Nov 6 2012

Four More Years

Larry Jones

So we have given the President a second term in office.

Serious political observers have known for some time that the election would turn out this way. For the past two weeks supporters of Mitt Romney have been talking optimistically about his chances. Dick Morris and Karl Rove, for example, were “predicting” a sizable Republican victory. But it felt hollow, as if they were only trying to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. By yesterday reality had set in and the happy talk (and the trash talk) had died.

I’m relieved that Obama won reelection, but I’m not elated. Generally, I believe the Democrats are on the side of regular folks like me, while the Republicans are on the side of transnational corporations, arms dealers and big-money donors. There are exceptions, of course, but in the big picture the two parties do break down like that.

In 2008 I thought that President-elect Obama might find a way to change the way things are done in this country. I thought he had enough support from a war-weary, skeptical nation battered by a brutal economic downturn. I thought he might parlay that support into a transformational administration. But he did not. He began dealing with our economic problems by appointing as his financial team the very same people who caused the meltdown. He addressed universal health care by handing 50 million new customers to insurance companies, who have long been the problem. WTF? He has become the only Nobel Peace Prize winner with a kill list.

I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have liked a Romney/Tea Party presidency, but I am only cautiously optimistic about a second term for Barack Obama. Now that Mitch McConnell can’t make good on his threat to make him a one-term president, maybe they’ll find a way to compromise and get some work done, and move the country forward, not just economically and militarily, but morally.

Fingers crossed.


Apr 5 2012

Uncertainty

Larry Jones

I posted this as a comment on Narya’s blog today, and since I rarely have the time to write anything new, I thought I’d use it here on my own blog:

In my whole long working life I have never seen as much uncertainty among workers as I see today. At my company, except for the sales staff, who by necessity lead lives of self-delusion, everyone around me is fearful for their jobs. Also, we have half as many people doing five times as much work.

This may not have been the conscious goal of all employers, but it is the end result of the politics of division, the destruction of the labor movement, the redistribution of wealth, economic globalization and the dumbing down of our people. Most of us have now learned to keep our heads down and our mouths shut and take whatever pay our employer wants to give us, along with whatever ration of shit comes our way on the job.

I have found a few things to do at my workplace that seem to be the right combination of “have-to-be-done” and “kind-of-hard-to-do.” In exchange for doing those tasks (and not ever, ever demanding more money) I get to keep my job and my 1976-level salary.

I really think the American worker is demoralized. We have seen our homes taken away, our pensions converted to “retirement accounts” and then wiped out, our friends fired from their jobs, our loved ones get sick and sometimes die for lack of medical insurance and our so-called leaders either clueless or collaborating, while the richest people and corporations continue to get richer and call all the shots, both in business and in public policy.

If you came here to visit me from Mars, you’d think I have a stable, secure life. It may look that way, but I am very uncertain about the future, and that includes tomorrow morning.

So, if you’re a little spooked these days, or going through the motions in a state of shock, you’re not alone.


Mar 30 2012

Health Care Act on Trial

Larry Jones

I was not happy about the Affordable Care Act when it was finally passed in 2010, after nearly two years of wrangling in Congress.

I thought President Obama had sold out, that he should have at least urged a discussion of single-payer or a public option. In the end I felt like the insurance companies had won a great victory, and I still think that. Since then I’ve tried to soothe my outrage by looking at the good points of the finished legislation: Insurance companies can’t refuse coverage because of preexisting conditions or drop you when you get sick; the “lifetime limit” on coverage is banned; kids can stay on the family health plan until age 26; seniors get help paying for their prescriptions. I told myself that, after a hundred years of inaction it was a start, and it could be improved over time.

I should have known better.

I still don’t know why there was a popular outcry against the bill. I assume it was uninformed cranks or people who just hated Obama. Why would you not want affordable health care for everybody? But then the state attorneys general got into the act, and now the Supreme Court is deliberating. Once the court challenges began I knew it would end up with the Supremes, and I was sure they would uphold it. I still think they will, but I’m no longer certain, and neither are most court watchers.

