Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Chill of the Winter Morning

Imagine this. It's the cold of December. Winter has hit. Blustery winds outside of 15-20 mph. Temperatures in the teens but made worse by wind chills in the low single digits (or worse). A good amount of snow outside and definitely more on the way. Just going outside to start your car means breathing in the chill and watching the steam of your warm breath fog up the windshield from the inside. Your fingertips redden quickly and sting from the touch of the freezing cold steering wheel.

Ah yes, it's the dead of winter already. The holidays are over and clearly this is time for these temperatures and the snow to become less and less enjoyable.

Now add this to your imaginary stroll through the winter wonderland in your mind. Instead of just starting the car, you're going inside of it - to live there.

It's happening more and more these days and the worst part is there appears to be no end in sight.

Someone close to me had a predicament come up where they were put in a situation by an unsavory family member who decided to kick them out of their place to live right after Christmas had passed just based on a mood swing. This left these people in a bit of a predicament. Being homeless in the winter, when the conditions are more dangerous than at any point of the year, should invoke a perking up of the consciences in all of us to try to prevent such things. As I have mentioned here before, part of our social structure as children at least in the stories we are read, the movies we watch, who we are as people should be encased in empathy for others.

In America it seems, most of our concerns are for ourselves. The Tea Partiers and Anti-tax crew rode into Washington thanks to a wave of electoral anger from the public in general on the very promise to cut social services that helped the people most in need.

It seems the "welfare queen" narratives of Ronald Reagan have taken shape and thus the poor are vilified for supposedly stealing the money of the hard workers in the middle class. Reality shows that corporate welfare is where there money is really being stolen but hey never let facts get in the way of a good rant against the downtrodden who can do nothing to combat you on it.

In conversations I have had with conservatives personally I have found very much of the same mindset that Fox News host Bill O'Reilly employed during Christmas week (and was promptly crushed in rebuttal by Stephen Colbert on). O'Reilly tried to use the infamous (and found nowhere in the bible) quote about God not helping someone that doesn't help themselves. That is self-justification to hoard your money and not give to others. In fact, Jesus... you know the guy they built the entire CHRISTIAN religion around, had other ideas about holding on to your precious belongings:

Mark 10:21
Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

Here's a few more for good measure:

To conservatives/right wingers it's not their problem. They have no obligation to help the poor or to help people in need. They can if they choose to but ultimately it is these people's belief that many of these people (if not all in their minds) "did it to themselves". The conversations I have personally had have been shocking and eye opening. They make blanketed claims of all homeless and exceptionally poor people being "too lazy to work" or "alcoholics" or "drug addicts". So this is their lot in life. Their penance in a world filled with punishments from their angry God.

To them they have been trained that being taxed is stealing from them. Liberals and most Democrats believe that it is a good thing to be taxed more to pay for public services and to provide a social safety net in case of worst case scenarios.

The rich approach every tax increase, no matter how minuscule, as if they were Mr. Potter - the warped frustrated old man in "It's a Wonderful Life" who basically stole an $8,000 deposit from the Bailey Savings & Loan to try to railroad them and their poor customers out of business for his own personal gain. Our government as it turns out, sided with Mr. Potter back then and would do the same now. They called such themes in a movie, "advancing communism" and "attacking capitalism". Our government has not changed one bit since then.

It's protect the rich and the bankers at all costs these days as well. When TARP and the bailouts came about they were put in place to prop up the banks, not help the people they scammed out of their houses with shady mortgages. Those CEOs who had helped run their companies and the American economy into the ground got bigger bonuses than ever... some even got bonuses just for procuring the TARP funds.

And of course to shore up unemployment extensions for 2 million of the 6 million people that need them, for a whopping 13 weeks, they gave the rich another $700-800 billion in extended tax breaks as well. President Obama, always looking out for the little guy (with as little of a fight as he can muster).

Still getting the tax breaks that have crippled America and helped foster the environment of greed that has collapsed the economy, outsourced millions of jobs (and entire industries) overseas should have been enough to quiet this group of thieves down. Unfortunately it's not. They're now passing around the 'Social Security is broke' meme to eliminate that "entitlement" which is just another way of saying, "Rich people have no problem with their retirements and don't want to contribute to society anymore".

This mentality is prevalent amongst that community of people and their brainwashed political allies on the lower income half of the scale.

The conservatives will pass around the information they find in a few various articles that they, not liberals, are more charitable to dispute my commentary here. ABC News had an interesting little article on this some time back in which they try to dispel myths but sort of avoid the obvious overarching themes to how these "myths" came into existence. A couple assertions they make (with my observations in parenthesis):

-Rich people give more in overall dollars than the poor but the poor give more in total percentage of income. (Well no kidding since the poor have far less to work with in total and anything they give to causes, bills, etc is going to have a greater impact on their total working capital.)

-People going to church give far more than those who don't and not just to their own church. (The reason is that churches are collecting for their church every single week - be that for food pantry/shelter services or just to use to advertise the church or whatever that may be for, as it seems this is not quantifiable in these reports as to where the donations are going to, so their parishioners are a bit more trained to give for the good of their church. Also they give to other churches - mostly other Christian churches - because many churches have networks in which their faith is practiced regionally in different locations with the same basic tenets of their faith. I doubt very seriously these Christian people are donating to Muslim, Jewish or other faiths' charities for the most part and a lot of times if they donate to non-affiliated Christian charities they do so just seeing the "Christian" label and with a large amount of ignorance as to what that sect stands for.)

There is apparently more overall giving to charity from conservatives than from liberals but we also must take a look into the pervasive mindset that makes that so. A larger portion of liberals are poorer than conservatives are, thus as noted above the dollar amounts will be disproportionate in favor of conservatives. Also, and this is based solely on my personal observations, conservatives will give more to charities to assuage their pesky consciences (for those who have such a thing) because they hope that in doing so it will be enough to allow others to perceive them as good people. Rarely do they research or care about whether a charity is actually doling that money out to the people they profess to help. They just do it hoping for the best and washing their hands of it.

While they give money to charity there are also other nefarious reasons for such that are discounted. Such as: tax benefits. Rich people receive hefty tax breaks for being charitable. Many times the only reason they are being charitable at all is to be compensated for it. Also never figured into this is how much this same cast of characters have spent lobbying Congress or local state governments to do away with social safety net programs. If a person gives $100,000 to charity, if they get a tax benefit for it and spent say $1-2 million lobbying against Unemployment Benefits, against Social Security Benefits, against financial regulation to keep people in their homes and prevent shady mortgages and did all of this while their donation went to say, Sean Hannity's charity - one of the most corrupt out there, should we applaud them for being so "charitable"? Can we figure out a net negative charity figure for them?

On the flip side, while liberals aren't as charitable dollar for dollar, they're usually the ones that attempt to go to Washington to help others. We have ridiculous amounts of money going into tax coffers every year and while tax breaks (especially for the poor and middle class) are valid, the ones for the richest of the rich are overly excessive. Also if we cut off a large majority of our military expenditures, stopped handing out corporate welfare and used the government regulatory commissions in a way where they were law enforcement and not racquetball buddies with the companies they oversee, there would be ample money left for the most generous of charitable expenses: Single Payer Health Care for All, Better Social Security Benefits, Expanded Section 8 Housing and more funding for homeless shelters/food pantries across the country, improved public education with repaired inner city schools and better teachers/class sizes, fully paid college education grants.

All of that is not only doable, but easily so if we stopped giving corporations the money to buy a big shiny knife to stab us in the back with.

So back to the topic at hand, these people that were close to me called around to find a place to stay. I don't live in the same state as them and am not an option for them to get to. They called the local shelter and found out there is a lengthy waiting list to get in. It seems they are full and there is nowhere for most of these people to go. In the dead of winter.

Now if this were an isolated problem I would chalk it up to them being in a smaller community (around 100,000 people) but it's not. In fact it's an epidemic and has been for a couple of years.

