NSA Leaks: Bad, Good, & Amusing

Every so often, an event cuts directly through the partisan political posturing endlessly practiced in congress….or at least it appears to cut through it on the surface.  Just such an event recently occurred with the revealing of the years-long mega-data-mining of most of the telephone and internet records of ordinary Americans by the US National Security Agency (NSA).

This program is the evolution of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant-less secret government surveillance program which started after 9-11 by the Bush Administration along with the Patriot Act and other lesser known laws.  The outing was an act perpetrated by a former employee of a secret NSA contractor.  Edward Snowden, a high school dropout who never completed his full enlistment in the US Army, nor did he complete his computer courses at a community college, was nonetheless enough of a computer wiz to work his way up from being a security guard at the CIA into a US$200,000 job with a secret intelligence contractor.  As such, he had access to computers, files, programs and other secret information about covert US intelligence activities. He also signed a non-disclosure clause and he would have taken an oath to never reveal any classified information.

Still, despite these conditions of his employment, he freely told an American reporter for the British newspaper “The Guardian” about the current data-gathering programs at the NSA, including the name of the phone company providing the data, and the extent of the email mining, which was more about who is emailing whom than the exact wording and content of every email.

Realistically neither the NSA nor any other organization could possibly read every email, nor listen to every telephone conversation in this country.  It would be akin to trying to listen to every conversation occurring at every sports stadium everywhere, all at the same time.

Even though that level of eavesdropping is impossible, all surveillance programs carry issues and risks.  For instance, assume that you called a doctor, and then a lab, and then a hospital and then your lawyer, and then a cab company.  Even though no one had listened in on your conversation, just having the phone numbers of each place you called could tell a story about you being sick.  That constitutes an invasion of privacy for most Americans.

Also bearing consideration is the fact that power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely, and we have already experienced episodes of government officials going beyond the law “in the interest of expediency and national security”.  Nowhere was this more clear than when the Bush administration routinely bypassed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court again and again to listen in on phone conversations during the Iraqi war, claiming they “didn’t have time” to get the secret warrant from the FISA court as required by law.

There is no evidence that the Obama administration either has in the past or would in the future condone such a violation.  But Obama leaves office in January 2017.  What if the next administration is more in line with “Tricky Dick” Cheney’s view of world control than the kinder, gentler, more intelligent Obama?

There was some some good being done by this surveillance, though that’s now gone.  Until the outing of this information, no one, including the terrorists who would destroy us, knew the extent to which we were capable of monitoring their communications activities.  Obviously, now that they know, they’ll find ways around that, just as Osama Bin Laden operated off-grid for so many years.

And there is also an argument to be made that people have a right to know that their privacy is secure and protected in compliance with the fourth amendment to the US Constitution (protection against unreasonable search and seizure).  thus, congress must devise comprehensive legislation based upon workable systems that guarantee privacy protection under penalty of law.  And here is where the issue is at its most amusing:

Since Edward Snowden blew his cookies, the old adage that politics makes strange bedfellows was never more obvious or fun to watch.

Some democrats and republicans see nothing wrong with the NSA surveillance program and have called Snowden a traitor.  Liberals like Diane Feinstein have joined with conservatives like John Boehner in this regard (a la sleeping with the enemy).  Other very conservative republicans like Rand Paul have joined liberal democrats to praise Snowden as a hero  (a la dancing with the stars).  What’s not so evident is that as a group, the conservatives LOVE this issue because they hope it will stick to President Obama like flypaper.  meanwhile, many democrats secretly LOVE that the conservative base of the GOP wants lots of government surveillance programs to protect against terrorists while HATING big government and background checks, proving that GOP’ers are hypocritical morons that can’t think straight.

In the end, it’s still business as usual at the funny farm… isn’t it?  :)

Michele Bachmann’s Departure: The Good & the Bad

In the wee hours of this morning (Wednesday, May 29th, 2013), Michele Bachmann the republican congresswoman from Minnesota’s 6th district since January 2007, announced via a  15-minute video posted (in the wee hours of the morning) on her web site that she won’t run for re-election in November 2014.  That’s only 16 short months away.

She stated in her video that none of the difficulties she has encountered in the recent past had ANY impact on her decision.  Nope.  None of those issues,  such as the pasting she got in her bid for the GOP presidential nomination, or the criticism of her endless inaccurate historical remarks, or the investigations she had to endure regarding shady campaign operations, or her total loss of mainstream credibility, or her claim that homosexuality is a “choice” that can be cured if gays will simply submit to her and her husband’s clinic for “prayer therapy”, or that the founding fathers abolished slavery, or that the FDA-approved HPV vaccine causes metal retardation…or the fact that she has the highest “Liar, Liar, Pants-on-Fire!” rating of anyone on politifact.com .  Check it out.  It’s well worth the click!

Nope.  She based her decision no to run, so she says, solely on the fact that the US Constitution’s 22nd amendment limits the president to two terms, or eight years of service.  Thus, Bachmann justifies her decision on the basis of an amendment that does not apply to her as a congresswoman.

Actually, the idea of term limits for congress seems particularly attractive in this hyper-partisan times.  But it doesn’t exist yet, Michele.

Bachmann is an attractive woman who studied tax law in college and became a tax attorney.  She became opposed to the American income tax code that is now more than 80,000 pages of lobbyist- and special-interest-promoted special exemptions.  However, she chose the wrong road to correct the problem.   For instance, instead of blaming GW Bush’s out-of-control spending on two unfunded wars and idiotic tax breaks for the rich when she was elected. she instead decided to eliminate as much government.  That’s akin to the idea that if your child gets his clothes dirty while playing, we should ban all clothes and/or all playing.

Bachmann’s decision  o not run is one of those rare actions that causes  mixed feelings.

From the republican perspective, the credit/debit balance probably looks something like this:

On the minus side:  Bachmann, was a lightening rod for ultra-extremist-religious-right-fundamentalist conservative issues, such as imprinting the bible verbatim onto the government.  She was a founder of the Tea Party Caucus in the US House of Representatives, and believes that you don’t need proof or facts…only faith…to back your statements.  She was very successful in galvanizing the ultra-extremist right-wing base of what used to be the republican party.  But she repelled most mainstream republicans and almost all independents and undecided voters.  At election time, it was a big liability that the republican party could do without, and their mostly invisible leadership knew it.

On the plus side:  Bachmann was relentless in keeping the extreme right wing republican base intact..  She reinforced the concept that if you say something often enough or in front of the right audience (mostly EXTREME right), you’ll gain brownie points and increase your influence within the internal workings of the GOP.  The base LOVED her and hung on her every word.

Interestingly, the democrats have similar mixed feelings about Bachmann’s planned departure, kind of in reverse.  On the plus side, they see at least SOME possibility that a democrat can win her seat in 2014,  After all, she barely won re-election in November 2012.  Her opponent in that race claims he will run again for the seat in 2014.  The hope is that with Bachmann gone, the democrat will have an easier time of it.  Additionally, Bachmann was a pain in the ass congresswoman who would NEVER compromise on ANYTHING with congressional democrats.  As a popular tea party lunatic, she brought all the congressional tea party loonies together.  Good riddance, those democrats who were closest to her say.

In the minus column for democrats is that once she’s gone, they can no longer use her frequent idiot statements of untrue fantasy about the world around us to win support of the indecided voter.  With her  regularly spouted idiotic statements no longer reverberating, the dems will have to settle for the less frequent idiotic statements and proclamations of other less verbose congressional tea party conservatives for their political ammo.  Without Michele’s wide-eyed diatribes on how the tooth fairy hates Obama, and in the process her casting a witch’s shadow on the credibility of the GOP, the dems will have that much less to demonstrate why the GOP is dangerous for the USA.

But the worst result of her departure is this:  We, the PEOPLE!! won’t have her endless fodder to write about.

And that’s a real loss.  :)

Angelina Jolie: Proving GOP’s Healthcare Ideas Kill People

Over the past two weeks, the GOP-controlled US House of Representatives began hearings on the non-issue of the non-coverup regarding Benghazi.  Additionally, we learned of the IRS targeting of tea Party groups seeking Tax-Exempt (TE) status, and witnessed the revelation that the US Department of Justice (DOJ) wiretapped phones of the Associated Press (AP) regarding a national security leak of secret information.  Like the piranhas they are, the GOP smelled blood in the water.

Oh, and the stock market kept hitting new high points as if it was a nympho hooker in a a multiple orgasm contest (more on the stock market later).

The House of representatives also scheduled a vote to repeal Obamacare for the 37th time!!

Your American taxpayer tax dollars at work, courtesy of the “reduce spending” GOP.  :)

But perhaps most significant for the future health and welfare of all Americans was Angelina Jolie‘s announcement yesterday that she had a double mastectomy in February as a preventative measure to reduce her extremely high risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer, which killed her own mother.  Jolie made the decision to undergo the preventative procedure after undergoing a genetic test for a defective form of a pair of genes called BRCA 1 and BRCA 2.  People with inherited defective BRCA 1 genes have an 87% risk of developing breast cancer, which is extremely high.  By undergoing the double mastectomy, Jolie reduced her risk of contracting breast cancer to under 5%.

Jolie bravely decided to go public with this information in an Op-Ed in the New York Times the day before yesterday in an effort to save lives.  It is a riveting narrative in her own words of what she went through and why.  And she also reveals some extremely significant facts that make clear that all women are not equal under the present for-profit health insurance system in the USA.  These facts also demonstrate how the monopolies run and nurtured by big corporations do not care who lives and who dies, as long as the profits keep rolling in.  This is about as close to conservative ideology as one can get.

It turns out that the genetic test that Angelina Jolie submitted to is a blood test to determine whether or no one’s BRCA 1 and/or BRAC2 genes are normal or defective.  The test is simple, but the cost is still $4000 per exam.  The reason for the outrageous cost is that only one company has the patent to conduct the test on the BRCA 1 & 2 gene.  That company is Myriad Genetics.  The patent they hold has been legally challenged by, among others, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and is now in the US Supreme Court awaiting a decision.

