12/15/2008

Crazy Laws and Crazier Lawmakers

A friend sent me an email, which will follow my own rant. His note includes a movie recommendation and his correspondence with his US Representative. One statement from the bureaucrat particularly offended me. "As a former prosecutor, I have seen firsthand the detrimental effects of marijuana use and how it often escalates to the use of more serious drugs such as heroin and cocaine. Studies show that the harmful effects of long-term marijuana use are many and varied. Effects include lung and asthma problems, loss of ability to set long-term goals, and a propensity to graduate to other, more powerful drugs." That is among the dumbest things I have ever seen in writing. Where are his citations for any of those claims? His personal experience is more of a self-justification than evidence of anything useful.

You make people buy grass from dealers who would rather sell you more expensive addictive drugs and, then, claim marijuana use causes the escalation to "serious drugs?" The doofus is just trying to justify the lives he has ruined as a prosecutor. We all know the legal system is terrified of the serious drug users, distributors, and producers. What they tell themselves is that all illegal drug use is equally hazardous and harmful to society. What they know is that argument is bullshit and criminally negligent.

Any comparison of alcohol and marijuana demonstrates an obvious injustice. However, for me the religious tone of the Drug War illustrates an obvious arrogance in the anti-marijuana argument; the same people who believe an all-knowing god created the world and everything in it also believe that god screwed up when he created marijuana and other naturally occurring substances. They, on the other hand, believe that man-made narcotics are perfectly moral as long as a rich corporation gets to distribute them.

T.W. Day
Chief Rat and Rat Bottle Washer
http://ratseye.blogspot.com/

-------------------------------------------

If you ever get a chance to watch or rent this documentary please do. From the NetFlix description:
___________________
"A/K/A Tommy Chong"
In 2003, the U.S. government allocated an astounding $12 million to apprehend the elusive Tommy Chong -- better known as half of the classic comedy team Cheech and Chong -- for selling bonglike glass pipes over the Internet. In this fascinating documentary featuring interviews with Richard "Cheech" Marin, Jay Leno and Bill Maher, filmmaker Josh Gilbert chronicles the sting that came to be known as "Operation Pipe Dream."
__________________

Makes me so very angry, but it also reinforces my opinion of our government's "War on Drugs". I'm always writing my state and federal Senators and Representatives. Ron Kind (D. WI) is my representative and I write to him at least a couple of times a month. Last month I wrote him a long tome on his Web site "contact" form concerning medical Marijuana. I told him of all the pain I have and how about the only thing I've ever tried that seemed to give me relief was that herbal medication, but because it is illegal I cannot use it. The guy is really quite liberal on most things, but this is what I received in response:
___________________
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
----
From: Congressman Ron Kind [mailto:wi03ima@mail.house.gov]
Sent: Sunday, November 23, 2008 3:37 PM
To: sheldon@. . .
Subject: Re: Your recent email.

Dear Sheldon:

Thank you for contacting me about the legalization of marijuana. I appreciate hearing from you.

While I appreciate the points you make regarding legalization, I do not believe that marijuana should be legalized. As a former prosecutor, I have seen firsthand the detrimental effects of marijuana use and how it often escalates to the use of more serious drugs such as heroin and cocaine.
Studies show that the harmful effects of long-term marijuana use are many and varied. Effects include lung and asthma problems, loss of ability to set long-term goals, and a propensity to graduate to other, more powerful drugs.

The use of marijuana for medical purposes is a contentious issue filled with conflicting scientific evidence, and I remain willing to listen to both sides of the debate. I understand that marijuana was once popularly recommended for various illnesses, although in recent years its medical use has declined. This decline is due to the increased availability of alternative medicines and the federal government's increasing role in curbing international drug importation and fighting domestic substance abuse.

I have heard from several medical professionals and citizens that, in a controlled environment, the benefits of the drug outweigh the possible risks to the patient. They present evidence that marijuana's chemical properties increase the quality of comfort and care afforded to patients suffering from illnesses such as cancer and AIDS.

Data from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, however, raises legitimate concerns as well. While illegal substance use has declined since the 1970s, marijuana has remained the most common drug among illicit users.
If marijuana is to become a legal form of medication, further research and consideration must be given to both sides of the issue and a consensus must be reached between the health care and law enforcement professions. Please be assured that should legislation regarding this issue be introduced, I will keep your views in mind.

Again, thank you for contacting me. Should you have further questions or comments, I hope you will not hesitate to be in touch with my office. Also, I encourage you to visit my website, www.house.gov/kind, where you kind find updated information, send me e-mail, and signup for my e-newsletter.

Sincerely,
Ron Kind
Member of Congress
___________________________

I lost some respect for him when I got this reply. He seems to be telling me that he is open-minded, but in the same breath is appears that he already has made up his mind.

What a shame that our government would withhold an effective treatment from we who suffer with massive pain, and continue a "war on drugs" that in reality is a "war on people", especially the poor and elderly.

The "A/K/A Tommy Chong" documentary will be shown on Showtime several more times this month. Here is the schedule although I have Dish Network so your channels may be different:

SHO2e 320 12/17/2008 3:30 PM
SHO2e 320 12/18/2008 4:00 AM
SHOW 318 12/21/2008 1:35 PM
SHOWW 319 12/21/2008 4:35 PM
SHO2e 320 12/22/2008 4:00 PM
SHO2e 320 12/26/2008 11:30 AM

Very sad,
Sheldon

12/05/2008

I Might be Wrong

After a lifetime of doubting the existence of a Higher Power, the rumour that crazed Faux News facist Ann Coulter's mouth is wired shut due to a broken jaw has introduced some doubt into my universal view. However, I think a return to the Fairness Doctrine (eliminated by Reagan in 1987) would be a much more effective remedy for returning the country to sanity. It wouldn't make me into a believer, but it would at least make me believe that "change" is really coming.

For those of you who are too young to have experienced the golden years of American media (all 20 years of them), the Fairness Doctrine reminded the electronic media that access to the airwaves is a privledge that must be earned, not a right or a property to abuse without restriction. Right wing talk radio spawned from the black hole that the repeal of this obviously rational requirement created. Before 1987, television and radio news stations worked hard to avoid irrational or partisan opinions because they would have to provide free time for opposing views. A big portion of Reagan's "teflon shield" came from his handing over the reins to public opinion to the corporate media. They gave him 8 criticism-free years. He gave them freedom to flaunt their corporate interests at the expense of democracy and real information.

For now, we'll just have to hope that all of Faux New's cast of wacky drug addicts and mental midgets stumble down stairs cases, slam face first into doorways, forget to wear their seatbelts and get close and personal with a windshield, or simply meet with dental catestrophes.

11/16/2008

Why the Bubbles?

In the last couple of decades, we've had a collection of economic bubbles bursting. Post-Vietnam, the overspent economy crashed, bringing down our technological capacity, education system, and middle class economy. Reagan poured zillions into his California military-industrial buddies (the reason they'd put him in office), dropped taxes on the highest income bracket, added non-income-based taxes on the middle class, and released the electronic media from their social responsibility so they could reap the "magic of the market" and kept the majority of the nation in recession for another dozen years. Clinton rolled back some of the mil-industrial corporate welfare, slightly adjusted the income tax percentages, almost balanced the budget, and occasionally listend to smarter people in government and his cabinet. We managed to sustain a reasonably robust and less unfair economy and began to bring a little life back into the education system and economy for about half of his 8 years. Bush turned that all around. He went whole brainless hog on deregulating the Wall Street crooks, designed an economy to best benefit corner office psychopaths and trust fund babies (big surprise, since Bush is probably the poster child for both species), and cranked up the welfare system for the most inefficient, corrupt part of the national economy; the military industrial complex.

The nation suffered 8 years of depressed middle class incomes, two major economic crashes, a radical dumbing down of the education system, more corporate and government scandals than the conservative media could cover-up, and is, now, stone broke and functionally inept.

Obviously, "bubbles" follow stupidity. The radcon habit of electing the braindead is hard on the economy. It's great for the elites, since nobody is watching the national cookie jar, but it's tough on the nation, overall.

The old radcon tactic of constantly repeating Nixon's Big Lie is even wearing out. My favorite Big Lie is the "myth of Middle Class decline." The chart at right may be hard to read, but it's a plot of incomes, broken into economic classes; from the 95th percentile (95th highest incomes) at the top to the 10th percentile at the bottom. This is census data and is unweighted for cost of living or any other funky copout to try to hide the facts. At the bottom of our income class system, it's pretty obvious that the poor have seen no improvement in life from the booms or busts. Since inflation hasn't slowed at all over the years, they obviously are more poor than they were 40 years ago. If you believe that a "middle income" family made about $85,000 in 2003 (the green line), it appears that their income has at least steadily increased. Since these are before tax numbers, they are fudged a good bit to disguise the cost of the double-income households' attempt to stay with inflation. Even the Census Department is in on the game to convince us that we're treading water, not sinking.

The latest economic bust is evidence that we're sinking and are shod in lead boots.

