Sunday, December 19, 2010

Is Your Hair On Fire Yet?

Keith Olbermann

Does Tax Law Make You Crazy?
I've lost track of exactly what day it happened.  All the days seem to be running together since Obama 'caved in' to Yertle the Turtle Mitch McConnell.  Although, depending on who you talk to, I might be referring to the day Obama hoodwinked Mitch McConnell into going along with some more government stimulus.  I guess it depends on whose analysis you believe the most.

Now, given my lazy druthers, I might spend every workday evening in front of the TV, watching MSNBC between the hours of 5 and 8 PM.  I have even been known to watch Chris Matthews if I come home early.  Now, I really don't do this every night, it even gets to me after a while, but I do have a lot of respect for the opinions of Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, and Lawrence O'Donnell.

During the fifteen minutes or so that I travel to work in the morning, I listen to Stephanie Miller on Green960, and listen to Randi Rhodes (if I get out early enough) or Karel on the way home.

So, let's go back to the day we found out Obama and McConnell had negotiated a deal to give the Republicans their cherished Bush-era tax cuts for the rich folk for another couple of years, and some ruling class props to rich families to evade more estate taxes, in return for an extension for unemployment benefits, and some investments in small business and green energy.  To be honest, it's not easy for us ordinary folk to figure this stuff out, so we turn to people we trust to help sort things out.  So, let's see, how do my political gurus feel about this?

Keith Olbermann says Obama is 'Goddamned wrong' and betrayed his base.

Rachel Maddow thinks Obama completely sold out, and looks somewhat pitiful in the whole affair.

Lawrence O'Donnell thinks Obama got the best part of the deal.

Randi Rhodes, on the other hand says we should relax.  There's more bucks for stimulus than sops to the rich, so Obama got a better deal.  Stephanie Miller also thinks Obama did the only thing he could, and Karel is 'done with Obama.'

Not a very unified picture, is it?

When the news broke, I was angry too, and emailed Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont, who I had heard was going to filibuster the bill. Bernie spoke for almost 9 hours about the evils of the bill, and I agreed with most of what he said.  But then strange things started to happen on the right wing...

Charles Krauthammer, the right wing nutjob pretender to the William F Buckley throne of self-important pundits, wrote an article about how Obama swindled the Republicans, and the Democrats didn't even know it!  Then Rush Limbaugh, the drug-addled Jabba the leader of the GOP tells us that he hopes Obama's tax deal fails!  Pretty much the same words he uttered two years ago that defined the party of HELL NO YOU CAN'T!  And finally, to put the nail in the coffin, if you think you can read Sarah Palin's tweets it would also seem she's against the deal!

Many of my friends on facebook have passionately posted their disgust for Obama selling out, so it's a real mixed bag of feelings out there.

Politics is a very complex, convoluted form of energy transfer.  I think that it probably was the best deal that could have been made, given these circumstances, and who Obama was dealing with.  The GOP was perfectly willing to let taxes go up for all Americans, and let the unemployed sink deeper into poverty, so there was no incentive on their part to 'play nice.' I think the lure of getting these totally unnecessary, totally hypocritical (from a deficit POV) tax cuts was irresistible to McConnell. In return, Obama saved a lot of Americans (the hostages) a lot of pain, and got more stimulus money too.  This is all about jobs, jobs, jobs.  If we're still at this rate of unemployment in two years, there is little hope for Obama, save the possible candidacy of Palin.

Could this deal have paved the way for the historic repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell we witnessed yesterday?  Hard to prove either way.

So here's the deal: We have 2 years
  • to take back Congress
  • to mount some creditable media pushback to the FauxNews propaganda machine
  • to halt the flood of anonymous political money
  • to get this country's economy back on track
Otherwise, these tax giveaways for the rich will never expire, and you can kiss America, as we think we knew it, goodbye.

Is your hair on fire yet?

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Obamapology, Take 2

The Government We Deserve
Step away from the ledge!

By now, I'm sure you have all heard about how Obama 'caved in' to the GOP, or broke his campaign promise, or whatever.  Personally, I'm really unhappy about it too.  I'm willing to have my taxes go up if it means the rich people's taxes go up too.  All this talk about deficits has been exposed for what it is, just talk.  Just another excuse to bash Obama and the Democrats, and another opportunity for the powerful to raid the treasury. and listen to these words spoken today by Obama:
"This isn’t an abstract debate...This is real money for real people and it will make a real difference in the lives of the folks who sent us here."
The ugly irony in the tax situation is that percentage-wise, the people on the bottom would suffer the most in a tax increase.   And it was not an idle threat by the GOP; they would be perfectly happy to let millions of folks lose unemployment benefits, and sink further out of sight.  This was blackmail, pure and simple.

