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Monthly Archives: June 2009

Here’s an idea…

Since it is true that Canada and most European countries have some form of socialized medicine, and it is true that in none of these countries do the citizens want to give up their socialized medicine despite whatever taxes they pay for them (their argument being that the taxes involved are much lower than insurance premiums and deductibles would be), why doesn’t someone in Congress just go ASK them how they run their plans?  I have yet to see a simple table showing name of country, outline of coverage, cost to government, cost to taxpayers, satisfaction rate.

I am not satisfied that the Republicans are correct to be scared of “socialized medicine”, nor do I believe that the Democrats know what “socialized medicine” is. We are told we “can’t” do it like Europe, or that we “shouldn’t” do it like Europe, but nobody will tell us exactly how they do it in Europe.

And anecdotes about your Auntie Bessie in Canada don’t count.

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Posted by on June 30, 2009 in big ag/pharma, Congress

 

Here’s the (new) deal.

You come home from work and tell your wife about your day. The boss has laid off ten people today, but you’re not one of them. However, you have been given a choice: either take a pay cut or start paying the entire health insurance premium out of your own paycheck. The boss says rates have gone up another 25% this time, and he just can’t afford to cover you any more. Your wife doesn’t feel well and you wonder if she ought to get her blood pressure checked again, but you don’t say anything because you know she’ll tell you she can’t take another half day off work for the appointment. Your son stomps in. He’s pissed because he is out of college for the summer and still can’t find a summer job. You don’t know how to tell him that he may not be going back to school in August since you just got word that some of his scholarships aren’t going to be available this year after all.

And hot dogs for supper again. You hate fucking hot dogs, which, of course, you make the mistake of saying to your wife who tells you to go do the shopping yourself and see how far you can make the grocery budget go. Food prices are up. Gas prices are up.

After supper, you go to take a shower, but the water pressure is low. What the hell? You call the city’s after-hours emergency number and they tell you there has been another water main break and the pressure should return to normal within a few hours, but to not drink the water for a day or two in case there’s sediment in it. You check the mail. Electric rates are up, so you reflexively yell at your youngest to turn off her lights when she’s not in her bedroom. The credit card company has raised your interest rate again, which doesn’t really matter – yet – since you rarely use the thing, but what if there were some emergency? You know that your wife would be willing to sell this place and move to a smaller house which would be cheaper, but in this market, the house won’t sell. Two houses in your neighborhood went into foreclosure recently and that one across the street looks like shit. Maybe you’ll ask your son to go ahead and mow their lawn tomorrow, no sense letting the place look worse than it already does. Maybe before you get the property tax bill you can take on a second part-time job, except that you know several guys in the neighborhood who lost their jobs and say there are no jobs out there. The car dealership in town just shut down, so did the Starbucks, and the Circuit City went out months ago. There’s lots of people looking for work.

Turn on the news. Wow, damn good thing you went home the back way, a new sink hole opened along the highway and two freaking cars just FELL IN. You wonder how the roads will be this winter. Nobody is fixing anything any more, everything is falling apart in this place. And what’s this? The president wants more money for the war? Thought he said all the war funds were in his budget. Ha, and look here, turns out a pile of that money is going to the International Monetary Fund, those blood-suckers. How the hell do we have enough money to bail out international bankers now? Why is Congress spending your tax money on crap like this?

And when will the GD water pressure be back up?

Here’s the deal:

Bush asked Congress to give the banks 700 billion dollars. So they did. Obama asked Congress to hire a tax cheat to work on our economy, so they did. The same exact people who caused the financial meltdown are now “fixing it”. That seems a little suspicious, and it is. It seems odd that none of the bankers and Wall Street insiders who broke the rules, stole your IRA, and blew a black hole in the financial universe are going to jail, are in fact still getting huge bonuses, and it is. The people were told Congress would reform the mortgage industry and instead the bill for that does not do anything to keep people in their homes. The people were told that Congress would reform the credit card industry and the bill for that only adjusts some of the fees on the credit cards and does nothing about interest rates. The car industry gets some money and factories shut down, dealerships are closed and the people who still have jobs in the factories have to take massive pay cuts and reduced benefits to keep their jobs. This all feels weird, and it is.

