15 June 2008

The Fallacious Arguments of the Republicans

noticed that on the Sunday morning talk shows, Newt Gingrich was on CBS talking about how the Supreme Court decision to maintain our constitution and the right to habeas corpus will cause one of our major cities to be destroyed by a nuke (more or less)...and on ABC, Fred Thompson was talking against Obama's policy of increasing the taxes on the super-rich while lowering taxes on the lower and middle classes...saying that McCain's tax policy will build our economy...okay...let's look at that one (neither interviewer questioned the validity of either Newt's or Fred's statements...just acted like these were the most knowledgeable guys in the world...blech)...Reagan, Bush I and Bush II have presided over administrations which have given us over 90% of the national debt we have...taken us from a net investor nation to the largest debtor nation in the world...plus...our balance of trade is in the tank to the tune of 60 billion dollars per month...that's 700 billion plus dollars per year that we are importing more than we are exporting... The argument that our unemployment rate is low (even though it jumped a half percent this past quarter)...is also fallacious. The way unemployment is calculated is skewed in favour of the administration, and only counts people who are drawing unemployment...(perhaps one reason the Republicans are against extending unemployment benefits for the hardest hit...it will increase the percentage unemployed because those whose benefits would have ended will still be on the rolls...) The small government, balanced budget, conservatives...(all terms are said with my tongue firmly in my cheek)...are the ones who have ballooned government (Homeland Security, anyone) incompetently, never submit a balanced budget (even when they controlled both houses of congress and the white house the budget was massively imbalanced)...and conservative...choke...shred the constitution...and then lambaste the Supreme Court for actually restoring habeas corpus by the very thinnest of margins...one vote... We are one vote away from fascism...one supreme court justice away from fascism... We need to get this message out to the workers of this country...the middle class which is being decimated while corporate oil companies are given tax subsidies and have record 45 billion dollar profits...with oil men in the white house...Bush/Cheney...and all through the administration...with lobbyists and destroyers of our economy (Phil Gramm is McCain's 'economic advisor') running the McCain campaign and situated to further damage our economy, the dollar and our prestige in the world community...not to mention placing all our liberties at risk. If you can get your hands on the current issue (July/August 2008) of Mother Jones read "Who Wrecked the Economy?"...and why they work for John McCain. On Phil Gramm: Phil Gramm is, perhaps, one of the most shifty figures in modern Washington history. In 1978, he was elected to the House of Representatives as a Democrat from Texas. In 1981, Gramm betrayed the caucus that spent hundreds of thousands to elect him by attending Democratic budget meetings and passing along strategy memos to Republicans. He is oft cited as the figure most responsible for handing Reagan his massive tax cuts. When, in 1982, the Democrats stripped him of his committee seat, Gramm resigned from the House and won the seat again in a special election, this time as a Republican. Gramm was elected to the Senate in 1984, proving that Texas isn't a state where common sense and decency reign supreme. Moreover, in his time in the Senate, he was the author of the Financial Services Modernization Act, the bill which paved the way for the mortgage crisis. From Mother Jones: "In 1999, Gramm pushed through a historic banking deregulation bill that decimated Depression-era firewalls between commercial banks, investment banks, insurance companies, and securities firms—setting off a wave of merger mania" You can read more about the bill at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gramm-Leach-Bliley_Act As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, Gramm received over $1 million from the securities and financial sector for his dutiful contributions to this industry's profits. Gramm's wife, who had sat on the board of the Commodity Trading Futures Commission, had pushed through a rule excluding Enron's energy futures contracts from government oversight. That rule was due to be overturned. In his third, and thankfully final, term in the Senate, Gramm was the author of another bill called the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000. This bill featured the now-infamous "Enron loophole", which allowed the energy company to be exempt from keeping detailed records on over-the-counter energy and commodity trades. Without a doubt, the CFMA codified the conditions into law that were needed for Enron to pull off one of the grandest corporate swindles in American history. It was later revealed that Gramm had received the language for the loophole directly from Enron lobbyists. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commodity_Futures_Modernization_Act_of_2000 From Mother Jones, again: "But the Enron loophole was small potatoes compared to the devastation that unregulated swaps would unleash. Credit default swaps are essentially insurance policies covering the losses on securities in the event of a default. Financial institutions buy them to protect themselves if an investment they hold goes south. It's like bookies trading bets, with banks and hedge funds gambling on whether an investment (say, a pile of subprime mortgages bundled into a security) will succeed or fail. Because of the swap-related provisions of Gramm's bill—which were supported by Fed chairman Alan Greenspan and Treasury secretary Larry Summers—a $62 trillion market (nearly four times the size of the entire US stock market) remained utterly unregulated, meaning no one made sure the banks and hedge funds had the assets to cover the losses they guaranteed." Anyone who argues that complete de-regulation of an industry, where there is so much money involved, is a good thing simply does not understand how economics works. Now, and only now, has the federal government decided to step into the crisis, by using taxpayer dollars --that's right, the money that Republicans so often say needs to be dealt with responsibly -- to bail out corporate banks that got in way over their heads. In 2003, Gramm left the Senate, to give current Texas Senator John Cornyn seniority over the rest of the class. Because he had been such a friend to the industry, mega-bank UBS hired Gramm to serve them as a lobbyist. His role: lobby Congress, the White House and the Federal Reserve on issues of credit industry regulation. Let me repeat that: After a career of taking money from the financial services, writing the bills that the UBS board members dreamt of at night and having them signed into law, Gramm became a highly-paid lobbyist whose job it was to get more deregulation, less oversight. From the Politico: "According to federal lobbying disclosure records, Gramm lobbied Congress, the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department about banking and mortgage issues in 2005 and 2006. During those years, the mortgage industry pressed Congress to roll back strong state rules that sought to stem the rise of predatory tactics used by lenders and brokers to place homeowners in high-cost mortgages. For his work, Gramm and two other lobbyists collected $750,000 in fees from UBS’s American subsidiary." (I apologise for any attributions I may have failed to make)

