Friday, July 31, 2009

Oy Vey . . . .

A trip south of the 49th to the United States of Expensive Health Care was required due to some still-retained properties in Florida.

While here, between accomplishing some outside chores in the 90+F (32+C) heat and matching humidity, I dash in to the air-conditioned comfort of the house for a break periodically. I flip the TV on to check on the local news, weather, etc. Typically, the ads on TV here are mainly promoting the wonder drug du jour to fix your restless leg, fungus-infected toe nail or limp penis. To my surprise (?) the past couple of days the local television station has been running nearly non-stop advertisements for the "Gun and Knife Show" that is to be held this weekend. Please note how they cater to the "ladies."

Can I go home to Vancouver now, please ? ? ? ?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Taibbi on Goldman & Government . . . .

Upon the release of the Matt Taibbi article on Goldman Sachs in "Rolling Stone" I devoured every word of it. Guess I must have been asleep at the switch when this video of Matt discussing the article was released.

At any rate, here goes: (There are five parts, but the whole video totals less than 11 minutes. Check the bottom of the screen as each video stops to find the next in the series.)

Nice to know there are still some real journalists out there . . . .

Monday, July 27, 2009

Money, Military and Madness . . . .

Currently I'm reading and just about to finish
The Sorrows of EMPIRE – Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic by Chalmers Johnson.

It's a great book with a look at US militarism and global monetary manipulation and their results both at home and abroad. The author's explanation and history of the Pentagon's influence on US government policies is eye-opening for the those not familiar in the ways of Washington. Written in 2004, some of his references are uncanny in their relevance today.

Some excerpts follow as a teaser for you:

After the 1992 election, Cheney left the Defense Department, and between 1995 and 2000 he was the chief executive officer of Halliburton. Under his leadership, Brown & Root took in $2.3 billion in government contracts, almost double the $1.2 billion it earned from the government in the five years before Cheney arrived. Halliburton rebuilt Saddam Hussein's war-damaged oil fields for some $23.8 million, even though Cheney, secretary of defense during the first Gulf War, had been instrumental in destroying them. By 1999, Halliburton had become the biggest nonunion employer in the United States, although Wal-Mart soon replaced it. Cheney also appointed Dave Gibben, his chief of staff when he was at the Pentagon, as one of Halliburton's leading lobbyists. In 2001, Cheney returned to Washington as vice president, and Brown & Root continued to build, maintain, and protect bases from Central Asia to the Persian Gulf.

During Cheney's term as Halliburton's CEO, the company advanced from seventy-third to eighteenth on the Pentagon's list of top contractors. Its number of subsidiaries located in offshore tax havens also increased from nine to forty-four. As a result, Halliburton went from paying $302 million in company taxes in 1998 to getting an $85 million tax refund in 1999.


In other words, feed at the taxpayer's trough, but never replenish it. Perish the thought, that would be un-American! “Profit=Good, Taxes=Bad” . . . .


Dick Cheney, Bush Senior's secretary of defense and Bush Junior's vice president, helped broker the deal, while out of office, between Chevron and Kazakhstan as a member of Kazakhstan's Oil Advisory Board. James A. Baker III, former secretary of state, mastermind of the scheme to get the Supreme Court to appoint bush Junior president in 2001, and senior partner of the Houston and Washington law firm of Baker Botts, had a hand in the negotiations. Baker's firm maintains an office in Baku staffed by five attorneys. He is a member of the U.S.-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce's advisory council, as is Cheney. During the 1990s the council's cochairman was Richard Armitage, a veteran administrator of the American-sponsored anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan during the 1980s and undersecretary of state in the second Bush administration. Brent Scowcroft, Rice's boss and mentor when he was Bush Senior's national security adviser, is a member of the board of Pennzoil, an active investor in the Caspian Sea oil consortia.


Is anyone else seeing a pattern here? High government positions and multi-national contracts. Who woulda thunk it ? ? ? ?


Clinton camouflaged his policies by carrying them out under the banner of “globalization.” this proved quite effective in maneuvering rich but gullible nations to do America's bidding – for example, Argentina – or in destabilizing potential rivals – for example, South Korea and Indonesia in the 1997 economic crisis – or in protecting domestic economic interests – for example, in maintaining the exorbitant prices of American pharmaceutical companies under cover of defending “intellectual property rights.” During the 1990s, the rationales of free trade and capitalist economics were used to disguise America's hegemonic power and make it seem benign or, at least, natural and unavoidable. The main agents of this imperialism were Clinton's secretary of the Treasury, Robert Rubin, and his deputy (today, president of Harvard University), Lawrence Summers. The United States ruled the world but did so in a carefully masked way that produced high degrees of acquiescence among the dominated nations.


Now where have we heard those last two names? Oh yeah, I know: Rubin was also a former Goldman Sachs and Citigroup big wheel and advisor to the current US president on the economic crisis, and Summers is actually a member of the current administration. Great how this is working out so far . . . .


