Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hurricane Spending Offsets Should Begin In Virginia's 7th District

Republicans, busy coddling the rich with ever more and greater tax cuts, tax breaks and tax subsidies have found another excuse to slash federal spending and hand more money to their rich cronies and patrons.

Hurricane Irene ripped through the eastern seaboard, cutting a swath of misery from North Carolina to the Canadian border, and killing 43 people. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) figured any money the Federal Emergency Management Agency spent to pick up the pieces needed to be offset by cuts elsewhere.

Disgraced former FEMA head Mike Brown, who did a heckuva job tending to his stable of fancy horses while Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans, figured Cantor was on the right track. The nation's worst emergency responder told - who else? - Fox News, "We have to start making these hard decisions facing the fiscal reality that the country is broke."

Or, the nation could make the hard decision to stop coddling the rich, and make them pay their fair share in taxes, as more than six in ten Americans consistently tell one poll after another. After all, when America collected a proper amount of taxes from the rich back in the day, it had been able to rebuild Europe and Japan after World War II, build a whole new America, educate a whole generation of Americans, invent the computer, the internet and the cell phone, and put Neil Armstrong and eleven of his buddies on the moon.

But America has coddled its rich to the point where it couldn't clean up after a single Category 1 hurricane.

"We're just going to need to make sure that there are savings elsewhere to continue to do so," Cantor told - who else? - Fox News. Cantor explained America just had to keep coddling its ultra-wealthy magnates and moguls by saying, "just like any family would operate when it's struck with disaster, it finds the money it needs... then goes without trying to buy a new car..."

Apparently, when disaster struck a Republican family, everyone struggled to make ends meet while Dad absconded with all the money and flew off to the Seychelles with his mistress.

What the Republican family needed was to divorce Dad and nail his philandering posterior with an enormous support settlement.

As long as there were Republicans like Cantor philandering with trans-national corporations and oil magnates and hedge fund tycoons, America needed to slam them with enormous settlements as well. Any spending offsets for Hurricane Irene should come directly out of Cantor's Seventh Congressional District in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Any spending offsets for disaster relief should come out of congressional districts that elected Republican lawmakers who figured there ought to be spending offsets for disaster relief.

To begin with, for every dollar in federal taxes the Commonwealth of Virgina sent to Washington, D.C., the Commonwealth of Virginia was collecting $1.51 in federal spending. Already, Virginia was getting way too big a slice of the federal pie anyway, while California and New York were only getting about 75 cents for every dollar in federal taxes they raised. Already, Dad was slathering his sleazy mistress with Chanel and Tiffany while Mom and the kids were stretching last night's Tuna Helper.

So, Cantor was right. America needed to cut Virginia off.

Cut off every Social Security check going to Virginia. Cut off every Medicare reimbursement going to Virginia. Cut off every government paycheck going to Virginia. Cut off the Pentagon. Cut off the CIA. Cut off the Navy bases.

Make I-95 and I-64 and every other freeway, highway, byway, boulevard, avenue, street, and alley built and maintained with federal dollars a toll road for local residents. Carve Virginia airspace out of the FAA's air traffic control system.

Pull every phone, fax, modem and pager number out of Virginia, and yank its ten-plus-one dialing out of the Federal Communication Commission-administered North American Numbering Plan. You didn't know the federal government owned all the phone numbers, did you? Tough tiddlies. Get your own numbers, and see if anybody will recognize them.

Repossess every conscious thought federally-funded education instilled into every brain in Virginia.

Every congressional district that elected a lawmaker who wanted disaster relief spending offsets should have those offsets come out of his or her district.

While we're at it, every state, every county, every district, township, hamlet or burg that's been spending more federal dollars than it's been raising should start looking into going without that new car Cantor figured everyone should go without. Every state, every county, every district, township, hamlet or burg that's been slathering itself with Chanel and Tiffany on the nation's platinum-plus card should get its line of credit cut until it paid back every red cent.

Alabama had been getting $1.61 in federal spending for every dollar it raised in taxes. Cut it off until it paid back every deficit penny for the past thirty years. Relief for last Spring's tornadoes? Quit dreaming.

Alaska had been getting $1.81 in federal spending for every dollar it raised in taxes. Cut it off.

Arizona had been getting $1.20. Cut if off.

Arkansas had been getting $1.41. Cut it off.

And, those were just the 'A's.' Virginia was way at the other end of the alphabet, with a ton of blood-sucking mostly solidly deficit-hawk Republican red states in between.

At least FEMA had already suspended tornado clean-up payments to Missouri. Missouri was getting $1.32 in federal spending for every dollar in federal taxes it raised even before it got Uncle Sam to start picking up the trash left behind when tornadoes trashed the state.

Or, Republicans and their constituents could begin to show a little appreciation for all the care and attention California and New York and Massachusetts and Illinois and New Hampshire and New Jersey and the handful of other primarily Blue states carrying this country had been lavishing on their spendthrift backsides. Or, Republicans and their constituents could stop coddling their oil tycoons and coal magnates and big pharma moguls and all the other plutocrats and their multi-billion dollar multi-national corporations, and make them kick in a few more scoots to keep the neighborhood picked up and freshly painted before running off to the Seychelles with their diamond-encrusted bimbos.

New car indeed.

Monday, August 29, 2011

GOP Jobs Plan Just Another Scam to Coddle the Rich

Republicans unveiled their jobs plan Monday, although anyone who'd been semi-conscious at any point during the past thirty years would know to take that lofty rhetoric with a grain or ton of salt, as the Republicans' jobs plan was exactly the same as their plan to slow down the economy if there happened to be too many jobs. It was also their environmental plan, their space exploration plan, their good-weather plan, their rainy day plan, their chocolate pudding plan, and their plan to mollify spouses incensed at their infidelity.

The Republicans jobs plan was - altogether now - to lower taxes on the rich, and slash spending on everyone else.

In this particular case, Republicans' slashing featured gutting the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as the National Labor Relations Board, and disemboweling any number of business and environmental regulations. Aside from coddling oil magnates and coal moguls, the GOP was keen on increasing the number and lethality of America's cancer clusters, and making sure that it was even easier than it already was for big business to rip off workers and ordinary consumers.

The Republicans' designated attack dog, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) wrote,"By pursuing a steady repeal of job-destroying regulations, we can lift the cloud of uncertainty hanging over small and large employers alike."

The only uncertainty Cantor's plan addressed was how toxic a wasteland America would be after Republicans were finished with it.

Cantor and the GOP figured the best things for America would be to prevent the National Labor Relations Board to have relations with labor, and to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from protecting the environment. Coal burners cheered.

Of course, a real jobs plan would include eliminating taxes on the first $50,000 people made, and making up for it by taxing the top gazillion dollars people made to within an inch of its life. A real jobs plan would fix the $2 trillion worth of infrastructure that needed repairing. A real jobs plan would pump money into education, research, science and technology.

Republicans, of course, were opposed to science and technology. Republicans would have folks focus on prayer and cutting big, fat checks to TV evangelists.

Any real jobs plan would necessarily start with tossing Republican politicians, and probably TV evangelists, out of work, then getting down to some serious stimulus spending.

That Republicans whined and screamed and howled that the 2009 $800 billion stimulus plan didn't work, and to the extent that people nodded knowingly in agreement just went to show how little people understood how little the $800 billion stimulus plan was, and how little effect people should have expected it to have.

Never mind that the puny $800 billion stimulus plan actually kept the nation from sliding further into the worst economic downturn since Bonnie met Clyde. Never mind that most of the $800 billion stimulus plan was in tax breaks which were, for the most part, useless.

And never most of all mind that the $800 billion stimulus plan was supposed to be a $1.2 trillion dollar stimulus plan the Republicans gutted to make sure the economy they and George W. Bush crashed stayed crashed.

Never mind that a 1.2 trillion-inflation-adjusted-dollar stimulus wouldn't have been anywhere near enough anyway, as any economist worth his Nobel Prize would tell you.

While Democrats and responsible economists would tell you, in dicey economic times, the government, as the consumer of last resort, should be spending more to stimulate the economy, not slashing spending to further depress the economy, Republicans would be happy to tell you that all the stimulus Franklin Delano Roosevelt spent on the WPA and the CCC and the TVA and the whole truckload of Alpha Bits cereal didn't work either.

Republicans would tell you the United States didn't pull itself out of its economic malaise until World War II interrupted everyone's regularly scheduled programming.

Which, contrary to Republican demagoguery, only revealed exactly how much spending the government really needed to spend to really pull the nation out of the Great Depression.