Here are two reasons why I think the law will be substantially upheld:

  • There are four right-wing extremists on the court, plus Justice Kennedy, who is pretty conservative. Their questioning during the arguments this week indicates that they are viewing this case through the most partisan of lenses. They seem to have made up their minds, and are looking for a way to strike down the law. But… like most extreme right wing politicians, they are controlled by rich people and corporate interests. They know their job: Make life better for Exxon, Halliburton and United Heath Care. Right now, this bill feeds 40 million new customers to the U.S. insurance industry. Strike down this bill and the industry would have to spend untold millions of dollars over several decades to gain that much new business, and it’s possible that they never would. I don’t think the corporatists on the court will let that happen.
  • The right wingers on the court are worried about the requirement in the bill that everyone must purchase insurance. They think it’s too much government intrusion. Fair enough, but if they invalidate the health care bill and put the nation right back where it was — near the bottom among developed nations in medical outcomes and near the top in medical spending — there will still be a health care crisis and a desperate need for reform. And version 2.0 of that reform will very likely be a single-payer system administered by the government and paid for with taxes. This would be unarguably constitutional, but a nightmare scenario for the right. I believe that someone will mention this to the conservatives on the court in the next few weeks, and that it will make them stop short of striking down the bill.

That’s what I think, anyway. But lately the right wing has become sort of unhinged. They do things based on a perceived ideological mandate rather than practical considerations of moving the nation forward. We can’t always predict what they will do. So they might shoot this down.

In the chaos that will ensue, I hope none of them sprains a wrist high-fiving each other, because there will be a long wait to get treatment at the emergency room.


Sep 28 2011

Neither Snow Nor Sleet

Larry Jones

The Postal Service is one of the finest institutions we have.

Personally, I think forty-four cents to mail a letter to anyplace in the country is the bargain of the century. And they will take that letter to any address, no matter how far out in the sticks it happens to be.

But have you noticed lately all the talk about how the Post Office is a basket case, inefficient, poorly managed, and unable to pay its bills? According to this drumbeat they have to shut down a bunch of offices and lay off tens of thousands of workers, and even then they will have to reduce services to make ends meet. They just can’t compete with the leaner, smarter, market-driven private delivery services.

But did you know that beginning five years ago during the Bush Administration, a law was passed requiring the Postal Service to fully fund its pension plan 75 years into the future, and that they are required to accomplish this feat within the next five years? In other words they have to be 100% ready to pay a pension to workers who have not yet been born. And this at the same time that UPS and Federal Express are lobbying strongly to be allowed to use their pension funds today as operating money, claiming that it will enable them to be more profitable, thus “saving” their pension funds.

Meanwhile, the “bankrupt” U.S. Postal Service is sitting on 47 billion dollars, much of which won’t be needed for decades, and instead of being allowed to use it, they are told to sell off property and fire workers.

Put those facts together with the fact the the Postal Service is the second largest employer in the country, with by far the largest unionized work force, and I don’t know about you, but I smell something fishy. The drive to crush the labor movement and decimate the middle class would certainly count it as a major victory to see the Post Office dismantled, its workers laid off, its union shut down, its buildings and equipment sold off and private, anti-union, companies taking over the delivery of mail in the U.S. The nonsensical requirement that it overfund its pension and medical benefits plans so far into the future makes it little more than a large beautiful animal with broken legs, unable to defend itself as the hyenas of greed eat it, bite by bite.

Make no mistake — if we lose the Postal Service, we lose a precious American institution. The centuries have shown that the delivery of mail is a proper function of government. Privatization would put us at the mercy of delivery services which would no longer have to compete. Prices would rise, and with no mandate to deliver the mail, services would surely be reduced — except for those who could pay for them.

One step toward saving our Post Office (and the union, and all those jobs and all that tradition, and all those services) is House Bill 1351, which reverses the 2006 law mandating the benefits plan overfunding. You can read the bill here (PDF) and see some TV coverage of the subject here. If you care, consider contacting your member of Congress and asking them to support this bill.


