Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Rethuglican hypocrite of the year, Gov. Haley Barbour, Mississippi

Alternate headline: Fuck you, you fucking fuck.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, recently broiled in controversy after praising a white supremacist organization, now faces another scandal. Politico reports that Barbour, a rumored presidential candidate, has used the state plane of Mississippi for personal trips, racking up a huge bill that has been dumped on the tax payers of Mississippi — the poorest state in the union. A Politico analysis found:

Much of the time, he has used the plane to go to fundraisers for himself and other Republican candidates and committees, to football games and to at least one boxing match — travel that has a less obvious connection to what Barbour, a former top lobbyist in Washington, has cast as his lobbying on behalf of his state. … The flight logs obtained by POLITICO indicate that Mississippi has spent more than $500,000 over the past three years on Barbour’s air travel. That total does not include security and other logistical costs associated with his trips. [...]

Barbour has reimbursed the state for a handful of flights, but he has more often scheduled obscure official business to coincide with the business of politics, according to the manifest and logs.

Prior to becoming Governor of Mississippi, Barbour was a lobbyist in Washington D.C.and no doubt got used to the lavish lifestyle. He even brush[ed] off suggestions from Mississippi Democrats that he give up” his Citation jet “in favor of a more modest propeller plane for his travel.” But the massive bill he has racked up by using the state’s plane as his own personal private jet also stand in direct opposition to his public persona.

During his many appearances on national television, Barbour has positioned himself as a deficit hawk. He attacked the stimulus bill and has insisted that the president’s proposed tax cuts for lower and middle class families be paid for. Yet Barbour in reality is a deficit fraud. As the Wonk Room’s Pat Garafolo has pointed out, after attacking the stimulus and claiming Mississippi would refuse the money, Barbour took advantage of stimulus funded bonds. While he has insisted that tax cuts for the lower and middle class be paid for, Barbour has given tax cuts for the rich a pass.

By Max Bergmann | Sourced from Think Progress

Monday, December 27, 2010

What a wonderful empire!

A new investigation by the Boston Globe finds that retiring generals are leaving the military in large numbers to take lucrative jobs in the defense industry with little concern for any conflicts of interest. According to Democracy Now, "the Globe analyzed the career paths of 750 of the highest-ranking generals and admirals who retired during the last two decades. The results are staggering. From 2004 through 2008, 80 percent of retiring three- and four-star officers went to work as consultants or defense executives. That compares with less than half who followed that path a decade earlier.

"The Globe analysis found that in many cases the generals are recruited for private-sector roles well before they retire, raising questions about their independence and judgment while still in uniform. What’s more, the Pentagon is aware and even supports this practice."

The Globe article can be found here.

The interview with Bryan Bender, national security reporter for the Boston Globe, can be found here, watched below, or downloaded as an mp3 here.

This prodigiously enlarged turnstile, a growth industry in itself, of course insures that the military industrial complexwill continue unabated, helping to bankrupt the nation, enrich oligarchic defense contractors, and continue the torrent of blowback that the late Chalmers Johnson predicted would come to pass.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Top 5 Problems with the Tax Deal

Problem #1: The deal is a stealth attack on Social Security.

The deal will lower the payroll tax—the tax that funds the Social Security trust. This is a trap for Democrats. Republicans have been coming after Social Security for years and this cut is the biggest threat to the vital program in decades. It will cut one-third of Social Security's funding this year alone and when we need to restore the payroll tax back to its current level, Republicans will cry "tax increases" and could gut it permanently. 1

Problem #2: For nearly one in three workers, it's a tax increase.

Nearly 50 million working Americans—including all workers making less than $20,000 per year—and millions of federal, state, and municipal workers will see their taxes go up because of the deal.2

Problem #3: The deal has not one but TWO millionaire bailouts.

In addition to extending all the Bush income tax breaks for the top 2%, the deal will slash the estate tax. If Congress did nothing, next year the estate tax would be 55% and apply to everyone inheriting $1 million or more. But the deal reduces it to 35% and only people who inherit more than $5 million will have to pay. This second bailout will give a gigantic tax giveaway to a few thousand of the richest families in the country and add hundreds of billions to the national debt.3

Problem #4: Unemployment help is insufficient and inadequate.