Contrary to Republican demagoguery, and notwithstanding people's astonishing inability to connect dot a with dot b, FDR didn't stop spending because World War II cut into tonight's episode of The Shadow. FDR increased spending for the war. A lot. A whole lot. A really, really, really unbelievably astronomically huge whole lot.

During the Second World War, the United States of America produced ten battleships. Plus, 23 aircraft carriers. Plus, 200 submarines. 300 destroyers. 600 PT boats. One thousand Landing Ship Tanks (LSTs). 3,282 Liberty and Victory ships.

During the Second World War, the United States of America produced 297,000 aircraft, including 12,731 B-17 Flying Fortresses and 18,482 B-24 Liberators. The U.S. of A. cranked out 86,000 tanks, including 49,234 M-4 Shermans. 193,000 artillery pieces. Two million trucks. And the Millions and millions and millions of bullets, bombs, shells, rockets, mines and torpedoes all those planes and tanks and ships and guns were built to deliver.

Rifles, machine guns, bazookas, mortars, grenades, uniforms, K-rations, search lights, head lights and flash lights. Back packs, canteens, boots, socks, bandoliers, cartridge holders, helmets, parachutes, bandages, shovels, tents, and suntan lotion. Not to mention the boxes everything came in, and the wherewithal to haul it anywhere and everywhere in the world. To North African deserts. To South Pacific jungles. To Western Europe. To the Eastern Front. Even Coca Cola was tagged as an essential war material, exempting it from sugar rationing, and any soldier on any front line anywhere in the world could get a Coke and smile even while ducking enemy artillery fire. Talk about it absolutely, positively having to get there.

Put that into your WPA and smoke it.

And, while Republicans scream that business and industry couldn't possibly function unless the ultra-wealthy had their taxes slashed to zero, FDR raised income taxes on the richest Americans to 88%, shortly before he raised them to 94%.

And taxes on the richest Americans stayed up over 90% until John F. Kennedy slashed them to 70%. But JFK closed a bunch of loopholes, too.

And during this period, with taxes on the richest Americans ranging from 70%-94%, the United States of America defeated fascism and the Nazis and the Empire of Japan, destroyed most of the major cities in the Old World, then rebuilt all those cities, plus the countries those cities were in, plus built America's interstate freeway system, and more dams and bridges and levees than you could count, and schools and libraries in case you still wanted to count them anyway, and a GI bill that sent everyone to college or technical schools so you knew how to count, and hospitals for when you got a headache from all that counting. Plus, to get to or away from all the counting, airports, and seaports, and, yes, spaceports - at Vandenberg, and the Cape - and an entire space program, which featured the countdown.

During that period, the U.S. of A. developed all the technology that eventually led to computers and cable TV and satellite TV and the internet and cell phones and iPads and Twitter and flash mobs, because counting had, for the first time in history, become a largely automated process.

Today, the United States of America couldn't fill a pothole.

Which was the difference between American when it didn't coddle the rich and when it did.

And Eric Cantor claimed he had a jobs program.

Friday, August 26, 2011

GOP Treats Americans 'Pretty Ugly,' Tanking Economy to Derail Obama

Republicans rabidly dedicated to destroying Barack Obama's Presidency have focused on destroying the American economy as the means to that end. To Republicans, Americans struggling through the de facto depression were just collateral damage that, Republicans hoped, could be persuaded to blame Obama for the GOP's America-busting, catapulting a square-jawed Caucasian populist plutocrat-coddler from Texas back into the White House.

Destroying the American economy was a pretty easy reach for Republicans, as they'd been working on it for thirty years, and had pretty much brainwashed most everyone with their incessant twin mantras, tax cuts for the rich and spending cuts for everyone else, along with a healthy dose of busting unions.

At the Federal Reserve Bank's annual get-together in Jackson Hole, WY, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke Friday virtually sputtered in exasperation over the repeated hostage-taking and brinkspersonship Republicans had subjected the world to all year.

"The negotiations that took place over the summer disrupted the financial markets and probably the economy as well," Bernanke said in what amounted to a hysterical screaming tirade for a staid, non-partisan Fed chairman.

Republicans had unconscionably taken hostage the normally pro-forma raising of the nation's debt ceiling to extort political concessions they could never have extracted through normal legislative processes. The GOP forced Americans and the world to endure trillions in egregious spending cuts in a dicey economy, when governments, as the consumer of last resort, should've been increasing spending to stimulate the economy, not slashing spending to further depress the economy.

"Although the issue of fiscal sustainability must urgently be addressed, fiscal policy makers should not, as a consequence, disregard the fragility of the current economic recovery," said Bernanke, a scholar of the Great Depression who understood the value of government spending to haul a moribund economy up by its bootstraps.

The populist Texan surging to the head of the GOP presidential pack, Gov. Rick Perry, doubtless sneered. He'd already intimated that Bernanke was slated to be his guest of honor at a Texas necktie party, saying that if the Fed chairman visited his state, "we would treat him pretty ugly."

Which doubtless discouraged Bernanke from unleashing another round of quantitative easing, Fed-speak for buying up a batch of America's long-term debt to ease borrowing costs. The economy was one thing, but getting a neck massage from a bunch of yahoos in cowboy boots and ten-gallon hats was quite another.

Nonetheless, Bernanke told everyone the Fed's September meet would be stretched from one day to two if the economy hadn't picked up, and all involved would reconsider the situation, lynchings and cross-burnings notwithstanding.

All of which spotlighted Republicans' single-minded determination to destroy the Obama Presidency at any cost. As Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell promised, holding Obama to a single term was the Republicans' top priority, and the best way to hold Obama to a single term was to make sure the economy Republicans and George W. Bush tanked, stayed tanked.

Republicans, by controlling the House of Representative, could pretty much sabotage any effort to nurture a nascent recovery by hostage-taking, demagoguery, and generally screaming threats to pull the pin and drop the grenade, but they couldn't control the Federal Reserve Bank, which had always been a bastion of economic independence.

Hence, Perry's leering and waving his length of lariat while his sycophants jeered and hooted in the background.

"Most of the economic policies that support economic growth in the long run are outside the province of the central bank," Bernanke said. He dared to add, "Our nation's tax and spending policies should increase incentives to work and to save, encourage investments in the skills of our workforce, stimulate private capital formation, promote research and development, and provide necessary public infrastructure."

Republicans, angling to destroy the American economy, focused on plutocrat-coddling tax subsidies incenting offshoring and outsourcing, slashing education funding, dismantling research, discrediting science, and ignoring the $2 trillion in infrastructure repairs the nation desperately needed.

In fact, the only tax breaks Republicans were interested in were those favoring their ultra-wealthy patrons.

Republicans were vehemently opposed to extending the 2% payroll tax holiday American wage earners were getting, as it only helped put money in middle-class pockets, and helped to stimulate the very economy Republicans wanted to keep depressed. The payroll tax on American paychecks was 4.2%, slated to revert to 6.2% at the end of 2011.

Obama wanted to extend the 2% holiday, but Republicans were opposed to the extension. For the holidays, Republicans wanted to cancel the holiday.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), one of the Republicans anointed for the upcoming budget-slashing Super Committee, told the Associated Press, "not all tax relief is created equal for the purposes of helping to get the economy moving again."  Hensarling was right, as a payroll tax holiday putting more money into the hands of working Americans, who tended to immediately spend the extra cash on groceries and school supplies and clothes for the kids and such, was a much better economic stimulant than all the tax breaks, tax cuts and tax subsidies Republicans lavished on their wealthy cronies and patrons, which tended to get funnelled into arcane financial instruments where the money sat and rotted for all eternity.

Which, of course, was why Hensarling opposed the payroll tax holiday. Which, of course, was why Republicans in general opposed the middle class payroll tax holiday. The payroll tax holiday only applied to the first $106,000 anybody made, obviously useless to the billionaires Republicans focused their coddling on.

"If the goal is job creation, Leader (Eric) Cantor (R-VA) has long believed that there are better ways to grow the economy and create jobs than temporary payroll tax relief," Cantor's spokesperson Brad Dayspring told the New York Times.

The "better ways" doubtless meant more tax cuts, breaks and subsidies for corporations and the ultra-rich, and the "jobs" doubtless would all be in China, as thirty years of Republican voodoo trickle-down supply side balderdash has proven.

Whatever Obama proposed to help the American economy along, be it payroll tax holiday or infrastructure spending, Republicans aimed to shoot down. The economy in shambles, Republicans prepared to stir up the rubes with snide intimations that a snotty person of color had caused the morass, and all would be made better by replacing him with a square-jawed white man who spoke about Jesus in a comforting drawl. The economy in shambles, all would be made better by deferring to the billionaires and trans-national corporations that had already plundered the nation and moved all its jobs to China and India.

