd so wanted to jump up and hit her.

May we never hear again all those perfidious twitters,
Playing so to fears, paranoia, religion and bitters,
Plainly,  insanely, chasing her own lost fame and glitters,
Yes, next time give us at least a rational bullshitter!

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Real Golden Rule: 'Those with the Gold, rule'

Special Interest Money Buys Elections - pretty much all the time today.  Tom Ferguson in his book 'Golden Rule:  The Investment Theory of Politics' says, "Elections are moments when groups of investors coalesce and invest to control the state."


Special interest money - and especially corporate special interest money buys elections.  Historically, 9 out of 10 victors in elections have outspent their opponent, whatever their party.  Surprised?  No one should be.  Deep down, I think everyone probably kind of suspects that behind-the-scenes special interest money is funneled into election campaigns.   But, the trouble is, no one really understands how pervasive and serious this problem actually is.  No one seems to understand the danger this places us all in.  The danger to us collectively as a society that is.

Various campaign finance rule changes over the years resulted in a system which allows - even encourages - special interest money to influence and buy elections.  Massive amounts of money, millions and millions of dollars, from anonymous donors is utilized for ad campaigns favoring particular candidates or issues.  The main culprits are '527 groups' after the section of US law they are permitted by.  Much of their money - often called 'soft money' - doesn't even need to be reported to the Federal Election Committee until after the election is over - if then. 

In fact, the Federal ElectionCommission (FEC) decided in 2004 that 527's were not even to be regulated under campaign finance rules unless they 'directly advocate' the defeat of a candidate.

'Political Action Committees' (PACs) are more regulated, yet still able to spend vast sums lobbying and donating to other political campaigns.  Most federal level politicians now have their own PACs and use their discretion to dispense contributions as they see fit.  PACs are the so-called 'non-profit' 501(c) political organizations formed ostensibly to 'educate and inform'.

Those are the rules.  Those are the rules put in place by our legislators, elected by us, to serve 'we, the people', who instead are often persuaded to legislate in favor of some special interest or the other, which is often directly AGAINST the interests and welfare of the public.  A lot of money is at stake.  The people who do this - infuse the special interest money into the campaigns - claim it is their perfect right under the First Amendment - freedom of speech.  But, leaving aside the discussion as to whether or not a corporation, business group or PAC can be - as they are today - considered 'persons' (and very special 'persons' at that!) - the net effect drastically loosens the laws and allows massive amounts of cash to be unfairly inserted into campaigns in one form or the other.  Those with the gold, rule in other words.

An actual 'person' may not do this - unless it is to finance his or her own campaign.  Real people are limited in the amounts they are allowed to contribute - unless of course it is to a 527 group - and there they don't even need to be identified.  But any real person making a direct contribution over $100 to a political campaign must be identified by name, address and occupation/employer.

527 groups are allowed to spend unlimited amounts in favor of, or against any candidate or issue they so desire.  The only limitation to their spending when they qualify as a 'Trade Association' Business Leagues, Chambers of Commerce, Real Estate Boards, etc., is that intervening in political campaigns is not  their 'primary activity'. 

How wrong is that?  And who decides whether or not political activity is their primary activity?  Surprise!  That is usually done by people appointed by politicians themselves.  On yes, something is definitely rotten in Denmark all right.

You and I as individuals may not contribute unlimited amounts for political advocacy (unless to a 527 group),  yet the 527 groups may do so, as much as they wish so long as they claim to be a trade association or like group.  How did it ever come to pass that these types of 'persons' have rights superior to actual people?  Beats me.  Oh yeah, wait a minute. . . . ,  I guess it's because politicians collectively decided it is advantageous to them personally, either in their own election campaigns, or in the massive amounts of money which will be funneled to them as advocacy for one issue or the other.  Public interests be damned.

Do we need election campaign finance reform?  You Bet! 

How can we do this without inhibiting rights to free speech?  There must be some mechanism which will permit real democracy to be maintained without endangering constitutional rights.  I believe there is.  In fact, it ought to be pretty darned simple if our political leaders actually believe in fairness and democracy.  In keeping with a 'one person, one vote' democracy, this is what is needed:
  • Each person should be allowed to donate a limited amount to any candidate or issue he or she chooses.  No limits to the number of candidates or issues;
  • No company, group, organization or entity other than actual persons should be considered as persons, or permitted to contribute to any candidate or issue whatever.
Simple, right?  Probably much too simple for the political leaders of today.

