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.

Like An Oil Leak, Occasionally A Little Truth Dribbles Out

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It can be confusing, what with all the noise out there.   With Ayn Randian “dog-eat-dog” Neocons pushing us to let the markets determine our collective fate through free trade and nothing more.  It’s confusing, because on the surface the utter simplicity of Rand’s economic philosophy sounds like it should work.   Which is probably why so many on the far-right get sucked into her “get it for yourself or get lost”   mentality.   It’s something they can understand.

Thing is, it can’t work, because no matter how hard you try,  no matter how much money you save, a point  might arrive at which you will need the help of others and no amount of cash or pleading will save the day.   The British came to that conclusion when they saw the wisdom of establishing their National Health Service following World War II.   It’s socialized medicine, and it works.

It isn’t enough to imagine “a thousand points of light,” as George H.W. Bush urged us all to do.    Imagination is a wonderful thing, but imagining won’t get it done.   It’s up to us to do it.  Just like the British did.

Contrary to Ms. Rand’s anti-altruistic dogma, people need other people.

There’s also the problem of free-trade being thoroughly bogus in a climate of monopolies and price-fixing.    Which is to a degree, what we  now have in America, following decades of “merger madness,” giving monster corporations a free hand in gobbling up competing companies one by one,  leaving us with a handful of media giants, monster oil multi-nationals, big-box superstores killing small “mom and pop” businesses and too-big-to-fail banks owning the Congress and the White House.

They (meaning the uber-wealthy of Wall Street),  pretend our current troubles are caused by the high cost of the US Postal Service (which is a lie), unions (which they have nearly eliminated),  middle-class dependency on Social Security and Medicare (basic common sense humanism),  food assistance and Medicaid for low income individuals and families (again, common sense humanism) and demands from the left for somebody to regulate big business to prevent a return to full-blown  feudalism – which is what they want and where we are currently headed.

Occasionally though, a tiny bit of truth manages to dribble out.

Such is the case with the Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi, who blamed the recent world oil glut on a lack of price-fixing, or as al-Naimi put it, Non-Opec nations “will realize that it is in their interests to cooperate to ensure high prices for everyone.”  

And there you have it.   The Saudi’s answer to falling oil prices is an international price-fixing conspiracy to maintain prices at a higher level than is possible through free trade.

Free trade isn’t what contemporary wealth-management is about.   It’s about the wealthy doing whatever they must to acquire additional wealth.    Beyond that, it isn’t about merely remaining wealthy, it’s about the unsustainable goal of constant and never-ending expansion, regardless of the harm it does to others.

In a word, our contemporary economy, which benefits the relative few through monopoly at the expense of the many,  is uncivilized.

At the top of the Wall Street’s current civilization killing dog-eat-dog to do list, is the abolition of government regulation, even (and perhaps especially) when that regulation ensures free trade.

One definition of civilization, is, “an advanced state of human society, in which a high level of culture, science, industry, and government has been reached.”  Another, might be what our founders wrote in the preamble to the Constitution, when they said their goal was, “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense,  promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…” 
You could argue that we fill the bill,  were it not for one glaring exception.   There is no way our current government can be considered to be “high level.”  They are clearly bought-off as the great American political backslide continues.  Clearly, it’s  a principle cause of our elected leader’s negligence in upholding their sworn duty to defend the Constitutional edict noted above, principally, to promote “the general welfare.”
It is not our welfare they seek to promote, but the welfare of those wealthiest Americans who now own the House, the Senate and the White House.

Seen A Chestnut Lately?

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I’ve been hearing about “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” from Mel Torme’s “Christmas Song” since my brain first began processing information, but I’ve never eaten one.  When I finally met Mel I forgot to ask, but I’ll wager he never had one either.  Or maybe he did. I really don’t know.

Come to find out, chestnuts were a staple food, a significant source of protein through the winter months for native Americans in the eastern U.S. and those who settled here. “Rural communities depended upon the annual nut harvest to feed their livestock,” according to the American Chestnut Foundation.  Then, around 1900, America was hit by a great chestnut tree blight, thought to have been brought in with imported Japanese chestnut trees.