What’s worse is that before Obamacare, many (if not most) health insurance companies would not cover the cost of this exam because it was considered “medically unnecessary” as most preventatives were.  Obamacare has forced this companies to cover preventative services, much to the opposition of the republican party.  After all, the GOP doesn’t believe that anyone unable to fork over $4000 to the monopolistic company which presently owns the test patent should be getting “free stuff”.  They also believe that the free market should be allowed to operate without government regulation or interference of any kind.  They see nothing wrong with Myriad Genetics patenting a blood test which probably costs perhaps $50 dollars to collect the blood sample and process the results, but charges $4000, for a profit of $3950 per test.

Poor people obviously cannot afford the test.  But who wants poor people living next door, anyway?  And besides, poor people don’t buy a lot of consumer products from rich people because the poor can’t afford that stuff.  So who needs poor people anyway? They don’t even vote republican!

The truth is that republicans and their lunatic supporters are panicking over the prospect of Hillary Clinton running for president in 2016.  Let’s face it:  The continued witch-hunt over Benghazi is nothing more than an extremely thinly-veiled attempt to find something…ANYTHING…that they can use against her in 2016.  Their only problem is timing.  By 2016, this is going to be old news.  Unless they can uncover premeditated criminal activity and/or gross negligence on Clinton’s part, it is going to play out like their prediction that the stock market would crash if Obama won a second term.  And speaking of the stock market…

The GOP screamed repeatedly during the 2012 presidential election that big business and the economy would tank if Obama was re-elected.  Couple that with the age-old advice about selling off your stocks in May.  Now look at the stock market, which keeps banging out new high records day after day.  Now ask the GOP to answer the following question:

WTF??????     :)



Meanwhile, Back at the ol’ Sequester…

Over the past two weeks the world bore witness to the tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombings, the death of one bomber and the capture of another.  Additionally, the world witnessed the collapse of a known defective factory complex in Bangladesh which killed more than 300 and perhaps as many as 500 workers, simply and obscenely because the factory owners refused to heed the clear warnings by government inspectors to close the building, and instead ordered their employees to show up for work.

These and other sudden shocks to the global human psyche over the past two weeks diverted attention away from more mundane issues such as the insane budget sequester that the USA committed upon itself.  it seems that the (former) “government of the people” is now largely controlled by the same interests that are responsible for the Bangladesh disaster…the very rich and very powerful capitalist for-profit corporate folks.

Capitalism, properly regulated, is a very good economic system with some very desirable characteristics.  But unregulated/unbridled capitalism has the potential to create very wealthy and powerful owners and very impoverished, endangered and abused workers.  Capitalism alone, unconcerned with safety inspections, is responsible for the factory collapse in Bangladesh and the resulting deaths.

The GOP, having been kidnapped by the Tea Party, espouses the concept that the more breaks and perks they give to the very wealthy and powerful, the better off everyone will be.  Thus, the GOP refuses to allow taxes to rise on the very wealthy and powerful, not even to the point that their percentage of tax paid would equal that of the average middle-class wage earner.  In a way, the GOP is correct:  The more they protect the very wealthy and powerful from a tax increase, the better off the GOP and its elected officials will be.  And why?

Because the very wealthy and powerful repay their GOP minions with huge political  campaign contributions, which they then get to write off their taxes as a business expense, further decreasing their tax burden!

Armed with this knowledge of basic math, one can understand (and still disagree with) the stubborn “no more taxes on the very wealthy and powerful” stance that the GOP stands by, which resulted in the sequester.   More precisely, $85.4 billion in across-the-board meat-cleaver budget cuts went into effect in March, but weren’t really felt by anybody until April.  And during that interim, the GOP kept claiming that no one would even notice the cuts.  They gloated about their victory in reducing government spending.  That is, until the GOP started to suffer themselves, or more precisely, their very wealthy and powerful masters started to suffer because of sequestration.

You see, the very wealthy and powerful frequently fly.  They need to attend meetings in the Cayman Islands (where the bulk of their money lives) and elsewhere, after all.   Some own their own corporate jets, while others are perfectly content to fly commercial airlines (first-class, of course;  however, it is a myth that first-class that passengers arrive at their destinations sooner than passengers in coach, but don’t tell them!).  Nonetheless, whether in corporate jets or commercial airliners, ALL planes flying in the US National Airspace System must be controlled and kept safe by Air Traffic Controllers, who are generally staffed to traffic demands.

The proper number of Air Traffic Controllers working to keep all those airplanes full of the very wealthy and powerful safely separated was reduced because of sequestration, which forced a 10% reduction in Air traffic Controller staffing nationwide.  That translated roughly into a 10% drop in airspace capacity on each air route.  This caused 10% of aircraft to be delayed as demand increased at 8am.  That multiplied throughout the day until during afternoon or evening rushes, the delays were now be 3 hours or more at busy airports.  Three hour delays are unacceptable to the very wealthy and powerful.

The very wealthy and powerful duly complained to their GOP (and even some democrat) congresspeople.  In a bizarre act of bipartisanship, congress overwhelmingly passed legislation granting the US Secretary of Transportation the power to restore full funding to end the air traffic controller furloughs so that the very wealthy and powerful could return to their normal schedules and flight arrival times.  Nice.

Of course, this primarily benefited the frequently flying very wealthy and powerful and their congressional tea baggers, who astutely left Washington DC immediately after passing this excuse for legislation.  They had no concern for, nor did they fix, the locked-out project Head Start kids, or the unemployed, or seniors dependent upon “Meals on Wheels” or countless other “people” programs that the very wealthy and powerful and their congressional puppets have no use for.

After all, a poor, destitute, hungry unemployed senior or a pre-schooler can’t possibly provide them anything like the political campaign contributions of gazillions of dollars, endlessly flowing from the very rich and powerful like a supercharged sewer pipe on steroids during a flood.  :(

Is the GOP Committing Suicide?

Today (April 10, 2012) is a good day to watch the United States Congress. It is about to put on a show that has all the trapping of a hit film epic:

Twists and turns;
Stubborn zealots;

And of course, Hollywood’s best device to capitalize on maximum profits,
Sequel potential.

The senate will be voting tomorrow on opening debate on a gun control bill that makes already-existing federal background checks on gun purchasing from licensed gun dealers universal to all gun sales.   The legislation exempts gun transfers to friends and relatives.

Congress will also be exploring the president’s budget proposal which includes some modest (and unpopular) adjustments to Social Security and Medicare, in exchange for closing tax loopholes used by huge corporations and very wealthy private citizens.  it also includes an increase in taxes for the very wealthy who typically pay a lower income tax rate (typically 15% or less) than their middle class employees  making 100 times LESS than these gazillionaires.

The gun background check legislation is backed by perhaps 90% of Americans, and yet has a less than total chance of passage in the senate. Even assuming that it does pass the senate, it’s destiny in the GOP-controlled US House of Representatives is even LESS secure.  The reason for this are multiple, but perhaps the biggest problem is that corporate America is slowly but surely “buying” control of the US government through super-pacs and campaign contributions.

There are democrats from conservative states that will face a re-election challenge in 2014 if they vote for the background checks from GOP candidates financed by these corporate-funded super-pacs. Equally, some republicans in the House face a challenge in the form of a forced primary election campaign against a very-well financed tea party candidate. Either way, corporate America, which make huge profits on everything from oil to guns to ammo to drugs to insurance to banks to power generation, etc. will line the moneybags of the super-pacs with endless massive funding for folks willing to promote their “Profits before safety…ANY safety” agenda.

President Obama took a VERY bold (and for him, a very dangerous) step by proposing a budget that addresses how yearly cost of living allowances are calculated.  He proposed a long-sought-after GOP idea to tie the yearly annuity CPI increase to a “chained” Consumer Price Index (CPI), instead of the standard CPI.  This “chained” CPI” is a mathematical calculation device invented for the sole purpose lowering CPI payments. It’s premise is that as certain consumables increase in cost, seniors will simply find cheaper substitutes, or not buy them at all.

Conservatives say that the present CPI is not realistic because seniors don’t buy a lot of what the CPI is based on.  And while there may be some truth to that, the “chained” CPI is even LESS realistic because seniors on social security are probably already buying the cheapest items they need.  Liberals point out that certain important items such a housing, medications and medical equipment are not realistically available in “cheaper” brands.

Thus Obama, in one fell swoop, has managed to piss off people on both extreme sides of the aisle, which begs the question:  Why would Obama, who is an intelligent man, do such a thing?

The answer to that question might be strategic genius on his part.  First, he has placed reductions in spending on programs like social security and medicare are on the table as long as tax increases on the very rich are also there.  Second, he demonstrates that his proposals favor neither conservatives nor extreme liberals, thus showing his balanced approach.  Both work in his favor and against extremism.

But what is most likely is that he and his advisers realize that there is absolutely no way republicans in either the senate or the house will accept any new taxes on the wealthy, nor the closing of obscene and insane loopholes that only the very wealthy corporations and gazillionaires enjoy at the expense of the rest of the country.  By showing that he is willing to compromise and upset the most liberal arm of his own party, while republicans STILL say “no way!”, sets republicans up as extremists, and that fact can be politicalyl exploited during the 2014.

Remember that EVERY congressperson in the House is up for reelection next year, and if the GOP still looks as extremist, big-business-oriented and anti-middle class as the Ryan budget is, and as many Americans thought they were during the 2012 presidential elections, they may well lose control of the House and their filibuster capabilities in the senate in 2014.

So…if this is the real Plan behind the Plan, it will be akin to providing enough rope to the GOP to hang themselves.  Or put another way, they will screw themselves to death.  Either way, it’s got what every great movie has….violence and sex.

