Conventional collectivist created authority is a deception in consciousness. You are your own Authority!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Far Right Fantasy

Newt Gingrich, the former United States congressman and Speaker of the House, is a shining example of why Rebublicans have such a hard time finding freedom loving independants, libertarians, fiscally conservative democrats, and middle of the road Americans to vote for them in presidential elections.

"I have two grandchildren," Gingrich told the congregation at Cornerstone Church, a megachurch in San Antonio, Texas, headed by the Rev. John Hagee, a high placed leader among American Christian evangelicals, who endorsed John McCain and Sarah Palin’s doomed 2008 presidential campaign. "I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they're my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American."

Gingrich, like several other high ranking Republican presidential candidates, does what most reasonable Americans abhor – he equates Christianity with patriotism. The “nature of America” is Christian, according to Newt Gingrich, and he’s convinced that it is the patriotic duty of all Christians go out and do battle in a grand social and cultural struggle to “win it” back for America, because only Christians have an “understanding of what it once meant to be an American."

He doesn’t want his grandchildren (or you and me) to live in a “secular country.” He’s afraid our nation will become “atheist” and “dominated by radical Islamists.”

Think about that one for a second.

How could a secular atheist country become dominated by radical Islamists? How many radical Islamists out there are secular atheists? How many secular atheists do you know who are radical Islamists? How can Mr. Gingrich hold on to any political credibility among reasonable logical voters making stupid statements like that?

Then Gingrich warned the congregation ominously that American college professors and media types are seeking to wipe out the Founding Fathers' Christian values, and worse, that American judges want to re-write the U.S. Constitution.

I have a short wake-up call for Mr. Gingrich, and all the other pandering social conservative Republicans on the religious right who yearn for a Christian theocracy in America: I appreciate the values of our founding fathers. I like the Constitution they wrote just the way it is. Get your historical facts straight.

The United States of America – my country and yours -- was founded as, and always has been, a secular atheist countrysecular in that religion and government are deliberately separate entities here; one private, the other public; and atheist in that the republic was conceived and ordained by the people rather than a deity.

We are not a theist nation, like Iran, or even Britian, but individuals enjoy religious freedom here, and the majority now happen to be Christians. President Lincoln called it a government conceived in liberty; of, by, and for the people. So religion had nothing to do with it. Islamists are welcome here just like everyone else.   

The Declaration of Independence makes no refrence to Christianity. The United States Constitution makes no reference to Christianity. Those are the founding documents of this nation and neither makes any reference whatsoever to Christianity. That, of course, we all know was quite deliberate. The founders even made sure that the Constitution prohibited any religious test for public office, and any other law respecting an establishment of religion.  

If these undeniable historical facts are not enough for Mr. Gingrich, he might also be reminded that, in 1797; 214 years ago, the same founding fathers, including all the Christians, explicitly and officially declared, once and for all, that:  

“The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.”

Ironically, this simple straightforward official declaration by the U.S. Congress, unanimously ratified by the Senate, and signed by President John Adams on June 10, 1797, was made to assure the Islamic North African states of Algiers, Tripoli and Tunis, after American conflicts with Barbary pirates, that harmonious relationships with the United States in the future would not be adversely affected by differences in religious opinions. [Art 11; Treaty of Tripoli]

If the Republicans nominate the likes of Newt Gingrich, Barack Obama will be the next President of the United States.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

In the Belly of the Beast

A group of foreign reporters in Tripoli is sitting around in their hotel dining room having breakfast one morning under the supervision of their Libyan government minders. Suddenly, an extremely agitated young Libyan woman dashes into the room, moving about wildly, displaying injuries, sobbing, shouting, and screaming that that she’s been brutally beaten, abused and gang raped for two days by government goons. "Look at what Gadhafi's brigades did to me!" she cries.

The stunned reporters quickly gather round and begin to ask questions about what happened to her. This prompts the government minders to forcefully seize and begin dragging the desperate screaming woman away. When reporters try to help her, all hell breaks loose as minders; hotel employees, locals, and everyone else in the hotel join the fray, chasing, pushing, punching, kicking reporters, and smashing cameras for awhile.

How incredible is this?, I thought to myself as I read the news. Americans have just invaded and imposed a no-fly zone on Libya; we’re destroying their military and bombing the crap out of them. French and British missiles have just days before blasted Gadhafi's headquarters. It’s all out war. Casualties are mounting. Yet here we have a bunch of foreign enemy correspondents being squired around the capitol city by government minders when they’re not lounging around their Tripoli hotel. 