Then, with Perry or some other square-jawed GOP Christian in the White House, Republicans could get on with the last item on their check list, plundering all the money in Social Security and Medicare.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

GOP Rallies Behind Perry In Push to Eliminate Social Security, Medicare

Republicans eager to eliminate Social Security and Medicare have feverishly rallied behind Texas' extremist cowboy Governor Rick Perry, a new Gallup poll revealed.

A week since tossing his ten-gallon hat into the GOP presidential ring, Perry has opened up a double-digit lead over his nearest rival, milquetoast moderate-by-Republican-standards Mitt Romney. The anti-government, pro-tycoon populist Perry led Romney 29% to 17% among Republicans and Republican-leaning voters mulling their choices for a 2012 standard bearer.

On the campaign trail, Perry, who championed abolishing Social Security in his recent book, Fed Up!, reiterated his vehement opposition to FDR's landmark safety net.

"Have you read my book, Fed Up?" Perry strutted before enraptured Waterloo, IA sycophants Aug. 14 in a video clip posted on the Daily Kos. "Get a copy of it and read it!" he said, in full Palin-snake-oil-selling mode.

Perry warmed up to his favorite pitch, crowing, "kids who are coming along, they know for a fact there's not going to be a Social Security and Medicare program!"

"We have to talk about how are we going to transfer over," Perry stumbled a moment, presumably catching himself before he said 'transfer over all the money in the Social Security Trust Funds to my fat cat K Street cronies who'll kick me back a big finder's fee,' and finished by just saying, "How are we going to make the transformation" to a medieval plutocracy where the elderly were abandoned to destitution and misery.

Conscious of rousing a public backlash, Perry spokesperson Ray Sullivan attempted to walk back his candidate's rabid anti-Social Security rant, and said Fed Up! "was a look back, not a look forward," written "as a review and critique of 50 years of federal excess, not in any way as a 2012 campaign blueprint or manifesto."

Republicans, however, appeared jubilant they had a champion who coveted dismantling Social Security.

The surging Perry had rapidly outstripped the GOP field. Aside from trouncing Romney 29% to 17%, he was ahead of Reps. Ron Paul's (R-TX) 13% and Michele Bachmann's (R-MN) 10%. With Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani in the mix, Perry still snagged 25%, with the Palin drawing 11% and Giuliani garnering 9%.

Gallup also found that Perry was in a dead heat with President Barack Obama, 47% to 47%. Obama, whose popularity has been plummeting, trailed Romney 46% to 48%, and led Bachmann by just four points.

Despite his handlers' best efforts, the indomitable Perry remained scathing in his denunciation of Social Security.

"Social Security is something we have been forced to accept for 70 years now," Perry wrote. He told the Daily Beast, "Whether it's Social Security, whether it's Medicaid, whether it's Medicare, you've got $115 trillion worth of unfunded liability in those three. They're bankrupt. They're a Ponzi scheme."

Never mind that all three programs were actually solvent, and would remain so ad infinitum if the wealthy would pay their fair share of taxes instead of fattening themselves on the unconscionable tax breaks and subsidies lavished on them by toadying GOP politicos.

With Perry as their favorite, Republicans were plunging ahead with their plans to eliminate Social Security and hand all its funds to Wall Street moguls eager to toss other people's money onto the roulette wheel of international equity markets while collecting their rake regardless of which slot the ball fell into. Despite furious public outrage, the GOP was doubling down on their plans to dismantle Medicare, hand all its money to insurance industry cronies, and pawn off future seniors with worthless discount coupons the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office revealed wouldn't cover a third of seniors' health care costs.

Republicans counted on repeating the "Social Security is broke" and "Medicare is broke" lies until gullible rubes coast to coast believed them. Republicans knew if square-jawed, photogenic white populists pounded their fists and lied loud enough and long enough, the rubes invariably believed them. Texas was lousy with evangelical revival meetings filled to the rafters.

Perry's even led his share of them.

In fact, Medicare was the most efficient deliverer of health care services in America, with administrative costs of 3%, compared to 5%-10% for large group insurance plans, 25%-27% for small group plans, and a whopping 40% for the kind of individual plans Republicans wanted future seniors to shell out for.

In fact, Social Security was solvent for another twenty years, and, with minor tweaks to payroll taxes, would remain so until starship troopers found a better solution at the other end of the galaxy.

Republicans, however, were greedy for the 10%, or 27%, or 40% "administrative fees" their insurance industry cronies could gorge themselves on. Republicans and their billionaire cronies were too greedy to pay the minuscule payroll tax tweaks that would fund Social Security until genetically-modified, bionically enhanced pigs rocketed across infinity and beyond.

Perry told the Daily Beast he believed Social Security and Medicare were unconstitutional.

"I don't think our Founding Fathers when they were putting the term 'general welfare' in there were thinking about a federally operated program of pensions nor a federally operated program of health care," Perry pontificated. "What they clearly said was that those were issues that the states need to address," although where Perry got that notion was, to say the least, unclear.

The interviewer asked Perry, "What did the Founding Fathers mean by 'general welfare?'"

Perry muttered, "I don't know if I'm going to sit here and parse down to what the Founding Fathers thought general welfare meant." Further questions were met by silence.

At a time when half of America's senior citizens couldn't support themselves and millions suffered poverty and destitution, a real American President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, told Congress, "If, as our Constitution tells us, our Federal Government was established...'to promote the general welfare,' it is our plain duty to provide for that security upon which welfare depends." Fifteen months later, on August 14, 1935, FDR signed the Social Security Act into law.

Nothing could be clearer than that.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

GOP Presidential Hopefuls Waver, Waffle, Backtrack and Bluster On Libya Triumph

The best thing about the current GOP presidential hopefuls is when that 3 a.m. call comes, any of them will be able to jump out of bed and whip up a batch of waffles.

Wherever they'd been, whatever they'd been doing, the one thing all the Republican presidential candidates had been certain of was that hapless President Barack Obama had gotten Libya all wrong. Obama hadn't been decisive enough, or had acted too rashly; Obama shouldn't have intervened, or hadn't intervened as quickly or aggressively as he should have.

'Leading from behind,' as one White House aide described Obama's excruciatingly centrist ultra-middle course on Libya, letting France and Britain do all the heavy lifting after the U.S. unleashed an initial barrage of cruise missiles? Ridiculous! Too timid/bold! (Circle one).

Now, the annoying lamestream media was inconveniently splashing onto TV screens around the globe scenes of jubilant Libyans cheering in the streets and tearing down green flags. Now, you could hardly pick up your Blackberry without some wag wagging and tweeting and YouTubing some irritating Libyan liberation meme.

Thus far, the GOP presidential hopefuls' strategy for dealing with all that bothersome Libya brouhaha consisted of mumbling some sort of boilerplate about freedom and hope, while hoping the whole mess would just go away, or at least degenerate into some sort of Biblical Apocalypse.

Now that Moammar Khadafy, billionaire oil magnate and George W. Bush's 'valued ally' in the War on Terra, was reduced to driving around Tripoli backstreets hoping to not get pulled over by the cops, the GOP candidates were reduced to miserable wavering, waffling, backtracking, and blustering. It was tough trying to look presidential while snivelling and muttering. It was tough trying to look like a foreign policy preceptor while pointing over someone's shoulder and shouting, "Hey! Look over there!"

So, here's the rogue's gallery roundup:

  • Mitt Romney, who'd been a scathing Obama critic on Libya, mumbled condescending platitudes, and, as any rich guy would, demanded he be handed a payoff. "The world is about to be rid of Moammar Khadafy, the brutal tyrant who terrorized the Libyan people," Romney's statement began with the news in case you'd just crawled out from under a rock. "It is my hope that Libya will now move toward a representative form of government that supports freedom, human rights, and the rule of law. As a first step, I call on this new government to arrest and extradite the mastermind behind the bombing of Pan Am 103, Abdelbaset Mohmed Ali al-Megrahi, so justice can finally be done." Right. Gimme, gimme, gimme. It's all about you, Mitt.
  • Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), who'd also been a scathing Obama critic on Libya, stuck to her non-interventionist guns, or non-guns, but congratulated everyone, apparently for ignoring her scheme to look the other way while Khadafy went door to door slaughtering everyone in Benghazi. "I opposed US military involvement in Libya and I am hopeful that our intervention there is about to end. I also hope the progress of events in Libya will ultimately lead to a government that honors the rule of law, respects the people of Libya and their yearning for freedom, and one that will be a good partner to the United States and the international community." Yawn. Enough hopey-changey balderdash to make Sarah Palin puke.
  • Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX), gave the blandest, most generic bouquet of all the candidates. Must have brushed off a pre-printed Certificate of Recognition and scribbled "Libya" into the blank space. "The crumbling of Moammar Khadafy's reign, a violent repressive dictatorship with a history of terrorism, is cause for cautious celebration. The lasting impact of events in Libya will depend on ensuring rebel factions form a unified civil government that guarantees personal freedoms, and builds a new relationship with the West where we are allies instead of adversaries." Must have scratched out another country's name before scribbling in "Libya," as Khadafy was Bush's bestest friend forever, not his adversay.
  • Jon Huntsman had been against the Libya intervention, and his spokesperson Tim Miller was careful to say, "Gov. Huntsman's view remains that intervention in Libya was a mistake, and not core to our national security interests." However, Huntsman's official statement waffled, "The impending fall of Col. Khadafy is one chapter in the developing story of a nation in turmoil. Khadafy has been a longtime opponent of freedom, and I am hopeful - as the whole world should be - that his defeat is a step towards openness, democracy and human rights for a people who greatly deserve it." Not to mention a people who greatly deserved not having Jon Huntsman as the sitting President of the United States.
  • Rick Santorum snivelled, "Ridding the world of the likes of Khadafy is a good thing, but this indecisive President had little to do with this triumph. The stated goal from the very beginning for this administration was to determine whether the U.S. can positively influence the direction of a successor government. As we have seen in Egypt, the euphoria of toppling a dictator does not always result in more security for us and our allies in the region." Actually, the stated goal from the beginning was to keep Khadafy from killing his people, then regime change. First Prize for Most Whiney Response. More to the point, Rick Santorum is running for President?  
Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and Sarah Palin hadn't made official statements, although Gingrich was for intervention after he was against intervention after he was for intervention; Ron Paul was strictly against intervention, as any libertarian would tell you if a dictator wanted to slaughter his people, oh well; and Sarah Palin was sure Libya made a wonderful canned fruit cocktail (Thank you, Billy Jaye, wherever you are).

If only just one of the GOP presidential hopefuls, instead of wishing Libya a democratic government with freedom and the rule of law and human rights and yadda-yadda, came out and wished Libya would anoint him or her omnipotent Supreme God-Emperor bearing unlimited powers to reign unfettered without let or hindrance so that his or her cronies could run roughshod over enslaved masses to plunder and pillage at will.

But that, of course, was what they wished for America.

Monday, August 22, 2011

What the End Game Looks Like: Jubilant Rebels Roll Into Tripoli

Libya was free.

Fighting still raged in parts of Tripoli Monday, as Moammar Khadafy's last few tanks rumbled out of his Bab al-Azizyah stronghold compound and snipers and artillery fire sent jubilant residents scurrying from the city center streets where they'd been celebrating the rebels' arrival. Rebels fighters battled pockets of Khadafy loyalists around the city, but most analysts agreed: Khadafy was finished.

In Benghazi, the leader of the National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, told reporters that while Libya still faced many challenges, Moammar Khadafy's reign of terror was over.

Khadafy himself was nowhere to be found.

"We will provide him with a fair trail," Jalil said of the dictator. "But I have no idea how he will defend himself against these crimes that he committed against the Libyan people and the world."

Despite street celebrations upon the arrival of rebel forces Sunday, the military situation in Tripoli remained tenuous. Rebel commanders told Al-Jazeera they controlled 80% of the city, but Khadafy loyalists were still hunkered down in strongholds and snipers made venturing outside dangerous.

"No one can go in or out," a rebel fighter told Al-Jazeera. "Everyone who has an underground basement, the people, women and children, the wounded, have been staying there."

For all those who had wondered, this was what the end game in Libya looked like.

After months of back-and-forth fighting, after finally securing Zawiyah and encircling the capitol on all sides, after weeks of Khadafy's top aides and ministers fleeing to Tunisia and Egypt, after the crack Kamis Brigade retreated toward the city and their base was overrun, the rebel column, supported by NATO attack planes wheeling overhead, streamed into Tripoli Sunday with shocking speed.

Speaking from Martha's Vineyard, MA, where he was on vacation, President Barack Obama announced late Sunday, "There remains a degree of uncertainty, and there are still regime elements who still pose a threat. But, this much is clear: The Khadafy regime is coming to an end, and the future of Libya is in the hands of its people."

"To our friends and allies, the Libyan intervention demonstrates what the international community can achieve when we stand together as one," Obama said. "And the Arab members of our coalition have stepped up and shown what can be achieved when we act together as equal partners."

"Finally, the Libyan people: Your courage and character have been unbreakable in the face of a tyrant," Obama said.

Throughout the Libyan intervention, Obama had been vexed by pacifist liberals who opposed the use of force under any circumstances; by hawks who agitated for a more robust American presence in the fighting; and, most of all, by opportunist Republican obstructionists who opposed any move the President made.

Led by 225 Republicans, Congress refused to authorize U.S. military action in support of the Libya intervention by a 295-70 margin. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) pushed a bill defunding the Libya operation, but the measure was rejected when 89 Republicans deemed it unseemly to abandon their forces and allies France and Britain, and joined with Democrats to defeat it.

Boehner's efforts, however, did gain him a smoochy, smoochy love tome from Khadafy, who thanked him for his aid and comfort. Shockingly, Boehner wasn't lined up against a bullet-pocked wall and given a blindfold and a cigarette for his treachery during a shooting war.

Obama pressed ahead, doggedly supporting France and Britain as the intervention that was supposed to end in weeks carried on for months. "Leading from behind," as one Obama staffer described the President's middle course in the fight against the dictator, became a lightening rod of ridicule and scorn, as hawks demanded direct American airstrikes and boots on the ground, while everyone else demanded America leave Libya to its own devices.

Yet, with America strapped for cash at home, in the end the results made it hard to argue with Obama's excruciatingly centrist middle course. The Politico reported that the Libya intervention cost little more than a billion dollars through mid-summer, an amount the old saw claimed no one would even bother to pick up if it fell on the floor in the Pentagon. American forces flew just 16% of the sorties and sent no ground troops.

Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) issued a statement that said, "we regret that this success was so long in coming due to the failure of the United States to employ the full weight of our airpower."  It was not immediately known how much the duo regretted not expending the billions of additional dollars such an air campaign would have cost, to say nothing of the possible loss of air crews.

At least McCain and Graham were consistent. The Twitterverse was filled with hypocreets.

Rep. Ben Quayle (R-AZ) tweeted, "The fall of the Khadafy regime would be a victory for freedom."

Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) crowed, "Libyan rebels control Green Square. Let us pray for a peaceful formation of a representative government."

Both had been among the 295 lawmakers who had voted against authorizing the Libyan intervention.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) wrote, "Great to see these images of liberated parts of Tripoli. Hopeful that a new free democratic govt will form in Libya." Blunt had been scathing in his criticism of Obama, first denouncing the Libya intervention, then demanding more aggressive involvement.

"Whenever the President of the United States authorizes a military intervention, he must clearly define the goal and mission of our involvement." Blunt wrote on Mar. 28. "Unfortunately, President Obama has failed to meet this criteria..."

By Mar. 31, Blunt wanted to arm the rebels. "If you put planes in the level the playing field, it doesn't hurt to give some advantage to the side you're trying to help."

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) issued a statement that said, "it is doubtful that U.S. interests would be served by imposing a no-fly zone over Libya."

"We need a broader public discussion about the goals and limits of the U.S. role in the Middle East, especially as it pertains to potential military intervention," Lugar opined, a sudden convert to end-game anxiety.

Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA), one of the 295 who voted against authorizing the Libya intervention, was another end-game skeptic. He told Fox News the action, "risks entrenching the United States in a humanitarian mission whose scope and duration are not known... and cannot be controlled by us."

"The President should immediately return home and call Congress back into session so that this action can be fully debated," Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI) pontificated. At the time, Khadafy had been threatening to have his troops go house to house through Benghazi murdering the residents.

"We have seen uprisings across the Middle East...and in many instances, atrocities have been committed," Miller, another 295er, said. "One must now ask where this administration draws the line."

All of which was quite understandable considering the hostilities were being directed at a billionaire oil magnate who was George W. Bush's 'valued ally' in his 'War on Terra.' To say nothing of the smoochy love tomes the dictator sent Boehner.

Besides, Republicans doubtless didn't know what an end game looked like, as they never finished either of the two open-ended wars Bush started. Perhaps Republicans considered shovelling unlimited taxpayer dollars into Halliburton Corp. coffers ad infinitum an end game in and of itself.

In Tripoli, the end game included a maniacal tyrant MIA, his forces penned into last-stand enclaves, and jubilant rebels celebrating in Green Square. It included a city of 700,000, Benghazi, spared a genocidal massacre. It included cities and towns liberated from the yoke of a bloodthirsty dictator.

