Thursday, March 31, 2011

As Jobless Suffer, Missouri Republican Extremists Block Federal Benefits

In a stunning display of brutality that shocked even fellow Republican state legislators, a Gang of Four renegade Republican senators in Missouri's state house used a parliamentary procedure to block their states' jobless from receiving $105 million worth of unemployment benefits starting as early as Sunday.

The four, led by known evangelical supremacist Jim Lembke of Missouri's1st District, filibustered what should have been a mere procedural vote to continue participation in a federal program to extend unemployment benefits for those who still can't find jobs after they've exhausted 79 weeks of benefits authorized by previous federal laws.

Republicans Brian Nieves, Will Kraus and Rob Schaaf joined Lembke's anti-worker coup.

Proving over and over again that Republicans are nothing more than vicious thugs vying for the favor of their plutocrat overlords, Lembke and his gang stunned even their GOP cohort with a depth of depravity the others had not countenanced. With their action, Missouri would become the first state to actually quit participating in a federal program that offered extended unemployment benefits. State unemployment benefits normally run out after 26 weeks, but since the Bush-era mortgage meltdown and the mass job-offshoring spree, the federal government has enacted a series of benefit extensions for states hit by high unemployment.

Republicans control both chambers of Missouri's state government, but even the Republican-led state legislature had approved the benefit extension bill by a 123-14 margin. Republican state senate leaders had reportedly favored the bill, and Democratic Governor Jay Nixon had anticipated signing the law assuring continued benefits for tens of thousands of Missouri's unemployed.

But avowed evangelical extremist Lembke, who matriculated at the right-wing Covenant Theological Seminary and was a business manager and board member of the Providence Christian Academy, wielded his sword of self-righteous vengeance, and struck at the most vulnerable members of his state's community.  Because of Lembke and his minions' vicious cruelty, tens of thousands barely hanging on by the fragile thread of their weekly unemployment checks will be plunged into destitution. Homes, hearths and shelter will be lost. Children will cry themselves to sleep in hunger and misery. More than one will no doubt succumb to despair and hopelessness.

Lembke would no doubt tell his starving multitudes to pray. Unfortunately, Lembke himself appears incapable of feeding those multitudes with a few fish and a couple of loaves. More to the point, Lembke appears completely disinterested in doing so, which is a principal difference between Christ and the smug Republican poseurs who repeatedly claim His mantle.

Lembke's narcissistic posturing disgusted fellow Republicans not noted for showing empathy to ordinary Americans. Representative Barney Fisher called Lembke's grandstanding "inappropriate," and said that philosophical standpoints might be "interesting," they "didn't put food on the table."

Lembke's infamy outstriped the America-hating antics of Republican politicos in Michigan, who merely cut future benefits from 26 to 20 weeks beginning next year. Michigan's Republican Governor Rick Snyder and his GOP cabal slipped that little ditty into a bill that accepted the same extension of current federal unemployment benefits that Missouri has now disdained. Lembke and his gang proved they were the most barbaric of the ax-wielding Gothic proselytizers by sacrificed tens of thousands of Americans' well being in their lust for national headlines and TV exposure.

While Republicans universally hate all living things and Americans in particular, Lembke's shameless toadying to corporate overlords who relish reducing their unemployment insurance premiums reveals a black abyss of pure evil and hatred rarely parallelled in recorded history.  No smug protestation that a budget strapped by Republican tax giveaways to the rich forced the abuse of their people could mask the depravity Lembke displayed in brutalizing people whose welfare he was supposedly elected to champion.

Republican pols continually snivel about the well-being of the "American people," but to Republicans, there are only a handful of such people: the multi-billionaire Koch brothers, Rupert Murdoch (an Australian), Donald Trump, and a few Texas oil moguls. It is apparent that no other Americans exist to them. When Republican pols crow about "securing the future for our children," they literally mean their own offspring, who will enjoy extravagant trust-fund reigns thanks to their progenitors' perfidy.

While the world condemns Libyan dictator Moammar Khadafy for killing his own people, Lembke and his co-conspirators would likewise plunge his own people into hunger, despair and homelessness, and force anguished Missouri parents to watch their babies condemned to the life-long misery of mind- and body-stilting childhood deprivation.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ohio Republicans' Union-Busting Bill Goes Up For House Vote

Although the union-busting mayhem in Wisconsin has gotten most of the attention, Republicans throughout the Great Lakes region have been assaulting workers' rights, pay and benefits. Ohio moved a step closer to joining Wisconsin in infamy Tuesday, as a bill that would restrict public workers' collective bargaining rights and proscribe them from striking passed out of committee and was sent to the full House for a Wednesday vote.

While a judge in Wisconsin reiterated her order for that state's union-busting measure to be put on hold  while a lawsuit against it is litigated, the nine Republicans on Ohio's House committee voted for their version of the anti-worker law. Six Democrats voted against it.

It was not immediately known whether the Republicans' plutocrat overlords had yet granted their vassals any tokens for hacking down the local peasantry. While Wisconsin's law was passed and measures in Ohio and Indiana were still pending, none had yet been enacted, and the GOP's wealthy masters might demand complete implementation before bestowing rewards and fiefs.

Republicans are in the majority in Ohio's lower chamber, and are expected to bestow their blessing on the union-busting measure immediately.  The Ohio Senate, also run by Republicans, passed a similar bill by a 17-16 margin earlier in the month.

Ohio's Republican Governor John Kasich had been vying with his Republican counterparts in nearby states to deliver the most extreme worker-strangling laws the fastest. He downplayed the possibility that the House bill wasn't as severe as the Senate version. House bill, while outlawing workers' right to strike, lost a provision that promoted jail time for workers who went on strike. Workers in many public sector jobs may be fired if they are found to have criminal records.

More importantly, the Ohio legislation stripped unions of the ability to use payroll deductions for union organizing and collective political action. As the unions have been reliable supporters of the Democratic Party, Republicans have long coveted breaking their ability to raise money for elections and political causes. While Republicans constantly protest that their actions are purely to balance state budgets strapped because of Republican tax giveaways to their plutocrat masters, the union-busting measures are nothing more than partisan political vendettas aimed at destroying workers' abilities to organize opposition to GOP tyranny.

Should the Ohio law reach Kasich for his signature soon enough, he would have significantly closed the gap created by Wisconsin's early passage of their law. Wisconsin's governor signed his bill March 11, but a state judge blocked its implementation pending a legal challenge to the law. Wisconsin Republican officials, in open defiance of the court order, had tried to publish the law among the state's official announcements, and claim that by itself made the law's implementation a fait accompli. With Herculean patience and charity, the judge, Maryann Sumi, issued specific orders prohibiting Wisconsin's Republican Secretary of State Doug La Follette from taking any action to implement the law. Clearly, Judge Sumi could have found La Follette and Governor Scott Walker in contempt of court, and issued bench warrants for their arrest.

Indiana Republicans also moved closer to passing their union-busting bill, as that state's Democrats ended a five-week boycott to stall action. It is now a three-way race for to see which set of GOP toadies will be the first to lay their victim's head before their overlords.

While the GOP thugs vie for the honor to be first to scourge their workers, all will flay their peasantry however possible. They have also pledged to bestow their plutocrats with state assets such as buildings and power plants, as well as plunder from pension and unemployment insurance funds. Republican rapacity is unlimited in its scope and arrogance.

Monday, March 28, 2011

With High Joblessness, Republicans Cut Unemployment Benefits

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder triumphantly waved a press release crowing, "Snyder Signs Bill to Protect Unemployed," but Snyder is a Republican, so the law he just signed actually slashed state unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 20 weeks.

Only a Republican would claim that cutting unemployment benefits somehow protects the jobless.

Perhaps Snyder means he's protecting the interests of the idle rich, as the Michigan Chamber of Commerce was certainly all for slashing the benefits. Thankfully, the downtrodden billionaire plutocrats won't have to pay for all that unemployment insurance, leaving so much more money for extra cases of Dom Perignon and baubles from Tiffany's.

Republicans quietly slipped the measure to cut unemployment payments from 26 weeks to 20 weeks into a bill that fixed a technical glitch that would otherwise have jeopardized the 99-week extended federal unemployment benefits for hundreds of thousands of jobless Michiganites. Thus, Snyder's audacious claim that he was actually helping the jobless.

