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Seven Quotes Appropriate to Our Current Situation

Posted by MacZad
Dec 05 2012

I intended to write something about the current Fiscal Cliff struggle, but quickly realized that smarter men than I have been saying things relative to it for centuries. If only the GOP would read and heed.

"Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men." ~ John Adams

"Experience demands that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~ Thomas Jefferson

"If there are men in this country big enough to own the government of the United States, they are going to own it." ~ Woodrow Wilson

"There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning." ~ Warren Buffet

"The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises; the moral justification for selfishness." ~ John Kenneth Galbraith

"When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it." ~ Frederic Bastiat, (1801-1850) French economist, statesman, and author

"Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both." ~ Frederick Douglass - American abolitionist, newspaper publisher, orator, author, statesman, and reformer

Categories: Opposing Plutocracy and Corporatocracy, Seeking Better Governance, Seeking Truth - Debunking Dogma

My "Fiscal Cliff" Letter to President Obama

Posted by MacZad
Nov 27 2012

Below is the text of an e-mail letter that I have sent to the President with copies to my Senators and Representative.


Dear Mr. President,

Please be very tough in negotiating a resolution of the "Fiscal Cliff." Your reelection has given you the upper hand and all of the Republicans' tax policy dogma is in shambles, and deep down they know it.

For 30 years the lobbyists for the corporations and the wealthy have successfully secured preferential policy and tax treatment for them. The result is exacerbated inequality between the top 1 or 2% and the rest of the nation. This is very unhealthy for a democracy; we're almost a Plutocracy.

This preferential treatment of wealth also reduced federal tax revenues far beyond what was prudent so now we have a "Fiscal Cliff." Since low revenue is the cause, it's logical that the first step in resolving the "Cliff" is to increase revenues by reversing the preferential policy and tax treatment that the corporations and the wealthy enjoy.

Reductions in government programs should only be considered if the tax receipts from drastic increases in the top tax rates, making the use of offshore tax havens more difficult and perhaps the removal of the cap on SS contributions fail to produce adequate revenue.

I am an ex-Republican and like many others I voted for you (and, for the first time in my life, a straight Democratic ticket) as the only hope of reducing the drift (Hell, it's not a drift, it's a rush) of the country toward Plutocracy. Please don't disappoint us. The wealthy have had their day (30 years worth), and it's time for government to aid the common man in regaining some stature.

Thank you for considering my views.


Thomas A. McKee

Categories: Opposing Plutocracy and Corporatocracy, Seeking Better Governance

A Different Take On The "Fiscal Cliff"

Posted by MacZad
Nov 24 2012

The "Fiscal Cliff" is a current hot topic with CNBC even moving from news reporting to mounting a "Rise Above"advocacy campaign spreading fear about what will happen if the problem isn't resolved by 1/1/2013. Other media are equally concerned about the need for action prior to falling off the "cliff," and most of the suggested solutions call for "shared sacrifice" - some kind of a balance between spending cuts aimed mainly at social programs and tax increases.

Well, I think that the media is spewing a lot of propaganda favorable to the very wealthy. First, the "cliff" really isn't one. Nothing drastic is going to happen on January 1 if no agreement is reached; there will be adequate time to make changes after that. Second, and far more important, the real causes of the crisis are being obscured and the solutions being considered aren't equitable.

What is going on here is a rear-guard action by those trying to maintain their favorable tax and policy treatment at the expense of the less fortunate. My Rise of Inequality Since 1980 posting clearly shows the almost unbelievable increase in income and wealth share enjoyed by those at the top mainly because of the favorable tax and policy treatment that their K Street lobbyists have secured for them. Over the years this has drastically reduced federal tax revenue making it a very significant factor contributing to the "Fiscal Cliff."

Now, to maintain as much of their advantage as possible, those at the top are proposing "shared sacrifice" where they grudgingly agree to a small tax increase (means a 95 ft. Yacht instead of a 100 ft. one) and poor Joe Schmo, who has worked much of his life shifting pallets around in a warehouse, is asked to give up some of his SS retirement - or some other sacrifice. Unfortunately, the conservative media (Fox News, et al) have done much demonizing of folks at the bottom like poor Joe erroneously casting them, rather than the tax avoiders at the top, as the main reason for the federal government's poor fiscal shape.

I'm sorry but making sacrifice by Joe a first step in a solution just doesn't wash with me. I know that this is naive, but the first order of business needs to be drastic changes in the tax code to get those at the top paying much more in taxes (means only a 75 ft. Yacht instead of a 100 ft. one) so as to begin to reverse the inequality that has arisen since 1980. That inequality is very unhealthy for our society as Joseph Stiglitz shows in his perceptive book "The Price of Inequality." Joe Schmo isn't a "taker;" he has worked hard all his life to earn those benefits. He should only be asked to sacrifice if the tax receipts from drastic increases in the top tax rates, making the use of offshore tax havens more difficult and perhaps the removal of the cap on SS contributions fail to produce adequate revenue.

The wealthy and their many apologists will say that such drastic increases in the top tax rates will kill motivation, innovation, investment and growth, but that's just more Plutocratic propaganda as the links below show.

Except at a very basic level motivation and innovation are not driven by $$. Big monetary rewards are only incidental to successful innovation not its cause.

The Congressional Research Service reports that a 65 year study shows that better growth has come when the top tax rates were the highest and that cutting top tax rates doesn't spur growth. (GOP legislators tried to suppress this report.)

