Watching the USA Commit Financial (and World Stature) Suicide

With only 6 days left before the USA defaults on its national bills, the debt ceiling debate is pointlessly raging on in Washington DC, on talk (hate) radio, and everywhere else that people smart enough to at least watch the spectacle are gathered.  Actually, “debate” is the wrong word to describe this exercise in congress;  a more accurate description would be both sides ignoring each other, proceeding in their own separate ways to pass counter-plans which have no hope of passing both houses of congress or being signed into law.

Neither side is really blinking either (yet!), although the democrats have actually rubbed their eyes several times:

They acquiesced to GOP demands for deep spending cuts in social programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security;

They played along when the GOP refused to allow for the closing of tax loopholes which only benefit the very rich people and the mega-profitable corporations; and

They even agreed to an interim short-term raising of the debt ceiling if it was tied to mandatory longer-term raising of the ceiling before the next crisis.

Each time, the republicans said no…refusing to blink even a little.  They want what they want, which is whatever they want whenever they want it, as if they controlled both houses of congress and the presidency…like they did from 2002 through 2006, when they and their horribly misguided ex-president GW Bush got the USA into two unfunded wars, reduced taxes on the very rich (which reduced US revenue income), and passed a medicare prescription plan which primarily benefited the giant pharmaceutical companies that charge Americans between 50 and 80 per cent more for medicines than they charge any country.

Not one of those generous benefits to the big (and expensive) military contractors, very rich people and mega-corporations , and pharmaceutical conglomerates was paid for, either.  Instead, they all contributed to the rapidly rising national debt.

In fairness, the GOP did deregulate the banks so that they could provide artificially cheap mortgages to people who couldn’t get credit for a cup of coffee the week before.  Suddenly these deadbeats qualified for a home loan.  And  if those folks ultimately defaulted on their mortgages (as the financial industry knew all along that they would), banks were protected by mortgage insuring institutions.

Because these people all of a sudden started buying homes in droves, the real estate market shot up HUGE.  But when those people defaulted on their mortgages in huge numbers, real estate values tanked, and the mortgage insurers were financially overwhelmed.  Banks and other financial institutions failed.  The situation snowballed into the great recession from December 2007 through late 2009.

Thus, one might say that the GOP’s track record regarding money management, finances, economics and future national fiscal health is questionable at best..and perhaps even suicidal.  These folks took a national budget surplus inherited from then-president Bill Clinton, and turned it into a $10+ trillion national debt in only eight years.  In fact, as they were spending like drunken sailors looking for a good time away from home, their second-in-command, then-vice-president Richard “Tricky Dick” Cheney proclaimed that “deficits don’t matter.”

Whatever the republicans are trying to do, which seems primarily to shut down most government spending regardless of the damage it causes, probably isn’t a good idea.  It seems, according to the latest polls, that a majority of the American people are slowly waking up to that fact.  Consider this chart:

Debt limit

Perhaps most antithetical to the Tea Party-driven economic suicide the GOP seems hell-bent on pursuing is what the most liberal democracy in the world, Sweden, has done to successfully fix the ills of the recent USA-originated global recession.  Sweden provides true universal health care at half the cost per capita of the USA’s dysfunctional for-profit private-insurer health care system, and its citizens live on average live fours year longer than Americans, even though Sweden endures brutally cold winter weather every year.  Yet it managed to achieve 5.5% economic growth while the US could only squeeze out 1.5%.  Sweden’s unemployment is down to 7% as compared to the US rate of 9.2.  And by the way, their standard of living is higher than in the USA.  You can (and should) read more about it HERE.

In fact, so should the GOP, so they can see how horribly misguided (just like GW Bush) their agendas of economics and government really are.  But there’s not much chance of that.  Like a stubborn and perhaps somewhat psychotic elephant, the Tea Party-dominated GOP is hell-bent upon falling on its sword, while holding EVERYONE’S hand.

And besides… it would be a cold day in hell before the GOP takes any advice from a maxi-liberal country like Sweden, where free love (aka casual sex) is practiced and the people are kept healthy and vital against their will by that freedom-devouring frozen-brained communistic socialism!