11 June 2008

I really need to be better about posting

So much has been happening recently, it's difficult to keep up with...from giving of care to Cheryl's mother/father...ferrying our grandson back and forth to school to finish out the year (he graduated from elementary school and has moved in with his mom, now...) Plants had to be started in the greenhouse, gardens prepared, new landscaping developed from our bathroom/laundryroom project just prior to winter...attended a grafting seminar in Decorah, IA at Seed Savers Exchange, Cheryl had surgery on both wrists for carpal tunnel...rain has been consistently falling for the past few weeks...even had a tornado touch down on Pickerel Lake and the area around Emmaville. No one hurt physically, although a few cabins were very damaged and many trees were downed. I'd like to include an excerpt from a posting at DailyKos...a friend asked how much it would cost to have it tattoed on his chest... The link is at the end of the post: OKLAHOMA CITY—Democratic Rep. Dan Boren of Oklahoma said Tuesday Barack Obama is "the most liberal senator" in Congress and he has no intention of endorsing him for the White House. [...] Boren, a self-described centrist, is seeking a third term this year in a mostly rural district that stretches across eastern Oklahoma. "We're much more conservative," Boren said of district. "I've got to reflect my district. No one means more to me than the people who elected me. I have to listen them." He called Obama "the most liberal senator in the U.S. Senate." Boren still is going to vote for Obama, mind you, just not "endorse" him. Because, you know, Obama is "liberal", and that's just not an OK thing to be in the OK state. It seems like a rather odd line for a Democrat to be taking -- clipped as it is from conservative talking points -- but I'll be honest. I can't get all that worked up about it. So, you know, whatever -- if he "votes for" Obama, but "endorses" an animated tick hiding in a Pokemon's brightly colored back fur, meh. I'm hoarding my disapprobation right now, in anticipation of Peak Outrage. Which will probably be sometime in 2009, for those of you who are following the outrage markets. So here's my gentle question for Rep. Boren. Let's just suppose that he was right, and Obama really was "the most liberal senator" in the entire Democratic contingent -- a term magically conferred by conservatives on whatever figure wins the nomination, election after election, while hyper-mega-death-penalty-mocking-war-humping-salmon-punching-archconservative Republicans magically turn into "moderates", using those same conservatives' exact same terribly objective calculations for such things. So let's just stipulate that someone might be "the most liberal" senator. My question for Rep. Boren, and for his Oklahoma constituents, is this: so what? So what if someone is a "liberal"? What exactly are you afraid of? What, will he start some wars? Will the economy go to hell? Will gasoline suddenly cost four bucks a gallon, so that getting from one end of town to the other starts to be something you have to plan for in your family budget? Oh, wait, no -- that's what conservatism has wrought. So what big, scary menace will "liberalism" rain down upon us all? The horror of free public education? The apocalypse of affordable healthcare for families and the elderly? An energy policy that consists of something other than "hell, let's just sit on our asses and see what happens"? My God, maybe we'll have a foreign policy that doesn't revolve around sucking thousands of dollars out of your constituents' pockets, lighting all that money on fire, and using the pyre to make super-special Democracy Smores in the middle of the Iraqi desert? What, are we afraid less American soldiers will die? That our trade deficit will be, if not reversed, at least addressed? Are Oklahomans all huddled in their closets, lest some of the now-legions of outsourced jobs start reappearing in their towns? What? What is it that is so absolutely