Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Triumph Of Evil

Thank God the politicians are on vacation for the holidays. Vacation from what? Maybe we'd be better off
paying them to stay home. We practically do!
I guess we should all be grateful that the government is open, mission accomplished on that one. Exactly what did our representatives accomplish this year?
Well back in the summer, there was the student loan crises. Which, yay Congress! They actually passed a bill H.R. 1911. Supposedly, " the rates will stay below 6.8 percent for the next five years, but because they are pegged to 10-year Treasury notes, they fluctuate with the market."
Because, even student loans have to be tied to the almighty market.
One really impressive measure was that Congress and the senate could agree to ban plastic guns or guns made out of any other materials that could not show up on metal detectors. Yeah....after the slaughter at Newtown, this is the best they could do.
Turns out it's no joke telling stories about when you were in "'Nam" when you really weren't. Congress passed The Stolen Valor Act. Nice to know there is something we can all agree on, that its wrong to impersonate a person who served their country. So far that's three things, not counting keeping the government open.
Can you believe it? There was actually a poll taken to see if people thought this was the worst Congress ever. 73%  said it was! Thanks CNN for making that clear.
On December 18 the President signed a budget deal, the first since 2009, what a coincidence since that's when he was sworn into office.
We still have unpassed immigration legislation. No farm bill.  They only have 8 more days to do more of nothing. Congress gets a lot of time off from their hectic schedule, 239 days to be precise. In 2014, they will get even more time to do nothing, since they're exhausted from all that inaction, 252 days off.
It's a good thing that Congress removed the crutch of extending unemployment benefits to people who also have a lot of time off, although it's not of their choosing. Wall Street may be booming but Main Street has flat lined.
During the rest of the holiday, I wish Congress more of the same. Just do nothing, loaf, relax. It's been a tough year of.. nothing much.
With even more days off in 2014, I look forward to more wasted time and wasted opportunities from Congress that gets paid too much to do so little.
Maybe Burke was right, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing." However, I'm not convinced any of these Congress Critters are good.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Gentlemen

Time Magazine's Person Of The Year
It's been a tradition for me to write about the Pope during the holidays. Mainly because it's not really a religious holiday anymore. It's basically a festival of broken dreams and empty bank accounts. I'm probably just like a lot of people at Christmas, a lot of us don't go to church anymore. I know I don't mainly because women are treated like second class citizen breeding machines. We can work our ass off  in the secular world, just like any man, but walk into the church and it's another story. It's going to take basically equality for women to get me to go to church again, ( I know, where is there equality for women, anywhere?) however, I will say that Pope Francis is probably the most interesting guy to wear the pointy hat in forever, but there is the thought that Pope Francis is in full damage control mode.
I bring you tidings of multiple investigations. Just one scandal would be," the Institute for Religious Works – the formal name for the Vatican’s bank – widely regarded in Italy as a haven of organised crime." Shocking, but here's the best part, "Peter Sutherland, non-executive chairman of Goldman Sachs International, said Transparency is important and necessary,” Oh that's really eye opening, this guy is some kind of "unpaid" consultant. A banker, from a bank, known for it's own scandals is giving out advice, I guess from experience, because now Goldman Sachs is so transparent.Yeah, I'll let you digest that with your Christmas dressing.
Did anyone think it was odd that Pope Benedict abdicated? Maybe because of Vatileaks?
 "documents show how contracts were awarded to favoured companies and individuals and also highlight allegations of internal power struggles with the Vatican's bank known as the Institute for Religious Works." 
I guess maybe the butler really did do it.
Pope Francis has tried to address the child abuse scandals, however, "The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) was unimpressed, saying his initiative might burnish the Vatican's image but "in the real world this changes virtually nothing (as it affects only) the 0.2 square miles of Vatican property."
I guess you can't please everyone. Supposedly there's also a "gay scandal" in the Vatican too, but being gay and being a pedophile are two different things even though I hear people use them interchangeably, frequently.  
This is just creepy and wierd
And so this is Christmas, the Pope says his employee's at the Vatican should "stop inspecting and questioning" and gossiping, basically start acting like professionals instead of inquisitors. In his Christmas Homily he tells us "Do not be afraid!" It's pretty sad, because there's plenty to fear in this institution.
As far as Pope's go, I do believe this guy is really trying to focus on the poor and disenfranchised. He's refused to move into the Papal palace. it's rumored he sneaks out at night to hang out with the homeless. That's more than most average people do. But until there's the possibility of a Popess, I think I'll spend my time engaging in other pursuits where being a woman isn't such a liability.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Obama's "Random Impulse"

