Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Absurdity of US Healthcare and OMG, the Hysteria over SCOTUS upholding the Obamacare Tax! Under What Circumstances Would This Government Hating Libertarian Reluctantly Support a Single Payer Healthcare System?


With 60% of the American people already on some form of taxpayer subsidized healthcare, the mass hysteria over SCOTUS upholding Obamacare is most interesting. America is already a socialist nation and most Americans absolutely do demand government provided healthcare and support for Medicare, Medicaid and other government programs remains quite strong. Americans are just like everybody else – they want something for free (translation: at the expense of somebody else) but there is no such thing as a free anything and anything the government does is very costly, inefficient and life threatening. The left is angry because it wanted a single payer healthcare system (some Dems really wanted Obamacare declared unconstitutional). The right is angry because a piece of Democrat legislation was declared constitutional.

The healthcare mandate was hatched by the conservative Heritage Foundation back in the late 1980’s. Republicans made several attempts to pass it but the Democrats opposed it because they were holding out for a single payer system. Well, the Republicans got their dream mandate – it’s named Obamacare. Even neocon bat shit crazy Fox News acknowledged today that the individual mandate was a Republican idea.
The mandate, requiring every American to purchase health insurance, appeared in a 1989 published proposal by Stuart M. Butler of the conservative Heritage Foundation called "Assuring Affordable Health Care for All Americans," which included a provision to "mandate all households to obtain adequate insurance."
The Heritage Foundation "substantially revised" its proposal four years later, according to a 1994 analysis by the Congressional Budget Office. But the idea of an individual health insurance mandate later appeared in two bills introduced by Republican lawmakers in 1993, according to the non-partisan research group ProCon.org. Among the supporters of the bills were senators Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who today oppose the mandate under current law….
In 2007, a bi-partisan Senate bill authored by Senators Bob Bennett, R-Utah, and Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, contained a mandate….
In 2010, Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that put into place an individual mandate.
Read the rest here
Fox News 
Let’s start with heathcare costs. America spends more on healthcare than any industrialized nation on the planet and by a very wide margin.



Paul Craig Roberts, an ex Reagan Administration Treasury official, supports a single payer healthcare system because he rightfully points out that a single payer system couldn't be worst that the fascist corporatist nightmare we currently endure, here.
It is extraordinary that “liberals,” “progressives,” “Democrats,” whatever they are, are defending a “health program” that uses public monies to pay private insurance companies and that raises the cost of health care.
Americans have been brainwashed that “a single-payer system is unaffordable” because it is “socialized medicine.” Despite this propaganda, accepted by many Americans, European countries manage to afford single-payer systems. Health care is not a stress, a trauma, an unaffordable expense for European populations. Among the Western Civilized Nations, only the richest, the US, has no universal health care.
The American health care system is the most expensive of all on earth. The reason for the extraordinary expense is the multiple of entities that must make profits. The private doctors must make profits. The private testing centers must make profits.The private specialists who receive the referrals from general practitioners must make profits. The private hospitals must make profits. The private insurance companies must make profits. The profits are a huge cost of health care….
The beauty of a single-payer system is that it takes the profits out of the system. No one has to make profits. Wall Street cannot threaten insurance companies and private health care companies with being taken over because their profits are too low. No health-provider in a single-payer system has to worry about being displaced in a takeover organized by Wall Street because the profits are too low.
Because a single-payer system eliminates the profits that drive up the costs, Wall Street, Insurance companies, and “free market economists” hate a “socialized” medical care system. They prefer a socialized “private” health care system in which public monies flow into private insurance companies.
To make the costs as high as possible, conservatives and the private insurance companies devised ObamaCare. The bill was written by conservative think tanks and the private insurance companies. What the “socialistic” ObamaCare bill does is to take income taxes paid by citizens and use the taxes to subsidize the private medical premiums charges by private health care providers in order to provide “private” health care to US citizens who cannot afford it.
The extremely high costs of ObamaCare is not “socialistic medicine.” ObamaCare is high-cost privatized medicine that guarantees billions of dollars in profits to private insurance companies.  
It remains to be seen whether such a ridiculous health care scheme, nowhere extant on earth except in Romney’s Massachusetts, will provide health care or just private profits.
Paul Craig Robert is arguing that other industrialized nations provide low cost universal single payer healthcare and that folks are reasonably happy with it because it relieves them of a major financial burden if they are stricken with a catastrophic illness or suffer an accident. But the US healthcare system is a disaster for reasons that are far more extensive than corporate profits.

America spends more on health care than any nation on earth and by a wide margin, and heath care costs continue to soar in America. Yet, our longevity rates are not commensurate with our healthcare expenditures. Besides government mandates that drive up healthcare costs and the insatiable trial lawyer lobby, Americans themselves are a huge part of the problem because Americans have more lifestyle diseases than any nation on earth. Furthermore, Americans do not want to be responsible for their health and demand that somebody else pay for their disastrous lifestyle choices. Therefore, there is no amount of healthcare intervention that can save folks from themselves or extend their longevity. Longevity is far more related to lifestyle choices that are by far the most significant factor in living a long life.  An MSNBC article titled U.S. ranks just 42nd in life expectancy lays out some startling facts about Americans.  The article is dated 2007 and our condition is much worse now.
Americans are living longer than ever, but not as long as people in 41 other countries. For decades, the United States has been slipping in international rankings oflife expectancy, as other countries improve health care, nutrition and lifestyles...
Among the other factors:
Adults in the United States have one of the highest obesity rates in the world. Nearly a third of U.S. adults 20 years and older are obese, while about two-thirds are overweight, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
•“The U.S. has the resources that allow people to get fat and lazy,” said Paul Terry, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Emory University in Atlanta. “We have the luxury of choosing a bad lifestyle as opposed to having one imposed on us by hard times.”
Kids are eating high calorie, low nutrition diets that primarily consist of simple carbohydrates, sugar, corn syrup, fats and sodium. Much of what kids eat in the schools is taxpayer funded garbage. Even more horrifying is that Migration Information reported that schools actually sell advertising to junk food purveyors by signing “"pouring rights" contracts that permit snack and soft drink companies to advertise to children on school vending machines, scoreboards, book covers, t-shirts, and news programs shown on televisions in the classroom., here.

Only in America do we kill our kids for profit and do it with our tax dollars!! 


A group called Healthyamericans.org reported in June 2009 that "Today, we spend nearly $800 billion on health problems that are directly linked to lifestyle and poor health habits each year-about one third of our total health care spending…” and that article was quoting a congress critter, here.  

So how can America rationally and intelligently address our healthcare problems when we are a nation of morons?

Meanwhile, America remains the laughing stock of the world for spending the biggest percentage of our GDP on healthcare than any nation on earth and the only thing we have to show for it is a nation of fat people with chronic obesity, lifestyle related diseases and diminishing longevity relative to other nations, including 3rd world nations.

If a doctor in America told a patient that they were sick because they were fat or they smoked or they drink too much or they ate bad food, the doctor would, in all probability, have his medical license suspended, be hauled before a tribunal for committing a crime against humanity, be sued for a gazillion bucks for telling a bitter truth that offends someone’s self esteem, be forced into bankruptcy and/or be prosecuted for violating somebody’s Civil Rights.

What the American healthcare system desperate needs is a heavy dose of tough love.

Various interventions at the state and federal level have only made the health situation worse and more expensive. Fixing healthcare is a simple but painful process that will in the long run produce healthier citizens and much lower healthcare costs. It’s only painful because Americans are spoiled and they don’t want to pay for anything – after all Abbey Hoffman says “America is the land of the free, free means you don’t have to pay”.