Our poor American chestnut trees were all but wiped out.  Most of the chestnuts now sold in the U.S. are imported from Europe or Asia.  Meantime, scientists, along with the Foundation, are working on developing a fungus-resitant hybrid American chestnut tree. 

So now you know.  We don’t have a whole big chestnut thing going  like we used to because our trees were killed by a blight.  But the song remains while the Foundation works to restore the trees in our eastern forests.   Good for them, and thanks to Mel Torme, for keeping our thoughts of the humble chestnut alive through so many Christmas seasons.

One Crony Capitalist As Bad As Another

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The headlines are screaming this morning about Jeb Bush exploring a run at the White House in 2016! Who cares?

Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton….one tool of Wall Street is the same as another.  That’s what the headlines should read. We’re finished as a representative democracy unless we can overcome the problem of crony capitalism with Wall Street dictating terms to the Congress and the White House.  

That’s the elephant in the middle of the room no one wants to discuss.

For those of you who want Elizabeth Warren to run, consider this:  She’d probably be crushed by the truckloads of money the right would put up against her.   My God, she’d be accused of all kinds of nonsense.   What the Switfboaters did to Kerry and the Bush/Rove machine did to McCain and Ann Richards would be nothing compared to the defamatory crap they’d throw at Warren.  And some would believe it.

Some, will believe anything, which is why Dick Cheney is still out there arguing for the non-existent positive attributes of torture.

For  the time being,  Warren can probably do more good in the Senate, being a thorn in Wall Street’s side as she continues gaining popularity.    Give her one or two more terms becoming a leading mouthpiece for the Dems and she might be unbeatable on the national stage.   America’s new Lioness of the Senate.  One of the brave few who refuses to sell out.  What used  to be called a patriot.

 

Former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan A Devotee Of Ayn Rand?

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(Alan Greenspan – photo: Federal Reserve)

Fascinating piece by Bruce E. Levine in Salon, looking at the influence author Ayn Rand continues to have on our thinking here in the U.S., turning so many, including a number of prominent politicians away from altruism and presumably towards selfishness.

Among those named as being influenced by Rand are Ronald Reagan, Paul Ryan, Rand Paul, Ron Paul and Clarence Thomas.   Most interesting to me is the name of former Fed Chairman, Alan Greenspan.   According to Levine, Greenspan was a member of Ayn Rand’s inner-circle,  her “collective” as she called it.   According to the article Rand’s pet name for Greenspan was “A.G.”

Interesting, no?

The Big Sellout On Capitol Hill

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And so it has happened.   The spending bill containing provisions that will allow the wealthy to increase campaign contributions ten-fold and undo protections against another financial meltdown by once again allowing bankers to gamble with the taxpayer’s money has passed the House and Senate, but not because of the Republicans.

No, it passed because of support from the White House and the Democratic Party.   It got 57 yes votes from turncoat Democrats in the House.   Only six in the Senate,  Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, Al Franken, Joe Manchin, Claire McCaskill and Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont, voted against ending debate which would have prevented the bill from coming up for a vote.   So it passed and now goes to the President.  Mr. Obama has said he intends to sign it.  Meaning what?

It means the game is essentially over.    From the Fundraiser in Chief on down, they sold us out for promises of campaign financing still to come from JP Morgan, Citigroup and the rest of the Wall Streeters.

There should now be no doubt that Wall Street owns the White House and most of the Congress, which has given the nation’s bankers a green light to propel us into another financial crisis which, experts say,  could require another taxpayer bailout.

What else could it possibly mean?   That Mr. Obama continues on with his infamous and ludicrous belief that he can cut a deal with the Republicans?  After being kicked around for six years,  can he possibly continue to be that naive, or has he been playing us for suckers all along?

I now think it’s the latter.   We’ve definitely been played for suckers.

Just days after he finally came out swinging on climate change, Internet neutrality and immigration, just as he was finally beginning to look like the progressive force for hope he once promised to be, he became someone else.   A political schizophrenic, doing an absolute about-face, siding with the few on Wall Street against the many of  Main Street.    Who is this guy?