"An ocean divides us, but we are joined in the basic human longing for freedom, for justice, and for dignity," Obama said to Libyans. "Your revolution is your own, and your sacrifices have been extraordinary. Now, the Libya you deserve is within your reach."

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Economist 'Dr. Doom' Roubini's Karl Marx Kerfuffle Spotlights GOP Norquistist Disaster

All around the trading floors and in the brokerage houses, nervous analysts and money movers eyed the myriad indicators describing the arcane systems they managed, watched the gyrations convulsing financial markets, and couldn't shake the nagging suspicion that things this time around just felt different.

New York University economist Nouriel Roubini caused a bit of a kerfuffle a while back when he told the Wall Street Journal that Karl Marx might have gotten it right.

"Karl Marx had it right," said Roubini, who snagged global notoriety when, in 2006, he predicted the 2008 housing-bubble bust and economic collapse. "At some point, capitalism can self-destroy itself. That's because you cannot keep on shifting income from labor to capital without not having an excess capacity and a lack of aggregate demand. We thought that markets work. They are not working."

Kerfufflepalooza. God forbid anyone suggest not cleaving to right-wing Norquistian uber-supply-side dogma.

Republicans, with their rabid commitment to dismantling government and eliminating regulation, with their fervent passion for slashing taxes on corporations and the very rich, have catapulted the global economy toward Marx's capitalist end game by removing the referee that kept the world's giant Monopoly game going.

Republicans simply couldn't comprehend and wouldn't accept that government wasn't separate from the marketplace, but was part of the marketplace. Remove the government governor from the economic engine, and money flowed out of the marketplace and into supply-side oblivion.

Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich, in his book Aftershock, went to Marriner Eccles, Fed chairman from 1934 to 1948, as Noel Pearson described in the Australian:
Eccles wrote in his memoir, "As mass production has to be accompanied by mass consumption, mass consumption, in turn, implies a distribution of wealth - not of existing wealth, but of wealth as it is currently produced - to provide men with buying power equal to the amount of goods and services offered by the nation's economic machinery.

"Instead of achieving that kind of distribution, a giant suction pump had by 1929-30 drawn into a few hands an increasing portion of currently produced wealth.... By taking purchasing power out of the hands of mass consumers, the savers denied to themselves the kind of effective demand for their products that would justify a reinvestment of their capital accumulations in new plants.

"In consequence, as in a poker game where the chips were concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, the other fellows could stay in the game only by borrowing. When their credit ran out, the game stopped."
Poker or Monopoly, when one, or, in the global context, very few, accumulate all the chips and money, everybody else becomes testy and surly, and the cards or gaming pieces get angrily shovelled back into their boxes and everyone goes off to watch the Red Sox and the Yankees on the tube. In the global context, tossing the game box back onto the shelf equaled Marx's end of capitalism.

As Roubini told the WSJ, businesses weren't, "doing pacts because there is excess capacity, and not hiring workers because there's not enough final demand, but there's a paradox and a Catch 22."

"If you are not hiring workers," Roubini said, "there is not enough labor income, there is not enough consumer confidence, there is not enough consumption, there is not enough final demand."

"And, the last two or three years, we've had actually worse than this because we had the massive redistribution of income from labor to capital," Roubini said, apparently channelling Eccles. "The marginal propensity to spend of a household is greater than the marginal propensity to spend of a firm....So, that redistribution of income and wealth makes the problem of excessive lack of aggregate demand even worse."

Double kerfufflepalooza.

Which, of course, is why, in dicey economic times, government, as the consumer of last resort, must step in and increase spending to stimulate the economy, instead of slashing spending - as Republicans always demand - and depressing the economy.

But, that, clearly, wasn't enough. There was one more piece, and here, the American people were way ahead of the curve around the ol' Monopoly board.

Poll after poll revealed Americans wanted the rich to pay more in taxes. 72% wanted folks making $250,000 or much, much more a year to pay higher taxes to shore up Medicare and Social Security. 66% wanted to increase income taxes on upper income Americans to reduce the federal deficit.

We're not talking about adjusting depreciation write-off schedules for corporate jets here. We're talking about real revenue reform that could bust up the massive accumulation of wealth into the hands of the very few, where it basically sits and rots in arcane financial instruments. 84% of America's massive wealth was concentrated into the hands of 20% of the richest Americans. It didn't take a massive amount of imagination to work out that you couldn't operate the free world on 15% of America's wealth. Just more imagination than Republican greed zombies possessed.

As we learned in Hello Dolly, money was like manure: it didn't do any good unless you spread it around.

While Republicans and Norquistian Tea Party zealots had an aneurysm screaming that you must never, never raise taxes in dicey economic times, bear in mind that Republicans and Norquistian Tea Party zealots screamed you must never, never raise taxes in good economic times either, or, for that matter, in so-so economic times, before lunch, after lunch, overnight, on Tuesdays, on rainy days, on sunny days, on cloudy days, when there's a ballgame on the tube, or whenever 15-year-old boys were horny.

Republicans and Norquistian Tea Party zealots simply couldn't be right in all those instances, or, perchance, never.

Reich, describing the great American economic boom of the fifties and sixties, when taxes on upper incomes got up into the 70% and even 90% range, wrote "contrary to what conservative commentators had predicted, the high tax rates did not reduce economic growth. To the contrary, they enabled the nation to expand middle-class prosperity and fuel growth."

"During the three decades from 1947 to 1977, the nation implemented what might be called a basic bargain with American workers," Reich said. "Employers paid them enough to buy what they produced. Mass production and mass consumption proved perfect compliments."

Then, the Republicans' sainted Ronald Reagan became President, and the supply-siders took over.

"Government could have enforced the basic bargain, but it didn't," Reich said. "It slashed public goods and investments, whacking school budgets...reducing job training...allowing bridges, ports and highways to corrode. It shredded safety nets...."

Reagan did all that so the very wealthy could enjoy tax rates slashed from 70% to 35%, or 15% on capital gains. Wealth accumulated in the top tiers. Middle class income stagnated. Low taxes encouraged mergers, acquisitions, layoffs, outsourcing and offshoring so corporations and the rich could literally capitalize and enjoy the tax-free profits. All those tax-free profits helped pay for more lawyers and lobbyists to bust up unions and make sure the rich got ever more and greater tax cuts, tax breaks, and tax subsidies.

Everyone had to borrow to stay afloat and keep the economic engine humming. They used their homes as ATMs through cash-out refinancing.

And then, the great consumer engine became exhausted. Karl Marx took the Monopoly box down off the shelf, began sweeping the little plastic hotels off Boardwalk and Park Place, and started tossing the race car and the top hat and the little Scottie dog back into their compartments.

As economies tanked, Roubini warned that unrest could spread.

"Recent popular demonstrations, from the Middle East to Israel to the UK...are all driven by the same issues and tensions: growing inequality, poverty, unemployment, and hopelessness," Roubini said. "Poor and desperate people whether in the Middle East or the UK tend to riot."

Bottom line, government must divert wealth from accumulating in those arcane financial instruments where it just sits and rots.

"How are we going to fill the fiscal gap without raising taxes?" Roubini asked.

Or, Americans can vote a populist, right-wing, pay-to-play, Norquistian Republican from Texas into the White House, and Karl Marx can get on with sweeping all the little houses and hotels and Chance cards back into the Monopoly box.

Friday, August 19, 2011

More GOP Pols Duck Town Halls As Norquistism Tanks Economy, Enrages Electorate

More and more Republican pols were skipping town hall public forums in the week following GOP budget-slashing and billionaire-coddling tax policies unleashed the dreaded Standard and Poor's 500 "Death Cross" and bourses around the globe resumed plummeting toward recession.

Reps. Lou Barletta (R-PA) and Renee Ellmers (R-NC) added to the growing list of Republican lawmakers who'd rather bask in the glow of fawning pay-to-parlay sycophants rather than suffer the slings and arrows of outraged constituents. GOP lawmakers Paul Ryan (WI), Ben Quayle (AZ), and Chip Cravaack (MN) had already deemed themselves too precious to meet with outraged voters.

To demonstrate why the natives were outraged, Bruce Bartlett conscientiously compiled a list of twenty-three recent polls that all showed roughly seven in ten Americans wanted the filthy, filthy rich to start paying more in taxes to straighten out the economic mess caused by slashing taxes on the filthy, filthy rich. Slashing taxes on the rich resulted in slashing spending on everything else, while the rich responded by slashing jobs in America, as cheaper labor elsewhere meant more profits the rich could enjoy not paying taxes on.