While the deal extends unemployment benefits for another 13 months for people currently receiving it, millions of unemployed workers who've struggled the most and been out of work more than 99 weeks—since the giant Wall Street banks wrecked the economy—will get no help at all under the deal.4 It's a gamble that there will be jobs in the next 13 months when the insurance runs out, but the tax cuts will go well beyond that. Better to just pass a stand-alone unemployment extension to help all struggling Americans.

Problem #5: Tax giveaways to the rich are a terrible way to create jobs.

Tax breaks for the rich are the least efficient way to create jobs and help the economy grow. In fact the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says extending all tax cuts would lower unemployment only 0.1% to 0.3% over the next year5 and that the cost of the tax deal would be $900 billion over the next five years.6

Sources:

1."Tax Cut Deal A Hidden Threat To Social Security," The Huffington Post, December 8, 2010
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=205508&id=25500-630415-3avf8fx&t=6

2. "Obama-Republican Deal Could Mean Tax Hike For One In Three Workers," The Huffington Post, December 10, 2010
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=205509&id=25500-630415-3avf8fx&t=7

3. "Estate tax deal: worst part of a bad tax compromise," The Christian Science Monitor, December 7, 2010
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=205510&id=25500-630415-3avf8fx&t=8

4. "Unemployment benefits: Extension won't help '99ers'," The Christian Science Monitor, December 7, 2010
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=205511&id=25500-630415-3avf8fx&t=9

5. "The Deal," Paul Krugman, The New York Times, December 7, 2010
http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/07/the-deal/

6. "CBO score shows tax plan ups deficit $900 billion in 5 years," CNN.com, December 10, 2010
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=205512&id=25500-630415-3avf8fx&t=10

A tip of the Mirsky hat to Moveon.org

What's wrong with this picture?


According to the NY Times:
"American businesses earned profits at an annual rate of $1.659 trillion in the third quarter, according to a Commerce Department report released Tuesday. That is the highest figure recorded since the government began keeping track over 60 years ago, at least in nominal or noninflation-adjusted terms."

Meanwhile, joblessness grows, the middle class shrinks, wars without end roll on with their true cost shielded from a public who probably wouldn't notice even if they weren't, the police state apparatus grows ever more ominous, and our government, held hostage by a deluded minority of self-style patriots, continue to midwife the institutionalization of the corporate welfare state ("socialize the risk, privatize the profits").

Welcome to the oligarch republic.

Bernie Sanders for President

In case you missed it (I mean, "Dancing With the Stars" might have been on), here is Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) truth to power speech on the floor of the corporate-controlled Senate.

Friday, December 10, 2010

An Open Letter to the Left Establishment


I copy this letter as it was received, and urge you to sign onto it yourself. *****************************************************

This letter is a call for active support of protest to Michael Moore, Norman Solomon, Katrina van den Heuvel, Michael Eric Dyson, Barbara Ehrenreich, Thomas Frank, Tom Hayden, Bill Fletcher Jr., Jesse Jackson Jr., and other high profile progressive supporters of the Obama electoral campaign.

With the Obama administration beginning its third year, it is by now painfully obvious that the predictions of even the most sober Obama supporters were overly optimistic. Rather than an ally, the administration has shown itself to be an implacable enemy of reform.

It has advanced repeated assaults on the New Deal safety net (including the previously sacrosanct Social Security trust fund), jettisoned any hope for substantive health care reform, attacked civil rights and environmental protections, and expanded a massive bailout further enriching an already bloated financial services and insurance industry. It has continued the occupation of Iraq and expanded the war in Afghanistan as well as our government’s covert and overt wars in South Asia and around the globe.

Along the way, the Obama administration, which referred to its left detractors as “f***ing retarded” individuals that required “drug testing,” stepped up the prosecution of federal war crime whistleblowers, and unleashed the FBI on those protesting the escalation of an insane war.

Obama’s recent announcement of a federal worker pay freeze is cynical, mean-spirited “deficit-reduction theater”. Slashing Bush’s plutocratic tax cuts would have made a much more significant contribution to deficit reduction but all signs are that the “progressive” president will cave to Republican demands for the preservation of George W. Bush’s tax breaks for the wealthy Few. Instead Obama’s tax cut plan would raise taxes for the poorest people in our country.

The election of Obama has not galvanized protest movements. To the contrary, it has depressed and undermined them, with the White House playing an active role in the discouragement and suppression of dissent – with disastrous consequences. The almost complete absence of protest from the left has emboldened the most right-wing elements inside and outside of the Obama administration to pursue and act on an ever more extreme agenda.

