Wednesday
Dec122012

Rants Are Back

Yes, my rants page is back, after a long absence.  I had disabled it for a while, for a couple of reasons: 1.) this site was kind of in hybrid mode for a while, doubling as my professional (photography) site, and I didn't want to be spouting off political crap here that might offend potential customers, and 2:) I really didn't have shit to say for a while; or rather, I was just lacking the ambition to say it.  I've separated out my business now, though (aside from still posting studio rental info here), and I've been feeling more like writing something with a little more depth than a typical Facebook post, so I decided it was time to bring it back.  Also, I decided that if I offend somebody, tough shit.  I'm not going to silence myself to secure business.  If my opinions bother someone that badly, they can move on to the next provider.

Occupy

When I last left you here, my then-recent posts were voicing support of the Occupy Wall Street movement.  My tune's changed a bit on that front.  I still support what they originally stood for, but at this point, I wish they'd just go away.  They accomplished, and are accomplishing, absolutely nothing.  Say what you will about the Tea Party, and god knows I hate them, but at least they progressed, took things to the next level to try to affect the change they hoped to see.  The Occupy movement, on the other hand, with its reluctance to get involved in politics, be it supporting major party candidates or running their own candidates and/or own party, makes itself absolutely powerless and easily dismissed by those whom they're protesting.  Who, exactly, is quaking in their boots over the threat of Occupy Wall Street?  It's time to shit or get off the pot, guys and gals...

Anyway, more to come, though I'm sure I'll still be fairly sporadic.  Just take it as it comes, and hopefully I still have a couple readers left that will actually notice. :)

Tuesday
Dec062011

Call to Occupy Colorado Springs Protesters!

Attention Occupy Colorado Springs protesters!  Do you want to have more say in the next Presidential election?  Register as a Republican now to have some say in who gets nominated by that party!  Don't worry, this doesn't limit who you can vote for in the general election, and you can change your party affiliation at anytime, including on election day.  However, if you want to participate in the Colorado Republican caucuses, you need to register as a Republican by TOMORROW, and at a very specific location.  Watch the video above for more details.

Monday
Dec052011

Are You Angry YET???

Hopefully you've all seen/read the Bloomberg News story by now, of how the Federal Reserve secretly channeled over $7.77 TRILLION dollars into the large banking institutions via virtually interest-free (0.01%) loans during the financial crisis of 2007-2009.  That's right, folks: $7.77 TRILLION with a T.  It makes the meager $700B TARP bailout look like pocket change by comparison.  And if it weren't for a disclosure lawsuit, argued all the way to the highest court in the land, you and I still wouldn't know about it.

Making Money on Our Money

Here's where it gets really good.  So the banks got $7.77 TRILLION in FREE (0.01% interest is basically free) money from us – money we don't have, and representing about half of our GDP – and then they got to turn it into $13 BILLION in profits, too!  How?  Sure, some of it was via traditional lending (you know – charging you & me interest and fees), but they earned a lot of that profit by investing in US treasuries.  Yep, that's right.  The government, as the Federal Reserve, gave money at 0.01% to the big banks; then, as the Treasury, turned around and paid the banks around 3.3% on US treasury bonds that they invested in.  WHAT THE FUCK?

Feeding the Rich, Starving the Poor

Enter the draconian cuts.  Unless you've been living under a rock, I'm sure you've noticed all the deficit/debt cutting talk that's been going on in Washington this year.  "We're in fiscal crisis!  We must cut everything!"  Of course, the proposed cuts from the right side of the aisle always come to programs like education, Medicare and Social Security.  Sadly, many on the left have joined in on the talk, saying "it's necessary to compromise."

Social Security is currently operating at a fairly long-term, $22 TRILLION surplus!  Yet, we're giving away trillions to the banks and demanding that Social Security recipients make a sacrifice?   That's fucked up.

Let's say the Federal Reserve got back every penny of the money they loaned to these institutions.  Do you think that keeps us in the black, that it was a prudent investment?  Remember that the US Treasury paid out over 3% interest on the bonds the banks bought with their free money; so even if we got all money back on the Reserve side of the chain, we lost it on the Treasury side.  Banks win, we lose.