Not that Snyder is alone in his infamy.  Wherever there are Republicans in office, you can be sure workers' rights are imperiled. Republican fiefdoms Florida and Ohio are lining up similar plans to slash jobless benefits from 26 weeks to 20. Snyder just won this particular race among the GOP thugs who vie for their plutocrat overlords' favor by committing the most horrific outrages against Americans. There was no immediate word what prize Snyder won for being first across the finish line. The benefit reduction takes effect next year.

From the perspective of the GOP's plutocrat masters who outsourced and offshored all the jobs in the first place, there's simply no point in providing unemployment benefits to Americans who they have no intention of ever again hiring. Do those jobless losers expect free handouts forever? Better they starve to death sooner rather than later. The trans-national corporate nobles who call the shots in the GOP are too busy shovelling mountains of taxpayer-subsidized overseas profits from all the jobs they've created in India and China.

The Republican pols cried huge crocodile tears over the depleted unemployment insurance trust funds they said necessitated benefit cuts.  Of course, the funds became depleted because huge tax breaks allowed employers to keep money that should have gone to keep the funds afloat. Then, Republican economic policy allowed their Wall Street cronies to crash the global markets and create a catastrophic recession the unemployment funds were ill-equipped to handle. Oh, well, gas up the corporate jet and let the American people take it on the chin. After all, they're the ones who're stupid enough not to lynch us for destroying their country.

Unemployment benefits aren't just intended to help idled workers. They are supposed to help stimulate the economy by creating demand for consumer goods. Republican actions reveal they don't care much about the American economy, as their overlords are already getting rich overseas and in the equity markets.

In state houses across America, the Republicans are attacking Americans from every side.  They're union busting, raiding pension funds, and slashing pay and benefits. They're blocking and reversing clean air and water rules. They're slashing education and ditching worker safety and dumping child labor laws. They're handing state assets to big-money cronies, and allowing toxic wastes to flood wind and water. They're forcing cuts to services for the elderly and the sick, and now they've taken the first step toward eliminating jobless benefits.

The Republicans are devoted vassals to the 20% of Americans who own 84% of everything in America, which is completely understandable behavior for incorrigible toadies. Unless Americans wake up and start taxing some of that 84% of stuff, you won't have anything left of the few pennies you do have. The GOP will make sure of that.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

GOP Politicians Tell Iowa Social Conservatives "I Love You" ...Again

The Republican Party exists to serve trans-national plutocrats who want to break unions and drain their pension funds, to belch toxic wastes into wind and water without EPA hindrance, to pile pyramids of funny money in arcane accounting scams that can topple the world's finances, to plunder Social Security and wipe out health care for anyone who can't pay cash on the barrel head. To do this, every election cycle they have to hoodwink millions of ignorant social conservatives into voting for them in droves.

As the 2012 election cycle gears up, Republican Presidential hopefuls and party shills descend on Iowa, home of the caucuses that launch the campaign season, to dazzle the religious family values voters.
For generations, the so-called social conservatives - the rural, exurban, Evangelical Christian legions home-schooled on hate and misinterpretations of the King James Bible - have been promised that this time, this very time, once elected, the Republican Party would move forward like the avenging army of righteous Christian Crusaders they all are to wipe out homosexuals, eliminate womens' right to chose, and subjugate people of color beneath the ethically and ethnically pure Evangelical Christian boot. The Republican Party would reverse the lie of global climate change because God-fearing people know He wouldn't allow such a thing to happen, not just because GOP oil moguls want unlimited tax-subsidized profits. The Republican Party would bomb Muslims out of existence because they worship the wrong god, not just because the GOP arranged a no-bid contract shovelling billions of taxpayer dollars into Halliburton Corporation. The Republican Party would exterminate homosexuals, because they are a Biblical abomination, not just because the LGBTG community votes overwhelmingly Democrat.  The Republican Party would wipe out unions, because they prey on patriotic free-market capitalists like you, with your 1986 Ford pickup, a set of Sears Craftsman tools, and a state contractors' license, and me, with my multi-national corporation, my multi-billion dollar portfolio, my houses in Texas, Shanghai, London, Milan and Singapore, my private jets, my lobbyists, and my sixty-seven law firms in sixteen countries on permanent retainer. Every election cycle, the Republican Party says that this time, the vital concerns plaguing the social conservatives would be the top order of business.

And, every election cycle, once the votes are in and the plutocrats have gotten their candidates in office, the social conservatives' agenda is ignored and the social conservatives themselves are locked in the basement until the next election cycle.

Oh, to be sure, Republicans pols go after the LGBTG community, immigrants and womens' choice, but they mostly concentrate on defunding services to those and every other community to assure the rich keep getting their tax subsidies.

One would think that the social conservatives would eventually get a clue that these slick snake oil salesmen for the ultra-rich, decked out in their Armani suits, wouldn't have anything to do with the rural religious minions once the voting's over. But they never get a clue. They never even buy a vowel.
Every election cycle, the social conservatives earnestly believe that this time, with God's grace behind them, the Republicans they elect will act for them, and not for the plutocrats whose lobbyists and 501 PACs pour hundreds of millions dollars into the GOP politicos' junkets, foundations, and future employment.

So the social conservatives cheer for Michele Bachmann when she gushes, "There's no place like Iowa!" and promises to pursue the social conservative agenda. The social conservatives grow giddy fawning over Mike Huckabee and Tim Pawlenty and Ron Paul descending for a photo-op.

It is all very sad, like watching the nice fat girl with bad skin go all mushy when the captain of the football team strolls over to talk to her. She thinks he really likes her, but he just wants to get her do his math homework. As soon as its done, there's a leggy cheerleader driving off with him in a convertible, but you know she'll do his homework for him every time, and she'll go home and lie in bed day-dreaming about her "relationship" with him.

Except, of course, that her homework enables him to plunder Social Security, slime the entire Gulf coast with oil sludge, destroy groundwater with toxic hydrofracking, crash the global financial system, layoff and offshore millions of jobs, break unions and strangle American democracy.

Perhaps the social conservatives, whose goals are mean, and spiteful, and racist, and filled with hate and loathing cloaked in a thin mantle of religious righteousness, see in the big-money plutocrats a kindred spirit of arrogant self-interest.

If only they could put aside their racist hate and their homophobia and their twisted theology, they could see that they are, relatively speaking, poor, and ordinary, and trodden under the plutocrats' boots like 80% of everybody else in America. They'd be better off voting for Democrats, but they just can't stop believing in lies and hate.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Republican Push to Destroy America Goes On Straight Through Lunch

The Republican politicos’ hatred of America is so virulent, their disdain for the nation so unrelenting, their contempt of country so utterly complete that they couldn’t choke down their lunches unless they could assure themselves that the very act of eating was helping to destroy the land.
Since the Republicans have taken control of the House of Representatives, they have reversed former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s "Green the Capitol" initiative and replaced the compostable cups and utensils in the Congressional cafeteria with non-recyclable plastics.
Republicans gleefully replaced the eco-friendly dining ware with polystyrene cups, plates, and containers so they could more fully attack the environment even while they were at lunch. Aside from styrene being a possible carcinogen, manufacturing polystyrene, also called Styrofoam, is a major source of hazardous waste.  The stuff overflows landfills, never biodegrades, and eventually breaks up into smaller and smaller plastic bits that enter the food chain and remain in the environment forever.
Republicans have fought to cripple the Environmental Protection Agency, subvert clean air and water rules, and reverse restrictions of dirty-energy coal plants. Apparently, pleasing their plutocrat masters with these efforts wasn’t enough for them.  They felt compelled to defile and destroy even during the few lunch breaks when they weren’t out being wined and dined by their big-money corporate overlords.
In yet another example of how deeply they despise America, the Republicans have revealed that there is no action against the people and resources of the country that is so small that they would overlook it. It is no surprise they would extend gratuitous tax subsidies to their cronies among the oil moguls, and that they would suspend any oversight of belching coal plants.  It is no surprise they would promote the despoiling of ground water through fracking for natural gas.  But, the fastidious attention to even this tiniest detail – how to increase the waste and pollution coming out of the Capitol’s cafeteria - reveals an obsessive hatred and spite for the US unmatched by any antagonist in the history of conflict.
Attila the Hun slaughtered his enemies, burned their homes and villages, stole their horses and raped and enslaved their women and children. Republicans would do all that to America, and shovel garbage on top of the ruins as well.
Republicans, having gutted American business and industry with mergers, acquisitions, layoffs, and off-shoring, having emptied pension funds and broken unions, having dumped toxic wastes and greenhouse gases, now scheme to plunder Social Security and Medicare, Americans’ final safety nets.
Even still, Republicans aren’t satisfied unless they can bury everyone under piles of garbage as well. Republicans look at the miserable favelas of Rio de Janeiro, the wretched slums of Calcutta, the squalor and filth of countless Third World cardboard-and-rusting-corrugated-tin ghettos rising from steaming heaps of fetid garbage and sigh, “That’s how Americans should live.”
Of course, that is how they would feel. Then, they would be assured that they had squeezed every penny from the nation, and had handed it to their plutocrat masters.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Republicans Ruining America with Cuts Instead of Building with Spending