Providence, RI: R.I.’s homeless shelters overrun as weather, recession take toll

Dover, DE: No room at the inn this year: Area shelters are full up during the holidays

Omaha, NE: No Room At Homeless Shelters - Micah House, Open Door Mission report higher numbers

Lakeland, FL: Homeless Shelters Maxed

Minneapolis, MN: Homeless in Minneapolis

There are way more articles out there. Some are just byproducts of the people that tough it out normally coming in for the abnormally harsh weather condition days but ultimately that doesn't change much. These people are all still homeless.

Not everyone that is homeless is there because of drugs or alcohol yet the implication is there and made by right wing blowhards that this is their plight.

Nobody wants to talk about the real reasons for most of these situations. The greed of the wealthy. To make more money they step on more people. Massive sectors of the manufacturing industry were shipped to China and Taiwan and anywhere they could send the jobs for exceptionally cheap labor. If they couldn't send the jobs elsewhere because of the required geography for the job, they recruited illegal immigrants (ironically while attending Republican events and angrily yelling against those immigrant workers "taking our jobs"). They then took all the service industry jobs they can like call centers and such and sent those to India. No need for American workers making the American money they need us to spend right?

You can't talk about it because it shines the spotlight on who they are. When the real light shines down the roaches start running. In their protected little circles they can be hateful and spiteful of the poor. They can be bigots and make condescending jokes about those that they rip off and squash. When it's out in the open, they look like assholes and thus they try to turn their anger on you for shining such a light rather than discuss why they feel the way they do at all.

The income gap between the rich and the poor has been growing for a decade. Right now it's wider than it was during the Great Depression (strange how the media doesn't want to mention exactly WHY we had a Great Depression considering the direction we've been taken in the past 30 years).

According to the census:

The income gap between the richest and poorest Americans grew last year to its widest amount on record as young adults and children in particular struggled to stay afloat in the recession.

The top-earning 20 percent of Americans — those making more than $100,000 each year — received 49.4 percent of all income generated in the U.S., compared with the 3.4 percent earned by those below the poverty line, according to newly released census figures. That ratio of 14.5-to-1 was an increase from 13.6 in 2008 and nearly double a low of 7.69 in 1968.

A different measure, the international Gini index, found U.S. income inequality at its highest level since the Census Bureau began tracking household income in 1967. The U.S. also has the greatest disparity among Western industrialized nations.

At the top, the wealthiest 5 percent of Americans, who earn more than $180,000, added slightly to their annual incomes last year, census data show. Families at the $50,000 median level slipped lower.

Add on top of that the indisputable fact that the poverty number is the highest it has been since 1994 AND that the total number of people in poverty is the highest it has been in 51 years and we're talking about a tidal wave of people requiring the social safety net Republicans and corporate Democrats want to gouge.

So when homeless shelters are out of room at a time when people can easily freeze to death what are they to do? The lack of temporary shelters means gathering together, starting a fire and wait for it, drinking alcohol to increase body heat. Hmm, maybe they're not all listless drunks after all. I suppose if you had to choose between some completely disconnected fool labeling you an alcoholic or staying alive because that same person voted for someone who cut off funding to your shelter or center while propping up the company that laid you off and the company that screwed you with a bad mortgage it would be an easy choice wouldn't it?

What's worse is, it's not just shelters that are strained. It's food pantries across the country that are running out of food. It's low income housing in various communities.

Charities, the ones that operate on the level (and try to use to help decipher how much of your money is actually going to program expenses so you get the best bang for your buck) are important pieces in helping to strengthen a community and providing a helping hand for those in need. However charity is not enough. We need to be a better society and we need our government policies to reflect this.

If you consider yourself a Christian I ask you this: What would Jesus do? According to scripture, not according to the way ideologues in your church or others might manipulate his words. Would Jesus allow his fellow man to die freezing in the cold? Would he allow people to go hungry and starve to death? Would he ask people to stay sick and not provide them with the health care they need? Especially ask yourself this: Would he do it for a couple extra tax dollars back on his paycheck to use for material things like extra DVDs, a TV set, a snuggie?

Outside of Christians I ask the same of you? Is this the type of society you want to partake in? One where the filthy rich on the top of the ladder control all the wealth and you fear for your job every day because to make that much more money, shipping your life away is but a minor inconvenience to them?

What makes you so different than those who are on the streets right now? Most of them were laid off from their jobs and were hard workers just like you are. Very few of them are the lazy stereotype that Reagan and his Neo-Conservatives wanted you to hate and demonize. Most caught a bad break. 20+ years at a manufacturing plant, laid off... weakened unions thanks to years of Republican demonization prevented a very strong severance package from being negotiated on your behalf. Trying to find work is rough especially when other CEOs for other plants in the area did the same exact thing. Move the jobs to China or Mexico to increase their bottom line and fatten their wallet with huge bonuses. You're nothing but a pawn in their game.

The months out of work eat up your savings. No college for your kids. No money for the bills or the mortgage. No place to work soon means no money and no place to live. Just like that you have slipped from one station in life to another. Middle Class Blue Collar worker, The Pride of America, to homeless bum who probably deserves it and is probably a junkie.

Sure, they could have gone back to school. Amassed a ton of school loans they couldn't pay off. Retrain themselves for a new workforce. Of course then when they finally get out of school they'll notice the stark reality that what they went for has now also been outsourced. Computer related jobs? Hope you can relocate to India pal. The piece of paper you thrust yourself into debt for is now but a window dressing to the failure your life appears to be. College Grads with Masters degrees are flipping burgers at Fast Food joints or checking people out at the local big box retailer. They're young and still struggling. Who wants to hire a 40 year old who worked in a now obsolete field in the American workplace and then went to school to train for another obsolete field in the American workplace?

This is not an exaggeration. This is the current landscape. The American experience.

The people I know personally and mentioned above, they're working on various options and may not end up on the street at all. However we know what they're facing if it happens to get that bad.

We need our policies, our politics to be one where we're not just looking out for ourselves right now. Our tax dollars need to be directed in ways that prevent companies from shipping jobs overseas in such a laissez-faire manner. One that protects our money by closing corporate loopholes and regulates companies the way they are supposed to be. One that doesn't waste incredible amounts of money on military boondoggles. One that then redirects that money towards the welfare of the people to give the American people the bailout they deserve.

Protecting Americans from the greediest among us and providing us with the help that charities can't possibly try to provide at every turn.

Aside from politics, find your local shelter or pantry. Donate money or time if you can and try to help. It's rewarding in ways that cannot even be described. I brought my 11 year old son with me to help with last year's Salvation Army Thanksgiving Dinner and honestly I think it helped shape him as a person and probably helped in attempting to make his a better citizen and greater part of society in the future. All of us need to have such an experience. These are our fellow men, women and children. We all live a shared life experience here on this planet and we should do whatever it takes to make that experience one where we look out for one another as well as ourselves.

In Washington with our policies and in our neighborhoods with our deeds, we can prevent more people from having to venture out into the winter cold for good. We can help people from having to worry if every morning they inhale the cold breeze under a blanket, will be their last.

The question is: Who's side are you on? George Bailey or Mr. Potter?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Mid-Term Aftermath: Democrats did it to themselves.

I imagine humans are hypocrites by nature. It’s pretty hard, even for the purists out there to avoid it. After all, the mind is full of changing opinions based on changing events and that ever so crazy concept of nuance. The more information we absorb can tend to alter our original views and eliminate that initial visceral emotional reaction many of us (myself included) tend to have about things.

Still this past Tuesday was definitely the height of such hypocrisy. What makes it different than the reasonable scenario above is that the people behind the hypocrisy don’t use facts at all to change their opinions. They use zero logical reasoning oncesoever. In fact, facts contrary to their own opinions, only strengthen their resolve to push back and defend their ignorance. So with that line of thinking, Americans went to the polls in rather large numbers are voted in Republicans and Tea Party candidates. Their rationale? The economy is not recovering fast enough and Washington spends too much.

What a blanket term that is. Washington is “spending too much”.

Of course when you break it down program by program, that vast majority of people that disagree with the overall blanket term of spending, start showing that they don’t really want to cut spending.

They approve of Medicare and Social Security and they definitely approve the war formerly known as the ‘war on terror’, despite its open ended commitment and no definite resolution in sight.