Total Secrecy

Of course, our idiots in Congress might not have been arguing for cuts to the working man had they known what was going on, and that's the kicker – they didn't know!  How on god's green earth can our Federal Reserve Bank have so much power that it can move around nearly $8 TRILLION without anyone in Congress knowing?  Do you think Congress would have voted for TARP if they had known that nearly $8T had already been basically given to the banks for free?  In fact, if it weren't for a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed to open up the documents surrounding this, we still wouldn't know!  It's unfathomable to me that we can have this level of gambling going on with taxpayer money, yet we're not allowed to know anything about it.

Creating Jobs

One talking point many of the big banks have been eager to trot out, first during the TARP bailout, and more recently during the Occupy Wall Street protests, is that much of that money was used to loan money to small businesses to create jobs.  Hear that?  They're altruists!  Did you know that many of those same banks are off-shoring greater and great percentages of their own staff (particularly IT) to places like India, Hong Kong, Taiwan, etc.; that they're often laying off their American workers in order to replace them with cheaper counterparts overseas?  Wanna give 'em some more free money now?

Where's the Media?

Of course, you're probably bored reading this piece about the situation because you've been so inundated with stories about it by the mainstream media, right?  Ha!  Fat chance!  Since Bloomberg broke the story last week, I've seen or heard very little of this.  The leading national news shows might have given it a quick mention the night after it broke, but little else.  In fact if you go to MSNBC's, the New York Times' or FOX News' websites right now, you won't see anything on their front pages about this.  Why not?!!!  This should the lead story on every newspaper, website and TV news show EVERY DAY until people are fired and real regulations are passed.  This shouldn't be allowed to pass, and our journalism industry should be the ones holding feet to the fire.  Where are they?

Fire Geithner NOW

Many of us have been calling for Geithner's head for years.  Before this story broke, we already knew that he was a Wall Street insider who helped facilitate the mess that led to TARP.  I think that was enough for most of us to be pretty displeased when Obama tapped him to be his Treasury Secretary.  Now that we know TARP was only the tip of the iceberg, I don't think we should even have to be asking anymore; Obama should just have the sense to fire him.  Apparently he doesn't, though, so let's start SHOUTING the message.

Occupy Wall Street

Are you beginning to see why the Occupy Wall Street protests exist, why they're growing and why people are pissed?  As a result of the big banks' misdealings that led to our financial crisis, millions of Americans have lost their homes.  Many more have lost their jobs.  How many of them do you think are getting bailed out?  "Oh no, we couldn't afford that!"  But we can afford giving the big banks $7.77T in interest-free money that we didn't even have, then turn around and PAY THEM interest on that money when they buy our bonds?  REALLY?   And then watch these fat cats make record profits and turn around and start paying themselves record bonuses again?  REALLY?  The question isn't why are all the Occupy folks protesting, but why aren't the rest of us all joining them and demanding some real change (as well as some heads)?

Demand Accountability

This story will die only if we allow it to die, and that's why it is dying right now.  The media, and the government via the media, carry a lot of power in controlling what message reaches your eyes and ears.  However, it's a brave, new (ok, not so new anymore) digital world out there, and we have the power to circumvent the message that's chosen for us.  Do you want accountability?  Well, if you're reading this, chances are you also have a blog, Facebook account, or some sort of online presence that allows you to disseminate your message, what you feel is important.  If you don't, you probably at least have email.  SPREAD THE WORD.  Let's get our outrage over this so spread out, so pervasive, that the powers that be can't ignore us anymore.  This is one we can't let slide, kids.  If this little gamble had failed, we would have been – pardon my French – fucked beyond belief.  That's not what I want for my children.  We need to do better, and we can do better.  That means taking our government back, once again making it "by the people, for the people."  That means no secrecy, and not letting the corporations control all our money (and all the politicians and appointees that control that money).

Thursday
Nov032011

Back to that jobs speech…

Ok, so cares what I think about Obama's job speech now, right; nearly two months after I said I was going to critique it "shortly"?  Well, on the plus side, that additional time has given us time to reflect on what has or hasn't happened since. :)

I thought the President's speech overall was very good, offering some bold initiatives to get the country moving again, to get some actual jobs created.  And quite frankly, that's what needed right now – something bold.  I also loved how he called out the Republicans on their bullshit, how they fight tirelessly to make sure we never raise taxes by a dime on the rich, but how they seemed perfectly content to let the payroll tax holiday (on SS and Medicare taxes) expire, which primarily affects lower and middle class Americans.  Why is it OK to let taxes go up for them?

