Big Brass Blog is a group blog founded in February of 2005 by Pam Spaulding of Pam's House Blend and Melissa McEwan of Shakesville (formerly Shakespeare's Sister). The mission of this collaborative effort is to stand as the premiere forum where strong, enduring voices of Progressivism provide what liberal politics has been missing: the unapologetic, unrelenting voice of liberalism in the darkness visited upon our world by Right-wing extremists, their ruinous policies, and their hypocritical beliefs.
Dear Repuglican/DINO Lawmakers:
Kindly stop blathering about how "everyone needs to tighten their belt"... because aside from being so trite it's meaningless, it's also a big, fat lie. The last thing you all want is for "everyone" to share in the sacrifices you claim to espouse. If you really wanted "everyone" to tighten their belts, then you'd be working to bring back the tax rates that existed when America was thriving economically - you know, before you representatives of the people enabled multi-national corporations to export millions of American jobs to the third world. Remember that America? How it was, before you chose to dismantle it?
If "everyone" has to sacrifice, why is welfare for the rich "off the table"? Why are corporate welfare tax handouts "off the table"? Why are the wages and benefits of hard-working, tax-paying Americans up for reductions, but large tax cuts for the very richest Americans are preserved like the Holy fucking Grail? Why is it okay for millions of American children to be denied a healthy start in life through programs like WIC, Head Start, and countless other early intervention programs, yet huge aid packages to foreigners are "off the table"? Especially seeing how you're sending so many large handouts to counties with appalling human rights records! (Of course nowadays, we're in that category, which is why we have little credibility remaining on the world stage). Why isn't there a drastic reduction in Pentagon spending, and in the countless redundant contractors that dine at the public trough, no questions asked? Why do you insist of spending billions each month on military misadventures like Afghanistan, Iraq, etc., when this so clearly does NOT improve the safety, security, and economy of the American people? One might start to think y'all are really only working on behalf of a small group of elite m-ic stockholders! Since there is no legitimate, demonstrable need for 737 military bases around the globe, why do you people refuse to even examine the gross excesses of Pentagon expenditures?
And why are banks allowed to skip out on their toxic assets, and foreclose on homeowners when in numerous cases, they lack the legal right to do so? You people refused to even require the banks - that received billions in bailouts - to refinance with the homeowners! Who of course, got no bailout. Why have none of the people responsible for the gross financial malfeasance that caused the global financial crash of 2008 had to go to jail, or forfeit their their ill-gotten gains, but struggling citizens unable to pay their credit card debts are being arrested and jailed for amounts as low as $285.00?
Why do so many people who don't even farm get agricultural subsidies? And why do other people get ag subsidies for NOT growing crops? Why does your brand of state lawmaker want to further burden the poor by mandating drug tests for welfare recipients, when you refuse to implement drug testing for yourselves? You are, after all, paid with taxpayers' money! Is it because half of you wouldn't pass? And why no mandated drug testing for the executives and officers of every corporation receiving tax cuts or cushy contracts from the government? Shouldn't these recipients of government largess also be included in the insanity? While we're at it, why are you people allowed to profit from your investments while in congress, when your decisions directly affect the profitability of those investments? Why is such a blatant conflict of interest allowed? Furthermore, if you hate government-assisted health care so much, why haven't you relinquished your own tax-payer funded, lifelong health benefits? Why not just buy your own health insurance from your corporate benefactors? Won't they give you a discount?
Why do you refuse to apply the social security tax to annual incomes of over $106,000, and then insist that everyone's social security benefits have to be cut because the program - the most successful program in American history - is "in trouble"? Why do you allow your own warped, stunted, logically unsupportable economic/political ideology guide your actions, instead of the well-being of the American people, whose interests you swore to protect?
And the thing is, I'm just getting started....
Just this once, cease your endless game of "balance," your wearisome two-step of "moderate" positioning, posing the way you constantly do as some sort of progressiveliberal, evenwhile predictably and unfailingly pandering to the siren call of a security state that drags us ever deeper into the inescapable maw that hungers to make a people with too much freedom into a docilized, unfree people.
We are not the terrorists you are looking for. We never were. It was the governmentthe government that you, sir, now headthat failed us on that awful day more than nine years ago. It was not we who destroyed those buildings; it was not we who killed our fellow countrymen; it was not we who conspired to let the blood of this wonder of constitutional democracy.
It was not we who hated this country.
Whatever war was to be waged against the vile maniacs who attacked us, it has now been nine long years, and that war continues unabated. Instead of having defeated that enemy, as we have defeated horrible and powerful foes in the past in far shorter order, this war against terrorism has not been won and has, in fact, become a war not just against hateful men and women who want to harm us, but also, with increasing aggression and disturbing escalation, against us.
