Legendary KTLA Reporter, Stan Chambers, Dead At 91

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                              (photo: KTLA)

Goodbye, Stan

In 63 years with KTLA

You’ve more than done your part

More than upheld your end of the bargain

With an ocean of optimism

More than anyone could have expected

With endless enthusiasm

More than anyone could have imagined

With Integrity, objectivity and fairness

For all this

You have our respect and admiration

You have our friendship

And more

We were family

You will be missed

(click here for full obit)

 

The Brian Williams Thing

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What Brian Williams did is unacceptable.   Upholding the public trust is all-important and he lied to his viewers – and then lied again to try and get out from under the first lie.    And now some apologists are trying to make excuses for his actions.   Possibly because lying has become so commonplace as to be acceptable in contemporary American culture?

Must we be reminded that journalists are held to a higher standard than politicians?

Being shot down in a war zone is not something you would later “conflate,” it is an event that would mark your life.   It is something you would never forget.

What Brian Williams did is unacceptable.  Unless NBC wants to admit that it is no longer in the business of doing Journalism.    They have no right to claim the same ground as Larry Greene of CBS,  Bill Stewart of ABC or  Don Harris of NBC.   Three three of the many who have given their lives for the craft.

Journalism, is a serious business.   Some standards are never to be violated.   Knowingly lying to your viewers or readers, is one of those standards.  This is no joke.  Or at least it should not be.  The fact that more in the Journalism community aren’t more concerned is alarming.

But then, nothing is really all that important anymore, what with dozens of channels bringing us the “news” 7/24, and the near impossibility of discerning the difference between “real” news outlets and infotainment wonks.

If NBC is strictly in the business of doing entertainment programming to sell products and they no longer feel the need to uphold the standards of Journalism, then they need to come out and tell us that.   In fact, it would be nice to hear a statement of purpose from all the big nets.   What is their purpose?   What’s their policy on honesty and accuracy?   To do the best they can given the circumstances in light of advertiser’s and stockholder’s demands?  Whatever Fox came up with would surely be side-splittingly funny.

This situation makes a mockery of all the hard working honest journalists who continue doing the best they can in spite of corporate cutbacks and the explosion of greed-driven infotainment on the tv side with anchors being paid multiple millions of dollars annually, not necessarily to do the news, but to promote themselves and their product, whatever that might be,  automobiles, noodle soup or a cure for erectile dysfunction.

Those who turn their backs and claim otherwise, are only contributing to the problem, which, in its current  condition,  may be beyond repair.

In the end whether Williams stays or goes will probably depend upon one simple issue:   If NBC thinks they can keep him without hurting their ratings, then he will stay.   If they feel he’s going to cost them ad revenue, then he’s gone.   Public trust and public service be damned, it’s only business and you are just one more customer.

The Big, Big Game

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I know football is so very, very  important, considering the ongoing impact it continues to have on our health, well being and national security,  but I heard something which bears repeating.  I think it does, anyway.   Unless you’re a fan of  the Lions or the Bears, which continue operating as very expensive entertainment franchises in cities struggling to survive.   Detroit is being sold off like a giant garage sale and Chicago is closing schools and privatizing other publicly owned city operations such as  parking at O’Hare  Airport,  parking enforcement, and so forth.   You get the idea.   It used to belong to the people.   Now, they’re selling it.   Before long the venerable old Shedd Aquarium will be renamed “BP Aquatic World.”   An oil-spill free environment, where the kiddies can go to learn just how much effort big oil is putting into preserving our oceans.

Poor Chicago.  Hardly seems like the people in such an impoverished area could afford NFL Football?    But apparently they can.  And then there’s down and out Detroit.    Things are so bad there that Forbes guesses that it’s the only NFL franchise losing money.

Without Detroit, we might have lost a whole lot more.  And I’m not even  thinking about Motown, which had a giant influence on American music.

No, without the motor city,  the United States might have lost World War II.   Where do you think all the tanks, trucks and Jeeps came from?   However, now that trade barriers have been dropped and jobs have either been sent overseas or to “right to work for less” states, which can keep unions out and wages low,  following 50 years of the game being rigged in favor of the corporations and the billionaires, Detroit has been sucked dry.   It’s wealth extracted, this one-time industrial behemoth has been cast aside to whiter away.   It’s people, many of them elderly pensioners, left to die.  Even the water is being turned off to the City’s poor who can no longer afford to pay their bills.

