Saturday, November 24, 2007

Fasten your seat belts ...

... it's going to be a rough ride.

It is entirely possible that all of the U.S. banks are currently bankrupt. Just because Citicorp generates billions of dollars every day in revenue doesn't mean that it has any equity left. Between 2005 and 2007, over a quadrillion dollars of collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) were underwritten. A one percent writedown would amount to at least a trillion dollars worth of losses. Most CDO analysts at the large investment banks have already publicly stated that they expect at least several hundred billion in writedowns, although to date, less than a hundred billion has been announced.

More from Ann Lee on Huffpo ...

My comment:

So, where do you think that's all going? Projections of several hundred billion in write downs with only less than one hundred billion "recognized"? If you think the housing market is depressed now, well, you ain't seen nothing yet! Just multiply what you're seeing in your neighborhood by the "several" (twice, three, four times? more?) that still haven't hit the books. Foreclosure rates are at an all time high. (1, 2, 3)

Profit is a wonderful thing. Government regulation outlines how one can legally make profit. Without government regulation, any way you can make profit is legal. There has been little government regulation of lending practices for the last decade and a half ... from the time the Republicans took control of Congress in the mid-90's to now. The current credit mess is the result lenders making loans that never should have been made ... on the premise of leverage. Leverage is using the assumed future value of a purchase to finance the purchase. Leverage, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. What is bad, however, is when lenders allow people to leverage their home purchases based on the assumption that the value of the purchase would ALWAYS increase. Obviously, that doesn't ALWAYS happen. The problems start when that planned increase in value doesn't happen; when the market reverses, and all these people who shouldn't have been taking on debt they couldn't afford get a dose of reality.

The only time leverage is useful and productive and secure is when you have alternatives. On the other hand, when it's the only way you could buy that .... thing ... whatever that thing is ... the practice is very questionable.

But, no. We need "business friendly" legislation. Profit is the priority! Regulations (those laws and rules that define how profit can legally be made) get in the way of making profit. The "invisible hand of them market" will correct for any problems that might arise.

Well, even if that were gospel truth, it takes time and people who are living from paycheck to paycheck don't have that kind of time.

It's going to take the better part of the next decade for the economy to recover from the effects of this hiccup. Taxpayers are going to end up footing the bill and that means you and your children are going to pay for the "fiscal responsibility" of so called conservative policies that have not favored regulation. The guys who lobbied for that legislation --- the bankers, mortgage lenders, and hedge fund managers are not going to be paying for their mistakes --- you are. You and your kids are. For years ... because this is going to be bigger than the last fiasco, the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s. Much bigger.

Don't ever let anyone tell you that the national economy is different from your household economy. The only difference is the number of zeros involved. Otherwise, it all boils down to income and expenses. Leverage is debt ... and debt has to be repaid at some point.

For years people in the financial "industry" have been telling everyone that there's "good" debt and "bad" debt ... that a mortgage was "good" debt. The current situation is underscoring the point that there is only one kind of debt ... debt that has to be repaid. That mortgage ceases to be "good" debt when the price of housing falls. It's not "good" debt when you owe more on your house than you can sell it for. The decrease in value comes out of your equity, not out of what you owe.

If you voted for Republicans during the last decade and a half, I hope you're happy with the results. They've been all in favor of borrowing ... I wonder how they feel about paying back. Actually, it probably doesn't bother them one bit ... its your children who'll be paying back on the debts they incurred

My grandparents and my parents lived through the depression. I was told about the depression. I was also told it could never happen again ... that government regulations were in place that would prevent such a thing from ever happening again. Well, I've always been a skeptic.

If you didn't listen to the stories from your great-grandparents, your grant parents ... and your parents (if they had their heads firmly screwed on) ... listen now. Things are going to get tougher than you ever imagined. Could I be wrong? Sure, I could be wrong. But wouldn't it make sense to prepare for some very rough times and find out I was wrong than to not listen and get blind sided by some very troubled times?

Friday, November 23, 2007

French Computer Calculates George Bush Should Go To Jail For 2 Million Years

Written by Monkey Woods
Story written: 22 November 2007

A computer that analyses and compares data to come up with logical and mathematical solutions, has determined that, based on recent custodial sentences handed down to terrorists responsible for terrorism on both sides of the Atlantic, US President George W. Bush should probably go to jail for nearly two million years!