Obama promises to close Guantanamo and the next thing you hear is that Congress has added onto the war funding bill a little amendment that makes it difficult to send the detainees to another country and impossible to house them in the US. All the secret crap that Bush was doing, Obama is still doing, and with a vengeance. “Prolonged detention” – what the hell is that? And what if it becomes the law? Would it apply to US citizens? You ought to wonder. You ought to worry.

The banks are getting more money than we are told about. Trillions more. The Fed is just giving them cash, just poking it into their maws as fast as they can eat it and does not have to tell Congress how much, or to whom, and this is the entity Congress is being asked to trust to handle re-regulation and oversight of the financial industries. No doubt Congress will give that power to the Fed. It makes no sense whatsoever, but it will happen.

The new “climate change” bill is just a way for Wall Street to make money speculating on cap and trade, as it turns out. This time next year, utility rates will skyrocket like gas prices did last summer. The cause will be speculators on the market, but that is not what we will be told. Any reporter who talks about speculators will be laughed at by “Morning Joe” and then never allowed on the air again. Health reform will be a giveaway to the insurance industries, and people will be told it has to be that way, or it is not really how it looks, or some such nonsense; but they will be assured many times over that at least it isn’t the scary “socialized medicine” we’ve been warned about. No-one will explain what is so scary about socialized medicine, or will tell us why every other country in the world likes it, or even tell us how it works. We will just hear over and over that it isn’t what we want.

You wonder why Congress does these things, why the president does these things. You wonder how the bankers, the Wall-Streeters, members of Congress, can sleep at night. Don’t they see how America is going down-hill? Don’t they see people are losing their homes, their jobs, how prices are sucking the very blood out of everyone? Don’t they worry about the crumbling of our roads, the outsourcing of our jobs? Don’t they SEE that they are giving all our money to a few already very wealthy people at the top?

Yes, they see it. Yes, they know it. That’s the deal. And they DON’T CARE. The wealthy elites give lots of cash to the members of Congress for their re-election bids. Once a person is elected to Congress, the only thing that matters is re-election. That is all. Once the wealthy become wealthy, the only thing that matters is holding onto the money. It does not matter if the money comes from robbing your IRA or putting your mother out in the street or charging so much for food and medicine that you have to work two or three jobs to keep your children from starving to death.

Do you think Clinton sat up nights worrying what effect NAFTA would have on our jobs here at home? Hell, no. And don’t kid yourself that he wasn’t aware of what he was doing. You think some economist didn’t warn him, when he was repealing the Glass-Steagal Act, “Hey, there, Bill, this will de-regulate the financial structure of this country and lead to serious problems down the road”? Of course he was told. Think when Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Yoo, Addington, et al hunkered down in the basement like mushrooms growing in the dank dark, planning their Iraq invasion, figuring out how to dismantle the Constitution, they didn’t know what they were about to unleash? They knew. Some big corporations wanted Iraq’s oil, is all, and the big corporations are who they serve.

When Congress allows all our money to go out the door at the expense of our livelihoods, at the cost of ruining our schools, our states, our roads, our health, when they sell our infrastructure to other countries and allow the Fed to wreck our dollar, they know what they are doing. When they allow the Constitution to be by-passed, they do so with full knowledge.

We are not humans to these people. We are bees. They will gather the honey and hoard it for themselves. They know more bees will appear to take our place in the hive. That’s the deal. They care not that in two years we will be facing staggering unemployment numbers and unheard-of inflation. They know, but don’t care, that in five years a larger percentage of us than not will be homeless and that in ten years we will see such repercussions from the climate change they could have stopped that huge areas of the planet will simply be starving to death. None of that matters. They will take what they can from the ones who can still work. It may be that the only jobs left will be in the armed forces; if so, they will gladly invent a new war and send us off to die. And if America dies, they will have the means to move elsewhere, or they will live off the backs of the Chinese who come in to run the place.

