Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Ideology That Screwed The World, Part 2

There was no record keeping requirement imposed on participants in the market. There was no reporting. We had no information ~ Brooksley Born, chairperson of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (8/26/1996 to 6/1/1999) referring to the over the counter derivatives market, as quoted from the 10/20/2009 Frontline Documentary, "The Warning".

In my previous article I examined the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999, a piece of deregulatory legislation which contributed to the housing bubble, which lead to the collapse of our financial system. That, however was the only the first of two free market anti-regulation bills that we can blame for the crisis.

To recap: The first bill was The Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 (also known as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act or GLBA) repealed the portion of the Glass-Steagall Act which prohibited any one institution from acting as any combination of an investment bank, a commercial bank, and/or an insurance company. Bill Clinton signed GLBA, even though every Senate Democrat (save one) voted against it.

The second piece of anti-regulatory legislation was the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 (CFMA). It continued an exemption of OTC derivatives from regulation that began with the passage of the Futures Trading Practices Act of 1992 (signed by George H.W. Bush).

Additionally, CFMA settled a 1998-1999 dispute wherein the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (or CFTC; then chaired by Brooksley Born) attempted to regulate the OTC derivatives market - and was thwarted by Alan Greenspan and Robert Rubin (see Frontline's excellent Documentary, "The Warning" for more information regarding the dispute). The act also exempted credit default swaps from regulation.

Initially CFMA passed in the House, but later died in the Senate, which did not vote on the measure. Later, then-Senator Phil Gramm took the bill, cosponsored by Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) and written with the help of financial industry lobbyists, and slipped it into a $384-billion omnibus spending bill, which passed the Senate and was signed into law by President Clinton on 12/21/2000.

The July/August issue of Mother Jones reveals that "few lawmakers had either the opportunity or inclination to read [Gramm's] version of the bill", and that "nobody in either chamber had any knowledge of what was going on or what was in it".

In addition to exempting them from regulation by the CFTC, CFMA overrode any state legislature from treating OTC derivative transactions as gambling or otherwise illegal, even though they are and should be.

Definition, Derivative: A derivative is a financial instrument that is derived from some other asset, index, event, value or condition (known as the underlying asset). Rather than trade or exchange the underlying asset itself, derivative traders enter into an agreement to exchange cash or assets over time based on the underlying asset.

Definition, Over-the-counter: OTC, or off-exchange trading is to trade financial instruments such as stocks, bonds, commodities or derivatives directly between two parties. It is contrasted with exchange trading, which occurs via facilities constructed for the purpose of trading (i.e., exchanges).

University of Maryland Law School Professor Michael Greenberger explains the role OTC derivatives played in the financial crisis...

MG: ...discipline in the market has disappeared because what banks do with their loans now is they make the loan, and then they sell the loan to third parties. Third parties essentially buy stock in the loan. The loans are bundled into a basket, offered to the world, they buy stock in it. Owning that stock is not a derivative because you're an actual owner of the loan.

What happened in our situation, especially when the mortgage lenders wanted to take risks with subprime loans - that is, people who did not have the likelihood to pay them off - is that people were so excited about the possibility of making money off this, that they ran out of the actual mortgages and securities in the mortgages. So what the banks decided to do was to create bets on whether or not the mortgages would be paid off. They were synthetic securities. That is to say, you didn't own anything, but you were betting that the borrower would pay the mortgage off".

(Mr. Greenberg teaches a course at UMD entitled "Futures, Options and Derivatives". This quote is excerpted from a 9 minute You-Tube video which can be viewed here).

If you purchase a Mortgage Backed Security you have a actual asset backing up your investment. The value of the asset may go down and you may end up losing a lot of money, but you won't lose all your money. If, on the other hand, you purchase a "synthetic" security and the mortgage isn't paid off, the security you purchased is worth absolutely nothing (a "toxic asset" valued at zero).

Wall Street was betting big that the subprime mortgage holders would pay off their loans, which they knew was a risky proposition. In order to hedge their bets Goldman Sachs (and the other financial houses that wanted to buy these things) purchased credit default swaps from AIG (and other large insurers).

A credit default swap (CDS) can be thought of as a kind of insurance because it is a "contract in which the buyer of the CDS makes a series of payments to the seller and, in exchange, receives a payoff if the credit instrument (typically a bond or loan) goes into default (fails to pay)". Although, unlike with ordinary insurance, the "buyer of a CDS does not need to own the underlying security or other form of credit exposure".

According to Wikipedia "the modern Credit Default Swaps were invented in 1997 by a team working for JPMorgan Chase", and they "became largely exempt from regulation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) with the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000".

AIG agreed to issue the swaps, viewing the proposition as a license to print money. The securities Goldman wanted to "insure" were rated AAA, which means they were as safe as US government bonds (Wikipedia says "In practice, government bonds are treated as risk-free bonds, as governments can raise taxes or print money to repay their domestic currency debt").

Only after the crash did the SEC say something about the conflict of interest which arises when the issuer of the security pays to have it rated (The "issuer pays" model). An 8/27/2009 article from explains, "rating agencies have a financial interest in generating business from the firms that seek the rating. A low rating might affect future business". I guess that never occurred to AIG. Whether or not it occurred to Goldman Sachs they had succeeded in eliminating most of their risk.

And, because the Mortgage Backed Securities and the derivatives based on those securities paid a return of five to nine percent while Governmental bonds were currently at a worldwide historical low of one percent or less, the banksters decided to purchase as many as they could as fast as possible. Whether the securities were real or synthetic, it didn't matter because all they had to is pay an "insurance premium" and some other dupe assumed all the risk.

Michael Greenberger: It's one thing for us to have an economic problem because people can't pay their mortgages, and money is lost to the lenders or the whole economy for real problems here, but, I believe three times as much money is being lost not because people really lost their mortgages. Because three times the value of the loss of the mortgage is a bet that's been placed by wealthy institutions or wealthy individuals.

In other words, three times as many synthetic securities were created as real asset backed securities. Goldman Sachs didn't see the problem though, it wasn't as if they were operating without a safety net - all their securities were insured! However, when it came time for AIG to pay up - they didn't have the money. AIG's equity at the time of the collapse was 200 billion, but they owed 400 billion! (The quote from the preceding paragraph and this figure are both excerpted from the same YouTube video I linked to earlier.)

Goldman Sachs was not, however, that worried about not getting paid. Because they were "to big to fail", and because their ex CEO (and current Fed chairman) was in position to ensure they were "bailed out". Ben Bernanke let Goldman Sachs competitor Lehman Brothers go under, while he deigned to save AIG who just happened to owe Goldman 14 billion dollars.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner claims that the bailouts weren't designed to to help Goldman Sachs, but I'm not buying it. It was because of Tim Geithner that Goldman Sachs received the full amount they were owed, instead of the 40 cents on the dollar that had been previously negotiated.

I think what this shows is that it wasn't the collapse of the housing market that that crashed the financial sector so much as all the unregulated gambling the banksters were engaging in, made possible by two major pieces of "free market" deregulation legislation. Near the height of the market the value of all the subprime mortgages in the US was estimated to be 1.3 trillion (and obviously not everyone with a subprime mortgage defaulted), so why has our government committed us to forking over 12.2 trillion of our (or our grandchildren's) dollars to the banksters?

The Community Reinvestment Act, which is a federal law designed to encourage commercial banks and savings associations to meet the needs of borrowers in all segments of their communities (by discouraging a discriminatory practice known as "redlining"), played no part in the financial crisis. Conservatives like to point to this act and assign it (and it's Democratic sponsors) some, or even all the blame for the housing bubble, but that is a myth - and exemplifies the blame-the-victim class warfare that the Cons love to engage in.