That said, I also thought the President offered up a lot of capitulating bullshit for no other reason than to appease the Republicans, as they were ideas that we already know don't work.  What are those?  Lowering taxes for "job creators" and easing or reversing regulations.  How do we know those things don't work, that they don't create jobs?  Because we have the last decade as evidence!  When Bush and the Republicans ruled the roost, they did nothing but lower taxes for the rich/corporations and ease up regulations, and how many jobs were created?  We've lost jobs in record numbers, by the MILLIONS!  When you offer up more tax breaks to a corporation, they don't run out and hire more workers.  No, they just pocket more profit.  And if they do need to hire more workers, they'll just hire more workers over in China for $0.75/hour.  Why not?  They can make more profit that way, and there's currently no penalty for doing so (which there should be).

And back to that payroll tax holiday; whereas I think the Republicans are hypocrites for wanting to end it while refusing to end the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans, I also don't see how the payroll tax holiday really helps create jobs.  I mean, the only ones that benefit from it are those that already have jobs, right?  They're not the ones that need the help right now…  So in a time of soaring deficits, he wants to keep revenues lower for what?  Personally, I believe that the deficit can't be our primary concern in a time of economic crisis like this, that we might have to spend a bit to get ourselves out of it.  However, if we are going to extend our deficit spending, it has to be for initiatives that create jobs and nothing more.  Giving the already-employed a tax break won't create jobs and raises our deficit due to decreased revenue.  It's a lose-lose situation.

Also, even for all his good ideas, as I listened I had very little hope.  Why?  Because I knew that each and every one of his ideas would be shut down by the Republicans in Congress, thus ensuring that his plans went nowhere.  Hell, many of his ideas are of Republican origin!  It doesn't matter; they have publicly stated that their sole goal is to see President Obama fail.  If that means the country fails, too, so be it.  They don't really care.  And sure enough, that has been exactly what has happened these past couple of months.  The Republicans have shot down EVERY SINGLE jobs bill the Democrats have put forth, no matter how small and watered down, no matter how much ground they ceded to the Republicans in order to reach a compromise.  The Republicans don't care about seeing America succeed, they only want to see Obama fail.

So all in all, it was a great speech, but nothing more.  The Republicans are hell-bent on making sure that none of his plans can become successful actions.  Welcome to the United States political system…

Tuesday
Oct112011

The Occupy protests: A timely call for justice

See the original posting of this article, at the source, here.  I completely agree with Mr. Robinson.  However, I think what the protesters are fighting for, though maybe not clearly articulated by them as a whole group, is abundantly clear.  I post this article now as a point of reference, as I will touch on those items later.


By Eugene Robinson, Published: October 10

Occupy Wall Street and its kindred protests around the country are inept, incoherent and hopelessly quixotic. God, I love ’em.

I love every little thing about these gloriously amateurish sit-ins. I love that they are spontaneous, leaderless and open-ended. I love that the protesters refuse to issue specific demands beyond a forceful call for economic justice. I also love that in Chicago — uniquely, thus far — demonstrators have ignored the rule about vagueness and are being ultra-specific about their goals. I love that there are no rules, just tendencies.

I love that when Occupy Wall Street was denied permission to use bullhorns, demonstrators came up with an alternative straight out of Monty Python, or maybe “The Flintstones”: Have everyone within earshot repeat a speaker’s words, verbatim and in unison, so the whole crowd can hear. It works — and sounds tremendously silly. Protest movements that grow into something important tend to have a sense of humor.

I can’t help but love that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor called the protests “growing mobs” and complained about fellow travelers who “have actually condoned the pitting of Americans against Americans.” This would be the same Eric Cantor who praised the Tea Party movement in its raucous, confrontational, foaming-at-the-mouth infancy as “an organic movement” that was “about the people.” The man’s hypocrisy belongs in the Smithsonian.

Most of all, I love that the Occupy protests arise at just the right moment and are aimed at just the right target. This could be the start of something big and important.