Obama is a bust.   For us Progressives, he’s the betrayer-in-Chief, just another cog in the Bush, Clinton Wall Street machine.

He’s king of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement,  doing all he can to drive another nail in the coffin of American workers by sending even more jobs to China and Vietnam – doing everything he can to keep Wall Street happy, so the fat paychecks keep coming in, funding the campaigns of both parties to beat back members of Congress like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who are still trying to represent the majority rather than the wealthy minority on the Street.   It’s big-time bribery from the bankers to maintain the status quo and require another taxpayer bailout if they again lose their shirts gambling on risky bets.

Oh sure, there’s the Affordable Care Act, which sent even more money to the insurance industry by forcing Americans to pay for private insurance coverage which is probably unconstitutional.   Absent a public option, it certainly has nothing to do with being a free people.  Thanks so much, Mr. Obama.

But oh, you say!  This is the President who pushed for releasing the CIA torture report!   The same man who signed an executive order on immigration!  Don’t be fooled.   He was doing the old one-eighty spin, putting up another smokescreen while the real issue of Wall Street’s government takeover continued moving forward.

They own us.  And so much of the media just doesn’t seem to get it.

How sad.

I had such high hopes for this President.  I was holding onto a thread of hope that we might recover our democracy.   I’m no longer sure that’s possible as passage of this most recent funding bill will leave little doubt that our government is available for sale to the highest bidders.

The thought that we still have anything resembling a representative democracy in America is increasingly illusory.

We are no longer a truly free people.   The bankers, billionaires and millionaires now dictate the course of the nation.   They will continue laying a course for the laws of the land that will be used to control, coerce and craft our lives, based not upon our informed consent, but upon the desire of a relative few to dominate the many.

Turning this around will require a political revolution.  A political uprising that will reclaim America for the many by beating back the madness of the Reagan Revolution and restoring the New Deal thinking and populist standards of FDR.

Perhaps Elizabeth Warren will be able to show us the way?   It’s being said she has the potential for being the next Teddy Roosevelt, our next big “trust buster.”  Or is that expecting too much of any one person?   Yes, it is.  We will all need to put our shoulders to the wheel on this one.

I have doubts the will exists to get it done.   At least not right now.   Not with Christmas nearly here.    And by the time Congress returns to Washington, this will all be nearly forgotten.  Most of the American people couldn’t understand what was happening anyway.    They haven’t had time.  They’ve been way too busy working two or three jobs, flipping burgers, cleaning toilets and working as security guards to put food on their tables and pay the next health insurance bill.

(This piece was updated on 12-14, following the Senate vote.)

Channel 4 To The Rescue

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Joel Grover / NBC

Tonight at 11 on Channel 4 Los Angeles,  it’s Joel Grover and the Channel 4 I-Team to the rescue!  My rescue.

See Joel’s report on my 9 day ordeal attempting to get someone from AT&T to come out and restore my telephone/internet service.   I even called the Office of the President of AT&T, but nothing happened.    Yesterday Channel 4 spoke with the company.   Today three trucks and a car showed up.  Interesting, isn’t it?

You can see it all, tonight at 11 on KNBC-TV, Los Angeles.  My thanks to Joel, Jacquelin, Amy, James and the entire crew at the KNBC I-Team.

Click here to watch Joel Grover’s report.

Republican Push To Restore Fraudulent Banking

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Time for another big spending bill to keep the Federal Government up and running, meaning it’s time once again for the Republicans to threaten a shutdown.    Maybe.   I mean, even if they haven’t issued the threat yet, you have to think they will.   It’s what they do.

This time, they’ve snuck a nasty little provision into the bill that would remove safeguards against another economic crash.

Following the crash of 08, the feds told the big bankers that they could no longer gamble with the taxpayer’s money by selling worthless junk (derivatives trading) fraudulently labeled as valuable assets (remember the bundled sub-prime loans?) and then expect the American people to bail them out with federal insurance when their junk is revealed to be worthless, the market crashes and the world is threatened by economic ruin by the “too big to fail” banks.

Remember all of that?  Well, the Republicans want to do away with the safeguards and let the federally insured gambling start all over again.    You might call it federally sanctioned criminal activity.