For most of my adult life, I've wondered how ordinary, "middle income" families can afford modern Texas whorehouse-style surburban homes. When we lived in California, in the 80s, my kids were disappointed that I stuck us in a $1600/month, 900 square-foot apartment, instead of putting all of my savings into a $300k, $3500/month house in the eastern LA burbs. I couldn't make the math work, on my $85k salary, so I stuck with what I could manage. What I suspected and now know, was that everyone who played that game ran a Ponzi scheme on themselves; paying the big bills with credit card loans and a series of "2nd mortages." Except for my tolerable mortage, I've always paid as I go and gone without when I couldn't. No new cars, no new clothes (yep, I buy my clothes 2nd hand), no new furniture, no new anything except food and toilet paper (that's even recycled paper). The economy wouldn't survive long on me, but it isn't doing well on the rest of you, either.

Here's what I think is the real problem with our economic system; it's designed to benefit the fewest, richest citizens and damn the rest of us. That's it.

Take, for example, interest rates. Common sense would tell you, I think, that bank interest rates should at least be slightly higher than inflation. A rational society would want to encourage conservative savings for all citizens. You can't make people be rational, but government can encourage that kind of activity. The following two graphs seem to indicate that had been the Fed's policy for quite a while:

If you get nothing more out of these two graphs, it should be that there used to be an attempt made to make normal, conservative savings a reasonable investment. It has never been a way to get rich, but for most of modern history savings have kept up with inflation. Since Reagan, that link was disconnected. Reagan wanted to encourage wild spending, irrational borrowing, and the kind of short-term thinking that led us to where we are today. Republicans like to brand Democrats as "tax and spenders." I'd think that "borrow and spenders" would be worse, but the radcon media seems to ignore that notion.

We're reaping the result of "borrow and spend" without a lick of sense. One key, I think, to settling this economy down is to provide a means for ordinary citizens to safely keep up with inflation. Currently, the unregulated credit card mobsters are allowed to charge leg-breaker rates (20-32%!) while those same banks pay pitance interest rates to savers. This kind of system is doomed to failure, but the no-government radcons are too dumb to see it. Or too vicious to care.

11/10/2008

Blaming the Reaction

Recently, a redneck aquaintance sent me a spam email that argued the nation should "pull out of Chicago" because, like most American cities, the city has a variety of crisises. Of course, any city in the United States would exhibit a colleciton of economic and social failures these days. After 8 years of waste and corruption in Washington and all over the country, everywhere Republicans have reared their evil heads, the whole country is failing.

The title of this retarded neocon rant is "Should the US pull out of Chicago?" Look it up, you'll be amazed at how foolish working class Republicans can be. Here is my response:

"More politics from the innumerate conservative crowd?

"Of the Illinois Legislature, 26 of 59 of the members are "there aren't any" Republican. They even have a website (http://www.senategop.state.il.us/.) which must be non-existent since they don't exist. Illinois isn't even in the top five of the highest state taxes: "Tennessee (9.4%), Louisiana (8.7%), Washington (8.5%), New York (8.25%), Arkansas (8.15%), Alabama (8.05%), Oklahoma (8.05%), and California (8.0%)." However, Chicago is the most expensive place in the country to buy cigarettes, but the the "top nine states with the highest state tax on cigarettes are: New Jersey ($2.58), Rhode Island ($2.46), Washington ($2.025), tied for fourth place are Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, and Michigan ($2.00)." Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont tax Social Security income as harshly as does the federal government. A bunch of Republicans run most of those states. "The top five states (in order) based on median real estate taxes paid are: New Jersey ($5,772), New Hampshire ($4,136), Connecticut ($4,049), New York ($3,031), and Massachusetts ($3,195)." Of course, those states also have the most expensive incomes and the most expensive real estate.

"Overall, the most taxed states are New Jersey at 11.8%, New York at 11.7%, and Connecticut at 11.1%. New Jersey is cursed with ex-Goldman Sachs CEO and Republican Christopher Christie, New York's David Patterson is a Democrat, and Connecticut is governed by Republican Jodi Rell.

"The worst colleges in the nation are all from neocon states or worse: http://www.radaronline.com/features/2006/09/the_nine_worst_colleges_in_america.php/. The worst schools in the nation are unquestionably from the south, with Mississippi heading the list. (http://www.heartland.org/policybot/results.html?articleid=14359).

"Chicago doesn't make it into the top 25 of the country's most dangerous cities, either: http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0921299.html. Again, it's mostly red states that are home to the dangerous places.

"The natural neocon political tactic is Nixon's Big Lie. You can safely assume that pretty much anytime a Republican is talking he or she is lying. We expect if from them. The real reason that people get so upset when a Democrat gets caught screwing around, robbing from the public till, or lying is that we don't expect that behavior from Democrats. We elect them to fix things. We elect Republicans because we have too much spare cash or too much economic stability and want them to "fix" it for us."

11/07/2008

The Price of Getting it Right

One of my favorite authors, Thomas Frank (http://tcfrank.com/), has gotten it right so often over the years that he's practically invisible. In his books (The Wreaking Crew, What's the Matter with Kansas, and One Market Under God), he has predicted the collapse of our unbalanced fantasy economy, the failure of democracy, and the corruption of our social system by corporate greed. His reward has been complete invisibility in the eyes of corporate media. Economic and business gurus like Thomas Friedman and Tom Peters (what's with all the Toms in economics?) have been consistently wrong in their predictions, analysis, and comprehension of economics and society and they are, still, considered "experts" in fields where they have demonstrated absolutely no ability to predict consequences or reactions.

Why does the media demonstrate this incredible disconnect from reality?

Mostly, the media has fooled the majority (the "can be fooled all of the time" crowd) into believing major news is about information, not propaganda. The myth of a "liberal media" is a fantasy invented by crazy rightwingers and corporate interests. It is certainly true that the majority of intelligent people are also liberal. It follows that the majority of people who can write coherent sentences will also be liberal. What doesn't make sense is the assumption that corporations run by the same kind of people who run General Motors, Apple, Halliburton & Drexler, Microsoft, and Sony would allow their news outlets to present viewpoints that are substantially in conflict with corporate interests. That doesn't happen. Dream on paranoid neocons.


What does happen is that some residue of actual thought creeps into the overall media and, since it is so at odds with the majority message, it sticks harder and longer than the propaganda. When the propaganda turns out to be grossly wrong, as has the "free market magic" drivel, the remaining message is what is left; the truth. Over time, the sum of remaining messages creates our impression of the media and, if the truth is all that remains, the overall perception of the media is "liberal."


For example, the war promoters during the Vietnam era were all promoting the corporate pro-war message. They were all fools or corporate shills. Their message has vanished into the ether. What's left is what writers like Mal Browne, Peter Arnett, Neil Sheehan, Horst Faas, Charlie Mohr and David Halberstam and that genre of analysts said about that conflict. Those authors' work sticks in history because they were right. They were right because, as Halberstam said,"My loyalty was not to the president, not to the secretary of state or to the generals who sat on their asses in Saigon. My loyalty was to the First Amendment and to my readers." When your loyalty is to the truth, you are not only right more than not you are also most likely "liberal." One of the foundations of a conservative philosophy is dogma, the act of clinging to illusion over reality. It's tough to be right when you aren't living in the real world.


The tendency of the majority to cling to fantasy doesn't offer much hope for the future. If we desperately hope that the greedy and insane are "right" and punish those who are right with banishment or derision, what hope do we have of ever creating a just and rational society? I don't mean just here in the United States of America. I mean in the world.


When it was obvious that worshiping wealth and greed was creating a monstrous split between the haves and the rest of us, most Americans worshiped greed and wealth. McSame campaigned hard on the terrible thought that Obama might actually tax the wealthy according to their ability to pay taxes and the benefits they receive from their position in society. Anyone with the slightest sense of history would know that every past war resulted in taxation on the wealthy. Income taxes were invented, in fact, to pay for wars and they were, originally, only levied on the wealthiest citizens.

Obviously, the average trust-funder hates the idea of making any useful contribution to society, but why that influences the rest of us is beyond me. The fact that this message had any stickage at all is due to the overwhelming conservative nature of the major media.

11/06/2008

A Really Dumb Waste of Tax Dollars

You should check out this article: "Taxpayers may pay legal bills for mortgage execs." It is hard to imagine a more convoluted, incompetent, amoral, and foolish system than our current corporate legal definition. The purpose of corporations was, originally, to allow money to be pooled to accomplish substantial tasks that were too large for normal business arrangements; sole proprietorships and partnerships. Due to a screw-up made by one of our many incompetent versions of the grossly misnamed Supreme Court in 1886, an ex-railroad executive turned sinister "court reporter" (J.C. Bancroft Davis) invented corporate rights based on the 14th Amendment. The lazy justices did not rectify this intentional perversion of their ruling and we've been stuck with a despicable and unaccountable intuition ever since.

