Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself. -old Apache saying

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween

It rained like hell this morning and afternoon across the eastern half of Texas.  By 3pm in Houston, it was starting to clear up, and it looked like the trick-or-treaters were going to get lucky.

Night fell with a dull thud.




And we had NO trick-or-treaters come by our house.  Not.  One.  Which I think is fantastic.  Keep the little rug rats in the suburbs!

One of the local millionaires, Will Robinson, (yes, go on ... DANGER!  WILL ROBINSON!  DANGER!!), bought the ramshackle property next door and is going to transform it before our eyes.





OK, it's dark.  But the building in the foreground  will be demolished and replaced with a two-story building that will house offices and yoga studios on the top level, and a large garage on the first floor that will serve as a fabrication location for art cars.  What?!  Hell yeah!  Yoga and ArtCars!  Natch!

Turns out his mother owns the Art Car Museum in Houston.  What the ...




The building on the SW corner of the lot next door will be kept, and a second floor added on top.  In there will be a restaurant and several artist studios.  We're going to see if we can convince him to add some pottery wheels and a kiln or two, so the wife can practice her pottery next door.  

Why the hell not?


He threw a party across his new property last weekend to introduce himself to the neighborhood.  Welcome, neighbor!!

Free food.  Free booze.  He had a free photo booth with a greenscreen with spooky backgrounds, then put the prints in a sleeve with a magnet on it.  Voila!  Pictures from a refrigerator. 



There was a Palm Reader/Tarot Card reader/Seance table set up.



He brought in a couple of "rides" for the kids.  Kids?  What kids?  Hey!!  Where did these fucking rug rats come from?!  One was a little race course, and the kids rode toilet seat cars around the track.  Why didn't I get a picture?

He also brought in one of those weird spider-like machines with chairs hooked up to bungee-cords so you can spring up ... and coast down ... and no way the wife was going to ride that.

He built a funhouse maze inside one of the buildings he bought with a bunch of rooms of ... you know ... gross shit.  Reminded me of when I was a kid, building a funhouse in the backyard.


We heard a lot of young girls screaming and squealing, and a lot of black youngsters howling up a storm.  I could do without all the strobe lights, though.



A room full of black lights.   Show me those Billy Bob teeth!


Lights, colors, spooky sounds.  This guy spent a lot of time and money on this.  All just to say hi!


He called it the "Robinson Spooktacular Carnival 2013."  This guy is going to one cool neighbor.

Grayson on Benghazi

Alan Grayson dispels any hint of "conspiracy" about Benghazi on the part of Secretary Clinton and/or President Obama or anyone else in the current Administration in this House hearing clip below.  THERE IS NO "THERE" THERE CONCERNING BENGHAZI.

If the GOP wants to express some outrage, hmm...remember that Aug 6 memo to President Bush, a month before the 9/11/01 terrorist attack, that claimed "Bin Laden determined to strike inside U.S."  Funny, I don't recall any partisan bickering about that at all, especially from Democrats, who had every right to question that.  The Republicans certainly didn't give Bush a hard time about staying on vacation for another month after receiving that report. 

This Benghazi drag-out crap and threatening to withhold any Obama nominations from any office is such TRANSPARENT PARTISAN BULLSHIT that it's reached the heights of absurdity.  

No amount of extra information is going to satisfy the GOP on Benghazi.  They think they have a cudgel with with to slam the Obama administration, and they will continue on and on and on about it until.....what?  Until someone bashes their fucking heads in?

Monday, October 28, 2013

voting in Texas

Republicans are a dying breed, fortunately, full of bad ideas and old habits, and they know they have a rapidly-dwindling voting base of older, white males, bigoted white women and greedheads (of all colors).  

They're getting desperate.  

"Voter ID" laws passed only in "red" states are nothing more than attempts to reduce the number of "eligible" voters.  There aren't as many Republicans as there was awhile ago, so they figure they need to reduce the numbers of the other guys, if they can.

Reducing the number of polling stations; restricting opportunities to vote early; squealing about (nonexistent) "voter fraud" as a smokescreen to strike voters from the rolls;  this is not patriotism.  These are the acts of scoundrels.  Bastards!

They know they can't win fair and square, so they try and reduce the number of Democrats voting?  How fucking pathetic is that?

This Nov 5 is the first election where the new Voter ID laws are in effect in Texas, even though the US Justice Department announced that they are suing Texas to overturn them.  I guess we have to put up with this crap for the time being.  

We got a flyer in the mail recently that announced "Early Voting has never been easier!" Well, not really.  There are, in fact, more locations to vote early, but the Voter ID shit is in effect, so everyone better produce a valid photo ID or they won't be able to vote.  

I figure the GOP will next try to shorten or eliminate early voting altogether, since studies show that early voting tends to favor Democrats.  I guess the GOP is taking it one (backward) step at a time in Texas.

Below is a blurb about ID from the Mayor, Annise Parker's office.  I'll bet it just chaps Republicans asses to remember that Houston has an openly lesbian Mayor. The first in the nation, I believe.  While the small towns are just racist as hell.

Election Identification Certificate

Texas voters must show a photo ID to vote in elections in Texas, unless you are exempt (see “Exemptions” below).