Seems mighty nice of those Gadhafi fellas to let our guys cover the story of their downfall in sitiu, real time, and right in the thick of the action. They even gave our boys a guided tour of Gadhafi's battered compound, I hear. Come to think of it, I remember that we got the same journalistic privileges in Iraq and several enemy countries during other wars.

I don’t believe we Americans would be nearly that accomodating of foreign press from the enemy camp if the war zone were located on our own territory. Somehow I can’t imagine a group of Al Quaeda corespondents reporting the horrific events back home to Bin Laden Land from their hotel in New York City hours after the twin trade towers were obliterated on 9/11. I’m having a hard time envisioning them enjoying a guided tour of ground zero by U.S. government “minders.”

They’d have been shipped off to Gitmo without charges in a New York minuite, if not lynched publicly in Times Square first. That’s the American way.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Saving Face for Failing in Cuba

The beautiful Caribbean island of Cuba presents a case study in human exploitation, slavery, rebellion, and misery since its colonization by the Spanish in the early 16th century. Several slave uprisings were brutally put down before slavery was abolished in 1866. The forces of the English Crown occupied Cuba briefly in the 1760’s during the Seven Years War, but agreed to give it back to Spain in trade for the Florida territory, which was eventually ceded to the U.S. after the War of 1812.  

At the end of the Spanish-American War in 1899, Cuba was governed briefly by the United States. A Cuban republic was established in 1902. The hapless, exploited, and impoverished Cuban people have been in bloody resistance and revolt ever since, with one corrupt dictator after another, both fascist and communist, in charge.

General Batista, backed by the Cuban army, took power in 1933, and again in 1952, treating the treasury of the country and the Cuban economy like his own private piggy bank, while the common people continued to suffer in repression and abject squalor. Fidel Castro led a long and bloody communist popular revolt, eventually causing Batista to flee the country in 1959. The common people of Cuba have fared little better under his half century of communist autocratic dictatorship.

The United States, which supported the thoroughly corrupt Batista regime, is still trying to get rid of Castro and the communists, who have the temerity to exist in power only 90 miles off our shores. President Eisenhower, in 1960, ordered the CIA to train Cuban exiles for a covert invasion of Cuba. Later that year, Cuba nationalized all U.S. businesses there. The U.S. imposed a trade embargo on Cuba.

President Kennedy got a bloody nose in April, 1961, when his aforementioned CIA trained Cuban exiles led the Bay of Pigs invasion which was crushed by Castro forces. All this was followed by the 1962 Cuban Missile crises after Russia was caught trying to install ballistic nuclear missiles aimed at the U.S. In the ensuing blockade and standoff confrontation between the U.S. and Russia, the planet narrowly avoided nuclear annihilation.

Since then there as been no love lost between the governments of the U.S. and Cuba. The trade embargo blockade has persisted for nearly 50 years, the average Cuban is still impoverished, and ordinary Americans are prohibited by the federal government from visiting the communist ruled island, much less trading with its inhabitants.

Cuba is the only country in the world suffering this xenophobic U.S. distinction. We can go to China, North Korea, or Vietnam; we can even go to Russia, who threatened us with mass nuclear incineration. We can go to every authentic political hell-hole in the Middle East, from Afghanistan to Yemen, but we can’t go on holiday in sunny tropical Havana. This despite the fact that the current Cuban government is anxious to restore normal relations and ties with Americans. We have diplomatic relations with every communist country on the planet except Cuba.

Now the Obama Administration has magnanimously announced that some students seeking academic credit, as well as representatives of churches, and synagogues traveling for religious purposes will be permitted to go to Cuba. The government will also let Americans send a limit of $2,000 a year to Cuban citizens not part of the Castro administration and not members of the Communist Party. The changes don’t need congressional approval.

Big deal!

Such token concessions are discriminatory and disingenuous. Why should students and religionists of all people have special travel privileges? Why not tourists, businessmen, and spring breakers? Why can’t we enjoy Cuban cigars at home and by the pool in Havana? Why can’t we trade goods and services with Cuba, our close Caribbean neighbor? Why must we suffer for the folly of grasping politicians and a few rich Cuban refugees still bent on revenge?

It’s all about saving the imperial U.S. Giant’s national face because he failed for 50 long years to get rid of Fidel Castro, the little communist fly. Castro foiled the U.S. invasion of Cuba, eluded every grab at his power and attempt on his life for over 50 years, and has managed to pass on the commie baton to his younger brother, Raul, in his feeble old age.