Republican pols, champions of slashing taxes on the rich, seemed anxious to avoid scenes like that experienced by Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL) at his town hall meeting in Sandwich, IL Wednesday. Hultgren faced outraged constituents who were among the 72% of Americans that wanted folks making $250,000 or much, much more a year to pay higher taxes to fund Medicare and Social Security, as just one of those 23 polls found.

"We have clear information cuts, especially to the super-rich, has not increased any more jobs," one voter said. "I want to know under what conditions you would be willing to consider increasing taxes, especially on those who can afford it?"

"Don't you have confidence in your own ability in Congress to make up your mind? You need Grover Norquist to tell you?" another asked.

Barletta dodged those sorts of bullets by limiting his August recess appearance to a Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry shindig dubbed "CEO to CEO." According to the Scranton Times-Tribune, regular folks were confined to waving placards and shouting outside the Westmoreland Club, where, for $30, the hoi polloi inside were tucking into whatever you could tuck into for $30 in Wilkes-Barre while schmoozing Barletta into getting more and greater tax cuts, tax breaks and tax subsidies.

Barletta didn't schedule any public forums for the August Congressional recess, which was understandable considering the third degree he got last Spring when furious constituents gave him what-for over Republican schemes to gut Medicare, hand all its money to insurance industry cronies, and pawn off future seniors with worthless coupons the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office revealed wouldn't cover a third of the recipient's health care costs.

Ellmers was slated to appear Aug. 24 at a National Active and Retired Federal Employees fete in Fayetteville, NC, which was supposedly open to the public, so long as that public was willing to pay $13 a head, so said the Fayetteville Observer.

"The problem with this is somebody needs to fit the bill for the lunch," Ellmer's spokesperson Tom Doheny explained the tab was to cover vittles. "It's not a random midday event." Apparently, the folks in Wilkes-Barre got fancier eats than the ones in Fayetteville were getting.

Meanwhile, helped along by all those spending cuts Republicans used to funnel money back to their rich buddies, the world's equity markets resumed their impression of Lt. Cmdr. John McCain's A-4E Skyhawk on its last mission over the 'Nam. As every reputable economist not on Rupert Murdoch's payroll would tell you, in dicey economic times, governments should be increasing spending to stimulate the economy, not slashing spending to depress the economy.

Morgan Stanley, whose offices were littered with folks handy with a calculator, Wednesday lowered its expectations for economic growth at home and abroad, figuring that governments slashing spending would make economies everywhere act like John McCain's flaming A-4. Morgan Stanley said the U.S. economy was "hovering dangerously close to recession."

That was on top of the rather melodramatically-monikered Death Cross equity markets experienced Aug. 11, the Harry Potter-sounding phenomenon wherein the S&P 500's 50-day moving average line crossed below its 200-day moving average line. 60% of the time that happened, markets plummeted much, much more than they'd already plummeted.

Demonstrating what good prognosticators the Death Cross and Morgan Stanley were, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dutifully dropped 419 points Thursday, and backed it up with another 173-point dive Friday. Worries over European banks were augmented by a Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia report that mid-Atlantic regional manufacturing was making like McCain's flaming fighter-bomber.

Outside the Wilkes-Barre "CEO to CEO" Barletta shindig, the crowd chanted, "Where are the jobs, Lou? Where are the jobs?" They waved signs and brandished cardboard-cutout effigies.

Citizens in Action coordinator Roxanne Pauline explained they had tried to registering online and pay $30 to attend the Barletta-fest, but had been told they could not because they were neither Chamber members or CEOs. Barletta had ducked every other request to meet with Pauline's group as well.

Reporters had also been barred from the event. "It was not a media event. It was just a member event," said Chamber veep Donna Sedor.

The protesters yelled and chanted and waved their signs as reporters took snaps. Turned out it was media event after all.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tar Sands Oil Pipeline Promises Profit for Moguls, Perils for Everyone Else

For mile after mile, the ancient boreal forests of Alberta and British Columbia formed a lush emerald empire of evergreens and wildlife that, dotted with lakes and traced by rivers, stretched over hills and mountains from horizon to horizon. Elusive woodland caribou, called the grey ghosts of the forest, foraged on lichen that had taken a hundred years to grow amidst the ancient woods. Black bear and lynx hunted among the pines. 40% of North American migratory birds, thousands upon thousands of mallard, blue-wing teal, northern shoveller and black duck, nested and bred in the boreal forest.

The boreal forest, with its thick, lush carpet of moss and peat and composted vegetation, was the world's largest above-ground carbon sequestration system, storing countless tons of organic carbon.

Like a vicious black cancer, huge expanses of devastated wasteland gouged at the boreal forest, churned earth stripped bare of trees, of brush, of grass, of hundred-year-old lichen. That no living thing could exist in the scarred wasteland tearing into the ancient old growth boreal was starkly obvious. To call it moonscape only sanitized the toxic tailings ponds and horrific cancer clusters in the small downstream communities.

The oil moguls had come, and had ripped the earth asunder to scrape from it the thick, sludgy muck called tar sand.

The primeval boreal forest was being ripped open to get at the Athabascan oil sands, 173 billion barrels of oil, worth some $15 trillion. Republicans and oil moguls were orgasmic with the prospect of destroying a priceless wilderness and lining their pockets with wealth beyond imagining.

The only problem was how to get that 173 billion barrels of oil to the international markets, and to get that $15 trillion into their pockets.

Thus, while Republicans in Congress balked and blustered at any suggestion of addressing the $2 trillion of infrastructure repairs America desperately needed, they rabidly pursued one particular $7 billion infrastructure project: TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline.

The Keystone XL would wind 1,661 miles from Hardisty, Alberta, Canada, right through the heart of the American Mountain West, across or under 1,900 rivers, streams and reservoirs, across the Sand Hills of Nebraska, through the Ogallala Aquifer, to Port Arthur, Texas.

Congressional Republicans pushed through a bill demanding the Keystone XL be granted Presidential approval before environmental impact studies could be completed. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, at first supportive of the pipeline, backed off when apprised of safety concerns. As TransCanada was a foreign corporation, and the pipeline an international affair, Clinton and the US State Department was in the thick of it.

Pipeline skeptics and environmental activists planned two weeks of civil disobedience in Washington, D.C. beginning August 20 to raise Keystone XL awareness.

Protest organizer Bill McKibben said he hoped it would be "the biggest civil disobedience protest in the environmental movement for many, many years."

While Republicans thumped their chests and howled about securing a 'domestic' oil source for America, the raw tar sands oil slated for Port Arthur's refineries wasn't necessarily meant for domestic consumption.

"This oil is not for domestic consumption," Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) said aghast. "This oil is for foreign export. It has very little to do with domestic oil supply, or might have very little to do with domestic oil supply."

"If we do not tap this valuable resource, the Chinese or other countries will," Bill Flores (R-TX) whined, his eyes doubtless glazing over at the thought of thrusting 15 trillion dollar bills into some stripper's g-string.

The US Energy Department revealed existing pipelines had enough capacity to double the amount of oil the United States was importing from Canada. An existing Keystone pipeline, without the racy-sounding XL suffix, ran from Canada and terminated in Oklahoma.

The primary attraction of the Keystone XL was its terminus at the refineries of Port Arthur, on the Gulf of Mexico, with its ready access to the sea lanes that could carry refined product to international markets.

The primary problem of the Keystone XL was that the 1,661 miles of its 36-inch pipe was designed to carry ordinary processed oil products much thinner than the gooey muck that was raw tar sands oil. The raw tar sands oil would have to be forced through the pipeline at much higher pressure than regular oil, and posed special safety challenges.

TransCanada claimed potential for accidental spills would be limited to just 11 over the 50-year lifespan of the pipeline, but TransCanada's existing pipeline accomplished 12 spills in just one year.

While most Americans were riveted by the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico last summer, a four-foot rupture in Canada-based Enbridge, Inc.'s pipeline dumped a million gallons of toxic sludge into Michigan's Kalamazoo River, devastating riparian habitat.

"I am deeply concerned about the effects of the oil spill near Marshall, including the environmental impact, and the disruption to residents and businesses," said Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI). "It is also deeply worrisome that the oil from the spill has made its way into the Kalamazoo River."

Enbridge's spill went unchecked for 12 hours, because of particular uncertainties associated with transporting raw tar sands oil. Raw tar sands oil mixed with toxic additives that helped it move through pipelines, called dilbit, or diluted bitumen, tended to form bubbles of a natural gas-like substance that can cause the flow to get stuck. The prescription for dealing with these gas-bubble 'column separations' was to pump more gas down the line. But, if the pipeline had actually burst, pumping more gas into the line made the resulting spill worse.

Which was what happened in Michigan. A flow interruption diagnosed as a column separation had actually been a pipeline rupture. 12 hours elapsed before the spill was stopped.