alarming about the word "liberal" that you'd rather stomach having everything that's happened to America for the past decade continue, rather than being seen as someone who might secretly have tolerance for, shudder, that word? Markos linked to this only briefly, in an open thread, but I think in order to absorb the true terror of liberalism, we must seek out those that fear our liberalism the most. The powerhouses of conservative thought who can really define, for us, what exactly it is conservatism is facing. If our fine Democratic representative Boren cannot explicitly define why liberal is supposed to be a bad word, let us go to the experts at Townhall.com, in this case one Mary Grabar, whose name I will not childishly compare to fellow cartoon elephant Babar because I'm trying to be helpful and understanding and all that other terribly earnest crap. So perhaps by understanding conservative fears, we liberals can assuage those fears? Grabar: An Obama presidency would signal the final salvo by the Left in the culture wars. Obama’s advance troops have already taken over our college campuses, have bound and gagged our conservative professors, have ravished our virgins, have pillaged our stores of wisdom, and have ensconced themselves in the thrones of power in deans’, presidents’ and department heads’ offices. The victory cry is heard across the land in the cheers of Obama’s constituency on college campuses. This has been going on under the very noses of the Republicans. Ok... I was wrong. There's absolutely no way I can assuage those fears. For starters -- and I will here too strive not to be too harsh on the poor creature that wrote such things -- they are the demented ravings of a buffoon. They would make the screechings of howler monkeys sound like enlightened discourse. They would make the graffiti on a bathroom stall look like the Gettysburg Address. We have met the enemy, and it is not us, but an imaginary sprite inside a delusional head, and it is called liberalism, and by God it does sound scary when you put it like that. Anything that can ravage your wisdom -- no, sorry, bound your daughters -- no, sorry again, pillage your... thrones... in the dean's office... um, where were we again? Suddenly it sounds like conservatives don't fear liberalism, but some post-Narnian villain. (The lion in that story? That was supposed to be Jesus, if Jesus had three-inch claws and powerful jaws capable of snapping a gazelle's neck like a toothpick. Now that's a Jesus we can all relate to!) I think, in the end, perhaps the conservative fear of liberalism really is all about scary people ravishing their virgins. That is the only thing that comes up consistently in so-called conservative intellectual thought; the notion that someone, somewhere is just one dashing, hopelessly suave line from getting it on with your virgin daughter. Or son. For a long time, it was black people seeking to move into your neighborhoods and seduce your offspring. Then it was illegal immigrants -- yes, apparently all these people were swarming across our border because your virgin daughter was just that damn hot. Don't even get me started on the homosexuals -- they are all about corrupting your virgins. Except conservative Mark Foley, who was innocent. And conservative Larry Craig, who was twice as innocent. And conservative preacher Ted Haggard, who in his defense was mostly just in it for the drugs. The problem, you see, is that since we can't be freaked out about ethnic people anymore, at least not in polite company, and you can't be all that freaked out about gay people now that we've figured out that most gay people are, you know, boring... so now it is simply the ephemeral liberals that are after your virgins. (continued at link) http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/6/11/54116/8362/89/533846

Simplify...it's a global imperative now.

We make choices, we decide what our priorities are, and we give up certain things to gain others. Adding more and more to our list of “hav...