Aug 17 2011

Spoils

Larry Jones

Jones’ Law Number 2: The superrich get their wealth in one of two ways. They steal it, or they inherit it from someone who stole it.

You can argue with the semantics, and you might even be able to point out an exception or two, but basically if you want to acquire great wealth in this world, you have to take it from someone who is weaker or stupider than you. This is what all the great wars and conquests of history have been about: the spoils.

So now in the 21st century, as the governments of the world morph into giant international corporation-states, we shouldn’t be too surprised to see that the pillaging continues. In the United States and around the world, elites live in regal opulence isolated in fortress-like security, many of them so rich they can’t remember how many homes they own. Bankers and hedge fund managers earn sums that are literally unimaginable. Corporate CEOs pay themselves hundreds of times what their average worker makes, often while the company tanks and jobs are moved overseas. Politicians have been “supported” by corporations for so long now that they have forgotten that they are being bribed, and they look the other way as corporate lawyers and lobbyists write bills legalizing the ongoing money grab. When this corruption occasionally brings down the house, as it did in 2007-08, the corporate-owned government uses taxpayer money to make whole the criminals who caused the crash, and when the bailout money runs out, severe austerity is imposed on the people, as in Britain, Greece, Argentina, and soon the United States. Meanwhile the superrich culprits skate.

Nor, it seems to me, should we be very surprised when people take to the streets in mindless rampage, trashing everything in their path and grabbing for themselves anything of value they can get away with. After all, isn’t this the example they have been seeing at the highest levels of society? When shady-but-legal Wall Street shenanigans have ruined the economy, taken the incomes and homes of tens of millions and wiped out retirement savings and college funds, what’s a few big-screen televisions or a whole boxcar full of tennis shoes? When the bankers have escaped to their mansions with all your money, why not torch the bank?

I am getting nervous about what seems to be developing in this country. Billionaires have usurped the government, leaving no force in its place to temper their greed. The economic and social distance between those at the very top and the rest of us has grown so great that there is no more communication. The story we tell ourselves of justice and equality for all is now mere myth. Some tea partiers have already shown up at Presidential events carrying guns. The violence in the human heart has been amply on display in past decades: the Watts Riots in 1965; in Detroit in 1967; back in Los Angeles in 1992; London just last week. Worldwide there have been literally hundreds of civil disturbances since the middle of the 20 century, with an increasing number of them in the United States.

Our government has not been effective in mitigating the current recession. Saying it’s over and things are getting better does nothing to calm the fear and anger of the common people, especially when unemployment and foreclosures are still at record levels while the upper echelons of society are clearly doing better than ever and seem completely unwilling to share in the burden of rebuilding the economy.

If your job is gone or you fear it might be; if your home has been taken away or you fear it might be; if your grown children are back living in your home because they are broke and unemployed after spending a hundred thousand dollars on a college degree; if you have sent out 500 job applications and got nothing back; if you are sick and can’t get medicine; if you are living in a shelter or a car; if your children are hungry; if your elected representatives bicker like children instead of working toward solutions — how much spark would it take to send you in a rage out into the street to take back what you thought was yours and to wreak vengeance on those who took it from you?

There are sparks every day in every city. At some point will the humiliated working class join the angry, armed tea partiers and the dispossessed Left and start to lash out blindly? I hope not. The people can’t win such a war, and neither can the elites.

As in all wars, there will only be losers.


Feb 22 2011

It’s The Money

Larry Jones

Might as well add my two cents to this issue:Madison Protesters

What’s going on in Wisconsin right now — the Republican governor and Republican majority in the state legislature attempting to cripple public employee unions — is not a political matter. It’s an economic matter. It’s another battle in the war on workers and the middle class that began in the eighties. It’s rich people and and rich corporations trying to get rid of labor unions and kill off the pesky middle class once and for all.