We are writing to you because you are well-known writers, bloggers and filmmakers with access to a range of old and new media, and you have in your power the capacity to help reignite the movement which brought millions onto the streets in February of 2003 but which has withered ever since. There are many thousands of progressives who follow your work closely and are waiting for a cue from you and others to act. We are asking you to commit yourself to actively supporting the protests of Obama administration policies which are now beginning to materialize.

In this connection we would like to mention a specific protest: the civil disobedience action being planned by Veterans for Peace involving Chris Hedges, Daniel Ellsberg, Joel Kovel, Medea Benjamin, Ray McGovern, several armed service veterans and others to take place in front of the White House on Dec. 16th.

Should you commit yourselves to backing this action and others sure to materialize in weeks and months ahead, what would otherwise be regarded as an emotional outburst of the “fringe left” will have a better chance of being seen as expressing the will of a substantial majority not only of the left, but of the American public at large. We believe that your support will help create the climate for larger and increasingly disruptive expressions of dissent – a development that is sorely needed and long overdue.

We hope that we can count on you to exercise the leadership that is required of all of us in these desperate times.

Best Regards,

Sen. James Abourezk
Michael Albert
Rocky Anderson
Jared Ball
Russel Banks
Thomas Bias
Noam Chomsky
Bruce Dixon
Frank Dorrel
Gidon Eshel
Jamilla El-Shafei
Okla Elliott
Norman Finkelstein
Glen Ford
Joshua Frank
Margaret Flowers M.D.
John Gerassi
Henry Giroux
Matt Gonzalez
Kevin Alexander Gray
Judd Greenstein
DeeDee Halleck
John Halle
Chris Hedges
Doug Henwood
Edward S. Herman
Dahr Jamail
Louis Kampf
Allison Kilkenny
Jamie Kilstein
Joel Kovel
Mark Kurlansky
Peter Linebaugh
Scott McLarty
Cynthia McKinney
Dede Miller
Russell Mokhiber
Bobby Muller
Christian Parenti
Michael Perelman
Peter Phillips
Louis Proyect
Ted Rall
Michael Ratner
Cindy Sheehan
Chris Spannos
Paul Street
Sunil Sharma
Jeffrey St. Clair
Len Weinglass
Cornel West
Sherry Wolf
Michael Yates
Mickey Z
Kevin Zeese

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The best friends that money can buy

Oligarchy? Corporatocracy? Or soon to be banana republic? What do you call the sad specter of the US of A as the first decade of the 21st century limps to an end. As we slip lower and lower in the ranks of global "best" lists, whether it be quality of life, or educational quality (while leading the pack for delusional thinking), I can't help but reflect on the words of the late Howard Zinn:

"The American system is the most ingenious system of control in world history. With a country so rich in natural resources, talent and labor power the system ca
n afford to distribute just enough wealth to just enough people to limit discontent to a troublesome minority. It is a country so powerful, so big, so pleasing to so many of its' citizens that it can afford to give freedom of dissent to the small number who are not pleased. There is no system of control with more openings, apertures, flexibilities, rewards for the chosen. There is none that disperses its control more complexly through the voting system, the work situation, the church, the family, the school, the mass media - none more successful in mollifying opposition with reforms, isolating people from one another, creating patriotic loyalty."-- from 'A People's History of the United States, first published 1981.

This Saturday, the local Tea Party zealots were waving the flag at a corner in my neck of the woods. I recognized one of them from a picture in our local newspaper, which seems to find this minority group always newsworthy (to the exclusion of real news), along with their doyenne, Ms. Palin. A burly, 50-something guy with a big handlebar mustache and paunch, his sign said "Honk If You Love Freedom." Someone else's said "End Tyranny." Sadly, their view of tyranny is cutting off their nose to spite their face. Ask any one of them who George Soros is, and I am sure you will find at least 50% ready to recite the vaguely anti-semitic rhetoric of Glenn Beck regarding that sinister "Hungarian Jew" who is the "puppet master" behind that Muslim, foreign-born socialist Barack Obama. But ask them who David and Charles Koch are, and I am willing to wager a significant number of draft Yuenglings that you'd get a blank look from this crowd.

