Throwing Money and Lives Away For a (No-Bong) Pipe Dream

Ah, Mexico…the mere word elicits images of sunny, sandy beaches, clear blue waters, colorful decor, friendly people, spicy food, great tequila, Kahlua, endless partying, boating deep sea fishing, cavorting with the rich and famous…Puerto Vallarta, Cancun, Cabo San Lucas, Acapulco, the Mayan ruins…the list of pleasure resorts and attractions is endless.  Those that have experienced any or all of these will look back upon those experiences with fondness and longing to do it all again.

But then, there’s the cold, dark force of reality as to what Mexico is becoming:  one of the world’s major illegal drug suppliers.  And the fact that it sits across the long southern border of the United States, coupled with the fact that the US population is the world’s largest illegal drug customer, makes this reality one that every citizen in this country is affected by, in one way or another.

The Mexican drug cartels are enormously wealthy entities, having a uncountable non-stop flow of cash coming into their coffers primarily from the US.  Their economic power is so great that they rival some of the largest corporations on the planet.  They pay no taxes, own their own armies and corps of assassins, have highly sophisticated communications networks, own endless properties, can afford to buy endless numbers of officials and law enforcement personnel with irresistible payoffs, are experts at using terror to keep people quiet and in line, and essentially are unstoppable.

The Mexican and US governments have attempted to control and contain these cartels with absolutely no success.  The American DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) has been assisting the Mexicans for years to no avail, as well as attempting to stem the tide of drugs entering the US, also to no avail.  Between the efforts of these two nations, countless billions of taxpayer dollars have been spent fighting the unwinnable fight.  Most tragically, at least tens of thousands and perhaps hundreds of thousands of people have been murdered by these cartels.  And the ultimate bottom line is that any American can still get whatever drugs he or she desires whenever he or she wants, as a long as he and she have the cash to pay for it.  So the cycle goes…forever in existence and forever growing.

Some well-meaning but hopelessly misguided people believe that illegal drugs must be fought and stopped at every turn.  They argue that illegal drug use leads to all manner of crime, immoral and illegal activity, greater use of stronger, more dangerous drugs, and ultimately death.  And while there is perhaps some value to these arguments in some cases, folks promoted the exact same things about alcohol just before they succeeded in force Prohibition onto the US in 1919.

We all know how well THAT worked:  By the time Prohibition was mercifully repealed in 1933, that “Noble Experiment”, was branded a dismal failure.  Its only apparent accomplishment was the entrenchment of organized crime in the USA., sort of a la Mexican drug cartel, along with a taxpayer-funded never-ending and never-winnable law enforcement fight against it.

The idea that if drugs are illegal that we can somehow eliminate their existence, or even their easy availability, is nothing short of a pipe dream (it doesn’t work for guns, either.).  Some group has always been trying in one form or another to eliminate human vice since the humanity first became aware of such things.  Whether drugs, sex, alcohol, or even revolutionary ideas, these groups believe that superior brute force is the answer to every problem.  But human history is replete with lessons that prove that attempting to eliminate pleasurable human activity by force simply never works.  The only program that has even the remotest chance of at least partial success is fact-based education.

As a result, more and more experts are recommending that we decrinimalize present-illegal drug use and possesion of these controlled substances.  They do so not because they believe that use of these drugs is a good thing, but because they realize that we can never win this fight;  as history proves, we can only throw endless money at it…money the drug cartels are expert at catching.

Instead, by legalizing these substances, legitimate industries would rise under the free market system, and their products could be regulated and taxed.  That new tax money could be used to educate our school children about the real dangers of recreational drug use, just as we now educate them about unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, and on avoiding them .  Drugs use probably won’t go down, but it also won’t go up…since anyone can get them today anyway.

However, what will go down to the point of near-elimination is the transference of billions of dollars to the drug cartels, just as the mob saw their profits from selling bathtub gin evaporate with the repeal of Prohibition.  Without their money life-line, the cartels will cease to be profitable and the free market will more than likely eliminate most of them.  Those that survive will have to find something else illegal to sell in order to stay in business.

Another positive result of legalization would be the money saved by law enforcement in their present never-ending and never-winning battle with these cartels and neighborhood pushers.  That money can be used for other, more important endeavors, such as catching murderers, bank robbers, rapists, and terrorists for starters.

Repeating the same actions over and over and expecting a different outcome is a definition of insanity, y’know.  😉

AIG: The Very Flower of Corporate Greed and Arrogance

Unless you’re living under a rock, you have heard about AIG, the world’s largest insurance company, which has so far received US$30 billion of US taxpayer money to remain afloat and in operation during this economic mess we are all enduring.