How about all that investment by the wealthy that creates jobs? Paul Buchheit's #1 pretty well debunks that; there are some other interesting statistics on Paul's page as well. Further, the slow growth in the economy and jobs today is not due to a lack of investment $ to fund business expansion it's due to a lack of demand for products because not enough folks have the spare $ to spend. See: Who creates jobs? Surprise- we do.

The common viewpoint is that business and economic growth do better under GOP administrations and GOP policies, but this Forbes article shows the reverse to be true.

So all of the Plutocrat's arguments favoring the GOP's support for low taxes on the rich are nothing but false dogma. The acceptance of these ideas as truths is very detrimental to the country for our legislators can't make intelligent decisions based on falsehoods. Much pressure needs to be applied to our GOP legislators for it will be very difficult to get them to abandon this long-held dogma and help craft a solution to the "Fiscal Cliff" which does not place undue burdens on Joe Schmo and his ilk and which begin to reverse 30 years of inequality.

Some good supplemental information in these links:

YouTube Straight talk from Independent Senator Bernie Sanders Terrific! (Updated 11/25/2012)

Chart - Simplifies the Fiscal Cliff Resolution Choices (Updated 11/29/2012)

5 Ways Most Americans Are Blind to How Their Country Is Stacked for the Wealthy

It's Simple: Cutting the Deficit Will Kill Jobs and Hurt Growth; Taxing the Rich Won't

The U.S. Does Not Have a Spending Problem, We Have a Distribution Problem

The Giant Lie Trotted Out by Fiscal Conservatives Trying to Shred Social Security

Why the rich guys want to raise the retirement age.

YouTube animation of the Deficits & the Debt

Categories: Opposing Plutocracy and Corporatocracy, Seeking Better Governance, Seeking Truth - Debunking Dogma

The Democrats Won, But Citizens United Still Matters

Posted by MacZad
Nov 20 2012

On Nov. 6th millions of voters overcame the big bucks of the GOP Super PACs and reelected Barack Obama as President. They also elected Democratic Senators and Representatives who were opposed by the big GOP Super PACs. Overall, the big donors to GOP candidates got very little for the hundreds of millions that they spent.

Those supporting the SCOTUS decision can now say that the election results prove that the decision wasn't as detrimental to democracy as the critics declared when the decision was rendered. However, while the election results would seem to support that view it's an incorrect interpretation of the situation. In fact, the Citizens United decision is very detrimental.

Initially President Obama declared that he would not take Super PAC money, but as the campaign progressed he realized that he was being vastly outspent by the Romney campaign, and, in desperation, he reversed his decision and embraced the support of Super PACs, and donors came through with financial support for his campaign. Obama is a man of principle, but the realities of politics in a world where the Citizens United decision allowed his opponent such a financial advantage was just too much. So, though still opposed to Super PACs, the SCOTUS decision forced this good man to embrace something he abhors - that's both sad and corrosive.

Of course, big money in politics is always corrosive, and as noted in this earlier posting we need to be working to reverse Citizens United and make other changes to deemphasize the money and re-empower people in our democracy.

Categories: Opposing Plutocracy and Corporatocracy, Seeking Better Governance

Some Links Of Interest

Posted by MacZad
Oct 24 2012

My recent joining of Twitter ( @MacZad ), and likely too much time spent on it, has brought to my attention the thoughts of others which I would not have otherwise found. I'll share links to a few of the more interesting ones in this posting:

It's hard to imagine conservative economist Ben Stein calling for higher taxes on Fox News, Here's the dope from the Raw Story.

Watch this video to get the full story on the deficit chart above. It's devastating but note that only the last 3 years are on Obama's watch as the 2009 budget was set by the outgoing Bush administration.

Surprise, the normally conservative Forbes Magazine recently carried this article, "Want a Better Economy - History Says Vote Democrat!"

Here's Market Watch from the conservative Wall Street Journal with, "The Obama spending binge never happened," Government outlays rising at slowest pace since 1950s.

Forbes counters the idea that fewer will want to become doctors because of Obamacare with, "So Much For Obamacare Anxiety: Record Number Want To Become Doctors."

I haven't been able to figure out why so many of the 99% get taken in by the 1% and cast votes that continue the wealthy's domination of our country. Some thoughts about it in, "Republicans Twist Capitalism Into a Democracy Killer."

In this Common Dreams article Mark Morford highlights the rather large difference in the way that men and women view the presidential candidates: "Frightened Men Love Romney."

How the Private Sector Failed America by Hal Donahue makes the case that in the past a social contract fostered corporate-government cooperation which was good for the corporations and the country, but that the contract has been shattered and the country is decaying as a result.

