Published: Tuesday 8 January 2013
Make no mistake: the war against Social Security has been launched.

 

The all-out assault on Social Security has begun.

The set-up for the big battle was the Fiscal Cliff charade. That hyped drama in the last days of December was a moment of truth for the Democratic Party and for President Barack Obama to make it clear whether they were still defenders of the New Deal legacy, or whether they were ready to toss Social Security overboard on behalf of the party’s new constituency: the Wall Street gang.

The president and the Democrats in House and Senate could have said there would be no deal on the artificial Fiscal Cliff that was created by Congress back in August 2011 unless Congressional Republicans agreed not to hold the nation hostage again this February over the issue of raising the national debt ceiling. Republicans were in a weak position, since if the “cliff” deadline were allowed to pass, the Bush tax cuts would have expired. They would have been put in the position of being unable to pass new legislation restoring tax cuts for the wealthy, while Democrats could have forced them to pass tax cuts for those in the middle and lower classes.

Instead of doing that, the president and his vice president, former Senator from the über-corporate headquarters state of Delaware, Joe Biden, offered a “compromise” that give tax breaks to the 1% of Americans who earn between $250,000 and $400,000 a year, protected up ...

Published: Thursday 20 December 2012
“The current president of the United States, the most powerful man in the world, commander in chief of the most awesome military the world has ever known, is the most pathetic negotiator in the history of modern politics. Either that or he wants to lose.”

 

If President Obama had been the commander of Allied forces during the invasion of Normandy 1944, he would have cut a deal with the Nazis when they launched the counter-offensive called the Battle of the Bulge, and WWII would have ended in Europe with a divided France and a still-extant Third Reich into the 1950s. If he had been president in 1965, we wouldn’t have Medicare today. If he had been Rosa Parks, black people might still be riding at the back of the bus.

The current president of the United States, the most powerful man in the world, commander in chief of the most awesome military the world has ever known, is the most pathetic negotiator in the history of modern politics. Either that or he wants to lose.

During his first term, we watched him inexplicably water down his health reform program before it even got started, removing the option of a Canadian-style state-run insurance program known as “single-payer” from consideration, and then cutting deals with the insurance industry, the hospital industry and the pharmaceutical industry, before going to Congress with a plan that ended up being a gift to all three.

We watched him cave early on in negotiations over a crisis economic stimulus plan in 2009, giving Republicans a $425-billion tax cut that did nothing to boost jobs in return for getting a measly $425-billion in stimulus funding approved. He ...

Published: Sunday 16 December 2012
How many of us would have had to the courage to stand in front of a closet door to keep an armed madman from finding the kids hidden behind it, as one slain teacher died doing?

I’ll be brief here. Let’s just note that the heroic teachers who died while courageously trying to protect their kids at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, and the others who survived but stayed to protect the kids, were all part of a school system where the employees are members of the American Federation of Teachers.

Let’s just let that sink in for a moment. Those teachers, who are routinely being accused by our politicians of being drones and selfish, incompetent money grubbers worried more about their pensions than about teaching our children (though most, even after 10 years, earn less than $55,000 a year for doing a very difficult job that involves at least 12-14 hours a day of work and prep time counting meetings with parents), stood their ground when confronted with a psychotic assailant armed with semi-automatic pistols and an automatic rifle, and protected their kids. The principal too, a veteran teacher herself, stood her ground, reportedly suicidally charging at the assailant along with the school’s psychologist in a doomed effort to tackle him and stop the carnage.

How many of us would have had to the courage to stand in front of a closet door to keep an armed madman from finding the kids hidden behind it, as one slain teacher died doing? How many of us would charge at an armed shooter, to almost certain death, in an effort top stop him from further killing? How many would bravely hide in a bathroom with a class of kids when we could have run away and saved ourselves?

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Published: Tuesday 4 December 2012
In order to continue working at JPL, even scientists who had been with NASA for decades were told they would need a high-level security badge just to enter the premises.

 

Up on the planet Mars, there is a complex new rover named Curiosity that is driving around looking for evidence of possible life. Its every little finding is readily broadcast around the world, as was done today at a televised conference in California, to be analyzed by scientists in the US, in Europe, in China, and even in Iran.

The scientists and engineers who are managing that remarkable vehicle, as well as the fantastically successful Cassini probe orbiting Saturn, the Kepler satellite that is discovering all those planets orbiting distant stars, and all the other various satellites and space probes launched by NASA, however, are not as free as the space probes they are running.

Thanks to the zealous wackos at the Department of Homeland Security, back in 2007 during the latter part of the Bush administration an order went out that all workers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena--an organization that is run under contract to NASA by the California Institute of Technology, had to be vetted for high security clearance in order to continue doing their jobs. Never mind that not one of them was or is engaged in secret activities (NASA is a rigorously non-military, scientific agency which not only publishes all its findings, but which invites the active participation of scientists from around the world). In order to continue working at JPL, even scientists who ...