Everyone knows that, in a recession, you have to pump up spending to dig yourself out of the hole.  In a deep recession, the government becomes the spender of last resort.  The government should spend like a drunken sailor with a chest of gold doubloons on a two-day liberty. The government should build roads, bridges, dams, railroads, office buildings, and outhouses, then cover them with murals, mosaics, organic moss or macaroons. The government should start a space program or a sea island survey. The government should try to build a nationwide clean energy grid and hook everyone up to it.

The idea is to put money into the hands of all the people you hire for these projects, so they could buy groceries, and school supplies, and clothes, and big screen TVs, and spark demand to ramp up hiring by the snivelling profit-mongers in the private sector.

Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize-winning Economics Professor from Princeton, has repeated warned that not spending enough would doom America to the doldrums for years, and that the current Washington Beltway obsession with cutting spending is just plain crazy.  He points out that austerity measures in England, Ireland and Portugal have backfired, and those countries are slipping backward.

Yet the Republicans are obsessed with slashing every program vital to American democracy, from banking regulation, to environmental protection, to education, to emergency preparedness to a woman's right to choose. These measures and others are calculated to destroy the main obstacle preventing the GOP's plutocrat masters free reign: the United States of America.

It is no coincidence that the US and Europe are in the crosshairs of right-wing politicians doing the bidding of the trans-national plutocrats.  The US and the western democracies are the main obstacle preventing the plutocrats from running their businesses the way they can in China or Russia. The US and European democracies have, up to now, demanded tolerable working conditions, a certain amount of transparency in business transactions, a certain regard for environmental impact, education for their children, and, in much of the world, health care for their people.

The plutocrats have, through statutory tax evasion, managed to build up their strength to the tune of owning 84% of everything in America. Now that they can buy off the politicians, tilt the elections, and strangle any dissent by sending hordes of lawyers to bury any opposition under mountains of legal briefs, the plutocrats see no need to have to put up with the needs and hopes and aspirations of millions of Americans and Europeans.

The plutocrats have used up Americans' labor, raided their pension funds, and plan on mopping up by plundering the Social Security trust funds, the last big cache of money Americans have left.  Their Republican vassals have been tasked to destroy everything necessary to administer American culture. On the very day of the catastrophic Japan tsunami, Republicans voted to cut tsunami warning.

Republicans, like hired thugs anywhere, can think no further than toadying up to the corporate masters who toss trinkets their way. When the big-money lobby or 501 PAC tells them to kill someone's grandmother by taking away her Social Security and Medicare, Republicans fight to be the first to trample the poor woman's throat. Theirs' is the mentality of the slave overseer, the death squad gunman, and the Nazi prison guard.

What Paul Krugman doesn't realize is that Republicans and their plutocrat puppet masters want to crush American economic recovery so they could do away with minimum wages and child labor laws and occupational health and safety rules and anti-pollution laws. The plutocrats don't need America anymore, because they're getting rich in China, and India, and throughout the emerging world.  The plutocrats don't need Europe anymore, with all the Europeans' demands for a limited work week and vacations and free health care.

That is why the plutocrats' puppet politicians are pushing austerity and slashing government projects, when, in tough economic times, governments should be doing exactly the opposite. All that mumbo-jumbo about debt and bond markets the puppet pols mutter on and on about is all a bunch of hooey. All the puppet pols care about is stealing as much as possible for their masters, and destroying the countries and cultures that would rein their masters in.

Capitalism without prudent taxation results in plutocracy.  If America and the western democracies want a return to democracy, they will have to implement sufficient taxes to curtail the plutocrats' ability to reign using the blunt instrument of overwhelming wealth.

Allied Endgame Clear for Unique Libya

As NATO officially took over operational control for enforcing the United Nations' Libyan no-fly zone, Americans have seen much hand-wringing over what the endgame in Libya might look like.  Across the American political spectrum, there's been much anguish expressed over implementing the no-fly zone. From conservatives who've vowed to ruin Barack Obama's Presidency by opposing any action he takes, to earnest non-violence liberals appalled at any use of force, nervous talk has arisen over "quagmires" and Constitutional authority.

Libya has been, from the outset, unique. The universally-despised tyrant Moammar Khadafy had openly announced his intent to roll columns of tanks and troops into Benghazi with taunting threats that he would show "no mercy, no pity," and that his forces would go "house by house, room by room" and "find you in your closets." It was this taunt, more than anything else, that prompted the United Nations to action.

As the first week of airstrikes comes to a close, many are concerned when the Allied action would end.  Would the Allies send in ground troops?  Will there be a quagmire?

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Thursday that the international military intervention would last days or weeks, but not months, and that no ground troops would be deployed.

Again, Libya's unique situation makes Juppe's comments possible and practical.  Khadafy's regime is isolated, and Libya is embargoed.  There is no Ho Chi Minh trail of supplies and war materials sustaining Khadafy's forces. There are no spare parts coming in to rebuild battered tanks and armored vehicles. There are no truckloads of ammunition coming in to replenish the rounds he's fired into Zawiyah and Brega. Khadafy has no indigenous war industry to make spare turbines for his jet fighters, or spare gun barrels for his artillery.

Thus, Juppe knows that every tank his Rafale fighters destroys is destroyed for good. When news cameras reveal a desert littered with burned-out armored vehicles, those vehicles are lost to Khadafy for the duration.  Likewise for every tank that mangles its treads, and every artillery piece that blows its breach. 

Juppe can say the Allied campaign would be limited in duration because, by completely owning the airspace over Libya, Allied forces can pound Khadafy's air, armor and artillery assets with impunity, and, in relatively short order, deny the dictator the military supremacy those assets had given him.

It was Khadafy's airplanes, tanks and artillery that enabled him to oppress his people and slaughter those who dared to oppose him. Without his air force, his armor and his artillery, Khadafy is just another gang-banger with some thugs armed with Kalashnikovs.  As the Allied air assault degrades Khadafy's military assets, they degrade the dictator's ability to impose his will over the land.

The Allied endgame is clear. Since Khadafy is an international pariah who isn't getting resupplied by America, or Europe, or China or Russia, and since he doesn't have a domestic arms industry that can keep his military operating on its own, Khadafy had a come-as-you-are military, with a finite number of the heavy weapons that had kept him in power. The Allied endgame comes when Khadafy's advantage in jet planes, tanks and artillery has been neutralized.

At that point, the rebels who have risen against him will have to take matters into their own hands to shape their nation's future for themselves. It is certainly possible that they will be unable to dislodge Khadafy, although the Allies' destruction of the dictator's armor and artillery will certainly cause those less committed to Khadafy to turn against him or to simply flee. Given a level playing field in terms of war materials, the rebels, as the popular movement, should gain the upper hand through sheer superiority of numbers. 

It is certainly possible that Libya might descend into a protracted civil war between Ghadafy, the rebels, and/or factions among the rebels. That is something the Libyans must work out among themselves.

That is when the rest of the world must stand aside and let the Libyans work out what their new nation is going to look like, even if that new nation isn't what someone outside of Libya might want. Whether the process is neat and orderly with conferences and plebiscites, or bloody and messy with unspeakable violence by all sides, once the Allies have levelled the playing field for the Libyans, everyone will just have to step aside and let the Libyans play on that field.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

US Liberals, Conservatives Struggle to Find Positions on Libya

As Britain prepared to host an international conference in London on Tuesday to consider the next steps in the implementation of the Libyan no-fly zone, ambassadors from NATO nations met for the third day in Brussels to hammer out NATO's role in carrying out the UN mandates.