The French computer, known as SEDAM (Systeme et Data Analytique Mathematical), used information fed to it about the perpetrators of the World Trade Center atrocity and London bombings - their motives, actions, subsequent defences and eventual punishments - and calculated what would happen to the American President if the same rules of Law were applied.

More on Spoof.

For the glory of God

by Dan Gardner, Ottawa Citizen

Gazing down from the 40th floor of a lower Manhattan skyscraper, Richard Dawkins shakes his head. "What a symbol," he growls.

In the evening drizzle, the city is a jungle of glitz and twinkling lights but Dawkins' attention is fixed on a flood-lit crater directly below us. It is Ground Zero, the footprint of the twin towers, still barren six years after the atrocity that made the world gasp. At the bottom of the vast hole, backhoes scrape into the night.

What does this symbolize, I ask? "Religious bigotry," he answers crisply. Not a twisted version of Islam. Not Islam as a whole. No, for the Oxford professor, biologist, renowned science writer, and author of the notorious bestseller The God Delusion, the void below is what religion itself hath wrought.

"The people who did this terrible thing were sincere, deeply religious, believed they were right, believed they were doing the will of their god, firmly believed they were going straight to heaven for doing what they thought of as a wonderful deed," Dawkins says. "They had just one thing wrong with them. They believed. They had faith. And it was their faith that drove them to it."

In New York to attend a conference on secularism sponsored by the Center for Inquiry, Dawkins has slipped out of what must be an exhausting reception with several hundred enthusiastic atheists. This evening, the heretic is a prophet and everyone wants to see him, to shake his hand and give thanks unto him. A British television crew records his every smile and nod. He could be forgiven for being a little distracted this evening.

But whatever one may think of the man dubbed "Darwin's Rottweiler," there's no denying the speed and precision of Dawkins' mind. Even harried like a royal on holiday, the man talks like a scalpel cuts.

"I wouldn't for a moment suggest the majority of people would do anything remotely so terrible, indeed anything terrible at all, but there is a logical pathway that leads from religious faith to doing the most appalling deeds."

Accept that there is a God. Accept that He is involved in the world's affairs. Accept that the Bible or the Koran is His holy word. "Once you've got that in your head, then a reasonable person can progress step by step to the conclusion that the right thing to do, the righteous thing to do, is to destroy thousands of lives."

In the Ottawa Citizen. (No longer available.)


Self Portrait with Cigar

Self Portrait with Cigar

Temperature is in the 60's. Flannel shirt is advisable - the winter ensemble. Smoking is an outdoor activity. Someday a park bench, but for now, a chair stolen from the back patio will do.

It's Only Rock and Roll

or see the video here ...

Definitely NOT rap!

What Do Conservatives Spend Their Time Thinking About?

One answer is provided by Conservapedia's most viewed list:

1. Main Page‎ [1,932,125]
2. Homosexuality‎ [1,623,810]
3. Homosexuality and Hepatitis‎ [518,013]
4. Homosexuality and Parasites‎ [431,280]
5. Homosexuality and Promiscuity‎ [422,076]
6. Gay Bowel Syndrome‎ [400,972]
7. Homosexual Couples and Domestic Violence‎ [373,928]
8. Homosexuality and Gonorrhea‎ [332,067]
9. Homosexuality and Anal Cancer‎ [294,328]
10. Homosexuality and Mental Health‎ [293,670]

I'd like to add something witty, but really, what is there to say after that? Especially since I can barely stop laughing.

2008 Olympics Contest


To participate is very easy, just view the attached photo, correctly
answer the following questions and send your answers to:
International Olympic Committee, Private Bag, Lausanne, Switzerland.

1. Which student seems to appear tired / sleepy?
2. Which ones are male twins?
3. Which ones are the female twins?
4. How many women are in the group?
5. Which one is the teacher?

Good Luck!

Guess you won't be going, either.

How Bush Screwed Our Thanksgiving

by Blake Fleetwood

There is a compelling article in yesterday's New York Daily News by Pulitzer Prize winner William Sherman.

Sherman shows that there is not much for us to be thankful for in terms of the cost of food we put on the table this week.

Consumers are getting slammed with the biggest increase in food prices in a decade --- fueled by a perfect storm of rising grain prices and a falling dollar.