“Economic justice” may mean different things to different people, but it’s not an empty phrase. It captures the sense that somehow, when we weren’t looking, the concept of fairness was deleted from our economic system — and our political lexicon. Economic injustice became the norm.

Revolutionary advances in technology and globalization are the forces most responsible for the hollowing-out of the American economy. But our policymakers responded in ways that tended to accentuate, rather than ameliorate, the most damaging effects of these worldwide trends.

The result is clear: a nation where the rich have become the mega-rich while the middle class has steadily lost ground, where unemployment is stuck at levels once considered unbearable, and where our political system is too dysfunctional to take the kind of bold action that would make a real difference. Eventually, the economy will limp out of this slump, and things will seem better. Fundamentally, however, nothing will have changed.

Does that sound broad and unfocused? Yes, but it’s true.

The Occupy Wall Street protesters saw this broad, unfocused truth — and also understood that the place to begin this movement was at the epicenter of the financial system.

For most of our history, it was understood that the financial sector was supposed to perform a vital service for the economy: channeling capital to the companies where it could be most effectively used. But the rapid technological, economic and political change the world has witnessed in recent decades created myriad opportunities for Wall Street to channel capital to itself, often by inventing exotic new securities whose underpinnings may not exist. The 2008 financial crisis demonstrated the urgent need for reform.

It’s not that investment bankers should be held responsible for all the ills of the world. It’s that Wall Street is emblematic of an entire economic and political system that no longer seems to have the best interests of most Americans at heart.

So a ragtag group — not huge, but idealistic and determined — camps out in Lower Manhattan. A similar thing happens in two dozen other cities. And maybe a movement is born.

Already, after less than a month, commentators are asking whether the Occupy protests can be transformed into a coherent political force. For now, at least, I hope not.

We have no shortage of politicians in this country. What we need is more passion and energy in the service of justice. We need to be forced to answer questions that sound simplistic or naive — questions about ethics and values. Detailed policy positions can wait.

At some point, these protest encampments will disappear — and, since the nation and the world will not have changed, they’ll be judged a failure. But I’ve got a hunch that this likely judgment will be wrong. I think the seed of progressive activism in the Occupy protests may grow into something very big indeed.

The writer will answer questions at 1 p.m. today at www.washingtonpost.com. His e-mail address is eugenerobinson@washpost.com.

Saturday
Sep102011

The American Jobs Act Speech (VIDEO)

For those who didn’t see President Obama’s jobs speech the other night, here it is in full.  I’ll offer my own critique of it here shortly, but wanted to ensure everyone at least had a chance to see it before I begin critiquing/debating it.

Saturday
Mar052011

FOX News on Wealth & Sacrifice

The Daily Show did a brilliant bit on their show the other night (video above), showing just how hypocritical the Republicans in the federal and state legislatures, and particularly their talking heads at FOX News – and to a lesser degree, CNN – are when it comes to money and sacrifice.  The clip above does a pretty job of covering it, but I’m still going to add my two cents on those same points here…

First, let’s go back to the tax cut debate that was being had late last year, before all the cuts were ultimately extended.  The Republicans and the talking heads at FOX News painted a picture that those making over $250,000 per year couldn’t afford to pay a slightly higher tax rate on the income earned over that amount, as people making that much money were practically in poverty.  It’s a wonder they could put food on their table!  How dare we ask them to pay a slight bit more in taxes!

Fast forward to the last couple of weeks in Wisconsin, where the debate is being held over teacher pay, and these same people paint a picture that teachers are some sort of rich, fat-cat bastards because they make $50,000 PER YEAR!!!  Whoa, Nelly!  Yes, yes, MAKE THEM SACRIFICE!!!!!  Unreal…

Now lets go back to the Wall Street bailouts of 2008 and 2009.  As you may recall, a lot of people were calling for executive pay and bonuses to be cut, or at least limited, during this time, as these assholes are the ones that brought not just our national economy, but the GLOBAL economy, to a screeching halt.  Enjoying the recession so far?  Well, these dickheads caused it.  Do you think the talking heads were calling for their heads?  Hell no!  We couldn’t cut their bonuses or limit their pay, despite saving their asses with BILLIONS of taxpayer dollars, because they had contracts.  You just can’t break a contract…  Besides that, if you want the company to be run well, you have to pay for the best, right?