What’s amazing is that around half approve of or want expansion of the health care bill which is extremely incredible after most of these Republicans and a non-stop media and corporate ad blitz campaigned against it for almost two years.

They hated TARP and didn't know what the hell to think about the Stimulus but didn’t seem to care that many Republican candidates like Ron Johnson from Wisconsin, actually took some related money from bailout receipients… while they were campaigning against it.

They also probably didn’t realize that TARP isn’t going to ultimately end up costing us much as most of it has been paid back or that the Stimulus actually helped to prevent us from going into another Great Depression. Same with the Auto Industry Bailout that saved that industry and has pretty much paid itself back already.

The voters that came out decided that even though Republicans and their policies drove us into the ditch, they were going to get another chance to do so. They ignored that Republicans spent like maniacs the last time in office. They ignored the facts that tax cuts for the rich not only did not create jobs here but only created jobs overseas (hey those used to be your jobs!).

They overlooked some serious bouts of the crazy. Christine O’Donnell’s witchcraft and Sharron Angle’s Republicans should arm themselves if they lose these elections rhetoric lost. But Wisconsin alone elected a Senator that lobbied on behalf of Child Sex Predators, a Governor that never graduated college, a Lt. Governor who touts herself as another Sarah Palin and railed against Government Healthcare when she beat her cancer(she campaigned openly as a cancer survivor) only due to her Husband’s Government Healthcare plan, and almost elected an alleged rapist to Secretary of State. Not to mention the Jan Brewers or Rand Pauls or many other whackjobs that got elected.

Yeah, the sanity went out the window because it appeared all that mattered was if these candidates were willing to rail against Obama and the Government.

Now I am not an Obama apologist. He did a lot to bring this voter collapse onto himself and it wasn’t all racism (though much of it was) where a double standard was applied to him and not to his predecessor. He was cast as an outsider. A muslim. A socialist. Trying to take the American capitalist system down. Fox News and Right Wing pundits/hosts everywhere beat this drum every second after November 2008’s result and it worked. The American people are easily suckered into such emotionally charged diatribes no matter how false they are.

What can be learned from Tuesday’s results is this: Blue Dogs/Centrists/DLCers who more closely resembled Republicans and voted against any true progressive policies lost almost 50% of their seats. Progressives/Liberals lost less than 5%. Why is that?
People want a choice. They always have. They want strong backbones, articulating different positions.

Republicans, for whatever they were otherwise, were strong. They held the line and obstructed every bill or appointment for 2 years straight and were rewarded for their do-nothingness. For no other reason than they appeared stronger. Obama came to them and attempted to compromise before bills were even set forth. He dismissed the Left at every turn, refused liberal ideas like Single Payer to even get a seat at the table for consideration. He started negotiations on the Right and only got pulled further and further over so whatever he did pass was a watered down corporate giveaway, which is exactly what Republicans wanted their friends to have. And Republicans by saying no, even if they were happy internally with what their buddies reaped financially, paid no political price for it.

I’ve said it a million times. You don’t go to a car lot attempting to negotiate by offering to pay the sticker price up front. That’s idiotic. You start off low and negotiate to a middle somewhere. Obama started at the sticker price on health care. HMOs and Pharmaceuticals had to make minor concessions but got 40 million new mandated paid customers in the process with no price controls.

Similarly weak bills saved the Credit Card Industry and Banking Industry from the sort of reforms with teeth needed to reign in what was crushing us. We did not return the Glass-Stegall regulations to end a lot of the scheming against the American Economy done by big banks. We didn’t do much of all to end any of that.
Did Republicans go along with any of that? Not really.

Also when Democrats had 58-59 seats to work with in the Senate (depending on which way the wind was blowing for Lieberman) they claimed inability to pass anything because Republicans would threaten to filibuster. Strangely enough Republicans were at 51 for much of the decade and got all of their items through. Democrats never had the spine to call them out on it and force them to filibuster. They never did what Republicans did and use procedural moves (especially budgetary reconciliation) to force qualifying items through. On appointments, Obama only used recess appointments sparingly despite Bush brazenly using them in previous years and Republicans stalling practically every appointment brought forth.

Democrats, despite being bitch slapped at every turn, acted like a prostitute that was overly loyal to their pimp and crawled right back to try to get in their good graces.

The ‘American people’ is an electorate filled with emotion and not so many facts. They had no interest in why we got to where we are they just wanted to blame Obama for it all. He didn’t come out and fight either. He waited until the last two weeks, when most of these races were already lost, to bother to campaign.

By then he had allowed the right wing media to define him for two straight years and the only prolonged, coordinated media attacks he ever bothered to make, were against the Left. He alienated the very base that elected him and attacked them at will but allowed almost unchallenged attacks to continue on the Right.

Democrats continued to kiss the same corporate rings in Congress that Republicans did only without the guarantee of protections like their counterparts received come election time. Without that corporate money trough and without your most fervent, ardent base supporters whom you’ve now alienated, good luck winning the race against a non-stop media war.

Tuesday proved that a Democratic party more interested in working for corporate masters like their Republican counterparts do not provide a viable alternative to voters.

Republicans are a one note deal. They get elected every time with the same exact line of policies: More tax cuts for the rich, no regulations to prevent companies from stealing from you, more war, if possible (already calling to attack Iran again) and giant cuts to the social safety net. Again... more war, less social safety nets is their big deal.

When they say we want to cut Government Spending, the biggest whiners about it like Rand Paul and Jim DeMint have nada in terms of actual plans as far as programs go. However if the past is prologue as it so often is, we know right where they’ll go for. They came up with an incredibly galling line saying people should be means tested for Unemployment, as if poor people who paid Unemployment Insurance don’t deserve it. Everyone paid for it, it’s their money. Yet Republicans want to steal from that pot of money. They want to privatize social security and have for years and they already stole $2.5 trillion from that pot of money which we have to pay out now. After they raid these funds they then make sure to whine about Social Security not being solvent. You know, because the funds they stole aren’t there.

They make similar arguments about Government not working and then get into office and prove it immediately.

No such cuts are asked of the Pentagon. $2.3 trillion went missing there under Bush as if it was change that fell into a couch cushion. Nobody called for a cut to Pentagon spending. In fact they tripled the Pentagon’s spending using 9/11 as their primary reason. More money to the non-accountable.

The GOP will tout their plans to cut spending but all they have is their attempt to repeal the Health Care Reform bill. Aside from that and possibly cuts to welfare, unemployment funding and maybe education. The real cuts to be made are really the bloated military/defense budget.

Anyway, whether Obama will win or lose 2012 will be determined in how he responds to Republicans. He can come out and be willing to compromise, AGAIN, like he signaled he was willing to do immediately after the mid-term results. And he will be rightfully be painted as a coward and not a fighter. Democrats will continue to look milquetoast and even a pseudo Republican strongman like dumbass Sarah Palin will win the Presidency. Or he can fight back and Democrats can turn the ‘Party of No’ into something that works for them. Reject all Republican ideas out of hand and never allow them to pass the Senate.

Pass Tax Cuts for the Middle Class only. Make huge budget cuts to the Pentagon to drop it back to 1/3rd of what it is today. Hell, I would not give the Pentagon a dime until I took the $2.3 trillion they “lost” and applied it to the $2.5 trillion we stole from Social Security to pay that back. That would force the Pentagon to look a little harder for that money and push them to be accountable for their actions with OUR money. If people want to be outraged, there’s where they should have redirected their anger.

I’d end the Afghanistan fiasco immediately, which costs American taxpayers $190 million a day to NOT catch Osama Bin Laden. Sounds worth it for one guy.

I’d create tax incentives for businesses that create new jobs here and bonuses that kick in after keeping a specific number of them here for 10 years or more. Make it a ladder structure to reward good behavior. Penalize those that take all their business to India and China with higher tax rates. Sorry but American jobs have been hemorrhaged for decades now. We don’t manufacture a damn thing anymore and we’re killing ourselves.