I wonder who’s going the Lion’s games, and how any of this can be happening in the richest country in the world, with a gross domestic product of $16,720,000,000,000.    Unless things are really, really screwed up.  Even worse than you or I can begin to imagine, because we don’t really have the inside track on where the greedheads are taking us.   But you had better believe they are takin’ us there Bubba, and you probably are not going to like it, once the train arrives.

And it’s not just happening here.  Today, one of the last sane men standing, Thom Hartmann, was talking about Ireland, and the push by big lenders to force the Irish to privatize their national water system in order to raise money to pay back some of the debt they incurred when the deregulated bankers went nuts in 08, crazy with greed, coming up with all sorts of ways to extract capitol (suck the money) out of the U.S., Ireland, Greece, Spain and so many other countries that thought they were “safe,” because they had been duped into thinking they could trust the bankers.   Until the bankers went bust and blamed the countries and demanded that the taxpayers make up their losses while the millionaires and billionaires pulled all their money out, sending it to offshore entities that can’t be traced.

And now they are trying to steal Ireland’s water delivery system?  Next they’ll be trying to privatize the air we breath and the ground we walk on.   With no public streets, there might be a “steppage fee” for wear and tear on the roadway when you go for your evening walk.  And a “breathable air” fee, for the air you’re forced to inhale as a living human being.

And why not?    Our new credo, our new religious mantra is “anything that makes a buck is a good thing!”   Forget about the impact it has on any individual or the United States of America as an entity.  And therein lies the rub.   The billionaires and the millionaires are taking all the money for themselves while they give one big greedy middle finger to the good ole USA.   It’s at the heart of all our troubles.  Well, that, and the inability of the citizenry to figure it all out before our once-representative democracy is totally destroyed and the new feudalism sets in any further, locking most of us into to a permanent status of surfs with no way out.

“Please sir, may I have another?”   I’m so very damn hungry, you see.

And don’t look to the politicians for assistance,  most have been purchased by Billionaires, millionaires,  corporate board directors and CEOs.    Not directly.   These guys leave no finger prints on who they’re buying.   They don’t have to after the Supreme Court ruling on “Citizens United,”  which effectively finished representative democracy in the United States.

I must admit though, it’s a little easier with 52-week auto financing, credit card debt to fund our purchases and NFL Football to keep us entertained.

 

Greece Leads The Way In A Return To Democracy?

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Do you understand derivatives?   Still not sure I do , except that they were a term Wall Streeters used so that they could play with other people’s money while the world’s economy crashed.   Because I’m not an economist, I looked up the definition.  Seems to me, it can mean anything the bankers want it to mean.   They come up with these terms like credit default swaps and derivatives, and nobody knows exactly what they’re doing, setting them free to commit economic murder.    Which is what they did.   And they still are.    These people are both clever and ruthless and that’s one hell of a combination.

Because I’m not as smart as the bankers,  I tend to lump derivatives in with the sub-prime loan crisis and all their other creative high finance that nearly brought us all down while the banks gorged themselves, extracting money from the poor suckers in the middle class who had no idea what was happening and no adequate government regulation to protect them thanks to the great Republican standard bearer for deregulation, Ronald Reagan.

So they took these things called derivatives (basically a contract to buy something or place a bet on something), bundled them all together and sold them as having great value, when in fact, they were all but worthless.   Particularly when they consisted of  a bunch of sub-prime loans homeowners would ultimately be unable to pay back, although they were duped into thinking that somehow everything would work out for the best.   As I said, clever.

The bankers are also using derivatives to make billions by driving up food prices while people starve.    Ruthless.

I believe in a mixed economy, but the sociopathic behavior these guys exhibit is enough to turn any thinking person into a socialist.

It’s runaway greed and it partially crashed the world’s economy, with some of the first warning shots I can recall  coming from Iceland, followed by Greece, the birthplace of democracy, which continues struggling to  this day, along with the United States, where the middle class has been devastated.    But back to Greece, and more importantly, what’s happening there now.

National interests,  like the governments of the United States and Germany,  who had to float big loans to keep entire countries from going under following all the creative banking hi-jinx on Wall Street and elsewhere, demanded extreme austerity programs be put in place to help them recover their money.

Austerity.   Here in the U.S., for the Republicans, that means cutting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, healthcare for women and pretty much everything else put in place as a financial safety net for all but the very wealthy at the top, who, not coincidentally, are represented by Republicans.

And the Democrats?   Their current frontrunner for president, Hillary Clinton, is considered to be a darling of Wall Street, picking up huge speaking fees to address their insider meetings.   How would you feel if Goldman Sachs gave you $200,000 for just one speech?  Connect the dots.