As the US economy continues to self-destruct, we should take advantage of this moment in history to redefine the purpose and structure of corporations. Corporate executives should bear more responsibility for the actions and failures of the businesses they administer, not less. Since their business structure is supposed to, first, provide useful benifit to the society, that should be their first obligation. Second in line would be the profit of their investors. Last is the wealth of the executives.

11/05/2008

Too soon?

In 2004, I suggested that Democrats sit out the elections. All of them. Since Republicans, the part of the rich and stupid, were determined to trash the country and the rich and stupid were determined to let them, I thought the best move the Democrats could make would be to let them do their worst.

To be clear, I'm talking about two groups: 1) the rich and 2) the stupid. The rich have every reason in the short-term world to be Republican. Their worst fear is that they will have to pay for their power and protection and luxury. The "Reagan Revolution" was about exactly that; providing a seperation and insulation layer between the people who derive the most from our economic and political system and the responsibility to pay for that benifit. Characters like Donny Trump and Paris Hilton and G.W. Bush expect to be treated like royalty, but they do not want to pay for that treatment. They are the ultimate believers in the free lunch. The stupid are the breed that Nixon labeled "the silent majority." They are rarely silent, but they are often the voting majority. They are unskilled, uneducated, superstitious, and on average at the old end of the nation's demographic. The are rural, small town, out-of-touch, and terrified of their own shadows and every other shadow in the night. Sarah Palin called them "true Americans," but they are much closer to true Tories. No only would they have not fought against the British in the American Revolution, but they would probably have sided with the British. Conservatives. Cowards. Fools.


The voting majority is made up of the stupid, in most elections. They have nothing else to do but to vote themselves rich and safe. They aren't bright enough to idenfity either wealth or safety. The middle states are great examples of this stupidity. Right down the "heart" of the nation, from Texas to North Dakota, all red states. All packed full of down-bred rejects of the rest of the country. Every family's smart kid has abandoned those places as soon as he or she was able. (Example: President-elect Obama's mother was born in Kansas, but her parents excaped to California and she spent most of her life in Hawaii; about as far as you can get from Kansas.) All the dumb kids stayed and reproduced themselves, way too often. Each of these states are stuffed with citizens older than the national average. These states have K-12 education systems that are stuck in 1955, minus the 1955 science classes. Not a one of them has an important technical university or a significant industry. They farm, with lots of welfare support. They work at Walmart, selling products made in China. They sell Grandma's stuff in their antique stores. They consistently vote against their own best interests, but they count on federal welfare to make up for their lack of initiative, talent, and hard work.

It took a decade of similar foolishness before the real majority of Americans wised up and elected FDR. Before that Republicans and equally corrupt Democrats drove the country into the ground, requiring Teddy Roosevelt to completely revamp the economic system, going after monopolies and robber barons with his big stick.

The general public has become as gullible and uneducated as the worst fears of the nation's founders anticipated. Voters are afraid of intelligent politicians, so they vote for "clever" ones. Clever like foxes, not humans. Self-interested, greedy, corrupt characters like Dick Cheany thrive in this kind of environment. Vicious scumbags like Karl Rove become rich and powerful on skills that are not only destructive to the nation, but that are incredibly remedial and transparent.

It was obvious that this kind of government would destroy the education system, crash the economy, wipe out the middle class, promote superstition, fear science, and do decades of damage to the nation that would take more decades to fix. But the majority, the not-so-silent and very foolish majority wanted this future. Intelligent people have been imigrating from the US to Canada, New Zealand, Europe, and the rest of the civilized world for a decade. I know a lot of people who have considered giving up on the "land of the free" and heading for safer grounds. Nobody wants to be the last imigrant on the boat when the facists close the boarders.

My theory was that Democrats and intelligent people should let the fools crash the country and return to pick up the pieces. It turned out that Bush and Co. were able to do that job a lot faster than I'd imagined possible. Maybe Obama has timed it perfectly.

11/02/2008

Coleman's Past

Pitiful little Normal Coleman thinks the Democrats aren't "playing fair." He may find himself in need of a pardon from his hero, G.W. Bush, because of the illegal money he's taken from at least one supporter/owner. In a last ditch maneuver to turn this disaster into political hay, he dipped into comedien Al Franken's past to call up the routines Franken performed or wrote for SNL as "evidence" that Franken's past makes him unfit for political office. As if Republicans go into politics with ideals and morals?


Normal's past is pretty shaky, if he wants to go that way. When Paul Wellstone died and Coleman inherited his current office, he said "I will be a 99% improvement over Paul Wellstone." A real class act that Coleman character. Wellstone was the only Senator to see through Bush's Iraq War scam and Coleman has yet to perform a single sentient act as Senator.

Going further back in the boy's history, we find he was a mindless upper-crust hippy wannabe during his days as a Hofstra University radical. One of Coleman's famous quotes is "These conservative kids don't fuck or get high like we do... Everyone watch out, the 1950s' bobby-sox generation is about to take over." Top that Franken!

"Bobby-sox generation?" What kind of hippy dork was he?

11/01/2008

#192 Comparing the Candidates

Watching the recent speeches, I realized something amazing about the Republican candidate: John McSame is Eric Cartman, sort of grown up. Listen to his ranting, his strange nasal grunt used to punctuate his "important" moments. If we could just get him to sing "In the Ghetto," I think it would be obvious that John McCain and South Park's Eric Cartman are the same guy.

I wish I had written the following thoughtful analysis, but I didn't. However, it is so perfect that I wanted to do my bit to distribute it further. The comparisons between the two sets of Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates are clear and obvious. One set is completely unsuited and unprepared for any office more critical than small town American (preferably small town Alaska or Arizona where nothing of importance ever happens and nothing of value is created). The other set is prepared, educated, intelligent, and capable. If you are still inclined to vote for the unprepared pair, racism is clearly your motivation. In fact, you are simply casting your vote for two pink boobs. Here are some of McSame's greatest hits: http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/6/20/3645/88162/152/538868.


In the 2008 Presidential Election, what if the candidates resumes were reversed?

  • What if the Obamas had paraded five children across the stage, including a three month old infant and an unwed, pregnant teenage daughter?

  • What if John McCain was a former president of the Harvard Law Review?

  • What if Barack Obama finished 894 out of 899 graduates from the Navy Academy in 1958?

  • What if Barack Obama had been a prisoner in Vietnam for five years and suffered from Delayed Stress Syndrome?

  • What if McCain had only married once, and Obama was a divorcee?

  • What if Obama was the candidate who left his first wife after a severe disfiguring car accident, when she no longer measured up to his standards?

  • What if Obama had met his second wife in a bar and had a long affair while he was still married?

  • What if Barack Obama had failed at an attempted suicide?

  • What if Michelle Obama was the wife who not only became addicted to pain killers but also acquired them illegally through her charitable organization?

  • What if Cindy McCain graduated from Harvard?

  • What if Obama had punched a woman in the face in the halls of Congress?

  • What if Obama had been a member of the Keating Five? (The Keating Five were five United States Senators accused of corruption in 1989, igniting a major political scandal as part of the larger Savings and Loan crisis of the late 1980s and early 1990s.)

  • What if McCain was a charismatic, eloquent speaker?

  • What if Obama couldn't read from a teleprompter?

  • What if Obama was the one who had military experience that included discipline problems and a record of crashing five planes? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeffrey-klein/mccains-secret-questionab_b_107409.html

  • What if Obama was the one who was known to display publicly, on many occasions, a serious anger management problem? Or if he used high levels of profanity in his private and public conversations.

  • What if Michelle Obama's family had made their money from beer distribution?

  • What if the Obamas had adopted a white child?


You could easily add to this list. If these questions reflected reality, do you really believe the election numbers would be as close as they are?


Educational Background:

Barack Obama:

  • Columbia University - B.A. Political Science with a Specialization in International relations.
  • Harvard - Juris Doctor (J.D.) Magna Cum Laude, Editor and President of Harvard Law Review
  • Taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School for twelve years.

Michelle Obama:

  • Princton University - BA in Sociology, Cum Laude
  • Harvard Law School, Juris Doctor (J.D.)
Joseph Biden:
  • University of Delaware - B.A. in History and B.A. in Political Science.
  • Syracuse University College of Law - Juris Doctor (J.D.)
vs.

John McCain:

  • United States Naval Academy - Class rank: 894 of 899
Cindy McCain:

  • BA in Education - University of Southern California
  • MA in Special Education - University of Southern California
Sarah Palin:

  • Hawaii Pacific University - 1 semester
  • North Idaho College - 2 semesters - general study
  • University of Idaho - 2 semesters - journalism
  • Matanuska-Susitna College - 1 semester
  • University of Idaho - 3 semesters - B.A. in Journalism
Todd Palin:
  • High School Graduate
Some try to sweep the issue under the rug but this is about racism. It covers up, rationalizes and minimizes positive qualities in one candidate and emphasizes negative qualities in another when there is a color difference.

Education isn't everything, but this is about the two highest offices in the land, the second highest office and the spouses who wield influence over them, as well as our standing in the world. You make the call.