Regardless what Republicans and the ultra rich want you to believe, it’s the poor and the middle class that drive the economy. When they have jobs, they spend. They have to because it’s much harder to save for them. When they spend it creates demand for supply and demand for supply creates more jobs… manufacturing, shipping, retail/sales. More people now working means more spending and thus the cycle continues. And who makes out the best? Corporations. Because a humming economy like that means they are selling more products and increasing their bottom line.

But hey, trickle down seems so much better doesn’t it? The fantasy of the American Dream as we pray for crumbs to fall off a table.

Democrats, specifically those who were thumped on Tuesday, never cared to articulate that line of thinking because they too were in the pockets of the elite. They didn’t fight for you anymore and couldn’t strongly suggest that they were. And they got shellacked. Why vote for the imposter when you can get genuine crazy?

2012 will be more of the same unless Obama retrains himself to be a fighter and Democrats stiffen their message to be the working people’s party again. And if he’s unwilling to be that guy, primary him and let’s end this centrist disaster once and for all.

Friday, September 10, 2010

"Us versus Them" - Why the Qur'an Burning is So Wrong.

When a right wing whackjob led by sensationalistic sources like Fox News or Rush Limbaugh or the like get drawn into the whole "Muslims are evil! Obama is a muslim!" propaganda it barely draws my attention.

It seems like every single day the media is giving that Michelle Bachmann/Sarah Palin batshit crazy 30% that supported Bush and Cheney no matter what they did more and more airtime. They absolutely love following these people because they're unstable and angry and fear makes for some compelling television. Which is fine if you're programming a horror movie or suspense thriller show for your TV audience but when you pretend to be journalists, well you owe the audience some facts and serious balance.

Instead we get bombarded with daily severe imbalance. Imbalance in coverage and chemical imbalance from their lunatic guests. Since Obama's election they have made sure to claim illegitimacy at every turn with that foolish birth certificate nonsense and portraying him as a Muslim who attended a Madrassa. It's rather insane but realize they tried to illegitimize Bill Clinton at every turn as well. This is the typical GOP playbook. Smear, demean, inspire fear into your base and be stubborn 2 year old children with temper tantrums and say NO to anything the Democrats offer up.

The worst part is that the crazy 30% is winning in some polls (likely push polls but whatever) and poised for a Washington re-take. Why? Don't people remember that these are the people that messed it all up to begin with? It was their tax cuts and deregulation that ran us into the ground and we want more of this?

Well Obama and a complicit Democratic Congress seemed to suffer from a sort of Stockholm Syndrome from being rolled over by Bush for 8 years... maybe it even dates back to Reagan's rule. They have no spine, don't fight for the poor or middle class even remotely as hard as they fight for their corporate buddies and well they've alienated their base to the point that they are likely responding to these polls in ways that doesn't count them as potential Democratic voters. Likely to stay home, the very base that got Obama elected and that Rahm Emanuel and Robert Gibbs have taken glee in demeaning are now being told to shut up and get out and vote or else! Or else more of the Bush years!

Yeah that should get them out and working. Thanks for all the back stabbing but if we want all the policies Republicans want (yeah they're voting No because it wins them political points as the opposition party but behind the scenes they absolutely love all the money going to their rich friends), we'll vote for them directly.

Anyway the point I am making is this... Liberal/Progressive voter apathy will have more of a direct correlation to November's Mid-term results than any pretend surge in Republican support or pretend impact of a fringe right wing nutjob group like the Tea Party.

So with that in mind we must remember that Republicans (and their phony separatist group) know one trick to turn out voters: FEAR!!!!

In 2004 they used gays as their target. As it turns out Gays just aren't the bogeymen they used to be. Muslims however, well it was Muslims involved in 9/11, the Republicans' favorite holiday, so why not bring them up and scare people some more about them? After all, there's one in the White House right?

They target a "Mosque" being constructed "2 Blocks" from Ground Zero. Except it's not a Mosque, it's basically the Muslim version of a YMCA. It's not 2 blocks away either. It's actually a bit further than that. There's already a Mosque closer than that which has existed since 1970 since before the World Trade Center ever existed. But hey, who needs facts. Besides Keith Olbermann covered this in a much better way than I ever could.

So in all of this fake outrage, the right wing lie pushers... Fox News, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, etc, kept the narrative about this Mosque out there until it drove people to a fever pitch. Winning an election has always meant more than the effect on human lives to the right wingers.

Things start to happen. Muslim cab drivers get stabbed. Mosques get desecrated with urine. And of course other mosques face opposition outside of the magical hallowed ground of Ground Zero and are met with Arson. Oh and let's not forget how those protests on Ground Zero against that "Mosque" went.

When you start the ball rolling down that steep of a hill, it's often difficult to stop it. Of course, they don't care about the repercussions of their actions as long as they find a way to win in November.

So now that the whackos are out in full force, the reverends of tiny fringe churches come out and have a National Burn the Qur'an Day to try to create more xenophobia against Muslims and worse to enrage an entire population of over 1 Billion people who follow the Qur'an with the same devotion as Christians do with their Bibles. How do you think a Bible burning that had national media coverage on it would go on our shores?

Christians tend to believe they're the most persecuted people in the world anyway, I assume that would just reinforce their rather ludicrous world view.

Now the Qur'an burning appears to be off, temporarily at least because Terry Jones the really crazy and inconsiderate Pastor of this Church tried to come up with some fake story about if he stopped the burning the NYC "Mosque" would be moved.

And hey, even if he doesn't, the world's craziest reverend, Fred Phelps of the "God HATES Fags" Westboro Baptist Church has said he will step in to make sure it goes down anyway. Aww, don't you love when crazies get together and make friends?

Of course the real story here is that, oh yeah, the same people that stoked this paranoia and fear, also chose to send our troops over there to work with Muslims... in THEIR countries... in a war. They are skeptical enough over our mission but they truly have a right to be.

American politicians are making reckless statements about Islam to make this worse and they see this all over our media as a mainstream story. It appears as if America is taking a side against them. The side of Christianity versus Islam.

Well after all, John McCain ran for President in the last cycle purposely excluding all other religions by spouting that 'America is a Christian nation' nonsense.

But we have troops over there in harms way. You'd think they'd be smarter about this. We don't want to appear to be fighting a new crusade with Muslims in their own nations do we? We remember how that last one went. There is no end to such a fight.

Or do we?

There's been a never ending trickle of stories, mostly buried in the papers over the past few years that makes it seem as if the Pentagon does indeed want to make sure we're sending a Christian Army out there to Muslim lands.

For instance, check these stories out:

-US Military Weapons inscribed with Christian Scriptures

-Soldiers punished for not attending Christian Concert

-Iraq: Marines try to convert Muslims

Not to mention the many things Mikey Weinstein has been fighting against in terms of Christianity's grip on the Military.

So what are they seeing over there? They see us pulling this stuff at every turn and of course they are more and more unwilling to work with our troops and unwilling to find peace with us. They don't see us as honest brokers.

They see things like Mass Baptisms in the Military as proof and validation of their fears.

Ultimately what all of this should be is a major eye opener. To anyone with any sort of honesty, we have to start to address this head on. Are we in fact a tolerant melting pot or is intolerance, much like that showed towards Gays and Mexican Immigrants in recent years or Blacks and Women before that or even intolerance towards different European immigrants... is that the real fabric of our nation?

Are we made up of so much fear and angst that our only reaction to anything is the most irrational response possible? Is it worth more soldiers dying so that we can scream incoherently against people that don't share your religious beliefs? Should we then go after Jews and Buddhists next?

If we are a country of a single religion what do we do about the large population of people who disagree with your beliefs?

And when it comes to that... are even other Christian sects safe from your paranoia?

What Would Jesus Do?

Monday, May 31, 2010

What happened to us once we grew up?

As I look around on a regular basis I generally find contempt for much of the world around me. It's not because I choose to be a particularly unhappy person or that I just want to be angry but rather it's because I look at a lot of things through the basic moral lenses I was issued as a child and wonder, where did we go wrong?

I honestly have had so many things just since the start of the Obama Administration bother me that I could be on here every day and it would definitely feel that this blog could become a regular soliloquy where I just rant to myself for the need to get it off my chest. Many of the topics would probably be incredibly justifiable as well.