Starting in approximately 1981, the United States introduced, under the cover of globalization, a new strategy intended to accomplish two major goals: first, to discredit state-assisted capitalism like Japan's and prevent its spread to any countries other than the East Asian NICs, which had already industrialized by following the Japanese model; and second, to weaken the sovereignty of Third world nations so that they would become even more dependent on the largesse of the advanced capitalist nations and unable to organize themselves as a power bloc to negotiate equitable with the rich countries.

The United States's chosen instruments for putting this strategy into effect were the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Like the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the World Bank and the IMF were created after World War II to manage the international economy and prevent a recurrence of the beggar-thy-neighbor policies of the 1930s. What has to be understood is that both the fund and the bank are actually surrogates for the U.S. Treasury. They are both located at 19th and H Streets, Northwest, in Washington, DC, and their voting rules ensure that they can do nothing without the approval of the secretary of the Treasury. The political scientist Thomas Ferguson compares the IMF to the famous dog in the RCA advertisements listening to “his master's voice” - the Treasury – on a Victrola.


Appears to be a bit incestuous, don't you think? Probably not too much of a problem, though. These guys are trustworthy, or they wouldn't be in these positions, right ? ? ? ?


Thus was born the weird phenomenon of “moral hazard,” meaning American bankers could make outrageously irresponsible loans without any risk of having to absorb the loss or make good the money they had mismanaged. Before it was over, the 1970s loan bonanza produced a disaster of exactly the sort Keynes and the reformers at the end of World War II had sought to avoid. Virtually every country in Africa and Latin America was deeply in debt. In August 1982, Jesus Silva Herzog, the Mexican minister of finance, announced that his country was bankrupt and would no longer be able to pay interest on any of its loans. Just as the bankers had assumed, the U.S. Government stepped in – not to save Mexico but to ensure that American banks did not collapse. At no time, then or later, did our government suggest that the people who made the bad loans bore some responsibility for the results.


Well, golly gee whiz. Where have we heard that tune before? Perhaps during the end of the bush regime and now at the beginning of the new one? One would think that learning by past mistakes would be a no-brainer, but I guess not . . . .

(Remember this book was written in 2004, not 2009.)


The United States was the architect of and main profiteer from these efforts. From 1991 to 1993, Lawrence Summers was the chief economist at the World Bank and the man who oversaw the tailoring of “austerity measures” to each country that needed a loan. He decided exactly what a country had that Washington wanted to open up. On December 12, 1991, Summers became notorious for a leaked memo to senior officials of the bank encouraging polluting industries in the rich nations to relocate to the less developed countries. He wrote, “I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage countries is impeccable and we should face up to that.” Brazil's secretary of environment, Jose Lutzenburger replied, “The best thing that could happen would be for the Bank to disappear.”


There's that Summers guy's name again. What's he doing nowadays? Oh yeah, he's currently the Director of the White House's National Economic Council. This oughta work out just great . . . .

As my friends hear me say on a semi-regular basis:

We're doomed! Doomed!”

Get the book or check it out at your local library like I did.

Then, tell your friends . . . .

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Moyers on Health Care Winners & Losers . . . .

Once again, Bill Moyers of PBS puts current events in their respective places.

His essay this week was on the winners and losers in the debate over US health care "reform."

If anyone has doubts that there will be substantial "reform" I'm with 'ya. There is WAY too much $$ involved on the corporate side to allow it. That $$ funnelled to elected "representative's" political campaign funds was and is not $$ wasted. Politicians know it, lobbyists know it, political "talking heads" know it and the for-profit health industry knows it.

So why does the MSM continue to report the story like there is actually a snowball's chance in hell of "reform"? Probably the same reason they:

Insisted there were meaningful debates during the presidential campaign;
Had wall to wall coverage of Michael Jackson's death;
Cover Britney Spears' lastest breakdown ad nauseum;
Convince everyone to run for cover from swine flu H1N1;
Warn that professional sports is coming to an end due to steroid use by the athletes;
Blah, blah, blah, blah blah.*

It all boils down to ratings/commercial ad rates which - as is the case with the for-profit health industy - means profit$.

They're all playin' for the same team.

Wanna know who the losers are gonna be in this "debate"?

Look around. Unless you're in the corporate boardroom, you are . . . .

*(As a side note, can you imagine Walter Crokite reporting on MJ's funeral or BS' breakdowns in any way, shape or form? Nah, me neither . . . . )

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Atheists vs. repugs - Round One . . . .

Let the battle begin.

It's actually not much $$ involved.

It's the principle of the thing.

Per McClatchey today:

Atheists sue to keep 'In God We Trust' off Capitol Visitor Center
Rob Hotakainen | McClatchy Newspapers Posted: July 18, 2009

WASHINGTON — A California Republican congressman wants to do a little writing on the walls of Washington's newest federal building. If Rep. Dan Lungren gets his way, Congress will spend nearly $100,000 to engrave the words "In God We Trust" and the Pledge of Allegiance in prominent spots at the Capitol Visitor Center.

Lungren's proposal drew only a whimper of opposition last week when the House of Representatives voted 410-8 to approve it. Now, however, Lungren finds himself tussling with a national atheists and agnostics group.