While I don't believe in caving in to blackmail, I'm not sure Obama had much choice.  I guess what I'd like to see is a concerted effort to make the GOP pay for this politically, but in the age of limitless anonymous corporate donations via shadowy Super-PAC's, it's hard to see that happening either.

What do you want Obama to do?  I think many people voted for him as if he were the second coming, and we would no longer need to do any more hard work.  All our utopian dreams would become reality.

As long as Americans can be bamboozled into electing Republicans, even if it means harming Americans, we will get treated this way over and over again.

What say you?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Webcor Dreams

an old Webcor, not the same as my folks'
Electronic Memories
Where have all the gray cells gone?

Tonight after band practice and dinner, I stumbled across the John Sebastian Folk Rewind special, and got sucked in.  Lots of old black and white recordings of ancient TV shows.  Earnest young men and women singing old songs.  Perhaps the most telling moment for me was when The New Christy Minstrels sang Today.  It's a totally sappy song, but still, the wistful emotions of passing time hit me hard.  I thought back to the days when I used to listen with my family to reel-to-reel tapes of old folk songs.  Songs like "Tom Dooley," "500 Miles," and "The Streets of Laredo."

These tapes are long gone, and even if they weren't, it would be hard to find many people interested in listening to them.  My dad has been gone for 15 years, and my mom's not doing very well, and it's memories like this that remind me of a time when they were younger, younger than I am now.

So, I'll continue to play "Get Together" every chance I get, "Blowin' In The Wind" every now and then, and maybe even "If I Had a Hammer."  Someone else can get nostalgic over Lady Gaga someday.

PS, for those of you in Bay Area, here's the link for repeats of the Sebastian Show.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Open Letter to President Obama

Dear President Obama,
Let me say this simply and directly.  Please protect the American people these next two years.  The Republicans are coming for us.  They have already bought themselves the Congress, and the Senate and Presidency cannot be far behind.

Please stop compromising with the GOP, they have no intention of meeting you anywhere near the middle.  You will be under constant attack from their media, but you need to be strong for us.

If we don't get our act together in the next couple of years to take Congress back, then I guess we don't deserve saving!

If you need to veto, then veto.  They will call you names, and try and destroy you.  But remember, you are protecting us.  This is what we need the President for.

And please, don't let them defund the Secret Service!

Yours in Justice,
Geoff Gould
high school science teacher

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Wake Up Democrats!

Yeah, I know the primaries are done, but sooner or later you're going to get around to paying more attention, right?  Well, the press has written you off, so you might as well not bother.  If the media says you're not going to vote, who are you to prove them wrong?

But just in case you need a little focusing, check this out:

Age of Supreme Court Justices
  • Roberts, 55
  • Scalia, 74
  • Kennedy, 74
  • Thomas, 62
  • Ginsburg, 77
  • Breyer, 72
  • Alito, 60
  • Sotomayor, 56
  • Kagan, 50
If you ever want to see your civil rights again, you'd better make sure that:
  1. There's a Democrat in office as President
  2. There's at least 60 Democratic senators to confirm any nominations
I'm trying to keep this as short and sweet (sweet?) as possible, so if you thought your work was done electing Obama a couple of years ago, think again.  With the unrestricted onslaught of corporate cash flooding the democratic process, it's even harder now than a couple of years ago to keep our freedoms, you know those freedoms that are free?  The ones that we're supposed to enjoy, even if we don't have a lot of money?
How about a little more Golden Rule, and a little less rule of gold?
[idea for using poster from Lark Leet]

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Myth of Private Enterprise

What? You want to eat at MY lunch counter?

Recently, Rand Paul, the son of Libertarian Ron Paul, won the Republican primary for Senate in Kentucky. Being a Tea Party darling, this was trumpeted as a significant event. In his acceptance speech, he said "We've come to take our government back." What does he mean? Who is the 'we' in this?

I'm sorry, but quite simply I think this is code for "We've come to take our country back from these non-white people."

But here's why I'm writing this piece. Rachel Maddow interviewed him after his victory, and tried repeatedly to ask him if he supported the rights of business owners to discriminate based on race. Over and over again, Rand said it was right to bar discrimination by the government, but skirted the issue of directly answering her questions. For some reason, Libertarians seem to think Freedom (yes Freedom with a capital 'F') is at risk if you tell an individual businessman he can't discriminate in his own place of business!

Here's the rub: This is all based on some sophomoric view of what constitutes 'private enterprise.' It's kind of like the old phrase "a man's home is his castle." Whatever goes on inside a private business is beyond the reach of law, beyond the dictates of society. I think on one level that sounds reasonable. After all, who doesn't like freedom? Who likes being told what to do? I know I don't like it when I'm told what to do, even it it makes sense!

But really, how can business ever be truly private? By its very nature it involves the interrelationship between people and the support of the common infrastructure. How can you run a business without the support of public safety, banking, utilities, and so on. The very fabric of public society is the lifeblood of any 'private enterprise.'