Ya gotta love it…..     :)


Gay Rights In the US Supreme Court: Will it Start a GOP War?

Yesterday and today (March 27, 2013) the US Supreme Court heard arguments in two cases regarding same-sex marriage and its subsequent legal benefits.

The first case was a challenge by a coalition of anti-gay rights groups including private citizens and religious institutions from California.  They are challenging the striking down as unconstitutional California’s 2008 Proposition 8 by a US Appeals Court.  “Prop 8″ was voted in by a majority of California voters in 2008.  It amended the California state constitution to ban marriage between same-sex couples.  California state officials refused to oppose the striking down of the ban, so the aforementioned coalition led the challenge to the Supreme Court.

Based upon the questions raised by the Supremes when listening to the arguments yesterday, many expert observers believe that the court will attempt to stealthily slide away from a strong  national all-encompassing decision one way or the other.  Instead, it is possible that the court will either rule that the pro-ban plaintiffs, being private groups, have no standing to present their challenge, which will let stand the lower appeal court decision of unconstitutionality, or they may narrowly rule in some other way that only affects California.

The second case involves a challenge to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act .  The operative portion of this federal law states that the federal government only recognizes man-woman marriages for any and all legal purposes and benefits, such as tax issues, estate issues and so forth.  Fully eight appeal courts have already found that provision of the law to be unconstitutional. 

This case (United States vs. Windsor) is unusual because the US Department of Justice (DOJ), which would normally be defending the law, actually now also agrees that the law is unconstitutional.  Bizarrely, a little-known group called the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the GOP-controlled US House of Representatives (BLAG) has petitioned to defend the constitutionality of DOMA before the Supremes. 

The expert observers believe that DOMA has a better chance of being overturned by the Supremes as being unconstitutional.  In fact, it is even possible that they may also rule that BLAG has no standing to present arguments in favor of DOMA.

That would be a blow to the GOP in general and the ultra-conservative base of the GOP in particular.  Through BLAG, the GOP-controlled US House of Representatives has put the US government in the bizarre position of both defending and opposing DOMA.  This agenda was pushed by the socially conservative religious far right wing base of the republican party.  They are the same folks who are largely responsible for lunatic laws like the one recently passed and signed in North Dakota against a woman’s right to choose abortion once her fetus reaches six weeks or when a heartbeat can be detected (whichever occurs sooner), which in many cases is before many women even know they are pregnant.  Such repressive laws spring up wherever the extreme religious right can muster a majority of votes in state legislatures.  That has a tendency to occur in states with a high proportion of rural white residents, such as North Dakota.

The bad news for the GOP is that according to the latest polls, 53% of Americans support gay marriage:

Same-sex marriage

Put another way, at least 53% of Americans DO NOT support the traditional religious definition of one man-one woman marriage ONLY.  And more bad new for the GOP’s base:  Only22% support the Tea Party movement!

The Supremes are divided between between 4 conservative justices and four liberal justices, with one justice, Anthony Kennedy, considered the swing decider in many 5-4 decisions.  Still, despite the questions they ask of petitioners via oral arguments in open court, the nine justices meet in private and discuss the cases they hear.  They seem to be able to work together even if they ultimately will disagree on the final decision they issue forth.  And as the third branch of the US government, they co-exist with the other two branches.  One never hears of the Supremes bashing the administration or each other.

On the other hand, the GOP congress bashes everyone and everything that disagrees with them.  Consider the following GOP war list:

War on women;
War on gays;
War on immigrants;
War on atheists;
War on all non-Christian religions;
War on government;
War on unions;
War on public employees;
War on minority voters;
War on the environment;
War on regulations;
War on infrastructure;
War on taxes;
War on science;
War on logic;
War on minority voters;
And, of course, war on the first US African-American president.

It is therefore easy to imagine that if the Supremes rule in favor of gay marriage, even in a limited way, and/or find DOMA unconstitutional, the GOP will want to get even with those who decided to legislate from the bench, a.k.a. those “activist judges”.  So get ready to watch their

War on the Supremes!   :)

Is the Catholic Church Doomed?

The big wait and suspense are now over.  The new pope has been elected by the cardinals in their conclave in Rome.  Archbishop of Buenos Aires in Argentina Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who now becomes pope Francis I.

The key to the future of the Roman Catholic Church, from the point of view of the cardinals who elected him, seems to be that Francis I has just the right combination of humility, experience and outsider characteristics to rescue the church from itself, i.e., the church-wide revelations of clergy sexual abuse of children, the violation of celibacy in general, the internal cover-ups and corruption, and the fact that most of the world’s catholics pick and choose which rules church rules to follow and which to ignore.

Whatever Francis I’s best intentions are, he is doomed to failure.

He will not fail immediately and not everywhere at the same pace.  But regardless of the fact that he is a Jesuit and has lived a lifestyle more in tune with his followers than with the luxurious lifestyle of those at and above his level in the church hierarchy, he is still committed to some of the oppressive church mandates, such as opposing contraception and same-sex marriage, or even gay relationships.  This means that regardless of any reforms he would be apt to institute within the church, these two most prevalent and invasive rules will probably have zero chance of being reformed.

There are several other factors which must considered when evaluating the chances for real modernization (and thus survival) of one of the world’s largest and most structured organizations.  One of those is that the Roman Catholic Church, like so many large global corporations, is replete with people who have risen the corporate ladder based upon their skills and their desire for greatest status (and the personal power that comes with that).  It is a human characteristic that the achievement of power and status begats a desire to achieve more power and status.  As such, it also triggers a desire to protect the power and status that already exists.  Some might call this politics.

The church hierarchy has been solidifying its power and status for centuries.  That hierarchy is made up of individual members doing the same thing.  It is a self-propagating process.  Thus, the hierarchy, as a group as well as individuals, has no motivation to see such radical change acceptance of birth control and same-sex relationships instituted.  Those radical shifts in basic church dogma would have unpredictable consequences in the minds of the church movers and shakers.  It would definitely shake up the status quo, something that the self-protective church hierarchy would probably fear more than death.

In that same vein, as more and more people come forward with allegations of having endured sexual abuse by church clergy, the church has been extremely reticent about opening up its vast store of documents relating to clergy sexual abuse.  Some believe that the documents would reveal a culture of abuse and church coverup and tacit acceptance spanning the entire 2000 year existence of the church.  Through unacceptable to many who believe in justice and disclosure, at least one can understand why the church would guard this information to prevent the erosion of its influence and power.  Thus, the less of the political evils for the church hierarchy is to endure the criticism and potential loss of membership over time, as opposed to being revealed as a corrupt, sex-starved, abusive, money-hungry egocentric group that has committed countless crimes against humanity.

Deeper still is the root cause of this abuse and subsequent coverup:  vows of celibacy, which defy and deny normal human sexuality, and the refuse to provide equal status to women in all aspects of the church and its structure.  This is akin to telling a dieter that he can only eat spinach and broccoli for the rest of his life while being continuously exposed to the wonderful aroma of steak grilling next door, every day.  Sooner of later, many (most?) people in that situation will weaken and seek to bite into that Filet Mignon.By denying the human sexual drive, the church set itself up long ago for deviant behavior caused by its deviant celibacy vow.  That led to the ignoring of the vow, which result in the church first ignoring the defiance, then accepting it and covering it up, until it hit a critical mass a few years ago.

Despite the church’s massive wealth and investments, it cannot forever endure the continuing loss of members and their financial support.  if the church cannot truly modernize and soon, it may go the way of those dinosaurs that Adam & Eve rode around on.

After all, even the church agrees that no dinosaurs exist today.  So maybe there is yet hope.

But don’t count on it.


Service Provider Policy: Death Over Life

Imagine that you are 87 years old, living in a facility populated by people like you.  Imagine that you are still fully ambulatory and mentally capable, and you may even have a car parked outside.  Your meals are provided for in a central dining room, as are other basic services such as your laundry and room cleaning.

The facility described above is known as an independent-living facility, one of three basic categories of place that the elderly often reside in, based upon their needed level of care.  The other two categories are assisted-living facilities which, in additional to the services already provided within independent-living facilities, also provide varying degrees of medical care and physical assistance. and nursing homes, which provide complete medical and physical support.

The 911 emergency services dialing system came into being in 1968, first in the USA and then in Canada.  Over the years the system has evolved to become more sophisticated  and effective, including the taking on of liability if a 911 operator directs an action that ultimately causes some harm.  Additionally, 911 operators have being increasingly trained in sophisticated life-saving techniques that they can walk a called through in order to enhance the chance of saving a life in a time-critical emergency.  This includes directing the application of CPR, which is short for cardio-pulmonary-resusitation.

CPR courses are taught everywhere, and all medical professionals are trained in its techniques.  However, in recent years the focus of CPR has changed from an assisted breathing/heartbeat mechanism to primarily an assisted heartbeat mechanism alone.  That has made the procedure on that can be taught and directed over the telephone by a 911 operator to a non-medical 911 caller in an emergency.

Loraine Bayless was an 87 year-old woman living at the Glenwood Gardens Independent Living facility in Bakersfield, California, which, interestingly, does not present seem to  have its own web site.  Lorraine collapsed with what was later determined to be a heart attack in the facility dining room and 911 was called by a woman who stated she was a nurse, although Glenwood executive director Jeffery Toomer has no claimed that the nameless nurse was not employed as a nurse but as a “resident services director”.

Glenwood Gardens has a policy that CPR is not to be administered by its employees, but instead directs them to call 911 in emergencies.  The claim that all residents sign a form that acknowledges their understanding and acceptance that medical services are not provided at Glenwood Gardens.  However, when Loraine collapsed and 911 was called the 911 operator assessed, based opun the nurse’s description of Loraine’s present physical status, that CPR had to be administered immediately or the patient would probably not survive.