If you do not have any of the following acceptable forms of ID, beginning June 26, 2013, you may apply for an Election Identification Certificate (EIC) at no charge. However, if you already have any of the following forms of ID, you are not eligible for an EIC:
  • Texas driver license—unexpired or expired no longer than 60 days at the time of voting
  • Texas personal identification card—unexpired or expired no longer than 60 days at the time of voting
  • Texas concealed handgun license—unexpired or expired no longer than 60 days at the time of voting
  • U.S. passport book or card—unexpired or expired no longer than 60 days at the time of voting
  • U.S. Military identification with photo—unexpired or expired no longer than 60 days at the time of voting
  • U.S. Citizenship Certificate or Certificate of Naturalization with photo
Exemptions

If you are voting by mail, you do not have to submit a photo ID.

If you have a documented disability, you may apply at your county voter registrar for a permanent exemption from the photo ID requirement. If approved, you will not need a photo ID to vote.

For more information on the types of exemptions available, please visit your county voter registrar or the Texas Secretary of State.

How to Apply

To apply for an EIC, visit a driver license office and complete an Application for Texas Election Certificate (DL-14C) (PDF).
To qualify for an EIC, you must:
  • Bring documentation to the office to verify your U.S. Citizenship
  • Bring documentation to the office to verify your Identity
  • Be eligible to vote in Texas (Bring your valid voter registration card to the office, or submit a voter registration application through the Texas Department of Public Safety at the office)  
  • Be a Texas resident
  • Be 17 years and 10 months or older

Expiration and Use

An EIC is valid for six years. There is no expiration date for certificates issued to citizens 70 years of age or older. 

Election Identification Certificates may only be used to vote and do not replace a Texas driver license or ID card. In addition, an EIC will not be accepted to verify identity when applying for a Texas driver license or ID card.

To vote, Texas will accept a concealed handgun license but not a student ID!  Gee, I wonder what voters they want to attract and which they want to repel?

Not only that, but it turns out that Texas is trying to keep women from voting too.  In addition to trying to control what women can do with their own bodies (while gettin' gummint off yer backs), if a woman changed her name (like getting married or divorced) there's a good chance she might not be able to vote!  

I guess that's no surprise, considering said pasty old white guys.  When women finally realize that the GOP is out to (metaphorically) fuck them, they likely would vote Democratic. Can't have that.  Gotta disenfranchise them too.  Too unreliable.  

This might be a classic case of unintended consequences.  The stupid GOP passes a stupid Voter ID law and it ends up snaring their own wives who were too stupid or too lazy to update their names on government documents.  I wonder how many GOP women it's going to stop from voting?  heh heh 

Texas Judge Almost Blocked From Voting Because of New Voter ID Law

A Texas district judge who has been voting for the past five decades was almost barred from the polls Tuesday, thanks to the state’s newly implemented, stricter voter ID law. The law kicked in on Tuesday as early voting in Texas’ November 5 election began.

As she told local channel Kiii News, 117th District Court Judge Sandra Watts was flagged for possible voter fraud because her driver’s license lists her maiden name as her middle name, while her voter registration form has her real middle name. This was the first time she has ever had a problem voting in 49 years. “What I have used for voter registration and for identification for the last 52 years was not sufficient yesterday when I went to vote,” she said.

Watts worried that women who use maiden names or hyphenated names may be surprised at the polls. “I don’t think most women know that this is going to create a problem,” the judge said. “That their maiden name is on their driver’s license, which was mandated in 1964 when I got married, and this. And so why would I want to use a provisional ballot when I’ve been voting regular ballot for the last 49 years?”
Many married women do not update their IDs after taking their spouse’s surnames, as the process is arduous and costly. Women must present original documents verifying their name change, such as a marriage license, or pay $20 to obtain new copies. Under the new voter ID law, these women are potential voter fraud risks.
Watts is hardly the only woman who has encountered problems. ThinkProgress’ Scott Keyes interviewed 84-year-old Dorothy Card, who was denied a voter ID three times even though she has voted for more than 60 years and provided extensive proof of identity.
While Watts, as an experienced judge, is familiar with the intricacies of election law, the people most likely to be stopped at the polls will be less informed about their rights. Low-income voters, minorities, students and seniors disproportionately lack the required identification — a fact that prompted the Justice Department and several federal judges to block the law under now-defunct provisions in the Voting Rights Act. After public outcry, Texas officials said they would distribute a free voter ID to eligible recipients who applied for one. As of this week, however, just 41 people received free IDs, out of the 1.4 million Texas voters who lack the required documents.
41 out of 1.4 million.  I'd say the GOP must be celebrating.  Original.

healthcare.gov

This past Saturday, I went to the Healthcare.gov website just to look around. With all the wailing and moaning, I was curious if it was working in Texas.


In very little time, I set up an Account for myself and my wife, answered several questions and was done within about 10 minutes.  The last message I received was that my Application for "Individual and Family Coverage" was "in progress".

On Sunday, the website was down again.  I couldn't log in.  

This morning, it's working again.  I logged in and see a message that my Application is still "in progress."