The crisis was caused by the anti-regulation ideology championed by greedy free market a-holes like Alan Greenspan, Robert Rubin, Lawrence Summers, Congressional Republicans and large financial institutions like Goldman Sachs. Although Bill Clinton signed these acts, they are both Conservative in nature, and completely antithetical to what progressives stand for. Progressives don't subscribe to Ayn Rand's laissez-faire free market tall tale, we believe in rules and regulations that protect "we the people" from the greedy a-holes who only operate in their own self-interest.

Further Reading
[1] Thom talks to Michael Kirk about "The Warning". Will the markets crash again? (Transcript), The Thom Hartman Radio Program 10/19/2009.
[2] Inside The Great American Bubble Machine: How Goldman Sachs has engineered every major market manipulation since the Great Depression by Matt Taibbi. Rolling Stone, 7/2/2009.
[3] The Giant Pool of Money (Transcript), Hosted by Ira Glass. This American Life, 5/9/2008 (download mp3).
[4] Testimony of Brooksley Born, Chairperson Commodity Futures Trading Commission Concerning The Over-The-Counter Derivatives Market Before the US House of Representatives Committee on Banking and Financial Services. 7/24/1998.

9/8/2010 Update: Initially I reported that George W. Bush signed the CFMA into law. I was wrong. President Clinton signed the bill that included the CFMA (the $384-billion omnibus spending bill previously mentioned) on 12/21/2000. I apologize for the error, however, the fact that Clinton, a New Democrat, signed both bills does not change my conclusion - which is that the 2008 financial crisis was caused by the Conservative ideology of deregulation (or "neoliberal fiscal values"... whatever the hell you call them deregulatory economic policies spell economic disaster).

SWTD #37

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Ideology That Screwed The World, Part 1

I am opposed to all forms of control. I am for an absolute laissez-faire, free, unregulated economy. Let me put it briefly - I am for the separation of state and economics ~ Ayn Rand (2/2/1905 to 3/6/1982) a Russian-American novelist, philosopher, playwright, and screenwriter. She is known for her two best-selling novels and for developing a philosophical system she called Objectivism.

Ayn Rand became a stabilizing force in my life. It hadn't taken long for us to have a meeting of the minds - mostly my mind meeting hers ~ Alan Greenspan (DOB 3/6/1926) an American economist who served as Chairman of the Federal Reserve of the United States from 1987 to 2006, quoted from his autobiography, "The Age of Turbulence"

Everyone knows that the recent financial meltdown, which began in 2008, came about as the result of another housing bubble. But what caused this bubble? And whom can we blame? Did McCain lose the election simply due to the fact that the Republicans were in charge at the time? That, plus the fact that he looked incredibly foolish when he suspended his campaign to rush back to Washington to fix the mess, stopping first to be interviewed by Wolf Blitzer in his "Situation Room", and snubbing David Letterman in the process?

Fortunately the American public correctly assigned blame for the financial crisis to John McCain, the Republican Party and deregulation. In the days immediately following McCain suspending his campaign, visiting Wolf's situation room, and apologizing to David Letterman because he "screwed up", McCain was asked (in a "CBS Today" interview) if he regretted championing deregulation in 1999. McCain replied, "I think the deregulation was probably helpful to the growth of our economy" (a definite "no").

And this occurred only shortly after McCain was forced to fire his financial advisor, Phil Gramm, who called the recession "mental", and declared that "America is a nation of whiners". Unsurprisingly, McCain lost the election.

The deregulation McCain championed in 1999, along with his financial advisor Phil Gramm, was the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 (also known as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act). It repealed part of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which "prohibited any one institution from acting as any combination of an investment bank, a commercial bank, and/or an insurance company". In other words, retail banks and investment banks were required to remain separate entities, so as to discourage speculation (which can also be described as gambling).

Freed from these prohibitions, investment banks purchased retail banks, bundled their customer's mortgages and resold them as "mortgage backed securities". But because the banksters made their money upfront they didn't really care if the mortgage holders defaulted. Certainly there was a strong incentive from them not to care, as their profit margin would be negatively impacted if they did. Naturally this led to a bubble (and bubbles eventually burst). But for the time being there was loads of cash to be made.

Gramm, Leach, and Bliley were Republicans. Conservative economic philosophy calls for deregulation. Ayn Rand believed in it, and so did her acolyte Alan Greenspan, who began his tenure with the Federal Reserve in 1987 when he was appointed its chairman by President Ronald Reagan. Reagan, the President who declared, "Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem" (sounds anti-regulation to me).

It is the Democratic Party that is supposed to champion protection of the consumer through strict regulation, yet they got snookered by the Ayn Rand laissez-faire fairy tale! Greenspan kept his Fed chair position for the next 18 years, whether the President was a Republican or a Democrat. According to the Frontline special, The Warning, "by the time Bill Clinton took the White House, the anti-government rhetoric had become so fashionable that even some Democrats embraced it".

In addition to not firing Greenspan as he should have, Clinton brought on board ex-Goldman Sachs employee Robert Rubin to head up the Treasury department. Greenspan and Rubin, along with advisors Lawrence Summers and Timothy Geithner formed a "pro-business anti-regulation support group". The 2/15/1999 edition of Time Magazine dubbed Greenspan, Rubin and Summers, "The Committee to Save the World". I think a more apt honorific would have been "The three horsemen of the coming financial apocalypse".

And so, President Clinton, following the Randian advice of his free market advisors, signed a bill sponsored by three Republicans and championed by a future Republican Presidential contender. That was after Gramm-Leach-Bliley passed the Senate with 53 Republican "yeas", one Democratic "yea", and 44 Democratic "nays" (there was also one "present" and one "absent", but those were Repubicans).

Update 9/26/2014: The vote I reference above was NOT the final vote. After conferencing with the House the bill came up for a vote again and this time it passed with 38 Democratic "yea" votes and only 7 Democratic "nay votes... unfortunately. Also, I've known about this post being wrong for quite some time and did nothing about it.

That is something that I ALWAYS try to avoid (wrong information being presented here). But this was back during my early days of blogging. I think that currently I am doing a much better job in making sure no erroneous information slips through. I apologize for taking so long to correct this post.

Correctly voting "nay" on this terrible piece of legislation in the Senate were Democrats Barbara Boxer (CA 1993-present), Richard Bryan (NV 1989-2001), Byron Dorgan (ND 1992-2011), Russell Feingold (WI 1993-2011), Tom Harkin (IA 1985-present), Barbara Mikulski (MD 1987-present), Paul Wellstone (MN), and Republican Richard Shelby (AL 1987-present).

Final Vote Tallies on S. 900, 106th Congress: Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (On the Conference Report) 11/4/1999. (Yea/Nay/Not Voting or Present)...

Senate Vote #354: Republicans (52/1/2), Democrats (38/7/0).
House Vote #570: Republicans (207/5/11), Democrats (154/51/4).

SWTD #36

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Supporters of Socialism Agree That Democrats are Horrible Compromisers

Ours is a government of checks and balances. The Mafia and crooked businessmen make out checks, and the politicians and other compromised officials improve their bank balances ~ Steve Allen (12/26/1921 to 10/30/2000) was an American television personality, musician, actor, comedian, and writer.

I turned the TV on a little early today and caught part of the end of Hardball, even though I usually I don't flip on the boob tube until 7pm when Keith Olbermann starts. Chris Matthews was discussing the Congressional Democrat's betrayal of their constituents, a large majority of whom support a government run insurance option. A Democratic Congresswoman (I forget who) defended the ditching of the public option by mentioning, several times, how this was the best they could do, because the Democrats are a large tent party, with progressive, moderate, and conservative corporate Democrats - and that meant that compromise was necessary.