Sheldon Aubut http://www.sheldonaubut.com/

October 2008

10/16/2008

Crazy Economic "Experts"

Sometimes, John McCain appears to be so out-of-touch with reality that you'd think he might be slipping into senility. I tried (honest) to watch the debate last night, but McCain's constant smirk (reminiscent of another Republican moron) drove me back to working on my attic. His commentary on "taxes" is so supid and childish that It was impossible for me to listen to it without wanting to toss something heavy at the television. McSame is the candidate of the rich and powerful. I'm not rich or powerful, therefore he has nothing to say that could possibly have anything to do with my life.

John Nichols, in an article for The Nation (http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2008/10/16-0) said exactly what I was thinking, "But while McCain clung to the failed fantasies of the past, Obama offered America a community rarely served up on the presidential debate stages of recent campaigns: realism. " I read the kind of crap McSame is jabbering in every Republican propaganda piece I get in the mail these days. Some bonehead named "Kudlow" from CNBC is quoted in an RNC piece as saying Obama "has a very poor grasp of basic economic principles. First off, you don't raise taxes during a recession. That's a no-brainer." Great, morons are defining "no-brainers?"

A tax history source stated that "The Revenue Act of 1932 was the first tax law passed during the Great Depression (Revenue Acts, June 6, 1932, ch. 209, 47 Stat. 169). It increased the individual maximum rate from 25 to 63 percent, and reduced personal exemptions from $1,500 to $1,000 for single persons, and from $3,500 to $2,500 for married couples. The NATIONAL INDUSTRIAL RECOVERY ACT OF 1933 (NIRA), part of President FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT's NEW DEAL, imposed a five percent excise tax on dividend receipts, imposed a capital stock tax and an excess profits tax, and suspended all deductions for losses (June 16, 1933, ch. 90, 48 Stat. 195). The repeal in 1933 of the EIGHTEENTH AMENDMENT, which had prohibited the manufacture and sale of alcohol, brought in an estimated $90 million in new liquor taxes in 1934. The SOCIAL SECURITY ACT OF 1935 provided for a wage tax, half to be paid by the employee and half by the employer, to establish a federal retirement fund (Old Age Pension Act, Aug. 14, 1935, ch. 531, 49 Stat. 620).

"The Wealth Tax Act, also known as the Revenue Act of 1935, increased the maximum tax rate to 79 percent, the Revenue Acts of 1940 and 1941 increased it to 81 percent, the Revenue Act of 1942 raised it to 88 percent, and the Individual Income Tax Act of 1944 raised the individual maximum rate to 94 percent."

The previous administrations, Hoover and Bush, certainly set the standard for no-brainers and putting an economic burden on the top income bracket is the smartest way to balance the budget, again. Republicans are the party of "spend and spend and borrow and spend" and Democrats have been, for the last 50 years, the part of social economic responsibility. That is a no-brainer.

There is no "miracle of the market." There is no Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, or magic bullet. Apparently, there are no economic conservative Republicans.

10/13/2008

#191 Religulous

I saw Bill Maher's Religulous last night with a friend in a tiny, out-of-the-way theater in St. Paul. Two theaters are showing this film, although the show was better attended than all of the offerings in my local mega-theater for a very late night showing in an area with limited parking. It's not for lack of audience that this film is languishing in obscure "art theaters." It's most likely fear.

Many of the film's reviewers tentatively talk about their reaction to Religulous by reminding us all that "religion is a sensitive subject." In this case, "sensitive" means "dangerous." Overwhelmingly, religious people share traits with other crazy people, especially the trait of unpredictable (and predictable) violence. When a few of the major theaters attempted to cash in on Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, protestors swarmed those theaters attempting to scare off viewers with their abortion clinic tactics. Mostly, they found themselves outwitted, overwhelmed by numbers, and ignored, but the message was received by the theater chains. None of the major corporate commies have anything resembling the courage to show a film as controversial as Religulous, but showing a snuff flick like The Passion of Christ is right up their alley, sewer, or ditch.

Religulous is well made, entertaining (as this subject can be), intelligent, and disturbing. As any rational person knows, the connection between many nations possessing the means to destroy the world (in fire) and the desire to create a self-fulfilling prophesy by so many fools is scary stuff. Listening to these fools try to justify their "Bronze Age" beliefs is depressing and scary. The first twenty minutes are funny, but after a while the relentless stupidity of the "faithful" is nothing more than ghoulish and gloomy. Maher isn't trying to entertain us. He's trying to frighten the few remaining intelligent, unsuperstitious souls left on the planet into action. Mostly, he succeeded in convincing me that humans are the bottom of the evolutionary heap and the best thing that could happen is for humanity to breed itself into a plague that reduces our numbers as quickly as possible, to save the rest of the world from "God's dumbest creation."

I've read some reviewers complain that Maher "made to look foolish" the faithful he interviewed. Maher simply asked them questions and reported their foolish answers. Religious nuts, apparently, don't like mirrors.

One of the typically irrational reviewers of Religulous, Tim McNabb in a website misnamed The American Thinker, claimed "Maher claims that agnostics represent 16% of the population, but so far they have not built 16% of the nation's charities (unless you count voting for Democrats)." That's typical of religious arguments. As Maher discovers when he interviews Francis Collins, a "scientist" who made strange claims for "faith" and backed his arguments with an obvious lack of knowledge of the Bible he worships. If he's the head of the US government's Genome Project, that segment of the scientific world is in trouble, if not dead and buried. Fortunately, the US is no longer leading this field of research, so progress has not been stopped by Collins. As Maher reminds us, the majority of scientists in the world are agnostic or atheist. They attempt to remedy the world's problems with science and technologies that actually "fix" those problems rather than cater to the pitiful consequences of overpopulation, starvation, superstition, and ignorance.

Another religious apologist asked, "Was Maher afraid he might muddy his clownish jape if he actually brought into the mix a learned theologian." Actually, that tactic has been tried (The God Who Wasn't There and The Lost Gospel of Judas) and religious nuts liked it even less. "Learned theologians" tend to be as agnostic as they become historians or scientists. The more you know about the history of, for instance, Christianity, the more you doubt. Obviously, Maher consulted with many learned theologians, because his timeline of Christianity was accurate and his knowledge of the history of the Bible and the things actually in the Bible exceeded that of the Christians he interviewed. In fact, most of the professed "Christians" know less about their religion than the average uninterested agnostic.

Religious excuse-makers argue that "99% of the world's population can't be wrong." That's the dumbest of all arguments for any subject. Humans are insane and ignorant by nature. We're nothing more sophisticated than an ignorant animal with technology. Not only can 99% of us be wrong, but as Maher says, we have a long, violent, depressing history of getting practically "everything exactly wrong." From math to nature to the universe, humans have long believed in concepts that were so far from logical or right that it's hard to take humans serious, even if you are one. Mark Twain speculated that we "fell from the higher animals." If we don't start correcting some of the more dangerous misunderstandings our species believes, we may take out the higher animals with us in our suicidal drive to Armageddon.

Maher has either created this link or linked himself to it, http://disbeliefnet.com/. Whatever, it's an interesting source of information/entertainment on what the majority of the world's nutjobs are up to.

October 2008

9/29/2008

#189 The Problem with Predictions

In the 1950s, a statistician named William Edwards Deming who had been successful in improving American production methods during WWII, tried to convince American manufacturing executives that consumers could recognize quality and would naturally gravitate to the best quality products in a global market. American executives blew Deming off as a quack and continued to direct their companies toward shoddier products and higher costs. Deming took his math and his methods to Japan with McArthur, where he became a national hero and where his analysis tools allowed Japan to leapfrog past US manufacturing capabilities. While most Americans reflexively prefer Japanese manufactured products over American-made versions, most Americans have not come to grips with the fact that Deming predicted this preference and the economic impact it would have on American manufacturing more than 50 years ago.

Minneapolis FBI agents repeatedly tried to warn Washington that Arab operatives were up to something major. In 1997, right wing author Tom Clancy wrote a book about a future when "the President, Congress, and Supreme Court are obliterated when a Japanese terrorist lands a 747 on the Capitol." The Clinton Administration kept its eye on Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda's activities because they were certain that those characters were planning significant terrorist activity in the US. When the planes struck on 9/11, the fools in the Bush Administration all brayed "nobody imagined something like this" could occur. Nobody without an imagination imagined it, I guess.

In 1968, Paul Ehrlich wrote a book called "The Population Bomb." Ehrlich famously predicted "in the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death." He was wrong, although a few "hundreds of millions of people" have starved to death since the 1970s. Ehrlich also predicted a dramatic increase in fatal plagues, although HIV/AIDS had yet to be discovered when he wrote his book. In 2006, 2.9 million people died of AIDS. The disadvantage those starved and sick millions had was that they were not in the US or Europe. Most of them were in Africa, South America, and Asia, where Faux News is rarely interested unless the military industrial complex tells them to be interested. The rightwingnuts have often cited Ehrlich as a "liberal" doomsayer whose "failed" dire predictions prove that the world's resources and human ingenuity are limitless. I guess this is an example of the political theory that states if A≠B then B≥∞?