Between the bank bailouts and the basic middle finger to LGBT groups (aside from this token Don't Ask, Don't Tell thing which is honestly the least that Obama could do) to the Arizona Legalized Racism Law to this total fucking mess known as the BP disaster, I could be here all day, every day complaining forever.

Usually, I use my Facebook to post links these days and complain about what punches into my soul. It's a much shorter version of this blog and to be honest, to write here I feel I want well thought out observations with source references on most days to make sure I am reaching the right notes. On FB, I can use all emotion (although I almost always source my work with links there as well) which is so much easier to do. Hell it's what conservatives live on. Facts require a lot of work and effort sometimes. Not to mention facts contradict their every single myopic belief.

But with all of these problems there is an overarching theme I believe. What were we taught as children about right and wrong?

We were taught to share. We were taught to be nice to others and to accept them if they were different. We were taught to not lie or cheat or steal. We were taught hurting people or threatening them was wrong. We were taught that everything good comes from hard work and perseverance. You were taught to respect your elders.

What the hell happened to us?

Could you imagine if we applied those principles to society today? You know what you would have? Socialism. Or at least a peaceful society that cares for those around us.

I think of this often when a new Robin Hood movie comes out or A Christmas Carol comes out. Teabaggers should rail against both of them.

"Robin Hood steals from the rich to give to the poor. That's WEALTH REDISTRIBUTION! The Poor are too LAZY to work!"

"Scrooge worked hard for his money. Being forced to give it away is SOCIALISM. If poor people want a handout they should go to work for it!"

What in the hell?

The reason those two stories are so beloved is because they are two of the greatest stories in which the plight of the poor is championed and where giving them a leg up is shown in a positive light. It's pure fantasy but we teach children with these stories and Oliver Twist and the sort that caring for those less fortunate is not shameful but rather a rewarding virtue and something that shapes your character here and in the afterlife, should there exist one.

Jesus Christ himself championed such beliefs. I suppose he too would be a pariah with this gang of unruly Capitalists that make up a large majority of our population.

Going back to what we taught our kids. Imagine how the issues of today relates to the lessons of our youth...

We were taught to share.
To put this in context a little bit, imagine that you had four Kindergarten classrooms of 25 kids each and 1 kid took 90% of the toys from ALL of the classes for themselves and basically told the rest of you to make due with what was left over. That you weren't good enough to play with these toys and that kid rigged the system so that every day when they got into class they had access to get to the toys and any more toys that they wanted out of that box before you even got into the classroom. Pretty unfair right?

Well congratulations because in America, that's what we see on an everyday basis. The top 1% control our entire economic wealth and the rest of the World's right along with it and they use every cheating advantage they can to make sure that the American Dream stays just that. A never ending dream from which you will never awake.

We were taught to be nice to others and to accept them if they were different.

This one was a big deal. First, your parents didn't want you getting into fights at school because many times your mouth would try to cash checks your ass couldn't cash. But also they wanted you to make as many friends as possible. You see making friends makes school and life way less stressful and a lot more fun. You don't have to be best friends with everyone in your class but if you at least try to get along with them and understand their differences, it makes the time when you have to stand in line by each other on the playground for any length of time far less awkward. Have to sit on the school bus for a long field trip ride? Well guess what, we can talk and get along!

But today and obviously as we used to do in the past we have not always followed the same guidance we shared with our children. As adults we have tended to move to locations to shelter ourselves from different people. Despite the racial desegregation that helps to alter the demographics of the classroom and provides diversity, as adults we re-segregate ourselves into communities where we shelter ourselves from the every day realities of those different than us. In cities you will find African-American neighborhoods, Asian neighborhoods, Latino neighborhoods and in many suburbs or rural areas that's where you find most white people living. It's this distance from one another that tends to make us not understand each other fully.

Inside the urban areas where most minorities live though there is a far greater understanding of each others' daily struggles and needs. They tend to see the same economic struggle because they share the same job market. They see the difficulty in their schools because they share the same school districts. White people in surburbia and rural areas don't see the same things. They forget that their grandparents and maybe even parents populated those places in the city a generation before and they too may have had an impact on the deterioration of the community. We all do our share at some point or another.

Yet from their safe distance many people tend to point fingers at one another. To hate another race of people. After the Civil War most had hoped that things would be settled once and for all on this issue. Another 100 years later and we were still working to pass a Civil Rights Act. Now we've decided to use an economic downturn and massive job losses as a reason to pass xenophobic laws that legalize racial profiling against Hispanics in Arizona and have tried to roadblock Homosexuals in every attempt to have the same legal rights as their heterosexual brethren.

In the annals of history the side that has discriminated has always come off looking as the most evil assholes of all time. Aside from White Supremicists, nobody has a very fond memory of the Strom Thurmonds or George Wallaces of the world. And the right wingers that constantly work against the equal rights and basic fairness of others, 20-30-50 years from now... will be in the same conversation as those well noted racists or hate mongers.

I'll come back to the main solution for the Arizona problem in a second.

We were taught to not lie or cheat or steal.

Basic rules to follow right? Except that our President got busted 7 years ago lying to our faces on national television to twist our arms into letting him play war for fun and there was no consequences. This after he and his brother and their henchwoman Katherine Harris cheated and stole the election down in Florida in 2000 and then were able to repeat the feat in 2004 with Kenneth Blackwell in Ohio.

I suppose the basic rules of conduct go out the window when the leader of your country broke every one of them while in power. However we know this isn't the case for low level thieves. Police investigate the small guys and they go into jail.

The problem is that it's not proportionate in how these crimes are addressed. There are probably a million political operatives and elected officials breaking the law every day in terms of how they fatten their wallets while in power and what laws they can break to continue to seize the levers of power from the American people in favor of their corporate benefactors. However we know damn well they are not ever going to see a criminal charge for a single one of those offenses.

Instead they get off Scot free while the guy that robs a liquor store gets 15 years in prison.

"Well the liquor store guy used a gun! His was putting lives in danger and there was force involved!"

Sure. Except that when you're raiding the treasury for your rich pals to get government bailouts or contracts at the expense of the social safety net (Unemployment Insurance, etc) then you really are putting lives in danger. People losing their homes and living on the streets because a company was told by our government that outsourcing is a good thing and so they laid you off, all the while you had been duped by a junk mortgage with an ever raising interest rate that you now all of a sudden couldn't afford and the only net you had was unemployment while you struggle to find work during a supposed economic recovery that is not creating many real jobs... well you just put these people in serious danger. Sure they could hope to find a place to live in a shelter.. if the shelters in their areas have room for them.. many do not.

I'd argue that in most cases the guy robbing the liquor store is at the end of his rope and doing it out of necessity. While Congress and CEOs are doing this with already overloaded and incredibly fat wallets. That to me, makes their act even more callous.

We were taught hurting people or threatening them was wrong.

Or so I thought. My son's elementary schools constantly teach about the negative effect of bullying. As adults we seem to forget that the bullying in real life has a different name. These are the people that abuse - emotionally and physically - people around them. Have you ever seen an abused spouse? Many times they allow themselves to be trapped into the routine. They have legitimate fear of leaving the situation because it could get worse if they try to go. They hold on to whatever few good times they had even when there are almost none currently nor have there been in a very long time because holding onto hope is less scary than running away and starting over... or trying to get away and being abused further if they can't leave.

I think of this pattern and see America. We remember our country's heartwarming tales. The absolute courage of the Colonists that risked their lives against a military empire just to fight for the very concept of freedom. The stories of the Underground Railroad. The Martin Luther King Jr. Civil Rights marches. So many of the moments we canonize as this concept of America revolve around the indelible mark the founding fathers had on us when it came to what the term 'freedom' means as a nation.

And then 9/11 comes along and we toss all of that aside for safety and protection from an enemy that does not have the ability to strike at will and planned the 9/11 major attack for years and years before finally getting lucky enough to pull it off. And this isn't even counting the fact that if Bush had cared at all to read his August 6th, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing and act upon it, we likely wouldn't have had an attack at all.