In the 2006 election the people of Wisconsin, like most voters nationwide, decided that the Democrats had had long enough to bring the economy back to life (two years), so they voted for Republicans instead. A lot of Democrats must have voted for Republicans, because Republican candidates can’t win with only Republicans voting for them. Whenever the voters do this, they live to regret it, although they rarely understand exactly how they got fucked.

Because the real constituents of the GOP — those rich people and rich corporations — don’t see anything wrong with the economy. They’re doing just fine, thank you, so what is there to “bring back to life?”

Understand, when I say “rich people” and “rich corporations,” I’m talking about unimaginable wealth. Unspendable amounts of money. Since Ronald Reagan got the ball rolling by destroying the air traffic controllers union in 1981, the working class in this country has seen their income stagnate or decline, while the upper class has taken most of that income and wealth for themselves. The top one hundredth of one percent of Americans now makes an average of $27 million per household, while the average income for the bottom 90% of us is a little over $31,000. Meanwhile, tax rates are currently at a 50-year low, and as billionaire Warren Buffet famously says, he is taxed at a lower rate than his secretary.

Yet these super rich don’t have enough. They have taken most of our jobs and sent them to countries where people are happy to work for a tiny fraction of what it costs to live in America, and now they say that American workers must “learn to compete in a global economy.” What they mean is we must learn to live on seven dollars an hour. In the future, even that seven bucks will be deemed too extravagant.

During most of the 20th century, the most prosperous century for the the most prosperous nation the world has ever known, labor unions have been the only protection the worker has had against powerful corporations, and so they are the natural enemy of the rich. The war has been going on for some time, and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s plan to strip public employee unions of the right to collective bargaining is only the latest battle.

But it’s not really Democrats against Republicans. It’s the upper class trying to see if the time might be right — after two generations of misinformation — to turn workers against themselves. Recent polling seems to indicate that a majority in Wisconsin is not OK with this union-busting plan, regardless of how they may have voted in the last election.

The Republican majority in the state government may listen to this majority, or they may not. They are, after all, contolled by powerful corporate interests. Either way, judging from the massive protests going on in Wisconsin, it seems that the time has not yet arrived when American workers are ready to submit to this type of outrage.

But the American worker is in disarray, confused, divided against himself. We have been fed a stream of lies for such a long time that it has become difficult for us to see the truth. Most of us don’t want or need to earn a hundred million dollars a year. We want fair pay for honest work, decent working conditions, the ability to raise our families, go to the doctor when we need to, take a vacation every now and then, and live out our last years in dignity. It doesn’t seem like a lot to ask in this land of plenty.

Of course the upper class will fight us even in this modest ambition, because they and their corporations are programmed always to find ways to accumulate more and more money. They don’t “hate” the working class. But if the working class is comfortable, that means there is money on the table, and rich people will go after it.

They are well organized, smart, relentless and ruthless. I wonder if we are up to it.


Feb 7 2011

Centennial

Larry Jones

Today would have been my mother’s 100th birthday.

When Ronald Reagan ran for governor of California, I thought it was a joke. When he won, I thought it was just Californians being their kooky California selves. When I found out my mother had voted for him, I was both horrified and confused. Were we not an enlightened, humanist, family of Democrats?! She was unable to explain her vote to me, except to say something like “Oh, I don’t know. I just like him.”

Yesterday was the first time I realized that Reagan was almost exactly the same age as my mom. I’ve always suspected that she married my father because, in a certain light and wearing a certain hat, he looked like Humphrey Bogart. Now I realize that she had another secret affair with Ronnie the dashing young actor who was not just of her generation, but whose entire life paralleled her own, if only chronologically.

Reagan has been a thorn in my side ever since he became governor and started cutting funds to education in California. When I graduated from a California state college it was his signature on my diploma, but I’m sure he would much rather have dismantled the whole college system rather than let freeloaders like me get a decent, affordable education. Then as President one of his first official acts was to fire all the air traffic controllers, who had a union and were striking for better wages and working conditions. Imagine!