In 1980, Ehrlich and Julian Simon made a bet that the price of metals would rise (Simon bet against that proposition) during the 80s due to shortages and cost of production. Ehrlich lost the bet and paid up. If the terms of the bet had made it to the late 1990's, Ehrlich would be the winner. If it were renegotiated today, Ehrlich would be winning consistently, possibly, for the rest of human existence. The prediction was accurate, the timing was not.

In 2006, 852 million people went "hungry," according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. In 2006, more than 9 1/2 million children died before they reached their fifth birthday. Everyday, about 16,000 children die from starvation. Since they aren't starving in the US, we figure they don't matter.

Ehrlich's I = P × A × T (Environmental Impact, Population, Affluence, Technology) formula is proving to be true in an unexpected place, though; global warming. Maybe it will turn out that human population's cultural impact will go unnoticed as it is overwhelmed by massive global impact. The IPAT formula is simplistic and probably needs some exponential components to be accurate, but it's a start.

Dr. M. King Hubbert predicted, in 1956, that the United States would reach peak oil production in the late 1960s and that the world would reach peak oil production in the first decade of this century. He was right on the money with his first prediction and close enough for practical purposes in his second. Many people have dismissed the importance of Hubbert's predictions because while oil has become exponentially expensive in the last few years, it is still more-or-less affordable. However, world starvation is rising along with energy prices and it may be the real "end of oil" realization will come from the food shortages that result from high energy costs.

A little research would find hundreds of accurate, dire warnings that have been issued by clever people investigating everything from energy to finance to education. Usually, those predictions come true but they rarely come true as accurately as Hubbert's calculations. Hubbert had the advantage of working in a field with no practical alternatives. Oil is the "bear in the closet." McSame can whimper that nuclear energy is the only workable alternative to our oil addiction, but the byproducts of fission nuclear energy are still an unsolved problem. We have no current alternative to fission nuclear power, so ramping up nuclear energy production guarantees a collection of future environmental catastrophes. Since we are still ignoring the result of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, it will be easy to ignore the warnings of nuclear catastrophe until disaster strikes and our "leaders" can whine that "nobody told us."

The problem with predictions is that human adaptability and gullibility make it difficult to figure out how a catastrophe will play out. In 1968, Ehrlich probably didn't imagine either our willingness to sacrifice future generations by decimating agricultural land for current production or the inventiveness of petroleum engineers and their ability to apply toxic chemicals as "fertilizers." I suspect he is a little baffled at the world media's willingness and ability to ignore the starvation in developing nations, too.

The hysteresis in human activities is unpredictable. Who would have thought that our phony banking system could have propped up its fake walls this long. Most economic observers figured the housing house of cards would come crashing down in the 1990's. Our corporations have been paying millions for non-performing executives for thirty years. What keeps this incompetent system of incompetents in place? Our economy has been slipping toward socialism and an abundance of unearned entitlements since the Johnson Administration. We are quickly approaching the point where more people work for local, state, and federal governments than work for product-producing, productivity-enhancing businesses. Including the military-industrial complex, federal and state contractors, retired government workers, and current government employees, a significant portion of the country's "gross national product" is a closed loop money stream. None of this makes any sense, but hysteresis keeps it all spinning long beyond when it should tip over and collapse on its own.

I've worked in a couple of companies like that. Initially, the products were good, the service was excellent, and management was, at least, not in the way. For several years, the company's success was understandable but not overwhelming. After a few years, the reputation exceeds the performance but humans are slow to change and we aren't nearly as bright as we like to think. After a certain amount of economic momentum, it takes extremely talented management to break the connection between customers and products. The products have to go from good to awful before some customers will start looking for an alternative. Sometimes, management has to engage in blatant abusive behavior before customer realize they've been buying crap.

So it goes with stupid behaviors on a macro scale. There appears to be no significant political or media figure willing to admit (in public) that our addiction to oil is so selfish that we are willing to search out and burn up every drop without a second's consideration of the next generation's needs. We are so concerned with our current markets that we'll pack the world to standing-room-only before we limit our population growth, even with the obvious knowledge of what that will do to future generations. Making accurate predictions requires some really clever estimates of the effects of cultural hysteresis and that will require a lot better understanding of human behavior and, more importantly, misbehavior.

September 2008

www.ratseyeview.com

9/27/2008

Debate One and McCain's Inexperience

Probably more than any other defect in McCain's personality and knowledgebase, I think his almost perfect lack of experience as an American makes him worthless as a Presidential candidate.

According to his own published biography, McCain was born at the "Coco Solo Naval Air Station in the Panama Canal Zone . . . Both McCain´s father and paternal grandfather, John Sidney McCain, Sr., were four-star admirals and his father rose to command all the U.S. naval forces in the Pacific. . .

"McCain spent his childhood and adolescent years moving between naval bases in America and abroad . . .

"McCain graduated (fifth from the bottom of his class) from the Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1958. . .

"His introduction to politics came in 1976, when he was assigned as the Navy´s liaison to the U.S. Senate. In 1981, after marrying his second wife, Cindy Hensley, McCain retired from the Navy, and moved to Phoenix, Arizona. While working in public relations for his father-in-law´s beer distribution business, he began establishing connections in politics. . .

"McCain was first elected to political office on November 2, 1982, easily winning a seat in the House of Representatives after his well-known war record helped overcome doubts about his “carpetbagger” status. "

So, from birth to senility, John McCain has either been provided for by the US taxpayer as a military dependent or a member of the military or was cared for by his rich father-in-law. He has never had to wrestle with health care, social security, paying taxes, finding the money to put his kids through school, managing an unsubstidized career, unemployment, or any other problem that "real people" deal with. He is, in fact, totally inexperienced and unfamiliar with the life led by the majority of the American public. He might know a little about life at the top of the economic heap, but he is of no use to those of us who work for a living.

John McCain thinks that pouring money into the corrupt and inefficient health insurance system will "fix" the sorry state of health care that most Americans suffer from. He knows, personally, most of the executives who have corrupted the health care system, so he has deluded himself into thinking he knows something about Americans and their problems. John, most of us don't earn 8 figure incomes. Trust me on this. Almost none of us get golden parachutes and pensions when we retire. Instead, we get to fight with Social Security for our tiny check and we decide between eating dog food and Top Ramen or getting a few of our prescriptions filled for the month. You should meet some real Americans, someday. If you can remember the experience, I'm sure you'll be moved by it.

John still believes in Reagan's delusional "magic of the market." The market magic is what caused the current economic crisis, but John's friends on Wall Street are still waving their wands around his pointy head and they are doing just fine with the buyout millions they gave themselves as they walked out the door of the failed corporations they mismanaged. The Wild West was a perfect example of market magic. It was every man for himself until a few men gained enough power to lord over their area like kings; vicious kings. The market is filled with corrupt people with sociopathic personalities and vicious tendancies. Corporations are not democratic and they are not interested in existing in a democratic society. In fact, they are in many ways very similar to the military, including the traits that allow crap to float to the top.

One look at John's picture and you can see that he's a little confused. Sometimes, he proudly imitates G.W. Bush's smug little smirk, but usually McCain is confused. He simply knows absolutely nothing about the lives of the people he wants to "lead." He knows perfectly the well the people he represents, though. Like every Republican candidate since Ike, John McCain represents the ruling elite. He is one of them, so who else would he represent? He's the representative of the 1% who own 99% of the nation's assets. He's the candidate of the military-industrial-complex. He is the man who will perserve and protect the status quo until he's left playing the violin as Washington burns. He'll give us more corporate power, more military spending, more national debt, less protection from government and corporate abuses and he'll be proud to do it.

This is one of the few times when being offered "the lessor of two evils" is so clear. John McCain is perfectly inexperienced at any aspect of life for the majority of citizens in this country. He couldn't manage a household budget, find a job, drive a nail or a car, raise a family, put up with an incompetent boss, or stay married to anyone who didn't inherit billions to save his own life. Like the moron before him, John McCain is completely unsuited for the Presidency so he is the perfect Republican Candidate.

9/22/2008

#187 Watch Out for the Elites

Elites, what are they? It seems easy to figure out, but the Midwest has a terrible time defining the word in a rational manner. Barack Obama seems to have hit a nerve with his comments about small town bitterness, "You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

I've been hearing people say exactly the same thing for most of my life. Most of the people who say those things are educated, have a sense of humor, have skills and careers, and take religion on an individual basis, rather than swallowing crap whole from fundamentalist evangelists. I'm beginning to think the definition of elite people who "are educated, have a sense of humor, have skills and careers, and take religion on an individual basis, rather than swallowing crap whole from fundamentalist evangelists."

