Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Makers & Takers

"We're broke and we need to cut our spending."
.This is all we have been hearing, for quite some time. Except when it comes to the Pentagon.  “I think [the cuts are] more likely to happen. And I’m ashamed of the Congress, I’m ashamed of the president, and I’m ashamed of being in this body, quite frankly,” said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), an Air Force Reservist who has been working for months to develop a bipartisan plan to protect the Pentagon 
Take a guess as to why Lindsey Graham is so "ashamed" about defense spending cuts. 
There are at least a half dozen military bases and defense contractors in South Carolina. 
The DoD is the governments largest agency. It has never been audited. So while all this complaining is going on about our inflated budget, no one seems to want to get real about defense spending. Especially no Republicans from southern states where most of the governments defense money is going. Major defense contractors and their lobbies make it difficult for lawmakers to back military spending cuts. According to Senator Graham, "We're destroying the finest military in the world, just when we need it most"  Well, what we really need most is universal healthcare for all our of our citizens well being. Another thing we really need most is to fix our roads and bridges that are crumbling. We have internet speeds slower than the Ukraine and Lithuania, there are many places it isn't even available and it is more expensive than in Japan and France. Some global power we are. Our education system is a nightmare and there is no money for teachers, our kids are burdened with horrible debt to get a college education. However, there is always money for guns and weapon systems. 
Defense spending at it's peak was $729 billion and we don't have money for the U.S. Postal system? Why is there always money for war? I'll tell you why, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Northrup Grumman, Raytheon. Corporate welfare is all well and good for them, but not for our own citizens. 
This is not really about national security, it is about contractors cutting jobs, so really Graham is saying that defense spending creates jobs but other government spending doesn't create jobs?  
  • The Army can’t be sure that it doesn’t overdraw its personnel expenditures account, which funds soldier pay, enlistment bonuses and other benefits;
  • The Defense Department still can’t "reliably identify, aggregate and report the full cost of its investment" in weapons systems — currently estimated at more than $1 trillion — and doesn’t have enough information to manage and reduce the billions it spends each year on weapons operations and support costs;
  • Databases tracking hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of Army property are improperly managed.*
Supposedly our national security is more secure with this kind of system?
The only thing that Lindsey Graham and every other politician is interested in, is maintaining the status quo. They are all hypocrites that say they want to "starve the beast" just as long as it's not the Department of Defense. I hope the sequestration hits Graham hard on March 1st. The saddest thing is that he will never feel the kind of financial pain I see my fellow Americans struggling with everyday. We could have done so much more for our own citizens and our own country with all the money the Pentagon spends, but just like everything else, when it comes to money in America, it flows right into the pockets of the 1%. Everyone knows our country is broken. Cutting the bloated Pentagon budget is a good way to start fixing it.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Goose Chase