So THERE!!!

PS.  Oh yeah..Sweden produced that anti-GOP love-oriented band ABBA!!!  🙂  🙂

The US Tea Party Movement: Insanity R Us

There isn’t a single person, or group of people, living or dead who hasn’t occasionally done something stupid or even crazy.  After all, we’re imperfect humans (all biblical references to the contrary notwithstanding).  So it is incumbent upon all of us to have a modicum of understanding and forgiveness when others occasionally do, say, or promote something stupid or crazy…or both.

But that only goes so far.  Continuously promoting the nonsensical, discredited and/or historically disastrous solely because of “belief that it will work this time” is akin to doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  Albert Einstein called that the definition of insanity.  How, exactly, does one forgive insanity, especially when that insanity threatens to plunge an entire world economy into chaos?

The Tea Party movement in the US achieved a grip on the politics of the USA after the November 2010 election.  That election saw the democrats lose control of the US House or Representatives to republicans who were heavily supported by the Tea Party.  One of the issues those republicans ran on was the slow recovery of jobs in the USA since the official end of the Bush 2007 recession ended in 2010.  These folks promised to come to Washington and rein in government spending, reduce the deficit, and most urgently to the average unemployed American, create jobs.

The GOP has had congressional power in the House now for seven months.  Can you guess how many jobs bills the GOP-controlled House has considered?

None.

That’s right.  Not a one.  Instead, one of the first things they did was pass a useless, pointless dead-on-arrival-in-the-senate repeal of health care reform.  And also they passed a dead-on-arrival-at-the-senate budget gutting medicare and many other social-safety net government programs.

Note:  The GOP congresspeople passed bill after bill that had no hope of passage in the senate or being signed into law by the president.  But they kept passing these pointless bills while drawing their salaries (wasteful government spending?) and acting like the American people would support them more and more.

Hmm… doing the same things over and over while expecting different results…

Of course, Tea Party activists which include the Tea Party Caucus in the House, the Tea Party Patriots and others kept up strong political pressure on any wavering freshman republican to keep them in lockstep.  These tea Partiers want what they want, even if what they want (a small government/large corporate power partnership, which is one definition of fascism) has been historically proven over and over to be a horribly destructive failure.

Doing the same thing over and over…..

Several months ago the country at large became aware of the critical need to raise the national debt ceiling.   The Tea Party-controlled-GOP-controlled house dug in and refused to agree to a ceiling increase unless the game was played entirely by their rules: no closing of tax loopholes for millionaires, billionaires, or mega-profit-making large corporations; privatizing medicare; gutting social security; gutting the EPA, etc.  The democrats, lead by President Obama, actually offered a deal to scale back the deficit over 10 years by US$4 trillion dollars, offering major reductions to the entitlement programs while also eliminating the aforementioned tax loopholes.  Mega corporations like General Electric, which made over US$5.4 billion in the USa last year but paid zero taxes, would now have to pay their fair tax share, just like everyone else.

Three years ago, the GOP would have jumped at the offer.  But with the Tea Party pulling the strings in partnership with Grover Norquist and his high-pressure arm-twisting anti-tax agenda, the GOP refused to budge.  As the drop-dead date for raising the debt ceiling or else ushering in an economic calamity got closer and closer, what did the GOP House do?

They passed another useless, dead-on-arrival-in-the senate bill yesterday nicknamed “Cut, Cap,& Balance”, wherein they refuse to raise the debt ceiling unless both houses of congress first pass a balanced budget amendment to the US Constitution.

In other words, they did the same thing again!!

But fear not, or at least a bit less.  The senate leadership of both parties has been working on a stopgap option which raises the debt ceiling.  Additionally, the bipartisan “gang of six” senators has completed a longer range plan that basically does what Obama had proposed and the Tea Party/Grover Norquist controlled House had repeatedly rejected.

And finally, many sane-thinking House republicans are noting that 2/3 of Americans want a balanced debt-reduction deal.  They are now quietly distancing themselves from the Tea Party’s goebbels-like propaganda, and are covertly backing the “gang-of-six” proposals as well as the stop-gap plan.  Meanwhile, the hard-core Tea Party kool-aid drinkers are sticking to their unsupported faith that they’re right (yeah;  EXTREME right) and everyone else is wrong.