Britain and the United States have suggested that NATO lead the mission, while the French have suggested an international body including the Arab League, African nations, and concerned European nations should bear the political leadership while NATO maintains technical command-and-control role.

The fractious cogitations over Libya has seen the Arab League call for the no-fly zone, then balk at its implementation; NATO member Turkey balk at intervention, then agree to send warships; NATO member Germany withdraw its Med fleet from NATO command; and Italy and Norway opt for NATO control.

The Libya debate is no less contentious inside the Washington Beltway, with some politicians staking out familiar territory, while others find themselves on unfamiliar ground with peculiar bedmates.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) was the most vocal critic of the Libyan intervention among the liberal camp, questioning whether President Barack Obama's action to implement the no-fly zone was an impeachable offense.  Kucinich is at least consistent in his anti-war stances, having called for George W. Bush and Dick Cheney to be impeached for starting the Iraq War.  Likewise, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) was the only member of the House to vote against the Iraq War, and stood against the  no-fly zone here. You probably wouldn't have gotten Ghandi to go along with airstrikes either, not to imply that either Kucinich or Lee are good enough to carry the Mahatma's loincloth.

On the Republican side of the aisle, Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama has come out against the no-fly zone. Senator Richard Lugar, ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee likewise stood against it.

The House Progressive Caucus struggled to find a position on the Libyan no-fly zone. Its 75 members discussed whether Libya might be a quagmire, whether to block funding for the action, whether the President acted Constitutionally, or whether to simply express skepticism.  In the end, all that came out was a tepid statement signed by just four caucus members, with Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), and Mike Honda (D-CA) joining Lee. Their statement read, in part:
"There is a serious humanitarian crisis in Libya, and Gaddafi’s reckless, indiscriminate use of force on his own people in response to grassroots calls for change is unacceptable. But there are serious consequences for rushing to war with a limited understanding of the situation..."
Ghadafy's actions, apparently, were "unacceptable," except that were acceptable. The statement goes on to say the US shouldn't "sidestep" diplomacy and humanitarian efforts, as though no one had thought to invite Ghadafy to discuss the matter over tea and cakes.

The "bomb-them-into-the-Stone-Age" camp included neo-con pundit William Kristol, who urged committing ground troops. John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) were early supporters of the no-fly zone.

Former House Speaker and sometime 2012 Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich was for the no-fly zone, then against it. He, like many Republicans, was apparently caught flat-footed by President Obama's tough stance against Ghadafy. Perhaps he anticipated the President would be soft on intervention, and called for the no-fly zone so he could be opposed to Obama. He has now switched his position and achieved his goal.

So, you have a situation where conservative Ron Paul (R-TX) and liberal Dennis Kucinich are questioning the Constitutionality of the action, while John Kerry (D-MA), best known for protesting the Vietnam War, and Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), are joining John McCain and Lindsey Graham in supporting the President.

Charles Schumer (D-NY) for, Jim Webb (D-VA) against.

It's all probably very healthy for democracy. 

Nonetheless, what we have is a blood-thirsty tyrant who, unlike some other bloodthirsty tyrants, is nearly universally despised, threatening to massacre his own people who have risen against him. He has rolled tanks and artillery and scrambled ground-attack jets to pound virtually unarmed civilians. Rarely has there been so clear-cut a division between good and evil, between what is right and what is wrong. Even the Russians and the Chinese abstained on the UN resolution, when the buttons on their Security Council desks are permanently hard-wired to "Veto."

If the Spanish Civil War had occurred today, would there be earnest young partisans flocking to join the rebellion?  Would the Marquis De Lafayette be flaunting his government to sail in support of the American rebels? Or would the Rwanda genocide be the model for the day?

The endgame is murky, and intervention puts Allied troops in jeopardy.  However, the endgames are always unknowable, and anyone who thinks day-to-day peacetime military operations are without hazard should consider strapping 60,000 pounds of thrust onto his backside and trying some touch-and-go's. The one thing that's certain is that, when French jets blasted Khadafy's columns as they were poised to overrun Benghazi, the townfolk cheered.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hidden Costs of Wealth Inequality Imperil America

Most Americans are blissfully unaware of the appalling wealth inequality in the United States.  Further, they are even more uninformed about the negative impact this wealth inequality has on their daily lives. Americans haven't fully realized that the rampant wealth inequality among their citizenry has imperiled their children's future, threatened their own retirement security, and despoiled the air they breath and the water they drink. Americans haven't realized that the vast disparity between the haves and have-nots condemns them and their offspring to a steadily deteriorating quality of life.

The New York Times recent valuable discussion on wealth inequality didn't touch on the real reasons wealth inequality imperils American democracy and the lives of its people.  Centered around a thoughtful and revealing study by Michael I. Norton and Dan Ariely, the contributing panel examined Americans' attitudes about wealth inequality and speculated that Americans' general lack of alarm about inequality could be attributed to ignorance about the severity of the inequality, along with the notion that each person believed that someday his ship would come in.

The Norton and Ariely study revealed that Americans on average believed the wealthiest 20% of Americans owned just 59% of all the wealth in the US.  In fact, the richest 20% of Americans owns 84% of everything.

Yet, even if the rich only owned 59%, Americans said that was still too much, and believed they should only have 32% of everything. Americans thought it was OK for people to have a little more than the rest, but not too much.

This is a completely understandable and natural sentiment.

The fact that the richest 20% of Americans owns 84% of all the nation's wealth comes as a complete surprise to most.

Let's break that down.  Assuming there are 300 million Americans, for every $100 million of wealth, the richest 60 million have $84 million, while the rest of the nation, some 240 million individuals, would split the remaining $16 million. To make matters worse, the study reveals that the bottom 40%, or 120 million Americans, would actually be splitting just $300,000, as the quintiles immediately above them are doing much better than they are.

While the raw numbers are staggering, the real problem is the power and influence that $84 million is buying for the richest 20%.

Most Americans think of wealth in terms of the kind of houses, and clothes, and big screen TVs it can buy them.  Most Americans are keenly aware whether someone in their peer group gets to go on a better vacation, or has a bigger bass boat, but these aren't reasons to loathe or be afraid.  Americans say corporate execs get paid too much without even realizing how much those people are really making. However, most Americans aren't jealous. After all, they might win the lottery, or a TV home makeover, or the Publisher's Clearing House, and they'd be right up there with Warren Buffett, or at least Jimmy Buffett.

The problem with the massive wealth inequality is what it does to American democracy.  Wealth inequality is, by its very nature, undemocratic.  The reasons are complex, and goes beyond the fleets of private jets and mega yachts and lavish parties railed against even in this space.  In fact, the ostentatious conspicuous consumption of outlandish consumer durables isn't the problem at all.  If people wanted to slather themselves with designer labels to the point of looking like a Nascar driver with very prissy sponsors, that alone wouldn't matter one whit to America's democratic institutions, and wouldn't even represent a very big slice of the wealth pie.

It isn't the exclusive country club memberships in and of themselves. It isn't the junkets to Ibiza, or the Chanel accessories, or the Manolo Blahnick shoes, or the Medoc wines, or the luxury boxes at Yankee Stadium.
Those are all just things, and most people have some form of those sorts of things, even if the junket is to Disney World, and the accessories are knock-offs, and the seats are on the upper deck. This is why Americans aren't so upset by wealth inequality, because, in America, everyone gets to eat cake sometime.

The real problem with wealth inequality at the astronomical levels we're seeing in contemporary America is that it makes the country a functional plutocracy. 

The super rich can hire legions of attorneys to file mountains of legal briefs to run roughshod over anyone who might object to toxic wastes pouring from a power plant, or natural gas fracking despoiling groundwater, or a chemical plant pumping carcinogens in the air. The legal system favors those who can pay the most billable hours. It often has little to do with the relative merits of a case. If you want to sue XYZ Corporation for blatantly injecting carcinogens directly into your veins, your chances of success rests almost completely on whether you can hire enough lawyers long enough to answer the literal pallet loads of briefs XYZ Corporation is going to file in the case. Chances are, you can't, so you're out of luck and probably out of health insurance to boot.