Hillary Clinton AP photo
The usual inquisitors interrogated  Ms Clinton, who faced trial by Republicans, especially Rand Paul who said, "that Ms. Clinton, stepping down from her role is culpability for the worst tragedy since 9/11." If he can compare Benghazi to 9/11, why not compare it to "weapons of mass destruction"? Were the attacks on the consulate in Benghazi the "worst tragedy" since 9/11, with four deaths compared to thousands? This, coming from a man who never could or would be Secretary Of State. 
If we look at the bigger picture and the death toll when Bush Jr. was in office, I'd say Hillary Clinton isn't perfect, but you can't compare the 2 tragedies. Moreover,  the U.S. and NATO led intervention in Libya, did not bring about the democracy that was supposed to be the result. Instead there is mayhem and opportunity for Al-Queda terrorists. What we are really looking at is the expensive, unpredictable, dangerous empire the U.S. has established in Libya and all over the Middle East, all in the name of petrol.
Under the guise of finding out the truth, this inquisition was nothing more than an effort to try to besmirch Ms. Clinton's reputation as she leaves her post as Secretary Of State and perhaps a bid for President in 2016.  
 For three months Republican have been accusing the Obama Administration of ignoring the signs that the situation in Benghazi was "deteriorating". The questions that were asked by Ron Johnson, R-Wis. was whether the attacks happened from a protest or "we were misled that there were supposedly protests and something sprang out of that, an assault sprang out of that." 
So, he says the U.S. or the Republicans, (not sure who "we" are) were "misled" and there were protests and "something sprang out of that" namely an assault. The only thing I have been able to get out of this is that 4 people died, as a result of a protest from a movie trailer being released called "The Innocence Of The Muslims"  That is one narrative. There is another that it was a planned attack, that Ms. Clinton could have done something about. (Only in this context, can you compare this to George W. Bush's knowledge of 9/11) More to the point, What exactly will the outcome be of all this political theater, other than a complete waste of time? Oh, and John McCain looking like the angriest man in the senate.
Whether four people died as a result of a terrorist attack or from a protest, in Hillary Clinton's words "what difference does it make?" Does it matter to the grieving families that lost someone? Maybe it does. Could Hillary Clinton have foreseen this as a terrorist attack? Well, that's the thing about terrorists, it's very hard to predict what they will do. 
Four people are dead and Ms. Clinton is right to make an effort to see that it doesn't happen again. What's clear in the context of Benghazi is that Republicans with a political axe to grind would use the deaths of four people for their own political purposes. Their false outrage fools no one. Otherwise, maybe they would have voted to increase the budget for better security for our consulates and embassies on foreign soil. So, I wonder, who are the real terrorists? The one's who vote down every budget, piece of legislation and have held this country hostage for the last four years? They are as guilty as anyone they choose to point a finger at. Remember, when you point a finger, three point back at you.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

No More Wire Hangers

The 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade is upon us. Thankfully, abortion is still legal here in the U.S., despite all the trans-vaginal nonsense that went on this year.  By the way, there is a repeal of the mandatory ultrasound law in Virginia.
Roe v Wade was only  legal for 2 years when I accompanied my 16 year old friend to a clinic, she was alone and scared. Her boyfriend had dumped her after she had told him she was pregnant. Her parents were devout Roman Catholics.
 She got a safe, legal, abortion, and went on to have a family and a career, she may never have had. She could have died, trying to find her way out of a bad situation, in a back alley. 
A lot of conservative and religious people think, that they can judge someone who is in a very precarious situation. It is ironic to me that there should be judgement from people, who are not God, and aren't fit to be anyone's judge. 
Abortion  is hard to talk or write about. It is never something a woman chooses  in a way that is lighthearted or flippant. It is not an easy decision. It certainly wasn't for my friend back in 1976. 
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that each year nearly 42 million women faced with unintended pregnancies have abortions, of which 20 million are unsafe, mostly in countries where abortion is illegal.*
20 million.
Let's be real clear here. Abortion is always available for the wealthy. That is never an issue. It is the working poor, that have no access to healthcare, they are the women who need access to birth control so that abortion isn't an issue. It is an issue of class and control, it is an issue of reproductive rights. I can't help but think how many lives have been saved, thanks to Roe v Wade. Like my amazing friend Diane, who is a pediatric nurse and has saved many lives.
*Unsafe abortion - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Second Amendment, Who Exactly Are We Hunting?