According to the testimony of David Gratzer, M.D., Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, before the United States House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, here:
Consider: a non-employer-based family policy for four in Kansas City, Mo., costs about $170 per month while similar coverage in Boston tops more than $750 a month.
Why the price difference? Many states dictate the type of services and providers. New York, for instance, requires that the services of a podiatrist be covered. It’s a commonly quoted statistic that the average person walks about 150,000 miles in a lifetime. Let’s hope the majority of this journey is on healthy, bunion-free feet. But should every insurance policy in the Empire State really be required to include podiatric services? Acupuncturists are mandated in 11 states, massage therapists in 4, osteopaths in 24, and chiropractors in 47, driving up the price of even the most basic insurance plans.
The federal McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945 empowers states to regulate “the business of insurance.” Nothing prevents Congress, however, from allowing interstate sales. The foundation of such a bill would be the Constitution’s Commerce Clause. Individuals would then be able to shop around and find a low-cost policy - an affirmation of free-market principles since interstate restrictions now leave many Americans at the mercy of a small number of local health insurance carriers.
Healthcare costs are a noose around the necks of businesses because it’s morphed into a mouse built to government specifications – an elephant. The impact of state mandates is crippling. Take Texas. Texas has the highest percentage of uninsured in America – at a whopping 24-27% of the population depending on whose study you read. As the second most populous state with over 23 million folks, that’s over 6 million uninsured folks. So why does Texas lead the nation in having the most uninsured? The Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) reported in April 2008 that “With 55 mandated benefits, Texas is one of the five most heavily regulated health insurance markets in the country.” TPPF really drives home the point with:
Presently, a 25-year-old male in Texas would pay $248.79 for a health insurance plan that he could get in Alabama for only $77.65 a month. Perhaps these price differences are responsible for the stark contrasts in the uninsured rates in these states. According to the U.S. Census Bureau Survey,in 2006, 23.9 percent of Texans were uninsured compared with only 13.5 percent in Alabama. Not coincidentally Alabama only imposes 19 mandates compared to Texas’ 55...
So now that we know why Texas has such high health insurance costs and so many uninsured, why doesn’t the state of Texas fix it? It’s a valid question. Congress isn’t the only body of legislators owned by lobbyists. Health insurers in Texas fill campaign coffers of state legislators to get those lucrative mandates. It’s that simple. The Texas Legislature refuses to fix the problem because it’s corrupt to the core.

Let's stop and recap. The mandates are indeed the root cause of our healthcare nightmare and it validates the argument of Paul Craig Roberts. The heathcare industry does indeed buy politicians and is responsible for driving up the cost of healthcare with mandates. With Obamacare, the health insurance industry only has to lobby 535 Congress Critters instead of the legislatures in all 50 states.  Obamacare merely federalized the insurance industry mandate schemes but Obamacare also includes over 20 new taxes that will further subsidize health industry corporate profits.  



The 3 things that dramatically drive up America’s gargantuan healthcare costs are.

1. Costly mandates
2. Avoidable lifestyle diseases
3. Treating people with late stage terminal illnesses.

 In nearly all advanced modern nations with single payer cost effective healthcare systems, a person diagnosed with a late stage terminal cancer or disease is simply told “you are going to die, we can’t cure you and all we can do is make you as comfortable as possible". In America, we don’t do that; in fact, we believe that everyone no matter how terminal their condition must be treated with no expense spared until the day they finally expire. Americans don’t know how to accept death. Of course, the folks die anyway and the only beneficiaries are the treatment providers.

The mandate could work but only with free market health insurance options that can be sold across state lines.  Most folks would simply opt for low cost major medical coverage and voluntarily agree to pay for everything else out of pocket, including prescriptions and doctor visits, that would probably be much lower in cost because of competition.  But the health insurance industry, Big Pharm and the American Medical Association have conspired to destroy competition by creating monopolies.   Moreover, Americans are literally addicted to Big Pharm so long as they aren't paying the bill.  America is the most medicated nation on  the planet.

At this juncture it's highly unlikely that free market medicine will ever take root in America simply because Americans have an extraordinarily high expectation of government subsidized healthcare.  That said, I could reluctantly live with a reasonably sane single payer system modeled on the most efficient and cost effective model of those run by other industrialized nations providing I could get liberals to agree to:

1.  Abolish the Federal Reserve and restore sound money 2. End the damn wars and kill the military industrial complex and 3. End all corporate welfare.

Liberals already hate the banksters, the wars and corporate welfare.

Just ending the wars, corporate welfare and restoring sound money would vastly contribute to an increase in liberty as well as a much improved economy for the American people.

Besides, taxpayers shouldn't be paying for hair transplants for bald old men or their viagra and penis pumps.  Nor should tax dollars be used to subsidize a female's sex life by providing free birth control or pay for their abortions.  Nor should taxpayers be paying for in vitro fertilization that cost tens of thousands of dollars or sex change operations.  Nobody has a right to a taxpayer subsidized sex life or even taxpayer funded parenthood.

For a single payer system to work in America would required a whole lot of tough decisions and even more tough love which is precisely what the American people need.  If folks want to eat themselves to death, let them.  If folks want to drink themselves to death, let them.  If folks want to screw themselves to death, let them.  If healthcare is furnished by the taxpayers, the taxpayers are not obligated to subsidize lifestyle choices.

Also, America absolutely needs to change its food stamp program by only allowing the purchase of meats, veggies, fruits, dairy and staples for home cooking (ban subsidizing soda, sugary cereals, packaged foods and most of what folks buy with their public assistance).  Subsidizing obesity and then subsidizing the healthcare problems created by government subsidized junk food is about as insane as it gets.

Above all, the American people need to be forced to accept that they are indeed responsible for their own health and that the government just can't save them from themselves.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

This Horrifying Graphic Shows Every Nuke That's Ready To Fly In The World



This incredible graphic posted at visual.ly by Canada's National Post documents all the nuclear weapons that are ready to fly on short notice. The U.S. leads the charge with 1,379 launchers. Russia reaches a close second with 1,286. The author points out it's very difficult to discern what nuclear weapons exist because every country has a different method of cataloging them. But even what's here is pretty powerful.
This is an incredibly powerful graphic. Nuclear warheads by country:

United States      2,468
Russia               2,430
France                 300
United Kingdom    275
Israel                   270
China                   178
Pakistan                 90
India                      60









Tuesday, June 26, 2012

You will need Wild Turkey bourbon to get through this Wild Turkey fiasco



YouTube is awash with videos of folks being harassed by wild turkeys. One New Jersey town is considering fining folks $2,000 for feeding them because they are becoming a nuisance.

Wild Turkeys "Terrify" NJ Neighbors
Morton said she even witnessed a wild turkey attacking a jogger one day. "It was terrifying," Morton said. Morton decided to investigate a little more; find out why the wild turkeys were hanging around her neighborhood. She claims a neighbor has been feeding them. So now the town is considering an ordinance to ban folks from feeding the birds. Violators would faces fines up to $2,000.
How did wild turkeys become a problem? Folks do feed them and treat them as pets. Of course, it’s a huge mistake to feed wildlife and there’s that horrifying story about a women who fed bears from her front porch only to end up mauled and eaten by the very bears she fed, here.

Why are wild turkeys a problem in New Jersey? The State of New Jersey made the decision to use tax dollars to buy land and re-introduce wild turkeys in a state where wild turkeys were non-existent. The wild turkeys have multiplied, destroyed private property, damaged crops and got in the habit of intimidating people. Wild turkeys are big dumb birds with 5’ wing spans but since they are extremely poor fliers they adapt for survival by being loud, obnoxious and aggressive. Moreover, the wild turkeys are a protected species in most states and it’s illegal to kill them except in a very limited hunting season requiring a permit that is nearly impossible to get.

Wild turkeys irk South Jersey farm owner
From the mid-19th century on, New Jersey had no wild turkeys, which had been eliminated by hunting and habitat reduction. Then, in 1977, the state began reintroducing wild turkeys, in what would become another success story in re-establishing a species previously eliminated by human action. One of the places the state released birds, Mitchell said, was on the property around Millville's Union Lake.
"The state bought that some years ago, as a preserve," he said. "It has a nice woods, full of oaks, and the turkeys like the acorns." They liked the food and ambiance so much that they thrived and began enjoying Mitchell' 20 acres across the street as well….
Limited turkey hunting is allowed, by permits handed out through lotteries for short seasons in the spring and fall. But that hasn't slowed the turkeys...
New Jersey farmer and wild turkey victim George Mitchell has maintained a sense of humor throughout his 12 year ordeal as a wild turkey victim. "If the turkeys were human, I could have them arrested for trespassing and littering, but since they are a protected species, I can only continue the good fight until they take complete control of my property," Mitchell said. "At that time, maybe they will assume some of the burden of property taxes."