Poultry - including your Thanksgiving Turkey - and dairy products have risen the most. A glass of milk costs New Yorkers up to 42% more than last holiday season.

The wholesale price of eggs has soared 86% compared to last fall, at one point.

"I'm spending $50 to $80 more a week on food than last year, according to one Harlem shopper.

The surge is driven by a ripple effect - the Iraq war, the rise in oil prices, the growing deficits -- and a confluence of factors beginning with corn and wheat crops diverted to ethanol production, according to economists.

More after the click ...

My comment: See "Unintended Consequences" or why it's better to have a Rhodes Scholar(1) or at least an actual war veteran(2) you might not particularly like in the most powerful office in the free world than a draft dodging, C-student cowboy who got through school on a social promotions with whom you think it might be fun to have a beer(3).

Finally! Car names that make sense

Volvo Vermont: A sporty wagon that runs on anything from Whole Foods. The limited Carl Kassel edition has a sound system that lowers all music and voices a full octave. The Vermont horn blasts Howard Dean's "Yeah!," which has proved to stop momentum dead in its tracks.

BMW 90210i: Dream no more, celebutantes. The latest BMW anticipates every whim. Paparazzi pusher attached to the grill. Built-in doggie bowl for Sparkles. The owner's manual even refers to the glove compartment as the panty compartment. OneStar, a GPS unit preprogrammed with locations of the nearest rehab locations, comes standard. Sensing quiet desperation, it consoles, "You're hot enough to be a reality-TV star."

Dodge Dixie: From south of the Mason-Dixon line comes a sturdy pickup for hauling bales of hay or commuting around Charlotte. Under the hood: 400 horses of NASCAR-inspired American moxie. Because sometimes getting from Cracker Barrel to Wal-Mart requires Dale Earnhardt Jr. speed. Bed liner comes in fleece to help make country music lyrics come true. "Let's get a little mud on the tires." Wink. Wink.

More after the click...

Celebrating Black Friday

on Jesus' General.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Exploring the Alternatives

BBC 2 Documentary
Aired: Thursday 20th September 2007

Beliefs, and believers, come in many shapes and sizes, and not all of them can be described as 'religious'. This program provides an introduction to a fascinating range of non-religious people and their beliefs. Features an interview with Richard Dawkins.

Part 1:

Part 2:
Part 3:
Part 4:
Part 5:
Part 6:

Not something you'll see on American TV.

Manufactured Landscapes

a feature documentary by Jennifer Baichwal

Edward Burtynsky is internationally acclaimed for his large-scale photographs of nature transformed by industry. Manufactured Landscapes – a stunning documentary by award winning director Jennifer Baichwal – follows Burtynsky to China, as he captures the effects of the country’s massive industrial revolution. This remarkable film leads us to meditate on human endeavour and its impact on the planet.

In interesting perspective on the effects of globalization, corporatization, and the changes in the world over the course of my lifetime. Stunning and thought provoking.

The photography is beautiful; the subject matter is something very different.

Of course, if you believe that human beings don't have an impact on the environment; that there's no way we could effect global warming; that pollution is only a minor problem ... then you probably want to avoid watching this one.

Available from Netflix and other DVD rental sources. RENT IT!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Just a thought

I'm still trying to figure out what it is exactly that Rudy Giuliani did. Besides climbing out of a hole and shaking his fist at the sky, that is.

The Christian Right is threatening to form a third party if Rudolph Giuliani is the Republican nominee. I have the perfect name, but I think "Taliban" is already taken. They could call it "God's Only Party" but the acronym might confuse people.

More from Will Durst, 23/6 contributor.

And its 1-2-3 what are we fightin' for, don't ask me, I don't give a damn ...

(CNN) --

A Saudi Arabian human rights attorney is asking the government to allow him to represent a woman who was gang-raped -- and then sentenced to prison for speaking out about the case.

Human rights groups want Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah to drop charges against the rape victim.

The attorney, Abdulrahman al-Lahim, had his license revoked last week by a judge for speaking to the Saudi-controlled media about the case, al-Lahim told CNN.

The judge more than doubled the sentence against al-Lahim's 19-year-old client because she spoke to the media about the case, a court source told Arab News, an English-language Middle Eastern daily newspaper.