We really don't need insurance through this marketplace, but I am curious as to how much it might cost when and if we do need insurance this way.  

The wife and I are considering retiring from our jobs, and with "no income" we should be eligible.  The cost and benefits of various plans will help us determine when we might retire.  I can get health insurance through my company after retirement, but instead of paying 20% of the cost, as I do now, my share, for the same level of insurance, would increase to 45%.  That would run us in the ballpark of $750/month.  If I can get insurance cheaper thru the ACA, we'd go for it.

Have you noticed that those states that set up their own healthcare exchanges are reporting very few issues?  People are setting up accounts, sending in applications, and in many cases, are signing up for insurance.

My state, Texas, however, is run by a bunch of troglodyte Republicans who refused to set up their own marketplace OUT OF SPITE.  Those states that refused to set up their own exchanges, and thereby having the feds do it for them, ALL HAVE REPUBLICAN GOVERNORS AND/OR LEGISLATURES, and they are experiencing the bulk of the problems.  

So, you can't blame Obama for all of this.  A large share of responsibility falls on these RED STATE ASSHOLES who want to deny poor people health insurance.

The prime contractor for the federal marketplace, CGI Federal, has a lot of federal contracts, and they have a very mixed bag of results. Why they got this no-bid contract is somewhat of a mystery.  

It appears to me that the federal marketplaces have been somewhat INTENTIONALLY SABOTAGED from within and without.  There is some evidence of Denial of Service attacks on the website in its first few days.  Why would this surprise anyone?  Republicans have fought tooth and nail to kill Obamacare since Day 1. 

Obama needs to fire CGI and hire a firm with a good track record.  And then we'll likely see serious improvement.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Ken Navarro

This past July, I was looking at the concert calendar for Dosey Doe, a relatively new concert venue located up in the Woodlands, about 30 miles north of Houston.


I saw that Ken Navarro was coming in October, and it was on a Friday night!  (If a concert is on any evening other than a Friday or Saturday night, we usually just look the other way).  

These days, as in many concert venues, you can view a seating chart and actually pick the seats you'd like online.  Really convenient.  That July, I noticed that there were only a few seats taken so far, so I thought we'd have plenty of time.  I got distracted and didn't buy any tickets.

Fast forward to last week, and I get an email from the Dosey Doe announcing the Ken Navarro show, and I checked the seating chart again.  Oddly, there were still only a few seats taken.  I thought that had to be a glitch, as Ken has about 20 albums out, has won some Grammy's, and has been on top of the charts a few times.  So, I purchased a couple of tickets at a table right up next to the stage.

The show was last night.  They sold only 28 tickets.  It was so sparse our waiter offered to move us up to the Premium seats at no extra charge, right in front of the stage, maybe 10 feet away.  Well, fuck yeah, and thanks!


Ken was absolutely awesome.  Spellbinding.  He performed solo this night (which, BTW, wasn't announced in advance).  I knew the Dosey Doe stage was big enough to handle a band with several musicians, even though we had never been to this venue before.  

Even though he performed solo, he was still awe-inspiring.  On his first two songs, Imagine (by John Lennon), and Message In A Bottle (by the Police/Sting), he played bass, rhythm, lead, and vocals ALL ON THE GUITAR.  It's spellbinding.   His version of Santana's Europa made my wife and I cry.


Being so close to Ken and watching his every move was extra-special.  I was just enthralled by his technique.  Later in the set, he broke out one of his new toys, the Boomerang, and performed a song that was just achingly beautiful and complex, all on his one nylon-string acoustic guitar.  

Toward the end of the set, he punched up his "band machine" for lack of a better term.  Basically he's got drums, bass, saxes, you name it, already recorded, and he plays along on his guitar.  It may be "cheap" in musician terms, but it was magical.

Several times during the show, all 28 of us gave Ken a standing ovation.  For being such a small crowd, Ken was very gracious and appreciative.  It was like he was playing in our own living room.

After the show, he single-handedly manned a table selling some of his CD's.  2 for $20, so we bought a couple and chatted with Ken for several minutes.  How often do you get to shoot the breeze with the performer?  He even signed the CD's personally.  

(I blurred my face because of paranoia.  I've seen what certain insane people can do online.)

Oh yeah, on top of all that, this is a dinner-and-show venue.  For the price of admission, you get a three-course meal:  salad, your choice of several entrees, and your choice of a few desserts.  The wife had a grilled salmon and I had pork tenderloin.  The food was really outstanding too.  

In every way, this was a very special evening.  It's rather sad that a city the size of Houston cannot support contemporary jazz musicians any better than it does, but for this night, it worked to our benefit.  

Friday, October 25, 2013

voter ID laws

There is no doubt that the slew of Voter ID laws that states with Republican legislatures and governors have been passing are meant to suppress Democratic votes.  

But, usually, the GOP lies about that fact.  They have been using the ludicrous excuse of trying to prevent "Voter Fraud."  Study after study shows there IS no Voter Fraud, or the numbers are so low as to be totally irrelevant.  Maybe once or twice per election.  Most times it is simply accidental.  But preventing Voter Fraud is the red herring that Republicans use to justify new Voter ID laws.