If you have the time, please view the excellent documentary on the new Golden Rule.



"The world is ruled only by the consideration of Advantages"
    ~ Friedrich von Schiller

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The 'Soul' of the Republican Party

In other posts I have mentioned the seemingly inexorable trend towards the destruction of the Republican Party.  I have said it almost seems like some evil plot by enemies of the party.  Perhaps that is so,  but I can not find any real evidence of  that.


Instead, it seems more like some ugly political suicide at the behest of the neoconservative far-right wing of the party, holding a gun on everyone else in the party.  The neoconservatives' implacably insist on their own brands of perverted dogma, 'nothing else, and nothing less, so help us God'.   The result is a radical shift far right which other factions of the party seem powerless to resist.   Core values and principles are abandoned wholesale and left bleeding by the side of the road.  Whenever any group so abdicates its core principles and its abrogates values to the prejudices of lowest common denominators, how can you not expect damage or destruction of the party? 


Many neoconservatives believe and say the 'soul of the Republican Party' today is represented by, among others,   popular talk show personalities Sean HannityBill O'ReillyGlenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.  These figures broadcast through either Fox News or Clear Channel Communications, and often both.  Three of them (Hannity, O'Reilly, Beck) are catholic, or ex-Catholic in the case of Beck who has now converted to Mormonism.   I mention this because it seems to a trait among Catholics towards strictness and obedience to 'doctrinal truths'.  Extreme examples are the infamous 'inquisitions' during Medieval times in the 13th centry and the Roman, Spanish and Portugeuse inquisitions supremacy during the 16th century.

Between the four of them, Beck, Hannity, Limbaugh and O'Reilly, only one finished college (O'Reilly) with the others having dropped out early in their 'educational careers'.  At least two are or have been confirmed drug addicts (Beck, Limbaugh).   Beck has been accused of rape.  O'Reilly has been sued for sexual harrasment with the suit being settled out of court, reportedly for millions of dollars.


These people freely and deliberately engage in outrageous claims and flaming rhetoric, the more outrageous and sensational the better.  This seems hugely attractive to the lower educated classes in the country, many of whom accept their claims as gospel while disregarding realities.  There are strong anti-elite, anti-intellectual and anti-progressive currents running through all their broadcasts.  Due to their popularity among the rank and file who call themselves conservatives, Beck and Limbaugh are now the most highly paid people in broadcast media today, with a following of millions of Americans.


Since the repeal of the FCC's 'Fairness Doctrine' by President Reagan, social and political issues have become polarized  into opposite partisan camps, as a result of the influence of broadcast media on those who follow them.  Before its repeal, the Fairness Doctrine compelled broadcast media to offer the opportunity to present contrasting or opposing viewpoints.  The Supreme Court upheld its legality. However, it was an FCC rule and not mandated by legislation although Congress. 

Unfortunately for the Republican Party,  their media wing now seems to captured by special interest groups and dominated by the Fox Broadcasting and Clear Channel Communications.  Each of these entities have their own agendas, neither of which is necessarily aligned with the interests of the American people, although they both stridently claim to do so.

Fox Broadcasting is owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.   Murdoch hired Roger Ailes to create the Fox News Channel which he now runs and which is now the preeminent cable news channel in the country. 

Ailes was the media consultant for Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and Rudy Guiliani.  His specialty is political sensationalization.  He is the author of the  'Orchestra Pit Theory", saying:  "If you have two guys on stage and one guys says, 'I have a solution to the Middle East problem', and the other guy falls into the orchestra pit, who do you think is going to be on the evening news?"

Clear Channel Communications owns over 1200 radio broadcast stations throughout the US, and dominates in many regions being the only stations available.  Their board of directors is headed by wealthy far-right neoconservatives, largely from Texas or Oklahoma.  At least one director (John H. Williams) is a member of the infamous Bohemian Club of San Francisco.