The actual definition, per Webster's is: "1 asingular or plural in construction : the choice part : cream bsingular or plural in construction : the best of a class csingular or plural in construction : the socially superior part of society d: a group of persons who by virtue of position or education exercise much power or influence e: a member of such an elite —usually used in plural 2: a typewriter type providing 12 characters to the linear inch"

So, the rednecks and right-wingnuts are throwing the word around as an insult, when what it means is "the best of a class?" Damn, that's terrible. We've been "led" by the worst of a class for the last 8 years and, off and on, for the last 45 years: Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and, now, Little George were all class idiots and academic failures. The radical right would like to attach the tag of a "socially superior part of society" on anyone they think might cost them money and power. As long as Americans want to elect morons, this tactic will work. The question is, why do we want to elect people we know are near the bottom of the class?

I first wondered about this when Richard Nixon was elected in 1968. Contrary to the weird interpretation the media promoted during the debates, Nixon lost the debates because he turned every question into an opportunity to pontificate rather than answer the questions. Kennedy's answers were direct, clear, and to the point. If you listen to the debates, I think you will still come away believing Kennedy won. Obviously, interpreting Nixon's body language on the tube adds to that impression. At his heart, Nixon was a corrupt fool put in place by the California political power structure and there was no more to him than what there appeared to be at that moment. U.S. voters were so intent on electing an idiot at that time, they elected Nixon and Agnew to a second term when it was clear that they would be criminally impeached almost immediately after the election.

Ford was very much a national laughing stock outside of his group of cronies and proved to be no more than that when he pardoned Nixon and 408 other criminals. His justification for the Nixon pardon was so lame that few accept it for anything more than spin. Ford was the nation's first football scholarship President, which saved him from having to learn anything from college classes.

Reagan, another football-playing, classroom-avoiding politician, set new low standards for Presidential expectations, and lowered the bar for White House intellectual achievement so that an ant could step over the pole without stretching. Reagan is the cynic who said, "Government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem." And followed that by increasing the size and government exponentially. When Reagan took office, the national debt was $1 trillion. When he left, it was $2.6 trillion (more than 200%). " . . . .For every dollar a Democratic President has raised the national debt in the past 30 years, Republican presidents have raised the debt by $2.52."Conservative" Reagan reversed every Carter imitative to make the nation energy independent, in his first term of office.

The two Bushes kept blowing cash like a hooker with a stolen credit card, only mildly interrupted by 8 years of Clinton's actual conservative economic policies. Bush has taken what could have been a balanced budget in 2001 and turned it into massive debt, which will plague the nation for generations. The damage this character has done to the nation's technological base, the education system, and national security is immeasurable.

Still, many voters are desperately looking for a fool of equal character to replace Little George. The fact that Sarah Palin hasn't been laughed off of the national stage is solid evidence that voters are ready and willing to dip further into the muck of our gene pool for their next "leader." No, we aren't likely to vote for elites until the economic and social system is damaged beyond repair. Like lemmings heading for a watery death, we're hell bent to elect a moron and a senile has-been to lead the nation into bankruptcy. If that sounds elitist, you don't know me very well.

September 2008

9/11/2008

Life in Loony Tunes

I just got back from a trip to Nova Scotia. Friends and aquaintances had been advising me to eat all the sea food I could choke down while I was visiiting the east coast, so I planned to do just that. However, I discovered that, mostly, I was about a decade too late. The spectre of off-shore drilling has a lot of east coast fishermen convinced that we're seeing the beginning of the end of life in the Atlantic Ocean. Human over-population and over-exploitation of the ocean has done a pretty good job of wiping out life on the right coast. Oil dereks and their associated pollution and physical damage will finish the job. While I was in Canada, I heard a radio science program describing that the typical ocean bed derek destroys practically all life within a 5-10 mile radius of the oil well and does significant damage well beyond that range. If you like sea food and oxygen, you're not gonna like the result of the kind of massive off shore drilling the Republicrats are about to sign off on. And all because we want to drain every drop of that resource in a single generation, leaving ever suceeding generation to despise the greedy bastards of the 20th and 21st Century.

On a lighter note, television and radio broadcast the Alaskan ceremony celebrating the shipping out of the Alaska National Guard to Iraq. The nation's next Vice-Dingbat, book-banning religious nut Caribou Barbie, is shipping her son, Track, off with the rest of the sacrificial lambs to . . . believe it or not . . . the tune of John Philip Sousa's "Liberty Bell." When life really wants to imitate comedy, it goes all out. For those of you from my generation, Liberty Bell was the Monty Python Flying Circus theme song. I almost choked to death listening to the serious boob tube and right wing radio announcers jabbering their take on this strange moment while acoumpanied by the Python's theme music. Freaky stuff.

The more I know about Palin, the stranger this story gets. You'd think that the righ wingnuts would be a little nervous about her husband, an employee of British Petroleum; the company that mismanages the Alaska pipeline and is obviously not an American company. I guess any corporation is good enough for them. The so-called right-to-lifers seem to be unswayed by her attempt to knock off her unborn Down's Syndrome child, Trig. In her last days of pregnancy, she flew to Texas to lecture to and take payola from oil executives. When her water broke, she finished her lecture and decided to gamble on the plane flight back to Alaska finishing the job. Didn't work. Trig was born and she, somehow, turned that into a bonus. Republicans are weird. Her anti-sex education stance has resulted in her 18-year old daughter's unwed, unplanned pregnancy and will, apparently, also result in a shotgun wedding. Crazier and crazier. Palin ought to be called Daisy Mae, she's not sophisticated enough to be Barbie.

8/31/2008

Gestapo on the March

Check this out:
http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2008/08/30/police_raids/index.html
and this

http://www.twincities.com/ci_10346122?source=most_viewed
and this
http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2008/08/29/protest_camp/

Yesterday, the media made a big show of announcing that special police forces had arrested a collection of Republican convention protestors, in advance of any protests, and have found a "homemade weapons" and other paraphernalia. In the US, home of the NRA? Someone is dumb enough to home-make weapons when you can buy a machine gun at Wal-Mart? I’m pretty sure this is Newspeak at its finest. It just sounds too stupid, even for the current moronic government, to believe. The storm troupers in SWAT gear arrested a variety of young people without showing warrants and while pretending they were raiding armed terrorists. College kids and armed terrorists? Get a life, more wimps with badges. The Gestapo also arrested “a lawyer from the National Lawyer's Guild who was detained and put in handcuffs” without charge. If you ever suspected that Republicans and their conservatives cohorts were cowards, here’s your evidence. Shades of the 1968 Democratic Convention with Bush-style ignorance and arrogance added to the usual disrespect for the Bill of Rights.

In the meantime, St. Paul police are doing their usual impeccable job of scouring the donut shops and issuing parking tickets, while a woman was severely beaten by thugs wielding baseball bats on the shores of Lake Phalen, a popular public lake and walking trail (http://www.startribune.com/local/stpaul/26268039.html). T he day of the big raid, two more people were assaulted at the same location. No doubt, they were busy gearing up for the big raid on protestors and the associated assault on the Constitution.

Remind me again, we have police to protect us from what? Why don't we just rename the country "The United Corporations of America" and get it over with? This country would have to be fed to pigs, digested, crapped out, and reconstituted as food pellets to be worthy of "going to the dogs." As one of my students said after reading about the latest Iraq scandal, "it's too late for a wake-up call." We've slept through the alarm clock, the dinner bell, and the bell that "tolls for thee." We appear to be very near the point where we the people need to decide to actively reclaim the country or start mailing applications for asylum before the police start rounding us up for deportation to the concentration camps. Remember the Warsaw Ghetto!

#186 Creating Jobs and Obligation

Thirty-five years ago, I left a relatively secure job in Texas for a totally insecure start-up company in Nebraska. I had a wife, two kids (one less than a month old), and a new trade; electronics technician. In what seemed like a stroke of luck, I found myself being one of a dozen or so field technicians with some familiarity in the "new" field of electronic scales. Even luckier, I had gone to work for the best of that dozen a few months before he left our employer and started his own business. I'd had the kind of internship that this country gave up on when it decided to crush unions, destroy public education, and fill Washington D.C. with Republican con artists.

After my 2nd daughter was born, my wife and I really wanted to leave Texas, the land of agricultural pollution and, in the 70's, the last strands of a working public education system. My choices were: 1) ask for a transfer to the main company in western Kansas, 2) open my own shop in Guymon, Oklahoma with the support of my old boss who I was working for on the side, or 3) take a job with an independent shop in Nebraska who promised me a share of my department's profits and a piece of the business. Kansas wasn't attractive. Oklahoma was even less livable than Texas, but the attraction of owning my own business and working with my old mentor was strong. One visit to Nebraska and my wife and I decided it was a no-brainer. Nebraska had water, trees, grass, and other natural resources. Oklahoma was . . . Oklahoma. I sold off my music equipment repair business to a local music store, fabricated the equipment I'd need to move my scales business to Nebraska, and we packed up our lives and moved to Nebraska.