The super rich can hire armies of lobbyists to wine, dine, and cajole every official, elected or not, in your government.  They can hire close colleagues and associates of your Senator, or town council member, or building inspector, to buy lunch and talk about their old school days, and maybe chat about adding a line to a bill here or striking one there, or looking the other way when the new development doesn't quite meet the requirements on the Environmental Impact Report, and perhaps a few years or months down the road, join his old pal at that very lobbying firm.

The super rich can pump mountains of cash into 501 PACs, into election campaigns, into very worthy-sounding charities run by some politico's wife or brother or son, and take everyone out - in a private jet - to a lovely retreat at some far-flung island paradise for a little golf.  You can't do that, and any amount of letter-writing or placard-waving isn't going to stop that radioactive widget plant from being built next to your kid's day care center.

The super rich can assemble hordes of lackeys to write crazy legislative propositions that let their companies ignore health and safety rules, pollution regulations, building standards, or child labor laws and put them on the ballot in every state in the Union, with hardly a care whether they get their way, while the local constituencies have to sink every cent of their hard-earned savings into a fight to just maintain their existing quality of life.

The super rich can reign over the land wielding the blunt instrument of their money.  In any contest between what's best for the ultra-rich 20% against what's best for the relatively impoverished 80%, the ultra-rich will win every time. That is the very definition of a plutocracy.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Scramble to Plunder Social Security Gains Steam

More Beltway politicians are jumping onto the Let's Plunder Social Security bandwagon every day. Confident that the public has been brainwashed to believe the Social Security trust funds are broke anyway, which they aren't, more and more politicians are scrambling to get in on the plunder.  Every one of them wants to be able to tell his plutocrat cronies that he, too, helped pilfer the American people's last great cache of money so it could be laid at the plutocrats' feet.

On Friday, 64 Senators signed a letter to President Obama pledging that they would steal money from Social Security and give it to the rich.  32 Republicans were joined by 32 Democrats in a bipartisan show of disdain of Americans. The 64 represent a veto-proof supermajority who have thrown down a gauntlet challenging President Barak Obama's promise that he wouldn't slash Social Security.

Under the guise of "deficit reduction," the immensely popular current iteration of excuses to take money away from services Americans really need so the rich can keep collecting jewel-encrusted private jets, the 64 lapdogs for the international monied elite wrote President Obama that discussions for the 2012 Budget would "include discretionary spending cuts, entitlement changes and tax reform."

"Entitlement changes" means slashing and privatizing Social Security as well as Medicare and Medicaid.  And, "tax reform" doesn't mean tax increases for the rich who have absconded with the nation's wealth without paying taxes.  It most likely means reducing taxes on the rich even further.

So far, President Obama's kept pretty quiet about what he's got up his sleeve for the nation's old-age safety net and the biggest pot of cash left that politicos can grab and dole out to their wealthy pals.  He's said he won't weigh in until Congress has had their discussions, and that he wouldn't accept a straight out dismantling of Social Security. The President has said:
"...we should also find a bipartisan solution to strengthen Social Security for future generations. We must do it without putting at risk current retirees, the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without slashing benefits for future generations; and without subjecting Americans' guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the stock market."
Those are fine words, but Republicans have made clear their goal is privatization, and Obama hasn't yet shown any resolve in standing up to Republicans on anything they really want. He's caved on extending the Bush tax cuts, and hasn't put tax revenue reform on the table to address debt and budget shortfalls. He's pretty much happy to give Wall Street anything it wants, handling the Mortgage Meltdown villains with kid gloves, and backing off on banking reform.

The US Senate has thrown down a significant gauntlet, stating they were going after Social Security, and the 64 signers gives Obama significant cover for allowing Social Security to be "privatized," the euphemism for handing all the money in the Social Security trust funds to Wall Street money moguls to blow on booze and high-priced private entertainment.

There are no more private sector pension funds to plunder, the private sector unions having been broken and bankrupted, the companies they worked at mismanaged out of existence, merged and acquired, and all the jobs downsized and offshored.  There are no more public sector pension funds, the private sector unions gutted of their bargaining rights, the pensions funds paupered to subsidize plutocrats. Only the Social Security trust funds are left, and the rich have decided that no money should be set aside for anyone who hasn't robbed and pillaged and lied and bribed his way to mega-wealth.

The rich have decided they must have the money in the Social Security trust funds, and they've sent their Republican assassins to get it done, spearheaded by Tea Party zealots like Rand Paul and Paul Ryan. Dismantling Medicare and pawning off older Americans with a handful of worthless vouchers and coupons will be easy in comparison. 

America is no longer a democracy.  If it were, Congress would have heeded 81% of Americans and slapped an income tax surcharge on millionaires. America is a plutocracy, where the rich not only get whatever they want, their toadies and vassals vie amongst themselves to find new ways to plunder and pillage on their masters' behalf.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Did GOP Racists Slow US Response to Libyan Crisis?

In real life, rarely does the cavalry appear over the horizon at the last moment to save the besieged townfolks. 

In Benghazi, the cavalry did come in the nick of time, but instead of John Wayne leading the charge, it was Gerard Depardieu.  With Moammar Ghadafy's armoured columns poised to strike the city, his lead forces already reported to be executing probing attacks on its western edge, French Rafale and Mirage fighters streaked over the horizon.  They pounded Ghadafy's column, leaving charred hulks of tanks and armored vehicles as his soldiers fled.

British and American ships launched more than one hundred cruise missiles against Khadafy's air defense net, and British and American aircraft joined in destroying the regime's radars and anti-aircraft missile sites.

But it was the French air force that saved the day for the residents of Benghazi, the city of 700,000 that was the heart of Libya's anti-Ghadafy uprising. "This is all France," a rebel fighter told a reporter from Reuters as they surveyed a field outside Benghazi littered with the smoking wreckage that had been Ghadafy's army.

A first world air force had obliterated a third world army.  The soldiers who had survived had fled, reportedly in stolen civilian vehicles. There had been no contest.  The workaday tanks and pickups with machine guns bolted onto their beds were fully capable of inflicting unmitigated death and misery on virtually unarmed civilians, but were no match for highly trained pilots in NATO aircraft launching precision munitions and cluster bombs.

Ghadafy's air defense net had been no match for cruise missiles capable of hitting a city bus from 600 miles away, or American B-2 bombers invisible to their radars.

No losses were reported among the Allied forces participating in the largest airstrike since the opening days of the Iraq War eight years ago.

This one-sided smack-down of a crazed and blood-thirsty tyrant was the impossibly perilous gambit US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his supporters had stubbornly refused to countenance. Gates, a Republican and former board member of the neo-con Iraq War think tank Science Applications International Corporation, had warned against imposing a no-fly zone over Libya in testimony before the US Congress, and had stuck by his position throughout the course of the delicate negotiations conducted by French and British leaders to build consensus for the action.

Gates was a key player in launching George W. Bush's Iraq War, and SAIC was front-and-center promoting the fictions about Saddam Hussiens' purported stockpile of chemical and biological weapons and his relationship with Al Qaeda.  Gates and SAIC declared that Khadafy was an important ally in the Bush Administration's War on Terror, the ongoing debacle that has become superseded by more recent and relevant crises throughout the Middle East.

To what extent Khadafy's role as Terror War ally impeded American support for the Libyan no-fly zone cannot be determined. Elements within President Barack Obama's administration were clearly concerned how others among America's allies would react to the US turning against one who had been so named.

It is also impossible to determine to what extent support for Khadafy among rank-and-file Republican voters impacted the long road to the French cavalry charge at Benghazi. Many white supremacists, an important constituency for Republicans, support Khadafy, as he is seen as a bulwark against immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa reaching Europe and the West.

As amazing as it may seem to many, American white supremacists included groups that saw a crazed tyrant who would slaughter his own people as a bona fide compatriot.  As Allied warplanes turned back Khadafy's loyalist column from massacring a major city's population, American white supremacists decried the intervention and denounced its success. 

Republican lawmakers, such as Senator Richard Lugar, joined Gates in sounding ominous warnings about the perils of implementing the Libyan no-fly zone. Both Lugar and the white separatist Council of Conservative Citizens expounded on the theme that US military action would require a Congressional declaration of war.

Some Republicans called for swift action against the Libyan tyrant, notably Senator John McCain, a Navy Vietnam veteran, ex-POW, and his party's candidate for President in the 2008 elections. McCain, a self-styled maverick, had recently hewed closer to the party line, but was among the few Republicans who advocated a no-fly zone.