The woman -- who was initially sentenced in October 2006 to 90 lashes -- had her sentenced increased to 200 lashes and was ordered to serve six months in prison under Saudi Arabia's strict Islamic law.

More after the click ...

My comment:

Let's see if I got this straight.

Saudi Arabia is our friend ... though most of the 9/11 hi-jackers came from Saudi Arabia, though women can't even drive a car in Saudi Arabia and there are no elections to speak of ... royal families don't need no steeeenkin' elections.

We're told we're fighting in the Middle East to spread democracy. (Seeing that WMDs and Saddam's ties to al Qaeda didn't wash.)

Iran holds relatively free elections; women can drive and even go to college and Iran was among the first to offer us support after 9/11 as we sent troops to Afghanistan to root out al Qaeda and the Taliban.

The obvious choice is to "bomb-bomb-bomb, bomb-bomb Iran".

... and its 5-6-7 open up the Pearly Gates. We ain't got time to wonder why, whoopie, we're all gonna die!

The only problem with this damned war is it ain't got no decent music to go with it.

Making Used Car Salesmen Look Honest

On their watch:

Mission Accomplished; Last Throes; Cake Walk, WMD's, Nigerian Forgeries; Linkes to bin Laden; Fired Federal Prosecutors; Exposing CIA Agents; Swiftboaring for 'Truth'; Clean Air Act; No Child Left Behind; Suspension of Habeas Corpus; Signing Statements by-passing the Law; Wiretapping Citizens Without Warrants; Patriot Act; Libby Pardoned After Conviction; Missing E-Mail; Abu Ghraib; Waterboarding and Torture; Energy Task Force; No-bid Contracts; Missing Millions in Iraq; Haliburton Overcharges and Fraud; Boeing Hires Bush Official in gratitude for $23 Billion overpriced purchase; Jack Abramoff and the Indian Gaming Scandal; Tom DeLay's Ethics Issues and PAC Scandal; David Vitter Scandal; Foley Fondles Congressional Pages; Guantanamo; Doctored and Edited Science Reporting; Squandered Budget Surplus; Largest Budget Deficit in History; Tax Cuts for the Rich; Walter Reed Hospital Scandal, Buzzy and Cookie ...

Aren't you tired of this yet?

Thought for the Day

"You can always count on Americans to do the right thing -- after they've tried everything else."

Winston Churchill

Former Aide Blames Bush for Leak Deceit


Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan blames President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for efforts to mislead the public about the role of White House aides in leaking the identity of a CIA operative.

In an excerpt from his forthcoming book, McClellan recounts the 2003 news conference in which he told reporters that aides Karl Rove and I. Lewis ''Scooter'' Libby were ''not involved'' in the leak involving operative Valerie Plame.

''There was one problem. It was not true,'' McClellan writes, according to a brief excerpt released Tuesday. ''I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest-ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice president, the president's chief of staff and the president himself.''

More in the New York Times after the click ...

My Comment: You really have to ask yourself,

after herding American into a needless war with lies about weapons of mass destruction and Saddam's connection to al Qaeda;

after violating the Constitution by arbitrarily detaining Americans, legal residents, and non-Americans, without due process, without charge, and without access to counsel;

after violating U.S. law and the Constitution through widespread wiretapping of the phone calls and emails of Americans without a warrant;

after subverting the Constitution and abusing Presidential power by asserting a "Unitary Executive Theory" giving unlimited powers to the President, by obstructing efforts by Congress and the Courts to review and restrict Presidential actions, and by promoting and signing legislation negating the Bill of Rights and the Writ of Habeas Corpus;

and now the light of day shines on the outing of an undercover agent of this country's intelligence service, not only jeopardizing that person's life but also a.) jeopardizing any foreign nationals who might have worked with her, b.) jeopardizing any other American intelligence agents who might have been seen in contact with her in a foreign country c.) compromising ongoing covert intelligence operations specifically related to Iran's nuclear program -- which, by the laws of this country constitute treason ...

WTF else has to happen before it is universally recognized that these people MUST be impeached?

If lying to Congress about an extra-marital affair constitutes sufficient "crimes and misdemeanors" to impeach a president, you can't tell me that lying to congress about the reasons for war, the subversion of the Constitution they're sworn to uphold and defend and the sabotaging of ongoing intelligence operations being conducted on behalf of this country don't reach that standard!