To equate the sanctity of the First Amendment with the right to bar people from your 'private business' is silly at best, and sociopathic at least.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Race Against Time

The line it is drawn The curse it is cast
With the election of Barack Obama, a major battle has been set up. Obama's victory was never accepted by the corporate forces who have done such a great job of locking up the game that is called The United States. Rather than wait for the mandate to be given a chance, the strategy has been to simply stall and obstruct. The U. S. Treasury was so heavily looted, there's very little money, if any, left for creative social justice programs, which suits the right just fine. The GOP's seditious strategy cares not for the general welfare of the country (or the world for that matter), but only serves at the pleasure of moneyed interests. The demons of racism, sexism, and xenophobia have all been unleashed in support of the attacks on the new Federal government. FauxNews' Glenn Beck and his ilk continually stir up these forces, in a thinly veiled hope that some wacko will take Obama out of the picture.

What is happening is a race between the country becoming aware of the good works of Obama's plans, and the heavy indoctrination/disinformation program of the right wing. Normally, this would have been hard enough, but with the Supreme Court's recent decision to allow corporations unlimited 'free speech,' the stakes have gotten higher.

The Bizarro World of California Voter Democracy - 1984-style
California's initiative process has been flawed for years, with corporations able to hire professional signature gatherers for self-serving propositions. But it seems as if the 'gloves are off' now. I have noticed a few propositions that seem particularly obvious examples of corporate self-interest:

Prop 16 "Taxpayers Right to Vote"
Perhaps you've seen the ad on TV, telling you how this will give taxpayers the right to approve any public involvement in power generation. Watch closely, in the middle of the ad, the voice0ver says it "requires voter approval" while on screen the truth is highlighted; it would require 2/3 majority to approve any such move. Anyone familiar with the budget process in California since the 2/3 majority has been needed to pass a budget knows this is just a big roadblock. The only funding for this awful proposition comes from PG&E. Surprised? Somehow we are supposed to forget the whole concept of representative government. We elected people to do that job, but for some reason, we are expected to micromanage everything with a ballot proposition? We have a right to vote, we elect representatives. Why can't they do their jobs without the corporations always stepping in and paying for so-called 'voter initiatives' to get their way?

Prop 17 The Continuous Coverage Auto Insurance Discount Act
The Good Side: Motorists can get 'continuous coverage discounts' even when they switch from one insurance company to another.
The Bad Side: If for some reason, a motorist lets coverage lapse, then the next time they need insurance, no discount. This would not just be for people who didn't pay their bills. What about someone who sold their car because they didn't need it? Why should they be penalized?
Who's paying for this 'voter initiative?': The primary sponsor of Prop 17 is Mercury Insurance. Surprised?

So, in the whole health care reform process, we found that lots of congressmen and senators were basically on the take from corporate interests. And on a certain level, who can blame them? They can't get re-elected without financial support. So, even though the majority of the American people wanted relief from the onerous mess that is our current health care system, we hear all about 'socialism' and 'government takeover,' 'death panels,' and blah blah blah. Now we're hearing about how the GOP will win a lot of seats back in congress. What sort of disconnect is that?

The race against time that I'm referring to is trying to hold on to the effort to clean up our power structures before they become totally corrupted. George W. Bush has already appointed relatively young Supreme Court justices who will tow the corporate line; they won't be replaced for another 20 years! We need leaders like Obama to stay in power long enough to turn this rotten ship around.

Keep your eyes on the prize, and don't be distracted by flashy baubles!

Tyree and Geoff discussing politics!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Just How Crazy Is It?

Should We Arm Bears?

Just to show you how out of touch I am with what I am told are ordinary patriotic Americans, I wanted to spend a little of my blog space to comment on the current "Open Carry" movement.

Lately these people have been wandering into coffee shops, with permitted holstered weapons, as they order their mochas.

Yeah, I guess it's legal, but when I see someone with a gun in the open, even a cop who's there to protect the public, I get a little nervous. I get very nervous when I see right-wingers showing up at public demonstrations packing heat.

This summer, some nutcases famously displayed their weapons very near an event that Obama was at. If you go to the open carry website, they actually point to that as an example of how twisted the gun-control crowd is!:
"The anti-gun rights lobby's furor over the presence of guns
near the president . . . is an attempt to somehow reverse the normalization of guns."
Professor Brandon Denning, Cumberland School of Law (Birmingham, AL),
Christian Science Monitor, August 8, 2009
I don't have much more to say, but I don't want to hang out in a coffee shop where some insecure, overcompensating dude is showing off his new Glock!

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Search for Reality

I think many of us are battle-weary about the health care debate. I would guess this is partly due to our modern lack of an attention span, but it has also been the result of a deliberate stalling strategy that defies reason and believability, and yet it continues to work. I never realized before this last year how incredibly broken our American system of health insurance was, at least for most of us. You might notice I didn't use the term health care, as the care itself is way down on the list of priorities. It's not that the insurance companies are evil just for evil's sake; after all, it's "just business."