Categories: Opposing Plutocracy and Corporatocracy, Seeking Better Governance

Some Wisdom From The Mouths Of Republicans

Posted by MacZad
Oct 20 2012

As I read I come across quotes that, in some way or other, stand out. Some, credited to the best minds of the past, are short, simple and yet profound, some have great elements of humor or satire, and some display ignorance, bias, lies or even truths but which the speaker often might later wish that he had never uttered. Those listed below fit the latter category. They are pearls of wisdom - Republican style:

  • In 2002 former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill said he tried to warn Vice President Dick Cheney that growing budget deficits (over $500 billion in 2002 alone) posed a threat to the economy. Cheney cut him off. "You know, Paul, Reagan proved deficits don't matter, we won the midterms (congressional elections). This is our due." What followed was the great debt buildup of the Bush years.
  • When he was House Majority Leader Tom DeLay told journalist Elizabeth Drew.“You’ve got to understand, we are ideologues. We have an agenda. We have a philosophy. I want to repeal the Clean Air Act. No one came to me and said, ‘Please repeal the Clean Air Act.’ We say to the lobbyists, ‘Help us.’ We know what we want to do and we find the people to help us do that. We go to the lobbyists and say, ‘Help us get this in the appropriations bill.” From the book The K Street Gang.
  • It's no wonder that there's no bipartisanship in Washington when in October of 2010 Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told National Journal‘s Major Garrett that, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."
  • ''This was a war of Obama's choosing. This is not something the United States has actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.'' — Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, rewriting history while speaking at a 2010 Connecticut fundraiser about the war in Afghanistan, which President Bush launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
  • Five male opponents of contraception were called to testify at a Capitol Hill committee meeting on February 18, 2012 to discuss President Obama's recent contraception deal, but no women were allowed to testify. Committee member, Illinois Republican Congressman Joe Walsh had this to say, "This is not about women. This is not about contraceptives. This is about religious freedom."
  • In February of 2012 Republican NC state Rep. George Cleveland said, “We have no one in the state of North Carolina living in extreme poverty, Extreme poverty is prevalent in other countries, not in the United States. Poverty is a governmental definition in this country, and through the years they keep redefining poverty to make sure we have a poverty class. Poverty is you’re out there living on a dollar and half a day. I don’t think we have anybody in North Carolina doing that.“ Of course, we will always have those who are less fortunate, and this Durham Herald-Sun Article points out that there plenty in NC living hand to mouth. However, Rep. Cleveland tries to define them away, but it won't wash - they're still here.
  • TV reporter Charles Jaco, recently asked six-term Republican congressman Todd Akin about his views of abortion rights and whether an exception should be made for cases of rape.“If it’s legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” Akin responded.
  • The truth about Fox News from Glen Beck in an April, 2010 Forbes Magazine interview, ''I could give a flying crap about the political process ... We're an entertainment company.'' Also see my recent Fox News post.
  • Rick Santorum (Speaking with CaffeinatedThoughts.com, Oct. 18, 2011) "One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country.... Many of the Christian faith have said, well, that's okay, contraception is okay. It's not okay. It's a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be." The only "dangers" that I can think of are contraception failures - Maczad.
  • All but admitting that the Romney campaign would be lying pollster Neil Newhouse said, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.” (Added 9/2/12)
  • Here's one that's factually correct and a wake up call for the Republicans: “The demographics race we’re losing badly,” said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (SC). “We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.” (Added 9/2/12)
  • Speaking to the Republican State Committee on June 23rd Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai said, “--- Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.” Now we really know that these laws aren't about voter fraud. - MacZad (Added 9/28/12)
  • At a 2006 closed door Club for Growth meeting Republican congressman Todd Akin said "In 1920 women were given the right to vote in this country. Just ten years later they had spent all our money and the economy was in ruins." So giving women the right to vote caused the Great Depression. Wow, I never knew. - MacZad (Added 10/05/12)
  • Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga believes the Earth is about 9,000 years old and that it was made in six days. See this Huffington Post story. Just imagine the intelligent legislation that we will get from this man, a doctor yet, who sits on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. (Added 10/15/12)
  • On Thursday (10/18/12) GOP Rep. Joe Walsh who is in a tight re-election race in Illinois, told journalists after a debate with rival Tammy Duckworth that "With modern technology and science, you can’t find one instance" [of a case where an abortion was necessary to save the life of a woman], "There is no such exception as life of the mother, and as far as health of the mother, same thing." The next day the The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists responded: "Pregnancy is not a risk-free life event, particularly for many women with chronic medical conditions. Despite all of our medical advances, more than 600 women die each year from pregnancy and childbirth-related reasons right here in the US. In fact, many more women would die each year if they did not have access to abortion to protect their health or to save their lives." MacZad comment: Ah, we have such intelligent men running our country. (Added 10/20/12)
  • Following the 2010 election, Florida Republicans concluded that it was a little too easy to vote in the state. “I want the people in the State of Florida to want to vote as bad as that person in Africa who is willing to walk 200 miles for that opportunity he’s never had before in his life,” said GOP State Senator Michael Bennett. “This should not be easy.” (Added 10/20/12)
  • On Oct. 23, 2012 Republican Richard Mourdock, U.S. Senate candidate from Indiana said, "I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God, and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen." They just keep coming up with these gems - MacZad (Added 10/24/12)
  • Oh, gosh, here's yet another one: John Koster, GOP nominee in Washington’s 1st Congressional District. (Added 11/01/12)
  • Rick Santorum speaks the truth,but fails to recognize the irony: “We will never have the elite, smart people on our side” (Added 01/19/13)

I'll add to this list as I come across additional gems from our Republican leaders.

Categories: Seeking Better Governance

Romney - The Businessman?

Posted by MacZad
Oct 15 2012

Mitt Romney touts his experience as a businessman and his rescue of the 2002 winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake. There's no question that Romney is a smart cookie. He has worked the system to the maximum to enrich himself and/or enhance his reputation, but in contrast to men like Henry Ford, HP's Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, Intel's Andy Grove, Microsoft's Bill Gates or Apple's Steve Jobs all who built companies that provided employment to thousands and contributed to America's success, Mitt's business success was heavily dependent on financial manipulation which ended up driving companies into bankruptcy and destroying the jobs of thousands.