That war now engorges itself with the despicable perpetuation that crafts us as the enemy waiting in every line, at every encounter with government, in every communication to strike. We have become the people of an occupied land, a populace that must be thoroughly demeaned, degraded, and diminished.
The war on terror is lost, Mr. Obama. If the goal were to protect our freedom, the war has been lost, sir.
The government "of the people, by the people, and for the people," in President Lincoln's magnificent words, now demands that we stand naked before its employees; it arrogates to itself the "right" to watch us in all our comings and goings in the commons; and it stands immune to retributive vengeance through law for anything it claims its enforcers do as "official duty."
Mr. Obama, cease your rhetoric. Set aside your thought that your policies are mature because you appease authoritarians. Dismiss those around you who tell you that anything is more important than the freedom of your nation's people to be left alone.
For once in your life, Mr. President, lead, and do so fearlessly. You are the only one who can set aside the chains of failed policies into which you have been brokered by those before you.
LEAD, Mr. Obama. Lead us back to freedom. If you cannot, then the consequence could very well be more terrible than you could imagine: we might have to find our own way back.
I tell my students that some historians of the Roman Empire give as the date of its fall the fourth day of September in the year A.D. 476. It was on that day that Odoacer, a "barbarian" German in the military service of Rome, removed from the throne the last emperor of the western empire. Other historians see that date as important, but not the "end" of the Roman Empire or even of its western part. (Neither, most certainly, was it even the beginning of the end, given the spiraling power of the germanic tribes setting forth demands upon the Roman emperors and tearing away, piece by piece, at the collapsing frontiers.) Seth Lerer, Distinguished Professor of Literature at the University of California at San Diego, explains that the empire did not "fall" that late-summer day in the last half of the 5th Century, but instead began a new era of change, a process that had been going on for quite a long time at a slower but accelerating pace as fewer and fewer people, both leaders and commoners, had enough light to see why the empire should be kept.
Lex Romana, the law of the Romans, would still remain the law, more or less and at least for a while, for Roman citizens, and the influence of Rome, which had been in marked decline before A.D. 476, would continue but fade in the decades after Odoacer deposed Romulus Augustus. The versions of Lex Romana for Roman subjects of the 6th Century and beyond were complicated, abridged, and full of interpretatio to explain what the cobbled statutes codified in Lex Romana Visigothorum actually meant in practice. Nevertheless, the essential feature of Roman law, as opposed to germanic law, was there: it was based in statuteswritten rules assigning clarity of action by the state in matters of behavior by the governed. This written law would be the way forever after of many of the places the Romans had held great sway. From Canon Law to the Napoleonic Code, statutory law carried not just the burden of relating action to consequences in everyday life, but also the unwavering, operable duty of all men to their sovereign.
Even in England, where the immigrating tribes from the lowlands of Germania had brought their more tribal, "common law," the subsequent occupation by the French during the Norman Occupation would infuse the law of precedents with a statutory frame of reference for the courts. To this day, both England and those nations that had once been its colonial possessions bear the burden of that dynamic tension between the desire to make laws upon the firmament of scrolls and the unrelenting need to have a system respecting precedents but capable of challenging those very laws in all their solemn solidity. (For some background on the difference between statutory and common law, read my article, "Plain Language.")
Notwithstanding all of the waysfrom law to language, from warfare and statecraft to aesthetics and logicthat the Roman Empire continued to influence the world it had left behind, the powerful light that had been Roman civilization would eventually all but vanish from Europe and the British Isles, and the world that had once been brought to its knees and taught to stand in the shadow of empire would fall into an age of darkness far wider than could be cast by the shadow even of a great and harsh master. An age of darkness descended.
The world after Rome was complicated, decidedly less civilized in many places, and certainly riven by great and small ignorance, need, and avarice. There was no time or place for the speculative hubrissuperficial and false as it might have been for the Romansof ideals like destiny compelling the secular and holy. Unlike the Romans, driven by gods unabashedly the idealized versions of men and women, nobles and commoners alike found solace and excuse in an opposite, albeit powerful god of the Christians and Muslims, whose hordes of violence and merchants of atonement would grip the world from east to west in the centuries leading up to, and then following, the turn of the millennium.
In our hubris, we imagine that it is by our own hand that we tame the ferocity of the midday sun into the temperance of afternoon quiet. We see our technologies as enduring, our values as eternal, and our personal opinions as reflecting both the best and the proper that our empire can bring to the world, often through the influence of peaceful exchange and fierce commerce or, when necessary to protect our interests, through violence too appalling for either its critics or apologists to grasp in scale and horror.