Allowing people 55 years of age to buy into Medicare is a good idea, but I disagree that adding this provision and dropping the public option is an acceptable trade. Not that the public option was anything to get excited about, after they continually watered it down to the point where it would cover less than 2% of the population. Even with all the caveats that were attached, the insurance companies were still threatened. Corporate Democrats and Independent turncoat Democrats (Joe Lieberman), eager for more bribe money, sold out their constituents and helped kill the public option.

Republicans, on the other hand, stood by their constituents (the insurance cartels) and delivered to them the prospect of even more profits by mandating the public purchase their overpriced product and support multi-million dollar salaries for their CEOs. The anti-trust protection, first out, is now back in. Denial of coverage for preexisting conditions will apparently be disallowed, although the cartels will be allowed to charge these people more.

Unfortunately I'm one of those people. Eventually I assume I'll become one of the 45,000 people who die each year due to lack of insurance. That's a hell of a lot of people, so I am hardly in a unique position. As such, this post is not a plea for sympathy or well wishes. I doubt I have to worry about that in any case, as lately my blog, which I thought had a couple of readers, has gone several posts with scant attention paid. In any case, I probably have at least a couple of years before things really start to go downhill. At least the socialists who live with me hope that is the case.

On a positive note, if people 55 to 64 can buy into Medicare there are other members of my family that will benefit from that provision. And, even if there were a public option I'm sure that Tennessee (the state where I live), would opt out. So I guess there is no reason to be depressed about these developments after all!

SWTD #35

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Who's Harboring bin Laden Now?

I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are and couldn't get them if they really wanted to ~ Hillary Rodham Clinton, 67th US Secretary of State (1/21/2009 to Present), referring to the Pakistan government and the conventional wisdom that bin Laden and al Qaeda are hiding out somewhere in Pakistan's Hindu Kush mountains (10/29/2009).

Personally I think that Osama bin Laden is probably dead (as Benazir Bhutto believed), although for the purposes of this post I'll go along with the belief that he's alive and hiding out in "northwestern Pakistan's impenetrable Hindu Kush mountains... in the Chitral region".

Obviously Hillary Clinton believes it to be the case - that OBL is hiding out in these mountains, or somewhere else in Pakistan - and that the Pakistani government (or elements within the government) know where bin Laden is and aren't doing everything they could be doing to see that he is brought to justice.

Apparently this is the same area he has been hiding out in since December of 2001, after he "escaped" following the battle of Tora Bora. Since then we've sent Pakistan 8.6 Billion (as of 2008) in bribes to fight al Qaeda and hunt down bin Laden. Yet, according to retired Pakistani general Mahmud Durrani, "The army itself got very little. ...The military was financing the war on terror out of its own budget".

Most of the money went toward propping up Pakistan's sagging economy, and toward "support capability against India". It isn't like this information is new either; the US has suspected it for quite some time, but done nothing. I pointed out in my previous post that Afghanistan was invaded because they were "harboring" bin Laden. So if what Secretary Clinton says is true, coupled with the fact that most of the billions we've sent them isn't being used to fight al Qaeda or capture bin Laden, do Pakistan's actions not amount to harboring?

Does anyone else find it odd that the "Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists" resolution of 2001 gave bush the authority to invade Afghanistan because they were "harboring" bin Laden, but Pakistan, who (it could be argued) has been harboring bin Laden for years, gets billions of dollars to use as they please?

Could it be the reason we're bribing them is because they've got nukes? That is partly the reason, I believe. Also, the bribes allow us to fly drones over their territory, fire missiles, and accidentally kill scores of innocent people without having to answer for the collateral damage negligent homicides? Attacks which Pakistan then officially denies they've approved.

The US Department of Defense defines "collateral damage" as, "unintentional or incidental injury or damage to persons or objects that would not be lawful military targets in the circumstances ruling at the time". And that, "such damage is not unlawful so long as it is not excessive in light of the overall military advantage anticipated from the attack".

I don't agree that killing 687 innocent Pakistani civilians in addition to the 14 wanted al Qaeda leaders you were actually targeting is not excessive (1/14/2006 to 4/8/2009). This is an indictment against the bush administration AND the Obama administration, under whom drone attacks have intensified.

This isn't the point I was trying to make with this post, however. I wanted to highlight the hypocrisy of toppling one government (the Taliban of Afghanistan) when they clearly tried to give us what we wanted, and giving billions in bribes to another while looking the other way when they use that money for purposes other than what we gave it to them for. And this isn't also an indictment of the Obama administration, because that is apparently starting to change. Now military aid will be "contingent on Pakistan's efforts to cut government ties to insurgents". "Government ties to insurgents" sounds like "harboring" to me. I don't know why this wasn't a condition of continued aid before!

Maybe this is why bush traded our nuclear technology for India's mangos? He knew that would force Pakistan to use our billions defending themselves against India and not on fighting al Qaeda and finding bin Laden. The nuke technology we gave India was supposedly for civilian use only, but they are not signatories to the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty.

Given Pakistan's "obsession with India [which] has made [their] military resistant, practically up to the present, to reorienting its defense posture to include counterinsurgency capabilities needed to deal with growing internal threats", it's not surprising they are now on the verge of becoming a failed state. If this wasn't intentional, then what the hell was bush thinking? Even if the nuke technology we handed off to India doesn't end up in the hands of their military, I'm sure there are those in the Pakistani government who believe otherwise.

More importantly, why are we again funding (or providing technology to) both sides in a long running conflict? This reminds me of how the Reagan and George HW Bush administrations armed both sides in the Iran-Iraq war. (Yet another example of war crimes committed by Republican Presidents!)

I do not know how much merit there is to what Hillary Clinton said. It is obvious, however, that Pakistan needs to direct more of their attention towards internal threats rather than blowing all our money defending themselves against India; a miscalculation which could end with Pakistan becoming the world's first nuclear armed failed state.

9/26/2014 Update: As we all now know, OBL was not dead and not hiding out in "northwestern Pakistan's impenetrable Hindu Kush mountains. He was ALIVE and living in a compound in Abbotabad... Pakistan. According to Wikipedia, "Bin Laden was reported to have evaded capture by living in a section of the house for at least five years".

A 3/19/2014 NYT article by Carlotta Gall says "members of the ISI, Pakistan's main intelligence service" were responsible for hiding bin Laden.

Shakil Afridi, "a Pakistani physician who helped the CIA run a fake vaccine program in Abbottabad... to confirm Osama bin Laden's presence in the city by obtaining DNA samples" said (in a Fox News interview) that "Pakistan's fight against militancy is bogus. It's just to extract money from America".

The Abbottabad Commission report (a judicial inquiry paper authored and submitted by the Abbottabad Commission, led by Justice Javaid Iqbal, to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on 1/4/2013) blamed "incompetence at every level in the Pakistan's intelligence and security services [but] did not rule out the involvement of rogue elements within the Pakistani intelligence service.

SWTD #34

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Why bush Really Invaded Afghanistan

I want justice... there's an old poster out West, I recall, that said, "Wanted, Dead or Alive" ~ George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States (1/20/2001 to 1/20/2009) referring to the 9/11 attacks "prime suspect" Osama bin Laden on 9/17/2001.

The US military bombed and invaded Afghanistan because that is where Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda were located - "guests" of the Taliban Regime which refused to hand him over to the US for prosecution. There isn't much more to the narrative, as far as most people are concerned. Most people will acknowledge that there is some controversy surrounding the decision to invade Iraq, with some calling it a "war of choice" (you can place me firmly in that camp).

However, contrary to the conventional wisdom that Afghanistan was the "good war" (wisdom that our current president agrees with), I believe the evidence strongly suggests that Afghanistan was another "war of choice". If you recall, before the US invaded Afghanistan bush contacted the Taliban and demanded that they turn over bin Laden, implying that the bombing and invasion wouldn't happen if they complied.