The imperial giant tried to democratize the little fly by force and intimidation, as it is always wont to do, but lost. Raul Castro wants to reconcile but the U.S. government is still smarting from its slap in the face defeat after all this time and wants to huff, puff, and pout awhile longer.

Liberty and free markets are my favorite forms of human association; communism probably my least favorite; but even brutal value destroying communism for the average citizen in a dirt poor country is often better than crony fascism and corrupt imperialism. That was the case in Cuba when Fidel Castro took control. The majority of people in Cuba wanted Castro in 1959, and for good reason.

The United States government should admit and get used to that. The menace of communism is cured with liberty and free markets, not trade embargos, closed borders, and xenophobia. Liberty and free markets brought down the Soviet Union. Communist regimes usually crumble and fall eventually of their own weight.

The same fate has been observed throughout history with corrupt fascist and imperialist regimes, which was the case in Czarist Russia as well before the communists. Russians, though just as corrupt as ever, are only now learning the financial benefits of free markets.

Whether you leave it alone or engage it, communism doesn’t work nearly as well as free markets. The United States of America should know that by now.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Abortion and the Great South Dakota Walk of Shame

Imagine seeking eternal salvation by joining a church of your choice, but being required by the state to visit a “religion help center” first; submitting to counselling by the state in order to ensure that your decision is "voluntary" and "informed," and then waiting a minimum 72 hours after the counselling before you are allowed inside the church sanctuary.

Suppose your state interposed similar legal restrictions which had to be satisfied before you could marry your sweetheart; read a controversial book; or enroll your child in a private school. Imagine government regulations which require you to justify all of your important private life decisions; forcing your submission to a walk of shame before strangers and government hacks who’s primary mission is to meddle into your private affairs and change your mind – to mess with your liberty.

Can they do that?

Welcome to the Great State of South Dakota, the first in the nation to pass a law requiring a woman seeking an abortion to visit a “pregnancy help center” first and submit to counseling to ensure her decision is "voluntary" and "informed," then to wait at least 72 hours after completing the counseling before she can schedule an abortion. The law also requires the supplicant to meet and consult with the abortion doctor beforehand, another high hurdle for women in South Dakota, since Planned Parenthood's clinic performs abortions only once a week, and the doctors are flown in from Minnesota. (ABC News; 3/22/11)

"I think everyone agrees with the goal of reducing abortion by encouraging consideration of other alternatives," Gov. Dennis Daugaard, sanctimoniously proclaimed. "I hope that women who are considering an abortion will use this three-day period to make good choices."   

He hopes that they’ll change their minds and conform to his religion, is more like it. Governor Daugaard thinks that if someone in his state wants to exercise a right, liberty, for example, the collective authority of South Dakota has a corresponding right by force to try and change her mind.

If that kind of law is constitutional in the United States of America, woe be it to the liberty rights of us all.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Zero Tolerance for Tolerance

Here we go again:

What’s the best way to turn a bright, ambitious, straight-A Honor Society student into an under-achieving juvenile delinquent lay-about?  Hint: If it’s not finding a butter knife in his school lunch box, or a stick figure drawing with a gun on his desk, it’s got to be catching him and his friends red handed in the cafeteria with a bag of oregano.

That’s what happened last week to a Chesapeake, Va., seventh grader and his three goofy friends. A teacher caught them with a bag of oregano thinking it was a bag of pot. The boys are now suspended from school facing the possibility of expulsion.

The State of Virginia has a zero-tolerance policy against "imitation controlled substances," explained a school board spokesperson with a straight face. So if it looks like marijuana, even though its not, the zero-tolerance sledge hammer falls in the great state of Virginia. Poof -- a straight-A student and National Junior Honor Society candidate is instantly turned into a lowlife criminal, expelled from school, his promising academic career destroyed.

These kids are severely punished; their entire lives adversely affected because of a lousy bag of oregano, a completely innocuous herb used for flavoring food. Oregano is a legal substance. Powdered sugar, flour, corn starch, and dozens of other legal substances look exactly like powdered cocaine. A handful of pebbles might easily be mistaken for crack cocaine. An American Legion artificial poppy flower conjures up images of opium and heroin. I suppose they’re all dangerous "imitation controlled substances" in Chesapeake, Va.