This is all very complicated, and again, I’m no economist, but basically the fat cats who were taking all the money went bust and had to be bailed out by the middle class.   Now those same fat cats are demanding that the middle class should have their lives ruined by austerity, while the big guys on Wall Street enjoy record profits.

The Guardian reports  for example, that “In 2013  the bonus pay of employees in the financial industry was 65 percent more than the total compensation of all wages for every full-time minimum wage earner in the entire United States. That number does not include wages paid, but simply bonuses paid to the average financial sector employees.”

Get that?    A relative few on Wall Street made more in bonuses alone than every minimum wage-earner in the country.     And we had to bail these guys out?  It’s one big con.  This is why Elizabeth Warren keeps saying the system is rigged.  Because it is.

But back to Greece.   The birthplace of Democracy.

The Greeks, have just elected a new  Prime Minister, described as a “leftist maverick,”  Alexis Tsipris, who has formed a coalition government to lead the Greeks “out of austerity.”

This could be a very big deal for all of us, because it could signal the beginning of government organized serious international pushback against the austerity movement that followed the crash of 2008.  Angela Merkel and Germany, are big proponents of “austerity.”    So are Republicans, here in the U.S.    Again, I’m no economist, but basically it means cutting back or eliminating government spending to shore up budgets, screwing the elderly, the poor, the middle class and those who are most impacted by hard times, while the wealthy at the top enjoy heretofore unheard of profits.     For the wealthy, austerity brought good times back to the Wall Street table.   If you were middle class or below, you were forgotten.   Cast off like so much rubbish.

No money for food?   Eat grass.   Can’t afford birth control?   Don’t have sex.  Can’t afford college?   Take out a huge loan and spend the next 20 years paying back the bankers and the federal government.   Even though, according to S&P, educating more of our young people will give us a stronger economy.   So why make it more difficult to get a college education?  Same thing goes for spending on the nation’s infrastructure.    Our bridges,  roads and sewer systems.  Who needs any of that?    Oh, and not to worry about not having birth control.  Republicans, you can be sure,  will be standing in line to pay for thousands of unwanted children.

That’s austerity.  It’s working really well for the rich while everybody else gets clobbered and the Greeks, are obviously fed up.   There is speculation that their new progressive coalition might drop out of the “Eurozone” altogether, dropping the “Euro” as their official currency and going off to do their own thing.   And why shouldn’t they?   The austerity program Germany and the Eurozone are imposing on Greece,  is making average Greeks miserable.

While Americans are still waking up to how badly they’ve been swindled by the bankers, what is now happening in Greece might very well spread to other countries, as people get sick and tired of being sick and tired, while the wealth continues flowing to the top.

According to Sen. Bernie Sanders, Independent from Vermont,  “In America today, the top 1 percent owns more than 35 percent of all of the nation’s household wealth while the bottom 60 percent owns only 2.3 percent of the wealth. The distribution of income is even worse.  In 2010, 93 percent of all new income went to the top 1 percent, while the bottom 99 percent of people accounted for the remaining 7 percent. “We have the most unequal distribution of wealth and income of any major country on earth, worse today in the United States than at any time since 1928 before the Great Depression.” 

People will put up with eating grass for only just so long.   Eventually, they are going to demand some real food.

I have no idea to what degree financial irresponsibility on the part of past Greek governments may be responsible for their current economic crisis.   However, things in Greece really went sour after they joined the European Union, and grew exponentially worse due to credit default swaps following the crash of 2008.  I’m pretty sure that if you drill down far enough you’ll find bankers and other lending institutions coupled with inadequate regulation are at the heart of their crisis,  just as Wall Street devastated the American economy with their creative financial instruments no one was able to fully comprehend until the ceiling fell in.

What’s happening in little Greece, could be the beginning of a major pushback against austerity.   Their new Prime Minister says it’s all about returning democracy to Greece.

A representative democracy?  Government that represents the majority rather than a wealthy minority?   Sounds pretty good.  Maybe we should give it a try here in the U.S.?

America: Coming Apart At The Seams?

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This morning,  less than 24 hours after the President’s State of the Union address, I ran through the headlines to find Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner  has invited Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to address the Congress of the United States regarding U.S. policy with Iran.   And Netanyahu, has accepted.   He’s going to be here to address the Congress on February 11th.  Almost like they had it planned in advance.

Huh?

Gotta admit, this really rocked me back on my heels.  My initial reaction focused on the degree to which it will strengthen the position of conspiracy theorists who believe the Israel lobby already has far too much influence over the U.S. Government.   Now it looks like they’re turning Netanyahu into competition for a sitting president.