The fact is that Taliban did offer to give up bin Laden. Negotiations between the US and the Taliban had been ongoing for 3 years prior to the 9/11/2001 attacks. Unfortunately President Clinton was unable to close the deal. He did, however, put together an "aggressive plan to take the fight to Al-Qaeda".

But bush rejected the Clinton administration's claim that bin Laden and Al-Qaeda were a serious threat. bush said, "I didn't feel a sense of urgency" (as reported by Bob Woodward in his book "Bush at War", 2002). So he tossed the Clinton administration plan and handed off responsibility for formulating a new strategy to VP Cheney. Cheney's counter terrorism task force never met.

Fast forward to the aftermath of the (preventable) attacks of 9/11. With virtually the entire world backing him, bush submitted an ultimatum to the "rulers" of Afghanistan, the country which was "harboring" bin Laden (the words in quotes are in quotes because Afghanistan was not then and is not now actually a country, but rather a collection of independent tribes and villages).

bush demanded, "We know he's guilty, turn him over". The Taliban, not wanting to be bombed or invaded, offered to take bin Laden into custody and send him to a neutral third country for trial. bush "summarily rejected" the offer.

Under the "Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists" (a joint resolution passed by the United States Congress on 9/18/2001), bush was granted "the authority to use all necessary and appropriate force against those whom he determined planned, authorized, committed or aided the September 11th attacks, or who harbored said persons or groups".

After the Taliban offered to turn over bin Laden they were no longer "harboring" him, and thus the invasion was not necessary or appropriate. It was at this point that, instead of issuing an ultimatum, negotiations should have begun (or been renewed). A deadline could have been attached, but, IMO simply rejecting the offer outright was a violation of the resolution.

It is human nature to be offended when presented with an ultimatum when you're expecting an offer of negotiation. Saving face is important in Muslim culture, and that they responded negatively to bush's demands shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone in the administration. Any idiot could have deduced that they'd be insulted when they were informed that they would not be allowed to save face, but instead were expected to submit to a humiliating and embarrassing capitulation.

This is why, in my opinion, bush refused to listen to the Taliban's offer. He deliberately insulted them to short circuit negotiations, which would allow him to proceed with an invasion. What we heard from the bush administration was "this is not a negotiation", and that the Taliban needed to "act to meet all of the president's demands now". Why give in to your adversary's demands when they've made it clear they're going to attack anyway?, which is what the bush administration signaled they were going to do by rejecting all offers of negotiation.

The logical conclusion is that bush had decided in advance that he was going to invade Afghanistan, and asking for the Taliban to give up bin Laden was a deceptive manipulation designed to make it appear as though his administration hadn't already decided to go to war.

Even though war with Afghanistan was not what bush actually desired. As noted by bush's official biographer, Mickey Herskowitz, bush was "thinking about invading Iraq in 1999", and that, if he had the chance to invade he would not "waste it". But because it was common knowledge that bin Laden was in Afghanistan and not Iraq, the American public wouldn't accept a war with Iraq... initially.

Case in point, Chief counter-terrorism adviser Richard Clarke, thought Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was joking when "as early as the day after the attacks, Rumsfeld was pushing for retaliatory strikes on Iraq, even though Al-Qaeda was based in Afghanistan".

It was unavoidable; the path to war with Iraq went though Afghanistan. So bush bullied and insulted the Taliban into NOT giving up bin Laden, even though they were desperate to do so (to avoid being bombed). However, a war with Iraq would not be saleable if bin Laden was to actually be captured. So, when US forces came close to catching him at Tora Bora, Rumsfeld sidelined "the vast array of American military power, from sniper teams to the most mobile divisions of the Marine Corps and the Army", and sent "fewer than 100 U.S. commandos, working with Afghan militias" to track down bin Laden. As a result bin Laden and compatriots "walked unmolested out of Tora Bora and disappeared into Pakistan's unregulated tribal area".

This information is from a 11/30/2009 Senate Foreign Relations Committee report, "Tora Bora Revisited: How We Failed to Get Bin Laden and Why It Matters Today". An article from the UK's Guardian, "Rumsfeld Let bin Laden Escape in 2001, says Senate Report" suggests that Rumsfled's "incompetence" is to blame. Even though the article title contains the word "let", implying that it was on purpose. Obviously this is because it's an article about how bin Laden "escaped", not an article accusing Rumsfeld of treason.

The Senate report does, however, conclude "unequivocally that in mid-December 2001, Mr. bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, were at the cave complex, where Mr. bin Laden had operated previously during the fight against Soviet forces". It also "suggests that a larger troop commitment to Afghanistan might have resulted in the demise not only of Mr. bin Laden and his deputy but also of Mullah Muhammad Omar, the leader of the Afghan Taliban. Mullah Omar, who also fled to Pakistan in 2001, has overseen the resurgence of the Taliban", but that "fewer than 100 American troops committed to the area were not enough to block his escape".

So we're to believe that Rumsfled's "incompetence" is to blame, even though this was his second term as Defense Secretary (he served under President Gerald Ford from 1975 to 1977)? Rumsfeld has plenty of experience, yet we were supposed to be worried about electing Barack Obama because of his lack of experience? This theory is completely unbelievable.

This explains why Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-New York), recently told MSNBC host David Shuster that the Bush administration "intentionally let bin Laden get away" in order to justify the Iraq war. When Schuster suggested, "That will strike a lot of people as crazy", Hinchey replied, "I don't think it'll strike a lot of people as crazy. I think it'll strike a lot of people as very accurate".

On 3/13/2002 (87 days after bin Laden "escaped") bush said, "So I don't know where he is. You know, I just don't spend that much time on him. And, again, I don't know where he is. I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him". Why wasn't bush concerned? bush wasn't concerned about bin Laden because he had escaped into Pakistan and was beyond our reach, and thus the possibility no longer existed that he might be captured, dead or alive, and foil bush's plans for invading Iraq.

Afghanistan Timeline
->10/07/2001: Afghanistan Invaded.
->12/16/2001: bin Laden escapes during the Battle of Tora Bora.
->03/13/2002: bush says, "I truly am not that concerned about him (bin Laden)".
->03/20/2003: Iraq Invaded.

Further Reading
[1] Poll: Do you believe that the Bush/Cheney Administration made a conscious decision to let bin Laden get away at Tora Bora? by R. Donald Snyder, Newsvine 11/30/2009.
[2] Rumsfeld Order Allowed bin Laden's Escape by Gabriel Winant, Salon 11/30/2009.

SWTD #33

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Petition To Deny Funding For The Afghanistan Escalation

Sending more troops will not make the US safer - it will only build more opposition against us. I urge you on behalf of truth and patriotism to consider carefully and rethink Afghanistan ~ Corporal Rick Reyes (retired) testifying before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations (4/23/2009)

The following arrived in my email inbox this morning from Matt Holland, the Online Director of True

Last night President Obama announced that he's escalating the war in Afghanistan, bringing the number of U.S. troops in that country to 100,000 or more.

It's the wrong decision, but it's not too late to change things.

To complete the escalation, Congress needs to sign off on the plans and the funding for extra troops and equipment - a staggering $1 trillion or more.

Last night, Congress heard from the president. Today, they need to hear from you. So we're working with friends at Brave New Films and Credo, and you can help: Sign the petition opposing the escalation in Afghanistan. It says:

"President Obama has decided to send more than 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan, at a cost of more than $100 billion/year. But America cannot afford more war that does not make us safer, and Congress has the power to stop the escalation. Please vote NO on any spending bill that would send more troops to Afghanistan".

Sign the petition at Glenn Greenwald's site "Rethink Afghanistan".