Oh yes, it is clear some decidedly slanted 'reporting' is going on here.   Much of it is duplicitous, deceitful, and created opinion masquerading as truth and reality and has swayed elections.  It is neither reality nor truth.  Americans are being deceived and the credibility of Republicans is being destroyed. 


Will the so-called 'Soul of the Republican Party' ultimately destroy the party?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A 'Vast, Left-Wing Conspiracy'?

The continuous naysaying of today's Republican Party is resulting in the diminished capability and credibility and the further disintegration of the Party.  There's no doubt about that. The damage to the party is almost enough to convince you it is the result of some 'vast left-wing conspiracy'. 


America's Right Wing has apparently been captured by fools, doctrinal idiots and people ignorant of history.  I'm sorry, but there's no other way to say it.  Mobilized and motivated by God Hollerers (evangelicals) and right wing media personalities, these people are now busily, implacably, inexplicably, driving the Republican party out of business.   The 'Party of No' now invariably and vehemently objects no matter how beneficial something may be, if can remotely be considered an 'Obama' success'.  For example, even though almost every politician of whatever party without exception, agrees there is a health care crisis in our country, the Republicans so far can muster only one single vote - Olympia Snowe of Maine - who will vote in favor of the only reform plan on the table. 

I am sad and concerned about this for a number of reasons.

First, I used to consider myself as moderately conservative - and usually voted Republican, though I now regret some of the votes I cast in the past.  But through no particular effort, or move of my own I find I am now defined as 'liberal'.   My past 'moderate conservative' identity has now been shoved emphatically to the left and redefined by the so-called conservatives of today.  All things moderate or progressive are now decried as 'left wing' or 'liberal' by the people who have appointed themselves as defenders of conservative values and who define themselves as conservative these days.  But sadly, what now masquerades as conservative is conservative in name only.  There is nothing conservative about it.  Radicalism by definition can never be considered conservative in any context. 

The conservatives of today are not even fiscally conservative anymore.  No where near so.  Just take an unbiased look at the legacy GW Bush left us all to see that.  Barrack Obama now shoulders the entire responsibility to correct things.   But, there is no shame among those who define themselves as conservative.  None whatever.   They pile on, denounce, block, obfuscate, deny and vociferously lay all the problems for the past decade at the poor man's feet.  They even denounce Obama for the Nobel prize which he did not ask for and which he himself says he does not deserve.  No matter - he's still the target of choice.  I am now convinced that even if full prosperity returned overnight, and the unemployment rate dropped to 2% they would still find things to complain about.  In fact, based on observations to date, I know they would.  The biggest lollipop in the world would not rate even a smile from conservatives of today.

In their eyes, George W. Bush could do no wrong, ever, no matter what, or how stupidly or badly he ended up trashing the country and so many of its institutions.  That may truly be their doctrinal blindness, but it is also incredibly obtuse denial.  Do those people really think no one pays attention?

Another reason is I believe we must always have a strong opposition party - at least one - to keep the party in power as honest as possible. There is an absolute truth that 'Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely'.  I don't care which faction is in power, no matter how good their original motives, left unrestrained the inevitable result is corruption.   But restraint should not mean absolute opposition to any act, good or bad, that the party in power tries.  There's a lot to the idea of the 'loyal opposition', but very little evidence of the fact today.

We have seen this before in both parties.  But today, under the control of today's 'conservatives' the Republican Party is marginalizing itself, more each day.  If the trend continues, the party may go out of business in the near future.  Historically, this has happened many times before with parties of the past when they made themselves irrelevant.  Incredibly, there have been over 95 political parties in the US which are now defunct.  Several of them elected candidates to the highest office in the land: 

  • (Federalist)  John Adams;
  • (Whig)  Wm. H. Harrison,  John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore;
  • (Democratic-Republican)  Thomas jefferson, James Madison,  James Monroe, John Q. Adams 
  • (Democratic National Union)  Andrew Johnson  
  • (Republican National Union)  Abraham Lincoln

Will today's Republican Party be next?

Monday, October 05, 2009

A Cheap Government Option Health Care Plan Already Exists

I'm having trouble about so much congressional opposition to a national health care plan with a government option.   I am having so much heartburn over this because such a plan already exists.   In fact, it has existed for years. 