This is not just zero tolerance for serious crimes committed in school; its zero tolerance for merely the thought of a crime; its punishment for an idea; an imaginary goblin. Like the lunch box butter knife, and crudely drawn stick figures with guns, which conjured up hysterical thoughts of violence and terrorism, a bag of oregano can cause the same kind of collective zero tolerance hysteria. It causes otherwise reasonable people to ruin the lives of others over literally nothing.

What if it really was a bag of pot, another equally innocuous substance posing no danger whatsoever to anyone? Would they destroy a young life’s promise over a bag of pot? Yes, indeed they would. It’s an every day occurrence right here in the land of the free and home of the brave.

You see, with zero tolerance, there is no tolerance; no insight; no reflection; no understanding; no mercy.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Let Them Use Skype

President Obama was off to Rio this weekend on Air Force One with family, extended family, presidential entourage, and all the regal trappings of office, for the first leg of a five day Latin American excursion to Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador. The White House is calling the trip a “mission to build job-creating opportunities for the United States and to address regional security concerns.”

On St. Patrick's Day, the president announced he’ll stop at Ireland next May, where he hopes to find the birthplace of his great-great-great-great-great grandfather, while on his state visit to the United Kingdom.

Some critic’s question why the president would go off on foreign trips like these with the Japan crisis unfolding badly and the North African political situation escalating higher, but I don’t see that as the problem. He can make presidential decisions anywhere; and that being so, I say: much the better then to just stay home.  

The crisis facing Americans right now is how to stop unnecessary spending and reduce the $14 trillion in debt, but few Americans seem to mind that the frequency of these international happy tours is costing us a fortune.

U.S. Presidents have done an awful lot of world traveling during the last few decades. There’s been a lot of pomp and pageantry associated with these trips; plenty of rolling red carpets; but I don’t recall many job-creating opportunities or lessened security concerns for the United States in the bargain.

Heads of state just love to travel the globe to hob-knob with each other while flaunting their power and prestige. They do it because they can. It’s one of the institutionalized perks of high office these days, even during a serious debt crisis, and money is clearly no object in the case of American Presidents. Everything is first class. No expense is spared.

For security reasons, they don’t just take Air Force One, an enormous B-747 jumbo jet-liner, but two Air Force One’s; an identical presidential jumbo jet follows close behind, as well as military cargo planes hauling along tons of baggage and equipment, including the presidential limousine, helicopter, and motor fleet. 

According to Fox News, President Obama has spent more days abroad in his first two years than any other president. At that rate, he’ll eclipse Bill Clinton’s record of 233 days abroad over the course of 55 trips during his two terms in office; and George W. Bush’s 215 days and 49 trips. All that, while the cost of maintaining and operating Air Force One, just that one airplane alone, is well north of $180,000 per hour.  

If the politicians want to go looking for job-creating opportunities in exotic foreign locations, I say:  let them use Skype. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Monsters Inside Them

What kind of human monster would deliberately infect another unsuspecting human being with a deadly disgusting disease and then sit back for years and watch the consequences without the slightest empathy or emotion as it ravaged its helpless victim? What trained medical doctor would perform gruesome medical experiments on completely vulnerable patients without their knowledge or consent? What kind of nation and government would sponsor this kind of horror?  

Dr. Josef Mengele, the infamous Nazi SS officer physician and Auschwitz concentration camp doctor, comes to mind. Known as the Angel of Death for his macabre role in selecting thousands of victims for death in the gas chambers, and performing gruesome medical experiments without anesthetics on unwilling human subjects, Mengele is surely the 20th century poster boy example of human monsters.

But, hold on a minute; Dr. Mengele and the Nazi’s aren’t the only monsters guilty of such atrocities. Yes, it seems that even our dear old Uncle Sam has spawned a few medical monsters in the cause of God, country, and the greater good.

Last October, the US government apologized to Guatemala after revelations that, during the 1940’s, it also conducted “clearly unethical” experiments and “appalling violations” of medical ethics and human decency upon unwitting human beings. Now it is reported that the victims, some 700 Guatemalan soldiers, mental health patients, and orphans have brought a class-action lawsuit seeking compensation for the resulting damage.

United States public health doctors allegedly hired prostitutes diagnosed with syphilis or gonorrhea to have sexual relations with the hapless subjects, intending to spread the disease so that experiments could be conducted on them for potential cures. Orphaned Guatemalan children as young as 6 years old were used in the experiments as an uninfected test group.