Some pundits are saying there's no need to worry because Obama also promised to begin bringing troops home in 2011. But even if that is true, it would only be the beginning of the end of the war, with no guarantee when everyone will come home or when the war will end.

All this while President Obama's own national security advisor has reported that there are fewer than 100 Al Qaeda operatives in all of Afghanistan, and that they have no ability to launch attacks on either the United States or our allies.

Now Congress must decide if spending $100 billion a year to have 100,000 troops chasing 100 terrorists in the most remote mountains of our planet is worth it.

You know the answer already. Congress can slow down this conflict and eventually end it responsibly. We'll stick with this fight until they do the right thing.

Tell Congress we can't afford any more war. It's time to stop sending troops to Afghanistan and develop a plan to bring everyone home.

My Commentary: Is it not too late to change things? I think it probably is. In any case, I signed the petition because I believe that escalation is a mistake. If you agree I urge you to sign the petition as well. And to check out Glenn Greenwald's documentary "Rethink Afghanistan".

About "Rethink Afghanistan": Rethink Afghanistan is a 2009 documentary created by Robert Greenwald and Brave New Foundation about the ongoing war in Afghanistan. This full-length documentary campaign features experts from Afghanistan, the U.S., and Russia discussing critical issues like military escalation, how escalation will affect Pakistan and the surrounding region, the cost of war, civilian casualties, and the rights of Afghan women. The ultimate goal of this documentary campaign is to raise the level of public discourse, compel people to ask key questions about the war, and urge Congress to hold oversight hearings.

See also: Rethink Afghanistan, The Blog by Derrik Crowe.

SWTD #32

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Racists Who Disagree With Us

[President Obama] has exposed himself as a person with a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture. I'm not saying he doesn't like white people, he has a problem. This guy is, I believe, a racist ~ Glenn Beck, American's Fear-Mongerer-in-Chief on the 7/28/2009 episode of Fox & Friends.

I've heard a lot of talk recently about how President Obama is a racist. Actually Glenn and Rush told me. They told their narrow-minded followers as well. If you take a look around the blogosphere you'll find the wing nuts are busy spreading the message that President Obama is a racist. So are Eric Holder, Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jeremiah Wright, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. They are all black men who hate Whitey.

Of course not all African-American politicians and social activists are racist - just the Democrats (actually, if you're black and a social activist you're guaranteed to be a Democrat and a racist). However, if you are white and a Democratic politician you're 100% certain to be racist. White Democrats want to keep black people on the government dole so they will vote Democratic, not realizing that they'd be better off if they voted Republican and were forced to make something of themselves.

So, I'm wondering why Barack Obama, a black (or half black) racist, would be working with Whitey to keep other blacks down? It doesn't quite make sense, does it? I thought he hated white people? Remember, that's that Glenn said.

I guess it's just a ruse to allow President Obama to enact legislation (like the health care bill) which will really just be a cover for reparations. And the racist white Democrats are going along with it because they'll gain power.

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) is right, the Republicans ARE the only party which believes in equality for all. As Rep. Foxx pointed out recently "we were the people who passed the civil rights bills back in the 60s without very much help from our colleagues across the aisle".

Oh, no, wait a minute. I think that it was Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-CA) who got it right when he said (in response to Foxx's ludicrous claim), "It was the Kennedy and Johnson administration where we passed that Great Society legislation. It was over the objections of people like Jesse Helms from the gentlewoman's state that we passed that civil rights legislation".

Actually what's going on here is known as "projection", which is "the unconscious act of denial of a person's own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, which are then ascribed to the outside world, ...the government, or to other people". When President Jimmy Carter said, "I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he's African American... I think it's bubbled up to the surface because of the belief among many white people, not just in the south but around the country, that African Americans are not qualified to lead this great country", the reason the Right hollered in indignation so loudly was because Mr. Carter's statement was entirety accurate.

The proof that Mr. Carter's words were accurate, and that projection is at play, is the speed at which the Right turned the accusations around on those calling out the racism demonstrated at the tea parties. First they falsely claimed that the Left was calling them racist over policy disagreements. From that they moved to bogus and laughable allegations that President Obama and (the black male) members of his administration are racist. The proof that President Obama is a racist is that he attended the church of, and listened to the sermons of Jeremiah Wright for twenty years.

They call African-Americans bigots when they speak out too loudly against white racism. And they call you anti-American when you speak out against American interventionism (whatever your race). In any case, the purpose of this rant is not to defend Jeremiah Wright, because I haven't agreed with everything he's said or done. Nor does Barack Obama, regardless of how often he attended his church and listened to him speak.

The purpose of this post is to illustration Republican hypocrisy and how they utilize projection in attacking the Left. In the health care debate, the Right is fighting to preserve the actual death panels the insurance cartels use to jack up their profits. They accuse the Left of "voter fraud" while they engage in election fraud. They decry socialist "wealth redistribution" while what they're actually in favor of is shifting the tax burden to the middle class and doling out government largess to corporations. And they use the military to accomplish this via Halliburton and other GOP administration connected corporations. While branding the Democrats as anti-American, anti-troop and soft on terror.

Just to be clear, I am not accusing all Conservatives of being racist. I agree with President Jimmy Carter who described the bigots as a "radical fringe element". But when those on the Right buy into the lie that the Left is calling any disagreement racist, fail to denounce the tea party bigots, and then turn around and call the President racist - in agreement with that nutcase Glenn Beck - they are enabling the racists in their party and, in my opinion, no better than the actual racists. At least those people are honest about their prejudices, unlike the liars who are using them to falsely attack the President.

Shame on Glenn Beck for his blatant lies and vile race baiting. Unfortunately this man, who the Anti-Defamation League recently dubbed the "fear-monger-in-chief", knows no shame - millions of dollars can have that effect on a person. But what is the excuse of the gullible Righties who are singing his praises and cheering him on? I respect your right to disagree, but open your eyes and stop enabling the bigots in your party and those who are using them for political advantage.

Glenn Beck's charges that President Obama has a "deep-seated hatred for white people", and is a "racist", even though, in the same breath he also claims that he's "not saying [President Obama] doesn't like white people" is just as insane as Rep. Foxx's claim that it was the Republicans who passed civil rights legislation. The people who believe these transparent lies are clearly incapable of rational thought.

These are the same dupes who believe that ACORN stole the election, Barack Obama is a Muslim Kenyan Socialist Manchurian Candidate, and refer to people expressing legitimate concerns regarding bush administration war crimes as suffering from "Bush Derangement Syndrome".

There is obviously something psychologically wrong with these people, given their willingness to believe the other side is guilty of the misdeeds they and their politicos and pundits are committing (projection) being just one symptom. The actual racists may a tiny minority, but they're loud and persistent. And it does not help when many within the party are in complete denial regarding the racists. They pretend those of us on the Left are labeling them racist because they disagree with us politically. Nope. We're only calling out the ACTUAL racism, as they should be. That most are not is quite shameful, IMO.

See also: GOP Repeatedly Duped by Scurrilous Anti-Obama Rumors by Aaron Keyak, National Jewish Democratic Council 3/20/2009.

Image Descriptions: [1] Racist Protester, [2] Liar enabling racism.

Racist Protestor & Enabler

SWTD #31

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Best Friends George and Osama

I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. Corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money-power of the country will endeavor to prolong it's reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed ~ Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States (3/4/1861 to 4/15/1865)

Osama bin Laden financed, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed planned and organized, and Al-Qaeda operatives (15 of whom were Saudi nationals) carried out the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Most people would agree that this is a comprehensive list of the principal players. There is one person omitted from the list however. The key co-conspirator whose assistance was essential, because without his help the attacks on 9/11 may have been averted. The costly and pointless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would never have been fought. And al Qaeda would have remained an obscure Islamic movement and most likely faded from existence.