The as-yet unnamed nurse/’resident services director” refused to administer CPR, citing company policy, despite her complete understanding (because the 911 operator made it crystal clear) that without it, the patient would probably die.  The 911 operator repeatedly pleaded with the nurse, and then asked the nurse to give the phone to someone else so that the 911 operator could provide step-by-step verbal instructions to the new listener to administer CPR to Loraine, in an effort to keep oxygen flowing to her brain until the Emergency Medical Technicians could arrive and take over.

The nurse/”resident services director” also refused to hand the phone over to anyone, citing that the other people in the facility dining room were other residents.  Listen to it yourself HERE:

911 call refusal to provide CPR

CPR was not administered to Loraine before the ambulance arrived.  She was transported to the nearest hospital and was dead on arrival.  While not yet confirmed, it is likely that her brain, deprived of oxygen for an extended period of time, died before the EMT’s even arrived.

When the story got out, Loraine’s family was quoted as saying that they had no problem with the Glenwood Gardens policy and actions, and that their mother wanted a natural death. But Loraine did not have a “Do Not Resuscitate” order on file, which directs that they are not to be resuscitated in the sudden onset of an immediate life-threatening event. One can only wonder what the inheritance is going to be regarding Loraine’s estate…

In the meantime, the city of Bakersfield, the state of California and state and federal advocacy organizations are rightfully up in arms over Loraine’s possibly preventable death.  The Glenwood staff is of course uninformative at this time, other than to say that their nurse/”resident services director” followed company policy.

However, contrary to what the Glenwood folks would have us believe, they would have suffered no liability had CPR been administered, because in cases such as this, the 911 operator (and system) assumes legal liability.  Yet, even this fact misses the primary issue in this case:

Since when did we in the USA relinquish our moral responsibility to save a life (if we can) to the for-profit commercial health service industry?

Or, put another way, consider this:

If universal health care existed in the USA, the smart money says that Loraine Bayless would be alive today.

Sequester: GOP Loses More Than Obama

On March 1, 2013 (two days from now) the human-made, totally avoidable, self-inflicted, meat-cleaver budget cuts known as the sequester will take affect.  But other than a descent in the stock market, most people will feel…nothing.

Why?  March 1 is a Friday.  Regardless of any action occurring on a Friday, the world doesn’t react before the next business day, which is the following Monday.  Even then, no one will really notice any difference in the world around them.  After all, it takes time for the money already paid to run out.  The GOP will be claiming, as some loud-mouth ultra-right wing pundits on Faux Noise and hate radio are claiming now, that the sequester was no big deal, that they were right and the democrats wrong, and that they’re winners and the democrats are a bunch of losers and alarmists.

And just like the person who stands at the edge of the beach, sees where the sea and the sky meet and confidently declares that the Earth is clearly flat, the celebrating GOP will likewise be claiming that the sequester is wonderful and we should have one every month.  The only problem with that declaration will be that in one month’s time, the effects of the sequester will begin to be truly felt by those ignorant masses known as the at-large electorate, and the GOP will suddenly be racing around trying avoid having to explain how and why they claimed four short weeks earlier that the sequester was good for children and other living things.

The reason for the delayed reaction is that it will take most agencies a month to implement the draconian cuts forced upon them by the sequester.  Those cuts will eventually cause reductions in service caused by reduced available resources, including people.  In the Federal Aviation Administration, Air Traffic Controllers and other safety-related personnel such as technicians and inspectors will begin serving furloughs.  So will private-sector controllers.  The same will occur at the  Transportation Security Agency, including the inspectors at the security gates at airports, as well as food inspectors at the Food & Drug Administration (FDA).  Senior citizens dependent upon Meals on Wheels will have to find their dinners elsewhere.  Unemployment insurance benefits will be dramatically reduced.

Programs that help children such as Head Start, vaccination programs,school lunch programs, etc. will be reduced or suspended completely, leaving needy children without early education, protection against childhood diseases, and the nourishment necessary to stay healthy and alert in school.  By April 1, 2013, unless congress finally agrees to compromise on budget reduction that takes into account both revenue increases, entitlement reform and spending cuts, we will begin to see these things actually occur before our eyes.

According to the latest polls, Americans would blame republicans more than they would blame Obama or the democrats for the sequester and inability to reach a compromise.  That is why the GOP has been attempting to spin that the sequester was Obama’s idea and his fault.  But facts are stubborn things.  23 republican senators out of 44 voted for the sequester, as did 174 GOP congresspeople out of 232.  In both cases, a clear majority of republicans voted yes, thus making it a bipartisan action.

All of this really boils down to the fact that conservative republicans teamed with the Tea Party Movement after the 2010 midterm elections and kidnapped the republican party.  They subsequently insisted upon a single goal:  shrink government by starving it of revenue, forcing abandonment of of all but the most basic programs such as defense and border security;  Say no to all tax increases, even if it means children go hungry and unprotected against disease, that food doesn’t get inspected, that oil spills pollute the environment, and that poor people starve to death or die of curable illnesses on the streets;  Let big business be free to do whatever it wants, and may the buyer beware.

As a result, the GOP refuses to compromise on deficit reduction, even when it involves closing tax loopholes that benefit the very rich.  They would rather preserve $8 billion a year in corporate welfare to the enormously profitable oil companies than pay for school lunches for the poor.  After all, those poor kids can’t come anywhere close to matching the campaign contributions that the oil companies routinely donate to the republicans, can they?

Thus, the democrats are betting that the republicans will paint themselves into a corner with their refusal to budge.  They have every reason to believe that more Americans than not will remember the harm done by the sequester and blame the republicans more than the democrats during the 2014 mid-term elections, which are, after all, only 18 months away.

In truth, it’s a national disgrace that the USA is even putting itself through this.  But the American people elected these inflexible ideologues into office.

Why would they now expect that they’re going to be flexible and logical?

Why Sequester Matters & Why Congress Doesn’t Care

On March 1st, 2013, a blunt-edged, slasher-movie, automatic $85 billion cut in the USA’s budget is scheduled to be implemented.  Roughly half of that cut will come from discretionary defense spending and the other half from discretionary domestic spending.  “Safety net” programs such as social security, medicare and medicaid are exempt, although medicare providers like doctors, clinics and labs will see a 2% reduction in medicare payments received.

This exercise in shooting a mosquito with an assault rifle is called “Sequestration“, which was meant to address the”spending cuts” half of the fiscal cliff.    The other half of the fiscal cliff was the tax increases on everyone when the Bush tax cuts finally expired on December 31, 2012.  Because of the last minute agreement between the republicans and the Obama administration that made those tax cuts permanent for those making less than $400,00o a year (while allowing them to expire for those making $400,000 a year or more), the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012  was signed into law in early January 2013.  That delayed implementation of the “spending cuts” portion (sequestration) of the cliff until march 1, 2013, to allow congress to negotiate a bipartisan agreement to avoid the meat-ax impact of blunt and indiscriminate budget cuts.

All of this resulted from the passage of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which itself was caused by the republicans’ initial refusal to raise the idiotic debt ceiling. Raising the debt ceiling does nothing more than authorize the USA to pay its bills for goods and services ALREADY BOUGHT but not yet paid for.  The USA and Denmark are the ONLY countries with such a stupid law.  The debt ceiling debate in the summer of 2011 produced nothing more than the Budget Control Act, and the downgrading of the USA’s international credit rating.  It also pissed off Wall Street.

The sequestration was designed to be so painful that both political sides would be forced to compromise on tax increases and spending cuts.  Ultimately, sequestration would force $1.2 trillion in cuts over 10 years, with $85 billion in 2013.  However, most reputable economists are advocating that in order for the USA to get its fiscal house in order, it requires a 10-year deficit reduction of $4 trillion.  Even with the full unbridled implementation of sequestration, there would still have to be a further deficit reduction of $2.8 trillion, more than double what a very painful sequestration would provide.

According to many sources, the Obama administration has already reduced the 10 year deficit by $2.5 trillion, both in actual spending reductions and with the expiration of the Bush tax cuts on the highest earning 1%.  If true, than to meet the $4 trillion target only requires another $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction.  Sequestration would accomplish much of that, but with a huge price tag in terms of reduced government services including defense spending (the sacred cow of the GOP), aviation security, food inspections and other things Americans take for granted.  So why is the sequestration probably going to take effect anyway?

Despite its embarrassing election losses in November, the GOP is back to its “my way or no way” mantra.  Republicans insist that the entire deficit reduction must be accomplished ONLY with spending cuts and completely without revenue increase.  They don’t want defense spending touched in an way.  Instead, they really want to target the safety net programs.  They believe the American people will side with them on this, all evidence to the contrary.

Conversely, the democrats want “hands off” regarding social security, medicare and medicaid.  They’re not against spending cuts, but they want the safety net programs fenced.  They want significant defense spending reductions.  And they want the rich to pay more in taxes by closing the loopholes that the rich use to reduce their tax rates to less than many middle class taxpayers.

It seems incredible that this totally manufactured crisis hasn’t already been resolved through honest compromise.  You know…like the way congress used to work before the loonies “sequestered” the mainstream republican party away in the batshit-mobile?

Incredibly, some conservative tea party congresspeople see the sequester as a good thing.  They want smaller government, they don’t care how, so let’s do it even if it causes another recession or a stock market crash.

On the other hand, since most safety net programs are exempt from the sequester, some congressional democrats see the sequester as the only realistic opportunity they’ll ever have to significantly reduce defense spending.  No one is budging, and in fact, congress is on vacation!  So the smart money is on the sequester actually happening (unless Obama can pull one more rabbit out of the hat)

In fact, congress has its own safety net, don’cha know.  It will take a month for the sequester to really start being felt.  That provides congress cover to work something out before the final hammer falls.

Maybe, for the good of the country, they’ll do that.

Yeah, and maybe the tooth fairy will visit you tonight.