The State of New Jersey created the wild turkey problem. New Jersey used tax dollars to buy land and introduce the wild turkey as a protected species. Now that the wild turkeys are running wild and becoming an annoying problem, some towns are considering fining folk for feeding them. Folks can’t kill them because they are a protected species.

The real turkeys are government and its goon bureaucrats that dream up hair brained schemes to torture folks at taxpayer expense while making their lives miserable and even threatening to imprison them if they kill a protected nuisance critter.

The US Army Makes a $5 billion Uniform Mistake that Endangered the Lives of Soldiers


The Marines decided they wanted new and fashionable uniforms so they went to a Home Depot and picked out new uniform colors from Ralph Lauren paint samples.

According to Business Insider “Five billion dollars, eight years later, and the Army is now doing the whole thing again.”, here.

Why?

The Army made a hugely expensive decision that endangered the lives of soldiers by making them wear camouflage uniforms that actually made them more visible targets.

Army ditches failed combat uniform that put a target on grunts’ backs for 8 years
The Army is changing clothes.
Over the next year, America’s largest fighting force is swapping its camouflage pattern. The move is a quiet admission that the last uniform — a pixelated design that debuted in 2004 at a cost of $5 billion — was a colossal mistake.
Soldiers have roundly criticized the gray-green uniform for standing out almost everywhere it’s been worn. Industry insiders have called the financial mess surrounding the pattern a “fiasco.”....
“Essentially, the Army designed a universal uniform that universally failed in every environment,” said an Army specialist who served two tours in Iraq, wearing UCP in Baghdad and the deserts outside Basra. “The only time I have ever seen it work well was in a gravel pit.”
The specialist asked that his name be withheld because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the press. “As a cavalry scout, it is my job to stay hidden. Wearing a uniform that stands out this badly makes it hard to do our job effectively,” he said. “If we can see our own guys across a distance because of it, then so can our enemy.”
The fact that the government spent $5 billion on a camouflage design that actually made its soldiers more visible — and then took eight years to correct the problem — has also left people in the camouflage industry incensed.
Heck, it's only taxpayer dough and the lives of the soldiers. But somebody in government approved spending $5 billion on worthless and dangerous uniforms sporting Ralph Lauren colors that made a fashion statement.  If a soldier is going to come home in a body bag, he may as well look good.  

Monday, June 25, 2012

How Evangelicals politicized the Bible to Serve the State and its Wars


America has become a nation that worships war and murder. The only reason the damn wars continue is because there really isn't much of a public outcry against the wars, at least not one that affects general election outcomes. While warmonger Bush was justifiably castigated by the left and blamed for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama turned out to be Bush on steroids and actually expanded Bush wars. The so-called anti-war peace loving left shut up when their party was doing the killing. The silence was deafening. 

But by far, the biggest block of psychopathic murderous warmongers in America are the Republican Evangelicals who literally thrive on war, murder, carnage and overt military worship. Of course, there are wonderful Evangelicals are aren't afflicted with the war disease but they don't vote Republican. One of the greatest shocks of the Republican primary season was at a debate in SC. Ron Paul suggested that we invoke the Golden Rule on foreign policy and got booed by the largely Republican Evangelical crowd. Gingrich lets loose with "kill em' and gets a standing ovation.

Evangelicals were not always theocratic Nazis who embraced despotism and war, even if they currently resemble the Nazi Party. Kelly B. Vlahos wrote a fascinating piece titled A Biblical Threat To National Security that doesn't necessarily explain why and how America's Evangelicals embraced Satanic evil but it certainly sheds considerable light on how the Evangelical movement has used the Bible to endorse military violence and serve the interests of the state. Vlahos starts off talking about the Holman Bible (which I never heard of) and how the US military embraced it.
To be more exact, a version of the Bible that, for reasons still undetermined, was authorized with the trademarked official insignia of the U.S. Armed Forces emblazoned on the front cover. There is The Soldier’s Bible with the Army’s seal, The Marine’s Bible with the Marine Corps seal, The Sailor’s Bible and The Airman’s Bible, both with their respective insignia. The books have been sold for nearly six years throughout Christian bookstores, commissaries and PXs on U.S. military installations — and are still available on Christianbook.com, Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.
It’s not the King James Version that the Gideons leave behind in hotel rooms drawers. The Holman Bible was commissioned and published by LifeWay Christian Resources, a subsidiary of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Baptist denomination in the world, in 2003.
Vlahos also references the work of Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein who, according to Wikipedia is "an attorney, businessman, and former Air Force officer. He is the founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) and author of With God on Our Side: One Man's War Against an Evangelical Coup in America's Military in which he describes his fight against alleged coercive Christian Fundamentalist practices by some members of the military."

The fact that folks are waking up to the horrifying implications of Evangelical influence within the US military is indeed refreshing. In fact, it definitely raises critically important issue involving Evangelical influence in foreign policy.

Anyway, what precisely is the Holman Bible? Vlahos writes:
The Holman Bible, or HCSB, has been popular with evangelicals for its references and study tools. Someone convinced each branch of the service they’d be perfect for the military, too. So the HCSB became the “official” Bible of the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines in 2004, complete with reader-friendly text and custom “designed to meet the specific needs of those who serve in the most difficult of situations,” according to the publishers.
In other words, aside from the text, the books are filled with “devotionals” and “inspirational essays” tailored to each branch of service. I was unable to get my hands on a copy by press time, but Amazon’s “peek” inside the book and several positive reader reviews confirm some of the contents, revealing what could only be described as a guileless conflation of both Christian and American military iconography. War and service as religious devotion.
In addition to the Pledge of Allegiance and the first and fourth verses of the Star Spangled Banner, there are excerpts from one of George W. Bush inaugural addresses and the Republican president’s remarks at a National Prayer Breakfast. Gen. George S. Patton’s famous Christmas prayer card from the field of battle 1944 is also included, as is “George Washington’s Prayer,” which has been widely circulated (and debunked) as proof of America’s Christian paternity.
These Bibles also feature “testimonials and encouragement from the Officers’ Christian Fellowship,” which has approximately 15,000 members across the military and whose primary purpose is “to glorify God by uniting Christian officers for biblical fellowship and outreach, equipping and encouraging them to minister effectively in the military society.” In other words they proselytize within the officer corps as part of an evangelical “parachurch” within the military.
WOW. That's  very dangerous religious and political propaganda and it clearly implies that the the US military exists to do God's work and that God's work definitely includes waging murderous wars in the name of God.

Vlahos quotes U.S. Brigadier Gen. Bob Caslan who said “We are the aroma of Jesus Christ.”.

Michael Weinstein's warning is no understatement. “We’re fighting a Fundamentalist-Christian-Parachurch-Military-Corporate-Proselytizing-Complex”.  

For more on this issue, see:  U.S. Military being used as Government-Paid Missionaries

One thing is disturbingly certain.  America's Warvangelicals are spread throughout government, the Republican Party and the entire US military.  So long as these dangerous folks have power and influence, America and the rest of the world are doomed.  

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Municipal Bonds: A license to steal and taxpayers don't even know they are being financially raped




While a lot of evil in America can be traced back to the 1913 passage of the Federal Reserve Act, the worst of the damage occurred when Nixon de-tethered the dollar from gold in 1971 with an Executive Order. From that point on, the dollar became a 100% pure fiat paper currency and America became Debt Man Walking. Ordinary Americans became addicted to debt and federal, state and city governments also started piling on the debt. The money was plentiful; after all, it was literally manufactured ‘out of thin’ air with a keyboard stroke on the Fed’s computer.