No, George and Osama were not literally BFFs. OBL clearly considered George a useful idiot, a simpleton he manipulated into doing his bidding. However, instead of being angry at having been used - because he was completely oblivious to the fact that he was doing exactly what Osama wanted him to - I'm sure George was grateful to Osama for the help he provided in saving his presidency, and getting him elected to a second term by allowing him to become a "wartime president" - thus gaining a lot of "political capital".

Osama's stated goal was to "[bleed] America to the point of bankruptcy" through the use of a "war of attrition". He also remarked that it was "easy for us to provoke and bait [the bush] administration". bush, on the other hand, had his own reasons for accepting Osama's bait. Osama correctly deduced that bush "gave priority to private interests over the public interests ... [as] anyone who looks at the size of the contracts acquired by the shady Bush administration-linked mega-corporations, like Halliburton and its kind [can see]".

These statements are from a video released by al Qaeda in late 2004 which should have been titled "Thank you George W. bush".

Osama witnessed first hand how fighting a war of attrition resulted in victory during the Afghan-Soviet War. The Mujahideen (which received funding and assistance from both the US and OBL, ironically) fought the Soviets for 10 long years (1979-1989), ending with a Soviet retreat. This defeat in Afghanistan, and the billions of dollars expended in achieving it, lead directly to the collapse of the USSR in 1991.

Maybe Osama learned that the Project for the New American Century desired a New Pearl Harbor, so he decided to do his buddy George a solid and give him exactly what he and his friends Dick and Donald so desperately wanted?

I'm guessing that is what happened. After all, when George learned that Osama was planning a big surprise for him, he kept the secret on the down-low. If your best friend was planning a surprise party for you, would you spoil it? I'm referring to the President's Daily Brief titled bin Laden Determined To Strike in US.

But this wasn't the first time George had heard that his friend was up to something. Outgoing President Bill Clinton didn't like Osama and tried to convince George that he was bad news. George had just moved into the White House when Bill and a group of his friends staged an intervention.

Richard Clarke (chief counter-terrorism adviser on the U.S. National Security Council) told George that, since the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole (10/12/2000), he had been working on an "aggressive plan to take the fight to al Qaeda".

Of course George was shocked. al Qaeda was a religious prayer group Osama lead, but it was just a bunch of guys who got together to study the Bible Qur'an and engage in jihad. George could relate. He used to snort coke and binge drink until he found the Lord. Then he cut back. Osama was probably thinking of running for political office. He came from a wealthy family and was now devoutly religious, the same as George.

But Bill wouldn't stop hassling him, so George pretended that he'd take the "threat" al Qaeda posed seriously and let Richard Clarke keep his job. Unfortunately RC turned out to be a real buzz-kill. All he did was run down Osama. It was "Osama this and Al-Qaeda that", so George demoted him (taking away his cabinet-level access) and had him report to Condi. It didn't help matters when George junked his plan to go after Osama and handed off responsibility for putting a new improved anti-terrorism strategy together to his VP.

Dick assured him he'd fast track put on the back burner ignore the request and he quickly got to work setting up meetings between Big oil and his Energy Task Force. Dick knew they needed to decide how to carve up Iraq's oil fields if (wink, wink) something like a new Pearl Harbor occurred on George's watch giving them the opportunity to invade Iraq and topple Saddam.

In the meantime George took on his top priorities of cutting taxes, deregulating business, denying people with horrible diseases any hope by cutting off funding for stem cell research, allowing Wall Street to risk people's retirement money, creating a "guest worker" program so big business could employ slave cheap labor, spending Bill's surplus to curry favor with the voters, and driving the federal budget back into the red.

Despite his cool agenda George knew that Congress and the American people still wouldn't be hip with his desire to invade Iraq. He wished that Osama would hurry up with that surprise, because George was getting impatient. Plus he had to work really hard ignoring all the details that were leaking out.

Reports came in from all over the globe. In June of 2001 Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, the Taliban's Foreign Minister, cautioned US intelligence straight up that an "attack was imminent, and would kill thousands". German intelligence passed on some info suggesting that al Qaeda was going to "hijack commercial aircraft and use them as weapons". The FBI had been hearing that Middle Eastern men were training at flight schools in Florida and elsewhere. Finally, it was learned that Osama was "very disappointed that the 1993 bombing had not toppled the World Trade Center" and that he "was planning large scale operations in New York in the summer or fall of 2001".

Unfortunately the cat was out of the bag. Unbelievably US intelligence failed to connect the dots and operation "Big Wedding" (Al-Qaeda's code name for 9/11) remained a go.

Of course none of these reports were viewed by George personally, but they were summarized in the 8/6/2001 PDB "bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US", which was delivered to George while he was chilling in Crawford on one of the longest presidential vacations ever. The briefing confirmed that the threat of a bin Laden attack in the United States remained both current and serious was historical in nature (whew!).

George scolded the CIA briefer for interrupting his "me time" by telling him, "All right. You've covered your ass now". Then he got back to clearing brush, playing golf and riding his mountain bike.

Image: Two buddies kicking back and hanging out.

w:300 h:225  

SWTD #30

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Day to Honor Our Veterans

Patriotism is a pernicious, psychopathic form of idiocy ~ George Bernard Shaw (7/26/1856 to 11/2/1950) Irish socialist, playwright and journalist who examined education, marriage, religion, government, health care and class privilege. Shaw was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature (1925) and an Oscar (1938), for his contributions to literature and for his work on the film Pygmalion.

This is my 9/11/2009 Veterans Day post, presented two days late. I started writing it on Veterans Day, but did not finish because other things came up. Hopefully my thoughts regarding what they perceive to be honoring our soldiers will outrage the Righties and I'll receive some crazy wing-nut insults. I'm not under any illusions that I could actually change any of their minds by pointing out how they are wrong. The propaganda has been so successful that you've got to laugh. Or be horrified.

I decided to post on this topic after visiting the Truth Shall Rule site on Wednesday. Even though the topic of Truth's post was not Veteran's day, but instead a hilarious commentary on ghostwritten autobiography hawking Right-Wing bimbos Sarah Palin and Carrie Prejean, a couple of jingoistic war-crimes-excusing Righties showed up and proceeded to attack Truth for being "totally without gratitude or respect for our fighting men and women", and everyone else on the left for "hating the folks in the military as does President Obama".

This reminded of a Memorial Day discussion I participated in six months ago on a wing-nut blog. "Memorial Day should be a day where politics has no place" - so stated one of the commenters. This was after I posted my thoughts, so I don't know if the person was referring to me, the blog proprietor, or the other commenters.

Gayle, the blog proprietor, after sharing her thoughts on Memorial Day, got on with the real purpose of her post, which was to bash our president. She asserted that President Obama did not honor our troops because he "cut the budget on the next generation of weapons development".

Of course the Righties equate "honoring our soldiers" with handing out billions of taxpayer dollars to defense contractors for wasteful and unneeded military weaponry like "ground-based interceptors", "laser planes", "amphibious ships" and "future combat ground-vehicles". The Laser Plane may be unfeasible and unaffordable, but it certainly wouldn't have been unprofitable. It is a question of priorities, military contractor profits trump providing things our soldiers really need.

Remember that under bush our soldiers had to pay for their own body armor and scrounge in trash heaps for metal to armor their vehicles. Donald Rumsfeld's response for the bush administration's poor planning? "you go to war with the Army you have. They're not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time".

I also pointed out that the bush administration...

...awarded no bid Iraq war contracts to VP Dick Cheney's former company, Halliburton, who provided our soldiers with tainted water and rotten food, exposed them to toxins, and electrocuted them while they were showering - due to shoddy wiring (for which KBR received 83.4 million in bonuses).