AIG, whose full name is American International Group, Incorporated, provides insurance to people and businesses all over the globe.  They are a very large corporation with diverse interest divisions, one of which  dove foolishly into the financial markets to increase their profit margins.  However, instead of making a bundle, they lost a huge amount of money because of their greed.  Their loses almost caused the company to go bankrupt, and the federal government had to step in to save their butts with huge wheel barrows full of taxpayer-supplied bailout cash.

Many folks were against bailing out AIG.  Their sentiment was that if a company makes stupid moves that cause it to stop being profitable, that’s what bankruptcy and/or liquidation is for.  On the simplest level, that is true.  But AIG’s case was made incredibly complex because of its size and its business tentacles entwined throughout the financial world.  Most economic experts believed that letting AIG go down would have dramatically worsened the recession.

As a result of this thinking, the Bush Administration sent a proposal to congress to bail AIG and several other companies out.  When the House and Senate bills were passed in slightly different forms, a congressional conference committee met behind closed doors to negotiate the differences.  One of those differences was that existing contracts in AIG would be honored.

From a legal point of view, the last thing the American people need is for congress to be deciding to abrogate legal contracts.  That would set a terrible precedent which everyone KNOWS would ultimately be used again and again for political purposes.  Anyone who would trust the congress to decide which legal contracts to abrogate isn’t really up on current events.

What most Americans didn’t realize (but many on the conference committee did) was that some executives at AIG, including the so-called “financial wizards” who were being paid mega-salaries to make really bad financial decisions which ultimately put AIG into its financial horror show, had signed legal contracts stipulating an annual bonus.  So AIG’s CEO Edward Liddy, who became CEO after the contracts were signed, agreed to pay out US$165 million in bonuses mandated by the contract, to AIG’s top executives.  He thus avoided potentially over a hundred lawsuits.

When word of this got out, the you-know-what hit the fan.  And rightfully so.

Some of the same AIG executives who were responsible for the toxic investments received some of this money.  Over one hundred executives received significant bonuses.  One executive at AIG received a bonus of $6.4 million.  Close to forty received bonus of $1 million or more.

Not one of them has offered to give back the bonus, even to issue an apology for trashing the company and taking the bonus anyway. Greed and arrogance in their purest form, don’t you think?

At least eleven of those receiving bonues are no longer with the company, which flies in the face of an AIG executive’s rationale that the bonuses are necessary to retain the best and the brightest.  In light of the really bad decision-making at AIG by these self-same executives who received million-dollar or more bonuses for sinking the company, this bonus-defending executive should be fired.

Keep in mind as you read this that those bonuses came out of the $30 billion bailout that all Americans are paying for.  The outrage over this is totally warranted.

Since congress was the entity that agreed to and voted in this monstrosity, it seems only fair that every senator and congressperson who voted for this bill should forfeit at least half their salaries a year until the $165 million is paid back.  And by the way, in the interest of fairness, it must be admitted that both democrats and republicans share the blame equally for this debacle.

Not a chance, though.  Instead, congress is talking about taxing the bonuses at 35% and/or making AIG pay back the bonues in addition to the arrangements to eventually pay back the bailout money.  And while at least the American people might some day see the money actually come back, there is no poetic justice to any of this.  There is only a really bad taste in everyone’s mouth, as the congress, both the dems and repubs, scramble to try to fix the barn door after all the horses have run out.

There is, however, a bright side to all of this:  FINALLY the dems and repubs in congress are working together in a bipartisan manner, even it is only to cover their collective behinds.

But, It’s a start.  🙂

GOP on Earmarks: Do as I Say, Not as I Do!

President Obama yesterday signed a US$410 billion Omnibus spending bill to fund the US government over the rest of this fiscal year.

The bill had actually been proposed by the Bush administration and finalized in the US congress before Obama even took office.  It was a leftover funding bill that should have been passed by congress and signed into law by the president before the start of the 2009 fiscal year on October 1, 2008.  But because of politics, congress instead financed the federal government through continuing resolutions.

Thus, there was ample time and tremendous opportunity for individual congressmen and senators to insert funding for pet projects for their districts and states, which ultimately can help them get reelected.  These funding inserts are called earmarks, and members from both political parties engage in this practice.  In fact, the practice peaked when the GOP controlled congress.

In the bill the president signed, US$7.7 billion of the US410 billion was for earmarks.  60% of the earmarks were submitted by democrats and 40% by republicans.  That is, by the way, the standard ratio on earmarks for the majority and minority parties.

While president Obama lamented the fact that he would sign an imperfect “leftover” bill replete with earmarks, something he campaigned against, he also pragmatically explained that the congress could not be bogged down at this critical time in an endless exercise of debating the earmarks if he vetoed the bill.  Had he in fact vetoed it, the federal government would have run out of operating funds and millions of federal workers could have been furloughed.