A big event happens and we, the emotionally abused victims, lied to and cheated on over other military issues in the past (Vietnam specifically), clung to our abuser even though we should have known that he was completely untrustworthy. The abuser took more liberty to take our liberties. Illegally wiretapping ALL of us (not some of us or even just suspected victims). Eliminating Habeas Corpus. Detaining American Citizens as well as regular muslim men with no association with al-Qaeda together in a place where they had no right to have a fair trial, make a really proper defense in their case or worse yet, they can be held indefinitely without even being charged with anything. It's a crime to humanity and it would make our forefathers vomit violently in their graves.

This was, of course, proceeded by the Patriot Act which helped strip our rights as Americans away.

But this is just the freedom and civil liberty thing. If you really want to see how we act like abused spouses, take a look at how moronically we cling to capitalism even when we have proof that the concept of profit over all (the very basis of capitalistic thought) means purposely destroying moral boundaries and wrecking the lives of millions. Congress plays along. They deregulate everything to help grease the skids. They pass laws making it easier for these companies to create junk products to sell people and eventually collapse the system under. They do this neatly while basically being on the payroll for these people come election time.

They have Americans so brainwashed into believing that despite the meltdowns that cost you your car, house, job and possibly family... that any other economic system, namely socialism, is Nazi Germany or Communist Russia.

Even though they totally distort the values of another economic system because they want to confuse you with examples of evil violent authoritarian governments, they do it because they know you're still confused into buying into the "American Dream".

We were taught that everything good comes from hard work and perseverance.

Ahh and here's where that American Dream comes in. It's the core basis of Reaganomics isn't it? Work incredibly hard and great things will happen to you! You may never be rich but if you go to work every day you might own a house and a car and make a decent wage and live comfortably for the rest of your life.

Of course that sort of has been the mirage the rich have been using since the beginning of time right? Spruced up just enough to keep modern and relevant to your current belief system.

Reaganomics believed that if you target everything for the rich, most notably major tax cuts, that they will take that money, reinvest some of it into their business and the crumbs that fall off their lavish dinner table might just reach you in terms of potential new jobs...

Except that the top-down economic philosophy is just a consistent failure. What we've learned is those rich guys up top they pocket that tax cut. If they hire anyone at all it's overseas for pennies on the dollar thanks to outsourcing. And in fact this new found money might allow them to expand operations in China or India or whatever and that tends to mean more factory closings state-side. The companies then report record financial numbers. The assholes that could afford large amounts of stock love this. It's an economic upturn for them. For the average guy who was working hard and living for the American Dream, they just had the dream turn into a Freddy Krueger style nightmare and they're sort of hoping they lose in the dream just so they don't have to wake up to the hell that awaits them financially.

Corporations have unprecedented access these days to Congress. It's so blatant that even the Democrats, once considered the party of the people while Republicans held the banner of the Corporate Elite above their heads proudly, turned into the same greedy, CEO-beholden group of politicians as their opposition. Corporatists like the DLC got one of their biggest players in Rahm Emanuel helping to control Obama's agenda and from there it's been a windfall for them.

The Banks and specifically Goldman Sachs got bailed out to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars. HMOs and Pharmaceuticals got everything they could have wished for in a Health Care bill that forces every American to buy coverage from them and provides no price controls to prevent them from continuing to scalp consumers. And BP, when they, Transocean and Halliburton (of course) create possibly the largest environmental disaster ever does anyone force them out or do something to penalize them? Not a chance.

Oh and hey getting back to that Arizona thing like I promised... while crazed xenophobic people look at illegal immigrants as the reason they are losing jobs, I think it's time to point the finger at the people that are keeping Americans out of work. It's clearly corporations that are hiring illegal immigrants and specifically recruiting them to come here. The penalties they pay (if any regulatory agency even does anything at all about it) is usually less than the actual immigrant themselves faces. It all adds up to a cost effective solution to avoid paying the American worker even the minimum wage they deserve.

Let's not kid ourselves people. Most of these jobs are farming jobs or jobs that require the person to be on-site in the specific geographic region in which they are hired. If they could outsource this they would but they cannot due to the necessity of the job being done where the immigrants are hired.

They recruit these people for the same reason they outsource. Because they could care less about America, the community or people around them and because their CEOs want to make ungodly profits. And hey, you people can be angry and forcibly toss as many of these workers out of the country as you want, they're not getting penalized so they'll just find more. So much for your brilliant strategy now suckers...

Create a forceful regulatory agency that regularly goes through the books of these companies and double checks social security number duplication to sort out fraud and penalize these companies at $1,000,000 per offense, per worker.

Stop the recruitment and watch the immigration numbers fall sharply.

You were taught to respect your elders.

Sometimes as a kid I hated this. Parents... Grandparents... man they can be assholes. However you still had to respect them because, well, it was the rule.

I don't necessarily think you have to listen to them as if they're always right. I mean being generations older usually puts you on the wrong side of a lot of issues that have long been settled amongst younger people (racism, homophobia, etc). However it is good to at least respect our elders enough to take care of them when they get older. Such respect is hard to find when Congress aims specifically to make cuts to Medicare or wants to turn Social Security into a similar stock boondoggle that 401Ks have proven to be (biggest ponzi scheme ever?).

I think the belief in Washington is that, "well the elderly never really know what's going on anyway, let's buy off AARP and we can confuse them into whatever we want to do."

They certainly did this with the Medicare Part D Prescription Drug plan. Guys like Rep. Tom Petri who has over a $1 million in Walgreens stock were able to sponsor and pass a law that made most seniors pay even more for their prescription drug plans and prevented Medicare from doing what the VA does and group negotiate for lower drug prices. What a pile of shit.

Every time we turn around corporations are eliminating pensions leaving seniors with no retirement money and then you get Bush, the Republicans and now even Obama saying they want to "fix Social Security" which only means, "privatize it and make it a giveaway to Wall Street"... you know the guys that fuck everything up for a profit.

There is no respect for elders or for that matter other people anymore.

When I see America, I see a country that is at each others' throats. Blaming one another for the problems we see today. Victims in a misinformation campaign that has managed to create an illusion that there is no class war by the rich onto the poor and middle class but rather it's just the lazy, uninitiated poor that want to take the last of what the ever shrinking middle class has left.

That's just not true.

But you know, if we even remotely followed the rules and tenets of our childhood lessons, we might start to see the forest for the trees. We'd begin to understand that America as currently constructed is a failed state in which unless real change occurs, (not the false hope campaign sloganeering of a corporate protectionist) the concept in which our forefathers most notably Jefferson envisioned for us, will die a cruel humiliating death.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Feingold responds

First let me say the following. I am not sure whether or not this is his canned response (all elected officials have them) or not especially since it does address a lot of the points I made in my original letter to him. However, I still disagree with him on the very specific point that we need a Constitutional Amendment to go further on this. Senator Feingold is looking at this singularly in the context of this one case.

In this one case we're discussing, federal elections spending is at issue. So he narrows his focus to change the decision based on this one issue. However, my issue is larger than that. What the Supreme Court did was not a one-off out of character move. It was not relegated to this one case nor will their process affect just this one decision.

It was what enabled them to come to their conclusion, the obvious application of Corporate Personhood that allowed them to make the assumption that corporations, since they are viewed as people by the courts, have the same rights as people and hence this somehow impeded their free speech.

So while the good Senator and I agree completely on the disastrous ramifications of this court decision, our remedies couldn't be any more completely different. He discusses passing laws that will cripple aspects of the ruling however I see that as a futile choice. What is to stop conservatives from challenging the laws in court and having the conservative, pro-corporation Supreme Court make the same exact decision in their favor once again, thus striking the new laws down?

The only Supreme Court proof option is to eliminate Corporate Personhood all together with a Constitutional Amendment. There is no other way and no, this is not a kneejerk reaction to a single case. Ever since the initial court mistake that allowed this glitch become precedent we the people have had an ever shrinking voice in our democracy at the expense of corporate money. It's time to change this for once and for all.

Here's Senator Feingold's response. (Below is the Op-Ed he enclosed as a .doc file)

Dear Mr. Poole,

Thank you for contacting me about Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. I appreciate hearing your suggestions.