...did not see to it that our returning soldiers received adequate health care at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Even though cases of outpatient neglect were reported as early as 2004, nothing was done until the Washington Post broke the story in 2007.

...had no plan to reintegrate returning soldiers, many who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, resulting in an explosion of homeless vets and suicide rates. According to a December 2008 article from CNN, "the rate of suicides among-active duty soldiers is on pace to surpass both last year's numbers and the rate of suicide in the general U.S. population for the first time since the Vietnam war, according to U.S. Army officials".

...expanded use of the military's "stop-loss" policy, under which a soldier's active duty service was involuntarily extended in order to retain them beyond their initial end of term of service date (ETS). According to Jon Soltz of, "The stop-loss policy is one that has been expanded and abused". This policy has been referred to as a "backdoor draft".

I concluded by stating... I find it incomprehensible that Republicans continue to wrap themselves in the flag considering the absolutely disgraceful job the previous administration did "honoring" our soldiers, *puke*. IMO anyone who voted for GWB should be deeply ashamed of how our soldiers were treated on his watch.

What these examples (this is not a complete listing of all the ways in which the bush administration dishonored our soldiers) prove is that GWB and company did not care at all for our solders, they were a tool he used to gain "political capital" - and shovel taxpayer money to his campaign donors in the form of no-bid Iraq contracts (which directly benefited VP Cheney, whose Halliburton stock increased by over 3000 percent in one year!).

A blogger going by the handle of Old Soldier scolded me by decrying, "dervish, you're an ass! Do you care not even one iota for those who gave their life for your freedom? I find your obsession with continuing to slam GWB, and this time by indicating he essentially abused and totally disregarded the wellbeing of our military, to be over the top. I also find your timing to be absolutely despicable and in total disregard for the meaning of Decoration Day".

Even though "Old Soldier" had previously written "Great post, Gayle. Freedom is not free... blah blah blah... BHO would do them the most honor by simply being quiet for the day". So I guess it is OK to attack Democrats on a day set aside to honor our soldiers, but pointing out how they were mistreated under the last president's watch is "despicable". A day where politics has no place? Clearly the Righties agree those on the left should shut their yaps, but they should be free to denigrate our Democratic President ad nauseam.

Well, I certainly have no intention of keeping quiet while they use these holidays to bash the left while wrapping themselves in the flag.

How about directing some of that outrage towards Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), who is currently holding up passage of the "Veterans' Caregiver and Omnibus Health Benefits Act". Coburn claims his issue with the bill is it's cost, but I would argue that the money is already spent. If we send our soldiers to war surely we are obligated to pay for their health care when they return.

Representative Coburn assumed office in 2005, so he didn't have the opportunity to vote for or against the 9/14/2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists, which was the justification used for the invasion of Afghanistan (although no House Republican voted against it), or the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002, although he has stated that he is a "strong supporter of Bush in removing Saddam", and that "going to Iraq was exactly the right thing...". He has also voted "no" on a number of resolutions which would have set a timetable for an Iraq drawn down.

So, providing health care for our wounded veterans is to expensive, but saving billions by establishing a special Senate committee to investigate allegations of waste, fraud and war profiteering gets a thumbs down? This guy's logic makes no sense. I smell a fraud. He's a jackass, not a fiscal conservative.

Oddly enough, both house of Congress unanimously passed the bill which cancelled development of the laser plane. That must have been a difficult vote. On one hand Republican defense contractor cronies love wasteful military boondoggles like the laser plane, but on the other hand the cons have to maintain the deception that they're fiscally conservative. You win some, you lose some, I guess. But even when they lose it's a win. I pointed out that no Republicans voted to keep the laser plane, so how could anyone claim it was President Obama's fault that our troops would now be stuck with outdated equipment?

I received no response except continued wing-nut assertions that President Obama was "gutting" the military. Even though the bill approved by the President is "larger than any budget that the Bush administration ever proposed by about 20 billion dollars". And defense contractor stock increased by 3.4% when the budget proposal was released. A win for everyone, apparently. Except for those of use who honestly believe slashing the military budget would be a good idea.

Update 9/26/2014: The blog mentioned in the post above "Gayle's Cyber Place" has been scrubbed of all it's political content. There is but one non-political post remaining. This happened, I believe, some time ago. Gayle, as I recall, retired from political blogging. This is why the discussion referenced above no longer exists on Gayle's blog and, if you click one of my links they will go nowhere. The same goes for my link to the blog "Truth Shall Rule", the now-shuttered blog of Joe Kelly (AKA "Truth 101", AKA Joe Truth).

SWTD #29

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Day to Honor President Jimmy Carter

This ninth of November is a historic day. East Germany has announced that, starting immediately, its borders are open to everyone ~ Unknown Moderator speaking for the West German television channel, ARD (11/9/1989)

Short-circuiting the long-established principles of patient negotiation leads to war, not peace ~ Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States (1/20/1977 to 1/20/1981)

I hope everyone enjoyed the holiday yesterday. I would have posted on this topic then, but I was too busy celebrating. I am talking of course about the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and also the day we recognize how President Jimmy Carter, by ending the cold war, made it all possible.

It would have been, however, President Walter Mondale who uttered the historic phrase, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!", since that challenge was issued in 1987, which would have been several years after President Carter completed his second term. Everyone would have, however, rightly acknowledged that it was President Carter who set things in motion.

Alas, it was not to be. President Carter did not win a second term, and instead credit goes to a senile B-movie actor who was probably the worst president our great nation has ever known. Reagan's October Surprise was just the first of many acts of treason he would commit after stealing the presidency from Mr. Carter.

A day to celebrate, or a day to mourn what might have been? The words preceding the "tear down this wall" line crafted by Saint Reagan's speech writers was "...if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate". He was, of course, talking about the bad kind of "liberalization", which has nothing at all to do with the Liberal, or Progressive wing, of the Democratic Party. "Most often, the term is used to refer to economic liberalization, especially trade liberalization or capital market liberalization".

The Reagan Presidency started us down the path to ruination, and every president since Saint Reagan has bought into the lie that sending our middle class manufacturing jobs to China is a good idea. Luckily the united German people did not buy into Reagan's hogwash. They moved to the left along with the rest of Europe, and thus were not hit as hard by the worldwide effect of the bush recession.

If you read my previous day's post, you know I was obviously not celebrating, but mourning. For 28 years we've been following Reagan's advice to seek economic liberalization. As I pointed out with my 9/6/2009 post, all the Republican - and, unfortunately, a majority of Democrats PLUS our current President still have not realized we can't survive as a first world nation by relying primarily on the Service and Financial sectors while creating nothing of value (because we've outsourced virtually all our manufacturing).

See also: The Myth of the Gipper: Reagan Didn't End the Cold War by William Blum, Strategy Page 4/29/2004.

SWTD #28

Monday, November 09, 2009

It's Everyone Else's Fault

The biggest cause of trouble in the world today is that the stupid people are so sure about things and the intelligent folks are so full of doubts ~ Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English Logician and Philosopher.

I'm becoming disheartened. In regards to political discourse in this country... and in regards to blogging. My last post received ONE lousy comment (7 actually, but the other six I posted myself by way of sock puppets). Man, how pathetic. Meanwhile, Conservative bloggers are getting 100 PLUS comments! Maybe I should hang it up.

I have less than a half-dozen readers, and (by my estimate) only three people (or less) who actually ever comment. Why am I wasting my time? Just like the radical Righties disrupted the town halls they're dominating the blogosphere. At least, as far as dinky one-person run blogs go. These morons are mad and they want everyone to know it (I'm talking about the people who have commented on the blog I just linked to, and others like them, not the blog proprietor specifically).