All this money manna rained from the heavens in inexhaustible quantities. Folks spent money they never had and so did government. Like a drunk trying to drink himself sober, debt was destined to make everyone rich until one day the fiat debt bubble just busted according to the laws of financial physics. Not only are American citizens swimming in a shark infested sea of fraud and debt, debt ridden government at all levels has joined them.

Nowhere is the debt bubble more covered up and ignored than at the state, city, county and local level. Financial guru Meredith Whitney has been warning about the undetonated bomb known as municipal bonds for years. The municipal bond business is huge, estimated at $3.7 billion a year, and Wall Street makes a ton of money off of these taxpayer rip-offs that frequently involve bribery, a total lack of transparency and massive fraud.

Matt Taibbi, an investigative financial journalist who writes for Rolling Stone, has done some great work in exposing the fraud behind the 2008 Wall Street blow-up. His latest piece, The Scam Wall Street Learned from the Mafia, How America’s biggest banks took part in a nationwide bid-rigging conspiracy – until they were caught on tape, is not one of his greatest hits, although it does expose fraud and even sensationalizes bankster municipal bond fraud in a most entertaining fashion, as if it’s something new (it’s been going on for decades but more about that later). Tabbi’s credibility is tarnished by the fact that he’s a diehard liberal who perceives that Wall Street is the only enemy of the taxpayers and the people. Taibbi pays scant attention to the fact that Democrats and Republicans are the greatest enablers of Wall Street crimes.

While the municipal bond business has always been fraught with some level of fraud typically involving bribing corrupt public officials (governors, state legislatures, mayors etc.), the fraud was rather low level because until 1975, the municipal bond business was a low profit margin business segment of Wall Street. Before, 1975 the municipal bond business was relatively open, transparent and reasonably corruption free. Wall Street made so little money that it considered its municipal underwriting activities to be more of a public service than a profit center.

What happened? In 1975 a Democratic Congress passed a bill creating the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB). The MSRB isn’t even a government agency, not that it would make it any less corrupt, and its website is ‘dot.org’ and not ‘.gov’ - http://msrb.org/. What Congress did in 1975 was toss out all the prevailing free market rules that provided some transparency as well as low profits and Congress mandated that the entire municipal bond business would be regulated by Wall Street! Yes, it was indeed a bankster coup but one that was actually facilitated by congress. Congress literally mandated that Wall Street would forever be in control of the municipal bond business and make all the rules governing the business.


Christopher Taylor ran the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) as executive director from 1978 to 2007. Apparently, the MSRB took its orders directly from the Wall Street Banksters. According to a 2009 Bloomberg article titled Municipal Regulator Regrets Enabling Losses, Taylor frankly admitted that the MSRB served the interests of Wall Street and not the public or taxpayers.
The former chief regulator for the $2.69 trillion municipal bond market for the first time acknowledged that the governing board failed to save taxpayers in Detroit, Jefferson County, Alabama, and local California governments from suffering more than $1 billion of losses because of opaque financial instruments that backfired.
Christopher “Kit” Taylor, the executive director of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board from 1978 to 2007, said his board wouldn’t allow the group to set rules on swaps and derivatives. Many of these deals went awry last year as credit markets seized up, saddling taxpayers with unexpected bills just as the slowing economy reduced tax revenue. “The big firms didn’t want us touching derivatives,” said Taylor, 62 and now a consultant on financial markets and regulatory policy, in a telephone interview from his home in Alexandria, Virginia. “They said, ‘Don’t talk about it, Kit.’”
Congress set up the MSRB in 1975 to make rules for firms that underwrite, trade and sell municipal debt. The board is funded by fees paid by member firms, which generated revenue of $22.2 million in fiscal 2008.
As a self-regulatory organization, members of the industry are granted the authority to supervise their own practices. A 15-member board oversees the organization and 10 of the directors are from Wall Street firms. Enforcement is handled by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
The SEC was supposed to supervise the MSRB. What a joke. The SEC exists to protect folks like Bernie Madoff who made off with the money of investor despite numerous letters and complaints from knowledgeable folks who knew for years that Madoff was indeed operating a Ponzi scheme. But rich folks like Madoff have friends in high places to cover up their crimes.  Protecting the rich and powerful always trumps protecting ordinary Americans.

The municipal bond fraud perpetrated by Wall Street with the blessing of Congress and the SEC is huge and has soaked taxpayers and municipal borrowing entitles for decades. Of course, that was the intent when Congress created the MSRB under the supervision of the SEC. For a laugh, here's the reason the MSRB is suppose to exist according to its own website.
1975 – Creation of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board The MSRB was established by Congress as a self-regulatory organization to protect investors and the public interest by promoting a fair and efficient municipal securities market. The MSRB’s role includes developing rules to regulate the securities firms and banks involved in underwriting, trading, and selling municipal securities dealers. The MSRB Board, composed of members from the municipal securities dealer community and the public, sets standards for all municipal securities dealers. All MSRB rules are subject to oversight by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Even more shocking is that MSRB frequently hired former politicians and lobbyists as consultants (well, that’s not so shocking once one understands how Congress really operates). After all it was Congress who set up the MSRB in 1975. Like everything else that Congress does, protecting the Banksters and Wall Street is not only the top priority of Congress it’s the only priority of Congress after keeping defense contractors happy by waging endless murderous wars. The actions of Congress prove that protecting the interests of the Banksters trumps the right of the public not to be looted. Only our Congress Critters put the foxes of Wall Street in charge of the Hen House.

The first step in restoring an honest municipal bond market is to abolish the MSRB and force the banksters and underwriting back into the competition of free markets.  Moreover, how 'honest' municipal bond markets operate  is entirely dependent upon independent and citizen oversight at the state, city and county level.  Politicians and public officials simply cannot be trusted to negotiate the best deal for taxpayers.

Bankster and politician carnage inflicted upon states, cities and municipal entities in the multi-trillion dollar municipal bond market is widespread and exceedingly costly to taxpayers. Banksters have imposed significant financial misery upon school districts, hospitals, counties, cities, states, public utilities and a whole lot more. They steal with impunity.

True, it takes a substantial amount of public corruption and/or sheer stupidity at all levels to effectively rob the public. In some cases, a public official can be bought for as little as “paid for jewelry, a Rolex watch, an Ermenegildo Zegna suit and clothes from Salvatore Ferragamo” according to a Bloomberg report, here. Many elected officials and public officials have very cozy relationships with the banksters who are viewed as the Magi bearing gifts.  
Birmingham, Alabama’s mayor was charged with bribery and money laundering in connection with municipal bond and derivative deals while he was president of the Jefferson County Commission, according to an indictment unsealed today.
Larry Langford, a Democrat, was accused of soliciting $235,000 from William Blount, chairman of Montgomery, Alabama- based bond underwriter Blount Parrish & Co., and lobbyist Albert LaPierre. William Blount helped Langford get a $50,000 loan, and paid for jewelry, a Rolex watch, an Ermenegildo Zegna suit and clothes from Salvatore Ferragamo, according to the indictment. Blount Parrish received about $7.1 million in fees in connection with the deals, which refinanced debt issued for the county’s sewer system.
Langford is now serving a 15 year prison sentence. In 9/11, Jefferson County Alabama filed the largest bankruptcy in US municipal history because it can't service over $3 million in sewer debt, here.

The Banksters collected $120 million in fee income for the financial rape of a poor Alabama County and a local brokerage firm received over $7 million in fees.