Let's take the Olympic Games rescue first via this quote from Rolling Stone:

--- Romney has[n't] done just fine at milking the government when it suits his purposes, the most obvious instance being the incredible $1.5 billion in aid he siphoned out of the U.S. Treasury as head of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake – a sum greater than all federal spending for the previous seven U.S. Olympic games combined. Romney, the supposed fiscal conservative, blew through an average of $625,000 in taxpayer money per athlete – an astounding increase of 5,582 percent over the $11,000 average at the 1984 games in Los Angeles.

Remember the KB Toys an 86 year-old company with over 400 stores when it went into bankruptcy in 2008? Why the bankruptcy?

--- in 2000, right before Romney gave up his ownership stake in Bain Capital, the firm targeted KB Toys. --- Bain put up a mere $18 million to acquire KB Toys and got big banks to finance the remaining $302 million it needed. Less than a year and a half after the purchase, Bain decided to give itself a gift known as a "dividend recapitalization." The firm induced KB Toys to redeem $121 million in stock and take out more than $66 million in bank loans – $83 million of which went directly into the pockets of Bain's owners and investors, including Romney. "The dividend recap is like borrowing someone else's credit card to take out a cash advance, and then leaving them to pay it off," says Heather Slavkin Corzo, who monitors private equity takeovers as the senior legal policy adviser for the AFL-CIO. --- Bain ended up earning a return of at least 370 percent on the deal, while KB Toys fell into bankruptcy, saddled with millions in debt. KB's former parent company, Big Lots, alleged in bankruptcy court that Bain's "unjustified" return on the dividend recap was actually "900 percent in a mere 16 months."

Read the full of story of Mitt's business dealings in this Rolling Stone article, and another Rolling Stone article about how Romney got the government (us taxpayers) to foot the bill for the 1990 rescue of the then ailing Bain & Co., the original parent firm of Bain Capital.

You know, despite his shortcomings, I believe that voting for a former "community organizer" makes more sense for the future of our country than voting for a guy with Mitt's background and mindset.

Categories: Embracing Diversity and Tolerance, Illuminating Dark Places, Opposing Plutocracy and Corporatocracy, Seeking Better Governance

Nikki Haley's Hard Sell

Posted by MacZad
Sep 27 2012

Recently S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley appeared in a nearby town trying to convince the local ladies that the Republican Party was not waging a "war on women," and that they should vote for the Romney-Ryan ticket.

Her message is a hard sell for, as depicted by this Wasserman Boston Globe cartoon, the ultra-conservative and sometimes ignorant Republican leaders (mostly men) have made restricting women's reproductive rights a top priority.

 Cartoon showing Todd Akin and Paul Ryan

And it's not just these two. Much of the party leadership is just as disparaging of women. Here's an excerpt from a CNN article about the Republican Convention's Platform Committee:

The 110-member platform panel passed a so-called Human Life Amendment that calls for a ban on abortion, without mention of the more common exceptions for victims of rape or incest. “Faithful to the ‘self-evident’ truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed,” said platform language obtained by CNN. “We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.”

Barney Frank had it right when he said that anti-abortion legislators ,"believe that life begins at conception and ends at birth." Given such strongly-held Republican mindsets it's clear that their concern for the unborn will always far outweigh any concern for the pregnant woman. So ladies don't believe Nikki Haley's claim that there's no Republican "war on women." The facts speak otherwise.

Categories: Seeking Better Governance

A Most Interesting Thing About The Political Convertions

Posted by MacZad
Sep 20 2012

There was a most interesting contrast between the Republican and Democratic conventions - the stark difference in the treatment of two former presidents.

The Democrats gave former president Bill Clinton a prime time slot for his speech at the DNC. At the RNC the Republicans did not have former president George Bush speak at all.

There's a not so subtle message to be inferred from those decisions by party leaders. Of course the Democrats are proud of Bill Clinton; he was a popular president who governed well. They wanted him on the program to capitalize on his legacy. But what of the Republicans? By not having George Bush, the last Republican president, speak at the convention they all but disowned him. Poor George. However, the guys running the Romney campaign aren't dummies and George's record is not something that they wanted to dwell on.

However, even though Romney and Ryan aren't Bush and Cheney the policies that they espouse are very much like those of the Bush-Cheney administration. The people are different but the mindset is the same so if they are elected we can expect:

  • Adherence to the idea that almost every problem can be solved by cutting taxes.
  • Reluctance to do the government's regulatory functions - not regulating the financial industry gave us the 2008 crash.
  • Allegiance to the oil industry and reluctance to move toward alternative energy sources.
  • Strong funding of the US military for operations throughout the world - at the expense of domestic programs.
  • Repressive social legislation favored by fundamentalist Christians.
  • Staunch conservative appointees to the Supreme Court giving us even more corporate favoritism.

There's more evidence in this NY Times article that the Bush and Cheney policies have Romney's support. However, he's endorsing them only during private meetings with campaign donors, not publically .

These policies didn't leave George Bush with a good record and it's not logical to expect that the results will be any better for Romney.

Categories: Seeking Better Governance

It's A Grand Old Flag

Posted by MacZad
Sep 13 2012

Years of corporate favoritism by our leaders and the 2010 Supreme Court's Citizens United decision allowing corporations unlimited spending to influence elections have given us a country pretty much as depicted by this flag:

So to paraphrase Lincoln, it's now, "---that government: of the corporations, by the corporations, for the corporations, shall not perish from the earth."

