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31 July 2011

Sick to my stomach...

by: Anna Van Z

Update: A "deal" was indeed announced this evening.

I'm sitting here reading the latest from the alternative media (the only way to get the real nitty-gritty), and it looks like a debt deal is being finalized now. A deal which, according to the buzz, is right out of the repug playbook. According to Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast, "President Obama appears to have cut a deal with the Republicans, on their terms, or about 98 percent of them."

Nice. Once again, American citizens are thrown under the bus under the pretext of an emergency, so that the tools of the financial elite can further hack away at what basic public resources remain. Tomasky goes on to say that "it’s a bleak day for this presidency, and really in American history, as we’ve now embarked on a path that’s very likely to lead to huge cuts in entitlement programs, the domestic budget, and more or less everything..."

A TPM article on the pending deal includes a statement from Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which aptly describes the feeling: "Seeing a Democratic president take taxing the rich off the table and instead push a deal that will lead to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefit cuts is like entering a bizarre parallel universe. One with horrific consequences for middle-class families."

Scrutiny Hooligans writer Tom Sullivan points out that teabaggots "relish the idea of pulling the temple down on their own heads if it will destroy their enemies. Lucky for them, they have compliant Democrats to help do the heavy lifting."

Michael Collins, writing for Op-Ed News calls it "The War On You", which is exactly what it is. He writes: "Let the word go forth from Washington! The corporate rulers occupying our nation's capital have declared war on just about every citizen.

"Have no doubt: those in the upper ranges of the top 1% of wealth in this country (aka The Money Party) want to kick you to the curb.They want to reduce your social security and make you go broke paying for medical care.They want to lower your wages and trash your retirement.They ignore the clear facts that we've had negative job growth since 2000 and the situation is just getting worse.They want to ship jobs, factories, and entire businesses overseas and give companies that do that a big fat tax credit for doing so.They've been given so much for nothing for so long. Now, they're ready to take it all. It's their time!"

But hey, don't feel bad. They're gutting our Social Security, Medicare, further impoverishing many seniors and the disabled, and probably making our own retirements impossible but, per the wingnut-teabaggot decree, at least Big Oil is getting a gusher of a payday, thanks to the American taxpayer. Their windfall amounts to 77 BILLION dollars, in spite of already record profits.

Think Progress notes that, "Big Oil is still flush with cash — including some of the $4 BILLION in taxpayer-funded handouts they’ll get from Uncle Sam this year. This week, the government-subsidized oil giants once again reported tens of billions of dollars in profits.

"As the nation teeters on the brink of default, the GOP wants us to “kiss Medicare goodbye” (along with Medicaid and Social Security), but they still refuse to touch a dime of the $77 BILLION in taxpayer handouts that we’ll give to the most profitable industry the world has ever known over the next 10 years.

Here are the numbers you need to know:

$3.4 BILLION = ConocoPhillips’ second quarter profit.

$5.6 BILLION = BP’s second quarter profit, which investors called “disappointing.”

$7.7 BILLION = Chevron‘s second profit, an increase of 42 percent.

$8 BILLION = Shell’s second quarter profit.

$10.7 BILLION = ExxonMobil’s second quarter profit.

17.6 Percent = ExxonMobil’s effective federal tax rate.

20.4 Percent = The average American’s individual effective tax rate.

$35.4 BILLION = The total second quarter profits of the Big 5 oil companies.

41 Percent = The increase in ExxonMobil’s second quarter profits.

$67.4 BILLION = The total profits of the Big 5 oil companies for the first half of 2011."

See, don't you feel better now? Grandma and Grandpa can't afford medicine and may have to live on cat food, but at least the GOP succeeded in making sure billionaires don't have to contribute one cent to the "shared sacrifice" con they've pulled on the American people. Whew! What a relief! I was so worried that oil execs might have to forgo a fifth vacation home or another Lear Jet! Thank gawd they won't have to suffer that indignity!

Oh, and one more thing. If you live in my area, and I overhear you blathering away in some store line about how you vote GOP because they're "pro-life", I'm gonna smack the living shit out of you. Just so you know.
28 July 2011

Report: Obama And Boehner Agreed To Raise Medicare Eligibilty Age Before Debt Talks Broke Down

by: Anna Van Z

This was clearly a goal before any "impasse".

From Igor Volsky at Think Progress:
In what may be one of the most under-reported stories of the debt ceiling talks, Politico’s Jen Haberkorn notes that before negotiations broke down on Friday evening, President Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner tentatively agreed to gradually raise the Medicare eligibility age as part of a “grand bargain” to increase the nation’s borrowing limit...