In other cases, well meaning folks of means somehow managed to get duped by Wall Street, as probably was the case involving 5 Milwaukee area school districts, including the wealthy school district of Whitefish Bay. Seeking to shore up its retirement obligations, at the urging of Wall Street scoundrels the 5 school districts pooled their resources and borrowed $37 million (bond proceeds) and $165 million from an Irish bank to invest in a complex CDS transaction that was supposed to make them money. According to an Alternet.org article titled The Looting of America: How Wall Street Fleeced Millions from Wisconsin Schools, the investment didn't go well.
Wall Street investment houses went after the $100 billion saved in school-district trust funds like Whitefish Bay's, and made a killing....They were dealing with one of the most complex derivatives ever designed-a synthetic collateralized debt obligation, which is a combination of two other derivatives: a collateralized debt obligation (CDO) and a credit default swap (CDS).
In the Milwaukee school district case, Wall Street got rich and the 5 school districts got massively stiffed and are now holding the bag on a $200 million pile of debt that was incurred as an investment vehicle designed to earn a rate of return greater than the interest costs on the borrowed money. In a little school district in New Castle, PA (New Castle Area School District), the district got $280,000 in upfront cash on a $9.7 million bond deal that went very bad for the school district but not Wall Street. The Philadelphia International Airport got caught in a derivatives deal involving $6.5 million that drove its interest rate from 1.8% to 7.2%. Philadelphia pondered cancelling the complex CDS but that would have cost over $24 million or more than the $20 million over the original bond proceeds. These and other deals are documented in an extraordinary Bloomberg report detailing how these schemes and scams work as well as documenting the plight of its victims.
``A lot of people are getting killed; they're getting crushed,'' says Steve Goldfield, a financial adviser at Public Resources Advisory Group in Media, Pennsylvania, which was hired by a school district now suing JPMorgan. ``Nobody is talking about the impact on the debt side to taxpayers, how much school districts are going to pay in extra interest expense because of this blowup,'' he says....
The seeds of JPMorgan's municipal derivative deals were planted in the late 1980s. In 1987, the Fed relaxed provisions of the Glass-Steagall Act...
For more on Glass-Steagall: Why the Return of Glass-Steagall is a Good Idea 

Hospitals have also been victims of Wall Street. Non-profit South County Hospital in Wakefield, Rhode Island got involved in a derivatives deal that caused its interest rate on $52 million to double to 12%; now its firing workers to pay its massive interest payments. Apparently, hundreds of non-profits entered into similar derivative schemes with the Banksters. Vanderbilt University and the University of Maryland Medical System got caught in similar schemes by entering into exotic CDS peddled by Wall Street that they never understood. For more on the gory details of these transactions and others, read Swaps Backfire on Hospitals Firing Workers to Pay Wall Street.

The above scams are merely a tiny drop in the bucket and most municipalities are extremely reluctant to even acknowledge that they are victims because the folks who made the decisions to jump in bed with Wall Street and its derivative bearing hucksters are either stupid or corrupt or both. Politicians hate scandals, especially big juicy financial scandals involving the financial rape of taxpayers who are mostly clueless that they are being royally gouged and taken to the cleaners by the very folks they elected to be wise and prudent protectors of taxpayer cash. Moreover, public officials aren't exactly fond of going to jail for fraud and malfeasance.

The US municipal bond scams run deep, as are the ties of the politicians to the Banksters. Steve Malanga wrote in a piece titled How Corrupt Is the Muni-Bond Business?

"When I joined Smith Barney, people were not getting rich doing public finance," one of the whistleblowers in the yield-burning investigations said. "Now it's caveat emptor against people who are dumb. It's a whole different ballgame."
The investigations came with warnings from the SEC about the double standard in municipal finance, a result of the fact that this business is more lightly regulated than others in the securities industry. As the head of the SEC's enforcement division said at the time, the industry condoned practices that "would never have passed muster in other markets."
Among those practices was the blatant hiring of politicians and political operatives by securities firms to lobby their fellow elected officials and associates for municipal work. Smith Barney employed Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's brother as a ‘consultant' to lobby on state and local municipal deals in Illinois, and in Texas the firm hired the Democratic Party's former statewide chairman as its representative. In Ohio Lehman employed one of the GOP's top fundraisers as a ‘consultant' on muni deals, where he pitched politicians whose campaign warchests he helped to fill. Goldman Sachs employed Rahm Emanuel, current White House chief of staff, as a muni consultant while he also worked as a political fundraiser for President Clinton. After he exited prison, disgraced former Washington Mayor Marion Barry even gained a job as a muni consultant.
What helps makes the industry so susceptible to abuses is that the major players in it often are driven by perverse incentives. Wall Street firms, which are supposed to advise politicians on what financing strategies suit their governments best, have a stake in urging them to go ahead with the biggest and most expensive deals because of the fees these transactions generate.
The municipal bond fiasco also has some very interesting side stories. A Franco-Belgium bank that collapsed in 2008, got bailed out, collapsed again in 2011 and got bailed out again, has also been the recipient Federal Reserve bailout bucks. Dexia SA is a big Belgian bank whose $715 billion in assets far exceed the sum total of the entire Belgium economy of $395 billion, according to a Wolf Richter article posted on the website of Naked Capitalism. Among other things, Dexia CEO claimed it wasn't really a bank, despite having 21 million bank accounts, but a hedge fund.

Wolf Richter: CEO of Dexia – ‘Not A Bank But A Hedge Fund’

Dexia, the deposit taking 'hedge fund' is no ordinary 'hedge fund' and it got $300 billion in bailout bucks from governments and central banks.  Dexia is indeed considered special because it's a major insurer of municipal bonds in the US and elsewhere.  The fact that Dexia probably used the bank deposits of ordinary working stiffs to hedge its bets is inconsequential to those who plunder and grow rich by sucking off the public's nipple.
A European bank that got the most Federal Reserve discount window help during the financial crisis received a total of about $300 billion in loans, guarantees and cash infusions from governments and central banks. It also owned subsidiaries implicated in bid-rigging that prosecutors say defrauded U.S. taxpayers. The Fed has kept discount window borrowers secret for 97 years.
Details of Fed lending released last week show that Dexia SA (DEXB), based in Brussels and Paris, borrowed as much as $37 billion, with an average daily loan amount of $12.3 billion in the 18 months after Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. collapsed in September 2008. ...Dexia guaranteed bonds issued by entities as varied as the Texas State Veterans Land Board in Austin and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority....
The Fed has kept discount window borrowers secret for 97 years.
97 years of Fed secrecy?  Ron Paul's Audit the Fed would have disclosed every dirty bailout of the Fed but Barney Frank and the Dems killed it when they passed the Obama endorsed Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that vastly increased the raw and absolute powers of the Fed.  Frank attached an extremely watered down version of Ron Paul's Audit the Fed bill to the Dodd-Frank bill which, of course, forced Ron Paul to vote against it.  There was no way on God's green earth that Ron Paul would ever vote to expand the powers of the Fed.  The Dems really rubbed salt into open and oozing public wounds by naming their Fed endorsed horror a consumer protection bill!

The municipal bonds scandals are just another piece of the ongoing financial fraud and crime puzzle.  While the schemes and scams have been substantially unraveled and exposed by financial pundits and journalists, absolutely nothing has been done to stop the fraud.

When one has a government license to steal, theft becomes rampant.  Meanwhile, I'm hoping that folks like Matt Taibbi and others continue to expose the massive financial fraud that infests America and that they do it with  independent clarity  and without allegiance to the Republican and Democratic parties.  Party loyalty taints objectivity and tends engage in the blame game.  Yeah, Wall Street is the biggest crime syndicate in all of human history but the greater question should be "who enabled and empowered the crooks, and gave them a license to steal?".

For more on finacial fraud, see:

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Al Gore is a Welfare Queen



In 2001, John Stossel wrote a fascinating piece titled Confessions of a Welfare Queen, How rich bastards like me rip off the taxpayers for millions of dollars. Stossel wrote:
If the ocean took my house, Uncle Sam would pay to replace it under the National Flood Insurance Program. Since private insurers weren’t dumb enough to sell cheap insurance to people who built on the edges of oceans or rivers, Congress decided the government should step in and do it. So if the ocean ate what I built, I could rebuild and rebuild again and again -- there was no limit to the number of claims on the same property in the same location -- up to a maximum of $250,000 per house per flood. And you taxpayers would pay for it.
Thanks.
I did have to pay insurance premiums, but they were dirt cheap -- mine never exceeded a few hundred dollars a year.
Why does Uncle Sam offer me cheap insurance? "It saves federal dollars," replied James Lee Witt, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), when I did a 20/20 report on this boondoggle. "If this insurance wasn’t here," he said, "then people would be building in those areas anyway. Then it would cost the American taxpayers more [in relief funds] if a disaster hit."
That’s government logic: Since we always mindlessly use taxpayer money to bail out every idiot who takes an expensive risk, let’s get some money up front by selling them insurance first.
The insurance, of course, has encouraged more people to build on the edges of rivers and oceans. The National Flood Insurance Program is currently the biggest property insurance writer in the United States, putting taxpayers on the hook for more than $640 billion in property. Subsidized insurance goes to movie stars in Malibu, to rich people in Kennebunkport (where the Bush family has its vacation compound), to rich people in Hyannis (where the Kennedy family has its), and to all sorts of people like me who ought to be paying our own way.
But John Stossel isn't the only welfare queen in America. From Napoleon Hills 'Think and Grow Rich' to Al Gore's 'Steal from the Taxpayers and Grow Rich", Al Gore has mastered the art and science of sucking off the taxpayers nipple, along with many other rich folks who feed at the pubic trough.