The business in Nebraska was floundering. The owner was a terrific salesman, but a terrible manager. He knew 1950's farming technology, but knew nothing about any equipment improvements that had occurred since, especially anything that included electronics. My deal was that I would earn a small salary and commission of 50% of the net earnings of my department. I was 23 and thought a handshake and an employment offer letter would be morally and legally binding. I had a lot to learn. In the past five years, the company had lost an average of $10,000/year in the electronic scales department. They made up for it, sort of, by selling the equipment scales supported for a substantial premium. Competition was minimal and ag was booming. My boss probably thought the 50% net portion of my offer would never cost him a penny.

In the first year, I reorganized the structure of his shop so that the equipment was installed in a more efficient, safer, and quicker manner. I talked his shop foreman into investing in new support equipment, which was an odd thing to have to do because two years earlier three employees were killed when an ancient air compressor blew up and shot shrapnel all over the shop floor. Two ex-employees were still disabled from that incident. With that in mind, we installed the new compressor in an outside addition, putting some plate between the shop floor and the compressor. I convinced the owner into getting two welders state certified for pipe work, to add some insurance to our installations and to crank their skills up a notch. I made personal inspections of every piece of electronic gear we installed and follow-up service was reduced accordingly. By the end of the first year, my department's net (after shouldering the cost of all my main shop improvements) was $100k. I received a check for $2,200 and a piece of paper that implied I had some non-negotiable ownership of the business. Being young and gullible, I assumed I would be made whole the next year. The next year, my department netted $500k including the cost of two part-time employees. I was working 90 hours a week and driving more than 100,000 miles a year to make the business work. My commission that year was deferred because my boss want to spend the money my department made on getting into the irrigation system business.

Less gullible and a little wiser, I talked to a local lawyer who told me that my offer letter did not amount to a legal contract. I should have been much less gullible because, I learned two years later, that my lawyer was a good friend of my boss. Small town, small town rules.

The next year, I cut my hours to around 40, increased my music equipment repair business activity, and spent a lot of my field time stopping in Omaha and Lincoln, submitting resumes anywhere that looked interesting. I found an engineering job near Omaha, quit my job the next week with no notice, and moved my family east 100 miles. Last year, I took a backroads motorcycle trip to western Kansas and passed through that little Nebraska town on the way. The business is still there, exactly as I left it. In the middle of town, however, is a much busier electronic scales installation and repair shop, owned by the son of the man I replaced in 1973. He took the business back from my old employer, almost immediately after I left town. I'd sold him my repair fixtures, because my boss was unfamiliar with any part of my business and the value of the equipment I'd built to test and repair equipment, and I'd given him and his son an extensive tutorial on running the business he had previously given up. They paid my repair rate for the training, my old boss assumed that he was much smarter than me, since he'd managed to rob me so easily, and hired a kid out of tech school to take over the department with no training. Last year, that kid had been working for my old boss's competition for exactly 30 years.

A decade later, I went to work for an audio equipment company in California as a manufacturing, test, and design engineer. This was another company that had never experienced a year of net profit and had been burning through the founder's family fortune for its existence. The company had no bill of materials for its products, no usable mechanical drawings for its chassis parts, and no assembly instructions for the work force. The first three professional hires, myself included, worked long hours to make the products manufacturable and reliable. We created a design process, a product qualification process, we designed the company's first profitable products when the founders were on their first of many long vacations, and we brought manufacturing back to California from Mexico; which increased the company's profits and product quality.

When the company became profitable, one-by-one, the people who provided that profit were dumped as inconvenient. Their reward for hard work and innovation was unemployment and the opportunity to start their careers over when they had past their technological prime. There is a long-standing tradition, in American business (elsewhere, maybe?) of purging the evidence when a company has the good fortune to become successful. Rarely, if ever, does a business succeed on the effort of the founder(s).

Usually, the fearless leader has the good fortune to stumble on to one or more employees who share the vision (usually out of loyal delusion) and apply their talents toward that end. Henry Ford was an interesting low-budget car designer and would have faded into history with the hundreds of other failed US car manufacturers: except Henry lucked into hiring Bill Knudsen who was the real inventor of Ford's mass assembly system; Frank Kulick who was responsible for dragging Ford's Model T obsolete contraption into the next generation of sellable cars; Frederick Taylor the authority on scientific industrial management; Ford's son, Edsel, who Henry rode to death for his efforts in making Ford competitive with GM; and hundreds of more inventive, creative, and harder working men than Henry Ford ever was. In fact, old Henry said of Knudsen, "I let him go not because he wasn't good, but because he was too good -- for me." Apparently, American tradition calls for the founder to gather up his/her imperial resources and purge the company of those who caused the success. Only then can the company's success story be rewritten to make the fearless leader appear fearless and in charge.

A few days ago, I received a shrieking hate letter from someone I thought I knew better, regarding my implication that his conservative approach to changing our failed government was less than honorable. I'd thought that some of my points were pretty funny, if close to true. He is used to being listened to as if he is an all-seeing wizard and objections to his genius are, apparently, uninvited. He is a small corporate business owner in a small town in a market that is destined to join buggy whips in manufacturing and service history; the trucking industry and the associated large diesel engine parts. Desperately wanting to hang on to what has been a pot of gold for a long while, he is, naturally, inclined to try to entice everyone to vote for the status quo, no matter what that does to the country's future. He ended his letter with the comment, "It takes people like me to create good jobs for people a lot better than you."

I'd add, it takes employees -- like the one I was when I was young and gullible -- to make up for the talents employers like you lack. I've made better employers than you richer than you. My risks were as great, including going broke when an employer decided to eliminate 80% of its employees rather than share the risk in an economic downturn. My rewards were never comparable to yours. One of the reasons American corporations are cranking up the immigration quotas is that they have pissed off the American work force and can no longer con them into shooting themselves in the foot in order to make selfish, corrupt rich folks even richer.

The lack of responsibility and risk that modern incorporation provides to business owners and stockholders has done, probably, irreparable damage to the social contract between the employed and employers. The level of entitlement and corruption in the ruling class is unequaled in history, exceeding the royals of Great Britain and the slave owners of Rome. This kind of class split happened to the US in the 1880's and, again, in the 1920's and the result was catastrophic for the nation, but the split was never as deep as it is today.

Today's corporate executives are less useful, more wealthy and powerful, and more destructive to the country than any ruling class since the British royals of the turn of the last century. Worse, the US's ruling class has the ability to launch a world-destroying nuclear war in a knee-jerk response to losing power and wealth, this is the most dangerous time in the history of humanity.

Our republic has swung toward fascism and democracy and social equality has never seemed so impossibly remote. The arrangement between employers and their employees is part of that problem. Maybe, the most important part.

August 2008

7/24/2008

Imagining God's Positive Influence

On a news blog I occasionally visit, Capitol Hill Blue, the author recently discussed "GITMO and Habeas Corpus" (http://www.capitolhillblue.com/cont/node/9640). The article was about a panel discussion of "the attack on Habeas Corpus, the eradication of the US Constitution, and together, they painted a dreary picture about what America has done to innocents, citizens of other countries, and more."

One reader's response, charged that the loony religious right and their total righteous conviction led the country down this path away from democracy and toward dictatorship and worse. The argument was pretty sound, but it brought the following typically goofy and ignorant response from one of the superstitious many: "Atheists can be charged with the overwhelming majority of slaughter in the last century: Pol Pot in Cambodia, Mao Zedong in China, Hitler throughput Europe, and Lenin and Stalin in what became the Soviet Union."

This disingenuous claim is chanted regularly by the superstitious crowd as evidence that religion isn't always evil. For starters, you couldn't find a more superstitious bunch than the German Nazis. They "worshiped" everything from astrology, occult weirdness, witchcraft, pagan celebrations, and a variety of religions commonly known as "Christianity" (except for Judaism, which they chose to persecute for financial reasons). Calling the Nazis "atheists" is as accurate and honest as calling George W. Bush an "intellectual." Hitler was a Catholic all of his life and claimed to be a believer in "Positive Christianity."

Communism, dogma, and power had more to do with Mao, Pol Pot, Lenin and Stalin's acts of evil than did their firm connection to atheism. These were not big thinker types, but vicious murderers who used the simple-mindedness of their form of communism to excuse mass murder. Gods haven't stopped this kind of person from doing their worst and a lack of gods doesn't seem to have much effect, either. Communism, however, has more in common with religion than with science. "Faith" in the system's integrity and purpose is required of the followers, regardless of the obvious evil activities of the leaders. As in religious driven murders, the reason these evil bastards were so effective is not that they were atheist, but that they enforced a "belief system" and discouraged dissent, analysis, science, and logic. Sounds more like religion than politics or economic theory.

7/05/2008

#184 Good News, Bad News

NPR, that once great remainder of the best of American media, has continued to degenerate into a corporate mouthpiece. Apparently, that hasn't been a profitable move for them. Minnesota Public Radio was once a showpiece for national public radio. The local stations were locally oriented. They produced great musical content, their news programs were infinitely better than the crap squeezed out by commercial stations, and the national programs were the best offered. Not that many years ago, NPR and MPR started courting corporate sponsors and the content changed accordingly. By 2000, public radio was impotent and as corrupt as the best of the commercial stations. By 2004, the right wing slant of NPR became overt and the commercial slant had turned the programming into lightweight drivel.