But then comes North Carolina Republican Party Executive Committee member Don Yelton, appearing on the Daily Show, of all places, and saying this, ON CAMERA:



Yes, the stupid is very strong with this one. After this segment aired, he resigned his position.

You think this "evidence" is enough to convince the Supreme Court that the Voting Rights Act is still relevant?  Dream on. 

It is just amazing to me that the Republicans can't win fair and square in the arena of ideas so they have to stoop to keeping as many people as possible away from the polls.  They should re-name their party something besides the "Grand" Old Party.  How about the "Old White Male Bigots Party"?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Buffalo Studios

Time for a real estate update.  This is an awesome neighborhood.

A film studio, Buffalo Studios, is going to be built in Midtown about 10 blocks away from the house.  



A VARIANCE to reduce the setback from Caroline and Truxillo was recently approved, clearing the way for this 2-story film studio to go up in Midtown. 

Dubbed Buffalo Studios, the CONTENT-designed building will sit on a 5,630-sq.-ft. lot at the southeast corner of Caroline and Truxillo, which appears to be currently occupied by a warehouse. 

The proposed site is catty-corner from the former Houston Light Guard Armory, now open as the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, a block south of HCC and just around the corner from the proposed site of Retrospect Coffee, the cafe and wine bar being built out at that abandoned gas station on La Branch.


Plans for the studio show a green room, workshop, conference room, editing bays, and a rooftop terrace.
Renderings: CONTENT
...and another restaurant is going in a couple of blocks from the house.  Actually, it used to be a Mexican food restaurant, Xuco Xicana, with a pretty limited menu.  Now...

Amid Midtown bar boom, a new neighborhood restaurant emerges


There's construction at the former El Patio/Xuco Xicana space, and Eater Houston reports that the people behind Pub Fiction/3rdFloor/Crisp are launching a new restaurant called Cook & Collins that's set to open in December.
"For me to keep making Midtown the single best neighborhood (in Houston) it needs more restaurants," co-owner Michael Paolucci tells CultureMap. He formed a separate company called Iron Cress Hospitality Group to facilitate that process. "In Houston, if you get too many bars and not enough restaurants, you become an entertainment district." He points to the recent rise and fall of the bars on Washington Avenue as the latest example of the phenomenon, which he doesn't want to happen in Midtown. 

Although recently people have described Rice Village as a walkable neighborhood, Paolucci thinks his neighborhood should be in that conversation, too. "I'm born and raised in Chicago. I've been in Midtown since 2000 when I moved here," he says. "I wouldn't be in (Houston) if it weren't for Midtown. I don't want to have to go to my car first. Midtown is the only neighborhood in Houston where you can do that." 
Paolucci says his group bought the building to prevent someone else from turning it into another bar. He notes that Midtown has a few standout restaurants like Reef, Ibiza and Sparrow Bar + Cookshop, but there's a lack of casual, local, neighborhood eateries. "Ask 30 people where they're going to eat, they'll say they're going to Cyclone's or Fish," he says. 
Cook & Collins aims to change that with a menu of "fun, American fare" that Paolucci says will be accessible to a wide audience. "Even though there's a lot of foodies that live in Midtown, there's also a lot of young professionals who think (farm to table) is too much for me."
The restaurant will serve lunch and dinner during the week with brunch on the weekends. The multi-level space will allow for seating that accommodates both small and large groups. One thing Cook & Collins won't have is late night hours. "We're not gonna confuse people," he says. "This is a restaurant." 
Crisp chef Jared Estes worked with Paolucci to design the menu, and Alan Hartigan will serve as executive chef in the kitchen. 
Paolucci says Midtown also needs a 24-hour diner, but "it's a headache. I didn't want to run it. If someone does, we'll find them a space."
Perhaps it's time to introduce Mr. Paolucci to Pi Pizza Truck owner Anthony Calleo. He's got a thing for diners.

Original.
Keep it up, Midtown, until we put the house on the market.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

half the story

One thing Republicans do well to frustrate the left is to report only part of a story.  Take the nasty headline and run with it!!  Don't bother to read the whole story!!  Just hear what I'm telling you!!!

Here' a classic example, a recent story on NBC News Health.  Headline:

Thousands get health insurance cancellation notices


Oh no!!  See?!  Obama lied!!  He said you could keep your insurance.  Most Republicans won't read past the headline.  If they did, however, they would have read this....  

By all accounts, the new policies will offer consumers better coverage, in some cases, for comparable cost -- especially after the inclusion of federal subsidies for those who qualify. The law requires policies sold in the individual market to cover 10 “essential” benefits, such as prescription drugs, mental health treatment and maternity care. In addition, insurers cannot reject people with medical problems or charge them higher prices. The policies must also cap consumers’ annual expenses at levels lower than many plans sold before the new rules.

But the cancellation notices, which began arriving in August, have shocked many consumers in light of President Barack Obama’s promise that people could keep their plans if they liked them.

It gets better.  And worse, for the GOP.

snip:

Florida Blue, for example, is terminating about 300,000 policies, about 80 percent of its individual policies in the state. Kaiser Permanente in California has sent notices to 160,000 people – about half of its individual business in the state. Insurer Highmark in Pittsburgh is dropping about 20 percent of its individual market customers, while Independence Blue Cross, the major insurer in Philadelphia, is dropping about 45 percent.