We’ve always had political scandals and crooked politicians. Teapot Dome. Tammeny Hall. McCarthy hearings. Iran-contra affair. Watergate. The difference is that the new scandals cause no uproar, cost the politicians nothing. McCain was involved in the Iran-contra affair; yet he just ran for president, for God’s sake. His career should have been OVER some years ago. We allowed him be labeled as a war hero, and nominated him as a presidential contender. We protested Vietnam, but let Iraq happen like we were yokels in a big city for the first time. Cheney (and his spawn) actually get invited to talk on television and admit to war crimes instead of being arrested. The wars in Pakistan and Afghanistan aren’t about a few terrorists hiding in caves, who have no access to nukes; they are about control of oil and a natural-gas pipeline. You think we have spent 4 trillion bucks because we’re worried about (by now, very dead) Osama bin Laden? This same money could have rebuilt our country many times over.

The “teabag” protesters were fighting the wrong thing, at least the few people who had any idea what they were protesting; the stimulus, parts of which ARE wasteful as hell, is the only thing that even pretends to invest in our own country. What should be protested are the bailouts and the war spending. All the money in America is going to Goldman-Sachs, AIG, Deutsche-bank, Royal Bank of Scotland, Halliburton, KBR, Blackwater (Xe), and now the IMF. Soon to be added will be the Exxon, big pharmas and insurance companies. ALL your tax money. All your children’s tax money, and their children’s tax money. Since the tax money isn’t enough now, they are going after it pre-emptively: they will just raise your insurance premiums again, reduce or destroy any safety nets, like Medicare and Social Security and unemployment benefits, raise the price of electricity, water, food, gas, interest rates and sales taxes. They do this and they are telling you they are doing it. That’s another new twist. They are just telling us flat out, “We are going to give your money to the banking industry and to mercenaries to fight in illegal and unnecessary wars and to companies like KBR to build shitty buildings in far-off places. Suck on it.” No-one who took your retirement funds will go to jail, nor will they ever have to give up a dime to pay you back. You hear Congress talking about the IRA’s that were decimated by the financial meltdown? Thought not. Those fuckers get to keep your money, baby. You hear Congress asking Halliburton to repay the billions they “misplaced” in Iraq? Nope. Did Congress tell Obama, look, Bush ran us dry with all this empire building, we aren’t going to give you 700 million for a new embassy in Pakistan? Nah, they just gave him the cash – your cash – and asked him if it was enough.

But MSNBC just did Michael Jackson coverage for an entire day on Sunday. No joke. Eat your cake. Keith Olbermann is wasting his showtime minutes “discussing” Sanford’s paramour in Argentina and spends a third of every show talking about Rush Limbaugh. And Rush Limbaugh just makes shit up and calls it news.

That’s the new deal.

What kind of country is this? Maybe it’s not a country any more at all. It seems to be more of a financial oligarchy, formed by some huge banks which started in the US and now spreading their reach ever further outward. Some of the largest corporations the world has ever seen are funded by these financials and orbit around their hub, sent hither and yon to plunder the world of money and resources. Our Pentagon and military enable the whole process. When the financial interests find a new country to target, it seems our military is somehow involved at some point – openly or clandestinely – to pave the way in implementing economic chaos upon that country. Then the corporations move in, as support for the military or as “re-building and re-structuring” entities. Everyone profits (the banks most of all) except for the plundered country and, of course, us. It would be a mistake to think of the corporations and banks as “us”; they are global now and independent from their starting location in the USA. We, the American people, are but the smallest pieces of this universe. We can be used to fulfill the roles of workers in the corporations and as soldiers in the military, and our tax money is useful to some extent, but we are totally replaceable and largely unnecessary. This thing is global now. We can be replaced with other worker bees from other places, who will be glad to take our places in the lines once they have undergone the relentless procedure. Sadly, because the financials are global, once they run out of countries to exploit and restructure and the game comes to its inevitable conclusion, the devastation will be global. We, the whole world, will be left in economic ruin, with our dwindling resources in the hands of but a few. We will ALL be living within the austerity measures handed down to us from on high.