Jacob Hacker, political science professor at Yale University, has called the scheme “the single worst idea for Medicare reform” since it “saves Medicare money only by shifting the cost burden onto older Americans caught between the old eligibility age and the new, as well as onto the employers and states that help fund their benefits.” Worse still, some seniors between the ages of 65 and 67 could “end up uninsured,” the Center on Budget And Policy Priorities’ Edwin Park predicted. Individuals “with incomes too high for premium subsidies in the exchange and those who qualify for only modest subsidies” could be priced out of affordable coverage, he warned.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, raising the eligibility age to 67 would cause an estimated net increase of $5.6 billion in out-of-pocket health insurance costs for beneficiaries who would have been otherwise covered by Medicare. Seniors in Medicare Part B would also face a 3 percent premium increase, the study found, since younger and healthier enrollees would be routed out of Medicare and into private insurance. Beneficiaries in health care reform’s exchanges would see a similar spike in premiums with the addition of the older population... the rest at Think Progress.
26 July 2011

These Colors Don't Run

by: Lisa Ranger

Camping on the prairie
Plays havoc with my hair.
Makes me feel quite dirty,
Though we all do sometimes
--I Wanna Be A Cowboy,
Boys Don't Cry

But someday I'm sure your gonna know the cost
Cause for everything you win
there's something lost
--Everything That Glitters (Is Not Gold),
Dan Seals

Like a rhinestone cowboy
Riding out on a horse in a star-spangled rodeo
Gettin' cards and letters from people I don't even know
And offers comin' over the phone
--Rhinestone Cowboy, Glen Campbell

Why don't you make arrangements
to take our hovercraft to Medieval World,
Roman World and Westworld.
Contact us today, or see your travel agent.
Boy, have we got a vacation for you.
--Westworld (1973)

[We have been conducting an occasional series on China-in-your-home @ RangerAgainstWar. The following entry is Ranger's observations on his erstwhile participation in the uber-faux "sport" of Cowboy Action Shooting. I felt it a nice indictment of all the fair weather patriots --LF]

The title is a favorite line of the patriotic sort of American supporting the U.S.'s endless wars. Maybe not, but they sure do bleed out.

This is dedicated to the National Rifle Association, and specifically its little brother affiliate, the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS) -- a group that is oh-so-Amurican, claiming as it does to represent our national cowboy character and values. Ranger once belonged to SASS but resigned his membership over multiple ideological conflicts.

SASS conducts weekend fantasy matches which take their cue from Western fictional films like True Grit and Outlaw Josey Wales. They begin with a invocation to Jesus, much like might be heard at the start of a Jay-Vee football game in Louisiana. The prayer thanks God for our soldiers fighting to protect our rights (with no mention of the Supreme Court's regular impingement upon said rights. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.)

After they done prayed it is time to suit up for the match, which requires two Single Action handguns, a lever-action pistol cartridge rifle/carbine and a double barrel shotgun or pre-1898 pump action or lever-action shotgun with exposed hammer. Oh, and a colorful and starched neckerchief, like those worn by fancy show dogs.

Per the Handguns: The really cool guys shoot COLTS pistols, but unfortunately they are now made in Italy (only assembled in the USA.) Most folks shoot Rugers that are made and marketed in the U.S., but the steel is sourced internationally -- hey, it's close enough for country. The rest shoot Ubertis -- Italian or Brazilian replicas.

Per the Rifles:
Only the Marlin 1894 is made in America; all others are made in Japan, Brazil, Argentina, Italy or some other furrin' place. The rifles marketed as Winchesters are made in Japan, also. The Italian rifles dominate the field. welcome to the New Wild West, thank you Aldo Uberti (spaghetti Westerns weren't just whistlin' Dixie.)

Per the Shotguns:
Usually low-quality doubles and replicas of the 1897 and 1887 Winchesters, usually made in China or some other foreign nation. Welcome to the O.K. Corral!

Let's talk Ammo: You have your choice of Fioricci, Aguila, PMC, etc. -- Italian, Mexican, Philipino or Korean. There is U.S.-made Remington or Winchester ammo but domestic is usually much more expensive, so foreign production is usually used. Did you say, Get Outta Dodge?

Accouterments: The guns are carried in holsters made in Mexico or some other diarrhea-ridden locale. (Some folks use costly U.S.-made rigs, but they are the minority.) The replica clothes are usually foreign-made, sweatshop specials, from Honduras, Bangladesh, Guatemala, etc. The underwear is seldom made anywhere NEAR the OLDE West, and the fibers are less-than-natural.

Shooting glasses and ear protection are usually Chinese-made. This is so we don't have to see that 40% of our money is borrowed from Communist China, a country that has killed a few good American soldiers in its time, whether directly (in Korea) or indirectly via arms, munitions and training for the VietCong/NVA. Also remember that that the entire Chinese defense budget is paid for by the interest on the U.S. Treasury notes held by the Chinese government. Oh yeah -- and not a few tchotchkes purchased by the True Blue SASS crowd. God Bless America!