Fast forward to Wisconsin again, and these arguments conveniently disappear with these people.  Now the teachers are expected to just give up their contracts, because after all, they’re paid with taxpayer dollars, therefore they should just bend over and say, “Thank you, sir!”  And paying for quality?  Fuck that!  No, now we should pay these people as little as humanly possible.  After all, it’s only the future that they hold in their hands.

CAN YOU SAY HYPOCRISY???

Thursday
Jan202011

O’Reilly Logic

This isn’t exactly news, as this is over a week old, but I just saw the interview for the first time and wanted to share and comment.

If Bill O’Reilly, or anybody else, wants to believe in a god, that’s fine; but is this really his logic?  The tide goes in and out, so that proves there’s a god?  And his assertion that it can’t be explained is ridiculous.  Does he ever bother to read about any scientific findings?  We’ve known for a long time that the tides are controlled by the gravitational pull of the moon.  Pretty easy explanation, actually…  Also, the sun doesn’t go up and down; the earth simply rotates, giving the appearance of such an event.  Go ahead, Bill, hit us up with more of your “unexplainable” natural phenomena…

Thursday
Jan202011

The Rhetoric on Rhetoric

Ever since the shooting in Tucson, everybody on the Left and the Right has been talking about “toning down the heated rhetoric,” and “restoring civility.”  It all started with the Left blaming Palin’s gun rhetoric in her Tea Party campaigns for possibly inciting Loughner to violence.  Then Palin and the Right claim to be unfairly persecuted, and accuse the Left of hateful rhetoric.  And so now everyone claims to want to play nice…

Don’t be fooled; it’s all a load of crap.  As supposed evidence of his intent to tone down the rhetoric, Speaker Boehner has started referring to health care reform law as “job crushing” or “job destroying” instead of “job killing” in his verbal and written remarks about repealing the law.  Really?  That’s toning it down?  Does “crushing” or “destroying” really sound any less threatening or violent than “killing”?  That’s not a rhetoric change; that’s just a word change.  The rhetoric – the tone – is exactly the same.

Likewise, while Sarah Palin put out her video message saying everyone needs to stop accusing her of things she’s not guilty of and of politicizing the Tucson shooting, in that very message she politicizes it by claiming that he’s some sort of leftist anarchist.  She upped the rhetoric while calling for toning down the rhetoric!

I know what you’re thinking…  “Oh, those hateful, divisive Republicans!  Why can’t they be more like the peaceful, inclusive Democrats?”  Oh, don’t go thinking the Democrats are innocent here!  Let us remember that the Left was the side that immediately jumped into politicizing the shooting, blaming it on Tea Party/Rightwing rhetoric.  And just in the past twenty-four hours, we saw Democratic Representative Steve Cohen, from Tennessee, using the tired old trick of comparing the opposing party (Republicans) to the Nazis for their stance on a policy he disagrees with.  A new ear of civility, indeed…

So what’s changed or changing?  Nothing, and here’s why:

  • We’re overreacting to the situation.  Just because a lone madman unleashed bullets in a crowd doesn’t mean all metaphorical uses of the words killing, shooting, guns, etc. are bad and need to be removed from our lexicon.  His act shouldn’t define our language.
  • The idiots that are calling for the more civil rhetoric don’t seem to even know what rhetoric means.  Simply changing one word to another doesn’t change the tone or intent of the message.  Toning down the rhetoric and being more civil means changing the tone of our message, and actually having a constructive conversation about the issues instead of just shouting ideological epithets at each other.
  • We don’t elect reasonable, moderate politicians to office, politicians that actually represent the moderate majority of their constituencies.  The way our political election system works, it’s designed to reward and elect people from the extreme left or extreme right.  These ends of the political spectrum are not where most of us fall, and extremes don’t play nice together.  I’ll be touching on this point in a future blog post.

So all this talk (rhetoric) of toning down the political rhetoric and ushering in a new era of civility needs to stop, as no one who’s saying it actually means it.  What they mean is that they just want the other side to do it, while they continue shouting.  As examples of this, just re-read the examples I gave above, and just turn to FOX News or MSNBC for plenty more.  I could accept this discussion if I felt there was even 1% sincerity in it, but I simply don’t.