This is plan utilizing local clinics for everyone with full-time doctors you may access anytime you wish for a modest annual fee.  Other costs, if any,  are at government expense, much like Medicare today.

This is not assembly-line medicine either.   It is the best of care, where doctors spend plenty of time with each patient to get to know them and their health conditions and concerns.  The plan provides excellent primary care medicine with thorough examinations and focuses on preventative medicine for the long-term well-being of its patients.  Specialists of all kinds are readily available when needed.  In other words, it is an ideal plan and one we can all wish we had.

"If you had, for example, prostate cancer, you would go to one of the centers of excellence for the country, which would be Johns Hopkins. If you had coronary artery disease, we would engage specialists at the Cleveland Clinic. You would go to the best care in the country. And, for the most part, nobody asked what your insurance was" says Dr. Eduardo Balbona, a Jacksonville, Florida internist who once worked as a staff physician for the plan.

The plan is currently available at an unbelievably low annual cost of $503 per individuals, with the rest of the costs being picked up by the US government.  But, the trouble is, this plan is not very well known.  In fact, the managers of this plan refuse to discuss it, and have not returned phone calls from journalists who wished to inquire about the details.  And, the users of this plan say little about it.  When TV personality Dr. Timothy Johnson of ABC made a personal visit to the man in charge, he was asked to leave.   Requests by ABC News to tour facilities were denied due to 'security sensitivities'.

How can this be so with a federal government's government option health care plan?

The short answer is this plan is simply not available to most Americans.  Only

members of Congress enjoy this plan.  Maybe they feel guilty about it and  simply wish you did not know the details.  That might be your two state senators and all the congressional representatives of your state, who currently enjoy exactly such a plan and regularly make use of it - at our expense.  They seem to feel it is OK for them, for not for the rest of us.

Simply put,  our elected politicians apparently feel they have the inherent right to enjoy - at out expense - something which many of them deny for anyone else.  And, if we don't rise up in righteous and furious indignation to demand this be changed,  on pain of their being drawn and quartered, we don't have a hair on our collective asses!  There should be no favored classes in a democracy.  Period.

Say some believe we shouldn't have government health care.  OK, so demand the politicians dispense with theirs.  Or, say some feel there should be equal health care for everyone.  So, those demand that if it's a government plan, let everyone qualify for exactly the same thing.  Nothing more, nothing less.

Let Congress know how you feel!

Friday, September 25, 2009

BIG TIME CRIMINALS VS. EVERYONE ELSE


Suppose you're a big time criminal dealing in millions and billions thru fraud, deception  illegal transactions, false statements and a myriad other nefarious machinations to feather your criminal nest.  (Yes, I know this sounds a lot like the Bush administrations, but this isn't precisely about that)

And suppose the authorities get you cornered and dead to rights.  You face indictment and certain conviction and the possibility of years in jail.  (No!  I told you this wasn't about the members of the Bush administrations, dammit!)

Now suppose you could just say to the authorities, "Hey.  Wait a minute!  I get a choice about things right?   Like:

    A.  Whether I even get punished or not.  Can't I just 'defer' it -  if I don't break any more laws for a while, we can drop all this nuisance altogether, right?

   
B.  Hey!  I'll get to choose what my punishment will be anyway, right?

   
C.  Look, sure, I may be GUILTY of all kinds of felonies and all, but let's just keep all this just between us, OK?

   
D.  Absolutely no jail time for me,right?   Let's save that and maybe bag some dummy working for me, OK?

    E.  And, hey.  All that malarky about prohibiting criminals from doing business with the government - we can get around that by assigning blame to one of my defunct companies, right?

   
F.  This shouldn't affect my doing business with you later, right?"

Well, hold on to your bippy, because, incredibly,  that's exactly what the US Department of Justice offers to all criminal corporations as a matter of current FEDERAL POLICY! 

Under GW Bush et al, Congress - and the Department of Justice came up with something they call 'Deferred Prosecution'.  In their own words the US Department of Justice says


"We can bring a criminal charge against the company. And we will tell the company -- if you are a good company and do not violate the law for the next two years, we will drop the charges. No harm, no foul. This is called a deferred prosecution agreement.  Now, corporate criminals don’t have to worry about pleading GUILTY to crimes.  Three new loopholes have developed over the past five years – the deferred prosecution agreement, the non prosecution agreement, and pleading GUILTY a closet entity or a defunct entity that has nothing to lose."