Photo from Politico

Surprisingly, I have actually heard of some success stories about the reviled ACA aka Obamacare. One woman I know qualified for $350 worth of subsidies and only has to pay around $35 a month. I have also heard of people choosing to work part time in order to not be charged more for their healthcare. I have also been told some people are being quoted very high prices that are unaffordable. There is so much information and misinformation that it's hard to tell what is the reality of the ACA.

There are 48 million uninsured people in America.
Yeah, that's right, 48 million. When I read a number like that, it shocks me. It shocks me that most of the people I know, just don't care. But they do care enough to criticise President Obama for his "socialist" tendencies, this also freaks me out because it seems like most of the people I know are just plain ignorant.
What is really hard to take is that we have all these uninsured people and no one I come into contact with thinks that might be a problem.
There are 46.5 million people in poverty. That's another problem, when you are already living in poverty, you can't afford health insurance. What I wonder is with poverty being defined by 1960's standards, exactly how much does the government think the working poor can pay for healthcare?
Is that why we are hearing so much about people who don't have two nickels to rub together, go to try and get insurance, only to find out it's just like what people pay for Cobra (pretty damn expensive) and financially, just can't afford it.
When I talk to people I know, here in New Jersey, the talk usually turns to Latino's and their "anchor babies" and the free healthcare they get, courtesy of our emergency rooms. Also these people who assume Latino or Mexicans are getting all this free stuff, don't know any immigrants. This second hand information is treated like the truth and is told over and over again. I don't know if these stories are true or not. The perception is that healthcare is somehow free for people who are immigrants, but not for Americans.
There's a CBO estimate that 14 million people would be eligible for coverage. CBO | Effects on Health Insurance and the Federal Budget for the Insurance Coverage Provisions in the Affordable Care Act—May 2013 Baseline.
 I wonder if that's a really conservative estimate, because I see a lot of people who go without healthcare. 14 million people out of 48 million? That's it?
Eric Cantor thinks we should put it off for another year.
"Our entire health care system can't be fundamentally changed at any given time subject to the random impulses of President Obama."
What really cracks me up is that Eric Cantor thinks President Obama has ADD and just had a "random impulse" to try and do something about 48 million people who are uninsured. Oh and Eric Cantor has been just so darn helpful to the uninsured, the unemployed or the millions of people living in poverty.
"Many Americans had good health care that they liked and could afford, but lost it due to ObamaCare."
Ok, there's all kinds of crazy going on about this. What has happened is people had their policies cancelled because they didn't meet the new federal guidelines, meaning, they didn't cover a tissue to wipe your tears in the emergency room when you see the bill, and people are still crying they want their crappy policy back. Sigh.
What I think is the saddest thing of all is that most Americans seem to think it is ok to endure financial ruin if you get some kind of illness. That it's ok to profit from sick people. This is where the ACA didn't go far enough and we should have a nationalized healthcare system like every other civilized country has. But then what would our for profit health insurance companies do? I wonder how much it cost the health insurance lobbies to pay Congress critters to pass a healthcare bill that the health insurance INDUSTRY (that's right it's an INDUSTRY) wanted.
President Obama received $588,055 from Blue Cross Blue Shield.
That's just from ONE health insurance company.  Senator Baucus received nearly $2 million in contributions from the health care and insurance industries. Only presidential candidates John McCain (R-AZ: $7,690,168), John Kerry (D-MA: 7,453,749), and party-switching Arlen Spector (D-PA: $2,214,653) have received more. All of these politicians from the President on down have all been influenced by corporate money, not to have a nationalized health system. How do health care lobby dollars match influence in Congress? | Center for Public Integrity
Between the definition of poverty being inadequate, which means there will be plenty of the working poor, still being priced out of the health insurance market and the influence of the health insurance industry on ObamaCare, it doesn't take a genius to understand there is nothing "random" going on here. What it looks like is that the working poor will still have to pay more for health insurance and that's a win-win for insurance companies.
Eric Cantor gets contributions from healthcare companies a total of almost $200,000. I am sure that's a drop in the bucket and doesn't even include other fancy perks. People I know are well aware that our politicians are bought and sold. They know that the people who supposedly represent us don't give a damn about Americans. Let alone give a damn about their healthcare, unless they have some "random impulse."