My goodness!  Those poor people!  All those people getting that letter in the mail, just like Ted Cruz said, telling them their health insurance has been cancelled.

But remember what the story said above.  Every policy must cover those 10 "essential" benefits, and if it doesn't, it has to be replaced by one that does cover those 10 things, and here's the zinger:

Highmark spokeswoman Kristin Ash....said some policyholders who may have faced limited coverage for their medical conditions will get new plans with “richer benefits” and the policies “in most cases, will be at a lower rate.”

So there you have it.  All of those thousands of people who are getting their insurance cancelled will be offered policies with better coverage and "in most cases" at a "lower rate." 

But all you'll hear from the Republicans is the headline, "Thousands get health insurance cancellation notices."  I guess we can't expect the GOP to tell people the whole truth.  People might LIKE Obamacare, heaven forbid.

I get so tired of this shit.  They pull crap like this all the time, distorting this study or that research, or whatever, as long as they can twist it to their perceived benefit, and they know their constituents aren't very smart to begin with and are easily fooled.

So liberals and Democrats may indeed have to counter every lie, every distortion, all the while knowing that the Republicans will pull a few more out of their ass next time.  And those will have to be debunked.  Etc.  Etc.  Etc.

Original story.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

JFK, again

Do you believe the "lone assassin" theory concerning the assassination of President Kennedy?

Signs of the Upwising
The Upside of Apocalypse
by Steve Bhaerman

"We have a deeply divided body politic.  Half the population believes our political system is broken.  The other half believes it is fixed."
-- Swami Beyondananda

As we approach the 50th anniversary of the John F. Kennedy assassination, we also commemorate the 80th anniversary of that act's pre-cursor, something I bet you've never heard of -- the so-called "business plot" to overthrow President Franklin D. Roosevelt and install a military dictatorship.

The plot would have installed decorated Marine General Smedley Butler as "Secretary of General Affairs", a de facto dictator.  Unfortunately for the alleged plotters, and fortunately for the rest of us, Gen. Butler refused to go along with the plan and blew the whistle on the conspirators.  (Gen. Butler, you may know, was famous for his myth-busting pamphlet, War Is A Racket.)

Not surprisingly, his story was treated with skepticism, and debunked by the mainstream press and the financial power structure, which was to be expected.  Here isanother source -- on the NPR website -- that offers corroborating information.

So, why is this important?

Because the failed plot in 1933 -- and the repression of the story and denial of its validity -- has enabled subsequent "coups" to succeed.  If we are seeing the signs of "Nazism" in our out-of-control Big Brother government, we must also acknowledge its equally-toxic enabler, "not-seeism" -- where people choose to not see what is plainly obvious because it is too horrific to confront.  "We don't want to go there," so many people have said.

Yes, and what if "there" has already come "here"?

These challenging times have been described as "apocalyptic" and I say ... that's perfect because the original meaning of the word apocalypse is "lifting of the veils".  It is now time to bring down the "irony curtain" and end the most toxic "don't ask, don't tell" policy of all -- where we promise not to ask our government about its dark shadow, and it promises not to tell us.

So ... if you read ONE BOOK this year, a book that will put the history of postwar America in context, read JFK and the Unspeakable:  Why He Died and Why It Matters by James Douglass.

Here is my caveat -- the truth shall UPSET you free.

I mentioned this book to an acquaintance last week -- someone I admire as sophisticated, astute and aware -- and I was totally shocked when he dismissed it (without having read it, of course) with the wave of his hand, citing Occam's Razor, the notion that the simplest theory is always more accurate than complex explanations.

Well, I guess scientific principles can be just as rigidly held as dogmatic religious beliefs.  So ... I double-dogma dare you to read Douglass's book in its entirety and adopt the "single lone nut assassin" theory as the simplest.  And when you read the book, and you see the evidence of how doctors, military personnel, and other witnesses were leveraged to change their stories to comply with the "official one" (and how many of those who didn't comply met unfortunate ends) you will have new insight into the 9/11 attacks as well.

You will see that the patterns are unmistakable ... the people who reported immediately that "Gee, this looks like one of those planned demolitions" when the buildings went down, those who were curious as to why no planes were scrambled, etc., etc., etc. were simply discredited or ignored when the "official" investigation took place.

Is the Term "Conspiracy Theory" A Conspiracy?

Interestingly, a recent study by psychologists and social scientists in the US and UK finds that "those labeled 'conspiracy theorists' appear to be saner than those who accept the official versions of contested events."

Here is a telling quote from that article.  In his book published by University of Texas press, Conspiracy Theory In America, professor Lance deHaven-Smith asserts that the term "conspiracy theory" was invented and put into wide circulation by the CIA to smear and defame people questioning the JFK assassination!  "The CIA's campaign to popularize the term 'conspiracy theory' and make conspiracy belief a target of ridicule and hostility," he writes, "must be credited, unfortunately, with being one of the most successful propaganda initiatives of all time."