OK, so it's not a level playing field.  Corporations are officially classed as 'Persons' for the sake of their 'Freedom of Speech rights' - (Read that as: So they can funnel large amounts of money to politicians to buy legislative favors - otherwise how would they ever have gotten such an unfair official policy in place in the first place?).  But when it comes to criminal activities - why they are something entirely else again, and in fact in a favored class all by themselves.  Personally I think it's very unfair to have it both ways, but hey, I don't have the money to force my opinions like they do.

Meanwhile, Congress gets itself all exercised over isolated acts by employees of a grassroots group like ACORN - which exists for poor people and the little guy - and cut off all federal funding.  No ifs, ands or buts, just WHAMO!  "Yer outta here"!  (THOSE SANTIMONIOUS SONS OF BITCHES!)

Yet corporate criminals, who are conservtively estimated to be behind well over 60% of all economic crimes in this great country are allowed to pay some inconsequential fines - to them - and keep merrily on their way, overcharging and ripping off people right and left - and welcomed to our national treasury with open arms.  It is very good business in fact - for the investment of comparatively very small sums they are allowed to have their way with impunity - and the blessings of Congress.

So, who are the real criminals here?  Could it be these corporate 'persons' (below), who have actually PLEADED GUILTY - yet are still at the public trough apparently unscathed?  This list includes only those who's fines have exceeded TEN MILLION DOLLARS - and some which exceed half a billion:

BANKING
:
  • Banker's Trust - falsification of records -PLED GUILTY
  • Daiwa Bank Ltd. - FRAUD - PLED GUILTY;
  • Banker's Trust - false bookkeeping, theft of unclaimed funds - PLED GUILTY;
  • Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) - laundering illegal drug money - PLED GUILTY.

DEFENSE:
  • Northrop - False statements regarding Air Launched Cruise Missile and Navy Harrier jet - PLED GUILTY;
  • Teledyne Industries Inc. - Fraud - submitted false test claims on military equipment - PLED GUILTY;
  • Litton Applied Technology Division (ATD) and Litton Systems Canada (LSL) - conspiracy, mail fraud & false statements - PLED GUILTY.
ENERGY:
  • Exxon Corporation and Exxon Shipping - POLLUTION - PLED GUILTY;
  • Iroquois Pipeline Operating Company - criminal violations of Clean Water Act - PLED GUILTY;
  • ENRON Corporation - too many transgressions to list - PLED GUILTY.
MANUFACTURING:
  • Boeing Aircraft - data THEFT -PLED GUILTY
  • Archer Daniels Midland - antitrust, price fixing - PLED GUILTY; 
  • UCAR International, Inc. - PRICE FIXING - PLED GUILTY;
  • Lucas Western Inc. (Defense contractor) - false statements, faulty gearboxes for naval aircraft (which resulted in DEATH for American servicemen - PLED GUILTY;
  • Rockwell International Corporation - felonious illegal storage of nuclear hazardous wastes - PLED GUILTY;
  • Eastman Chemical Company - international price fixing, food products - PLED GUILTY;
  • Ajinomoto Co. Inc. - suppressing competition - PLED GUILTY;
  • Louisiana-Pacific Corporation -tampering with pollution control equipment, lying, falsifying quality assurance testing - PLED GUILTY;
  • Haarman & Reimer Corp. - international price fixing - PLED GUILTY
  • UCAR International - international price fixing - PLED GUILTY
  • Mitsubishi Corp. - international price fixing - PLED GUILTY
  • SGL Carbon AG - price fixing - pled GUILTY
MEDICAL:
  • C.R. Bard Inc. - selling unaproved medical devices leading to injury and death - PLED GUILTY;
  • Damon Clinical Laboratories, Inc.- Fraud - submitting false medicare claims -  PLED GUILTY;
  • Genentech Inc. - selling unaproved drugs PLED GUILTY;
  • Kimberly Home Health Care Inc. - Medicare fraud - PLED GUILTY.
MINING:
  • Summitville Consolidated Mining Co. Inc. - conspiracy, false staements - PLED GUILTY;
PHARMACEUTICALS:
  • BASF - price fixing - PLED GUILTY;
  • Haarman & Reimer Corp. - price fixing - PLED GUILTY;
  • F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd.  - Price fixing - PLED GUILTY;
  • Hoechst AG - Price fixing - PLED GUILTY;
  • Pfizer Inc. - international price fixing - PLED GUILTY;
  • Copley Pharmaceutical, Inc. - conspiracy to defraud - PLED GUILTY;
  • Warner-Lambert Company - Fraudulent nonreporting of drug problems - PLED GUILTY;
  • Purdue Pharma - false claims - 'non-prosecution acgreement' by lesser owned company
  • Merck Pharmaceuticals - international price fixing - PLED GUILTY 
RECREATION:
  • Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. - deliberately planned and executed environmental crimes ("replumbed' iping aboard ships to surreptisiously dump dumped hazardous chemincals in US harbors - PLED GUILTY
RETAIL:
  • Sears Roebuck & Co (Bankruptcy Recovery Management Service)s - bankruptcy fraud - PLED GUILTY.
Remember, this is just a sampling of the rampant corporate malfeasance known as 'white collar crime' in the US 'winked' at by those who are supposed to look out for the public interest.  Remember also, BOTH POLITICAL PARTIES ARE CULPABLE!  And because a name does not appear here does not necessarily mean thay aren't also culpable.  Just for fun, here's a few more you can check for yourself by googling the names + 'criminal prosecution':

