Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Jessie Speak

It doesn't seem so long ago that Jesse Jackson was in his heyday. He had no peer as a public speaker, including Bill Clinton. One of his favored speech tools was to contrast two facts to show us how as a nation we were failing to live up to our promise, mostly because of Reaganesque economic policies. It is with that kind of presentation in mind that I make the following observations.
Did you know that there is a special low tax bracket set up for people living on investment income? If you did know that, did you know that it also applies to people who manage investment funds? Some of the world's highest paid people are in this category, and I'm talking way beyond NBA or American Idol type cash. Their taxes are withheld at 15% even though they sometimes earn incomes that reach eight figures. No, there is no shortage of would-be money gurus, so it's not like we need to create more of them with tax incentives. Yes, they have higher expenses than most, but that's BECAUSE of their income, not because entering their preferred workplace costs so much more. No, the tax break is there because, well, because We the People gave it to them, meaning that Congress wrote it and the president agreed. No wonder there's a market for jewel-encrusted fountain pens and canine psychologists.
You might have noticed the fight in Congress over bringing health insurance to about six million of our poorer children through expansion of a program which already exists. The money involved ain't pocket change, but it's a fraction of the money we throw down the Iraqi rat hole. Providing basic care leads (and we know this through research) to medical savings down the road because of early treatment. About 90% of Americans favor this plan , including over 80% of REPUBLICANS. The president? He promises to veto it, claiming that it's too much, but probably thinking that first, he doesn't want to hand the Demos a victory, and second, because he's fearing that a success with children might embolden people to want to take health care out of the hands of his big business pals altogether. Thirdly, children don't vote, as compared to Medicare recipients with new benefits, who can't WAIT to vote.
So if I were the Reverend Jackson, I might put it this way, somewhere in mid-speech: "We hear the administration say that there's no money to get health insurance for poor children, but they have no problem giving tax breaks to the richest people on Wall Street." The Reverend may have put it better (and if you're reading, sir, you're welcome to use this stuff at no charge). I think I know what Ross Perot would say: "That's jes' sad."

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Heard this One?

This Space For Rent - I heard something today that shocked me a little. It falls under the general category of "your tax dollars at work", but with a twist. If your husband/son/brother is killed in action these days, the company that makes the tombstones for the Pentagon's departed now adds the name of the operation in which he/she perished, like "Operation Enduring Freedom" or "Operation Iraqi Freedom", whatever. The shocking part is that these little additions are done without notifying the families, as if to confirm for eternity that it's all OK because it was a worthy cause. The upside of this little ad campaign is that the additions are done for free. Thank you, President Bush.

I have my doubts that we'll ever catch up with all the schemes put into action by the current administration looking for an election edge of some kind. Here's a term you may not have heard, but it has a clear purpose. It's "caged voting", and works this way. In certain cities or counties, the local election machinery is under the control of, let's say, a political party which has an interest in reducing voter turnout in order to keep its local edge. GOP? Maybe.
Let's say you are someone who lives in a racially diverse neighborhood, and have a name which might indicate an African American, like "Bailey", with a first name "Thell". You may, at some point far removed from an election, receive a letter asking that you confirm again your name, address or phone number, along with a return. It looks harmless enough, but, hey, the city has no trouble reaching you when they have bad news to deliver, and nothing has changed anyway, right? So why send it at all? What you don't know is that your name is being removed from the list of registered voters unless that envelope comes back, and you won't know this until you go to vote. Then all you can do is complain, because your vote ain't going to get counted this time around. This process has a name: "caged voting". No surprise that it's illegal. It may or may not have happened in recent elections. At least one former official in the snakepit that is sadly the Department of Justice, says that it took place before the last election, although the revelation got nary a yawn in the corporate-owned media. And as I said before, we may never get caught up with every little scheme that opens itself to execution when one party holds all the levers of "democracy". I guess there's perfect justice in the next life, but that seems just tooooo long.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Grandpa's GOP

Warning: The following makes little attempt to be fair and balanced.

Anyone recall Reagan's line about switching to the Republican Party from the Democratic Party? It went something like "I didn't leave the Party. It left me." That one has had lots of use in the last quarter century, but if current trends are any indication (and they frequently are not), the movement today is back toward the Dems and away from Bush's extreme view of what the GOP ought to be. Let's compare views from the everyday Republican of the 1960's to the "neocon" views today's Republicans are required to swallow. The issue is in caps, with the 60's version marked "GGOP" (Grandpa's GOP), and today's marked "NCV" (neocon vision).
GGOP - I wish our Party could be the majority some day, but rules are rules.
NCV - An effort is made to change House rules to allow a leader under indictment to continue to serve as leader.
GGOP - We have to stop Communism before it takes over the world, even if it means war.
NCV - We can attack any country anywhere if we feel it is a potential threat.
GGOP - Our government has to live within a budget, just like a business or a family.
NCV - Our kids will have to pay for these deficits, and we're going to keep the war "off the books", but I'm keeping my tax cut.
GGOP - We'll show the Russians by putting a man on the moon someday, and I've heard a safe cigarette is just around the corner.
NCV - ( from the former Surgeon General) Science is routinely subordinated to ideology, theology and partisan advantage.
GGOP - People of all races should be allowed to have a chance to make a better life for themselves in this great country.
NCV - We're packing the courts with friendly judges to cut back all those liberal restrictions that are holding some of our people back.
GGOP - Is it true what I've heard about Mr. Hoover keeping information about some of those Washington perverts?
NCV - We need no warrants to snoop on anyone we please. Of course, this is all for your safety. And the Attorney General agrees. Beyond that, we have nothing to say.
GGOP - You mean some people actually....ooohhhh. I had no idea. Really?
NCV - The War on Terror is never going to end, and neither is our effort to make sure who's with us and who isn't. That's what we all want, right?
GGOP - I hope we can get out the vote on Election Day. I'm going to volunteer.
NCV - Mr. Rove assures me that our voting supression plans in key cities will pay off. And then there's the voting machines. If that isn't enough, we've got the Supreme Court ready to rule.
GGOP - I sure like our minister. He says it's our Christian duty to be active in the community.
NCV - Here are the Party doctrines, I mean, platform planks that will save our families! Has everyone remembered to pray for our Party and its leaders?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Summer Bits