The resistance to hearing and accepting unspeakable truth is understandable.  Nobody really wants to look at these perpetrations as false flag "inside jobs", (See my piece on David Ray Griffin about how a mainstream theologian came to this horrific conclusion,) just as I am sure devout Catholics were initially unwilling to believe the stories about pedophile priests.  Whenever there is deep trust -- in family members, in a religious organization, in the people and institutions we select to govern us -- and this trust is breached, there is at first disbelief.

Maybe we need to look at Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's Stages of Grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) as a formula for coming to grips with what James Douglass calls the "unspeakable".

You cannot heal what is not acknowledged.  (Or, put another way, you cannot wake someone pretending to be sleeping.)  Healing is now what is required, for the past and for our future.

Please read JFK and the Unspeakable.  Read it in groups.  Discuss it.  You can even get a script from Project Unspeakable and present / perform the story in living rooms and theaters.
You will come to recognize that as they stood poised to push the button during the last moments of the Cuban missile crisis, President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev each had what could be termed "a near death experience" that pulled them from the brink, and set them on a each on a path -- in conflict with their own generals -- to de-escalate the Cold War.  President Kennedy had opened secret talks with Cuba's Castro and had given orders for withdrawal from Vietnam.

This was simply intolerable to the Join Chiefs of Staff, the CIA, and the military industrial complex.  Douglass's book offers persuasive evidence that the original plan was to kill the President, frame the Soviet Union and Cuba, and use that as a pretext for a preemptive nuclear strike.  Sounds right out of Dr. Strangelove ... but as you read the documented accounts of what the Joint Chiefs said and how they felt ... well, you can see that Dr. Strangelove might have been more truth than fiction.

Read the story for yourself to see if it resonates.  It is so important for us all to know the documented facts so that we understand where we stand 50 years down the line.  The good news is that peace process that was initiated and interrupted can now go full speed ahead.  The Pope at that time, Pope John XXIII, allowed himself to hold the hope "anything is possible," and now the new Pope Francis seems to be picking up that thread.

Dwight Eisenhower -- who first warned us of the toxic forces that would murder Kennedy and snuff out the peace process -- also said, "I think that people want peace so much that one of these days government had better get out of their way and let them have it."

That day might be today ... if enough of us have the courage to mourn the loss of peace in the 1960s ... and reenergize its rebirth in our lifetime.
_______________________________________________  

Steve Bhaerman is a writer, humorist and political uncommontator who has been writing and performing comedy for the past 25 years as Swami Beyondananda. On the more serious side, he is author with Bruce Lipton of Spontaneous Evolution: Our Positive Future And a Way to Get There From Here, and he is about to launch his new blog and movement, Evolutionary Upwising.

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Friday, October 18, 2013

abject failure

When are we going to be able to shake this "supply-side" aka "trickle-down" economics bullshit that is decimating our economy?  Education is key, but education is failing this country too.

Robert Parry gives a nice review of the past 30+ years.  He doesn't provide much of a prescription for how to fix this, but obviously electing better representatives is key.

 

The Abject Failure of Reaganomics

October 17, 2013

Exclusive: House Republicans got next to nothing from their extortion strategy of taking the government and the economy hostage, but they are sure to continue obstructing programs that could create jobs and start rebuilding the middle class. What they won’t recognize is the abject failure of Reaganomics, writes Robert Parry.
By Robert Parry

Even as the Republican Right licks its wounds after taking a public-opinion beating over its government shutdown and threatened credit default, the Tea Partiers keep promoting a false narrative on why the U.S. debt has ballooned and why the economy struggles, a storyline that will surely influence the next phase of this American political crisis.

If a large segment of the American public continues to buy into the Tea Party’s fake reality, then it is likely that both the political damage and the economic decline will continue apace, with fewer good-paying jobs, a shrinking middle class and more of the bitter alienation that has fed the Tea Party’s growth in the first place. In other words, the United States will remain in a vicious circle that is also a downward spiral.

President Ronald Reagan, delivering his Inaugural Address on Jan. 20, 1981.
The pattern can only be reversed if American voters come to understand how and why their economic well-being is getting flushed down the drain.

The first point to understand is that the current $16.7 trillion federal debt is about $11 trillion more than it was when George W. Bush took office. Not only did Bush’s tax-cut-and-war-spending policies send the debt soaring over the next dozen years but it was those policies that eliminated the federal surpluses of Bill Clinton’s final years and reversed a downward trend in the debt that had “threatened” to eliminate the debt entirely over the ensuing decade.

Amazingly, President Clinton left office in January 2001 with the federal budget in the black by $236 billion and with a projected 10-year budget surplus of $5.6 trillion. The budgetary trend lines were such that Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan began to fret about the challenges the Fed might face in influencing interest rates if the entire U.S. government debt were paid off, thus leaving no debt obligations to sell.

Thus, Greenspan, an Ayn Rand acolyte who was first appointed by Ronald Reagan, threw his considerable prestige behind George W. Bush’s plan for massive tax cuts that would primarily benefit the wealthy. In that way, Bush and the Republicans “solved” the “problem” of completely paying off the federal debt.