There’s also the fact that pretty much everybody who reads the papers or watches the news on Al Jazeera or the BBC knows exactly how Netanyahu feels regarding Iran’s nuclear program, not to mention Iran itself.   So there’s no need for a speech, particularly one designed to raise a giant middle finger to the President of the United States.

Political barbs and challenges are routine.  They’re to be expected.  It’s that other thing, about Netanyahu letting the Republicans use him as their tool,  serving as a de facto replacement for President Obama that troubles me the most.

They may not like Mr. Obama, but he is still our president.   Not Bibi  Netanyahu.

One wonders if Netanyahu realizes the degree to which he is being used and how his move to upstage a sitting President might damage the image of Israel in the United States?

Or is Netanyahu using the United States to bolster his image in Israel, where there’s an election coming up in March?

I can think of no better argument for the legalization of marijuana than extremists like Boehner and Netanyahu.    And no,  I do not smoke pot.  But they need to.  Repeatedly and often.

If the Republicans have a problem with the President, then they should sit down and hammer out a compromise, not call in a foreign leader who has failed miserably at handling his own nation’s international affairs.   That’s not the way the system is supposed to work.

It feels as though we are coming apart at the seams.

Wilmore Well Worth Watching

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I wasn’t always enamored with Stephen Colbert and his “Colbert Report” following Jon Stewart.   But hey, you try and deliver the goods on a talk/comedy show four nights a week.   It ain’t easy.  And Colbert, did pretty well.   Particularly with the desirable younger demographic the advertisers want.   In fact,  you might say he was outstanding,  making him all the more difficult to follow.

I had pretty much made up my mind that whomever they chose to follow Colbert would bomb.  That the shoes he left sitting at Comedy Central’s front door would simply be too big to fill.  Until last night, with the debut of Larry Wilmore. 

His stuff is interesting, smart, funny, informative, alarming, thought provoking and honest.   Brutally honest, which makes it ever so refreshing.  An entertainment/information program that doesn’t insult your intelligence.

Great first show for a country that’s starved for the truth.  If he can keep it going he will more than fill the shoes of the creatively formidable Stephen Colbert, further helping to fill the terrible void created by the demise of American broadcast journalism.

Wilmore’s worth watching.  Check it out.

A Step Closer To The Death Of The Post Office?

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Recently I needed some printer paper so I stopped by Staples in Studio City and was surprised to find the retailer is now offering services formerly found at the United States Postal Service.   I found this more than mildly interesting, in that a number of those on the right and other “free traders” who support business above all else, have been pushing to eliminate the US Postal Service,  as part of their ideological push to privatize everything from the post office to Medicare.

To that end, they have been attempting to demonize the Postal Service (USPS) by demanding that it must fund its employee health benefits plan 75 years into the future, a ploy designed to make the USPS appear to be economically unstable, which it is not.   It’s making money and providing good paying jobs at a time when those jobs are badly needed by the country.  It  just can’t and shouldn’t be forced to try and fund a healthcare program 75 years in advance.

With a H/T to Dish,  NBC’s Bob Sullivan puts it this way, “There’s a long and a short story to the tragic tale of Postal Service financial trouble. I’ll start with the short one. Right now, the Postal Service is being forced to pre-pay health benefits for the next 75 years during a 10-year stretch. In the past four years, those prepayments have totaled $21 billion. The agency’s deficit during that time is about $20 billion. Remove these crazy pre-payments — a requirement that no other government agency endures and no private industry would even consider — and the Postal Service would be in the black.”

Business concerns, those who promote the “every man for himself” ideology of Ayn Rand, are trying to kill the post office and privatize everything from Social Security to Medicare.  Transferring some  USPS services to Staples would appear to be taking them a step closer to their goal.

The truth, is that what they’re pushing is sure to be more expensive.   How could transferring the workings of a publicly owned government controlled entity to a for-profit private company possibly be better for the vast majority?  They want you to think it’s a good idea.  But it’s not.   Their plan is why we continue to pay more for healthcare than the rest of the developed world.    As U.S. News reported, “…the U.S. spends over 18 percent of its gross domestic product on health, compared to 12 percent by France, which comes next. Our system costs 100 percent more per capita than in Canada and 150 percent more than in the U.K. In exchange, you might expect to see longer life expectancy and lower infant mortality. Just the opposite. Fewer Americans live above the age of 70 and more American babies die at birth than in these other countries.”

That’s what privatization is doing to our healthcare.   We pay more and get less.   Applying that same system to eliminate the post office or Medicare or Social Security is just part of the ongoing scheme to extract money from the middle and transfer it to the uber-wealthy at the top,  further contributing to the devastation of the  American middle class.