The Keystone XL would carry 910,000 barrels of dilbit a day across 1,700 miles, under the Missouri River, across the heart of Nebraska wheat fields, and through the Ogallala Aquifer, a 174,000 square mile natural freshwater reservoir that provided drinking water for 2 million people and irrigation for 20% of America's agriculture.

Conservative Nebraska farmers and progressive environmental activists were alarmed at the prospect of more than 300 million barrels of dilbit traversing the nation's spine every year, destined to become refined petroleum product slated for sale to the highest international bidder.

The bill House Republicans pushed through in July requiring the Obama Administration to make a decision on the Keystone XL was largely symbolic, as it had little chance of surviving in the Senate.

"If we're going to rush through the environmental permitting process for a project that has questionable benefits for our nation, we ought to at least acknowledge the risk," said Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT).

"Some environmental extremists are against the project," said Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), apparently barely able to hear himself think over '$15 trillion!' screaming in his brain. "They are against every type of energy that comes from below the ground!"

Senate Democrats sent Clinton a letter calling on the State Department to review the Keystone XL project in light of leaks on TransCanada's existing pipelines and recent spills in the Mountain West.

The Obama Administration said it would decide the Keystone XL's fate by the end of the year.

In Canada's boreal forest, the caribou called the grey ghost nibbled its hundred-year-old lichen, billowing condensation from its nostrils into the chill morning air, another waft of carbon dioxide to be absorbed by towering woods that had done so since time immemorial.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Republicans Duck Town Halls, Opt for Paying Customers Only

Bachmann 'Elvis' Gaffe Still Free of Charge

Republicans had an answer for President Barack Obama who last week urged Americans to challenge members of Congress during lawmakers' August recess.

With new polls showing Congress posting a whopping 13% approval rating, and a major-league record 84% disapproval rating, with fresh memories of last Spring's pitchfork-and-torch angry crowds screaming about GOP plans to gut Medicare, with brand new memories of pitchfork-and-torch crowds haranguing hapless pols like Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Mike Johann (R-NE), Republicans have taken to exercising the better part of valor and ducking out of town hall meetings altogether.

This didn't mean there weren't ample opportunities to harangue and heckle GOP pols as they blustered and blundered their way from gaffe to gaffe. There was usually a Michele Bachmann (R-MN) sighting or two somewhere, and as it was Tuesday, she was blowing it with Elvis fans in Spartanburg, SC.

"Before we get started," she said to a cheering crowd in her characteristic nipped, tucked, botoxed, tanning-bed, faux-thirty-something once-and-future cheerleader way, "let's all say 'happy birthday' to Elvis Presley today! You can't do better than Elvis Presley!"

Elvis himself, of course, wasn't doing too well 34 years ago August 16, as that was the day he died, not the day he was born 42 years before that, on January 8. Several hours later, presidential hopeful Bachmann acknowledged The King's passing, without mentioning her earlier misstep. Those major life events were all so similar, they were more than anyone could possibly be expected to keep straight.

It was not immediately known whether Bachmann and her spinmeisters were going to go with Elvis-and-Michele-were-Christians-and-thanks-to-the blessings-of-Jesus-death-was-actually-a-new-birth-into-the-reward-for-a-Christian-life-so-Michele-was-right-all-along dodge.

Other Republican pols were dodging their constituents altogether, as they completely gave up on holding open-to-the-public town hall meetings. Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) neatly cropped coiffure ran into more than one buzzsaw last Spring over his scheme to dismantle Medicare, hand all its money to insurance company cronies, and pawn off future seniors with worthless discount coupons the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office figured wouldn't cover a third of the cost of the private premiums, deductibles, and co-pays seniors would be forced to shell out for.

No fool he, Ryan had taken to restricting his personal appearances to private affairs hosted by amenable boosters and attended by pre-screened supporters who'd paid to meet His Sublimeness. Ryan and his cohort probably felt this would increase the likelihood Ryan could enjoy basking in the adoring glow of the grovelling sycophants that he so richly deserved.

Ryan's August faux-town hall was to be hosted by the Whitnail Park Rotary Club, which was collecting $15 a head for tickets to attend.

Ryan spokesperson Kevin Seifert said the $15 fee was the Rotary Club's idea. "It's not something our office can control."

Rotary Club webmaster Pastor Larry Meyers said about 50 people had registered and paid the $15 thus far.

"Paul Ryan has had a hard time going before open crowds," said Graeme Zielinski of the Wisconsin Democratic Party. "I'm sure Ryan doesn't want to go before the public to explain why his extreme ideology caused Standard and Poor's to downgrade U.S. long-term treasury bonds."

That, and while all the pitchforks and torches made for aesthetically appealing television, the needed police escort to get away alive made for something of an image problem.

Other GOP pols hoping to meet a better class of sycophant included Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN). The Duluth chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses was civic-mindedly slated to host a Chip Cravaack meet-and-greet next week for anyone on the Federation's mailing list who wanted to pay the very reasonable $10 per person tab.

"Cravaack's in Duluth meeting with business folk," complained labor leader Chad McKenna, "but the average person on the street doesn't have access to him." Mission accomplished, Team Cravaack.

Rep. Ben Quayle (R-AZ), eager not to have to undergo the grilling McCain endured, was scheduled to appear at an Arizona Republican Lawyers Association luncheon gathering Aug. 23 for $35, apparently festival seating. While McCain was supposedly accustomed to rough questioning thanks to his prolonged Vietnam War confinement at the Hanoi Hilton, Quayle had never had to bail out over enemy territory. Until now.

Which left earnest citizens eager to roast blundering GOP politicians with just presidential hopefuls who were more or less forced to appear before the public.

Texas Governor Rick Perry, himself eager to capitalize on the better-than-abysmal employment numbers his state racked up thanks to unconscionably allowing oil companies to pump billions of gallons of toxic water into the ground and hydrofrack every square inch of Texas, took just four days since announcing his intention to be leader of the free world to thrust his foot squarely into his mouth by dissing Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

Perry called Bernanke "treasonous," and said, "we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas."

Perry's comments drew the ire of such left-wing pinko extremists as George W. Bush uber-strategist Karl Rove, who told liberal lamestream media outlet Fox News, "You don't accuse the Chairman of the Federal Reserve of being a traitor to his country and being guilty of treason and suggesting that we treat him 'pretty ugly' in Texas. That's not, again, a presidential statement."

And, it being a Tuesday, Michele Bachmann and Co. was giving everyone a free bonus gaffe. She'd told everyone she'd been late for the Black Hawk Republican Party dinner in Waterloo, IA, because she'd been attending a " big family reunion just north of Waterloo," completely understandable for a candidate who so vehemently championed the family unit, so long as that family unit was a God-fearing traditional Christian family unit with a husband and a wife and lots of freshly-scrubbed kids.

In fact, she had not attended the big family reunion, but Bachmann spokesperson Alice Stewart, a.k.a. the hardest working person in show business since James Brown went to visit Elvis at Graceland in the Sky, spun that Bachmann hadn't really lied because she had indeed visited with some family members on or about the date in question.

Stewart said completely accurately, "There was more than one family reunion that weekend, more than one family reunion that day." Stewart did not immediately specify how many of those reunions involved Bachmann's family.

Monday, August 15, 2011

What the Frack? Despite Desperate Drought, Texas Water Going to Hydrofracking

The folks of Kemp, in north Texas, gathered in a local park last week, joined hands and bowed their heads in prayer. It was another day of searing heat.

"In Jesus' name, we will have water and rain, and that all our problems here in Kemp will be solved," one of the townsfolk said.

The townsfolk had one thing to be grateful for. The night before, the town restored water service to Kemp's taps and faucets. Still under Stage 5 water restrictions, folks could at least turn on their taps and get a flow. 37 consecutive days of triple-digit temperatures had overwhelmed the town's aging water system, and the parched, baking earth had ruptured 14 water mains in the preceding three weeks. The mayor had been forced to shut off the town's water.

"No water," Mayor Donald Kile said. "Zero water."

While Texas roasted in the worst single-year drought on record, the state's lucrative hydrofracking industry continued to pump billions of gallons of water into the ground to shatter underground shale formations and extract natural gas.

The Texas Water Development Board reported 37,000 acre-feet of water, some 12 billion gallons, would be mixed into a toxic cocktail and pumped into the Texas earth for hydrofracking this year. The volume of water needed for hydrofracking was expected to rise to 120,000 acre-feet, or 39 billion gallons, per year within the next twenty years.

Leaving the folks of Kemp with a whole lot of powerful praying to do.