There are those who contend that Plame was merely a secretary who's greatest responsibility was to fetch coffee in the CIA's DC area offices, but if the CIA is any good at all in providing covers for its covert agents ... how the hell would those people know?

Review the sequence of events here on

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A gap in GOP candidates' healthcare proposals

Giuliani, McCain and Thompson are offering plans to help the uninsured -- but their aversion to regulations would mean that many of their fellow cancer survivors would be left out.

By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
November 20, 2007

WASHINGTON -- When Rudolph W. Giuliani was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the spring of 2000, one thing he did not have to worry about was a lack of medical insurance.

Today, the former New York mayor joins two other cancer survivors in seeking the Republican presidential nomination: Arizona Sen. John McCain has been treated for melanoma, the most serious type of skin malignancy, and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson had lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system.

All three have offered proposals with the stated aim of helping the 47 million people in the U.S. who have no health insurance, including those with preexisting medical conditions.

But under the plans all three have put forward, cancer survivors such as themselves could not be sure of getting coverage -- especially if they were not already covered by a government or job-related plan and had to seek insurance as individuals.

"Unless it's in a state that has very strong consumer protections, they would likely be denied coverage," said economist Paul Fronstin of the Employee Benefit Research Institute, who has reviewed the candidates' proposals. "People with preexisting conditions would not be able to get coverage or would not be able to afford it."

If the arguments against the Democratic presidential candidates' healthcare plans include higher taxes and greater government involvement, then the Achilles' heel of the GOP plans is their dependence on the private market, which often rejects applicants with health problems.

Republicans want to expand the existing private insurance system, offering new tax breaks as a way of helping people buy insurance individually. But they also want to avoid federal regulation that would tell insurers whom they have to cover and how much they may charge.

... after the click .. in the LA Times.

My Comment:

OK ... the long and the short of it is that the Republican Family Values Party values corporations over families and profits over people. It's more important that corporations make profit than it is for the citizens of the richest country on the planet to have health care insurance. (It might have something to do with the fact that corporations tend to make bigger political donations than individual people .... but that's only a guess.) It's OK if you or your son or your daughter or your wife or your husband is left out because they suffered come illness that left them with what is called in th insurance industry a "preexisting condition". You've been sick before? Well, that makes you a risk to the company profitability. They're willing to take your premiums but they're reluctant to pay on a claim. That's why the insurance industry is one of the most profitable industries on the planet ... and one of the industries with the most lobbyists ... all of whom are extremely well paid.

Republicans don't want government regulation. They're against anything that might effect business profits. What they've forgotten is that the government in this country; in OUR democracy, is WE THE PEOPLE. When the government regulates, it is WE THE PEOPLE, through our elected representatives, protecting ourselves from corporate power ... at least that's the way it's supposed to work. It is WE THE PEOPLE saying to corporations that they have to function within certain rules, regulations and guidelines if they want to profit from US.

Republicans label universal single payer health care as socialistic as a way of ending the conversation.

Socialism is simply when people get together for their common good (see my bit about volunteer fire departments). Unfortunately, that's not always friendly toward corporations. Republicans don't want people to come together. They've obtained and held power for the last decade and a half by dividing people. They are the masters of the "wedge issue". In the end, Republicans side with corporations against people (forgetting that they're people, themselves!). They take the Marie Antoinette position: "Let them eat cake."

Footnote: Did I ever mention that, for a time in the early '90s, I was a licensed insurance sales person? Not only was I licensed to sell life insurance, health insurance and property & casualty insurance - I also had an NASD (National Association of Securities Dealers) license that allowed me to sell variable policies that were tied to the equities market, annuities and other securities based products. I only mention that to counter any thought that maybe I'm just talking through me hat.

Testing ads is testing some ads for the up-coming, or maybe I should say on-going political season.

If you'd like a sneak preview and a chance to voice your preference, you can find them here.

Personally, I kinda like this one:

The Scientists Speak

New York Times

The world’s scientists have done their job. Now it’s time for world leaders, starting with President Bush, to do theirs. That is the urgent message at the core of the latest — and the most powerful — report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of 2,500 scientists who collectively constitute the world’s most authoritative voice on global warming.