 

World Trade Organization and financial recovery

According to Public Citizen (www.citizen.org), the agreements we entered into with the Word Trade Organization (WTO) have locked in the financial services deregulation which are the root cause of the financial meltdown.  [This information is available from many other sources, as the trade agreements are a matter of public record and are simply a matter of fact, not guesswork.]   “The Financial Services Agreement part of the WTO obligates the US to provide market access to foreign financial service firms without limits on how they are structured.”  The removal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which separated commercial banking from investment banking and which prevented a  problem in one financial sector from infecting the entire system, allowed the meltdown of the whole global economy as the shield between the different types of banking and financial institutions was gone.

The WTO agreement “means that US taxpayers may have to bail out foreign banks, too.”  Our obligation under the WTO ensure that funds from the TARP  must be made available for foreign banks operating in the US.  This is why some of the taxpayer funds given to the bail-out of AIG were immediately sent offshore to entities such as France’s Societe Generale, Germany’s Deutsche Bank, Switzerland’s UBS and the Royal Bank of Scotland.

The WTO “obligates the US to a ‘standstill provision’ which prevents us from undoing many of our crazy deregulation policies with respect to the…financial services we submitted to WTO jurisdiction.”  This means, in a nutshell, that while Congress is talking about re-regulation, the WTO rules we agreed to say we cannot create new regulations.   Surely, Congress is aware of this.  The Congressional lip-service must be to placate the public, which seems aware that without re-regulation the economy will not ever recover, but will go through endlessly repeated cycles of bust and bailout.   And certainly Tim Geithner knows about our WTO strictures; he led the effort to use the WTO to impose the deregulated, Glass-Steagall Act-free model on the world during the Clinton administration.  For him to talk about re-regulation is the height of irony and sham.

Further, other WTO rules will undermine our recovery efforts, as well.  The WTO “forbids most uses of Buy American or Buy Local programs.  This undercuts the effectiveness of the stimulus bill.  The $20 billion for data-entry workers to put medical records into electronic format likely will go offshore rather than employing workers here…”   The WTO rules limit how much border food inspection we can require; a serious flaw, considering that since the WTO’s establishment, we have become a net food importer.  Current rules force us to depend on the food-safety systems of the countries from which we import.

Obama pledged during his campaign to fix our trade and globalization policies so they serve our workers and consumers; I hope this promise does not go by the wayside, although things are not looking too promising as yet.  While Obama was in Europe for the G-20 summit, he joined the other governments represented there in “calling for the conclusion of a WTO expansion, called the ‘Doha Round’ which could lead to further financial service deregulation.”

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2009 in economy, trade agreements

 

In which we reveal that we are scared of the entire planet.

“High above the rugged border, an unmanned Predator B drone equipped with night-vision cameras and cloud-piercing radar has scanned the landscape for signs of smugglers, illegal immigrants or terrorists.

“Armed agents checked the identification of border crossers while radiation sensors and other devices monitored vehicles entering by road. Soon, a network of telescopic and infrared video cameras mounted atop 80-foot metal towers will rise above key locations.”

-LATimes, May, 2009

This does not describe security precautions in Iraq, nor at the US/Mexican border.  These would be the conditions imposed at the Canadian/US border.  Because apparently the “terrorists” are coming in from all fronts!  They are all over the place!   OMG!  Duck and cover!  Buy duct tape!

Actually, Mexico complained that they were being unfairly treated as regards to border security, so we decided to even things out.  In the name of fairness.  Because, really now, we shouldn’t be afraid of just brown people; white people hate us, too.  Well, white people who aren’t Americans. Okay, maybe even Americans; the ones who may have travelled to Canada, gotten infected by some fancy-pants notion of free speech or some such crap up there in the terrorist-loving (c’mon, everybody KNOWS it) north and now think they are going to actually come back in here, completely unmolested, just because they think they have some RIGHT to or something.  Crimeny.  Janet Napolitano, our current Person in Charge of Scaring the Shit Out of the Public , aka the secretary of Homeland Security, made a claim recently that we have “known terrorists attempting to come through at the Canadian border” all the time.  When pressed for the numbers, she named Ahmed Ressam, the “millennium bomber” who thought he would blow up LA International Airport in 1999, but whose plans were thwarted when he was caught coming off a ferry from Canada.  I find it passing odd that no-one thought to counter that statement with the obvious point that the border security in place then – pre-9/11, mind you – was apparently sufficient to catch the guy. She also (weirdly) named the 9/11 attackers, who most certainly did NOT come in from Canada, as having come in from the north. When pressed further, she retreated to the old scare them shitless for their own good refrain of,  “we know of others, but national security prevents me from naming them,”  scaring them shitless being in her job title and all.  [….dah, dah, DUM, scary music rises in the background as reporters look around seeking the source of the sound.  The next question asked of Napolitano was, “Why is it that every time we talk to you or Dick Cheney, scary music noises come from nowhere?”  Reportedly, she laughed.  Like this, “Bwah, ha, ha.”]  Okay, everything in the brackets I made up; the rest is true.