Marco Rubio: GOP Rising Star That Fell Back to Earth

Yesterday was quite a day for news junkies.  The stories about the Pope resigning continued to spread, along with speculation as to his real motives.  The ex-LAPD cop was reported to be trapped by law enforcement officers in a burning cabin and was presumed at the time to be burning to a crispy piece of char-broiled ex-person.  And president Obama rudely cut into the news stations’ mesmerization of mindless America by repetitious reporting of the burning cabin in California, by giving his State of the Union address to a joint session fo the US congress.

Oh, yeah…and there were not just one, but two GOP responses to the State of the Union speech.

One of them was by republican senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, a member of the ultra-conservative Tea Party Express.  If you missed it (and almost everyone in the world did..after all, the news outlets’ coverage of a burning cabin has a higher ratings factor), you can watch it HERE.  Suffice it to say it was typical Rand Paul, who is suspected of really being his own father, Ron Paul of Texas, in a clever disguise .

Obama is a great speaker, and last night’s performance was no exception.  He got a lot of applause, some of it actually from republicans.  One exception, however, was when he called upon congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would it easier for women to seek redress for unequal pay for equal work.  As most of the hundred of people present stood up and applauded, a large number of republican congressmen and women (no less!) sat silently.

How or why would anyone be against equal pay for equal work, regardless of gender???  Go ask the GOP.

Or better yet, go ask Marco Rubio, the republican junior senator from Florida.  Rubio is a young and energetic politician whose parents emigrated from Cuba years before the Castro regime took control of that country.  He is extremely conservative for his years, a favorite of the Tea Party and a rising star within the GOP, which hopes to win the back the presidency in 2016.

Rubio was tasked with providing the official” GOP response to the president’s State of the union address.  In doing so, he seemed to have a few “physically awkward” moments.  One that is being talked about a lot occurred when he stopped his speech momentarily to take a drink from a plastic water bottle.  In fairness to Rubio, this should not be a big deal.  If anything, the GOP operative who supervised the scene for the TV camera is at fault for not having the bottle very close to Rubio so that he could easily reach it to take a swig.  Instead, it was placed on a stool off-camera far enough way from him that he had to make a very noticeable effort to reach the bottle, and again to put it back.  Very awkward, but who cares and let’s move on.

What seems far worse was how Rubio kept lifting his hands to scratch parts of his face.  It happened at least three times, and looked like he was being bitten by gnats or maybe noseeums” (pronounced no-see-ums).  It was disturbing to watch and it distracted from Rubio’s typical tea party message.  That message bashed Obamacare, any tax increase of any amount for any reason, government in general, and government spending in particular.  He advocated serious non-specific cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security,

Although Obama mentioned fixing the voting process in the USA that forced some people to wait in line for seven or more hours to vote in the last election, Rubio mentioned nothing about this in his speech.  Keep in mind that Rubio is a senator from Florida, the laughing stock of the USA during the November 2012 general election due to the very long (seven-hour-plus) voting lines.  Those were caused by conservative GOP governor Rick ScottWith the help of the GOP-controlled state legislature, he reduced early voting days and times in Florida by almost half.  Obviously, the good people in the Florida state government missed the limelight they had enjoyed during the 2000 presidential vote debacle in Florida.  :)  Rubio had a chance to distance himself from this debacle, and he blew it HUGE.

Rubio did something else that should make people sit up and note:

Rubio mentioned God three times in the body of the speech, used the word “blessed” twice,  the word “pray” once, and pushed pro-life, while inferring that Obama’s gun proposals are unconstitutional.  He promoted burning coal instead of investing in clean energy.  And then he mentioned God again…THREE TIMES…in a single final sentence.

The Tea Party and the GOP’s ultra-conservative base must have enjoyed endless multiple orgasms over Rubio’s opening volley of the 2016 GOP primary season!

All everyone else heard was same-old same-old, my way or the highway, & say NO to everything.

So much for the GOP’s “rebirth”.

BSA: Boy Scouts of America? Or Bigots Seriously Anti-gay?

There was a time perhaps half a century ago when many American boys looked forward to joining the Cub Scouts (ages 8- 11) and/or Boy Scouts( BSA) (ages 11 & above).  Their parents encouraged their sons to became scouts because they knew that scouting stood for good citizenship and for learning skills such as camping, living outdoors, and a whole myriad of other skills that could be useful in adulthood.  Scouting also taught other basic skills such as cleanliness, teamwork, and of course, to “Be prepared”, which is the BSA motto.

Although the BSA had some minor militaristic characteristics such as uniforms, rankings based upon required accomplishments, and standing assemblies, it generally was not considered a militia or right-wing organization, nor was it considered politically or religiously right-wing based.

In the 1950′s and early 1960′s, most people weren’t thinking in terms of gay-rights or the religion-right taking over government.  Americans’ concerns were directed at the perceived Soviet/communism threat of global domination.  The civil rights movement was just beginning to gain national attention. The USA had not yet gotten irreversibly mired in the Vietnam war.  But as the decade of the sixties progressed, the social/sexual/anti-war/anti-military-industrial complex/anti-draft revolutions blossomed into full-fledged historical change agents that resulted in new standards of human interaction.

Most people probably never even knew that the BSA did not allow gays or lesbians to serve as either members or staff.  During the 1970′s and even the 1980′s, many gays and lesbians were still “in the closet”.  If they served as cub scout den mothers or boy scout troop leaders, they certainly didn’t let anyone know ab0ut their homosexuality.

In the 1980′s when Ronnie the Ray-Gun was president, Jerry Falwell’s “Moral Majority” was given free reign to dictate its version of morality to America:

1.  Sex is evil.
2.  Premarital sex is particularly evil.
3.  Homosexual sex is even more evil.
4.  In all cases, abstinence is the only acceptable policy.
5.  In the case of procreation, as long as you are married, #4 is waived, but only if you don’t enjoy the sex part.

Gays and lesbians were considered to be dangerous Satanical deviates hell-bent upon bringing godless communism into every home in America.  rejection of gays and lesbians was crutical to receiving God’s love.  As proof, HIV/AIDS was reported to be God’s punishment against gays, bisexuals, Hollywood liberals, and disco lovers.

Curiously, gays pedophile priests in the Roman Catholic Church that have been raping and sexually torturing/traumatizing children for almost 2000 years don’t seem be covered under the same limitations or restrictions as BSA members and staff…..but that’s another blog..    :)

In any event, as the issue of gay rights gained traction in the 1990′s and 2000′s, the BSA moved further and further to the right, partially motivated by the fact that some of the locales they had used for decades as meeting places, such as schools, began to impose non-discrimination policies.  Religious organizations rushed to fill that gap, and along with other conservative groups began to exert increasing pressure and influence on the BSA to maintain its anti-gay, pro=religious policies.

The result of all this has been that with over 70% of all BSA troops now affiliated with religious organizations, membership in the BSA has declined from approximately 8 million members in 1999 to 2.7 million today.

This decline of 2/3 of their membership numbers, as well as the total acceptance of gays and lesbians in the US Armed Forces, brought enormous pressure to bear upon the BSA to get their act together and join the 21st century by eliminating their  anti-gay discrimination policies.  To that end, the BSA proposed a change that would allow individual troops to decide whether or not to allow gays and lesbians into their troops.  Their final decision was expected today.

Unfortunately, this policy, if it had been adopted, would have allowed gays into some troops while others that suffered from homophobia or severe religious overdose could continue to discriminate.  However, over time, the lunatic-fringe-controlled troops would be singled out in the face of other “all-inclusive” troops becoming the majority.

Nonetheless, the BSA today announced that it will delay its decision on this defective policy until its national meeting (or Jamboree) in May 2013  because “due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy.

Translation:  The religious organizations, reinforced by ultra-conservative organizations such as the Family Research Council, are exerting enormous pressure on the BSA to hold the line on gay participation in the BSA;  they need time between now and May to do the intense lobbying necessary to hold back ANY change in the BSA’s anti=gay, anti-lesbian, anti-transsexual policies.

The smart money says that the extreme-religious right will probably prevail in May.  If that happens, the BSA may well degenerate into a militia-style ultra-right wing Hitler-youth type of organization.

Or…they might get adopted by the organization seen picketing here:  the Westboro Baptist Church:

<br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
	Shirley Phelps-Roper (R) and her daughter Megan of the Westboro Baptist Church, a Kansas church known for its vehement anti-gay positions and for protesting at US soldiers' funeral, stage a protest across the street from Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, Maryland, outside Washington, on March 1, 2011. The church was demonstrating against what it claims is a 'pervert-run' school and said teachers across the country have 'broken the moral compass of this generation.' <br /><br /><br /><br /><br />


Forget Gun Rights vs. Gun Control: Think “RESPONSIBILITY!”

As this is written, a congressional hearing is occurring in the US senate regarding what, if anything, can be done to prevent another massacre of children like the one last month in Newtown Connecticut.

So far, advocates of both gun right and gun control have testified, including former US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head and remains severely injured by a crazed gunman in Phoenix, Arizona two years ago.  You can hear her short and injury-impacted heart-wrenching speech HERE.

Also testifying was National Rifle Association (NRA) vice-president Wayne LaPierre, who said that neither guns nor gun owners are the problem, but that the federal government doesn’t enforce existing laws, and that’s the problem. he also reemphasized that the best protection for schools is to have armed guards at each one.

Perhaps most eloquent (so far), was Mark Kelly, Gabrielle Giffords’ husband and former space shuttle astronaut, who, as a gun owner (as is his wife), said that the real issue is that with rights comes responsibility.

Who’s right?

When one thinks of the US Constitution first amendment right to freedom of speech, religion, assembly, the press and so forth, one has to acknowledge (as the US Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly), that these basic civil rights come with an associated requirement to act responsibly in the exercise of these rights:

One cannot yell “fire!” in a crowded theater just to watch the ensuring confusion and  the injuries caused by people trying desperately to escape an imaginary threat to their lives.  One cannot practice a religion that kills “sacrificed” humans in the name of their deity.  One cannot direct the assembly of a 1000 people in a space that can only hold 50.  One cannot print lies that destroy the reputations of innocent private citizens.