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Ukraine Winter

Ukraine Protestors Take Down Statue of Lenin
While everyones been busy with Nelson Mandela's funeral, people in the Ukraine are out in the freezing cold protesting. Why?
What's going on is that Ukraine's leader decided not to sign an agreement that's been in the works for years.
The EU said on Sunday that Kiev's government has "no grounds in reality".
 This country has only been a democracy since 1991. If their "democracy" is anything like ours, God help them. On the surface this looked like Russia did not want the Ukraine signing any deal with the EU and their leader, Viktor Yanukovych caved to pressure from Putin. I have read that more than 50% of Ukrainian people want the EU agreement. Why did Ukraine's Yanukovych give in to Russian pressure on EU deal? | PBS NewsHour | Dec. 2, 2013 | PBS
Here is a link to the poll Почти 60% украинцев выступают за евроинтеграцию - опрос : Новости УНИАН
Things must be pretty bad if people are in the streets freezing their asses off fighting the police.The first thing I thought about was the economy must be pretty bad there.
It looks like the "Great Recession" effected Ukraine, they have unemployment on a par with the U.S., according to the CIA World Factbook in Ukraine there are "large number of unregistered or underemployed workers", also 40% of it's economy is a shadow economy. According to what I read in Wikipedia there is no way to know what the true nature of their economy is, "Due to the double nature of the Ukraine economics,"
I read in the PBS piece that Yanukovych is a "short term" thinker, like almost every politician in the US, I guess Ukraine is no different in that respect, as we know politicians will promise anything to get elected, then reverse themselves completely. It surprises me that people would go through a bitter cold experience and protest a politician that didn't keep a promise. Happens all the time in the US. As if the people of the Ukraine didn't have it bad enough, John McCain decides to go over there to give his support. This guy ran for president with Sarah Palin. He's a national embarrassment. 
Yanukovych is one of the top 1% in the Ukraine and his son Oleksandr " has notably become one of the richest men in the country during his father’s time in office, leading a group known as “the family” and a conglomerate called Management Assets Company.[3]
  "companies linked to (Oleksandr) Yanukovych in 2012 at no cost had taken over majority stakes worth an estimated $10 million in five coal enrichment plants from the state" Nothing wrong with a little nepotism, we've got plenty of it in the U.S. Like a lot of relatives of politicians, Yanukovych's son has made a fortune through government contracts. Oleksandr Yanukovych - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Really, I think what the Ukraine situation comes down to is a leader who is really out for himself and his cronies.
Are the people in the Ukraine protesting corruption? That's not what anyone is really saying. What would be the result of a EU agreement for the Ukraine President Yanukovych and his friends and family? Russian sentiment is that if Ukraine signed the EU agreement it would be economic suicide. "It would make little sense to the Ukrainian elite and population to embark on a painful realignment of their entire socio-economic system to EU standards if the Union’s member states continue business as usual with a Russia." So you have a restructuring of an economy that would disrupt the status quo. Especially, for the elite 1% and their cronies.
Good Luck with that.


Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Street

3 jobs.
The guy who sits behind me at work has three jobs. His wife asked "what are we doing wrong?" She's a school counselor. They are both educated, smart people. 
They can't make ends meet. Together they have 4 jobs. 
That's why employment is up!
I'm not an economist, but I am thinking temporary Christmas jobs might have bounced the jobs numbers. 
Nobody is talking about the kinds of jobs people are getting.
Did anyone notice the fast food workers strike on Thursday? I never buy fast food, so I stayed away from McDonalds like I always do.
McDonald's and Wal-Mart depend heavily on taxpayer subsidies to underwrite their profits. Without food stamps and other taxpayer-paid benefits, most of their workers wouldn't be able to cobble together a living from day to day. 
When I told my friend that the system is rigged, he didn't say anything. He can't understand why he is failing after he has done "everything right."  I hear stories like this all the time. People who just can't get ahead, who can't save a dime. People who work fulltime who are living paycheck to paycheck, very few of these people ever think about why that is. They are too exhausted from working so hard to think about what is happening all around them.
I think about it all the time.
I think about 2008 and the banks that got their government welfare queen handouts. Isn't capitalism great?
While everyone was sleeping off their Thanksgiving turkey coma, this happened; Another Batch of Wall Street Villains Freed on Technicality | Matt Taibbi | Rolling Stone
Yeah, it's good to work on The Street. On my street, things are very different. 
We are living through a huge transition much like the when farm workers were told to work in factories. Then we didn't need factory workers, so they had to become office workers. Then we didn't need office workers, so now everybody is supposed to be a university-educated professional. 
I know lots of college educated people who can't get a decent job with decent wages. 
They all bought into the American dream that broke.
It broke when an economy that was built on a cheap oil post war boom, crashed. We still have billions to give to oil companies. Oil Companies Reap Billions From Subsidies -
But politicians can't wait to take away food stamps from the poor, including the working poor. We need to start a sustainable economy that isn't hell bent on giving corporations carte blanche and taking everything they can from working class Americans. The status quo lie of hard work leading to a comfortable lifestyle is over. But we are supposed to keep marching into a dystopian future and not even question the capitalist nightmare that has gone into overdrive with a huge economic disparity.
 Nelson Mandela may have brought an end to Apartheid in South Africa, however, there is an economic ghetto that has exiled millions of Americans.
Until my friend behind me wakes up and his wife realizes that they are NOT doing anything wrong, wrong will continue to be done and the people doing it need to be held accountable. We have to stop thinking society exists to meet the needs of an economic system. The economic system must exist to serve the needs of the society, not The Street.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Heckuva Job

It's good to be friends with this chick.
I have no idea how many of you have looked at I did on the first day it was up. Needless to say, it wasn't successful, at least in my case. It was kind of like a first date, awkward.
So I wondered, who the hell set up this website? It turns out that we outsourced it to a Canadian tech company, CGI Group.
My first thought was oh, because Canada has the evil socialized medical care, so that made sense, since I actually have heard people call President Obama a socialist. When I hear this, I always say, I wish.
Anyway I'm getting off course here.
So I start googling CGI Group. I'm wondering if there's someone connected to a lobby or a govenrment official, right?
 Here's what it says about CGI Group in Wikipedia
"In 2012, CGI had its $46.2-million contract to build an electronic diabetes registry for eHealth Ontario formally cancelled after it failed to meet deadlines imposed by eHealth and was eventually declared obsolete and overtaken by newer technology developed by other contractors."
In other words, this company sucks and whoever hired them didn't do any research. I wonder why?
Anyway I'm scrolling down and reading, yada, yada, yada,
"In 2004 CGI purchased the majority of American Management Systems (AMS), acquiring the commercial business and all government business not related to national defense"
 Ok, so I click on the link. This company was founded by some "whiz kids" who worked for Robert McNamara in the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations. This company won an award for the Defense Department's Standard Procurement System. Really? Are we talking about $500 toilet seats here?
So far no one related to anyone that I can see. Any way CGI could only buy the portion of the company not related to national defense, because it can't belong to a foreign based company. Anyway the defense part was bought by a company called CACI.
If you click on that link and scroll down you will see the words, Abu Ghraib. CACI was sued in "U.S. federal court. The plaintiffs, former prisoners, allege that the companies directed and participated in torture, war crimes, crimes against humanity, sexual assault, as well as cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment"
Ok, in other words, CGI bought a company that, on it's defense end was ultimately responsible for Abu Grahib. That's not a crime but it is interesting.
Anyway, I digress, as usual.
So I am wondering about presidents and senior VP's etc. But it looks like I am late to the party,
CGI Federal executive had White House meetings | The Daily Caller
So it looks like Michelle Obama's college friend is a VP at CGI. 
Sometimes I just want to be wrong, Because I always think that there is some connection to someone in power somewhere. This case is no different.
"The Department of Health and Human Services reviewed only CGI’s bid for the Obamacare account"
This was the ONLY company considered for the job to create the first website for
So there ya go. Heckuva job there.