Now that he’s dead there’s an entire industry in this country devoted to making him the “Greatest President of the 20th Century.” But let’s take a brief look at who he really was, and what he really did.

For one thing, he was a Democrat before he was a Republican. A staunch, hard-left liberal Democrat. And a union leader to boot. So much for loyalty and principle. When General Electric hired him to shill for them, the Democratic hat didn’t fit, so he changed it.

As for that whole tax-cutting myth, he raised taxes six of the eight years he was in the White House, including one increase that was the largest in history. I owned a small business during those years, and I was seriously gouged.

A law abiding man of honor? While President, he used his office to commit at least two felonies. He sent money to the Contras in Nicaragua to support their insurrection against the communist Sandinista government, an action prohibited by Congress under the Boland Amendment. And where did he get that money? From the sale of missiles and other weapons to — say it with me — Iran! Never mind that Iran was then (and now) under an arms embargo. Both of these actions were impeachable offenses, and even though Reagan admitted doing them in a televised speech, the investigation was impeded when his administration destroyed documents relating to the scandal. Reagan, as we know, skated.

I could go on. He kicked off his presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, using the veiled racist code phrase “states rights.” Gorbachev was already well into glasnost when Reagan made his grandstand demand for him to “tear down this wall.” Aren’t you sick of seeing that clip over and over? Then there was his totally made-up slur about the “welfare queen,” making baby after baby and driving to pick up her various entitlement checks in her new Cadillac. His wacky “Star Wars” missile defense system, which was supposed to shoot down Soviet rockets in space but has never worked and is still draining the budget 25 years later. And of course the ultimate insult to the American worker, his theory of “trickle-down” economics, which basically says that rich people should always get all the breaks and the rest of us should be happy with whatever money they happen to spill as they become unimaginably wealthier. Let us eat cake, brothers and sisters.

Reagan began a war on the middle class that continues to this day, and his obsession with getting government out of the way of big business leads in a straight line to the economic meltdown we had in 2008 and which is still robbing millions of ordinary Americans of their homes, their livlihoods and their dignity.

Was he senile and mentally incapacitated during the latter part of his term? Who knows and who cares? Maybe I can’t hold him directly responsible for all the damage that was done in his name in the eighties and beyond, but somehow that doesn’t make me feel any better.

Despite all this there is actually an organization whose mission it is to get a building or an airport or a monument named after Ronald Reagan in all 50 states. Actually, I don’t know if they’re still around. From the looks of things they may have reached their goal by now and settled into smug retirement.

So anyway, happy 100th birthday, Mom. I loved you dearly and still owe you big time. But you know you were wrong about Reagan, don’t you?


Nov 13 2010

George Breaks His Silence

Larry Jones

It’s been a rough ride for Barack Obama these past 20 months.

He has been bombarded from the right and the left for almost everything he’s tried to do as President, and now the inevitable midterm voter’s remorse has taken away his majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, which will probably put a stop to any more Democratic initiatives for the next couple of years, if not to the entire government.

And now, adding insult to injury, George W. Bush is on a book tour.

No doubt he thinks it’s time to start rehabilitating his image. Somehow, though, the idea of a book by George Bush doesn’t ring true. He seems more like a reality show kind of guy to me. Or a game show, maybe. But a book?

I haven’t read “Decision Points” yet, but based on the reviews I’m going to guess that it’s a book about a strong, decisive, hard-working, intuitive, God-fearing patriotic man who would and did do everything in his considerable power to protect and strengthen the country he loves and safeguard his people.