Tyco, Adelphia, Worldcom, Serono, Takeda-Abbott Pharmaceutical, Lilly, Abbott Labs, Cephalon, National Medical Enterprises, HCA, Gambro Health Care, Schering-Plough, Astra-Zeneca, Bayer.

Back in 2003, California Senator Gloria Romero introduced a bill that would hold California's law-breaking corporations to the same standard to which the state holds its law-breaking citizens (California SB 335). Three strikes and you're out. If a corporation commits three major violations that result in a fine of at least $1 million or a death, the California Attorney General will revoke the corporation's charter. For companies incorporated in other states, three strikes means that they will lose their right to transact business in California.

But corporate criminals need not worry.  Two democrats joined with the California Republican majority to kill the irritating bill.  It was opposed by the business lobbies after all

In the end though, we the people elect the bozos who sell us down the river every chance they get.  We can unelect them too.  But unless we raise enough hell about the abuse of our 'capitalistic system' we deserve what we get.  I don't know about you, but I just faxed my indignation to all my federal representatives.

References:
http://www.usdoj.gov/atr/
http://www.usdoj.gov/atr/public/speeches/200686.htm
http://www.usdoj.gov/atr/public/speeches/219332.htm
http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=389x5298947
http://www.corporatepredators.org/top100.html
http://corporatecrimereporter.com/twenty061207.htm
http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0307-02.htm

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

How Joe Wilson Became "Old yeller"

Once there was an old hound dog down in the state of South Carolina.  He didn't have much going for himself, being long in the tooth and none too smart.  Mostly, he just laid around licking his balls and living off the bits and pieces others funneled in his direction.  He loved his status quo.

Lot's of people tolerated the old hound - they mostly loved the status quo too.  He was old and been around for a long time, licking those aging balls and appreciatively snuffling his own ass deeply and often.  Once in a great while he'd sniff someone else's ass for variety, but mostly he pleased himself.  Life was pretty good.

But then the governor of the old hound's state, who was no slouch at sniffing his own ass appreciatively himself, suddenly became the center of attention.   All he had to do was run away to Argentina and score some hot latin cha cha cha stuff down there - and then had the chutzpah to go around bragging about it whilst praying to Jesus and comparing himself to King David of biblical times.  All at once the governor was a new national sensation  - maybe not at the top of the heap but everyone sure knew who he was.

At this disturbance to the status quo, the old hound grew unsettled.  He sulked around then and even tried nipping jealously at the heels of his narcissistic governor - to little avail.  Life just wasn't that sweet anymore.  His balls got all sore from all his over-licking and he suddenly realized snuffling his own ass was actually pretty disgusting.  Especially to everyone else - and the old hound grew very morose.