Here are some reforms that would help to get the citizens' influence in Washington somewhat equal to that of the corporations:

  • Enact a constitutional amendment declaring that corporations do not have the same rights as people.
  • Put real limits on the use of influence money by the K Street lobbying firms.
  • Further limit the revolving doors that shuttle people between Washington and corporations.
  • Take redistricting out of the hands of the politicians as California has done with its Citizens Redistricting Commission.
  • Go to open primary elections like Washington State is using.
  • Eliminate the Electoral College and go to popular election of the President.

These reforms are lofty and perhaps almost impossible to universally achieve, but as Washington state and California have shown reform is possible if the citizens keep pressing for it. The Center for Voting and Democracy is concerned with all aspects of voting, and has some good ideas beyond those mentioned above. Check them out and also their Blog. (Updated 10/08/2012)

Categories: Opposing Plutocracy and Corporatocracy, Seeking Better Governance

Creating Realities?

Posted by MacZad
Sep 08 2012

"Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts." Daniel Patrick Moynihan

How our politics have changed since the Moynihan era. During the past few years it's become apparent from the utterances of Republican leaders that they see manipulation of truth as a powerful tool in helping them to gain power and pursue their objectives.

Here's a quote from an extensive article on the Bush presidency by Ron Suskind in the October 2004 New York Times Magazine.

In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.
The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''

The aide (Karl Rove?) appeared more than willing to invent or distort facts to "create our own reality." The arrogance displayed is almost unbelievable. One of those created realities was the "weapons of mass destruction" reality that led to the Iraq war. That ignoring/distorting of the truth didn't lead to a smashing success, did it? My last posting about Republican wisdom had this example (from the time of the 2012 RNC) of this continuing willingness to manipulate the truth. All but admitting that the Romney campaign would be lying pollster Neil Newhouse said, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.”

What a disservice this use of deceit is to political discourse. Presenting the electorate with distortions or downright lies blunt the truth, and the country suffers as decisions based on anything other than the best understanding of the truth are bound to turn out badly. As the old saying goes, "Garbage in garbage out."

However, this behavior by Republican leaders is not surprising considering Christian fundamentalists influence in the party. Creating alternative realities is old stuff to Christian fundamentalists. They do it in their theme parks where they show people and dinosaurs coexisting.

So, are the Democrats guilty as well? Yes but to a lesser degree, and a willingness, even an eagerness, to ignore hard facts and "create our own reality" does not seem to be present when they are governing.

All this means that voters now have to be much more skeptical about the information presented during campaigns. Fortunately the media has become quite alert to this decrease in truthfulness, and the lies and distortions are increasingly being called out. Also there are now political fact checkers so voters can check truthfulness themselves. The fact checkers sure called out Ryan on his RNC speech. The most respected fact checkers: FactCheck.org - PolitiFact.com - The Fact Checker

Categories: Illuminating Dark Places, Seeking Better Governance

The Rejection of Knowledge

Posted by MacZad
Aug 29 2012

In the spectrum of knowledge ranging from complete understanding to total ignorance:

  • There is truth - facts proven by the scientific method,
  • There are vast unknowns where science has not yet triumphed
  • And there is dogma where perhaps the truth is still unknown but often where the truth is known but is being rejected.

Unfortunately, a large percentage of the population seems to have a disdain for scientists and scientific knowledge, and they reject facts in favor of dogma. In the political realm they elect dogmatic politicians who write laws based on their nonscientific and flawed understanding of the world. My favorite Mark Twain quote is right on the mark:

"The trouble with the world is not that people know too little; it's that they know so many things that just aren't so."

How can we be positive about our country's future when so many of our leaders legislate and administer based on disproven dogma rather than on proven facts. So we get,"Garbage in garbage out," results.

It is mainly, but not exclusively, Republican politicians that employ faulty logic on so many issues. On the democratic side a notable dogma is the liberal rejection of genetically engineered crops even though all that has happened is that modern science has accelerated the selective breeding process that has been used for thousands of years.

During the Bush junior administration the suppression, manipulation and ignoring of science was so bad that Chris Mooney wrote a book about it: The Republican War on Science. It's a stinging indictment.

Man, they can't get to our politicians fast enough for me.

To weed out politicians with dogmatic beliefs we, and the media, need to be asking candidates questions like: How old do you believe the earth to be? Any answer other than an unqualified "billions of years" indicates a candidate with such a warped sense of reality that he/she is unfit to govern and is undeserving of our votes.

Categories: Seeking Better Governance, Seeking Truth - Debunking Dogma

Father Charles Coughlin, et al

Posted by MacZad
Aug 19 2012

The chances are that you have never heard of Catholic priest, Father Charles Coughlin. During the late 1920s and into the early 1940s he was a popular radio personality with a huge audience for his weekly broadcasts. He was a democrat, a populist and an isolationist but also in his later broadcasts revealed himself to be a bigot who dispensed angry, irrational charges and assertions. As do all demagogues he had to have scapegoats. His were mainly the Jews, and he even concocted a non-existant Jewish-Communist connection to heap his vitriol upon.

In the late 1930s he praised the fascist leaders Benito Mussolini and Adolph Hitler and his horrific anti-Semitic policies. Coughlin’s isolationism ultimately doomed him; after Pearl Harbor, and after Hitler declared war on America, there was no longer a mass audience for his message. Now Coughlin, though mostly forgotten, is thought of as one of the major demagogues of the 20th century.