To violate these common sense restrictions upon the basic rights in the first amendment is to invite arrest and/or lawsuits that if proved, will result in penalties and/or imprisonment.  And yes, this is allowable under the US Constitution, as repeatedly affirmed by the US Supreme Court.  The folks who think that any right is unbridled and devoid of responsibility in its exercise are wrong at best, and fanatical fundamentalist libertarian extremists who don’t understand the concept of rights and their responsibilities, at worse.

Many suggestions are been floated repeatedly whenever a crazed shooter commits multiple murders indiscriminately, such as the Newtown massacre.  For instance, the following have been promoted as ways to solve this “massacre” problem:

1. Limit the size of gun magazines to 10 rounds of less.
2. Perform universal background checks, including mental health check, which will require ALL threat diagnosis to be entered into a central system.
3. Ban assault rifles.
4. Close the gun show and private gun sales background check loophole.
5. Ban handguns.
6. Require all new gun sales to be registered into a central system.
7. Require gun safety training of all NEW gun owners.
8. Armed guards at all schools to protect children.

Now, keeping common sense and responsibility in mind, both banning assault rifles and handguns are completely pointless.  There are already literally millions of these items out there.  Banning them would be like banning beer-making kits.

Armed guards at schools does not require a federal law, although initially this might not be a bad idea as part of a multi-step process for some indeterminate period of time until the rest of the solution has been implemented and well established.  But always remember that children and schools are NOT the only victims of gun massacres.

Closing the gun show and private sales background check loophole, in concert with the implementation of a centralized universal background check that including mental health data is a very good idea and hard to argue against, as long as it is modernized, computerized, instant the way credit check are today, and transparent to the seller and purchaser.  Part of this system would also register the gun and/or magazine being sold and bought.  The responsible gun owner and gun seller would feel nothing as a result of this process.  But law enforcement would be enhanced against the irresponsible person who would leave his gun unattended, or is a straw buyer for someone else who couldn’t pass the background check.

And finally, training of new gun owners is a good idea that is also hard to argue against.  One wonders how many people buy guns for self-defense but have never shot them, cleaned them, or understand the rules regarding concealed weapons. An exemption could be instituted for people with prior military or law enforcement experience, although, some of them may want to take the course anyway.  Motorcycle drivers must take a course to be licensed, and many of them take skill-enhancement courses from time to time.

These common sense ideas are the only ones that stand a chance of passage in congress.  Doing what feels good now isn’t always the best long-term solution, any more than thinking that today’s solution is the final one.

Even the US Constitution is periodically amended…as further facts are forthcoming.  :)



US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Next Job: #45?

In 2008, Hillary Clinton, US senator from New York, former first lady as wife of president Bill Clinton, mother of Chelsey, universal health care advocate and former lawyer, mounted and ran the first really credible political campaign for president of the USA ever run by a woman candidate.  She came very close to winning enough delegates to be the democratic party’s nominee for president that year, winning 18 million primary votes.  Barack Obama edged her out in the delegate count toward the end of the campaign season and Hillary pivoted to throw her complete support behind Obama.

Obama had said during the primary season that Clinton and he were friends before the campaign, and they would be friends after the campaign.  He also recognized that except for his superior political organization on the ground, particularly in states that held caucuses instead of primary elections, Hillary might have won the nomination instead of him.  He and his closest advisers realized that Clinton was extremely intelligent, had lived in the White House for eight years, had been engaged as the wife of a president, had traveled around the world as first lady, was a capable and popular senator from New York, and had knowledge, skills and abilities that would be squandered if he did not capture them and access them.

As a result, before the 2008 democratic convention, he met with her in private and asked her to be the next USA Secretary of State.  Incidentally, this would place her fourth in line of succession to the presidency should something ever happen to him, the vice-president, the speaker of the house of representatives and the president pro tempore of the senate, in accordance with the US Constitution 25th amendment and subsequent US law.

Hillary was confirmed by the US senate in early 2009 and has served as the USA Secretary of State ever since.  She was there with President Obama the night the Navy Seals took out Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan, and she has been instrumental and engaged in international dealings that have benefited the USA.

In November 2010, largely as a result of GOP lies and false propaganda about the newly passed but not yet implemented health reform legislation now known as Obamacare, the tea-party-infested republicans took over as the majority in the US house of representatives.  At that point the upcoming presidential election of 2012 became a real horse race.  All during that time, Hillary continued to work behind the scenes on the foreign policy issues of the day.

Pundits wondered if Obama should replace vice-president Joe Biden as US vice-president for the 2012 election with her.  For her part, she repeatedly made it crystal clear that she was not interested in any way in the job of vice-president or any other elected position…ever.  In fact, at this point it became common knowledge that she would be leaving her job as Secretary of State shortly after Obama won re-election.  Over and over she has stated that she wants to return to private life.

In September 2012, terrorists attacked the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, murdering four US diplomats.  In its aftermath the public statements about it were confusing and conflicting.  Republicans attempted to make a political campaign issue out of that but were unsuccessful.  Still, congressional hearings were scheduled, and yesterday Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified before both houses of the US Congress.

Republicans, who are still reeling over their losses in the November 2012 elections, were told to be respectful of Hillary when she testified.  They realized that she is incredibly popular among Americans, with a 67% favorable rating vs. 26 unfavorable.  Most republicans were respectful to her, with notable exception made by republican 2016 presidential hopeful senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and GOP senator Ron Johnson from Wisconsin.   When Ron Paul stated that he would have fired her had he been president (how much more political can you get?), she simply looked away dismissingly as if to tell him that she wasn’t interested in his political campaign statement.  And when Ron Johnson asked her something but wouldn’t let her answer, she lit into him in a way that backed him right off.  You can watch the exchanges HERE.

For their part, the democrats kept thanking her for her service and repeatedly hinted at their desire for her to run for president in 2016, even though she has repeatedly insisted that she’s all done with public life.  Of course, that was before the November 2012 elections. With each hint, she simply smiled or laughed.

think about it.  She is much wiser and more experienced now.  No republican can come close to matching her skills and abilities in foreign policy. She is clearly the front-run among the democrats and much of the USA, for that matter.

So….will she change her mind?  Will she being unengaged bore her to death?

The smart money says….stand by.   :)


Guns Now, But the Debt Limit Train is Speeding Down the Track

While the USA is quite appropriately finally focusing attention on the gun rights vs. public safety, there are now only 45 days left for the congress to work out a plan to avoid the new “fiscal cliff” of raising the debt limit while finding a bipartisan road to budget control.

Consider the following dollar amounts for 2012 which do not yet include the increased revenue from the tax increase on the wealthiest Americans, which became law on January 2, 2013:

* U.S. Tax revenue: $2,170,000,000,000

* Federal budget: $3,820,000,000,000

* Recent budget cuts: $ 38,500,000,000

* New debt (deficit for the year before budget cuts): $1,650,000,000,000

*Total National debt to date: $14,271,000,000,000

If this was a family budget, it might look like this:

* Annual family income: $21,700

* Money the family spent: $38,200

* Total budget cuts so far: $38.50

New debt on the credit card (deficit for this year before budget cuts): $16,500

* Outstanding balance on the credit card: $142,710

It is clear by these figures that neither the national budget nor the family budget can long endure without catastrophic consequences.  No member of congress who can add whole numbers would disagree with this, either.  And when it comes to resolving this impossible budget situation, no member of congress who can also subtract would dispute the following methodologies for bringing the budget in line with revenues:

* Reduce spending.
* Increase revenues.

Seems simple enough, and actually,both have been partially accomplished:  Revenues have been raised as a result of both a recovering economy and the tax increase on those making more than $400,000 a year;  and there have been approximately US$1.2 trillion over 10 years, or approximately US$120 billion a year in spending cuts.  However, these are not nearly enough to fix the USA deficit or debt issues in the foreseeable future.  Both GOP’ers and democrats who know math know this.

To date, republicans have resisted tooth and nail any tax increase on the rich because, truth be told, the rich finance the GOP’s political campaigns.  One does not bite the hand that feeds it, so the GOP believes. However, because of their poor showing in the recent general elections, they had little choice but to reluctantly allow passage of the aforementioned tax increase.

Democrats have resisted some (though not all) spending cuts, particularly those involving social net programs like social security and Medicare.  The GOP likes to call these entitlement programs, or government giving away free stuff, as Mitt Romney said, even though those receiving benefits already paid for them.

In fairness, both parties have resisted stopping the pork-barrel extra spending that gets inserted into legislation to buy votes, such as the infamous $150 million “Ted Stevens Bridge to Nowhere”, and the unnecessary and unrelated spending that was included in the Superstorm Sandy relief legislation that recently passed congress.

All of the partisan dysfunction notwithstanding, the big angry white elephant in the room (pardon the pun) is the threat issued by republicans to use the debt limit ceiling  issue in February, i.e., appropriating  the funding necessary to pay for goods and services ALREADY bought (much like paying the monthly bill for the debt already racked up on the family credit card), to force spending cuts.  They have drawn a line in the sand claiming that they will not support raising the debt ceiling unless, dollar for dollar it is matched with spending reductions.  They do this despite creating more self-inflicted harm and debt for the nation, as well as having the good faith and credit of the USA further damaged and downgraded on a global scale, as it was in the summer of 2011 during the last GOP-inflicted debt limit ceiling crisis.

There is only one way to describe the GOP’s intention with this issue:  BLACKMAIL. 

Blackmail is a criminal offense.  Yet, congressional republicans are threatening to hold the entire country, its credit rating, and its ability to pay bills for goods and services already incurred hostage in order to force president Obama and the democrats to cave in to the GOP’s fiscal demands.  This is no different than a kidnapper demanding a ransom for the return of a Kidnapped person.