So, the old hound mulled over some way to make things better.  Not being all that smart it was a very tall order for him.   He wondered about the Appalachian Trail - that had worked for the randy governor didn't it?  Yep . . . . nope! Wait a minute! That didn't even happen did it?

How's about Argentina and hot latin cha cha cha stuff?  Nope.  Even if he could get down there, there was no way he was gonna  score any stuff of any kind.  He was too old and droopy a hound.  He  didn't even know how to spell 'randy'.

He got so down he moped - which for a hound means he drooped everywhere.  his eyes, his ears, his jaws and his entire face . . . . . drooped.  He started in crying and yelling, which for a hound means he howled.  He howled the most mournful, desolate howls anyone ever heard, and everyone threw things at him - shoes, stones, glasses and kitchen tables.

"Stop all that yelling!" they hollered.

After he second brick landed on  his tail the old hound stopped his howling - but he did note one important thing:  At least everyone paid attention when he howled.  Maybe that was his ticket.

So the old hound headed to Washington, DC where he yelled 'You Lie!" at the president of the United States of America right there during his speech  in Congress.  There was an  instant and  amazing change.

Suddenly the old hound was a new national sensation.  His new name and face was on every TV in America.  And that's how an old hound named Joe Wilson suddenly became "Old Yeller" one day in September, 2009.

Liar, liar, Pants on Fire! (Or, Joe Wilson Versus the Truth)

Maybe he believes it takes one to know one.  Seems like Joe Wilson himself may well be acquainted with shading the truth.

Wilson of course is the South Carolina Congressman who outrageously disrespected US President Obama in his recent health care speech to Congress.  Leaving aside the fact  he also disrespected the office of the President of the United States, Congress itself, and his own personal office, Wilson also disrespected the American people. Obama after all was elected to his office by a vote of the American people.
But,  Joe Wilson has his facts wrong on his claim the president lies.


But much worse, afterwards, in attempting to justify his outburst Wilson apparently told a whopper himself, claiming:  " I'm for immigration, legal immigration, I've been an immigration attorney."

'Not so!' claim those who took the time and trouble to check his statement.  Wilson and his office have declined further comment on this statement., although they have been quite vocal on everything else, if you'll pardon my sarcasm.

I don't know Joe Wilson, but I am quite familiar with his type.  His is the type who is utterly convinced of the 'rightness' of his own opinions and dogma.

Dogma is defined as 'the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, ideology or any kind of organization: it is authoritative and not to be disputed, doubted or diverged from. . . . . At the core of the dogma concept is absolutism, infallibility, irrefutability, unquestioned acceptance (among adherents) and anti-skepticism. These concepts typically invoke criticism from moderate and modulated conceptual approaches, and thus "dogma" is often colloquially used to indicate a doctrine which has the problem of claiming absolute truth, when other concepts may be superior.'

We should not be surprised by Joe Wilson.  We've seen all kinds of wildly accusatory statements coming from conservative true believers who have utterly convinced themselves of all sorts of bizarre 'facts', just a few, to wit:

"Barrack Obama is not a US citizen"
"Obama is a Muslim, socialist, communist, nazi" (take your pick)
"Health care reform includes 'Death Panels'"
"Obama plans to seize everyone's guns"
"Obama is setting up concentration camps for dissidents all over the US"
"The economic crisis in the US is all the fault of Obama"
"Our country was founded as a Christian nation."
"The earth is 6000 years old."
"Everything on earth was created in place, by God, just as we see it today."
"There is no such thing as evolution."
"Global warming is a liberal myth."
"No one could have predicted the levees would break in New Orleans."
"The best way to boost the economy is thru tax cuts for the rich."
""Deregulation of the financial sector will be beneficial for the economy."
"Fox News is an unbiased source of information"
And, my personal favorite:  "If you're not with us you're against us."

Here's a link to some other commonly passed around 'conservative' myths

In other words, if you don't follow the dogma 100% you are an enemy.  Implacably.   This is well illustrated by some Arizona Republicans who once wanted to take arch-conservative Barry Goldwater's name off a building named for him.  Why?  Because In 1989, Goldwater said the Republican Party had been taken over by a ''bunch of kooks,'' a reference to forces supporting TV evangelist Pat Robertson and Mecham.