The sunset comes, though. The politicians promise a new day, the merchants sell a new product, and the citizens point to others for a reason the way forward is not as well lit as it once was.
Our defenders will guard the perimeter against what awaits just beyond the lights, and we will all know that those things just beyond know much more than we about an age of darkness far wider than could be cast by the shadow even of a great and harsh master.
Twilight will come, and with it will come a degraded place for us. In our fear, we will impose it upon ourselves long before others from beyond the perimeter of our civilization do so, as they inevitably and someday will when we no longer have enough light to see why our empire should be kept.
Again, then, an age of darkness will have descended.
During an oil change, the mechanic for a gentleman named Yasir Afifi, a rather unexceptional college student and computer salesman, found that his car had been rigged by the FBI with a GPS tracking device. Why? Most likely because he is Muslim and supports his two brothers who live in Egypt. Some courts are ruling that these GPS tracking devices constitute unlawful warrantless searches, but others are finding that no warrants are needed, and the Supreme Court will probably agree, given that it has found that warrantless searches are perfectly fine on "public property."
If it's fine with you, too, don't check your car for a tracker. If it's not fine with you, perhaps you can remove it; but if you do, resist the urge to destroy the nasty little device, since the FBI will come to demand its "government property" back, and you most certainly want to avoid an indictment for destroying government property (or selling it on eBay, for that matter, what with how the hapless buyer might not give you a five-star rating after the FBI's SWAT-style paramilitary honkers come rappelling down through his roof with flash-bang grenades and action-movie Ninja-wear outfits).
Oh, yes, one more thing: the Obama Administration supports the warrantless use of these trackers. Let's give President Hope-'n-Change a free oil change and a nice round of applause for once again not letting that silly old Fourth Amendment interfere with good old authoritarian excess for the new American century.
With the help of his Unholy Legion already on the bench at the Supreme Court, Mr. Hoover's sponsor on the throne in Hades may soon approve a fiscal stimulus package that includes the much-anticipated Teabagger Moose Lodge & Trailer Park at the Capitol Building in Washington.
Let's see Mrs. Obama's "clean spirits" deal with that rezoning nightmare.
This altogether favorable depiction of what passes for a post-modern American conservative is the latest of my graphics at the Cheezburger Network. Pass this picture around. The Right-wing fanatics cannot be shamed for how they talk, but they can be shown for what they are.
Do so. They are people unlike us, and the more that simple point is made, the more the zealots will be marginalized as once they were, back when people like that were an embarrassment to everyone, even to their own kind.
As it stands now, the U.S. House of Representatives will fall to the Republicans this November. The Senate majority held by the Democrats will be eroded.
Far from moderating in the wake of the general election rout of 2008, the GOP has descended further to the right, embracing what appears to many progressives as a comical swirl of everything from transparently obvious, hokey hypocrites to mentally unstable, blubbering odd balls. These leaders of the so-called "Tea Party" movement will be anything but comical, though, when their social celebrity status becomes actual political power.
You won't like the future, I promise you that. The man elected President of the United States in 2008 has failed to lead, and quite specifically, he has failed to lead the citizenry away from the mesmerizing influence of moral decline sold like snake oil with words like "moderate" and "compromise," words almost willfully at contrast with equally voiced words like "change" and "hope."
Fearlessness was not in Mr. Obama's vocabulary. It never will be. But you knew that, didn't you? you who have read my articles; you who earnestly decry commercialism cast to maximize consumer acceptance; you who were actually following the career and voting record of then-Senator Barack Obama; you who at least ought to know the difference between hypnotically howling speeches full of vagaries and the fiery political roar of a man who votes from a progressive conscience rather than a politically apparent expedience.
No, you won't like the future. It will be the place where zealots of extremism feed on the pastel passions of the lazy, who in their great numbers want nothing other than a way forward paved by paid shouters elevating unapologetically greed-driven celebrities promising rectitude with the phony wink of the hypocritical and the knowing smirk of the ignorant.
You won't like the future. It's the place where the weak believe in leaders who think nightfall is a place of compromise with the darkness. In their folly, such failed guardians of freedom are destroyed by the strong, those who either believe in embracing the darkness, as the American electorate will do in November of 2010, or believe in setting ablaze the night and battling through to the morning, as the Democrats refused to do after November of 2008.