The Telegraph wrote a most interesting piece on Al Gore.

Al Gore could become world's first carbon billionaireAl Gore, the former US vice president, could become the world's first carbon billionaire after investing heavily in green energy companies.
Last year Mr Gore's venture capital firm loaned a small California firm $75m to develop energy-saving technology.

The company, Silver Spring Networks, produces hardware and software to make the electricity grid more efficient.

The deal appeared to pay off in a big way last week, when the Energy Department announced $3.4 billion in smart grid grants, the New York Times reports. Of the total, more than $560 million went to utilities with which Silver Spring has contracts....
Mr. Gore is poised to become the world's first "carbon billionaire," profiteering from government policies he supports that would direct billions of dollars to the business ventures he has invested in.
Al Gore is a partner in the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers that also happens to be a major investor in Fisker Automotive. Fisker received $529 million in federal money and loan guarantees to build a sports car for the wealthy.  Subsidizing sports cars for the wealthy is obscenely immoral as well as a slap in the face to taxpayers.  

Why Is the Government Subsidizing a $104,000 Car?
Fisker Automotive is the brainchild of Henrik Fisker, a 48-year-old Danish auto designer who first made his mark working at BMW's advanced design studio in Munich...
Like many ambitious auto executives before him -- John DeLorean comes to mind -- Fisker's real dream was to build his own car...
He also produced the initial design for the Tesla Model S, the scaled-down version of the $109,000 Tesla Roadster that is supposed to reach auto showrooms this year. In 2008, Fisker unveiled his own luxury hybrid, the Karma, designed to compete with the Roadster at $104,000. Although still headquartered in southern California, Fisker elected to build the Karma in Finland at a plant that once produced the Porsche Boxster and Cayman....
Solyndra, remember, was a loan guarantee, where the federal government promises to indemnify private lenders if things go wrong. Fisker received a check directly from the U.S. Treasury. The first $193 million went to save the floundering Karma venture...
These clean energy scam companies that live off of government subsidies are entwined with each other as well as Wall Street.  According to MSNBC "Kleiner Perkins partner John Doerr announced he’s joining the advisory board of Generation Investment Management, the $1 billion investment firm that Gore founded with David Blood, who previously managed $325 billion in assets out of Goldman Sachs’ London office."

How much money has welfare queen Al Gore made off the taxpayers nipple?  I don't know but he must be doing quite well to afford a $9 beachfront getaway mansion in Montecito, CA, a mansion that may have been paid for by American taxpayers.


Yes, America really does spend over 50% of all tax receipts on wars



The above photo is from a very disturbing Rolling Stone magazine photo collection of US soldiers celebrating their kills, here.

WAR. WAR. WAR.  It's all America ever does.  America has been at war with somebody ever since I can remember and I can remember as far back as the early 1960's.  What is wrong with America?  Should we change our name to Murder, Inc.?  America is the only nation on the planet that murders folks all over the world for defense contractor profits.

How many folks has America been involved in killing?

Liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, Americans are addicted to the fantasy that war is noble, that murder is moral and that righteous people kill in the name of their flag.
WW I, 35,000,000 dead
WW II, At least 50,000,000 dead
Since the end of WW II, another 20,000,000 to 30,000,000 folks have died as a direct result of U.S. foreign interventionism.
American politicians love to talk about American Exceptionalism and the flag waving voters eat it up. We are exceptional all right – exceptional in the art of war and murder.
What has our lust for blood cost us? It’s cost us ‘Shock and Awe’ economic destruction. We are now barely a shadow of our once free and prosperous republic and we’ve morphed into Nazi Germany. America is now the Evil Empire that threatens life, peace and prosperity everywhere.
What is the annual cost of our perpetual non-stop wars? Let’s start with the federal budget. From the website of the White House, here’s the budget.

                            2011               2012
 Spending             3,603              3,796 Trillion
Tax Receipts         2,303              2,469
 Deficit                 1,300              1,327 

Source: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/budget/fy2013/assets/tables.pdf

More astounding, entitlement payouts exceed tax revenues. In April, 2011 Fox News reported in an article titled Government Cash Handouts Now Top Tax Revenues  that tax receipts no longer even cover entitlement costs. The figures quoted in the Fox News article are now a few years old and if anything, the entitlements have increased while revenues have remained flat as a result of the miserable economy.
U.S. households are now getting more in cash handouts from the government than they are paying in taxes for the first time since the Great Depression.
Households received $2.3 trillion in some kind of government support in 2010. That includes expanded unemployment benefits, as well as payments for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and stimulus spending, among other things.
But that’s more than the $2.2 trillion households paid in taxes, an amount that has slumped largely due to the recession, according to an analysis by the Fiscal Times. Also, an estimated 59% of the 308.7 million Americans in this country get at least one federal benefit, according to the Census Bureau, based on 2009 data. An estimated 46.5 million get Social Security; 42.6 million get Medicare; 42.4 million get Medicaid; 36.1 million get food stamps; 12.4 million get housing subsidies; and 3.2 million get Veterans' benefits.
How much are we spending on the never ending wars, the foreign policy machine and the Empire? 

In a piece titled Tomgram: Chris Hellman, $1.2 Trillion for National Security and  posted at Tomsdispatch.com, Chris Helman, one of the few foreign policy analysts to put the true cost of the Empire into focus, writes:
Normally, in media accounts, you hear about the Pentagon budget and the war-fighting supplementary funds passed by Congress for our conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. That already gets you into a startling price range -- close to $700 billion for 2012 -- but that’s barely more than half of it. If Americans were ever presented with the real bill for the total U.S. national security budget, it would actually add up to more than $1.2 trillion a year….
For 2012, the White House has requested $558 billion for the Pentagon’s annual “base” budget, plus an additional $118 billion to fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. At $676 billion, that’s already nothing to sneeze at, but it’s just the barest of beginnings when it comes to what American taxpayers will actually spend on national security. Think of it as the gigantic tip of a humongous iceberg.
To get closer to a real figure, it’s necessary to start peeking at other parts of the federal budget where so many other pots of security spending are squirreled away….
Missing from the Pentagon’s budget request, for example, is an additional $19.3 billion for nuclear-weapons-related activities…
So, even though we’re barely started, we’ve already hit a total official FY 2012 Pentagon budget request of: $703.1 billion dollars For starters, that $117.8 billion war-funding request for the Department of Defense doesn’t include certain actual “war-related fighting” costs. Take, for instance, the counterterrorism activities of the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development….
$711.8 billion.
The White House has also requested $71.6 billion for a post-2001 category called “homeland security”… 
$765.3 billion.
The U.S. intelligence budget was technically classified prior to 2007, although at roughly $40 billion annually, it was considered one of the worst-kept secrets in Washington. …
$818.4 billion.
Veterans programs are an important part of the national security budget with the projected funding figure for 2012 being $129.3 billion…
$947.7 billion.
If you include the part of the foreign affairs budget not directly related to U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as other counterterrorism operations, you have an additional $18 billion in direct security spending. Of this, $6.6 billion is for military aid to foreign countries, while almost $2 billion goes for “international peacekeeping” operations. A further $709 million has been designated for countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction… This leaves us at:
$965.7 billion.
As with all federal retirees, U.S. military retirees and former civilian Department of Defense employees receive pension benefits from the government. The 2012 figure is $48.5 billion for military personnel, $20 billion for those civilian employees, which means we’ve now hit:
$1,034.2 billion. (Yes, that’s $1.03 trillion!)
When the federal government lacks sufficient funds to pay all of its obligations, it borrows. Each year, it must pay the interest on this debt which, for FY 2012, is projected at $474.1 billion. The National Priorities Project calculates that 39% of that, or $185 billion, comes from borrowing related to past Pentagon spending. Add it all together and the grand total for the known national security budget of the United States is:
$1,219.2 billion. (That’s more than $1.2 trillion.)
Chris Helman isn’t the only person to expose the true cost of the wars that are bankrupting us. Ron Paul said in one of the Republican  debates "I'm not sure I can get anybody to agree with me on this panel, but we spend $1.5 trillion overseas in wars that we don't need to be in and we need to cut there.".