When Bush left office in January 2009 – amid a meltdown of an under-regulated Wall Street – there was no more talk about a debt-free government. Indeed, the debt had soared to $10.6 trillion and was trending rapidly higher as the government scrambled to avert a financial catastrophe that could have brought on another Great Depression.

Reaganomics’ Failure
But this debt crisis did not originate with George W. Bush. It can be traced back primarily to President Reagan, who arrived in the White House in 1981 with fanciful notions about restoring America’s economic vitality through massive tax cuts for the wealthy, a strategy called “supply-side” by its admirers and “trickle-down” by its critics.
Reagan’s tax cuts brought a rapid ballooning of the federal debt, which was $934 billion in January 1981 when Reagan took office. When he departed in January 1989, the debt had jumped to $2.7 trillion, a three-fold increase. And the consequences of Reagan’s reckless tax-cutting continued to build under his successor, George H.W. Bush, who left office in January 1993 with a national debt of $4.2 trillion, more than a four-fold increase since the arrival of Republican-dominated governance in 1981.

During 1993, Clinton’s first year in office, the new Democratic administration pushed through tax increases, partially reversing the massive tax cuts implemented under Reagan. Finally, the debt problem began to stabilize, with the total debt at $5.7 trillion and heading downward, when Clinton left office in January 2001.

Indeed, at the time of Clinton’s departure, the projected ten-year surplus of $5.6 trillion meant that virtually the entire federal debt would be retired. That was what Fed Chairman Greenspan found worrisome enough to support George W. Bush’s new round of tax cuts aimed primarily at the wealthy, another dose of Reagan’s “supply-side.”
The consequences – especially when combined with Bush’s decision to rush into two major wars without paying for them – proved disastrous. The federal debt resumed its upward climb. By August 2008, just before the Wall Street crash, the debt was over $9.6 trillion, nearly a $4 trillion jump since Bush took office.

And, after the Wall Street collapse in September 2008, the federal government had little choice but to increase its borrowing even more to avert a global economic catastrophe potentially worse than the Great Depression. By January 2009, just five months later, the debt was $10.6 trillion, a $1 trillion increase and counting.

Many of the Republican leaders who stomped their feet during the recent budget showdown, including House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, were among those who favored the Bush tax cuts, the costly invasion of Iraq and bank deregulation. In other words, they were denouncing President Obama for a debt crisis that they helped create.
But the record of reckless Republican budget policies from Reagan through Bush-43 was not only destructive to the fiscal health of the government. The “supply-side,”  “free-trade” and deregulatory strategies – including some facilitated by the Clinton administration – proved devastating to the nation’s ability to create good-paying jobs and to sustain the Great American Middle Class.

Zero Job Growth
During the decade of George W. Bush’s presidency, the United States experienced zero job growth. And zero is actually worse than it sounds since none of the preceding six decades registered job growth of less than 20 percent.

By comparison, the 1970s, which are often bemoaned as a time of economic stagflation and political malaise, registered a 27 percent increase in jobs. Yet, in part because of that relatively slow rise in jobs – down from 31 percent in the 1960s – American voters turned to Ronald Reagan and his radical economic theories of tax cuts, global “free markets” and deregulation.

Reagan sold Americans on his core vision: “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” Through his personal magnetism, Reagan then turned taxes into a third rail of American politics. He convinced many voters that the government’s only important roles were funding the military and cutting taxes.
Yet, instead of guiding the country into a bright new day of economic vitality, Reagan’s approach accelerated a de-industrialization of the United States and a slump in the growth of American jobs, down to 20 percent during the 1980s. The percentage job increase for the 1990s stayed at 20 percent, although job growth did pick up later in the decade under President Clinton, who raised taxes and moderated some of Reagan’s approaches while still pushing “free trade” agreements and deregulation.

Yet, hard-line Reaganomics returned with a vengeance under George W. Bush – more tax cuts, more faith in “free trade,” more deregulation – and the Great American Job Engine finally started grinding to a halt. Zero percent increase. The Great American Middle Class was on life-support.

Ignoring Reality
Despite these painful statistics of the past three decades, Reaganomics has remained a powerful force in American political life. Anyone tuning in CNBC or picking up the Wall Street Journal would think that these economic policies had enjoyed unqualified success for everyone, rather than being a dismal failure for all but the richest Americans. The facts were especially stark for the 2000s, the so-called “Aughts” or perhaps more accurately the “Naughts.”

“For most of the past 70 years, the U.S. economy has grown at a steady clip, generating perpetually higher incomes and wealth for American households,” wrote the Washington Post’s Neil Irwin in a Jan. 2, 2010, review of comparative economic data. “But since 2000, the story is starkly different.”

As the Post article and its accompanying graphs showed, the last decade’s sad story wasn’t just limited to the abysmal job numbers. U.S. economic output slowed to its worst pace since the 1930s, rising only 17.8 percent in the 2000s, less than half the 38.1 percent increase in the despised 1970s. Household net worth declined 4 percent in the last decade, compared to a 28 percent rise in the 1970s. (All figures were adjusted for inflation.)