The sad thing is that the corporate-funded astroturf organizations have them deluded to the point where they think the majority of Americans are with them. Their idiotic worries regarding socialism, the President purposefully bankrupting the government, and health insurance reform being akin to Hitler's final solution ARE TAKING CENTER STAGE!

(for the record, Republicans are the ones who are purposefully attempting to bankrupt the government. "Starving the beast" is a fiscal-political strategy of some American conservatives to use budget deficits via tax cuts to force future reductions in the size of government. The term "beast" refers to government and the programs it funds, particularly social programs such as welfare, Social Security, and Medicare.)

Witnessing this, the "independent" voters may jump ship in 2010 and 2012, not realizing that to actually make progress they should pick an ideology and stick with it. Saint Reagan and bush-the-stupider (whom I have dubbed "President Doofus") proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that conservatism is NOT the way to go. We'll be f*cked royally if Barack Obama is not re-elected in 2012.

I guess it's "cool" to be independent though, and vote based simply on your feelings. GWb was president when the economy crashed? Conservative economic principals aren't to blame, just the man. Maybe McCain can fix the problem. No matter that his "solution" would be more of the same, HE'S A DIFFERENT GUY! Plus, Hillary voters, he has a woman VP! No matter that she's clearly not that bright. Who, when asked which news periodicals they read, would say they read them all, but then not be able to name ONE?

BUT... then McCain made the mistake of "suspending" his campaign and rushing back to Washington to "fix" the crisis. And he screwed that up. By canceling on David Letterman to chat with Wolf Blitzer.

That made him look stupid, so the Independents were pushed towards Barack Obama. Not because they agreed with Democratic economic principals. Because he offered "hope" and "change". I'm not knocking Hope and Change, because they were more than a slogan. But the slogan is all that a lot of Independents (and Democrats) heard.

So now they may be ready to swing the other way. No matter that reversing course 100 degrees back to a plan of action which has been proven disastrous is idiotic in the extreme. They may do it anyway! Why?? For no other reason than they're "independent", apparently.

And the Democrats may stay home. Because Barack Obama isn't changing things quickly enough for them. No matter that the primary agenda of the remaining Republicans in Congress is to obstruct. Also, even though Democrats gained a bunch of seats in the last election -- and I'm sure it has something to do with demographics and who they're representing -- why does it seem like the Republicans who are left are the craziest of the crazy?

Virginia Fox and Michelle Bachmann are loony toons. I apologize ladies; there are some crazy dudes as well. Joe Wilson rudely called out "you lie" as the President spoke before a joint session of Congress, then immediately afterward lied about having worked as an immigration lawyer. In a vain attempt to stop people from voicing their suspicions that what he really meant to say was "You lie, boy". And John Boner claimed that the public option was a popular as a garlic milkshake, even though a majority of Americans support it.

And of course we have Joe Lieberman, who was for Universal Coverage before he was against it. Apparently he saw all the attention that Olympia Snowe was getting and wanted the media to fawn all over HIM. So, even though he caucuses with the Democrats he'll stand with the Republicans and single-handedly be responsible for health care insurance reform getting shot down. He gets to feed his ego and collect some big donations from the health care insurance lobby. As Stephen Colbert pointed out recently, the party he formed after he lost the Democratic primary in Connecticut was called "Connecticut for Lieberman", NOT "Lieberman for Connecticut".

If the Republicans are given another shot at destroying this country it will be because the moron electorate allows them two. Yes, Republicans are the masters of election fraud, but when people turn out in high enough numbers they can overcome that fraud.

People were so disgusted with George W. bush at the end of his presidency that they turned out in record numbers and pushed Barack Obama over the top. Next time around they may say to themselves, "this guy was not as hopey and changey as I was lead to believe, I think I'll vote for the other guy... or stay home". What they fail to realize is that the President is not a king. There is only so much he can do. He's up against the power of big money and their ability to buy off our elected officials.

Low information voters fail to take this into consideration. Which is why we may be doomed. If so it's everybody else's fault, not mine. I've done a lot of things that were stupid, but I'm not a moron. A blogger I follow who calls himself "Truth 101" recently posited that the morons shall inherit the earth. I'm worried that he may very well be right.

SWTD #27

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Live or Die, The Free Market Will Decide

Freedom of enterprise was from the beginning not altogether a blessing. As the liberty to work or to starve, it spelled toil, insecurity, and fear for the vast majority of the population. If the individual were no longer compelled to prove himself on the market, as a free economic subject, the disappearance of this freedom would be one of the greatest achievements of civilization ~ Herbert Marcuse, a German-Jewish philosopher, political theorist and sociologist. Celebrated as the "Father of the New Left".

Instead of creating yet another monstrous government bureaucracy, what about mandating that health insurance be provided by nonprofits? I mentioned the idea at the end of my 10/19/2009 post. Oddly enough, a couple of bloggers I thought were conservative seemed to think this was a good idea.

This is decidedly not a good idea Conservatives! If you don't understand why, well... maybe you're not as Conservative as you thought you were.

It should be obvious that not for profit health insurance companies would eliminate the profit incentive! Paying health care insurance CEOs tens of millions of dollars ensures you get the cream of the crop (talent wise). So what if people have to die in order for those CEOs to make their millions? Those who die are lazy good-for-nothings (or, if they are children, then their parents are). They don't deserve to live - that is, if the reason they died is because they couldn't afford insurance.

If they died because they had insurance but the insurance cartel refused to pay... I don't know what the rational is. I'm going to guess denial. That could never happen, because in the world of the "free market" contracts must be honored. If you signed a contract agreeing to arbitration when you're gang raped? The contract must be honored. Why involve the authorities? What the hell do we even need "authorities" for? Privatize the police. Those who have contracts with the private police companies will get protection. Those who do not pay (for whatever reason) have only themselves to blame. The free market provides for those who provide for themselves.

If an insurance company does deny coverage? The contract will address this type of situation. It must be because the "sick" individual is trying to cheat the insurance company. The scammer failed to disclose that he had a "pre-existing condition". Or the type of treatment the sickey is seeking is "experimental". The insurance cartel death panel "profit protection" panel will set you straight on that. "Experimental" treatments are not covered. Cheaters with pre-existing conditions are not covered.

If you're a right-wing Christian Conservative you should acknowledge the fact that a pre-existing condition is a sign from God that you don't deserve medical care. If God favors you he'll provide a sign by making damn sure you are not cursed with one, or provide you with enough money to pay for treatment out of your own pocket. Prosperity theology "implies both that people who are favored by God will be materially successful, and also that materially successful people are successful because God favored them".

Does this not dovetail nicely with the idea that the Bible can be used to justify homophobia? It can be used to justify greed as well. Certainly this is proof that Jesus believes in the free market. If you're a sickey whose treatment has been denied, or whose insurance policy has cancelled - or worse yet, if you can't afford to purchase insurance - you must acknowledge that the free market has spoken. You must acknowledge that the free market has decided that you should die. Sacrificed for the profit of others - those who have been blessed by God.

Free markets equal free people, after all. People who are free to die, that is. Those who live by the market must also die by the market. That's the way Jesus would want it.


I don't believe that converting the current insurance cartels into non-profits is within the realm of possibility. I support opening Medicare to whoever wishes to buy into it. And providing subsidies to those who can't afford the to pay the Medicare rates by increasing the premiums on those who can afford to buy in by a nominal amount, and raising taxes on individuals making more than $250,000. Such a plan could easily be deficit neutral. And it could be passed with 51 votes through budget reconciliation.

If that makes me a socialist, then so be it. I find the Republican plan, "Don't get sick, but if you do - die quickly", morally reprehensible. As someone who considers himself a progressive Christian, I don't see how conservatism and Christianity are compatible.

SWTD #26