In other words, they’re doing what they’ve always done, and expecting a different result…because they are insane.

 

PS.  Happy 42nd Anniversary of the first lunar landing and walk on the moon to Neil Armstrong, Buzz Alden, and Mike Collins of Apollo 11!

Michele Bachmann: Curing Gays, Redeeming Slavery & Causing a Depression

The debt ceiling talks rage in Washington DC. with  August 2nd looming as the deadline to raise the ceiling and prevent the first-ever US debt default, which would cause a subsequent tumbling of the world economy into unprecedented chaos.   Among financial and economic experts, it is absolutely unthinkable that USA’s politicians would not raise that debt ceiling, because none want to be blamed for the consequences of taking no action.  Yet, in spite of the warnings from these experts, there are still those who adamantly oppose any debt increase.

The Tea Party is on record opposing such a move.  They actually believe that the USA defaulting on its debt, i.e., not paying the bills for goods and service already ordered and consumed, is no big deal.  They reject the advice, knowledge and counsel of the financial experts.  And no one epitomizes the Tea Party view more than Michele Bachmann, the extreme-religious-right republican congresswoman from Minnesota who wants to be the next US president.

Michele Bachmann and her husband Marcus Bachmann  operate the Bachmann & Associates religious counseling service which believes that it can “cure” homosexuality  through “prayer therapy”.  And if that doesn’t work, then they claim to be able to cure it through “celibacy” support.  Unfortunately for them and every thinking human on Earth, the American Psychiatric Association (APA), consisting of those pesky scientific types, disagrees.

Michele Bachmann also has signed the anti-gay “Marriage pledge”, written by the leader of an ultra-conservative-extreme-religious-right-fundamentalist organization called the Family Leader.  The original “pledge” stated, in part: 

“Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President.

The Family Leader stands by this statement and in fact repeated in an “explanation” claiming that the statement was “misinterpreted”, albeit the statement was removed from a revised pledge.

Michele Bachmann now claims that That statement was not on a document that I signed…Apparently, the group had a statement about that in another part that they’ve now since removed and gotten rid of and disavowed…”

Huh????

As ignorant as these actions on Bachmann’s (a USA presidential candidate) part are, they pale in comparison to her ignorant gross congressional negligence when it comes to her opposition to raising the US debt ceiling before August 2nd to prevent the first-ever USA financial default and its subsequent disastrous effect on the world economy.  Bachmann is a US congresswoman, and as such, has a responsibility to learn the details of issues, as every congressperson does.  She somehow believes that she won’t be held accountable if not raising the debt ceiling causes the USA to default and subsequently cause a destructive economic downturn to occur.  Maybe she should be running for the presidency of Fantasyland.

Anyone paying attention to the daily reports of progress (or lack thereof) of the debt ceiling negotiations knows that the Tea Party, whose political power rests largely among the fringe disciples of America’s ultra religious right supporters, seems to practice the old republican axiom known as “Make them fear it, and tell them who’s to blame for it.”  As a result, the more mainstream GOP congressional leadership cannot deal reasonably in the debt ceiling negotiations, because the Tea Party is sticking knives in their backs.  What’s possibly most ironic about this sad situation is that Bachmann, the leader of the Tea Party Caucus in the US House of Representatives has yet to distinguish herself in congress with any original legislation.  She has instead become the most-ignorant-of-American-history person in congress, honing her”hate & fear” tactics as though she’s invented the cure….for which there is no disease.

In fairness to Bachmann (if such a thing is even possible), GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty, a republican ex-governor (also of Minnesota!) and also a Tea Party favorite like Bachmann, also endorses the “no rise in the debt ceiling” philosophy.  He said I hope and pray and believe they should not raise the debt ceiling,”  So the Tea Party, which claims to really care about jobs and the economy, would have the USA default on loans, causing Wall Street tank to like the Great Stock Market Crash of 1929 which initiated the Great Depression, shutting down credit which would shut down jobs, which would shut down spending, which would shut down the middle class, just to make a stubbornly ignorant point…

Hopefully all this scares you.  Yet, scarier still isn’t even that in the USA, any insane lunatic can run for the highest office in the land…….it’s that at least 30% of registered voters would vote for these crazies:

As of this date, Michele Bachmann has the GOP lead in the first caucus state of Iowa.