But where are our public servants who are supposed to be keeping an eye on all of this?   Where are the watchdogs?  Looking the other way, apparently.

MItt Romney, who has just announced another run at the presidency, helped to put Staples in business with a cash infusion through his company, Bain Capital.   It’s also interesting that a company associated with Senator Dianne Feinstein’s businessman husband is poised to make millions on the sale of existing post office buildings.   You can be sure it’s all perfectly legal and “above board.”

For its part, Staples surely hasn’t done anything wrong, it’s simply gotten a contract, allegedly a sweetheart deal,  to do the business of the U.S. Postal Service at its  stores where Staples employees who are paid significantly less than USPS postal clerks will take your mail and send out your packages.  They’re just doing business.*

But is it  a good deal for we the people?  It can’t be good for USPS employees who are having their wages and working conditions undercut (and possibly jobs eliminated) by a private company.  One fears that by the time the American people figure out what’s happening, the damage will have been done.

Imagine a future devoid of any competition from the USPS?   With no competition from the post office, prices for letters, packages and other mail will be controlled by only a few private companies and will likely soar, just as the cost of medical care now continues to rise because the Affordable Care Act lacks a public option similar to Medicare for all, which would force private providers to hold down their prices.

Extending it out even further, imagine our future  with no Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid,  food stamps or workable pension programs.  A country without any unions to provide a balance between the rich and the poor by carrying on the fight for the middle class.  Imagine the nation’s elderly going without adequate medical care as they suffer from malnutrition brought about by being forced to live on cat food.

For many years,  our mixed-economy, combining the safety net of  programs like Medicare and Social Security side-by-side with the incentive provided by Capitalism has worked well.   Socialism and Capitalism can co-exist.  Is it something we should now abandon to the rich, or should we  demand a halt to  the current push for privatization?

Do you really want a future of every man for himself and every woman for herself with no financial safety net for the elderly and the poor?

Actually, we were doing pretty well until Ronald Reagan came along promoting the big lie that government is the problem.   Really?   What about the fire department, the police department, the courts and the military?   Not to mention Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, food assistance for the poor and of course, the post office.  All of these governmental components would seem to be more of a solution than a problem.   Unless you happen to be a businessman, eager to drain off the tax money currently devoted to supporting our social safety net.

Better think about it now, while the post office can still be saved and  you’re still young enough to do something about it.   Or you can work until you’re 80, and then, when you’re burned out,  wasted and too old to work,  survive the remainder of your golden years by living on cat food as the wealthiest one-percent guzzle champagne and dine on organic foods while safely locked away on gated estates with private security.

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*Click Here for more info on the Staples/USPS connection from the American Postal Workers Union.

Politics – A Poem

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Politics
By Ron Olsen

I’ll simplify

Bitching and moaning
Is preferable to killing one another

And so

We are the land of bitching and moaning
Whining and wailing
Weeping and worrying
Watching and wondering

Is it hopeless?
Better watch out

Bloodthirsty
Violence loving
Highly intellectualized primates
Are as dangerous as it gets
On this planet, anyway

And so
For those who don’t understand
I’ll simplify

Bitching and moaning
Is preferable to slaughtering one another

Better hope
It doesn’t end anytime soon
We may have already overstayed our welcome

© Ron Olsen / 2015 – all rights reserved

Don’t Lie To Me

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Don’t Lie To Me
By Ron Olsen

Don’t lie to me
About Afghanistan
Or Iraq
Or Venezuelan oil
Or mushroom clouds
Or anthrax
Or WikiLeaks

Don’t lie to me

About Al Qaeda
Or the Saudis
Or Valerie Plame
Or 9-11
Or Democracy
Or Obamacare
Or immigration

Don’t lie to me

Tell me we’re fine
Tell me it’s over
Tell me everything is going to be all right
Tell me if I just pray hard enough
If I just believe
If I just have faith
We’ll all be fine

Don’t lie to me

 

This Might Be A Good Time To Start Praying

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I just watched the Washington circus continue as members were gaveled in for the 114th session of the Congress of the United States.   That’s our Congress.  Our elected representatives.  In the final analysis, we are responsible for this legislative mess.

I may be a political junkie, but so much of this, from Nancy Pelosi’s glowing remarks complimenting John Boehner, to Boehner kissing Pelosi on the cheek while he intermittently continued wiping his nose, is going to be such a theater of the absurd that I don’t know if I’ll be able to continue bearing witness to it for two full years.