It's only logical that a business must do whatever it can to make a profit. That is the nature of business, and the law of survival. So, of course a for-profit insurance model would use the following tactics to maximize a high rate of return:
Deny coverage for pre-existing conditions.
Drop coverage as soon as possible for people that need to actually use it.
Raise rates as much as possible.
Especially if you can manipulate a non-competitive environment.

This is simply what you would expect in a system designed to protect the concept of profit in a world where health is needed.

And this is simply what the fight is all about. All the talk about cost containment, 'government-run' healthcare, 'death panels,' and fraud is just a smoke screen. It is purely and simply a struggle to maintain a system unlike any other developed country.

The fact that we treat health care as a sacrosanct source of profit, instead of a human right is the problem. Don't be distracted away from that. Just try to imagine what kind of world it would be like if your local fire department was run like a for-profit health insurance company: Your house is on fire, but if you can't pay COD, too bad for you.

There are so many lies around, I made an effort to find just a couple of facts I could confirm at the source. I didn't want to quote some political web site. I think if you can hang on to just these two things, it would put the issues in perspective.
First, let's put the magnitude of the crisis in perspective.

The world was aghast when 3,000 people were killed on 9/11. Over 5300 Americans service men and women have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since they began, to say nothing of the civilian casualties.

OK, have we all absorbed that? Well here's something I think we should never forget:

Nearly 45,000 annual deaths are associated with lack of health insurance

Maybe you've heard this before, but perhaps it just fades into all the other screaming about the issues of the day. This is not something the Huffington Post invented. This was a study conducted by the Harvard Medical School.

Here is a link to the Harvard site

Don't let anyone tell you this is a made-up number.
45,000 people a year.
Is that enough to notice?

Let's move on to the money.

Putting aside the obvious morality of just declaring access to health care a right, let's quit talking about how we can't afford it.

I've just got three words to say:

Bush Tax Cuts!

According to an article I found written in September 2004 from the Brookings Institute, well before Obama entered the race. At that point in time, there were "$1.7 trillion of revenue losses already locked into law."

There has basically been a campaign to cast modern progressive taxation as "Socialism.' And you thought Joe McCarthy was dead!

We are letting people die just so rich people can get a couple of extra percentage points off their income tax.

For Shame.

In closing, I'd like to quote a few lines about our health care system from an article on the PBS Frontline web site about how different countries finance their health care systems. I recommend reading the short article about the 4 basic models different countries use.

These four models should be fairly easy for Americans to understand because we have elements of all of them in our fragmented national health care apparatus. When it comes to treating veterans, we're Britain or Cuba. For Americans over the age of 65 on Medicare, we're Canada. For working Americans who get insurance on the job, we're Germany.

For the 15 percent of the population who have no health insurance, the United States is Cambodia or Burkina Faso or rural India, with access to a doctor available if you can pay the bill out-of-pocket at the time of treatment or if you're sick enough to be admitted to the emergency ward at the public hospital.

The United States is unlike every other country because it maintains so many separate systems for separate classes of people. All the other countries have settled on one model for everybody. This is much simpler than the U.S. system; it's fairer and cheaper, too.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Review: Avatar

What a Trip!

If there are any of you left who haven't seen Avatar yet, let me just offer a few words of advice:

  1. Yes, get a ticket and see it.
  2. You should see it in 3D
  3. You should prepare a bit first

Why see it?

It may not be the most thrilling plot you've ever encountered in a movie theater, but this is the reason you go to movie theaters, and not 'just wait for the DVD.' I have heard the plot described as Dances With Wolves with blue people. I never saw that movie, but I get the joke. I tend to watch Star Trek TNG reruns every weeknight at 10 for the same reason; good film or video should take you some place. Avatar definitely takes you to another place. It is money well spent as far as I'm concerned.

Why see it in 3D?

I haven't seen it in 2D, and I'm sure it's still pretty cool, but the total immersion experience of 3D just really puts this experience over the edge. These aren't just cheesy effects either.

Prepare? To see a movie?

I didn't know much about the movie outside of the basic plot. I usually like to see a movie before it gets ruined by modern day teasers and trailers which seem to spoil all the good parts! I'm not saying you need to attend a language class to speak the Na'vi language, but I would at least recommend you see the trailer that has been produced which includes background material. The main Apple trailer page for Avatar is a good place to start. I wish I had seen the trailer listed as "Experience the World of Pandora" before I'd seen the movie. The 'Featurette' is a short primer on Pandora, and some basic facts about the world you'll be spending over two hours inhabiting!

One More Thing

Go to the bathroom before the movie! At 162 minutes, try not to buy the big soda before you go inside!