Ron Paul: Time to stop spending trillions on war

The Washington Post, a pro-war and pro-interventionist mouthpiece of the elites, even whined that the current Iraq War alone would cost us more $3 trillion and that was back in 2008. 

The Iraq War Will Cost Us $3 Trillion, and Much More

If $3 trillion bucks sounds like an insane amount of money, apparently the Washington Post vastly underestimated our war costs. Steve Chapman in a Real Clear Politics piece titled “The Unaffordability of Endless War” said “Scholars Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia and Linda Bilmes of Harvard published a book in 2008 called "The Three Trillion Dollar War," which gives a more realistic estimate. But that, too, is an understatement. They figure that when all long-run costs are factored in, the tab will be at least $5 trillion and could reach $7 trillion, or nearly twice as much as this year's entire federal budget.” And that was two years ago. I asked Bilmes for an update, and she said some obligations, like veterans' medical and disability compensation costs, "have exceeded our earlier projections." Do I hear $8 trillion?”

$8,000,000,000,000 and counting? That was back in 2010 and since then Obama and Gang have escalated the war in Afghanistan, extended it into Pakistan, waged war on Libya, now wants to go to war with Syria and is sending troops to Africa. 

Yet, Americans continue to wave the flag and vote for more warmongers. Romney has vowed to increase military spending by $3 trillion. Will American bloodlust ever be satiated?

But by far the worst manifestations of military powers and maintaining a bankrupting empire transgress beyond the horrifying spectacle of the physical and human carnage of war because those same folks who deceptively internalized that war is noble also become its ultimate victims. Sooner or later the flag waving stops when folks realize that they have been systematically shorn of their own liberty and prosperity. The film clips of euphorically happy flag waving Germans idolizing Hitler and his evil is a stark contrast to the starving, homeless and terrified Germans in bombed out and burned out cities after WW II.

Worshiping the flag is most dangerous when folks fail to even realize what precisely the flag stands for. For Americans, they will eventually come to the frightening realization that they put their faith and trust in a government that betrayed them as they are forced to accept that they have been nothing more than pawns on the financial chessboard of empire wherein the wealth and power of the nation has been viciously concentrated into the hands of the ruling few – Banksters and their power brokers who delivered unto the people unemployment, economic misery, fiat currency, wars and grim futures.

Yet, the people cannot be absolved of responsibility.  They voted for everything they got and will get.  They delivered themselves into a totalitarian impoverishing hell.

At this point, what does the flag stand for? Nothing but the tens of trillions poured down the scary black hole of dark nothingness and militarism gone mad as the people ponder the failures of an evil debt ridden empire that bankrupted a once great, glorious, free and prosperous nation.

By the way, America really is spending over half of its $2.3-2.4 trillion in tax receipts on the wars, the foreign policy machine and the Evil Empire that is stretched around the entire planet.

We may as well rename our federal taxes the Military Tax or the War Tax or the Empire Tax because it's very appropriate.

The American people simply made the decision to relinquish their liberty and squander their prosperity on senseless wars and empire.  That's not something that sane folks do.  In many ways, our elected leaders mirror the souls of the people and it's clearly evident that the people and their leaders are in sync - both are psychotically bat shit crazy.

The price of empire is quite steep.  It crushes nations and brings them to their knees.  Every empire in history ultimately bites the dust.  The American Empire will be no different.  

Thursday, June 21, 2012

America's Prison Industrial Complex: Locking Up Folks For Corporate Prison Profits is the American Way


The absolute worst president in US history could very well be Richard M. Nixon. Nixon is responsible for de-tethering the dollar from gold with an Executive Order and creating the War on Drugs. Nixon totally destroyed the purchasing power of the dollar and permanently rendered the dollar a fiat paper currency that is manipulated to transfer wealth from the 99% to the 1%.


Nixon's 40 year War on Drugs has cost American taxpayers over $1 trillion dollars and birthed America's Prison Industrial Complex.  The result is that the American prison system is overflowing with folks who are rotting in prison for mostly minor drug offenses.  This has spawned a huge privatized prison industrial complex that lobbies state and federal legislators to criminalize more and more routine human activities.  The results of Police State USA are astounding.  America, a nation with a population of 310 million, has over 2.2 million folks locked up in prison while China, a nation with 1.3 billion folks only has 1.6 million in prison.  America has more folks in prison than any nation on the planet and by a wide margin, here.  The New York Times reported that violent crime in America has been decreasing for 40 years and is now at an all time low, here.

The effects of the failed and costly War on Drugs and its correlation to massive increases in the prison population are graphically illustrated:



Pro Publica has done some outstanding investigative reporting on America's Prison Industrial Complex.
The growth of the private detention industry has long been a subject of scrutiny. A recent eight-part series in the New Orleans Times-Picayune chronicled how more than half of Louisiana’s 40,000 inmates are housed in prisons run by sheriffs or private companies as part of a broader financial incentive scheme. The detention business goes beyond just criminal prisoners.
As a Huffington Post investigation pointed out last month, nearly half of all immigrant detainees are now held in privately run detention facilities. Just this week, the New York Times delved into lax oversight at industrial-sized but privately run halfway houses in New Jersey.
We’ve taken a look at some of the numbers associated with the billion-dollar and wide-ranging for-profit detention industry—and the two companies that dominate the market...
Two private corporations dominate the private Prison Industrial Complex, Corrections Corporation of America and The Geo Group Inc. They lard up political campaigns with special interest dough to get legislators to pass more insanely stupid laws for the exclusive benefit of prison profits. Only in America do we grow the prison system for private profits and only in America will politicians sell out their fellow citizens for a campaign contribution. If the Prison Industrial Complex isn't horrifying enough because it destroys lives and families, it's also extended to children. Yes, the prison operators want America's children.

The Other Prison Industrial Complex
The U.S. locks up children at more than six times the rate of all other developed nations. The over 60,000 average daily juvenile lockups, a figure estimated by the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF), are also disproportionately young people of color. With an average cost of $80,000 per year to lock up a child, the U.S. spends more than $5 billion annually on youth detention. On top of the cost, in its recent report No Place for Kids, the AECF presents evidence to show that youth incarceration does not reduce recidivism rates, does not benefit public safety and exposes those imprisoned to further abuse and violence.

Ross_10_2  

But it's not just the politicians who are bribed by the Prison Industrial Complex, the graft and corruption has spread to the judicial system where judges are taking bribes to deliver child prison inmate 'customers' to private prison operators.

U.S. Judges Admit to Jailing Children for Money

Any nation that tolerates the Prison Industrial Complex is so morally defunct that such nations mirror Nazi Germany. Have we become Nazis? Except for those liberty activists who fight for civil liberties and justice, most of America is oblivious to the massive injustice within our criminal justice system.

But since America is a place that eagerly embraces murdering foreign citizens for defense contractor profits, putting Americans in prison for prison contractor profits is now accepted as routine standard operating procedure.  Such a society is doomed by its own unspeakable evil.  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

How Ron Paul Deconstructed the Phony Baloney Left-Right Paradigm

 

The Republican primary season was a hoot with its seedy cast of characters that included Bat Shit Crazy Bachmann, Sanitorium the Sanctimonious, Slick Rick ‘the Oops candidate’, the Angry Little Lunar Attack Muffin and a dude named Mittens whose claim to fame is that he had the holding power to just wait for his crazy competitors to self-destruct.