The American people are hurting. As a result of the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street, millions of Americans have lost their jobs, homes, life savings and their ability to get a higher education. Today, some 22 percent of our children live in poverty, and millions more have become dependent on food stamps for their food. [snip]
But, not everybody is hurting. While the middle class disappears and poverty increases the wealthiest people in our country are not only doing extremely well, they are using their wealth and political power to protect and expand their very privileged status at the expense of everyone else. This upper-crust of extremely wealthy families are hell-bent on destroying the democratic vision of a strong middle-class which has made the United States the envy of the world. In its place they are determined to create an oligarchy in which a small number of families control the economic and political life of our country. [snip]
Today, not content with huge tax breaks on their income; not content with massive corporate tax loopholes; not content with trade laws enabling them to outsource the jobs of millions of American workers to low-wage countries and not content with tax havens around the world, the ruling elite and their lobbyists are working feverishly to either eliminate the estate tax or substantially lower it. If they are successful at wiping out the estate tax, as they came close to doing in 2006 with every Republican but two voting to do, it would increase the national debt by over $1 trillion during a ten-year period. At a time when we already have a $13 trillion debt, enormous unmet needs and the highest level of wealth inequality in the industrialized world, it is simply obscene to provide more tax breaks to multi-millionaires and billionaires.
That is why I have introduced the Responsible Estate Tax Act (S.3533).
Recent discontent among GOP loyalists with Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has led to rumors of a palace coup to install Sarah Palin as RNC head. While at least some of the reporting about the idea is no doubt trial balloon material hoisted by her backers (possibly against her wishes to remain in the financially lucrative private sector), party insiders do seem to be taking the idea seriously enough not to categorically and openly repudiate the proposal to make Palin the RNC Chairwoman in order to officially recognize the GOP's energetic Right-wing faction that has coalesced under the "Tea Party" banner.
Dark Wraith Publishing, which provides news, editorials, and entertainment via The Dark Wraith Forums, Big Brass Blog, and other online properties, herewith endorses former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin to replace Michael Steele as Chair of the Republican National Committee. Dark Wraith Publishing further encourages the leadership of the GOP to install Sarah Palin forthwith and without delay in this responsible and high-profile position.
If you labor under the thought that meaningful reform to prevent another financial crisis like the one in 2008 is coming from Washington, think again. Wall Street bankers' orgy of greed did not stop with the near-global meltdown of 2008, and the "reform" legislation in Congress is being hand-written by thousands of high-paid lobbyists as well as the industry's handmaiden, the Federal Reserve. Read Matt Taibbi's latest Rolling Stone article, " Wall Street Wars" for the wretched story of what became of solid, on-target reform of the failed regulatory squalor in which the powerful financial interests of this country wallow and thrive.
As a financial economist, I despair at what is coming, and come it will. I was right the last time, and I'll be right again this time. Solid economic theory tasked to the objective analysis of data veritably howled of a bad, bad crisis, and I wrote about it in my four-part series, "The Economics of Wreckage," my two-part series, "The Federal Reserve under Fire," and finally in my Spring 2008 article, "The Gospel of Impending Doom." My detailed explanations of theory, interpretations of historical and timely data, and predictions based thereupon did no good, of course.
I am wiser, now. Going through the same process of meticulous exposition would have no impact, but I will tell you this: the analysis that motivated my previous warnings now informs me of much greater risk of a confluence of potentially disastrous economic problemsboth inflation and recessionbefore the next presidential election.
When the whispering breeze of a real collapse of the global financial system brushed across our distracted faces in mid-September of 2008, no one could possibly have imagined (except those of us who did, but we were doomsayers, conspiracy theorists, anti-Bush malcontents, fanatics, marginalized academics, or some other manner of noise beyond the fringe of respectable inclusion).
The tribulation will be worse this time. Much worse. Contrary to what you might have heard, the sky really can fall.
As disturbing as that light wind of foreboding catastrophe might (or might not) have been to you, it was the muted, ill breath of genuine, life-changing storms to come in the cascading shards of our broken shelter of sunshine proclaimed by failed stewards and their failed successors. Those are the men and womenour leaders, their bureaucrats, technocrats, handlers, promoters, and thinkerswho have perverted the rule of law to protect the sovereign and its hordes of enforcers, inquisitors, prosecutors, and financiers. In toiling at that work so debilitating to a nation of free people, the sovereign has, in its reign of impunity uplifted on the stage of real and imagined threats touted in endless acts and scenes, become the coalition of inhuman entities ensouled not by any nature or its god, but by the fiat of corrupted law that poses to quicken the unensoulable, be it an unaccountable government or the enterprise of commerce in corporate form.
The disaster this time will not be owned by the Bush Administration, and you can do nothing about what's coming. You might think you can, but you cannot.
As I wrote in January, "Look hard into that darkening twilight: the sun is setting behind you."
I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their intellects. A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies.
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)