Allied air incursions over Libya continued, as the French air force settled into enforcing the no-fly zone and actively sought signs of aggression by Khadafy's forces. In Benghazi, rebel forces regrouped and set out once again to rid themselves of the tyrant who had ruled their country for four decades. In a region where the United States could use all the street cred it could lay its hands on, it was the French who got to ride into the sunset as the townfolk cheered.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

GOP, Tea Party Aim to Plunder Social Security

As surely as the sun rises and sets, Republicans scheme to plunder ever more from the American people. As surely as the seasons turn, Republicans proffer their plunder to their wealthy masters.

For thirty years, since the Cowboy President launched the Republican assault on America, tax giveaways to the rich have plundered every facet of Americans' lives.  Lusting for ever more untaxed profits, their cronies have wrung every penny from American industry, buying and merging companies to sell off their assets and move their operations to China, or Indonesia, or anyplace where workers could be most brutally exploited.  They've wrung every penny from American business, slashing payrolls and outsourcing and offshoring and winnowing benefits. 

Republicans have wrung every penny from private sector pensions, slashing and burning and exchanging retirement security for stock vouchers rendered worthless in the next bursting financial bubble.  There used to be many companies where workers organized to provide for their futures, only to be told that management greed and incompetence had left everyone bereft, except for the mismanaging managers who floated away on golden parachutes.

From Wisconsin to Indiana to your home town, Republicans are today wringing every penny from public sector pensions, pillaging retirements that were supposed to be secure, but weren't because Wall Street greed and incompetence had left everyone insolvent, except for the hedge fund managers and financial service CEOs who floated away with billion-dollar compensation packages.

Most of America's wealth has been siphoned into the pockets of the handful of international plutocrats who hold court inside the Washington Beltway. One of the few large caches left of America's wealth lies in our Social Security trust funds.

Republicans covet those monies.  It is anathema to them that money could be put aside for ordinary people to live their sunset years with dignity.  The Republican hates that a grandmother is paying for groceries, or an old uncle is paying for heat during a cold winter, with money that could be used to buy a diamond-studded G-string to adorn the supple hips of some rich GOP contributor's young contracted companion. Republicans want to hand the money in the Social Security trust funds to their plutocrat masters, just as loyal vassals mounted on war horses thundered through peasant villages to scour plunder for their medieval overlords.

Republicans and their corporate media incessantly, unceasingly spout lie after lie that Social Security is broke, and all the money for it must be handed to their big money cronies or the Biblical Apocalypse and the Mayan End of Time and Nostradamus' end of the world will all explode on you all at once.

This is nonsense.  Social Security is solvent for over twenty years if we did nothing at all, and would remain solvent for the foreseeable future with the slightest tweaks in payroll taxes.

That Social Security is in trouble is the Republicans' Big Lie, told over and over again as loudly and with as much venom as possible to make people hand the Social Security trust fund dollars to their Wall Street pals.  Republicans say they must take money away from the Social Security trust funds and Americans must hand their money to Wall Street financiers like AIG, or B of A, or Lehman Brothers - well not Lehman Brothers, as they mismanaged themselves out of existence - or Bear Stearns - well, not Bear Stearns either, as they too mismanaged themselves out of existence - or any of the other financial institutions that writes fat checks to Republican PACs and pays for pricey Republican junkets.

Now, if anyone does want to sink money into exchange traded funds, equities, bonds, commodity futures, or repackaged credit default swaps, he can. If anyone wants to pile stacks of chips onto the Wall Street roulette wheel and bet the farm, he can. Americans can do anything they want with the money they take home in their paychecks, if they're lucky enough to have one. Social Security was meant to be the safety net that each American who has worked all her life could count on when the corporate overseer had stroked his last lash, something held out against the unpredictable vagaries of banks and markets. But the Republican must devour every dollar and leave nothing for the ordinary American.

Having plundered every other cache, the Republican must plunder Social Security, for his insatiable plutocrat master must have every coin to expand his fleet of private jets, to expand his armada of mega-yachts, to expand his harem of private contract service providers. The Big Lie about Social Security is repeated solely for this purpose. The Republican seeks not to secure retirees' futures, but to keep the champagne flowing in the Park Avenue penthouse parties.  The Republican seeks not to strengthen America's finances, but to keep the Biarritz weekends, the Maldives getaways, the Lago di Como idles turning in the datebook.

The big money financiers have used outlandish accounting schemes to buy and sell piles of funny money, repackage pyramids of indefinable exotic instruments, growing fat on financial bubbles of science fiction fantasies that leave everyone else broke when the bubble bursts. From the Dot Com bubble to the Mortgage Meltdown, these snake oil charlatans have scammed every other dollar out of America, and now only the Social Security trust funds are left.

Perfectly on cue, the vultures descend on every Americans' retirement security. Republicans threaten to shut down the government unless they are handed the Social Security trust funds. Republicans threaten Armageddon unless the last cache of ordinary Americans' money is handed to the reckless rich who have already plundered, and blown, every other fortune they could get their hands on.

Social Security is safe, and solvent, and will be able to provide for Americans' needs for generations to come, as long as we don't let Republicans plunder this last, precious resource.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

No-Fly Zone Vote May Be Too Late To Help Libyan Uprising

After weeks of intense diplomatic effort by France and Britain, the United Nations Security Council approved a Libyan no-fly zone and authorized the use of any force necessary short of invasion to halt Libyan dictator Moammar Khadafy's armored blitz through the eastern half of his country.

However, as Khadafy's forces have moved to within striking distance of Benghazi, the anti-Khadafy movement's last and most pivotal stronghold, any relief for the nascent popular uprising may come too late to save the rebels.

It has certainly come too late for the anti-Khadafy uprising in Zawiyah, Ras Lanuf, El Agheila, and Ajebadia. Those cities and towns have already been overrun by Khadafy's tanks and mercenary thugs, and the people in those places are even now suffering terrible reprisals beyond the scrutiny of the world's media.

Once Khadafy's tanks and columns of troops enter Benghazi, it will be impossible to root them out with air strikes. The time to act was a two weeks ago, when Khadafy's forces were in disarray, and a comprehensive air campaign to destroy Libya's air defense radars and surface-to-air launchers, crater airbase runways and destroy the largely anti-insurgency air armada on the ground, along with judicious strikes against military barracks and tank depots, would have finished the dictator.  The time to act was one week ago, when Khadafy's army was stretched out across the Libyan desert, providing a target-rich environment ideal for destruction from above.  The time to act was a day ago, when Khadafy's tank formations were lined up in staging areas preparing to take the last pockets of resistance before Benghazi.

By dawn March 18, Khadafy's tanks might already be in Benghazi, and air strikes aimed at his forces then would only result in death, horror and misery for the wretched civilians the UN claims it to wants to protect.

The United States isn't shy about rushing into conflict on behalf of oil moguls or Halliburton, but when it comes to defending popular movements against tyrants, the Arsenal of Democracy hems and haws and mutters about measured responses and non-intervention.  Despite the cries of the Libyan people, the resolve of the usually fractious Arab nations, the diplomacy of the French and our special relationship with Britain, the US had dragged its heels.

Republican US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, late of the board of the pro-Iraq War think tank Science Applications International Corporation, was prominently front-and-center denigrating any possibility of a no-fly zone against Khadafy, and decrying any US involvement in such an endeavor.  Gates failed to mention that US air power was uniquely suited to the exact mission he painted as impossibly perilous.  American air power possessed sophisticated electronic warfare and anti-radar systems designed specifically to punch through any air defense in the world, let alone the rag-tag forces Khadafy could muster. Khadafy had no air superiority fighters to speak of, especially after the loss of half his Mirages to defectors.  His radars and anti-air defenses were not the top tier defenses American and NATO strategic and tactical forces were built to punch holes through. The vast majority of Khadfay's air force was, typically for a dictator, comprised of smaller single engine jets and helicopters designed to bomb and strafe civilians.

Gates and his SAIC neo-cons were the primary architects of George Bush's War on Terror, and counted Khadafy as an important ally.  There is no way of knowing whether and how much Gates' previous relationship with Khadafy impeded any move to act against the tyrant. An obvious schism over intervention in Libya split the Obama Administration, with the President and the State Department on one side, and Gates and his supporters on the other. 