I agree that the U.S. Supreme Court made a terrible mistake in deciding this case. Presented with a relatively narrow legal issue, the Supreme Court chose to roll back laws that have limited the role of corporate money in federal elections since Teddy Roosevelt was president. Ignoring important principles of judicial restraint and respect for precedent, the Court has given corporate money a breathtaking new role in federal campaigns. Just six years ago, the Court said that the prohibition on corporations and unions dipping into their treasuries to influence campaigns was 'firmly embedded in our law,' yet this Court has just upended that prohibition, and a century's worth of campaign finance law designed to stem corruption in government.

The American people will pay dearly for this decision when, more than ever, their voices are drowned out by corporate spending in our federal elections. However, it is important to note that the decision does not affect the ban on unlimited "soft money" contributions, which was the central provision in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA) that Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and I authored. The ban will continue to prevent corporate contributions to the political parties. Knowing of your interest in this issue, I have attached a newspaper op-ed I wrote in response to the Supreme Court's decision.

In the coming weeks, I will work with my colleagues to pass legislation restoring as many of the critical restraints on corporate control of our elections as possible. Thank you again for contacting me about this important issue.


High court opens the floodgates
By Russ Feingold

In its ruling in the case of Citizens United v. FEC, the Supreme Court unraveled campaign-finance laws that stood for more than a century. The court was originally presented with a relatively narrow legal issue in the case, but chose instead to consider a much broader question: whether to roll back laws that have limited the role of corporate money in federal elections since Theodore Roosevelt was president. Now the court has handed down its ruling, and made a terrible mistake in giving corporate money a breathtaking new role in federal campaigns.

It is important to note that the decision does not affect the ban on "soft money" contributions, which was the core provision in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, also known as McCain-Feingold. That ban will continue to prevent corporate contributions to the political parties from corrupting the process. But the decision does significantly increase corporations' clout in campaigns.

For decades, corporations could only contribute to candidates and pay for political ads from funds collected from their administrative and executive employees and kept in special accounts called PACs. With the court's decision, corporations will now be able to dip into their huge general treasuries to pay for independent advertising. With their enormous resources, corporations can now vastly outspend the candidates and other outside parties in almost any race.

With the gates opened for a virtually unlimited amount of corporate money, I fear that our elections will become like NASCAR races — underwritten by companies. Only in this case, the corporate underwriters won't just be seeking publicity, they will be seeking laws and policies that the candidates have the power to provide.

During the 2008 election cycle, Fortune 500 companies alone had profits of $743 billion. By comparison, spending by candidates, outside groups, and political parties on the last presidential election totaled just over $2 billion. There's just no comparison; corporations and unions have the resources to effectively dominate federal campaigns.

Just six years ago, the state of campaign-finance law was quite different. When the Supreme Court ruled that the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act that Sen. John McCain and I championed was constitutional, it noted that the prohibition on corporations and unions dipping into their treasuries to influence campaigns was "firmly embedded in our law." Yet the court only a few years later has upended that prohibition.

A majority of the court ignored several time-honored principles that have served for the past two centuries to preserve the public's respect for and acceptance of its decisions. One is the concept of "judicial restraint," the idea that a court should decide a case on constitutional grounds only if absolutely necessary, and should rule as narrowly as possible. Here, the court did just the opposite — decided the constitutionality of all restrictions on corporate spending in connection with elections in an obscure case in which many far more narrow rulings were possible.

The court also ignored stare decisis, the historic respect for precedent, which Chief Justice John Roberts termed "judicial modesty" during his 2005 confirmation hearing. It's hard to imagine a bigger blow to stare decisis than the court's decision to strike down laws in over 20 states and a federal law that has been the cornerstone of the nation's campaign-finance system for 100 years.

Finally, the court ignored the longstanding practice of deciding a case only after lower courts have fully examined the facts. Here, because the broad constitutional questions considered by the Supreme Court were not raised in the court below, there was no factual record at all on which the court could base its legal conclusions.

We now face the undoing of laws that have helped to prevent corruption in government for more than a century. Some will say that corporate interests already have too much power and that members of Congress listen to the wishes of corporations instead of their constituents. While the campaign-finance system certainly needs further reform, I can only imagine how much worse things will be in a system where the views and interests of American voters are completely drowned out by corporate spending.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Russ Feingold makes a horrible judgment call...

Sadly enough Russ Feingold who was right on The Patriot Act and right on The Iraq War and did so by using the logic that rushing to a judgment call out of response to something immediate is a major long term ramifications-having mistake applies the same logic to the horrific Supreme Court case ruling that basically allowed Corporations free reign over our elections.

That would be a rational point to make if the Supreme Court hadn't spent the last 30 years ruling for corporations over individuals and worse using the mistake of "Corporate Personhood" to trample the spirit of the Constitution.

I respect Russ as much as any Senator in that chamber however I will call him out if I disagree with him and sent the following letter to him today to plead for sanity on this issue.

Dear Senator Feingold,

I have been a supporter of yours since you first ran for office and have even volunteered on a local level for your campaign when I lived in the Oshkosh area. I have always thought you to be a voice for the people in a Senate Chamber that is too often a place where the voices of the people are drown out by the voice of Big Business Interests.

It's been your steady, independent judgments on serious issues like The Patriot Act and the Iraq War, unpopular as they may have been at the time but correct as they were long term that have made me stick with you even when my devotion to the party began to waver.

I understand that you have always called for calm and rational thought and not overreacting to a current situation in a way that would hurt us down the line. It was that line of thinking that made you so correct in the two aforementioned examples I cite here.

However your recent statement where you oppose a Constitutional Amendment that would prevent Corporations from having a direct voice in our election process and ultimately expands the original mistake of Corporate Personhood further than any court previous ever has, has me shocked and saddened.

In the cases I mentioned before, our choices were made on fear and were in fact irrational. Even though we had other terrorist attacks on US soil, the original WTC attacks in 1993, the Oklahoma City Bombing... we had never had an attack of such magnitude on US soil and it drove even the best Congressmen and Senators to make rash decisions based on their own fears and the fears of their constituents.

This is different altogether because this is not a one time blunt object type of shot from the bow from the Supreme Court. This is in fact, a repeated process where the more conservative Supreme Court has ruled consistently with the Corporation over the Person.

Over the course of 30 years the courts became more conservative and Supreme Court judges were specifically vetted by previous Administrations for their right wing ideology while Democratic Administrations chose Centrist/Moderate Judges that did not swing the balance back to a complete center.

In that ideology lie the principle that money equals power and that people do not overrule the almighty corporation.

I don't need to give you a history lesson of the mistake that created corporate personhood nor would I insult your intelligence by running down the plethora of cases that have proven that the Supreme Court is far from an independent impartial observer in these cases any longer. I know you already know these examples and are a very smart man.

It's for that very reason that I cannot fathom for the life of me why you would oppose such an important measure. Especially when the biggest beneficiary of such a move would be the strengthening of your pet cause, Campaign Finance Reform.

A few wealthy Corporations already own the media thanks to poor decisions by previous Administrations and their FCC appointments to deregulate/relax media ownership laws. In doing so they use their outlets to spout pro corporate propaganda and control the narrative on most of the issues you're attempting to pass. Jon Stewart pointed this out on The O'Reilly Factor just last night about how Fox News creates the narrative and people become hysterical about real issues.

The point of this is to drive panic so nobody regulates industry or changes how they are working internal scams to continue boosting profits through the roof. The news never covered war profiteering, much of which involved their parent company's other corporate holdings. Never bothers to cover much in the way of corporate scandal until it blows up so large that they can't avoid it (Enron). They protect the narrative that Big Business can do it better than the Government and that we should trust them no matter how corrupt they may be.

It's sort of backfiring on them now as banks have become the scourge of America for their reaping huge profits at the expense of regular people who work hard and see similar corporations outsource their jobs and create massive layoffs all to make their CEOs and major shareholders more money.

Americans, despite what Fox or other corporate owned media might say, are mostly united on one thing. They are tired of being ripped off.