He was right.  That last thing the economy needs right now is more folks sent home with no paycheck.

The president also made it clear that this practice of inserting earmarks without properly evaluating their appropriateness in any bill has to change.  He presented a comprehensive plan for congress to consider which would fix this problem.

In what can only be described as incredible chutzpah in the rhetoric leading up to the signing of the bill, the GOP criticized the democrats for all of the earmarks contained in the bill.

Say what???  Isn’t this the self-same bill that republicans could easily have filibustered against in the senate?  Isn’t this the same bill that republicans inserted 40% of the earmarks?  Isn’t this the same party that made earmarking a fine art form in the recent past when they controlled congress, when the deficit and the national debt doubled under GOP control?

Furthermore, the GOP even dared Obama to veto the bill, claiming that his campaign promise to change Washington DC demanded it.  They did so knowing full well that vetoing this bill was not an option without further damaging the economy.  They also knew that the president was too smart to fall for that, and that he could not and would not veto the bill. But this gave them the opportunity to claim that he broke a campaign promise.  They said all this not to convince the president, but to attempt to bamboozle the American people into thinking that a veto was an option, when it really was not.

In other words, they continue to think that the citizens of this country are stupid.  That is a serious miscalculation on their part.  And to put the icing on the hypocrisy cake of the GOP, they never, ever demanded that the predecessor GOP president veto their earmark-laden bills when they were in power in congress.

It certainly would seem that before these folks criticize president Obama for signing a bill into which they inserted almost half of the earmarks, they should take a very close look at how the American people are perceiving the republicans in congress and the GOP in general.  According to the latest stats at pollingreport.com, 58% of registered voters disapprove of the GOP performance in congress, while only 30% approve.  The numbers for the democrats are considerably better;  45% disapprove and 45% approve. President Obama’s approval rating is 63%.

Those kinds of numbers don’t bode well for either the GOP’s credibility when they open their mouths, nor for the GOP’s chances in the 2010 mid-term elections.

But then, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.  🙂

The New Rush Limbaugh of the Left?

Because this is Bike Week, We, the PEOPLE!! was prepared to inform our diverse readership that the blog was taking a sabbatical this week.  However, a loyal reader asked to submit his own article which is satirical…or is it?  You can decide for yourself with the following from Charlie Lawrence, who also happened to submit an op-ed piece which was published in the Providence Journal, the main newspaper in Rhode Island.  You can read his remarkable published submission HERE.

Following is Charlie’s article written exclusively for We, the PEOPLE!!:

________________________________________

“After hearing the President speak and Republicans reply, and then listening to the pundits, I cannot help but think the GOP is being unfairly tarred as negative.

“The fact is the The GOP does say “YES!”, and has a positive program for this country:   YES! to much needed tax cuts for the needy and suffering top one percent;  YES! to torture;  and YES! to deficits, except, of course, when the Democrats create them;

“YES! to more military spending since spending anything less than all the world combined is “gutting our military”;  and YES! to foreign wars of aggression and torture in order to bring the blessings of liberty to the world!  God Bless America!

“The only things the GOP says NO! to are dangerous and wasteful programs, such as educating our kids, which might cause them to vote Democratic.  They also say NO! to health care programs which only eat into profits and prolong the lives of the sick.  The GOP realizes that putting Grandma on the back porch in the winter is actually an act of compassion since she will see God that much sooner.  That’s  something those bleeding heart liberals just don’t get.

“I don’t see how decent people can think otherwise. But if they do a little time on the rack it will “stretch” their minds.

“Additionally, the GOP realizes that we don’t need any government actions to correct the economy.  The miracle of the unfettered free market will take care of everything, as long as we don’t offend God by letting the gays get married or take “In God We Trust” off the money!

“We had eight wonderful years under Bush…peace prosperity, balanced budget, a growing economy, a strong dollar, freedom from foreign oil, plenty of prisons and international respect, and no terrorists attacks (except for just one which wasn’t his fault).  Don’t believe otherwise;  it’s the Liberal media again lying and trying to destroy us decent people!  I say “Why ruin a Good Thing?”  We should have elected him for another eight years . Yeah!  I know the Constitution says you can’t do that but hell, its only a piece of paper.

“I am tired of Democrats bashing the rich.  They seem to forget it’s the crumbs off their tables that feed the middle class!

“P.S.  If you’re making under $250,000 a year, you’re probably going to disagree with this.  But if you can’t make that much, you’re either chronically poor or lazy!

“God Bless America!  After all, GOP = God’s Own Party!”

______________________________________

We think Charlie deserves a shot on the Jon Stewart “Daily Show”!