Published: Thursday 29 November 2012
It seems insane that this nation’s leaders, corporate and political, would even now still be deliberately refusing to take action to protect the Earth, which of course they and their children and grandchildren will also have to live on, and yet almost to a one they are on the side of the deniers or the delayers.

 

What if the leaders of the United States -- and by leaders I mean the generals in the Pentagon, the corporate executives of the country’s largest enterprises, and the top officials in government -- have secretly concluded that while world-wide climate change is indeed going to be catastrophic, the US, or more broadly speaking, North America, is fortuitously situated to come out on top in the resulting global struggle for survival?

I’m not by nature a conspiracy theorist, but this horrifying thought came to me yesterday as I batted away yet another round of ignorant rants from people who insist against all logic that climate change is a gigantic fraud being perpetrated, variously, by a conspiracy of the oil companies who allegedly want to benefit from carbon credit trading, the scientific community, which allegedly is collectively selling out and participating in some world-wide system of omerta in order to get grants, or the world socialist conspiracy, which of course, is trying to destroy capitalism), or all the above. (God, whenever I write anything on climate change these people hit me with flame-mail like mayflies spattering a car windshield in mating season!)

What prompted me to this dark speculation about an American conspiracy of inaction was the seemingly incomprehensible failure of the US -- in the face of overwhelming evidence that the Earth is heating up at an accelerating rate, and that we are in danger of soon reaching a point of no return where the process feeds itself -- ...

Published: Tuesday 9 October 2012
Unasked is the question: Why would a border agent investigating possible illegal border crossing take the first shot at someone he suspected of trying to sneak into the country?

 

Sometimes it takes a small tragedy to call attention to expose a much bigger one.

The small tragedy happened when Nicholas Ivie, a US Border Patrol agent, was shot dead on a dark night in rough terrain along the border with Mexico in Arizona, a state that has been obsessing about illegal border crossers coming into the US from Mexico seeking jobs.

The story, as reported by FBI and Cochise County Sheriff’s Office investigators, as well as the border patrol union’s president, is that Ivie was with one set of border patrol agents responding to a motion sensor that had been triggered -- perhaps by a person or an animal -- and ended up getting shot by a second border patrol team that had also been dispatched to investigate, but that had approached the location from another direction.

What reportedly happened is that Ivie opened fire on the other team, and when they returned fire, thinking they were under attack by armed smugglers, Ivie was killed. The incident is being called a case of “friendly fire,” a term that is used by the military for cases where US troops kill one of their own by accident in a firefight.

But the incident is more than just an accident. It highlights the sorry state that the ...

Published: Tuesday 21 August 2012
Did Romney use a 2009 IRS tax amnesty to escape being caught in a giant multi-year tax fraud? The 2009 tax return he won't release has the answer.

 

A lot of theories have been put forward to try and explain why Romney has allowed his campaign to become bedeviled by charges of tax dodging, but what if what he is hiding is felonious tax fraud?

Okay, so he's taken the legal option of delaying filing his 2011 taxes, which every taxpayer is entitled to do without penalty and without having to give any explanation until October 15 this year (I agree it's a little weird when a super-rich guy who pays accountants by the dozen does this, but hey). The nagging question though is why he hasn't just responded to the demand that he release two years of tax returns like John McCain did in 2008 by simply releasing his 2009 tax filing, along with the 2010 return he already released?

The answer may well be that 2009 was the year that the Treasury Department decided to offer an amnesty from prosecution for tax fraud to any of the tens of thousands of millionaires who were known or suspected to have illegally hidden income abroad in the Cayman Islands or in Swiss banks -- a felony, but one that people thought they'd never be caught at.

That year alone, some nearly 30,000 people, many of them no doubt prominent in society, politics and business, and customers of the finest accounting firms, reportedly voluntarily came forward to the IRS to admit that they had hidden some of the estimated $100 billion in income that crooked rich Americans have for years been secreting away in banks overseas. Under the terms of the program, they were able to just report their fraud, pay the taxes, penalties and interest on the money and then walk away scott free, with no charges and with their returns kept confidential by the agency.

That is, ...

Published: Thursday 9 August 2012
It's not just Romney. Both Obama and Romney are deeply in hock to Corporate America.

 

The Obama re-election campaign and the Democratic Party and their backers, like the organization MoveOn, are bitterly decrying the flood of corporate money going to his opponent, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who is out-fund-raising the president by an ever-increasing amount.

But there is a hollow sound to the president’s whining. Back in 2008, Obama, who had earlier said he opposed corporate funding and had promised to run his campaign using public funds only, in an agreement with his then opponent, Republican Sen. John McCain, broke that agreement and went on to accept what still remains at this point a record sum of corporate money.

By the time the 2008 election was held, Obama’s campaign had collected and spent a staggering $745 million. McCain, who had been a leader in the effort to limit corporate campaign spending, stuck with government funding and thus spent “only” $126 million on his losing general election campaign -- the amount that Obama would have also been limited to had he not “opted out” of his earlier promise to use only government funds to run for the nation’s top office.

 

About 80% of Obama’s campaign cash came from large donors -- either individuals or, in most cases, corporations. His second biggest donor, giving ...

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