I was listening to the radio yesterday and heard something new. There's a movement, who knows how big, to draft Al Gore as the next Democratic candidate for president. Well, that's fair, though I don't think he's actually willing to run. The radio ad sounded like it had been recorded in someone's basement using a cassette recorder. I had to laugh, though, when I heard the tag line: "He won it once, and he can do it again." Amen to that.

Item #2. I fear we're going to see the following scene every day during the remainder of the Bush administration. Former officials with vague connections to the political side of the White House are suffering from group amnesia, a little like those bad soap opera plots. Today, it was Sara Taylor, former political hack, who made an effort to match Alberto Gonzales' record for memory failure in regard to the US attorney investigation. And just in case she did remember, she had a written demand from the White House counsel that she not answer certain questions anyway. It seems like a pretty smart strategy - what's to talk or write about when nothing gets revealed?

Item #3. Remember the Democratic threat to de-fund the Vice President's office based on Mr. Cheney's bizarre claim that his office is not part of the Executive Branch? The plan to de-fund may not finally succeed, but it did pass one vote in committee. Could you imagine Cheney & Co. hiding their faces (to keep everything secret, of course) going in and out of a closed-down department store space in a shaky end of Washington D. C.? It would be a little like requiring his Veepness to hunt birds in season like "the public". How icky.

Item #4. Mr. Chertoff, the Secretary of Home Security nicknamed "Skeletor" for his lean and hairless visage, opined yesterday that there might be terror plots aimed at the US this summer, but gave no evidence or further explanation. Such announcements in the past have tended to show up when the President's popularity dipped. Someone should produce a chart of terror alerts as compared to Bush's popularity. My guess is that the two charts would form a kind argyle pattern. You don't think so? Bush's positive numbers yesterday reached 29%, a new low.

Item #5. Just to remind folks that someone hasn't forgotten. No apology has yet been offered to Valerie Plame or Joe Wilson for "outing" Mrs. Wilson in violation of the law as a CIA employee who had worked under the cover of a shell company called "Brewster Jennings". I'm also not aware of any apology to dead former B-J operatives' families as a result of assassination leading from the government-led leak. But that, too, is no doubt a secret, right?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

At the Store

Before launching into the issue of the week, I note two things. First, this blog has now surpassed 50 entries. They tell us at church to make daily personal journal entries, but endlessly putting down "Played a little tennis. Weather temperate"...would be pretty dull. You get this instead.
Secondly, isn't it great to see that the President, after so many years of indifference towards criminals of every stripe, has changed his tune when it comes to one criminal, Scooter Libby, who used to work in Mr. Cheney's office. Libby won't be seeing hard or even semi-tough time due to a presidential commutation removing his prison sentence. I suppose the President knew about Mr. Libby's large legal defense fund, but he cited the family's suffering in his commutation message. The quarter million dollar fine stuck, but was luckily paid before the Libbys' finances forced them onto food stamps. Can we guess Scooter's next employer? How about second banana for Tony Snow on FOX when the latter's White House flack gig dries up. Valerie Plame, the victim so often overlooked in this long story, has yet to get a word of apology from the tough guys in the administration, who are only allowed sympathy for Scooter and family.

I had occasion to wait at the exit of our biggest local supermarket recently. I was sitting trying to do two things at once: observe the people passing through and read a surprising little tract I found amongst the free printed stuff.
The groceries were flying out the door in shopping carts strained to the bending point. Of course, some people only buy once a year, but I saw plenty of evidence of that obesity thing the skinny newsfolk keep talking about. And it's been another good year for the tatoo artists, what with all the excess skin. Does it seem odd that people who care deeply about how they are seen by others could be so uninterested in how they appear to each other in broad daylight? Sorry-I didn't mean to seem like some kind of snobbish color man for Bill O'Reilly.
Then there was the tract. It looked at first glance like a local fishing guide for "Steelheads", but turned out to be about 15 separately written articles in support of the 9/11 Truth Movement totaling around 50 pages. They weren't all great pieces of journalism, but some were pretty good. I was surprised that such a thing even existed, like a kind of average man's official guide to government treachery, AND that it was filled throughout with the most normal looking ads for small businesses of every kind that you could imagine. I guess we really DO live in a corner of the country reserved for aging liberals at peace with themselves, but not with the Bushies.