''It's typical of those people. If you're not with them 100 percent, you're not with them. Therefore you're persona non grata. But that never kept Barry Goldwater from speaking his mind.''
    ~ Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz.

A huge problem with this approach is that such an inflexible dogma tends to further radicalize those who are already on the edge.  That's why we're seeing such an increase in violence and belligerency from the people commonly called 'Wingnuts' these days, giving rise to what is being called 'right wing terrorism' complete with guns at public meetings, in-your-face-screaming-and-shouting, threats and outright physical attacks.

"If you assert the opposite, that eliminates mountains of evidence demonstrating that what you are saying is false. That's what power means. And the way we assert the opposite is by just saying that the media are liberal."
     ~ Noam Chomsky

"It is not disbelief that is dangerous to our society, it is belief."
     ~  George Bernard Shaw

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Conservative Whopper Factory

We recently saw SC Representative Joe Wilson disrespect the President of the United States by crying out during a presidential speech, 'You Lie'!  Wilson later apologized, under pressure from his own party,  and the President graciously accepted his apology. 

Never before in my memory have I ever witnessed such  continuous and relentless, venomously acidic assaults on any US president.  It is ominously paranoid and downright pathological.  As I watch the Far Right relentlessly attacking President Obama and accusing him of 'lying', two paramount facts continuously pass through my mind:

First, just who are these folks who so implacably believe they are so 'right', but whose leaders are responsible for the greatest political, economical and foreign policy disasters in US History?

Secondly, just where do these people get off accusing ANYONE of lying, when their own leaders operated a veritable 'Whopper Factory' out of the White House for years?

Here's just a few proven examples:


"Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction."
~VP Richard P. Cheney,  Aug. 26, 2002

"No terrorist state poses a greater or more immediate threat to the security of our people and the stability of the world than the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq".
~ Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld,  Sept. 19, 2002

"We know for a fact that there are weapons there".
 ~White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer,  Jan. 9, 2003

"Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications and statements by people 
now in custody reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of Al Qaida."
~President George W. Bush,  State of the Union speech, Jan. 28, 2003

"We have also discovered through intelligence 
that Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas."
~President George W. Bush,  State of the Union speech, Jan. 28, 2003

"Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard, and VX nerve agent.... The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
~President George W. Bush,  State of the Union speech, Jan. 28, 2003

"Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."
~President George W. Bush, March 17, 2003

"We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south, and north somewhat."
~US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld,  March 30, 2003

"We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories." 

~President George W. Bush, 5/29/03

"But let’s remember what we’ve already found. Secretary Powell on February 5th talked about a mobile, biological weapons capability. That has now been found and this is a weapons laboratory trailers capable of making a lot of agent that–dry agent, dry biological agent that can kill a lot of people. So we are finding these pieces that were described. … This was a program that was built for deceit and concealment."
~ US Secretary of State, Condolezza Rice, 6/3/03

"And I have yet to hear from our commanders on the ground that they need more troops. "
~President George W. Bush, 11/04/04

"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." 
~President George W. Bush, 09/01/05

"It really caught everybody by surprise" and was a major reason for the delay in the government's emergency response." 
~ US Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff (09/04/05)

"That 'perfect storm' of a combination of catastrophes exceeded the foresight of the planners, and maybe anybody's foresight." 
~US Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff (09/05/05)

"We are finding terrorists and bringing them to justice. We are gathering information about where the terrorists may be hiding. We are trying to disrupt their plots and plans. Anything we do ... to that end in this effort, any activity we conduct, is within the law. We do not torture."
~President George W. Bush, Nov. 7, 2005

"We’ve never been stay the course, George!"
~President George W. Bush, 9/8/08

There are hundreds - likely thousands - of others, but this gives the gist of just some of the production from the GW Bush Whopper Factory  In fact, the Center for Public Integrity, a non-profit/non-partisan research organization has recorded 935 'whoppers' on the Iraq War alone!

For further reading:

http://www.realchange.org/bushjr.htm#spy