In January of 2009, a day before the end of Bush’s second term in office, revision99 posted a list of his Presidential accomplishments, and now, in the interest of fair play and equal time, here’s a reprint of that list. Think of it as a companion piece to the book, and keep it handy as you examine each of George’s decision points:

  • Asleep at the switch on September 11, 2001. He is still bragging about “keeping America safe,” even though he ignored repeated warnings that an attack was planned.
  • Illegal wiretaps. Yes, he spied on Americans without warrants, a clear violation of federal law. Yes, he admitted it publicly, and promised to keep doing it. Yes, he kept doing it.
  • Invading Iraq. They had no weapons of mass destruction and they had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks of 2001. He fabricated evidence because he wanted to attack somebody, and he ignored or lied about intelligence counter to his delusions. He took troops out of Afghanistan, where the terrorists were hiding, to do this, thus on multiple levels he made our country (and the world) less safe.
  • Federal response to Hurricane Katrina. Here’s a few quotes from the National Weather Service’s warning about Katrina: “…MOST OF THE AREA WILL BE UNINHABITABLE FOR WEEKS…PERHAPS LONGER…THE MAJORITY OF INDUSTRIAL BUILDINGS WILL BECOME NON FUNCTIONAL…ALL WOOD FRAMED LOW RISING APARTMENT BUILDINGS WILL BE DESTROYED…HIGH RISE OFFICE AND APARTMENT BUILDINGS WILL SWAY DANGEROUSLY…A FEW TO THE POINT OF TOTAL COLLAPSE. ALL WINDOWS WILL BLOW OUT…THE BLOWN DEBRIS WILL CREATE ADDITIONAL DESTRUCTION. PERSONS…PETS…AND LIVESTOCK EXPOSED TO THE WINDS WILL FACE CERTAIN DEATH IF STRUCK…POWER OUTAGES WILL LAST FOR WEEKS…” As this monster storm approached, George Bush ate cake (literally!) with John McCain, leaving his totally unprepared crony Michael Brown in charge of FEMA. People died. The city was destroyed.
  • Obstruction of justice at Justice. Competent U.S. Attorneys were fired for political reasons, and replaced by right-wing loyalists in an attempt to rig the Justice Department. The Department was used to carry out politically motivated prosecutions, in violation of the Constitution.
  • Signing statements. When he was not able to veto a law he didn’t like, Bush would simply sign it and issue a statement indicating that he didn’t agree with it and would not comply. Depending on how you count them, he has challenged up to 750 legally-enacted laws this way, more than all other presidents combined. But, signing statement or not, once a law is signed by the President, it’s the law, and if the President ignores it he is breaking the law.
  • Torture. Abu Ghraib. Guantanamo. Suspension of habeus corpus. Detention without charges. “Enhanced” interrogation. Kangaroo courts. Extraordinary rendition. I can say no more.
  • Valerie Plame. Dick Cheney and Scooter Libby committed treason by outing her as a CIA agent to get back at her husband for calling them out on their lies about Saddam Hussein buying bomb materials from Niger. Bush either knew or should have.
  • Looting the Treasury. A few contractors, most notably Vice President Cheney’s own company Haliburton, have made billions of dollars on no-bid government contracts, delivering crappy service at inflated prices. Adding insult to injury, contractors often work side by side with qualified U.S. service personnel making a tenth of the money. Meanwhile, Bush’s corporate welfare and tax cuts for the extremely rich have redistributed the wealth away from working Americans and up into the vaults of the upper upper class.
  • Asleep at the switch as the economy tanked. Bush is trying to blame Bill Clinton for the current economic meltdown, and while there is more than enough blame to go around, you’d think the first MBA president, while in control of all three branches of government for six years, would have noticed what was happening in the Wall Street Casino and done something about it. But he didn’t, and he had no idea how to even slow the bleeding after the crash, and now we will have a depression. Thanks, George!

Nov 3 2010

American Jitters

Larry Jones

First, allow me to take a moment to mark the 6th anniversary of this blog, which occurred some time last month.

I started revision99 during the runup to the 2004 presidential election. I’d been fed up with George W. Bush for about four years by then, and I wanted to express my exasperation that he was ever installed in the White House in the first place and my fervent hope that he would be evicted. It gives me no solace today to know that history will not be kind to George, but of course what really hurts is that my ravings apparently had no effect on that election.