Hunter Thompson might say something like, “What do you want?  You’re already living in the land of the weird.”

How I miss Thompson.  When confronted by this special kind of madness, seeking truth through exaggeration may be the only way to approach reality.

You doubt the scope and validity of my words?  Consider the following-

The Speaker of the House,  John Boehner, looks even darker than before.   When he left for his Christmas vacation he was mostly orange.  He has returned in mid-winter, looking like he’s trying to become African-American.  A kind of Michael Jackson in reverse thing.  I don’t know any other way to put it.   He’s turning black.   A couple of shades darker than George Hamilton ever was.  Could it be Obama envy?    If he comes back tomorrow wearing an afro, we’ll know for sure.    Maybe he’s out to pen a 2015 version of “Black Like Me?”   That’d be a trip.

Not sure if his new color has anything to do with it, but Boehner was broadly challenged for the speakership by his side’s Tea Party contingent, 25 of them, with Louie Gohmert of East Texas leading the charge.   Gohmert, will be forever remember for his comments during a judiciary hearing into the Boston bombing, when he  blurted out, “I cannot have a witness challenge my character! The attorney general will not cast aspersions on my asparagus!  

And it only gets better.  If that’s possible.   House Majority Whip, Steve Scalise, is under attack for speaking at a white supremacist function in 2002.   Scalise has apologized, but don’t look for anything smacking of a neo-Nazi hookup to just go away, particularly now that former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, is publicly defending Scalise, who replaced Eric Cantor, who was the highest ranking Jewish member of Congress before he resigned to take a high paying job with an investment banking firm.   By one account, he’s now pulling down $3.4 million a year.   But back to the  Speaker.

Boehner the bronze survived the attack of the congressional newbies and Nancy Pelosi handed him the BIG gavel.  He and his people are now in charge of both houses, where they can try and ram through the Keystone pipeline, eliminate the EPA, initiate further tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, move to privatize Medicare while they dream up even more ways to screw the nation’s elderly like cutting Social Security and SSDI while they build an even bigger fence at the border, eliminate the Affordable Care Act, women’s healthcare,  Medicaid and food assistance for the poor, kill the US Postal Service by moving it lock, stock and letterhead into Staples,  further deregulate Wall Street and anything else that might still be the least little bit regulated.   Gotta eliminate anything that was put in place by TR and FDR for the many,  as they continue on the path to transfer wealth to the relative few at the top.

Maybe they’ll outlaw asparagus.

Over on the Senate side, as the frighteningly intelligent Rachel Maddow points out in her blog,  Mitch McConnell, is now taking credit for the economic turnaround, which would be okay, only he had nothing to do with it.  Maddow points out that McConnell spent most of 2014 leading the “party of no” in the Senate while  issuing regular complaints that the Obama Administration was preventing the nation from making an adequate economic recovery.   He is now  flipping on his position because he thinks it will be to his advantage to do so.  And in the process, he’s flipping us off.

Buddhist belief teaches that a system that is out of balance, is a sick system.   Our system continues to swing wildly from one politically- charged pole to another, drawn by the lust for power and a need for greed.  Like General Sherman,  recently Reaganized Capitalism continues its march to the sea, leaving a scorched-earth legacy in its wake.   All the while, those at the top remain comfortably insulated by their wealth.   Everybody else lives in fear, as they wait for their sick, broken, system to utterly and totally fail.   Again.  One last benefit of Reagonomics and the demon of deregulation it brought down on our heads, allowing Wall Street to run wild, crushing the American middle class and nearly causing an International depression.   We have yet to recover from the madness.   Except for Germany.   For some reason they appear to be doing very well.    That’s not the case for the rest of the EU, particularly poor little Greece, where the ongoing suffering is indisputable proof that austerity does not work.  Denying people the currency they must have for a decent lifestyle, does not provide them with a decent lifestyle.   It’s insane.

They told us it would all trickle down so nicely.    They lied.  Don’t expect the illusion to end anytime soon.    Some of these people were borderline wacko before being elected.

President Obama, will make much ado about whipping out his pen and issuing vetoes against much, or maybe most, of what the Republicans want, while, at the same time, he quietly continues his push for what really matters to the uber-wealthy,  the “Trans Pacific Partnership” trade deal.  A pact that will impact us all.  A deal that’s being cut in secret and will reportedly  give even more power to corporations by allowing them to thumb their noses at the courts as they move ahead with the familiar tack of NAFTA and the WTO, both of which were heavily supported by Bill Clinton.  Both of which helped kill American manufacturing,  putting millions of Americans permanently out of work as jobs were sent to Mexico and overseas.