What kind of militia did the founding fathers have in mind?
I never knew why Americans were crazy about guns. I held one once, I tried to shoot it, it just didn't seem like fun to me. The other people who were shooting them were trying to hit bottles and cans, practicing their aim, for the day they would shoot something or someone, I'm not sure. None of them were hunters. It just seemed like a big waste of time.
Some people like to waste time like that. Shooting at cans and animals. There is this strange, romantic idea about guns and America. The rugged individual, living a life of isolation, the heroic struggle of carving out an existence on land they stole from Native Americans. Those were the days when you really had to watch your back, or you'd get an arrow in it.
What's worse about this conversation we are having about guns in the U.S., is in the Truthout article about the Second Amendment and why it specifically say's "state" in order to "preserve slave patrol militias in the southern states" so Virginia would ratify it. Pretty disgusting.
"slavery can only exist in the context of a police state, and the enforcement of that police state was the explicit job of the militias."
Amazing, right? One of the main defenses, I listen to, ad nauseum, is the whole idea that people and their Second Amendment rights will be able to fight back against some future "police state" when actually, we live in one now. How these people think they could rise against the government in some fictional battle, a government that has tanks, drones and nuclear weapons, but hey, I guess that's why we need assault weapons.
I live in an area where hunting is BIG. In my town, we have this party, called "The Decoy And Gunning Show". This is about expert craftsman and their decoys. People come from all over the country to dress up in camoflage and pay lots of money for these ducks made of wood. They also have a stage made of swamp reeds, where talented individuals vie for prizes by using duck calls, the person who's call is the best wins. It is very serious to these people. When I first saw this I started giggling, it looked so funny until I was hushed up by some people who thought I was being disrespectful to people who lie down in a swamp to wait for ducks. But I digress.
Guess what? I have never seen a person of color at this show. EVER. So it doesn't surprise me that the hallowed Second Amendment is steeped in racism. The people who frequent the 'Decoy And Gunning Show" think President Obama is a Muslim and a communist. I am not kidding. I have talked to them. They actually think these things AND they have guns. So one thing I think needs to happen is not only for a mental health check for gun buyers, but also a basic intelligence test. You don't have to be smart to get a gun, but you should be. 
There is this weird idea that "guns don't kill people, people do", this disconnect between guns and death. Well, maybe guns don't kill people, but bullets sure do. People are dying right now because some idiot used a gun to solve his problem. It's scary to think about how many guns we have in this country. We still have this "Wild West" mentality. I get that people like to shoot deer and ducks and eat them. If you have the stomach for that, so be it. Deer are a big problem on our roads, causing all kinds of accidents. So go ahead, have fun. Most hunters are careful with their guns, I hope. So I really don't understand. Why do we need assault weapons? If the Second Amendment is so great, then it seems to me, it helped keep hundreds of thousands of people in chains, for far too long. That is really crazy. What's even crazier are the thousands of people who die every year due to gun violence. 
This country seems to be going through a kind of tectonic political shift. We are living in 2013, the founding fathers could never have conceived of the weaponry and society we have now. Patrick Henry, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, these people weren't saints, some of them were slave owners. They made imperfect laws and legislation. These laws must change. Any of us could be dropping our kids off at school or sitting at the movies and be gunned down. It HAS to stop. Go ahead and hunt if you want, but it looks to me like the Second Amendment was created so that we could hunt each other.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

"We Don't Benefit From Ignorance"

Well, some people do. Like the NRA and this ridiculous commercial. Just for the record, I am not President Obama's biggest fan, especially when it comes to his use of drones. But he is doing the right thing in this matter. I guess it's just too much to ask the NRA to support universal background checks, ban military assault weapons and keep magazines at 10 rounds. But no, we have to endure more insanity from the NRA, because they represent gun manufacturers. They don't give a damn about the President's kids and they sure don't give a damn about your kids. Clearly, if they cared at all, Sandy Hook would never of  happened and we would have had saner gun laws a long time ago. When the NRA asks if the President's kids are more important than your kids and your kids deserve the same protection. Is that really the point? The President's children I am sure, are in a lot greater danger than my kids in Nowhere, New Jersey. That's not elitist, that's a fact. If we had some better measures like the President is suggesting, America could be a safer place.
The NRA is not only benefiting from ignorance, you better believe it is profiting from it. 
What's really amazing, is that President Obama showed the intestinal fortitude to get this job done by signing 23 executive actions. Unfortunately, getting universal background checks and other reforms are going to have to come from Congress. I can only think there is going to be nothing but pushback against this. The NRA has bought so many politicians, no one  has the guts to go against them.  What happened today was a step in the right direction. However, judging from the NRA's new PR assault, they are only interested in dragging us all back in a direction our country can not afford to go, not if we care about the President's kids and everyone else's.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Kick The Climate Change Can Down The Road