The Democrats are demanding that the provision be stripped from the bill so we’ll see where this goes.   At the very least, this should be a wakeup call for any and all of you who still believe there is essentially no difference between the Democratic and Republican parties.

We continue to have the best government money can buy, but the Dems aren’t quite so bought off as are the Republicans.

The country badly needs contemporary patriots like Elizabeth Warren leading the charge to better control the flow of money into politics with an end-game of reclaiming our lost democratic process.

Death In Mid-Air / Surprising It Doesn’t Happen More Often (why I no longer fly unless I absolutely have to)

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Interesting that a 23 year old woman has died on a United Airlines flight from London to Newark.   No cause of death as of yet although the coroner’s office says she had a pre-existing condition.

So do we all.  It’s called flying in coach.

It’s surprising there aren’t more deaths on the airlines, what with all those people with their legs jammed up nearly to their chins following takeoff when the seats all tilt back forcing more seats to tilt back like dominoes until the entire cabin is reclining in pain.   Forgive me, did I say “seats?”   What passes for coach “seating” in airliners was surely designed by some mad genius reincarnated from the height of the Spanish Inquisition.   It doesn’t deserve to be considered “seating” which implies it’s fit for human use.   To any reasonable person it more closely resembles a devious form of torture designed to look comfortable until you sit down and are belted into your own personal device from hell.

On a flight of ten hours or longer it can take a day or two for the unsuspecting passenger to recover to a point where he or she regains mobility without feeling pain that was not there before getting on the plane and being subjected to the acceptable risk factor of commercial flight following the demeaning and demoralizing process of being regarded as a terrorist suspect by someone whose greatest fear is letting your 85 year-old Aunt Fannie from Boise get on the plane because she might blow it up with a shoe bomb made from Chinese products readily available at her local Wal Mart.   Damn devious Chinese Government.

And yet we put up with it.   What choice do we have?   Who can afford first class other than movie stars, dope dealers,  the millionaires in Congress and Administrators of the FAA?   Oh wait, the FAA has its own fleet of planes.   Not sure how many they currently have but a few years ago the Baltimore Sun reported that they had a fleet of 54.  God forbid they should have to fly commercially with the rest of us.   They might clot up from remaining motionless in a position the human form was never meant to take and die in mid-air.

Modern Problems

headshot

My phone line with DSL goes out on a regular basis when it rains. AT&T has been out repeatedly to fix the problem, which apparently has no solution because, as has been explained to me by people in a position to know,  their equipment is old and antiquated.   It gets wet, and it goes out. God forbid, with all their profits, that they might install fiber-optic cable here in the San Fernando Valley.    With 1.8 million people, it’s not like we’re a major population center or anything.

This is another striking example of why the country must reinstate adequate government regulation of utility companies.  Following dozens upon dozens of competition-killing mergers, big business is taking us down.   In so many ways, “free trade” has been all but eliminated.

The big companies have the local, state and federal governments on their side.  Who is on ours?

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Follow up – It is now Tuesday, Dec. 2nd.   It has rained and predictably, our AT&T landline is down.   If past is prologue, our DSL will be the next to go.    I called AT&T and was told they will try and get somebody out here by Friday, that’s three days away.   I fired off a complaint to the CA Public Utilities Commission.  It may not make any difference, but at least it feels better than doing nothing at all.   The PUC complaint form is available online at: http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/puc/cec/e_complaint/

 

Drought Buster?

river 007

A shot of the LA River as it runs through the San Fernando Valley on11-30 at 4:14PM.   Not a drought-buster, but it’ll help.   Makes you wonder why public officials have never seen the light and built reservoirs to hold the millions of gallons of fresh water that run down the river and out into the ocean when it rains.    It was a pet peeve for my former colleague Hal Fishman at KTLA.   I tend to agree, there should be some way to salvage all that fresh water both in Los Angeles and in other parts of the state as well, because, as the song says, “It never rains in California, but girl don’t they warn ya, it pours, man it pours.”   More rain in the forecast for Tuesday.   That too, will run out into the ocean and be lost as the worst drought since the state started keeping records continues.