Here are links to sources of the content in the above paragraph and to one of his 1938 broadcasts:

Pioneering Hate Radio        Father Coughlin        History Matters


Today we have several modern-day equivalents of Father Coughlin - demagogues all, spewing angry hate filled talk on radio and Fox News. The techniques used to inflame the audience are the same as those used by Coughlin more than a half century ago. Their scapegoats are different: welfare mothers, NAACP, the homeless, the unemployed, SNAP, liberal media, gays etc., and they shift their audience's attention away from the real problems and inequities of the times by their constant scapegoat harangues. It's a classic diversion technique which has much of their audience looking in the wrong direction for the source of many of the nation's problems. Surely the homeless, those on welfare or food stamps (SNAP) have an insignificant voice in Washington compared to the wealthy and the corporations with all their K Street lobbyists, but these guys portray their scapegoats as powerful and a principal source of the nation's problems - what rot!

Though their audiences are far smaller that Coughlin's , Limbaugh, Beck, O'Reilly, Hannity, et al, are far more powerful than he ever was as they function as an extension of the Republican Party. They echo what the party says and the party leadership often echoes what they say. However, my guess is that the country is slowly waking up their demagoguery, their influence has peaked, and in another 50 years they will be remembered like Coughlin is today - mostly forgotten and known only as major demagogues of the 21st century; what a personal legacy to have!

Here are some other takes on the similarity between Coughlin and his modern-day equivalents:

Rush Limbaugh        Father Coughlin's Heirs        Coughlin/Limbaugh

Want to try the opposite of these guys? I suggest Up with Chris Hayes Saturday and Sunday mornings 8 to 10 eastern, on MSNBC.,

Categories: Illuminating Dark Places, Seeking Better Governance

From An E-Mail - Awesome Humor!

Posted by MacZad
Aug 12 2012

Categories: Humor and Fun Stuff, Seeking Better Governance

Not In The Top 1%? - Then Why Vote Republican?

Posted by MacZad
Aug 10 2012

Though I'm not a member of any political party for years my vote went mostly to Republicans mainly because I believed that the Republicans had better fiscal policies.

The Bush years proved that idea to be dead wrong. Spending was higher (the money just went to different places) and taxes were cut with no regard for the mounting debt. Bush turned Clinton's budget surplus into historically-high deficit spending. In 2001, it took $250 dollars to buy one ounce of gold. By 2012, it was around $1700. The intrinsic value of gold didn't change; the insane fiscal policies of the Bush years were the major factor in causing the dollar to plummet approximately 85% relative to gold. You may not like the "tax-and-spend Democrats," but the "borrow-and-spend Republicans," who seem to believe that all problems can be cured by cutting taxes, are worse; they have saddled our children with stratospheric debt. Makes it hard to vote Republican.

There was also a disdain for effective regulation of anything during the Bush years, and the failure to regulate the financial industry was a major factor leading to the recent crash. After his bitter experience, the humbled former Federal Reserve chairman, Alan Greenspan, now understands that free markets (particularly financial ones) are not self-policing or self-correcting (i.e. without crashes) and that enforced regulations are required for markets to function best, both for the good of the market participants, and for the good of society. Unfortunately, one only has to listen to the current crop of ultra-conservative Republican leaders (like VP candidate Paul Ryan) to know that, unlike Greenspan, few learned any lessons from the crash as most are still espousing a little-regulated, and almost totally free-market, economy. Makes it hard to vote Republican.

Now that the Bush-era damage has been done, the current Republican leadership in Washington is giving belated attention to fiscal discipline (as exemplified by Paul Ryan's budget proposal), but, while it's clear that a smaller federal government is needed, their reform proposals fall inequitably on the backs of working Americans with little sharing of the pain by those at the top. It's true that spending under Obama has risen dramatically, but most of that increase has been (with congressional approval) an attempt to get the economy going again after the Bush-era induced 2008 financial crash. The inequity of their proposed reforms makes it hard to vote Republican.

The increasing concentration of income and wealth at the very top, that has been going on since about 1980, is not healthy for a representative democracy. It's clear that both political parties shared in much poor policy making that further empowered the Rent-Seekers thus exacerbating the inequity; it's also clear the Republican leadership doesn't see anything wrong with such inequity; it's the stuff of revolutions making it dangerous in the long run. Makes it hard to vote Republican.

The current Supreme Court with its conservative majority gave us its Citizens United decision which further empowered the corporations to spend as they please to influence elections thus effectively rendering the voice of the people impotent. It's one of the worst Supreme Court decisions ever for our representative democracy. The next president will likely get to appoint a justice or two to the court which could further entrench a pro-corporation majority. Makes it hard to vote Republican.

Finally, there are the social issues. The Republican party is now very strongly influenced by the conned fundamentalist Christians and as a result repressive social legislation is now a hallmark of their control. Makes it hard to vote Republican.

So the Republicans shouldn't be getting our votes in November. Obama has faults, but given the mess that he inherited from the Bush years and the pertinaciousness of the Republicans in congress, he's done a satisfactory job. He will definitely be better than Romney who will likely side with the Plutocrats (after all, he's a member) and oppose anything that would move us back toward a truly representative democracy - one where the voice of the people actually influences the legislation enacted.