Over the years I came to realize that my ravings were having no effect on much of anything, and I had to retreat back into that blogger’s sanctuary of “I’m writing only for myself.” This was the golden age of personal blogging. I had a few readers, and in turn I read and commented on their blogs. As the impossibly stupid Bush Administration dragged on I became so surly that all my readers and commenters disappeared, and even when I promised to stop writing about politics no one returned. After that, I really was writing just for myself. Then in July of this year I stopped writing altogether.

But I can’t very well commemorate an anniversary if the blog is moribund, so what the hell — I’ll write again about politics.

It’s another day-after. The 2010 election was yesterday, and again I’m scratching my head, trying to make sense of it. Sure things are crappy, but why would voters reelect Republicans, who are primarily interested in enriching the already rich? It’s a mystery that has been getting deeper and more confusing for the past several election cycles. But in trying to explain the current political climate to myself, here’s the latest fairy tale I’ve come up with:

Starting some time in the depths of the Great Depression, Americans got focused. They tightened their belts. They worked hard. They built bridges, dams, monuments, parks. They agreed to legislation that reigned in that era’s Wall Street casino and prevented another such meltdown for 70 years. They created and supported a social safety net to protect the weakest among them, and those who fell through the economic cracks. In the 1940’s they went to war and, against all odds, saved the world. And when those soldiers came home, 12 million of them, we sent them to college and trade schools. They became scientists and engineers, teachers and statesmen. They built homes and churches and schools. They assembled the Interstate Highway system. They created the Space Program and went to the moon. America was the most admired nation on earth. And as late as the Eisenhower Administration our millionaires, mindful of the debt they owed their country, paid a marginal tax rate of 94%.

Contrast all that with the atmosphere today: Americans have become selfish, jealous and greedy. It’s every man for himself. We haven’t built or even attempted anything big in 30 years. Our roads and bridges and levees are crumbling, often with deadly results. We trail most industrialized nations in 21st century infrastructure: broadband technology, high speed rail and clean energy, and there are no plans to catch up. The cars we drive and the electronics we use are built in other countries. We have invaded and still occupy nations on the other side of the world, and the world asks why? We speak seriously about withdrawing aid from anybody “unwilling” to work, at the same time we send their jobs overseas. We pay the lowest taxes in generations, and we are enraged by how high they are. In a world in which 3,000 children a day starve to death, we have an epidemic of obesity.

Our parents and grandparents have spoiled us. They built this magnificent edifice where we live, but we don’t want to maintain it or improve it. We only want to buy big screen televisions and sit on our ever-widening butts, smugly and stupidly imagining that we are still admired by the rest of the world.

All we want are tax cuts and bigger televisions, and we won’t give any government more than one election cycle to deliver. We send the Republicans to fix the economy, because the Democrats didn’t do it. Two years from now we will probably be ready to throw out the Republicans. We’ve got the political jitters. We want quick fixes, no matter how long it took to create the mess we’re in. We’ve been watching TV instead of going to college, so we are no longer smart enough to look five or ten years down the road, form a plan and see it through. We are like fourth-graders on the playground, calling each other names, stealing each others’ lunches and dreading going back into the classroom, where we are expected to pay attention, work together, and learn something.

So in summary let me just say revision99: still harshing your mellow since 2004.


Jan 24 2010

Even Better than Fascism

Larry Jones

UPDATE: A better-written (and darker) discussion of this topic is available here.
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For those members of America’s dumb-ass electorate who don’t know why I keep yelling about the Supreme Court whenever there’s a presidential election…

…take a look at last Thursday’s horrible decision. The court, which is packed with corporate shills, has overturned a hundred years of case law and precedent by saying that there need be no limit on spending by corporations during political campaigns. That’s presidential campaigns, congressional campaigns, statewide campaigns and right on down to local elections for your own city council.

What this means for you and me is that in about five years, all elected officials will de facto be working for at least one corporation, having been supported/paid/bribed by them, and all governing from that point on will be strictly for the benefit of said corporations, even more than it is today.