The timers are from Germany or Japan, where things run on time. The targets are made from foreign steel and the target plates spray-painted with Chinese paint, courtesy Walmart at .97/can. The cowboy hats are cheap woolen knock-offs, as a Resistol or Stetson 10x beaver is rather pricey these days; the upside is, it keeps all the mad hatters South of the Border.

The range flags are made in China and I'll bet even money that the group's mouthpiece --The Cowboy Chronicle -- is printed on imported paper. I'll even bet the official SASS badges are also made somewhere other than the old West.

After the match the participants have an ersatz cotillion, with dinner eaten on plates from China and music played through foreign sound systems, where many women endeavor to strike a pose as Miss Kitty-cum-Beyonce. The bands are using foreign-made acoustic instruments with Chinese pick ups and strings made in Mexico.

While the hardcore faux cowboys are toying with fancy guns, firing live ammunition and spending money at the concessionaires, it is hard to picture the actual nastiness that our soldiers are actually perpetrating on a daily basis.

Praise the Lord and pass the foreign ammunition.

25 July 2011

Down the memory hole!

by: Anna Van Z

Japan Passes Law To Cleanse Internet Of "Bad" Fukushima Radiation News
By Alexander Higgins

Japan has passed a law that will enable the police and contractors to monitor internet activity without restriction to "cleanse" the Internet of any "bad" Fukushima radiation news.

As I previous reported, Japan has officially ordered the censorship of any reporting of the truth about the Fukushima nuclear radiation fallout by ordering telecommunications companies and web masters to scrub any negative stories from the internet about the disaster:

Japan Officially Orders Censorship Of Truth About Fukushima Nuclear Radiation Disaster

The government of Japan has issued an official order to telecommunications companies and web masters to censor reports which contradict the state media reports that the Fukushima nuclear radiation disaster is over.

Japan Government Officially Censors Truth About Fukushima Nuclear Radiation Disaster

The supposedly free democratic nation of Japan, which supposedly values and promotes freedom of speech, has officially issued orders to telecommunication companies and webmasters to remove content from websites that counter the official government position that the disaster is over and there is no more threat from the radiation.
See the rest...

by: Anna Van Z

If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issuance of their currency, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all their property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.

--Thomas Jefferson

Sounds about right...
21 July 2011

Quote of the day:

by: Peter of Lone Tree

"Never ascribe to malice those things which may be explained by stupidity." That is an important phrase, and a necessary one; it keeps people from being paranoid. However, it has a corollary most people don't know: "One MAY ascribe to malice those things which stupidity cannot explain." -- Robert Canup
16 July 2011

What's Happening to Policing These Days?

by: Anna Van Z

I remember when Tasers were first added en masse to the standard operating equipment of police forces nationwide. They were introduced to the public as a non-lethal means of subduing violent, out-of-control individuals who were a real danger to others. They were presented as a way to reduce police shootings of civilians.

Since that time, and 667 civilian deaths later, we see that Tasers are sometimes quite lethal and that Tasers are often used against non-violent citizens who may have committed nothing but infractions and are offering no resistance. They are sometimes used against people that are already handcuffed. They are used against children and pregnant women. Tasers are used against mentally ill citizens who do not understand what's happening. They are often used when numerous police officers are present and could easily subdue a person, if indeed s/he were even resisting or out of control.

An article from the Philadelphia Libertarian Examiner documenting the rise of the Taser as a lethal weapon points out that "the average defibrillator, that is used to jump start a human heart, can range from 700-1,700 volts. The average taser ranges from 20,000 to 150,000 volts. Not sure if this is relevant, but the electric chair administers 2,450 volts at about 5 amps for 20 seconds or so – just as a comparison. While volts are not as deadly as amps, it has been determined that 0.07 amps in an electricity shock is enough to disrupt the human heart and even be fatal. The taser averages at around 2 amps per shock, certainly making it quite dangerous."

The story of a peaceful young man tasered to death at a traffic stop in California is a story that's been happening with alarming frequency across the country. Watch this video from BrassCheck TV. BCTV quotes Paul Craig Roberts, who says that "The police are now as dangerous to citizens as criminals and far more dangerous than terrorists." They add that "it's easier to harass - and occasionally kill - law abiding citizens than it is to do real police work and more and more police departments are making the choice to do the former. Accountability? Zero."