It was Clinton, who signed the bill killing Glass-Steagall in the last days of his second term, just before he publicly became buddies with the Bush family, as he sought support to build a legacy through his “Clinton Foundation.”

And now we have Mr. Obama.  Like Clinton, he talks like a populist while inviting all those popular recording artists to the White House for the Gershwin Awards, but don’t be fooled.   He remains a darling not of Main Street but of Wall Street.   He has no choice.  It was either that or risk being crushed like a bug by the most powerful monetary forces the nation has known since the days of “the great trust buster” Teddy Roosevelt.   Obama, is to be sure, no Teddy Roosevelt.  But that might be expecting too much of the country’s first black president.   Being the first of anything is usually a real bitch.   I have no idea how Mr. Obama, has managed to hold up under the strain.   Like all of us, to a degree, he must go-along to get-along, while the middle class is all but eliminated.   The game is rigged.  Like so many others, he’s forced to play it by rules he never agreed to.

And the game goes on.

The run-up to 2016 will surge ahead with another Wall Street sweetheart, Hillary Clinton, leading the charge for the Dems.  They’re all in bed together you know.   The Bushies, the Clintons, the too-big-too-fail bankers, the oil billionaires in Texas and the CEO’s, who hire lobbyists to haul money over to the Hill in footlockers, ensuring they’ll have their way regardless of what the American people might want or need.   Late word has it that even Liz Warren has sold out to the lobby representing the manufacturers of medical devices in Massachusetts, that she will now support defunding a big chunk of the Affordable Care Act by eliminating taxes on the medical device industry.

It could have been as simple as Warren being threatened by cuts in federal money flowing into her state if she refused to play ball on chopping Obamacare.   And so she, like Obama and so many others, was trapped.   Painted into a corner by a rigged system.   She could either be blamed for a loss of jobs in her home state and face the threat of not being reelected, or go along to get along, and agree to defunding a big slice of Obamacare.  One hand washes the other.  I have no idea if this is the case, mind you.  It’s just speculation.  But what Warren has done is so out-of-character for her that something is surely going on.   Pressure, is sure to have been applied at one point or another, and if they can get to a firebrand like Liz Warren, they can get to anybody.  Except maybe for Ted Kennedy, who had enough money to thumb his nose at the political machine.

Like a true believer, I was looking for Elizabeth Warren to fill the void created by his passing.   I should have known better.

I fear a great many American women will support Hillary Clinton, simply because she’s a woman.   Just as black Americans supported Obama, because he’s half African-American.  Like John Boehner now increasingly appears to be.   Appearances can be so deceiving.

The new Congress is 92% Christian.  If you’re a religious person this might be a good time to start praying.

Welcome To Our New Reality, Suckers

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A Facebook friend just alerted me to the fact that the price of gasoline at the pump has dropped to $1.77.9 a gallon in Michigan.  I know it’s true, because she included a photo.  It’s not that low here in California, but out here in the land of back-breaking prices for almost everything,  gas prices anywhere below $3 a gallon feel like Christmas.    And New Years.  Combined.  Like Pavlov’s dogs, we now slobber our way to the nearest gas station, happy to turn over our hard-earned dollars for a few drops of the precious liquid that runs our lives.

My precious…..

Remember when bread used to cost less than a dollar a loaf?   Remember when a trip to the market didn’t mean spending a minimum of  $50 just for essentials while the Republicans cut food stamps for the poor?

Too bad we can’t drink oil.  The world is floating on it.   The detritus of another age.  A prehistoric ocean of death.

Fortunately, there are still a few honest people around like Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who went on the air over the weekend, reminding us that we are now the top oil producing nation in the world.  Yes friends, the good old USA is now Numero Uno, beating out everybody including the Saudis and their close friends and allies the big multi-national oil corporations.  Of course big oil is an oil producer in the U.S., which makes it all the more convenient for you, if you’re a CEO who wants to confuse the issue for greater profitability.   When we are them and they are us, who is doing what to whom and for what purpose?

But the U.S. (or a mix of U.S. companies with multi-nationals) producing more oil than any other nation on earth?  How can that be?  Weren’t we told there was an oil shortage that would end in disaster, culminating in a world without oil unless we all turned down the heat and froze in the dark?   We were promised that the world, not just the U.S., the world mind you, was running out of oil.  Running out!  And wasn’t that waaaaay back in the 70’s?