A little education for the righties.
President Obama rightfully drew his own line in the sand earlier this week when he threw out the gauntlet to the GOP, telling them in no uncertain terms that he will not negotiate on raising the debt ceiling.  He stated clearly that he wants the spending cuts conversation with them and even welcomes it, but will not allow the GOP to tie it in any way to the issue of raising the debt limit ceiling.  He thus put the GOP on notice that if they wish to lose their shrinking majority in the House of representatives, the 2014 midterm elections are only 21 months away.  Failing to raise that ceiling so that the USA can pay its bills will weigh heavily upon whomever supported that failure.
Still…it makes you want the entire GOP congressional delegation to drive over the debt limit ceiling “cliff”, doesn’t it?  :)

Gun Control: Logic Shot Dead By Passion

For aliens from the planet Zork to visit Earth, they would have to be unimaginably more technologically advanced than us in order to travel faster than the speed of light.  Keeping that in mind, if they came to the USA and studied the issue of gun rights vs. gun control, this is what they would find:

1.  The Bill of Rights of the US Constitution, amendment #2, states:  A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

They would also note that the US Supreme Court, which interprets the constitution and rules on interpretative disputes, has concluded that the second amendment protects the citizens’ right to own guns in the USA.

The Zorkians would also note that the 1st amendment protects freedom of speech.  Some low-information Americans think that their right to own guns cannot be qualified in any way, but the Zorkians would realize that the 1st amendment constitutional guarantee of free speech is qualified, since one cannot yell “fire!’ in a crowded theater without severe legal and civil consequences because laws exist that qualify freedom of speech.  The Zorkians would conclude that gun rights can likewise be qualified with requirements.

The Zorkians would study human psychology, human passions and weaknesses, and human history.  They would also study the history of guns and their various iterations and characteristics.  They would study the recent massacres committed in the USA over the past few years including Columbine, Aurora, Phoenix, and Newtown.  They’d absorb the history of gun control laws in the USA, from the gangster-inspired 1934 National Firearms Act, through the JFK assassination-inspired 1968 Gun Control Act, then the 1986 Firearm Owner’s Protection Act, the Reagan assassination attempt-inspired 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Act, and the 1994 The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which banned some, not all assault weapons until it expired in 2004.  They would also study the 50 states and their often-contradictory gun-control laws and they would note with utter bewilderment that what is legal in one state is illegal one inch away in another state.

Finally, they’d study humans on both sides of the issue, with emphasis on the extremes.  They would first hear from the anti-gun lobby that the only way to stop gun violence is to ban all handguns, all assault rifles, all ammunition that can penetrate clothing, all large-capacity bullet cartridges, and any weapon that doesn’t emit a loud siren wail when loaded.  This statement would baffle and perplex them, in light of the well-established second amendment.

Then they’d listen to the pro-gun lobby (consisting mostly of men and Sarah Palin, the Zorkians would note curiously), and they would evaluate the following repeated arguments:

1.  “Gun don’t kill people, people kill people!  Without guns, people would just uses knives !”  Of all the idiotic rationales that the Zorkians would hear, this one would win the Zorkian Supreme Prize for Stupidity.  Zorkians would know that guns in the hands of people kill people, and that guns enable killing from a distance that knives don’t.  “WTF”, they would say in Zorkian, as they laughed through their armpit openings.

2.  “The democrat-controlled government will take our guns away from us, but we’ll defend our constitutional right to own guns by revolting against the government”.  The Zorkians would consider this the epitome of fantasyland paranoia and hypocrisy, because the constitutional US government has repeatedly acknowledged the constitutional right to private gun ownership;  however, overthrowing the US government is UNCONSTITUTIONAL!!

3.  “If all Americans had guns, gun crime would disappear!”  This argument would convince the Zorkians that the human race is simply not ready for prime time.  They would look at humans and see that all of them have hands, and then point out that hands are the primary item universally used in every single crime ever committed in the known universe (among all those races that actually have hands).

The Zorkians would then, after spending 1.2 seconds on all of the above (remember, time has no meaning to them), conclude that controlling gun crime is no more difficult than controlling  a starship through a time warp – something their offspring learn to do while still in both their parents’ shared womb.

They would offer this simple and elegant solution to humanity:

1.  Via a federal system, register all future gun sales into a central database, thus eliminating differences, gaps, and even non-registration in some states.

2.  Via a federal system, require a streamlined, computerized, centralized background check of all potential gun buyers.  This background check would check for any past violent criminal convictions and also check for any psychological records indicating mental, emotional, or psychotic characteristics as inputted by psychiatrists, local medical experts and/or hospitals.

3.  Via a federal system, encourage voluntary registration of currently-owned firearms by offering meaningful incentives like federal income tax credits (e.g., $500 credit per gun registration).  While not perfect, gun owners would informed that if they didn’t participate and one of their guns was stolen and used in a crime, they might be prime suspects, or ultimately be charged as accessories to a crime committed with their gun.  Kind of  a “don’t ask, don’t tell” in reverse.  :)

Then the Zorkians would depart, leaving an intergalactic traffic warning sign (invisible to humanity, of course) for the rest of the galaxy to avoid the planet Earth,   which says,



GOP vs. Tea Party; What Fun!

On January 1, 2013, the US senate passed legislation that prevented the US from driving off the fiscal cliff and in doing so, prevented taxes from going up on 98% of Americans, most of whom are in the middle class.  The bill passed with an overwhelming and unusually bipartisan majority of 89 to 8 vote.  As if to accentuate the bipartisan nature of this landmark event, three of the eight “no” votes were from democrats!

Those old enough to remember the administrations that preceded the GW Bush will recall a time when both houses of congress dealt with issues on the basis of compromise and give-and-take negotiations to arrive at a finished product both parties could support, even if neither side was completely satisfied.  This had been how the US government conducted business since its inception.  And although the US senate had increasingly degenerated over the past 12 years into a polarized body more interested in “my way or the highway”, at least when the USA (and as a consequence, much of the world economy) had its back to the wall in the final hours, the senate acted to avert disaster in the the only way it possibly could:  compromise and bipartisanship.

Not so the US House of Representatives.

That chamber suffered an infestation of newly-elected Tea Party candidates in 2010, some of whom only had until this Thursday before they are replaced by those who beat them in last November’s elections.  They have continuously appeared to be deaf to the will of the people as expressed in the last election and continuing national polls.  They have insisted upon standing firm against ANY compromise, even one to prevent the USA from going over the fiscal cliff.

Although the senate-passed bill finally passed the House after 9pm last night by a 257-167 vote, only 85 republicans voted in favor of the billfully 151 republicans voted against it!

Those folks who voted to have taxes rise on 98% of Americans (who are now covered by the legislation they voted AGAINST) seem to think that Grover Norquist, the anti-tax guru pagan god of the Tea Party is the second coming of the messiah.  yet, if they paid even cursory attention to the news, they’d know that Norquist endorsed the legislation as “not in conflict with the anti tax pledge” he has blackmailed most republican congresspeople into signing.

These Tea-Party-infected folks also believed that it would have been better for the USA to drive over the cliff, seriously crippling the US and global economy, critically injuring the US stock market, having taxes rise on the 98% of Americans that that the bill now protects, abruptly shutting down unemployment benefits, and dramatically reduce or end health care benefits to the poor among other self-inflicted wounds, than to deny tax breaks to the very rich.  They also hated that the promised spending cuts, which must now be negotiated and passed within the next two months, weren’t included in the bill NOW!

They didn’t care that many Americans would suffer for the weeks or months it would take to forge a spending reduction agreement with democrats, if in fact such an agreement between ultra-conservative extreme-right-wing Tea Baggers and congressional democrats was even possible.  Remember, the baggers’ first manta is “my way or the highway”.  They also bore no responsibility whatsoever for the fact that for the 16 months they’ve known this issue (fiscal cliff) was barreling down the road, they did absolutely NOTHING to produce a passable fix..  After all, it’s the House that’s responsible for budget legislation.

Nope.  The Tea Baggers were too busy trying to convince voters to vote for people who think that rape is “God’s will”, or that raped women don’t get pregnant, or that global warming is a hoax, or that school prayer prevents school massacres by crazed assault-rifle-toting assassins, or that homosexuality can be “cured” with prayer-based therapy, or that same-sex couples should be hunted, not married, or that the richer the wealthy become, the better off the middle class will be, or that the Earth is 6000 years old and Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs (naked, mind you), until they were kicked out of the garden of Eden for accessing knowledge (brought on by the the stone-aged version of Wikipedia, known then simply as “Apple”).

Amy Kremer, chairwoman of the Tea Party Express reacted angrily to the passage of the bill.  “There will be consequences!“, she threatened.  And Mike Kibbe, president of tea party-affiliated Freedomworks, called passage of the bill an “epic fail”, adding, “If Congressional leadership fails to do the bare minimum to secure our economic future, then we will find someone that will,”

Meanwhile, the Dow Jones rose over 308 points today.  So much for business hating the bill, huh?

Y’know…watching Tea Party leaders condemn the GOP leadership (their ex-lovers) is a little like watching late-night porn, isn’t it?   :)

T’was the Night Before Christmas….

…And throughout the kingdom,
People questioned if Congress is really this dumb,

As to go home for Christmas, while the fiscal cliff looms,
Caring less that America and the world could face doom.

Grover Norquist was screaming at his minions with no brain,
To stand stubbornly against any revenue gain,

That’s required to pay for the bills coming due.
“So what if we default?  Our credit can just go screw!”

He knew that we’ve been there just one year ago,
When he scared the republicans into just saying no,

To the grand bargain agreement from Obama and Boehner.
So the USA’s credit rating lost its bright shiny retainer:

No longer to be listed as the best “Triple A”.
And Grover can return to fight many more days.