Be afraid.  Be VERY afraid.

The Casey Anthony Verdict vs. Lynching Mobs

The great US Constitution is the highest level of law in the USA.  As a result, all other laws in the USA are subservient to it;  No federal, state, or local law can contradict or eliminate any provision in the constitution.

The Bill of Rights, consisting of the first ten amendments to the US Constitution, defines certain rights of the people pertaining to legal justice, both criminal and civil, in the USA.

The constitution’s 4th amendment protects the people against unreasonable search and seizure.

The 5th amendment protects against being charged and tried more than once for the same crime (double jeopardy), against forced self-incrimination, and against being found guilty and having sentence imposed without due process of law, which is next.

The 6th amendment in the Bill of Rights guarantees the right to the speedy trial by jury, to being informed of and understand the charges, to face one’s accusers, to examine all the evidence the present and question witnesses, and to have a lawyer for legal defense.

The 7th amendment provides the right to a trial by jury for other than criminal matters (civil or common law).

And finally, the 8th amendment protects against excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment.

Over the years, the US Supreme Court has more definitively interpreted these provisions.  Those interpretations have made it clear that defendants are considered innocent until proven guilty by a jury of their peers; that juries can find defendants guilty only if the evidence presented by the prosecution has eliminated reasonable doubt about the defendant’s guilt regarding the charge(s) against him or her; and that the defendant is not required to prove his or her innocence; the burden of proof rests with the prosecution.

Thus, in the US justice system, people charged with a criminal offense are innocent until determined by a jury to to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  This is known as the legal standard of evidence, and it means that neither feelings nor beliefs nor moral judgements can determine guilt;  Only the prosecution’s successful presentation of evidence which proves the charges beyond that legal standard count.

In other words, in any US courtroom, it doesn’t matter what one might think/feel/believe; it only matters what one can prove.

Because this is such simple stuff, it is all the more amazing (though perhaps not surprising) that so many Americans have criticized the jury in the Casey Anthony case for acquitting her yesterday (5 July 2011) of all the felony murder charges against her, some of them even expressing intense anger and disgust.

But much of the criticism seems to be directed at the legal process in general and Anthony’s legal defense team in particular.  That’s kind of bizarre because all the the defense team did was their job, and they did it well.

The defense introduced and clarified credible reasonable doubt, while the prosecution did not prove their case against Anthony beyond the legal standard of reasonable doubt.  The jury did the only right thing available to them under these circumstances.

Nonetheless, the common critics have ignored these facts, either because of ignorance of ,or lack understanding of the way the legal system in their own country is designed to operate.   They still seem to embrace the vigilante/lynching mob mentality that existed throughout much of US history, and which still exists in some less advanced or totalitarian regimes, such as some African nations and certain places in the Middle East and Asia.  They want an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth (which Albert Einstein wisely explained could eventually render the entire world population toothless and blind), or perhaps some other form biblical justice….like torture, maybe?

Because Casey Anthony was tried in the US state of Florida, she might have faced the death penalty as punishment if she had been convicted of murder.  And while the barbarism of capital punishment (also known as “state-sanctioned-murder-so-it’s-okay“) is a topic requiring its own discussion, suffice it to state that many if not most of the Anthony jury critics also support the death penalty.  Thus, it’s not difficult to imagine a scenario in which these people would string Anthony up from the nearest tree and hang her, if they could get ahold of her and believed they could get away with it?

Humans fancy themselves as being the most advanced beings in the universe.  Yet, at least in the USA , many seem unable (or unwilling)to embrace US constitutional provisions that define the rights of people charged with a criminal violation, just as they seem to reject the principles of due process, equal protection under the law and innocence until proven guilty.  Instead, they want to follow their own anger, beliefs and theories to convict and punish.

If that’s true, they’re not very advanced yet, are they?