Released in Spain over the weekend, the report leaves no doubt that man-made emissions from the burning of fossil fuels (and, to a lesser extent, deforestation) have been responsible for the steady rise in atmospheric temperatures.

If these emissions are not brought under control, the report predicts, the consequences could be disastrous: further melting at the poles, sea levels rising high enough to submerge island nations, the elimination of one-quarter or more of the world’s species, widespread famine in places like Africa, more violent hurricanes.

And it warns that time is running out. To avoid the worst of these disasters, it says, the world must stabilize emissions of greenhouse gases by 2015, begin to reduce them shortly thereafter and largely free itself of carbon-emitting technologies by midcentury.

As Rajendra Pachauri, a scientist and economist who leads the I.P.C.C., noted: “What we do in the next two or three years will define our future.”

More after the click ...

Monday, November 19, 2007

What happens when OPEC refuses to take our dollars for oil?

Add Saudi Arabia to the growing list (one that already includes Jay-Z and Giselle Bundchen) of those wary of the dollar. OPEC ministers are clearly wary of the dollar’s decline — which continues today — and as oil producers struggle to deal with the weak greenback (since oil is denominated in dollars), analysts say now is a time to be concerned. “While many commentators, analysts and media have wondered at which point the dollar’s decline is considered at a dangerous level, it is precisely when the influential group of oil producers begin mulling plans to receive payments in currencies other than US dollars for their oil,” says Ashraf Laidi, chief forex analyst at CMC Markets.

on MarketBeat.

Could the value of the dollar (above) have anything to do with Bush administration policies? Personally, I think we're a little too far down the road to be able to blame it on Bull.

As an addendum here's A Short Tutorial on the High Price of Oil and the Falling Dollar.

As Saudi Arabia and OPEC sing choruses of "It's not our fault, we have nothing to do with the prices", as in Prince Abdel Aziz bin Salam, Saudi Arabia's deputy petroleum minister comment:

"We are so perplexed and so frustrated with the idea we have anything to do with these prices."

... they hope everyone forgets that they lowered their productions quotas by 1.2 million barrels a day when oil was around $50 per barrel.

I wonder what would happen to oil prices if they restored that 1.2 million barrels per day to their production quote. Ya think the price might come down a tad?

So, how does it feel to have the "invisible hand of the market" firmly in your pocket?

Yes. Yes. It's all very flattering, but there's nothing you can say or do that will get
me to lower oil prices, increase production ... or stop funding terrorists.

Socialism? So what?

Since the beginning of the Cold War (immediately following the end of the hot war of World War II), Communism and Socialism have been huge bug-a-boos in our nation. During the Cold War our enemy was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the USSR, and by golly, it even had Socialist in its name! They were the enemy; they were Socialists (though it might easily be debated that they weren't actually socialist) and therefore, anything they did or thought or believed had to be in total opposition to everything we stood for.

The net result is that one of the quickest ways to curtail discussion of an idea in this country, regardless of its merit, is to label it “Socialist”.

I was exposed to socialism one summer vacation between bouts of college when I helped out on a cousin's dairy farm. Several of us were “making hay” on the "north forty" that hot, late-summer day. When the work was done, we decided it would be great to wash all that dust down with a beer. None of us individually had enough money to buy a case of beer, but by pooling our resources we could just swing it. We bought the case of beer. I had two that late summer afternoon. Someone was happy with one. A couple of the guys knocked down three apiece, leaving about half of the case untapped. We divided the remainder amongst ourselves without any conversation about who drank how much or who contributed which percentage or who owed who how much. Everyone was happy. From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. It was the essence of socialism.

In thinking about it, it occurred to me that there are several “socialistic” institutions alive and well here in the United States in spite of the atmosphere of "though purity" that hangs in the air that we all breathe. As an example, lets take a quick look at volunteer fire departments. They’re ubiquitous and they cover more than 90% of the acreage on this country. Fire fighting equipment is provided by the community in which they live as part of their property taxes and citizens of the community volunteer their time for training and to fight fires when the need arises. Through a network of reciprocal understandings with surrounding communities, they not only fight fires in their community but they also volunteer their services when tragedy strikes their neighbors.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, fire brigades were free enterprise organizations. Rival brigades would compete with each other to reach a fire first because insurance companies paid hard cash for structures saved. It was not uncommon for rival fire brigades to engage in fisticuffs at the scene of a blaze … often to the detriment of the building owner. The building could burn to the ground while the brigades sorted out who would put out the fire.