According to canada.com, in an article from canwest news service (June 1, ’09), some of the Indian tribes whose lands cross the border on both the American and Canadian sides  have taken affront at the idea that border patrol guard units will now, as of June 1, be allowed to carry weapons on reservation land.  The Indians were able to shut down the guard units temporarily yesterday and the Canadian government is trying to decide what to do about this conundrum.  They don’t want to interfere with the tribes, who have sovereign rights to declare a “no-weapons” area in their own lands, but also feel a need to appease the frightened masses of American politicians who have insisted on this ramping up of security measures.  As an aside, I think investing in stocks of whatever company makes Tums and toilet paper manufacturers would be a sure bet for future returns.  We have got some seriously scared politicians, not to mention the countless citizens on whom the fear-mongering works,  and I bet ya they go through TONS of this stuff every day.

Now we must increase the military budget, post-haste, hire some more mercenaries to act as guards, and utilize some of the Economic Recovery Act funds to man the ramparts.  Get out some drone aircraft and Blackhawk helicopters.  I kid you not, we are doing these things.

Given how few terrorists have entered from the north (ONE. And he was easily caught and is serving a jail sentence), or from the south (that would be ZERO; drug smugglers and gun-runners being a problem, but not being terrorists), I have to wonder if the idea isn’t to keep “them” out, as claimed, but to keep us in.  Ever think about that?

 This

 

My new word.

I hereby coin a new term for the current administration’s reaction to everything from financial crisis to health care reform and terrorism: blind-sight.  This is the condition wherein we can clearly see what caused a problem in the first place, but deliberately decide to repeat the same mistakes while falsely and loudly claiming that it is “different this time”.  The word is a combination of “hindsight” and “blind-side”.  We have a problem.  We figure out what caused the problem.  We then willfully either try to re-write history in an effort to trick people into thinking that what caused the problem is NOT what caused the problem (“Reagonomics worked”) or we make an attempt to explain away the concerns that we are dooming ourselves to failure by simply repeated the error, but changing one small perimeter of the original conditions (“indefinite detention is against the Constitution, but Obama won’t abuse it because he is a nice guy”).  We have the hindsight, but choose not to use it and are willing to blindside the public with a “new” idea, which is actually the old idea rewritten.

Financial meltdown?  Hire Geithner and Summers to fix it, while ignoring the fact that they were part of the faulty architecture in the first place. Pretend that “toxic” assets which no-one wants are suddenly swell investment engines for taxpayers.  (“Wall Street doesn’t want these things, but you’ll LOVE them, I swear to God!”)
Health-care reform?  Invite the big pharmas and insurance companies to devise a “fair plan”.
Global climate change?  Talk a lot about “clean coal technology” (Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha…) and quietly allow the escalated use of mountaintop removal.
Terrorism?  Pretend that the Bush administration’s illegal invasion of Iraq and use of torture did not cause a significant rise in the number of potential terrorists and order the number of drone attacks over sovereign borders to increase many times over, thereby killing ever more civilians in countries with whom we are not legally at war.  Play word games with terms such as “prolonged detention” and talk incessantly about stopping torture at Guantanamo, whilst leaving the question of torture at Bagram and black sites unanswered.
Talk about not studying history….we can’t even seem to remember yesterday, for God’s sake!

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2009 in economy, Wall St and banks