Categories: Opposing Plutocracy and Corporatocracy, Seeking Better Governance

The Rise of Inequality Since 1980

Posted by MacZad
Aug 05 2012

These 4 charts are but a few from the Center on Policy and Budget Priorities series on Examining Inequality Trends.

By presenting these charts I'm not advocating that the 99% undertake class warfare (though one might interpret the charts as showing that there has been class warfare and that the very rich have won). I am merely trying to bring to your attention the vast change that has taken place since 1980 and the principal reason for it. From the end of WW2 until about 1980 there was something of a social contract between labor, management and government, and though there were rough spots, on the whole those were good times for the populace; during those years even Republican presidents championed progressive legislation.

However, things began changing about 1980 resulting in the inequalities shown by the charts. While it's true that great fortunes were made in the computer and Internet industries during this period it's difficult to attribute all the growth in top income/wealth solely to that for there were big growth drivers (television, mass air travel, multi-car families, etc.) in the earlier period as well. However, even more significant are the many malevolent factors that have been at work in recent years.

A leading malevolent factor is Rent Seeking which has been exacerbated by the many laws and policies enacted at the behest of the corporations and the very wealthy. It's a "vicious circle" with each gain in income and wealth at the top increasing their ability to contribute to Republican politicians (more heavily than to Democrats) who in turn further tilt the playing field in their favor. They expect, and get, favorable treatment from all those lobbying and contribution dollars. Here's the great 7/29/12 Non Sequitur cartoon on the subject, and an earlier post with links to Wiley's other Congress-Man strips.

After 30 years of this we now have the plutocrats almost in full control of the political process. Many in both parties have been bought, and we have all but lost the enlightened society envisioned by our founders. Now we, the masses, must push back strongly to regain our representative democracy.

Categories: Opposing Plutocracy and Corporatocracy, Seeking Better Governance

The Grand Con

Posted by MacZad
Jul 30 2012

This may be the biggest con ever, and it is worked over and over because it is so slick that many of the conned millions are happy about it, not realizing the economic losses that they and millions of others suffer because of it. Also important is the danger that the con poses to our religious freedom. Here’s how it works followed by comments on the economic damage that it is doing:

  • Some of the wealthy and powerful (Koch brothers, Coors heirs, James Leininger et al) generously fund ultra-conservative groups.

  • Many of these groups encourage the Christian fundamentalist churches to inflame their members on “hot-button” social issues (gay marriage is a current favorites) to get votes for conservative GOP candidates.

  • The elected conservative legislators strongly support the interests of the big corporations and the rich and powerful by introducing and enacting legislation that is economically favorable to them but frequently unfavorable to the very folks who voted for them.

  • To appease the religious fundamentalists on their social issues, some legislation favorable to their views is proposed and often enacted.

  • Elated because of the legislators’ support for the very-visible social issues, most of the Christian faithful don’t notice the less-visible economic losses that they and others are suffering.

It’s wonderful for those who benefit. The big corporations and the wealthy get favorable government policy and tax treatment so the money keeps flowing to them with some of it continuing on to the ultra-conservative groups. The GOP legislators get the fundamentalists’ votes and reelection support from the rich and their ultra-conservative groups. The wealthy conservatives also know that those with the lowest incomes are more likely to belong to the fundamentalist churches that support GOP candidates, and their economic losses from the con helps to keep the big fundamentalist Christian voter base somewhat impoverished.

And even most of the conned faithful are happy; so what’s wrong here?

The con is a Robin Hood in reverse scheme fostering government policies (Rent-Seeking) that are biased in favor of big corporations and the wealthy. These government policies which shift costs from them to the public (the mass of taxpayers) and which unfairly divert even a few dollars per year from each of several hundred million Americans into the holdings of a wealthy few are morally wrong.

It really is a world-class con. For years it has siphoned dollars from working Americans, easily aggregating into the billions, and vastly enriched the wealthy. Additionally, as covered in an earlier posting, it is a strong contributor to the rise of Christian fundamentalism.

Categories: Illuminating Dark Places, Opposing Plutocracy and Corporatocracy, Seeking Better Governance

The Second Amendment Craziness Of Our Leadership

Posted by MacZad
Jul 24 2012

With reference to the Colorado massacre several of the TV/Internet news outlets have been asking: Why?

The answer is easy. This was a massacre rather than a much smaller scale random killing because our leaders and courts haven't the collective intelligence to understand that permitting the populace to own assault weapons also empowers the inevitable crazies to do exactly what this one did.

These weapons aren't for hunting; their only purpose is to kill other people. Some of the gun-rights folks claim that they need them to protect against coming governmental tyranny. Well, if that's the reason that they are needed the right-wing politicians had better get busy trying to also grant rights to own bazookas and surface-to-air missiles because if a tyrannical government comes it will deploy tanks, helicopter gun-ships, drones, etc. and mere AK-47s will be relatively impotent.

Here's a good article on the subject: Look, Can We Please At Least Agree On One Thing About The 'Right To Bear Arms'?

And a "tongue-in-cheek" one by News & Observer columnist Barry Saunders who proposes that everyone be armed - with muskets: Time for leaders to shoot from the lip

Given today's weapons, does anyone really believe that founding fathers would write the Second Amendment to permit AK-47 ownership by the populace? Oh, but the founding fathers didn't have to worry about the NRA, reelection or a Supreme Court did they? It's clear that our leaders do - to the extreme.