I don't have a large reservoir of optimism for the future of our nation. While I believe in my heart that a small majority of Americans actually support progressive values, far too many of them prefer not to fight for them, while the minority who gladly offer themselves up as tools of the corporate right are not only willing to draw blood, but are also well-armed. Had Barack Obama been the leader many of us hoped he would be (and I do not diminish some of the advances that his administration has made), might the so-called "enthusiasm gap" never have become a mainstream media chorus line?

And then there is that one component of our peril that no one on either side of the aisle wants to speak about, at least outside of a few voices like Dennis Kucinich and Bernie Sanders: namely, the sheer magnitude of our military presence around the world (nearly 800 bases), our waging of two irrational war fronts in a sector of the world where the enemy has no problem about blowing themselves up for their cause (two wars, I might add, whose true cost is kept outside the Federal budget arithmetic), and the unspeakably bloated defense budget we support with our tax dollars. To this we might add, that in an economy woefully short of manufacturing, the one sector we still do quite well is, of course, weapons.


And now even our Supreme Court, no small thanks to George W. Bush, as classical a son of the patriarchal class as any, even the highest court of the land is now held in the majority by the forces of American aristocracy. By upholding and extending an earlier interpretative fallacy that granted corporations the rights of citizens, the justices have paved the way for the further erosion of our democracy.

We have been warned through history by men and women by-and large smarter than most of us of the perils of power and money conjoined against the forces of democracy. A few examples:


"I hope we shall... crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and to bid defiance to the laws of our country." ~ Thomas Jefferson, letter to George Logan. November 12, 1816

“America cannot have an empire abroad and a Republic at home.” ~Mark Twain

"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. ~Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower

"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both." ~ Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis (1856-1941)

"The real truth of the matter is, as you and I know, that a financial element in the large centers has owned the government of the U.S. since the days of Andrew Jackson." ~ Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt

“The two greatest obstacles to democracy in the United States are, first, the widespread delusion among the poor that we have a democracy, and second, the chronic terror among the rich, lest we get it.” ~ Edward Dowling (1941)

"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross." ~ Sinclair Lewis (1935)

"The convention which framed the Constitution of the United States was composed of fifty-five members. A majority were lawyers-not one farmer, mechanic or laborer. Forty owned Revolutionary Scrip. Fourteen were land speculators. Twenty-four were money-lenders. Eleven were merchants. Fifteen were slave-holders. They made a Constitution to protect the rights of property and not the rights of man." ~ Senator Richard Pettigrew, Triumphant Plutocracy (1922)

"A Society that is in its higher circles and middle levels widely believed to be a network of smart rackets does not produce men with an inner moral sense; a society that is merely expedient does not produce men of conscience. A society that narrows the meaning of "success" to the big money and in its terms condemns failure as the chief vice, raising money to the plane of absolute value, will produce the sharp operator and the shady deal. Blessed are the cynical, for only they have what it takes to succeed." ~ C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite

"The principal power in Washington is no longer the government or the people it represents. It is the Money Power. Under the deceptive cloak of campaign contributions, access and influence, votes and amendments are bought and sold. Money established priorities of action, holds down federal revenues, revises federal legislation, shifts income from the middle class to the very rich. Money restrains the enforcement of laws written to protect the country from abuses of wealth--laws that mandate environmental protection, antitrust laws, laws to protect the consumer against fraud, laws that safeguard the securities markets, and many more." ~ Richard N. Goodwin, speechwriter for John F. Kennedy

"Big money and big business, corporations and commerce, are again the undisputed overlords of politics and government. The White House, the Congress and, increasingly, the judiciary, reflect their interests. We appear to have a government run by remote control from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the American Petroleum Institute. To hell with everyone else." ~Bill Moyers, PBS Commentator

"The government, which was designed for the people, has got into the hands of the bosses and their employers, the special interests. An invisible empire has been set up above the forms of democracy."
~ Woodrow T. Wilson, 28th President of the United States

"Wars are seldom caused by spontaneous hatreds between people, for peoples in general are too ignorant of one another to have grievances and too indifferent to what goes on beyond their borders to plan conquests. They must be urged to the slaughter by politicians who know how to alarm them." ~ H.L. Mencken

"An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics." ~ Plutarch (Mestrius Plutarchus, c. 46 AD- 127 AD)

“They call it the 'American Dream' because you have to be asleep to believe it.” ~ George Carlin

There's an ill wind blowing in the land, and I don't know where it is going to lead us.