Just as the US rushed to war in Iraq, the US was slow to respond in Bosnia, and never responded at all in Rwanda or Burma.  The infamous "pinprick" air strikes against Serbian positions in Bosnia did nothing to prevent the horrific Bosnian genocide, and the eventual American deployment there came only after the mass graves were filled.  

Vital American Interests still means opportunities and profits for transnational corporations, so when it comes to wielding the Arsenal of Democracy's might, a no-bid $4 billion-a-month contract for Halliburton, or preserving the bottom line for Kuwaiti oil moguls still trumps the hopes and lives of ordinary people in places like Zawiyah, or Srebrenica, or even Madison, Wisconsin.

The UN has made its move against Khadafy. Russia and China, always loathe to take action against dictators, deigned to abstain. However, with just a little more foot-dragging from the world's democracies, ordinary people in Libya who dared to dream of a future free from tyranny will be lost, and a blood-thirsty madman who happens to be an oil billionaire will have won the day

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tea Party Republicans Driven By Hate, Spite

The Tea Party Republicans who have stormed the nation's Capitol in a venom-filled blitz against the fabric of American life have been a puzzle to many who have tried to figure out who they are.  President Jimmy Carter said he thought they were racists. NPR executives were cashiered because someone suggested the same thing. Polls found the Tea Partisans were fairly well off financially.

The Tea Party freshman in Congress are the most extreme right-wing demagogues, howling daily to cripple the federal government with cuts to every department. They aim to dismantle the EPA and allow unfettered toxic pollution. They aim to disable banking and financial regulation and allow the unimpeded ransacking of every Americans' savings, pensions, and Social Security. They aim to eliminate education, health care, food safety, disaster preparedness, and a woman's right to chose. They aim to relegate persons of color to second-class status, domestic servants marginally acceptable for menial subservience.

They do favor birth control for horses.

They seem to have some peculiar ideas regarding leadership.  They thought Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle, and Christine O'Donnell were good candidates to lead America.

A new CNN Poll throws more light on what Tea Partisans think.

In the current Washington budget tussle, Republicans have threatened to shut down the federal government unless they get $61 billion in crippling cuts to vital government services.  CNN asked Americans whether they thought an extended shutdown of the federal government would be a good thing or a bad thing. 74% said it would be a bad thing, and only 24% thought it would be a good thing. Most Americans believe a nation without a Social Security Administration, or air traffic controllers, or border patrol agents, or food safety inspectors, or any of the other myriad government functions would not be a good thing.

However, 52% of Tea Partisans said an extended government shutdown would be a good thing.

Digging further into the CNN poll reveals the twisted quirk that demonstrates that Tea Party adherents are indeed at odds with America as a whole.

Among all respondents, when asked who they would hold responsible for a government shutdown, 46% said Republicans would be the culprits, while 37% thought President Obama would be the guilty party.

Among folks who identified with the Tea Party, 63% said President Obama would be responsible.

Remember, the Tea Party said a government shutdown would be a good thing. And, they say President Obama would be responsible for it.

What does this reveal about the Tea Party? The Tea Party is on record as being in full blown hysterical outrage over the Obama presidency.  They say a government shutdown is a good thing, and Obama would be responsible.

There are two possibilities: Either they would laud President Obama for causing a government shutdown they favor but most Americans oppose, or they hate the President so much they want to see a government shutdown just so people could blame him for it.  Even though most people wouldn't.

Either way, the term "sociopath" comes to mind when considering a mindset that would hold such beliefs.

A group of people so hateful of America, so filled with spite and vitriol, who hold the health, safety and well-being of their fellow citizens in such disdain that they would wish to cut off Social Security payments to the elderly, that they would paralyze all air and rail traffic across the nation, that they would allow unmitigated belching of toxic effluents into our air and water, that they would allow murderers to run free across state lines poses the greatest threat to the nation's well being since the Second World War. The peril the Tea Party poses to America can only be measured in logarithmic multiples of any threat posed by beggared Mid-East terrorist cells cowering in mountain caves on the other side of the planet.

The Tea Party exists solely to destroy the United States, just as the perpetrators of the original tea party sought to overthrow the reigning British colonial authority.  The Tea Party thinks a government shutdown would be a good thing, because it would be the de facto elimination of the federal authority. The Tea Party believes President Obama would be responsible for the shutdown because his very existence, whether for his race, or his beliefs, or his hope for unity among Americans, is such anathema to the Tea Party that it necessitated the destruction of the greatest democratic institution in history.

The Tea Party representatives in Congress and the Tea Party candidates for offices throughout the nation expound the most extreme, unsustainable, and sociopathic agenda ever fomented. They denigrate immigrants as subhuman menials, they disparage science and learning as useless posturing, and they mock institutions and freedoms paid for in blood by countless generations.

The Tea Party has demanded that America do away with all the services and institutions needed to keep a modern democracy functioning because their refusal to pay their fair share of taxes has left the nation with a budget shortfall.  They say America cannot afford public education, health care, clean water, clean air, wholesome food, fair business practices, safe workplaces, and transparency in banking and finances.

In fact, the main thing America can't afford is the Tea Party.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Curtain Rises on Act Three of Beltway Budget Noh Play

The high-pitched whine of a Japanese flute or a manicured politician, the discordant screech of an ancient stringed instrument or an aged Lothario masked in tanning-bed orange, and the deep thud of a traditional taiko drum or a pot-bellied fixer signalled the curtain had risen on Act III of the intractably stylized posings of the Washington Beltway budget Noh play.  All the players wore masks, all the movements were choreographed, and all the drama was excruciatingly monotonous.

The House passed a Continuing Resolution to fund the federal government for another three weeks, Democrats having surrendered another $6 billion toward the Republican goal of crippling the government with $61 billion in cuts to vital services.

While Republicans preened and strutted their celestial peacock dance, and Democrats swooned and trudged in their forlorn ghost rags, the American people told a new ABC/Washington Post poll that they were sick of Republicans holding the government hostage, and they wanted the budget shortfall addressed with a combination of cuts and tax increases.

None of the Noh players listened.

Congressional Republicans categorically refuse to examine revenue reform, and Democrats mutely comply.  The Beltway politicos are content to allow hundreds of millions of ordinary Americans to suffer crippling cut to education, health care, and the elimination of government business and industry oversight so their plutocrat masters can get seventy-two coats of hand-rubbed lacquer on their new private Airbus 380s.

Tired of the budget impasse, 56% said President Obama should try harder to reach an accord with Republicans. However, 71% said Republicans hadn't been willing enough to compromise with the President.

On the budget, the public stood behind the President.  Americans said that should there be a government shutdown, 45% would hold Republicans responsible, compared to 31% who would hold President Obama responsible. Americans trust the President more than Republicans on handling the economy by 46% to 34%; on balancing the federal budget by 45% to 35%; and on protecting workers' rights by 45% to 39%.

47% of Americans believed the President better understood their economic problems, compared to 35% who thought Republicans did.

Most importantly, 67% believed taxes or a combination of taxes and cuts was the best way to address the federal budget deficit, while just 31% believed that cuts alone were the way to go.

Every major poll in the past week demonstrated that Americans believe that some sort of revenue reform was necessary to address government debt and deficit.

Nonetheless, the masked players on the nation's budget stage have no intention of raising revenue. Republicans will not raise taxes on their rich patrons, and they will continue to compete among themselves to show their masters who is the most loyal servant. Congressional Republicans will fight each other to be first to strip away yet more government oversight, consumer protections, and vital services and to deliver the next tax subsidy. Congressional Republicans are playing to one audience and one audience only: their GOP plutocrat masters.  In this, they are no different from the white supremacists, Neo-Confederates and gun-toting militia thugs who form the phalanxes beneath the GOP's elite. On the GOP side, everyone believes in toadying up to the plutocrats. In their medieval plutocracy, each vassal commits competing heinous acts of depravity to prove his loyalty and win tokens of recognition.

So far, Democrats have willingly gone along for a chance at a few of the table scraps.

Although the third major national poll in a week showed Americans contempt for the Republicans' cuts-only, coddle-the-rich approach to governing, Republicans are barrelling full-speed ahead with their Roadkill of America plot. They will stop at nothing until they either shut down the government, or destroy it and clear the field for their masters to take their places as the new feudal overlords of an impoverished fiefdom.