 The only sane guy in the Republican sea of insanity was Ron Paul, a guy who campaigned on peace, liberty and prosperity but he was rejected and got booed by a psychopathic Republican debate audience for suggesting that America invoke the Golden Rule when it comes to foreign policy. Republicans don’t like sane and their affinity for the psychopathic is truly mindboggling. But in the end Republican voters quit bickering about who is the craziest candidate and just hold their noses and vote for the most boring candidate that praises Jesus, promises more wars and commits to advancing Republican socialism and crony capitalism. 

The legacy of the 2012 primary season should worry the Dems because it spawned a liberty movement consisting of disgruntled Republicans, disgruntled Democrats, independents and other disaffected voting blocks. The Ron Paul Revolution crossed party lines because it focused on how the damn wars have bankrupted the nation and destroyed the economic but the defining characteristic of the Ron Paul Campaign is that it raised public awareness about the thieving banksters who operate the biggest ongoing crime syndicate in human history through the Federal Reserve.

The Occupy Movement jumped into the political fray with added sparks by emphasizing the difference between the 99% and the 1%.

The Democrat enthusiastically supported Obama in 2008 because he was perceived as anti-war and in opposition to all the things that progressives despise about governance. At least, that’s how Obama waged his magical campaign. But at the end of the day, the Dems just got Obushma, just another elitist bought and paid for New World Order hack that is clearly a wholly owned subsidiary of the banksters, military industrial complex and rent seeking crony capitalists.

Glenn Greenwald, a progressive I greatly admire on many issues, wrote about Ron Paul and his campaign:

The benefits of his candidacy are widely ignored, as are the Democrats' own evils.
Ron Paul’s candidacy is a mirror held up in front of the face of America’s Democratic Party and its progressive wing, and the image that is reflected is an ugly one; more to the point, it’s one they do not want to see because it so violently conflicts with their desired self-perception...
The fallacy in this reasoning is glaring. The candidate supported by progressives — President Obama — himself holds heinous views on a slew of critical issues and himself has done heinous things with the power he has been vested. He has slaughtered civilians — Muslim children by the dozens — not once or twice, but continuously in numerous nations withdrones, cluster bombs and other forms of attack. He has soughtto overturn a global ban on cluster bombs. He has institutionalized the power of Presidents — in secret and with no checks — to target American citizens for assassination-by-CIA, far from any battlefield. He has waged an unprecedented war against whistleblowers, the protection of which was once a liberal shibboleth. He rendered permanently irrelevant the War Powers Resolution, a crown jewel in the list of post-Vietnam liberal accomplishments, and thus enshrined the power of Presidents to wage war even in the face of a Congressional voteagainst it. His obsession with secrecy is so extreme that it has become darkly laughable in its manifestations, and he even worked to amend the Freedom of Information Act (another crown jewel of liberal legislative successes) when compliance became inconvenient.
He has entrenched for a generation the once-reviled, once-radical Bush/Cheney Terrorism powers of indefinite detention, military commissions, and the state secret privilege as a weapon to immunize political leaders from the rule of law. He has shielded Bush era criminals from every last form of accountability. He has vigorously prosecuted the cruel and supremely racist War on Drugs, including those parts he vowed during the campaign to relinquish — a war which devastates minority communities and encages and converts into felons huge numbers of minority youth for no good reason. He has empowered thieving bankers through the Wall Street bailout, Fed secrecy, efforts to shield mortgage defrauders from prosecution, and the appointment of an endless roster of former Goldman, Sachs executives and lobbyists. He’s brought the nation to a full-on Cold War and a covert hot war with Iran, on the brink of far greater hostilities. He has made the U.S. assubservient as ever to the destructive agenda of the right-wing Israeli government. His support for some of the Arab world’smost repressive regimes is as strong as ever.
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Salon

The words of Glenn Greenwald are indeed a scathing indictment of Obama and the Democratic administration and conclusively prove that there really isn't a spit of difference between the Republican and the Democratic parties, despite the pathetic but vociferous rants at election time that attempt to highlight the differences between the parties.  The only differences lie with the Republican and Democratic voting bases.  The Republicans want things to remain the same - big wars, big bankster bailouts,  big government, big assaults on civil liberties, big entitlements and big government powers.  The Dems generally oppose the wars, the crushing of civil liberties and the big bankster bailouts.  The Dems really do want change but Republicans are totally averse to change.

In the Romney candidacy, Republicans reluctantly agreed that he would continue in the footsteps of Bush/Cheney and while Republicans don't exactly trust Romney they decided to trust him more than they trust Obama.

Another progressive, Matt Stoller, wrote one of the best pieces on Ron Paul from the progressive prospective as Stoller delves into Libertarianism to reconcile prevailing progressive ideology with the Ron Paul movement. Stoller isn't a guy who haphazardly tosses out words nor does he fall into the typical liberal trap of justifying Obama's actions. Stoller has been on a soul searching mission to understand the Ron Paul movement and its vast appeal to frustrated Americans. Stoller actually accomplishes something that few progressives can comprehend, namely, that the American Empire and the wars that they so despise are indeed a direct result of the Federal Reserve that they tend to worship because it facilitates a monstrous nanny state federal government and its social entitlements.
The most perplexing character in Congress, ideologically speaking, is Ron Paul....
And as I’ve drilled into Paul’s ideas, his ideas forced me to acknowledge some deep contradictions in American liberalism (pointed out years ago by Christopher Laesch) and what is a long-standing, disturbing, and unacknowledged affinity liberals have with centralized war financing. So while I have my views of Ron Paul, I believe that the anger he inspires comes not from his positions, but from the tensions that modern American liberals bear within their own worldview.....
Now, if you’re a libertarian, and you believe that centralized power is dangerous, then it’s obvious that state control over finance and mass mobilization of social resources for warfare or other ends are two sides of the same coin....
Modern liberalism is a mixture of two elements. One is a support of Federal power – what came out of the late 1930s, World War II, and the civil rights era where a social safety net and warfare were financed by Wall Street, the Federal Reserve and the RFC, and human rights were enforced by a Federal government, unions, and a cadre of corporate, journalistic and technocratic experts (and cheap oil made the whole system run.) America mobilized militarily for national priorities, be they war-like or social in nature....
This is why Ron Paul can critique the Federal Reserve and American empire, and why liberals have essentially no answer to his ideas, arguing instead over Paul having character defects. Ron Paul’s stance should be seen as a challenge to better create a coherent structural critique of the American political order. It’s quite obvious that there isn’t one coming from the left, otherwise the figure challenging the war on drugs and American empire wouldn’t be in the Republican primary as the libertarian candidate. To get there, liberals must grapple with big finance and war, two topics that are difficult to handle in any but a glib manner that separates us from our actual traditional and problematic affinity for both. War financing has a specific tradition in American culture, but there is no guarantee war financing must continue the way it has.
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Naked Capitalism

It's abundantly clear that while thinking progressives are perplexed by Ron Paul, they also deeply respect him on many levels because there's a lot about Ron Paul that is hugely appealing to progressives.

As a libertarian, I don't share progressive views on most issues but I most assuredly do sympathize with their frustration on big issues like foreign policy and how the Federal Reserve actually expanded and consolidated raw and absolute power into the hands of the 1%. Furthermore, I cling to the hope that if we can achieve sound money that isn't manipulated by Wall Street and end the perpetual wars by slaying the military industrial complex, then America will definitely be a far more prosperous and freer place. We'd solve about 75% of our problems and we could fight about the rest of the stuff later.

Progressives definitely have a vested interest in listening to and learning from Ron Paul and his supporters. If the Democratic Party can be forced into the same ideological battle that liberty activists within the Republican party advanced with courage and conviction, then the Democratic Party will be the big winner, along with the American people.

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