By giving in to this Supreme Court decision and in effect a huge swath of previous incorrect decisions and future slanted decisions you're saying, "Yes, I think corporations should have the same equal rights as the American People."

They already try to bounce around the McCain-Feingold laws and start "advocacy groups" to sell their issues to people in a confusing way and by saying that distribution of campaign ads and materials by ultra rich corporations should be allowed and basically uncapped, pretty much ends the democratic process as we know it.

Ask third party candidates who deserve as much as anyone to have their ideas heard, how not having a voice in the media or any money to put out a serious ad campaign works for them? Now think of it like this. Aside from the candidate they support running their own ads they will have corporate backers putting out endless ads in support of this person. They will have multiple PR firms putting out and coordinating messages that presents a completely unfair advantage.

For the major party candidate on the losing end of such a corporate war it's going to be an incredibly steep uphill climb to battle the amount of market saturation and name recognition that their opponent will have going for them. For the third party candidate, why even bother getting into the race? Unless you're Ross Perot and a billionaire, there's no chance at all you will be heard... and considering how often they are ignored now you just eliminated a major portion of the Democratic Process.

The reason for the amendment has nothing to do with free speech and everything to do with fair elections and upholding the forefathers' intent behind the concept of a Democracy. Thomas Jefferson, often wary of such meddling be it by businesses or clergymen, was strongly opposed to businesses having a large say in Government politics.

As a Democrat who often attends local Jefferson-Jackson dinners, I would plead with you to use his frame of mind on this issue for guidance.

The need for an Amendment is to provide clarity as to the place of the people in their government. Corporations often do not pay taxes, or avoid doing so with off shore shelters, yet we're willing to give them not so much equal but rather superior placement in the laws of society and the elections that decide who controls it?

This to me is an abomination of Constitutional purpose.

Aside from what political gains this would make for Democrats or your pet causes, since that is not the point of this, I want to appeal to your sense of history and Constitutional fairness.

We are at a tipping point in America in terms of how powerful we have allowed Corporations to become. The corporate elite have managed to use their unlimted lobbying resources to have practically every major law and regulation, most notably Glass-Stegall, overturned in their favor and what we see now is a stifled Democracy where in order to have a chance at any major office you need to be vetted at a pro-business advocate. We see now a country whose economic future is in dire straights. Where the top 1% own 3/4ths of the country's wealth and the rest of us grovel for a steady job that can just pay the bills while we drown in debt over house payments or overpriced health care costs.

The last thing we need is the Supreme Court to continue to advocate against our well being in their pro-corporation stances. And since Bush and Rove stacked the lower courts with like-minded judges, the judiciary as a whole can work against the rights of the individual versus the rights of the corporation.

Most certainly the makeup of the court can and will change from time to time but what should be a constant is that no court should be able to rule that corporations, who do not do their fair share to be a loyal American citizen, are in fact people in the eyes of the law.

An American citizen pays taxes here, has their jobs here and resides here, does not break the laws on a regular basis here and does not have the financial wherewithal to influence their representatives. And unfortunately because of this their individual voices are often ignored or responded to with a form letter that hardly does enough to address their very real concerns.

Preventing corporate personhood and preventing corporate tampering with elections prevents undue foreign influence on our elections. It prevents undue foreign influence on our laws, most notably the constant war to avoid regulatory measures that we purposely put in place to protect the American citizen.

Once you end Corporate Personhood you realize that they do not have the same right to free speech that the American people were granted via the blood of our ancestors fighting for such freedom over the years. Did corporations go to war? Or did they just profit from their involvement of it?

Please Senator Feingold, as one of your greatest supporters I plead with you to make the choice that supports the American citizen over the rights of the Corporation. This is not the rash judgment of one Court Decision this the result of an Avalanche of recent cases that proves that the defense of corporations in the Federal Court system has gone too far and needs to be written into law in a way that prevents future misinterpretation of law to give corporations an unfair leg up on the rest of us who pay the taxes that grease the skids and allow them tax breaks to build in new locations, buy more equipment, hire more workers, etc. We pay the taxes and corporations reap all the benefit including practically them owning most of Congress thanks to their constant lobbying and offering of post-Congressional opportunities.

The scales of justice are tilted. Please help us place the weight back on the side that is launched into the sky at the moment. It would be nice for America if all of us had a shot at equality for once.

Robert Poole, Jr.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

More on the Afghanistan CIA bombing...

Last week I wrote up an article on Cause and Effect. I want to discuss the cause and effect because some statements came out that change the initial snap conclusion of the last post, but rather could prove disturbing in the ultimate scheme of things.

I went by the timeframe in which three news articles were posted but there was smoke to that fire after all. Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing in Afghanistan that killed 8, 7 of which were CIA agents reportedly. They said they did this because of drone attacks the US had made on them. Now, we're in a war supposedly and I don't feel bad for Al-Qaeda members being picked off during it. They knew what they were getting into with the two WTC bombings, the Cole bombing, the Embassy bombing, etc. So frankly I have no sympathy for them.

My problem was the first half of my cause and effect note - the one where Afghans were irate about NATO/US raids that killed civilians. The Cause in my post was actually justifiable drone attacks. The effect was them bombing us. In a war this is something that happens and it is hard to avoid.

What isn't hard to avoid is when we make foolish, war crime decisions on the battle field which is what those Afghan protests were about.

What we did there was beyond the pale. The type of stuff that creates sympathy amongst the Afghan people for the Al-Qaeda cause and works as a recruitment tool for generations of new terrorists.

In the raid US/NATO troops went into three buildings, grabbed out 10 people, most of which were children. Handcuffed them so they posed no armed resistance... and killed them.

From the London Times:

“The delegation concluded that a unit of international forces descended from a plane Sunday night into Ghazi Khan village in Narang district of the eastern province of Kunar and took ten people from three homes, eight of them school students in grades six, nine and ten, one of them a guest, the rest from the same family, and shot them dead,” a statement on President Karzai’s website said.


“First the foreign troops entered the guest room and shot two of them. Then they entered another room and handcuffed the seven students. Then they killed them. Abdul Khaliq [the farmer] heard shooting and came outside. When they saw him they shot him as well. He was outside. That’s why his wife wasn’t killed.”

A local elder, Jan Mohammed, said that three boys were killed in one room and five were handcuffed before they were shot. “I saw their school books covered in blood,” he said.

The investigation found that eight of the victims were aged from 11 to 17. The guest was a shepherd boy, 12, called Samar Gul, the headmaster said. He said that six of the students were at high school and two were at primary school. He said that all the students were his nephews. In Jalalabad, protesters set alight a US flag and an effigy of President Obama after chanting “Death to Obama” and “Death to foreign forces”. In Kabul, protesters held up banners showing photographs of dead children alongside placards demanding “Foreign troops leave Afghanistan” and “Stop killing us”.

So while the cause wasn't correct in my initial posting of the Afghan incident last week, the effect could be the same. Increased terror attacks now and for years down the road, just as I mentioned with the Yemen situation. Our actions help in the creation of new terrorists. We may not want to hear it but it's true. The longer we seem imperialistic and invade countries at will to push our own agendas, the more enemies we create.

And as critical I am of Obama, I know damn well this isn't all his fault. He didn't start both of these wars. Hell, we were running ops in Yemen before Obama ever took office. And as US Ambassador to Morocco Marc Ginsberg points out, it was Dick Cheney's personal authorization of the release of the Saudis who fueled the resurgence of Al-Qaeda in Yemen to begin with. Tough on terror that guy.

I just want Obama to earn that Nobel and make the right call. That call is withdrawal. There are very few Al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan now. Less than 100 by some estimates. The longer we stay there the more we make clear that the entire purpose for being there is to protect and prop up the Karzai Government, which took the recent elections by stealing them... the way Karzai's friend Bush did in 2000 and 2004.

Karzai is illegitimate to the Afghan people. Our presence is illegitimate to the Afghan people. How many of those people are going to join Al-Qaeda's cause if it means getting us out of there? How many Iraqis did the same thing, not for love of Al-Qaeda but to fight against us occupying their nation?

This is all common sense logic. Sadly enough, not enough people in our Government have the willpower to use it.