“Make the government so small that you can push it in
To your bathtub and drown it,” Grover  says with a grin.

In the meantime, the people who live in this land,
Will see taxes go up, 401K’s turn to sand;

Unemployment will rise, while Wall Street has a fit,
The economy will shrink, and your stocks will be shit,

All because Grover’s pledge, the GOP dare not break,
will drive the USA in a car of unknown make,

Over the fiscal cliff, so when Christmas bills come due
You may not have a job, so might not pay bills, too.

Grover still makes his money, from donations and fees,
All the while forcing congress to do as he sees,

Is real great just for him and his wealthy good friends,
While the rest of us suffer trying to make ends meet ends.

But the taxes will rise on wealthy as well,
And when they see the impact, they will be mad as hell,

That the congress did nothing to avoid this event.
Then slowly they’ll start to ask where Grover went:

The Bahamas?  The Caymans?  Just where could Grover be?
Perhaps on a yacht sailing over the sea…

After all it is Christmas, and Grover’s big gift,
is to screw all the people which gives him a lift,

For it’s Christmas, and Grover likes presents and such,
So he’s enjoying the Season, oh, so very much.

So when January comes, and your taxes just rise,
Remember the guy that promoted his lies.

And the gutless republicans that could have been part,
of the solution, which would have been real smart,

But instead chose to cower before Grover’s big threat.
To mount primary challenges seeking election upsets.

The guy is a Hitler, spreading hatred and fear,
And in true Christmas spirit should never be here.

So the message we send to the this anti-tax guy,
Is the he should just drop it, and live like the small-fry

That he is ’cause he never was gonna go far,
Just ask one who knows him so well:  Bill Maher!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from all (one) of us at We, the PEOPLE!!

“Right to Work” Laws? More Like “Right to Freeload”

It is a safe bet that no one alive in the USA today that can remember a time when company bosses forced workers to toil for up to 18 hours a day, 7 days a week, with no time off other than for a debilitating work accident, or worse.  Today’s 8-hour day/40 hour standard workweek was not granted out of kindness by the industrialists and corporations making enormous profits off disposable workers.  It was hard-fought and won by labor unions in this country and in every other industrialized capitalist-oriented country on Earth.

Likewise, no one alive will remember when unsafe, stifling sweat shops that employed children under inhumane conditions were the norm.  But those, too, were eliminated because unions forced them out of existence through job actions as well as political actions.

The US mining industry lagged behind these gains for many years.  Working conditions in the mines as recently as 50 years ago were inhumanly unsafe and unhealthful.  The mining company fat cat industrialist/capitalists realized that it was far cheaper to replace a sick or dead miner with a newly hired miner than to upgrade the mines’ working conditions and safety equipment.  Unions such as the United Mine Workers of America (UMW or UMWA) forced changes to working conditions and pushed for passage of laws mandating minimum safety requirements for mining operations.  

All of the above events have something in common:  They were possible because of the collective actions taken by workers who were organized into unions.  Without unions, the abominable working conditions described above would most likely still be the norm.  And every worker who benefited fairly shared in the costs of these achievements.

The republican party (GOP) was once the party of Abraham Lincoln, who fought the US Civil War and ultimately ended slavery in the USA.  Slavery is, after all, just another way for industrialist/capitalist fat-cats to enjoy cheap labor, without regard to human suffering or even basic human rights.  The end of overt slavery gave rise to covert slavery, where workers were indebted to through such clever inventions as the company store and thus enslaved not by a whip but by basic economics.  Slowly and painfully, workers organized into unions, and laws were passed guaranteeing workers a minimum wage by which they could buy food, clothing and shelter.

The unions incurred huge expenses in challenging the industrial/capitalist fat cats to achieve these necessary improvements in wages and working conditions.  Company bosses needed a way to fight back, so they formed a “union” of sorts of their own, the industrial/capitalist fat cats political campaign war chest, so to speak.  The republican party was wooed and enticed by obscene and bottomless barrels of money.   Unions responded by backing democrats.  As a result, republicans wanted to get unions out of the political balance as much as the industrial/capitalist fat cats did.  The perfect storm against organized labor was forming.

Enter the right-to-work” laws, which mandate that although unions must represent all covered workers in grievances and share among all workers any and all gains in working conditions and/or wages won by the union, while union members pay their dues to finance these services, the non-union-member workers in the same company in “right-to-work” states get these gains for free.  They don’t pay a single dime towards the expenses incurred for these services.  They free-load on the backs of union members.

Right-to-work” laws truly have only one single purpose:  To reduce income to unions by preventing them from charging non-union workers any fees for services the non-members still benefit from.  By reducing the union’s income, they reduce its negotiating power, its financial (and thus political) resources, and its attractiveness to new workers.

Starting in 1943, Florida passed the first “right-to-work” laws, barring mandatory fees/union dues for union services for non-union members.  And since the GOP won back the US House of Representatives, Indiana passed its own right-to work law.  There are now 23 states with these union-busting laws on the books.

Over the past week, the GOP-controlled Michigan state legislature passed two such laws in record time.  They were signed into law within hours by Michigan’s GOP governor Rick Synder.  The republicans claim that these laws free workers and encourage job creation, but this is misleading at best.  They only free workers from strong union protection of their hard-earned wages, working conditions and job security.  And most new businesses pay much less than the union shops.  But the real hit is leveled against union resources that help elect democrats.

Dwight David Eisenhower, 34th president of the USA, hero of World War 2 and a (now extinct) moderate republican, warned in his farewell speech in 1961, “we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex..”

It is a warning largely ignored by today’s Tea-Party-infected, ultra-right, Karl Rove brainwashed GOP.

Eisenhower and Jimmy Hoffa must be holding each other as they turn over in their graves.   :(


Fiscal Cliff: Love It, Don’t Fear It

As of this writing there are only 26 days left in the month of December.  That means that the USA will drive off the fiscal cliff on January 1, 2012 absent a bipartisan alternative.  That’s New Year’s Day, a federal holiday, and as a result, nothing will change on that day.

However, Wednesday, January 2, 2013 is a regular business day.  And on THAT day, Americans can expect….nothing different, unless you live on stock trading and dividends.  If you do, you might want to take a week-long nap.  Why?  Because the stock market is psychotic;  it overreacts to EVERYTHING, and it will thus overreact by losing 600 points on the first business day of the loud thud caused by the car having been driven over the fiscal cliff.

Considering the short time left to fix this,what is the US House of Representatives doing about this avoidable problem?  They’re leaving Washington, D.C. for a long 5-day weekend!!!!

Those people justify this action by claiming that they have no pending legislation to work on.  So, according to that view, other than the fiscal cliff, there are absolutely no other problems in the USA that require congressional action.


Even if the idiotic fantasy that nothing else needs attention(except the impending cliff disaster) was true, the GOP-controlled House of Representatives could still care less that Americans are looking to Congress to enter good-faith negotiations with president Barack Obama.  They are ignoring the fact that Obama won a second term as president by running on a platform of slightly higher taxes for people making $200,000 a year if single, or a quarter of a million dollars if married.  The GOP manta continues to be no tax rate increase solely on the upper 2% of US wage-earners.  Instead, they propose that government revenue be raised by limiting tax deductions that potentially would affect every taxpayer, thus shifting part of the tax burden away for the very rich and toward everyone else.

Most republican are aware that they have to compromise to some extent on increasing government revenue, and many of them understand that the president’s re-election victory on the platform of increasing taxes on the upper 2% of American wage-earners was a clear declaration of what a majority of Americans support.  But some of these republican congresspeople still don’t care about the wishes of that majority as much as they care about the anti-tax pledge they signed to Grover Norquist, the head of Americans for Tax Reform and the darling of the most extreme right-wing extremists in the GOP and the Tea Party.

Actually driving off the fiscal cliff is akin to driving down a hill which varies from very shallow to steep over a months-long timelime.  Besides the initial psychotic reaction of the stock market, which will reverse itself within a day or two anyway, no one will notice any change real until the higher tax withholding from their paychecks kicks in.  Even then, while they will pay few percentage points more in payroll (Social Security) taxes, the main notable change will be a higher withholding of income tax.  Initially, the average wage-earner will see an increase of $183 a month, or $85 bi-weekly, or $42 a week.  Though most (though not all) people will absorb that without major problems, it will definitely piss everyone off.  The target of that anger will be the GOP.

The true target of that anger will be the fact that the democratically-controlled US Senate has already passed a bill to make the present tax structure permanent for the American middle class wage-earner making less than $2o0,000 ($250,000 per couple) per year.  Despite this,  GOP House speaker John Boehner refuses to allow a vote on the bill because he fears that it will pass.  That fear comes from the fact that an increasing number of republican congresspeople understand that the American people don’t want to be held hostage to the GOP’s desire to protect the interests of the very wealthy who, after all, finance the GOP’s re-election campaigns.  They also realize that the American people will hold the GOP accountable in 2014.

The democrats, on the other hand, realize that the longer this debacle goes on, the worse the GOP will fare.  Thus, while the dems would definitely prefer that the bill protecting the 98% of American taxpayers pass the House quickly, they also understand that John Boehner’s preventing that vote, which will drive the USA over the fiscal cliff, will primarily damage the GOP.  Realistically, MOST of the GOP also probably realizes that same fact.

The extremists in the GOP, however, either don’t see the danger or they see it but don’t care.  Folks such as Grover Norquist, GOP senator Jim DeMint from South Carolina, and the darling of the ultra-extreme-right lunatic fringe Sarah Palin advocate that republicans should stand their ground and grab their guns.  They also don’t understand the nature of a democracy, which is that the will of ALL the people should prevail, not just those with the biggest artillery or the most fundamentalist ideology.

Sarah Palin will never understand that.  After all, she believes that shooting wolves from a helicopter is the American way.