On the other hand, it was equally common for the members of a fire brigade to stand around and watch a building become totally engulfed in flames … because it was uninsured and, therefore, putting the fire out was not profitable. Of course, if the building owner came up with a handful of cash, the festivities could begin. It was the epitome of privatization but it didn’t work very well. The mutual protection approach covering everyone in the community, supported by equipment purchases paid for by the tax payers and manpower provided by volunteers seems to work much better … though its highly socialistic. Tax payers contribute according to their means, volunteers participate according to their abilities, and everyone in the community uses the service according to their needs.

Actually, any situation where we pool our resources for a common goal is, strictly speaking, socialism.

The TVA pooled tax payers resources to build hydroelectric dams through out the south east and now it’s an integral part of the national electricity grid. Hoover Dam is a socialist project, again pooling tax payer resources to create another segment of the national electricity grid.

I’m not saying that socialism is the answer to every question. It isn’t, not by a long shot. However, doctrinaire folks who are opposed to socialism purely on ideological grounds are missing the possible merits of an idea by ruling out what might be the best solution to a given problem.

Universal health care is an issue that’s being approached with ideological blinders by some folks. It doesn’t pay to have a closed mind – and a closed mind rarely provides the best answer to the question before us. So, maybe universal, single payer health care is the best answer – like volunteer fire departments have been for the last century. So, maybe it is socialistic. So what? We’ll never know if its the right answer if we keep the ideological blinders on.

One doesn't need to be a socialist. That can become pretty ideological, too, and that's just as counter productive as assuming anything that smacks of socialism can't be good. I think it works best if one simply settles for being a rational pragmatist.

Footnote: Wasn't Hitler pretty anti-socialist, anti-communist, anti-Stalinist, anti-Leninist, anti-Marxist? Wanna be careful who one's bed-fellow are.

We don't read most of the bills

In a memorable scene from Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," Rep. John Conyers explains how it was that Congress passed the USA Patriot Act without knowing many of its provisions. "Sit down, my son," the courtly Michigan Democrat said. "We don't read most of the bills."

That reality does not appear to have changed much. In back-to-back years, Congress rushed through two sweeping pieces of legislation - the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and the Protect America Act of 2007 - without a full understanding of the powers being granted to President George W. Bush.

Now, the U.S. Senate is expected to consider legislation scrapping one part of the 2006 law, its denial of habeas corpus - the ancient protection against arbitrary arrests - to foreigners whom Bush has designated "unlawful enemy combatants."

The lead New York Times editorial on Sept. 17 praised this effort to "reverse one of the worst aspects of the 2006 law" that "established military tribunals to try any foreigner that Mr. Bush labels an illegal combatant." But the Times editors - like many members of Congress - don't appear to have read the law through to the end.

If they had, they would know that the Military Commissions Act creates a parallel legal system not limited to foreigners. The law could put "any person," including those "in breach of an allegiance or duty to the United States" before a military tribunal if the person "knowingly and intentionally aids an enemy of the United States."

Who has "an allegiance or duty to the United States" if not an American citizen? That provision would not presumably apply to Osama bin Laden or al-Qaeda, nor would it apply generally to foreigners.

This section of the law appears to be singling out American citizens who are deemed (by the Bush administration) enemy fellow travelers. It seeks to put them inside Bush's "star chamber" proceedings if they are alleged to aid and abet foreign enemies.

The rest on TruthOut after the click ...

My comment: If the e-mail I receive from my friends on the Right are any indication, the really BIG issue is wither or not Barak Obama showed proper respect during the singing of the National Anthem. I regularly correspond with four people who could be considered right of center (in most cases, that's an understatement). Of those, 3/4 have expressed concern or irately indicated they couldn't vote for Obama under the circumstances (like they were actually considering voting for him at some time in the past).

Not one has ever suggested they're concerned about the erosion of the foundations of our democracy. NOT ONE! They're OK with he destruction of the Constitution that has served this nation well for over two hundred years ... just as long as you wear the right lapel pin.

I'm glad to see there are people out there who have their priorities straight.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Food for thought

... "it all began with democracy" ... now, that's something worth considering.

... or get the video here.