Despite this record of economic failure from Bush’s reprise of Reaganomics – trillions more in government debt but no net increase in jobs or household wealth in the last decade – many Americans appear to have learned no lessons from either the Bush-43 presidency or Reagan’s destructive legacy. Any thought of raising taxes or investing in a stronger domestic infrastructure remains anathema to significant segments of the population still enthralled by the Tea Party.

Indeed, across the mainstream U.S. news media, it is hard to find any serious – or sustained – criticism of the Reagan/Bush economic theories. More generally, there is headshaking about the size of the debt and talk about the need to slash “entitlement” programs like Social Security and Medicare. Instead of paying heed to the real lessons of the past three decades, many Americans are trapped in the Reagan/Tea Party narrative and thus repeating the same mistakes.

‘Voodoo Economics’
The U.S. political/media process seems resistant to the one of most obvious lessons of the past three decades: Simply put, Reaganomics didn’t work. As George H.W. Bush once commented – when he was running against Reagan in the 1980 primaries – it is “voodoo economics.”

Yet, the fact that the United States has embraced “voodoo economics” for much of the past three-plus decades and refuses to recognize the statistical evidence of Reaganomics’ abject failure suggests that the larger lesson of this era is that the U.S. political process is dysfunctional, a point driven home by the recent Tea Party-led government shutdown and threatened debt default.

In the decades that followed Reagan’s 1980 election, the Right has invested ever more heavily in media outlets, think tanks and attack groups that, collectively, changed the American political landscape. Because of Reagan’s sweeping tax cuts favoring the rich, right-wing billionaires, like the Koch Brothers and Richard Mellon Scaife, also had much more money to reinvest in the political/media process, including funding the faux-populist Tea Party.

That advantage was further exaggerated by the Left’s parallel failure to invest in its own media at anything close to the Right’s tens of billions of dollars. Thus, the Right’s outreach to average Americans has won over millions of middle-class voters to the Republican banner, even as the GOP enacted policies that devastated the middle class and concentrated the nation’s wealth at the top.

So, even as American workers struggled in the face of globalization and suffered under GOP hostility toward unions, the Right convinced many middle-class whites, in particular, that their real enemy was “big guv-mint.”
Though Obama won the presidency in 2008, the Republicans didn’t change their long-running strategy of using their media assets to portray the Democrats as un-American. The Right waged a relentless assault on Obama’s legitimacy (spreading rumors that he was born in Kenya, he was a secret socialist, he was a Muslim, etc.) while a solid wall of Republican opposition greeted his plans for addressing the national economic crisis that he inherited.

The Rise of the Tea Party
Like previous Democrats, Obama initially responded by offering olive branches across the aisle, but again and again, they were slapped down. In mid-2009, Obama wasted valuable time trying to woo supposed Republican “moderates” like Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine to support health-care reform. Meanwhile, Republicans filibustered endlessly in the Senate and whipped their right-wing “base” into angrier and angrier mobs.

Initially, the GOP strategy proved successful, as Republicans pummeled Democrats for increasing the debt with a $787 billion stimulus package to stanch the economic bleeding. The continued loss of jobs enabled the Republicans to paint the stimulus as a “failure.” There was also Obama’s confusing health-care law that pleased neither the Right nor the Left.

The foul mood of the nation translated into an angry Tea Party movement and Republican victories in the House and in many statehouses around the country. Gradually, however, a stabilized financial structure and a slow-healing economy began to generate jobs, albeit often with lower pay.

Obama could boast about sufficient progress to justify his reelection in 2012, with most voters also favoring Democrats for the Senate and the House. However, aggressive Republican gerrymandering of congressional districts helped the GOP retain a slim majority in the House despite losing the popular vote by around 1½ million ballots.

But the just-finished budget/debt showdown has shown that the Tea Party’s fight over America’s political/economic future is far from over. Through its ideological media and think tanks, the Right continues to hammer home the Reagan-esque theory that “government is the problem.”

Meanwhile, the Left still lacks comparable media resources to remind U.S. voters that it was the federal government that essentially created the Great American Middle Class – from the New Deal policies of the 1930s through other reforms of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, from Social Security to Wall Street regulation to labor rights to the GI Bill to the Interstate Highway System to the space program’s technological advances to Medicare and Medicaid to the minimum wage to civil rights.

Many Americans don’t like to admit it — they prefer to think of their families as reaching the middle class without government help — but the reality is that the Great American Middle Class was a phenomenon made possible by the intervention of the federal government beginning with Franklin Roosevelt and continuing into the 1970s. [For one telling example of this reality -- the Cheney family, which was lifted out of poverty by FDR's policies -- see Consortiumnews.com's "Dick Cheney: Son of the New Deal."]

Further, in the face of corporate globalization and business technology, two other forces making the middle-class work force increasingly obsolete, the only hope for a revival of the Great American Middle Class is for the government to increase taxes on the rich, the ones who have gained the most from cheap foreign labor and advances in computer technology, in order to fund projects to build and strengthen the nation, from infrastructure to education to research and development to care for the sick and elderly to environmental protections.

In other words, the only strategy that makes sense for the average American is to reject the theories of Ronald Reagan and the Right. Rather than seeing the government as “the problem” and higher taxes on the rich as “bad,” the American people must come to understand that, to a great extent, government has to be a big part of the solution.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

Original.