As I alluded to in the third bullet point in the list above, I’ll be writing a post soon about how we got here, and what our true solution to it is, but I can assure you it’s not the simple politically correct calls for civility that our ideological politicians from the far left and far right – elected via a grossly faulted system – are calling for.  If it were, we’d already be seeing change, but instead we’ve seen both sides go right back to normal within days of initiating the pretense of a discussion.

 

Wednesday
Jan192011

A Party Without a Conscience

Today the House of Representatives voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the landmark health care reform bill passed into law in March of 2010.  This may have been the most pointless, most wasteful, and most vindictive vote ever held by the U.S. House of Representatives.  It’s pointless because they cannot pass this measure into law, as the Republicans don’t control the Senate or the Presidency.  It’s wasteful because taxpayer money paid for them to play this little symbolic charade.  And it’s vindictive for the same reason that it’s pointless; they can’t accomplish their goal, and thus this act served nothing more than to send the President a message, a message he can safely ignore because of his veto power (which he doesn’t even need, because the Senate has no intention of even recognizing this bill).

What galls me most about this is not the ideological & political divisiveness.  This is Washington, after all, and it is the Republicans.  We’re talking about a political party that has gone to great pains to define themselves as the Party of No over the last couple of years, so it’s not surprising that their first act after gaining control of the House was to pass a bill that says, “NO!” loud and clear.  What else would we expect?

No, what galls me – what astounds me no matter what the party – is how they are willing to deny so many people access to affordable and available healthcare, benefits they did not have before, and that they would not have again if this repeal were enacted.  You see, many of the provisions of the health care act have already taken affect and are already benefitting millions of Americans.  The poorest Americans.  The forgotten Americans.  The Americans that can’t afford to donate to political campaigns to affect the change they want or need.  You know, like say… the large insurance and pharmaceutical companies? 

Here’s a sampling of what the Republicans have just voted to deny millions of Americans:

  • Extending coverage to 30 million previously uninsured Americans
  • Allowing parents to insure their children up to age 26, ensuring that they can still have coverage while they finish college, work those beginner jobs that might not provide insurance, or who are still just unemployed because of this weak economy.
  • Not allowing insurance companies to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions, which it’s estimated over 129 million Americans have.
  • Lowering the cost of most drugs covered by Medicare.

In addition to this, they also just voted to increase our federal budget deficit, as the Affordable Care Act is projected to save us over $200B over the next decade.  How’s that for fiscal responsibility?  So their complaints about the costs are disingenuous at best, and flat-out lies at worst.

Another of their lies is that it’s “job-killing”.  If you follow the news at all, you’ve undoubtedly heard them repeatedly refer to the health care reform as the “Job-Killing Health Care Law Act”.  The fact is, the health care act will likely actually create many jobs – in hospitals, insurance companies, drug companies, medical suppliers, etc. – simply due to the millions of additional Americans that will now be covered and seeking necessary medical care, and also because of the health insurance mandate.

The House was originally going to hold this vote on health care repeal last week, but Mr. Boehner, the Speaker of the House, postponed it until this week in Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’s honor, to supposedly avoid partisan rancor and keep a spirit of bipartisan civility in the aftermath of the Tucson shooting.  However, I wonder if Mr. Boehner or any of the other House Republicans have given any thought to how Ms. Giffords has been able to get the quality health care treatment she has; quality, top-of-the-line treatment that undoubtedly saved her life.  In fact, she was able to receive this immediate, quality treatment because of the top-notch health care coverage she receives as a federal employee, coverage many Americans don’t enjoy.  Who are we to say that a federal employee deserves such coverage, but the local gas station attendant doesn’t?  Is one’s life worth more than the other? 

To read personal stories of people who would be very negatively affected by a repeal, please click on the link to the article I provided at the beginning of this article.  If you’re for repeal, please tell me in the comments, which of these people’s lives is undeserving of saving?  Who would you like to let die?

What the Republicans have done today is to affirm that they are the Party of No, that they are shills for big business, that they have no shame, and they have no concern for the “little guy”.  They should be utterly ashamed of themselves, but as I said, they are a party without shame.  They’ll sleep just fine tonight, on expensive sheets in their expensive second homes, comfortable in the fact that they make $174k+ per year and have some of the best health insurance money can buy.  They won’t be ashamed or have trouble sleeping, but they should.

 

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