The new Continuing Resolution runs out in three weeks. Republicans and Democrats have each signalled they will no longer countenance stop-gap funding measures. The screeching and posturing goes on. Everyone is still wearing their masks.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Americans Want Budget Compromise, But Congress Seeks Only Cuts

The vast majority of Americans don't want Congress to cut Social Security, Medicare and vital government services, and believe the Bush-era tax breaks for those earning more than $250,000 a year should be reversed, according to a recent national Bloomberg Poll. Americans do not want a government shutdown. Congress, however, remains focused on ever greater tax subsidies for the wealthy, and Republicans are threatening to shut down the federal government unless they get cuts to Social Security as a first step toward their long-coveted dream of handing the Social Security trust funds over to their Wall Street pals.

Americans would rather see cuts to defense spending than to Social Security and Medicare, but spending on defense, or more specifically, spending on defense contractors, is the only cow sacred to Congress, especially Congressional Republicans.

The poll found most Americans understood the government had to find additional revenue and opposed extending Bush-era tax subsidies for the rich. This was consistent with an earlier NBC/WSJ poll which found nearly all Americans approved of a tax surcharge for those making more than $1 million a year. In Congress, however, tax reform is off the table, out of the room, down the street and drowned in a canvas sack at the bottom of the Potomac.

Beltway politicians in their current iteration are all about coddling trans-national plutocrats by plying them with billions of dollars in taxpayer money.  At every turn, Republicans want to hand over ever-greater chunks of America's wealth to corporations and plutocrats through tax breaks, loans, guarantees and subsidies, and Democrats hem and haw for a few minutes before giving in.

Republicans have demanded $61 billion be cut from this year's budget, and, having been foiled in getting the cuts in one chunk, are now holding the government hostage to a shutdown unless they get $2 billion in cuts every week.  Considering the fiscal year runs another half a year, that comes out to just about $60 billion. The Republicans want to cut every part of the discretionary portion of the budget, which amounts to just 12% of total government outlays, slashing everything from Head Start to PBS to the EPA to programs for the elderly and sick.  All these cuts are ostensibly to eventually balance the budget, but in fact, will just make life miserable for ordinary Americans so the very rich can continue to add to their collections of private jets, or yachts, or embroidered panties from young female private service contractors.

Americans want Congress to compromise on cuts and taxes, but Congressional Republicans seek only to cut vital government functions.  By eliminating funding for the EPA, bank regulators, food safety inspectors, and every public watchdog agency, the budget cuts very conveniently benefit big corporate interests by eliminating oversight and enforcement of the rules and regulations designed to insure the public's safety and well-being. While Americans want real compromise balancing cuts and taxes, when Congressional Democrats say "compromise," they just mean they're giving the Republicans what they want.

Americans don't want to spend $159 billion this year on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and considering how American presence in the region appears to just be adding futile misery to a region roiled by new, more relevant turmoil, one can hardly wonder why.  However, Defense Secretary Robert Gates can only talk of avoiding premature withdrawal, as though repeating a mantra he'd heard somewhere, perhaps in a different context.

And all of this should take into consideration that only 29% of those polled believed that deficit and spending was the nation's top problem. 43% cited jobs and unemployment as the top priority.

Of course, slashing the budget and crippling the government would be the top priority for anyone who wanted to get rid of America's ability to curb illegal, unethical, and dangerous business practices. Slashing the budget and crippling the government would be the top priority for those who believe ordinary Americans should suffer every indignity so the rich can cannibalize the nations' strength in favor of their own excesses.  Slashing the budget and crippling the government would be the top priority for right-wing lunatics from the annals of the Southern Poverty Law Center's hatewatch pages who dream of overthrowing the United States and restoring some hazily-envisioned antebellum white supremacist regime.

Now, where are those right-track, wrong-track numbers?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

At Noon We Slept

Japan Quake Disaster Covers GOP Sneak Attack to Cut, Privatize Social Security, Medicare

As flames and tidal surges roiled the earthquake-devastated ruins of northeastern Japan, Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans' thoughts remained focused on stealing ever more money from the American people and handing it to their trans-national plutocratic masters.

By midday Friday, McConnell announced that Republicans would not accept any agreement on a continuing resolution to fund the United States government passed the current two-week extension without cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

This is a significant milestone in Republican avarice. Having drained everything else from America's coffers, they have finally officially launched their push to plunder the nation's Social Security trust funds.  Republicans have long coveted those funds, but so far hadn't dared to touch the so-called "third rail" of politics. It is clear they no longer care.

Droning the never-ending mantra of balancing a federal budget Republicans have never cared for balancing, McConnell launched the assault on Americans' old-age safety net by drawing a line in the sand that unless they got Social Security, they would shut down the government. Unless billions more dollars were shovelled to their plutocrat masters, Republicans would force the government to cease operating.

Let us not forget that it was Republicans who wrecked the economy and bankrupted the nation.  A decade ago, Bill Clinton handed George Bush a budget surplus, which the Republicans gleefully, immediately plundered and handed to their masters through gratuitous tax giveaways. Then, they put two costly and disastrous wars on America's tab, the only discernible accomplishment of those wars being the transfer of $4 billion a month from the American taxpayer to Dick Cheney's Halliburton Corporation. Shortly thereafter, Bush announced the Ownership Society, permitting predatory financing and exotic instruments to inflate a catastrophic bubble in the real estate market, ultimately leaving Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac holding the bag while Republican cronies absconded with more of the nation's wealth.  The plutocrats' off-the-books pyramid schemes crashed the world's economy, impoverishing personal savings, pension funds, and international bond markets.

Now, ostensibly to balance a budget they blew apart, Republicans take aim at stealing the nation's Social Security funds and handing the money over to their Wall Street cronies. Instead of reforming revenue by shifting the tax burden from lower- and middle-class taxpayers to their over-indulged cronies, Republicans careen full-speed down the never-ending track of pilfering ever-greater sums for their masters to devour.

Although McConnell's attack trumpet was reported by the Associated Press, none of the major corporate media reported this opening salvo in the greatest theft in history. While Republicans moved to plunder Social Security, annihilate Medicare and eliminate Medicaid, the media left the American people nearly universally uninformed of the event, allowing Republicans to steal in stealth a nation's hard-earned retirement savings and health care lifelines and leave its citizens with a handful of worthless vouchers.

Anyone who believes the GOP's Wall Street minions would be trustworthy stewards of his retirement health and well being has rocks in his head. Those GOP darlings have already lost three fortunes in the last decade, burying the world in so much debt and worthless triple-blind credit default swaps and junk portfolios that all the world's computers and all the world's CPAs can't begin to sort the mess out.  There is no fraction of an inkling of a prayer that the Wall Street money gluttons would do anything but blow the whole wad on designer togs, private mega-yachts and an endless parade of twenty-year-old "service providers."

While earnest Americans stand transfixed in horror at a catastrophe half a world away, Republicans are engineering the greatest catastrophe of Americans' lives. As Americans pour out their grief and prayers and hard-earned lucre to help those struggling through the mangled ruins of an epic natural disaster in Japan, Republicans are pouring on a blitzkrieg to mangle and ruin lives in America

Japan Quake Disaster

The massive 8.9 temblor that struck off Sendai, Japan and sent shock waves through Tokyo two hundred miles away is the sort of wrenching disaster that brings all people together.

Thoughts and prayers go to the victims of the earthquake, tsunami, and resulting devastation. As yet unknown numbers of victims, ruined buildings, towns washed away, and an unfolding nuclear catastrophe focus the world's heartfelt anguish.

The tsunami that swept away whole communities in Japan reached across the trackless expanse of the Pacific Ocean to crush marinas and sink boats as far away as California. 

Fortunately, after the earthquake, it took only twelve minutes for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to issue emergency alerts across the west coast of the United States.  Thanks to NOAA's system of tsunami warning buoys, emergency responder and locals officials were constantly kept apprised of the timing and magnitude of the tsunami as it approached American shores.

It took only a few more hours for House Republicans to demand that $117 million be stripped from NOAA funding in their latest budget-slashing attack on America.  Republicans would like to see $1.2 billion cut from NOAA.  Their actions are completely consistant with those who seek to kill Americans and dismantle the nation's ability to protect lives and property.