All across the state, the drought was devastating whole ecosystems. Ponds and rivers and streams and creeks had dried up, leaving fish bones scattered on the desiccating mud. Deer nibbled on parched scrub. Desperate wild turkeys pecked at red ants.

"It has a compound effect on a multitude of species and organisms and habitat types because of the way it's chained and linked together," said Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologist Jeff Bonner. "So, there's a domino effect that goes out in however many more branches than you can actually ever keep count of."

Since the beginning of the year, Texas has seen less than half the amount of rain that normally falls on the state, 6 inches instead of 13. Half the state's 3,700 rivers and streams were below normal flow rates. Seven reservoirs were effectively empty.

Yet, Texas continued to divert billions of gallons to the state's hydrofracking biz. Hydrofracking along a single sickle-shaped shale formation slicing across south Texas, the Eagle Ford, consumed 6,000 acre-feet of water in 2010, and was slated to consume even more this year. When production peaked in the Eagle Ford sometime around 2024, hydrofracking was expected to devour 45,000 acre-feet, or 14 billion gallons, of water.

Aside from the titanic environmental problems posed by pumping billions of gallons of toxic water into the ground, which everyone making piles of money off the projects insisted was completely harmless, Texas was facing the more immediate problem of where it might get all that water when its rivers, reservoirs, and aquifers were running dry.

Which showed how silly people had been worrying that hydrofracking might contaminate drinking water. Hydrofracking wasn't about to leave any drinking water left to contaminate.

"I'm a capitalist person," Dr. Marcus Sims, who owned a small spread near Ozona, said to make sure folks understood he was a real Texan and not some pencil-necked California pinko liberal, "and you do what's most economically feasible for your business to make a profit, and I don't have a problem with anybody making a profit. But, if it depletes the underground water tables, then we're all going to have a problem."

"I want them to quit using fresh water for fracking," said Crockett Groundwater Conservation District manager Slate Williams. He warned water levels in the 34,000-square-mile Edwards-Trinity Plateau Aquifer have been declining steadily for decades, and didn't get replenished except during years when Crockett County got at least 80% of its normal 15 inches of annual rain.

"It is declining year after year, so fracking or any little thing makes it speed up that much more," Williams said. Crockett County had only seen two inches of rain since October.  

The amount of water required to frack a well ran anywhere from 50,000 to 13 million gallons. Oil and gas companies have descended upon thousands of wells previously considered tapped out that were producing natural gas again because of hydrofracking. When hydrofracking shatters the shale layers deep underground, natural gas trapped in the shale is released like you'd cracked the cap off a shaken-up soda pop bottle.

In Texas, almost all the hydrofracking was done with massive amounts of fresh water trucked to the site and stored in huge containers until it got mixed into toxic "frac fluid" that's pumped into the ground.

"For some purposes, brackish water is just fine, but for fracking, and given the specific sort of engineering and pressure they're using...fresh water works better," said Ben Sheppard of Permian Basin Petroleum Association, a hydrofracking advocacy group.

While hydrofracking advocates were advocating fresh water for fracking, some ordinary folks were left with recycled sewage for drinking water.

"When you talk about toilet-to-tank, it makes a lot of people nervous and grossed out," said Terri Telchik of the Big Spring city manager's office.

"We're taking treated effluent, normally discharged into a creek, and blending it with (fresh) water," Colorado River Municipal Water District manager John Grant said.

"We're going through a real bad drought," Telchik said for the benefit of anyone who hadn't noticed.

The drought in Texas had reached into every corner of the state except the oil and gas industry. While towns and municipalities urged their residents to curb outdoor irrigation and save whatever water that was left, while some towns were mixing treated sewage effluent with their drinking water, while wildlife clung precariously to existence and some small hamlets flat ran dry, the hydrofracking industry continued to mix billions of gallons of fresh water with toxics to pump into the ground.

The universal Texas solution of prayer seemed only to work for oil and gas moguls, and they only seemed to be repeating the catechism of another Texan from bygone days: "Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz?"

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Republicans, Dem Collaborators Threaten America, World Economy With Grand Bargain

The blind obsession some Democrats have with polishing their bona fides via a budget-slashing economic Grand Bargain with Republicans loomed as the greatest threat this side of Rome to the world's tottering economic prospects, to say nothing of the threat to tens of millions of Americans teetering on the brink of financial ruin.

The senior Senator from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, onetime Democratic Presidential standard-bearer and present Super Committee numerary John Kerry, has emerged as the poster child for obsession-fearing and loathing under the donkey banner.

Kerry is horny for a Grand Bargain, and his eagerness to flop face down onto the two-lane blacktop of bargaining and let Republican big rigs flatten him as they hurtle toward dismantling Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid while extracting ever more and greater tax cuts, tax breaks and tax subsidies for plutocrat cronies and Boston Brahmins alike, had the handful of reasonable minds left in America mulling doomsday scenarios.

The bipartisan, bicameral Super Committee that Republicans won as part of their ransom for allowing the nation to raise its debt ceiling and continue funding operations is slated to produce a plan for reducing the federal deficit by anywhere from $1.2 to shoot-the-moon trillion dollars in time to spoil everyone's enjoyment of football games and Thanksgiving turkey. The full Congress was slated to enact either the Super Committee plan or a set of default cuts in time to spoil everyone's enjoyment of figgy pudding and Christmas goose.

Of course, President Barack Obama was the horniest horn-dog in the horn of horndom lusting for a $4 trillion Grand Bargain, and only the incomprehensible intransigence of right-wing Republicans on closing one or two of the tiniest, tiniest, insignificant, inconsequential and arcane tax loopholes ever conceived saved America and the world from a catastrophic disemboweling of government spending that would have cratered the global economy even more than the 10%-and-counting cratering the global economy suffered. To say nothing of the tens of millions of Americans who would have been forced to make do with smaller and smaller Social Security checks, and tens of millions more Americans who would have been forced to wait years more for Medicare.

But, when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) tapped Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) for the unspeakable abomination that was the Super Committee, it became clear that the GOP, slowly awakening to the realization that they'd slammed the door in the face of the hooded scythe-bearing spectre who'd come to terminate the world's sole surviving superpower and allow the Republicans' plutocrat overlords unfettered dominion over the Earth, was now ready to concede on those one or two tiniest, tiniest insignificant, inconsequential and arcane tax loopholes in the interest of helping America onto that rowboat across the Styx.

Portman, along with Gang of Six negotiator Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), was known to be amenable to possibly adjusting the depreciation schedule of corporate jets in exchange for dismantling Medicare, handing all its money to insurance company moguls, and pawning off future seniors with worthless discount coupons (Buy one heart bypass surgery at full price, and get a second heart bypass surgery of equal or lesser value for 50% off!). McConnell and Co. were aware of Portman and Kyl's predilections when he selected them over such raw meat Tea Party zealots as Jim DeMint (R-SC).

And Kerry, conscious of the graying tousle atop his dome and delirious to etch his moniker on so many burnished plaques, would fall over his brogues to dismantle Medicare, hand all its money to insurance company moguls, and pawn off future seniors with worthless coupons. Not to mention dismantling Social Security to hand all its money to Wall Street tycoons while pawning off future seniors with nothing at all. Not to mention gutting all the services, administrations and watchdogs shepherding the environment, and business, and industry that heretofore had made sure people weren't forced to brush their teeth with radioactive toxic carcinogens and rinse with radioactive toxic carcinogenic water.

All of which could lead to the horn dogs and Republicans gleefully announcing they'd cut $4- or $6-trillion off the federal budget, capped spending forever and ever, and adopted a budget-balancing mandate that mandated the budget be balanced at zero for the foreseeable future. And, as everyone had somehow forgotten that governments were supposed to be spending more to stimulate depressed economies rather than spending less to depress depressed economies, the global equity markets just possibly might remind everyone by cratering the world's bourses even more than they'd already cratered.

Even better for Republicans, the Democrats would have ceded the one redeeming feature that had thus far kept them ahead of the rampaging elephants in the hearts of the general electorate, namely pushing for tax reform instead of dismantling Medicare and Social Security in a country where 60% to 70% of the electorate preferred raising taxes on the rich to dismantling Medicare and Social Security.

And, so long as Democrats were ceding the high ground on the entitlements heretofore known as the Third Rail of Politics, they might as well cede the high ground on the economy, the cratering of which the majority of Americans had so far still been happy to blame on George W. Bush.

All of which - the cratered economy, the gutted entitlements, the dashed hopes for change that promised hope but delivered dash - must certainly lead to Obama's plunging approval rating to plunge even further, and set the stage for a tide of malaise some Bible-thumping Texan Republican populist could ride into the White House in 2012.

All of which must, certainly, be labelled as 'Plan A' over at the Republican National Committee.