Look, this is just nuts. Are we turning into a police state, where every civilian is viewed as the enemy? Most of us are law-abiding citizens who wouldn't even think of harming a law officer, or anyone else for that matter. Whatever happened to the community policing idea? Now the police have tanks and equipment that used to be found only in military operations. What's going on here?
14 July 2011

Dead Babies

by: Lisa Ranger

Dead babies can't take care of themselves
Dead babies can't take things off the shelf
Well we didn't want you anyway
Lalala-la, lalala-la, la la la
--Dead Babies, Alice Cooper

My possessions are causing me suspicion
but there's no proof
in the paper today
tales of war and of waste
but you turn right over to the T.V. page
--Don't Dream it's Over, Crowded House

You’re missing that one final screw
You’re simply not in the pink my dear
To be honest you haven’t got a clue
--I'm Going Slightly Mad, Queen

They only hit until you cry
And after that you don't ask why
You just don't argue anymore
--Luka, Suzanne Vega

Over the past several days Lisa has had the misfortune to be exposed to what passes for news today -- Caylee mania.

People she did not know implored her on the day of the not guilty verdict, "Did you hear?", as though this decision were something that would jostle the sun and the moon (Casey Anthony and the Court of Public Opinion). For three years Caylee's sad story has provided fodder for those who would declaim against the forces of dissolution in the U.S.: Justice must be served for little Caylee, and that means mother Casey must go down.

Yet justice worked as it must; the prosecution did not present an airtight case. The whole lot of the Anthony's are misfits and liars, and it is very hard to disentangle a bag of snakes. CNN promises 24-hour coverage Sunday, July 17th, when Casey Anthony is released, just so we may release a bit more bile.

Observers gathered outside of the Orlando courthouse daily to score one of the 50 tickets in. A psychologist was on air to minister to the viewer's grief ("over time, the sadness and anger will fade"); it is reported that a lightning strike at Caylee memorial "could be a sign from the angels", and there is a Broward County resto who won't serve the bad Caylee jurors. All of this was gotten in 20 minutes of CNN "news". We really are a fried chicken short of a church picnic.

More to the point:
Why is the nation transfixed by tales of blond babies murders? Remember the Jon Benet Ramsey furore in the 1990's? Jon Benet was the six-year-old blond beauty pageant "star" who riveted the nation in her death. How about Madeleine McCann, blond British child reportedly kidnapped in Portugal? But what about the other 2,000 kids killed annually in the U.S.? Well, they don't meet the photogenic bar for one reason or another.

Poor children fall through the cracks of supervising agencies with appalling regularity, but they don't permeate our collective mindset; just more statistics. Welfare workers are swamped with bloated caseloads, but no new taxes (the lesson of GHWB has not been lost.)

Do we care about the black toddler baked in an oven this March in Mississippi (that's how they do in Mississippi), or the Asian baby fried in a microwave that month in L.A.? How about Alexis (Lexie) Glover, found dead in a frigid D.C. creek, repeatedly failed by the child services system? Or Banita Jacks, who killed her four daughters because they were "demon-possessed"? Or 7-year-old with cystic fibrosis Charles Poertner, found dead last December in horrific circumstances, or Danieal Kelley, and so many, many more.

The answer is, No, because they are not pretty little blond babies. We are hypocritical dunderheads.

[cross-posted @ RangerAaginstWar, with links.]

09 July 2011

Anna's Happy Hour Rant

by: Anna Van Z

Take some time today to sign this letter to the GOP beltway bubble people, who are currently axing 100 billion dollars from Medicaid in order to ostensibly "reduce the deficit".

Never mind the fact that the deficit was run up in the Bush years by repugs who spent money like drunken sailors - particularly on wars we didn't need to fight and for massive tax breaks for the corporate and investor class.

Never mind that they refuse to impose even the tiniest reduction to the staggering handouts and tax loopholes for their corporate and ultra-wealthy masters. It's important to understand that this is part of a deliberate plan. They are using the deficit as an excuse to gut all the social safety nets that they've always hated. These self-proclaimed "pro-lifers" are more than willing to let the sick, the elderly, the disabled, and lower income children suffer or die in order for that to happen.

Meanwhile, the cost of the current wars will have cost the United States 3.7 Trillion dollars. And that doesn't include the newest war in Libya - you know, the one that isn't a war but that you and I are paying for anyway? None of them have a damn thing to do with "defense" of the U.S. There is no country on earth that comes close to being an actual military threat to America.

But all that's "off the table". Just like miniscule tax increases on millionaires. Just like closing the corporate jet tax loophole. Just like aid to foreign countries. Our programs that WE PAID FOR are ON the table, but our money will continue to flow to Israel, child-raping warlords in Afghanistan, and hedge fund managers who make more in 1 minute than you and I will make all year.

So, add your voice to the din. Sign the above petition, call and email your beltway bubble people. I don't know if it will do any good, but at least it's making your voice heard, and action you can take right now. Speaking for myself, I've had it. Enough is enough. It's time to make a stand. Plan on joining thousands of us in DC in October.