The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation Inc. sued this week to stop the engraving, accusing Lungren of trying to force his religious beliefs on as many as 15 percent of all U.S. adults. That comprises "atheists, agnostics, skeptics and freethinkers, none of whom possess a belief in a god," according to the lawsuit.

"It really is a Judeo-Christian endorsement by our government, and so Lungren is wrong," said Dan Barker of Madison, Wis., a co-president of the foundation. "Lungren and others are pro-religious, and they want to actually use the machinery of government to promote their particular private religious views. That is unconstitutional, and that's what we're asking the court to decide."


The Freedom From Religion Foundation, which has 13,500 members, sued in U.S. District Court in Wisconsin. It alleges that Congress is trying to make belief in God synonymous with citizenship and "discouraging nonbelief" among Americans, a contention that Lungren rejects.

Lungren said that the phrase "In God We Trust" had a long history and was consistent with the beliefs of America's founding fathers. He also said that the Declaration of Independence referred to rights given by a creator.


Barker said the foundation had been waiting for the right case to challenge "In God We Trust." He said government actions could be challenged on state-church grounds if they had specific religious agendas. In this case, he said, backers of Lungren's plan have provided "the smoking guns" by giving specific, overt religious reasons for doing the engraving.

Barker said that atheists regarded the phrase "In God We Trust" as rude, uncivil and un-American.

"Tens of millions of really good Americans don't believe in God," he said. "In fact, there's many more nonbelievers than there are Jews, and we wouldn't think of offending Jews on our national monuments. . . . Why is it wrong to offend a Jewish minority but it's not wrong to offend those of us who serve in the military and sit on juries but we don't believe in God?"

This Freedom From Religion Foundation sounds like my kind of people.

Makes me proud to be a "Dairy Queen" originally from Wisconsin . . . .

Saturday, July 11, 2009

dickhead cheney Involved. Quelle Surprise . . . .

When does this guy get his comeuppance, anyway?

Can't he share a room with Bernie Madoff or something?

Today's New York Times has the story:

Cheney Is Linked to Concealment of C.I.A. Project
| July 12, 2009

The Central Intelligence Agency withheld information about a secret counterterrorism program from Congress for eight years on direct orders from former Vice President Dick Cheney, the agency’s director, Leon E. Panetta, has told the Senate and House intelligence committees, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said Saturday.

The report that Mr. Cheney was behind the decision to conceal the still-unidentified program from Congress deepened the mystery surrounding it, suggesting that the Bush administration had put a high priority on the program and its secrecy.


Efforts to reach Mr. Cheney through relatives and associates were unsuccessful.


The past couple of months he's been hard to miss on the cable news networks.

Guess he's gone back to the "undisclosed location" . . . .

Friday, July 10, 2009

Kucinich on Canadian Health Care . . . .

You GO Dennis, my man!

Take that, "Blue Dog" dems.

Dennis is the man, once again . . . .

(Isn't that John Conyers over gratzer's shoulder?!?)

H/T Crooks and Liars for the heads up.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Bang, Bang . . . .

Per Congressional Quarterly today:

House Panel Adopts Amendment Allowing Guns in Public Housing
By Karoun Demirjian, CQ Staff | July 9, 2009 – 11:40 a.m.

Gun rights advocates scored a victory Thursday as the House Financial Services Committee adopted an amendment to allow guns in public housing projects.

The amendment, offered by Tom Price , R-Ga., would bar any housing authority from restricting legal ownership of guns. It was adopted by 38-31, as the committee continued its markup of a housing bill (HR 3045) the panel is expected to approve next week.

While the Department of Housing and Urban Development does not have a specific policy concerning guns in public housing, several local agencies have banned them in an effort to reduce violent crime in housing projects. Major urban centers began to adopt gun bans in the 1990s, and advocates of such steps argued they have improved the safety of public housing.

“There was a time during the ’70s and ’80s when public housing developments were considered killing grounds,” said Emanuel Cleaver II , D-Mo., who grew up in public housing. “It is just foolhardy to place guns in developments of poor people, many of whom are unemployed, and place these guns around children. . . . Why would we try to put guns in the most densely populated areas in the urban core? It’s just unbelievable.”

Well, now that makes perfect sense, don't you think?

"Unbelievable" is right . . . .

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Nothing to See Here. Move Along, Please . . . .

Can we move along, now, people?

Fer cryin' out loud, already.

Set your priorities a little higher . . . .

Video H/T to the medical team @ ACR.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The Rev. Is Preachin' to the Canada Day Choir . . . .


And he even mentions Walter Ostenak.

Come on home, Rev. . . . .

"Poor" Exxon . . . .

The corporate power$-that-be decided to give up their fight and pay out $ome of their enormou$ profit$.

From the Anchorage Daily News:

Company decides not to fight to bitter end on interest payment


Exxon Mobil's decision to accept an appeals court judgment that it owes $470 million in interest to those hurt by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill is cause for celebration. The oil giant could have carried the battle to the Supreme Court but did not.

No explanation.

That's OK. Deeds count more than words anyway.

When added to $507.5 million in punitive damages, the interest payments will nearly double the award for the average claimant.

Well, it'$ not like they can't afford it . . . .