It was, in fact, back in 1977, when President Jimmy Carter called the nation’s “oil crisis” the “moral equivalent of war.”    I’m not sure if that was true or not.  I do think Carter believed it.   And maybe it was true, at that time.   General Motors thought is was real.  Why else would anybody make a car like the Vega?

My, how things have changed.  Top oil producer.   Radically falling prices for gas and oil  while OPEC nations refuse to cut back on production with speculation they are trying to cut into the profits of the frackers here in the U.S., to drive at least some of them out of business.

The Saudi Oil Minister came right out and said it,  pleading with the world’s oil companies to fix prices, so they can all remain in fat city forever at the expense of us peons with no power at all – other than our refusal to drive gas guzzlers while pressuring our elected representatives to do their jobs and re-regulate the oil and gas industry while forcing a shift to clean and less expensive energy sources like wind and solar.

All of this has to be good news for the environmentally conscious among us, since all that oil flowing out of the U.S. has to make the Keystone XL pipeline thoroughly irrelevant with regard to the nation’s no longer urgent need to produce more oil.

It should also lead to plummeting prices for food, since the cost of oil and gas is key factor in growing, transporting and then selling food to American consumers.    All the way down the line, from putting seeds in the ground to getting produce and other products on the shelves, oil is key in any cost-benefit analysis.  The same could be said for the cost of getting on an airliner – if the market is being driven by free trade and not something else.

If all the mergers that have taken place haven’t created national and global monopolies that can raise or lower prices at will regardless of what Ayn Rand might have written in her fairy tale  perfection through greed books – if that’s where we’re at, then this should all work out for the best.  If not, if mergers and multi-national corporate globalization are determining the outcome,  then it’s an illusion meant to control, contain and preserve the wealth and power of the relative few at the top.

Bye, bye democratic process.   Bye, bye freedom.  Bye, bye American dream.   Hello “Rollerball.”

Personally, I look for prices to remain high, with no radical drop in food costs or other consumer goods, while the cost of gas and oil creeps slowly back up to near-record profits.   At the same time, the temporarily lower price at the pump will act as a placebo, making everybody feel better.   It will put more money in our pockets, helping the economy bounce back,  convincing consumers that the EPA isn’t necessary and global warming is just one more pile of nonsense put together by publicity-hungry scientists, tired of being ignored by the majority, most of whom can’t understand any of this stuff anyway.   Listen.  You can almost hear what they’re saying; “Look at the big cold-snap that just rolled in!  The frogs went into hibernation early!  And these idiots are still trying to tell us the planet is heating up?  They must think we’re all a bunch of boobs!”

Yes, they do.

And so the multi-national corporations and their too-big-to-fail buddies on Wall Street will score another big win for the relative few by fooling the many one more time.

Welcome to the new reality, suckers.  Enjoy the lower gas prices while you can.   If Ms. Rand and her minions of greed have their way, we are headed for a future where only the uber-rich will be able to afford private transportation, healthy food, breathable air and drinkable water.

 

Confessions Of A Former Climate Change Skeptic

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I’ve been watching and studying the climate change argument for years.  For many of those years, I did not want to admit it was happening.    At least I didn’t want to admit that human activity might be playing a role in climate change, that one day we’d wake up and it would all have been a monster miscalculation followed by a group denial by the world’s top climate scientists that they’d screwed up, it was all a mistake, and everything was going to be okay after all.

I have an uncomfortable feeling that some, or perhaps many of those who continue denying the reality of climate change, are also regular viewers of FOX News.  I am not.

However, for many years, I was a borderline climate change denier, straddling the fence on the issue until more and better information became available.   Then, three or four years ago the evidence become so credible, voluminous and visible and the business-supported push against that same evidence became so transparent, that I could no longer deny the truth.  Global climate change is happening and all the pollutants we continue dumping into the atmosphere are playing a role.

It’s so much easier to tell yourself that everything is going to be just fine, in spite of satellite photos showing the ice caps, glaciers and ice sheets melting away as global temperatures continue to rise while deniers continue confusing global climate change with local or regional weather patterns.

In his article “Eight Pseudoscientific Climate Claims Debunked By Real Scientists,” Bill Moyers has put together what may be the best refutation I’ve seen of what the climate change deniers continue to say.    As Moyers puts it, “…there’s a more sophisticated set of climate “skeptics” who make arguments that, at least to the lay ear, sound like they’re grounded in scientific evidence. And because most of us lack the background to evaluate their claims, they can muddy the waters around an issue that’s been settled in the scientific community.”

There it is.   The issue has “been settled in the scientific community.”   Moyers article should be required reading for anyone who thinks it has not.   Click here, or on the article’s title above, to read the entire piece.