It's just further evidence that there must be something unknown in the Washington, DC water supply that suppresses common sense.

Categories: Seeking Better Governance

Do You Get Your "News" From Fox News?

Posted by MacZad
Jul 21 2012

Billionaire Rupert Murdoch is splitting his News Corp., the parent of Fox News channel, into two companies. The publishing company will include the newspapers: the Wall Street Journal, the Times of London, the New York Post and the Australian. Curiously the Fox News channel will not be pared with the print newspapers but instead will be part of the entertainment company. While one may be entertained by the Fox News channel, using it as a source of political and social news results in one getting some very slanted views. Here's the Fox News reporting on two things relating to the federal budget:

On the April 8 edition of Fox News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor O'Reilly portrays federal funds for NPR and Planned Parenthood as un-affordable given the nation's debt. Some perspective: According to the Associated Press, NPR received about $5 million in federal funds in fiscal year 2010 and the Planned Parenthood annual report states that it received $487 Million In Government Funding in 2010. ----- Watch the short O'Reilly Factor clip

Now in contrast: When Fox News channel Happening Now anchor Jon Scott interviewed Wall Street Journal columnist Simon Constable on July 9, Scott dismissed the president's tax proposal because the money it raises would run the government for a mere "eight and a half days" just "a drop in the bucket." Some perspective: According to The New York Times, economists estimate that letting the Bush tax cuts expire for people above $250,000 as Obama proposes would generate $85 billion yearly. ----- Watch the short Happening Now clip

So, according to Fox News $492 million for two social/health programs is unfordable, but a $85 billion per year tax break for the wealthy is only "a drop in the bucket" in the federal budget picture. I'm concerned about reducing the nation's debt, but it needs to be done intelligently not just on the backs of working Americans. The Fox News "protect the wealthy" bias shown by these clips is blatant. They constitute only one example of many that could be cited to showcase the skill of Fox News in presenting the "news" to favor the Plutocrats. It's not the "big lie" but it leans toward it by skilfully using distortion, exaggeration, diversion and repetition. Repeated diversion of the viewer from issues which would negatively impact the wealthy to issues like "welfare abuse" seem to be particularly effective. However, there's hope; more of the public is catching on to these tactics, and Fox News viewership is falling.

BTW: At the end of the second clip Constable mentions getting back to the higher growth rates of the 1990s. Those were the Clinton years which didn't need those vaunted Bush era tax cuts to achieve better growth and which ended with a budget surplus.

Thanks to Media Matters for the clips from their excellent article - the inspiration for this post.

Here's more thanks to AlterNet: Greetings from Crazyland! 10 Instances of Fox Nation's Departure from Reality (Updated 11/28/2012)

The image below was just too good to pass up. (Updated 11/20/2012)

Image Credit: http://www.realamericanliberal.blogspot.com/

Categories: Illuminating Dark Places, Opposing Plutocracy and Corporatocracy, Seeking Better Governance, Seeking Truth - Debunking Dogma

The Two Faces of Regulation

Posted by MacZad
Jul 18 2012

Government regulation actually has two faces though only one of them gets hyped.

Big corporations cry that there's too much regulation, "Just free us from regulation and we'll create jobs," they say, which is bunk as job creation is not their forte. The regulations that they're referring to are those government rules that protect the health, environment, workers and public. What they are seeking is the shifting of costs from them to the public and taxpayers. However, it turns out that some of the regulations that they object to can actually save them money .

How about the other face of regulation, those rules that business doesn't talk about? Business really like the rules that the government promulgates at the behest of industry associations. While there are legitimate reasons for many of these, others simply limit competition by restricting entry into certain businesses or require citizens to purchase products or services that are of little or no benefit to them or society - only businesses benefit. Here are two fresh examples:

  1. To comply with federal and state regulations residents with irrigation water meters in my town of 140,000 are required to have backflow devices (estimated installed cost - $200) and now to have them inspected annually at a cost of about $50. However, According to Causes of Outbreaks Associated with Drinking Water in the United States from 1971 to 2006 only one hundred and six people in the US died from all drinking water illnesses during that 35 year period or about 3 deaths per year. When the data in the report is further analyzed for deaths possibly related to backflow devices it turns out that these devices and inspections thereof will, at best, save one life in the town about every 8800 years. Don't you suspect that the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association and the American Backflow Prevention Association were instrumental in getting these regulations codified?

  2. In North Carolina there was recently a legislative proposal to eliminate the requirement for motor vehicles less than 3 years old to undergo an annual safety inspection at a cost of $13.60 (or $30 if the emissions test is required). While it was clear to almost everyone that the inspection of new vehicles was unnecessary the owners of the safety inspection businesses objected to the change stating that it would hurt their businesses, and it was defeated. Update 8/3/12: I guess that I will have to find another example for despite the indication that it was defeated in committee this legislation was resurrected and passed.

  3. Here's a quote from Bloombegr View's excellent article on restrictive state licensing laws: "The average cosmetologist in the U.S. trains for 372 days before earning a license. The average emergency medical technician spends 33 days in training. --- The disparity merely confirms what a muddle the process of occupational licensing is." Yup, it's the old story of using the states' power to limit competition; businesses love it. Update 9/30/12.

So the next time you hear the corporate world whining about too many regulations remember that their complaints are self-serving for they don't want to eliminate the many Rent-Seeking regulations that they helped create to benefit them.

Categories: Opposing Plutocracy and Corporatocracy, Seeking Better Governance