This is the Kyoto Protocol map of participating countries. Dark green, are the countries that participate. Purple, this would be Russia, originally Russia had binding targets, now, not so much. The green countries are without binding targets. The U.S. is orange, no intention of ratifying the treaty, no binding targets. Canada renounced the treaty. also, no binding targets. The U.S. was never a member of the Kyoto Protocols, we officially withdrew effective 2012
Do you think that the Government is ever going to get real with what we are all experiencing? Global warming is here, it is real. For the people who are still dealing with the aftermath of "Superstorm Sandy" It is not just an abstract, it's reality. The coastline has changed and people who thought they would be able to rebuild are going to find that impossible due to the flooding that has occurred even after the hurricane. FEMA has given only a partial reimbursement to those who lost their primary residence. These homes now have to be raised on pilings, due to new the new flood  zones outlined by FEMA. Many don't have enough money to rebuild. Maybe they shouldn't rebuild, and that is another reality, the rising seas due to the melting of the polar ice caps, have changed our landscape all along the coast.
Congress is so damn worried about what the deficit will do to our grandchildren. They are oblivious to what the climate will do to them.
We will continue to broil at hotter temperatures, all summer long. The droughts that have affected the midwest and more in the U.S.and  will continue in 2013.
Again, our country will be on fire.
So we have floods, fire and drought, can famine be far behind? I know no one is really interested in this with the deficit and gun control. However, it amazes me that climate change is affecting so many, yet we choose to ignore the fact that global warming is having a real impact on us all, right now. While we hear a bunch of nonsense about how broke we are. We are willing to let our kids and grandchildren live in an environment that will continue to deteriorate, and still we do nothing. So turn up the air conditioning this summer. The energy companies love it. Frack and destroy. Someone is getting rich, believe it. But it is okay to kick the "Climate Change Can" down the road.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Adventures In Soothsaying

It doesn't take a psychic to be able to predict the next government crises. We got through part of the fiscal cliff with the middle class tax cuts being preserved and tax increases on people earning over $400,000. Meanwhile the payroll tax cuts ended, so it's a tax increase for the middle class. Confused? Here's where I get really confused.
 Payroll taxes are the taxes we pay for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Federal Insurance Contributions Act tax - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Now we are coming upon the "debt ceiling crises" What do you think will be the big bargaining chip that is put on the table? You don't need a magic 8 ball to predict this. If you guessed the "entitlements" that we pay for, you are correct. The GOP is willing to tolerate a government shut down in order to get cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Americans pay more in FICA taxes than they do income taxes. We pay a lot of money for these benefits. Now, if the GOP wants to at the very least, reduce these benefits, do you think they will reduce our FICA taxes? They keep pushing up the retirement age, since we are all living so much longer, like we can keep working till we're 70, even though you may not even be able to keep your job after you are 50. Reality is way different than whatever picture they paint in Congress.
President Obama has said that he is not going to bargain like he did 18 months ago. However, the GOP is blithely assuming that despite what the President say's that he will be willing to put "entitlements" on the table again and give the GOP what they want in order to keep the government from shutting down. Debt Ceiling Clash Nears for Lawmakers - read it and weep.
So now, I predict, we are going to go back and forth until February, in yet another pissing contest about who can yell louder to get what they want. None of it will be about what is best for the average middle class American. The last minute tax cut deal apparently didn't mean diddly to Congress and they are just going to keep saying the same tired crap over and over. They will tell more lies and create more confusion, so they can do whatever they can to keep the Department of Defense spending machine running. Unlike a lot of American people, the Department of Defense is not audited. They do not have to account for any taxpayer money spent. Billions of dollars in waste and fraud occurred in Iraq. It is probably continuing in Afghanistan and the best the government charlatans in Congress can do is grab whatever Social Security they can get their greedy hands on. It's sickening and completely predictable to know this is what's going to happen. That the GOP will waste even more time obstructing whatever they can, until they get a 11th hour last minute deal and throw whoever they can under the bus. I'd like to know what your prediction is. Get out the magic 8 ball, because really, the magic 8 ball is more useful than most Congress critters. One thing I will say, it is so easy to predict what the GOP will do, you don't need to be a psychic.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

That's OK Chris Christie, Boehner Told Harry Reid To F*ck Off Too!