There has been a cost to this sell-out. MPR, for example, has always had successful fund drives. Since the beginning of Minnesota's experiment in public radio, public support has carried the stations and carried them lavishly. In the last couple of years, that support has dropped away. Take me, for example. In the past, I've always donated $200-500 a year to public radio. When MPR refused to allow the Independent Party candidate, Tim Penny, to take part in the 2002 Senate debates with Norm Coleman and Mondale, I quit caring if my local station lived or died. Since then, I listen occasionally, but I never feel the slightest twinge of guilt during their fun raisers because those constant corporate plugs at the beginning and end of every program segment remind me that public radio, like the rest of the country, does not belong to the public. This Land is not my land, or yours, it is corporate property. However, corporations depend on the public for their survival and the tide may be turning on their rein of terror. If that tide changes, the institutions that supported those psychopaths will wash out along with the corporate criminals. NPR has linked hands with some of the worst of the worst (Cargill, Guidant, General Motors, etc.) and that will be remembered.

It has been interesting to watch the Republican response to criticism of John McCain. When he was a "maverick" (a poor term someone as far right as McCain, but in comparison to the other nutcases he can seem almost reasonable), the right used every tactic available to denigrate him. Now that he's a total captive corporate employee, they are protecting him with the same irrational zeal they applied to defending G.W. Bush's AWOL military history. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." That stupid logic has kept the world in constant war since men learned to strap rocks to the ends of sticks.

Wes Clark's analysis was spot on. There is nothing about being a young, valiant prisoner of war that would qualify an old, corrupt politician for the Presidency or leadership at any level. Carpetbagging in the most cynical committee, the Senate Armed Services, is not a recommendation or valuable experience for President. Cheerleading the dumbest foreign policy makers in the history of the nation as they stumble into the worst, most immoral decision in the nation's history is not a credential. Of an awful bunch, McCain is the best the Republicans had to offer in 2008, but he is still the best of the worst.

Republican candidates are usually poor material for any serious office, but 2008 was embarrassingly bad even for them. A collection of evangelists and failed corporate degenerates is the best description I can find for the lot.

Obama has a tough future ahead of him, win or lose. If he wins, he will have the same thankless task that Willy Clinton faced. He will take over a country that has been raped and pillaged by vandals and carpetbaggers. He will inherit a busted economy, a backwards social system, an uneducated populace, and an incredibly competitive world waits to take advantage of his missteps. If he is successful, he will be replaced by another greedy, incompetent Republican who will set the country back several steps and undo most of the positive achievements Obama might accomplish. The American public hates success and always follows competence with the polar opposite, in Presidents and many other critical areas.

If he loses, like Gore, he will go down in history as being one of the dumbest candidates ever offered for office. He will have taken a clear mandate, a gigantic advantage, and a dedicated group of activists and wasted those advantages. Like Gore, he may be able to find a cause to promote as his booby prize and reason for continuing in public life, but he might end up like Ducakis and try to vanish, out of humiliation, from history.

Losing to McCain will be like getting beat on the basketball court by a midget. McCain, himself, is no tiny opponent, but being a Republican at this point in history is very much like saddling yourself with the handicap of crawling on to the court in your knees. Of course, in politics, Americans have a long history of rooting for the retards, so McCain does have the status of crowd favorite.

July 2008

http://theratseyeblog.blogspot.com/

6/28/2008

#183 Secret Messages

Somehow, I still get a lot of Republican propaganda in the mail each week. I've accused these morons of being clueless incompetents for a lot of years, but they keep sending me crap. Like the newspaper serves comedians, Republican propaganda provides me with new material on a regular basis. The latest whacko gibberish from McCain as a whining plea to send him money to fight the Obama campaign's "lies and innuendos" about him and his corporate owners. Poor Johnny. First the evil communists shot him down while napalming 3rd World villages, now the damn socialists want to restrain his "right" to turn every nickel in this country over to international corporations and their benevolent executives. What does Little Johnny want to do with that money? He complains that it costs $2 million to place an ad in the midst of honorable "news programs" like Bill O'Reilly's Fox News redneck diatribe.

Yep, you gotta fight "lies and innuendo" in a place where the ideals of the media's concept "fair and ridiculous" is upheld to the highest standard. I wonder if the Republicans still run ads in the John Birch Society's rag. I hope they are still actively recruiting Klanners. You wouldn't want to miss out on the contribution of that brilliant bunch of intellectuals.

This is a pretty funny bit. Bear Stern's chair-incompetent-goof-off, James Cayne, addressed the funeral for the corporation he helped destroy during the 11 minutes it took to write off that company's 85 year history. He brought down the house with the punch line, "I feel an enormous amount of pain, and management feels an enormous amount of pain."

He probably got a hernia carrying off his golden parachutes, as did other members of Bear Stern's mismanagement. Corporate socialism lives on in that company's memory, though. Our nation's moto should be, "Not a penny for the homeless, but billions for incompetent investment bank executives." You gotta protect the completely stupid, inbred elites from their own incompetence. Otherwise, they'll have to rely on Social Security like the rest of us and we all know how that is going to work out. I'm sure McCain feels Cayne's pain and will do everything possible to dump more taxpayers' cash into the poor lazy failure's sagging pockets.

#182 The Gun Society

Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine has been on my mind for a long time. Right wingers like to imagine that Moore's movies are simple, lefty denunciations of the American Way but that's mostly because many of Moore's interviews involve multi-syllable words that confuse and overwhelm the righties. There isn't much Moore can do about that, since he's interested in finding out how culture works and why our economic system is so screwed up. There isn't a lot of point in interviewing dumb people for that kind of information, so very few right wingers points of view end up in Moore's films. Even Moore's interviews of out-of-work minorities in Gary, Indiana provide more intellectual stimulation than a typical G.W. Bush speech. Listening to Carl Rove speak has been proven to actually lower the listeners' IQ, so that kind of interview would be completely out of context in a Moore documentary.

However, back to my point, Bowling for Columbine was a particularly brave film because Moore actually started with a premise and an expected conclusion and he ended up admitting he was unable to support his own expectation. Moore, obviously, expected to be able to say that gun availability explains the US's out-of-line gun violence. Toward the end of the movie, Moore visited Canada, just across the lake from Detroit (one of the US's most violent cities) and discovered that Canadians own more guns per capita than US citizens and they are dramatically less inclined to use them on each other. Massively disinclined, in fact. Moore concluded Columbine without a conclusion and some personal confusion.

I, however, have a theory. Way back in 1998, I wrote a business-related Rat Rant (#3) titled Teaching Quality. I have always believed that everything in business and society is driven top-down. Meaning, that people follow the example of the leaders. If a business's CEO is a crook, his employees will be less honest than they would be in a more ethical environment. Keep that CEO in power long enough and you'll have ENRON. If the leadership is customer-hostile, conservative and afraid of change, authoritative, sexist, racist, greedy, or foolish, that will be the culture of the business. If a nation is inclined to use violence as a first resort for every political and economic conflict, the citizens of that nation will assume that same tactic in resolving everyday problems.

There aren't a lot of nations in the world that are more inclined to use violence to resolve problems than the US. Our competition is Russia, several African nations, most of the Arab nations, and a fair bit of South America. Our polar opposites are Canada, most of Europe, and Japan. Several of the nations in that group of countries are easily as heavily armed, as individuals, as the US, but they are dramatically less inclined to shoot each other. Switzerland, being one of the most extreme examples, where practically every household possesses a military-grade weapon and a national guard member who is trained to use that weapon in his country's defense. Their national gun violence statistic is a fraction of a fraction of the United States' statistic, but they exemplify the definition of the 2nd Amendment far more accurately than do typical gun owners in the US.

This country will launch rockets, fire off cannons, send in troops, and redirect the gross national product in defense of any one of our major corporation's interests and do it without a second's thought for the lives taken for the holy dollar and for our royalty class. You will have to research long and hard to find another first world nation that is that quick to pull the trigger for trivial pursuits. If fact, you'll have to call China and Russia 1st world (something I would not do) to find a second example of such a vicious, violent successful culture.

Our Court of the Lowest Common Denominator reinforced all of the wrong conclusions about the 2nd Amendment in the most recent test of the nation's private gun ownership laws. Head loony and right wing mob boss, Fat Tony Scalia, said, "The enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table. These include the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home." The court tossed out a 2-year old Washington D.C. law in rendering this extension of private gun ownership laws. As that city's mayor said, "More handguns in the District will mean more gun violence." Duh. But that isn't the concern of the CLCD. They are protecting the corporate interests of the gun manufacturers and nothing will come between those profits and the salaries of the execs for whom our government represents.
Stay tuned. This court is going to get a lot nutter in the next few decades. By the time Roberts and Scalia are through, we may need another Franklin Roosevelt to revise the makeup of the court to keep it from turning the country into a corporate fascist state. The far right wing of the court is easily that radical.