Congress over the years has sensibly tried to restrict spending by corporations for political purposes, because corporations have no conscience and only one reason to exist: to make more money. Thus their interests do not often — if ever — coincide with those of the nation or its people. That’s you and me, and oh, by the way, corporations have unimaginably more resources than you and me, so don’t get the idea that if we all band together we can outspend corporations and defeat them in that way, because we can’t.

Consider: Worried that the Obama administration was going to hit drug companies with all sorts of regulations and demands for better deals on prescriptions for Americans, Pharma struck a bargain with the White House, agreeing to give up 80 billion dollars in revenue over ten years in exchange for no additional hassles. Yes folks, that’s 8 billion dollars a year that they are able to deal away, so let me ask you: If they have that much to spill, don’t you think they have a lot more that they’re keeping?

And now that they can spend it any way they want, why wouldn’t they just call Obama and tell him they have, say, a billion dollars to spend on his next campaign, and does he want them to spend it for him or against him? Obama’s been a big disappointment, but he’s not a fool. I’m sure his answer will be simple: “How can I serve you, Master?”

Or, consider: Just last June, a New York Times/CBS poll revealed that 72% of Americans favored a “government administered health insurance plan like Medicare that would compete with private health insurance plans.” But after several months of disinformation and fear-mongering by the insurance establishment, the peasants have changed their minds and hit the streets with torches, pitchforks and yes, semiautomatic weapons, crying “fascist,” and “socialist,” and “Marxist,” and demanding that the government stay out of health care.

The court case on Thursday was called “Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission,” and it was about a right wing group (a corporation) not being allowed to release a hatchet job movie about Hillary Clinton during the Democratic primaries. The FEC stopped them because everybody knows these video assassinations are potent and often change the course of elections. For example, look what the lies of the swiftboaters did to John Kerry, a decorated war hero. By the end of that election, many Americans thought Bush, a draft-dodger, was the hero, and Kerry was a lying, cowardly skunk.

So we know that you can determine the outcome of US elections with videos and advertising. Now all you need to do is get the money to make compelling, professional, good-looking videos.

Enter the Supreme Court, headed by ex-corporate attorney John Roberts. Here’s their position: Corporations are people, just like you and me (you and me with hundreds of billions of dollars in our pockets). But they have this handicap. You see, the poor corporations can’t talk. (That’s actually because they’re not people, but pay no attention to that.) So the only voice they have to make their political arguments is their money, of which they have more than God. Thus, according to five members of the Court, there must be no restrictions placed on corporations spending their money during political campaigns, because that would be the same as jailing you and me for standing up and saying “Change we can believe in” or “Country First.”

Anyone who thinks that wealthy corporations will not use this ruling to completely take over the government is simply not looking at what corporations do. (See above, the one goal of corporations.) And this ruling cannot be appealed. And no laws can be enacted to counteract this ruling. And for you slippery-slopers, here’s an icy one for you: Soon, this ruling will be used to show that corporations, being regular folks like you and me, can contribute cash directly to candidates. This will be much more convenient for them, as they will not have to have meetings with campaign managers to find out what to say in their political TV ads and their “documentaries” about opposing candidates. They’ll just be able to pay money openly to whomever agrees to play ball with them after winning the election.

This used to be called bribery. Now it’s Free Speech.

This is going to be even better than fascism. In fascism, the government and the corporations are bound together, and run things sort of as a team, with the government making the policy decisions. In the new era of the Roberts Court, there will be no government, only corporations. They are not interested in health care for all. They don’t care if the roads are fixed, only that the toll booths are operating. Education? Private schools only, charging the most the market will bear. I could go on, but you know what I’m saying. Picture a nation run by Halliburton.

Picture a nation run by Halliburton.

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PS: A quick shout out to the voters of Massachusetts: You sure sent a message to that socialist Obama! Maybe you should work to throw him out of office in 2012, just in time for a Republican president to appoint a couple more big business conservatives to the Supreme Court. That’ll teach him.