It's amazing to see one Republican go after another in these days of polarization. This just proves that Republicans are a modern day Donner Party.
I hope the people who were affected by Superstorm Sandy get help. But I wouldn't hold my breath Governor. Maybe when the new Congress gets sworn in, Maybe.
When "big government" is the very reason your party cuts budgets, defunds social programs and refuses to set up health insurance exchanges, the irony isn't lost on me that Christie is in this position. Begging his fellow party members for help at the same time criticizing their callousness. Funny, how much Christie sounds like a Democrat now.

Brave New Republicans?

In my last post, I wondered where Harry Reid was in these recent fiscal cliff negotiations. Then I read this article. I will quote from this piece verbatim. 

"With no bipartisan agreement about the debt ceiling, spending cuts and tax increases in sight, Boehner reportedly pointed at Reid and said, "Go f**k yourself." What are you talking about?" Reid asked. And Boehner again said, "Go f**k yourself."
This needs to be the end of John Boehner. 
I am aware that Boehner joined forces with Paul Ryan and the fiscal cliff bill was passed with the Bush tax cuts being permanent for lower and middle class incomes. I am also aware that this is the first bill Boehner put to the floor that did not have Republican majority support. Their backs were against the wall because they had to vote for the tax cuts for the middle class, even if it meant tax hikes for the wealthy. Now I understand why Vice President Biden and Mitch McConnell had to be the ones to hash out the agreement. This does not reflect in any way on Harry Reid. This is about John Boehner's desperate attempt to stay in power.  He has no business being third in line to the President and Speaker Of The House. When you are doing your job and working with people you may personally dislike, you don't have the option of telling them to go F*ck themselves without losing your job. You find a way to work together, personal feelings have nothing to do with business. 
In this article, Harry Reid asserted that that Congress was being "operated by a dictatorship"  I never had any faith in John Boehner anyway. However, if this is what Harry Reid and others have had to deal with for the last four years, it's no wonder things can't get done, and a miracle that bill got passed last night.
We don't have a muslim, socialist, communist President. We have a totalitarian, dictator Speaker of the House, who acts like a high school student, who shouldn't even be trusted with leading Student Council. Hopefully he'll be given his walking papers soon. It is obvious he is not a leader, he needs to go. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Ding Dong, Grover Norquist Is Dead!

There are a lot of layers to this so-called "Fiscal-Cliff Deal". I like how these politicians waited till the last minute, like 6th graders with a book report due the next day. While everyone is distracted by the holiday, they strike a deal. I am always suspicious of these last minute agreements.
First of all, one of the most corrupt politicians in the U.S., Mitch McConnell, brokered this deal with Vice President Biden. Why was Harry Reid taken out of the conversation?
Second, this deal has once again, kicked the debt ceiling can down the road, which means another siege of tantrums and crying by politicians who don't care about doing the right thing.
Third, is the dark horse, Congress, that brainiac, "Plan B" Boehner can't control, they are going to have to approve this. There is already pushback. The holdouts that won't raise taxes on anybody ever. They might be considering this "deal", but their first considerations are always their own hides.
Taxes are going to go up for everyone no matter what is said and done. The payroll tax cut for the middle class will end. People making over $400,000 will be taxed 39.6% up from 35%.
 I don't know how much offshoring  people with $400,000-$450,000 do with their money. But one thing I'd like to know, is how are we ever going to get millionaires cash that's flowing to offshore accounts? Behold, FATCA, a new magical rule whereby the IRS requires offshore banks to report all U.S. account holders. So far only 7 nations have agreed to this. Doesn't seem terribly promising. FATCA goes into effect today.
Unemployment insurance was extended, as it should be, since Republican foolishness has kept the recession grinding on. The economy is improving little by little, in spite of them.
While the confetti is still falling and the back slapping continues, there is great relief all over the land.
However, something else might be trickling down. Congress, who lives in fear of the next election. They must be crapping themselves. What to do? Raising taxes could be very bad for Fright Wing political careers. John Boehner said on Nov.7, 2012 that, "The American people have also made it clear, there is no mandate to raise taxes".
Get out the Kleenex, because there's going to be a lot of crying, gnashing of teeth and carrying on.