These same Public Health Service doctors, in the 1930’s, performed the infamous Tuskegee Alabama syphilis experiments, in which hundreds of poor blacks were observed for decades without being told they had the disease.

Move over Mengele; it appears that you have some competition right here in the United States of America.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Another One Bites the Dust

It was a bad week for high level government messengers in the Obama Administration. First it was chief spymaster, James Clapper, hounded by a gaggle of angry senators demanding his head for simply answering their questions truthfully. Now its State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley booted for the identical crime of telling it like it is.

The president was already mad as hell at Crowley for expressing his honesty about the Egyptian crisis that eventually forced President Hosni Mubarak from power. After Mubarak went on television proposing concessions to the rebels, Crowley, on his Twitter page, likened it as a bad attempt to "reshuffle the deck chairs." The White House propaganda ministers didn’t appreciate that unauthorized tid bit of truth.

Then last week, according to FoxNews, Crowley was asked at a conference by a foreign correspondent about WikiLeaks and the "torturing" of a prisoner in a military brig. The U.S. Defense Department’s treatment of Cpl. Bradley Manning: "is ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid," admitted Crowley.

Anyone having a primitive sense of ethics and decency would be appalled by Manning’s reported treatment as he awaits trial for exposing the United States government to the light of truth. Crowley merely acknowledged the obvious – that Manning is being punished before his trial -- and for that he was obliged to resign, a sacrificial scapegoat, to satisfy an angry Obama administration caught out for hiding the truth.

When politicians are dissatisfied with the truth, they kill the messenger.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Killing the Messenger

Messengers in ancient times enjoyed a uniquely trecherous occupation. The easy part was risking their lives transporting vital information from point A to point B, often through hostile and dangerous enemy territory. If a messenger managed to avoid death or serious injury on the trail, he faced the likely prospect at home of being impaled on a stake if the king was dissatisfied with the message. That was the hard part.

Killing the messenger happens so often, its become a cliché, and an especially fine art in politics. Few politicians will tolerate subordinates calling a spade a spade. Politicians are so used to lying, distorting, dodging, and prevaricating, the bare unvarnished truth often affects them like direct sunlight on a vampire.    

Latest case in fact:

James Clapper, Director of U.S. National Intelligence, recently summoned for testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, was asked his opinion about which countries currently pose the biggest "mortal threat" to the United States. “Russia and China,” the chief spook responded to the incredulous panel of senators. They obviously expected a different answer and could hardly disguise their annoyance.

Clapper explained that Russia and China are the only countries who might have the capacity to mortaly threaten us. Senator Carl Levin, D-Mich., holding back outright laughter, sarcasticly derided him, saying: "By that measure, the U.S. represents the biggest threat to China and Russia.” (Well, duh, Senator; I love it when politicians, while lying through their teeth, sometimes tell the truth by mistake.)

When the senators questioned him about the conflict in Lybia, Clapper told them candidly to their utter shock and dismay that he believes dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi' will prevail over the Libyan rebels.

These small bits of honesty, truth, and candor have so outraged Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., he’s calling for Clapper to resign, saying it’s time to go because he lacks confidence in Clapper's understanding of his job. "His comments will make the situation more difficult for those opposing Gadhafi," said Graham, “they undercut U.S. efforts and should not have been made in a public forum.”

Consumate longtime politician that he is, Graham knows that his own job is to lie like a cheating used car salesman every time he’s asked a difficult question about anything in the public forum, so it’s not particularly surprising to find out that he expects the same from the nation’s chief Intelligence officer, and every other government goon on the payroll for that matter.

Last month, Clapper greatly irritated the same group of politicians when he refered to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as primarily a secular organization. That’s the last thing they wanted to hear. (If the politicians are irritated, of course, it must surely be true. )

Clapper’s comments on Libya "should be the final straw." “Three strikes and you’re out,” cackled senator Graham from his lofty perch

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Winning the Future in Obamastan

President Obama visited Intel's hi-tech semiconductor plant in Oregon last month, using the opportunity to brag shamelessly about his plans for us to “win the future” by “investing” more taxpayer dollars in science and education, so that, in his words, the U.S. can: “out innovate, out-compete, and out-hustle the rest of the world.”

Granted, this president loves to make his talking points metaphorically, and that’s fine, but it seems to me that his metaphors in this instance are divorced almost entirely from reality; they don’t make the slightest bit of sense.

You can win a bet, win the lottery, even win a pretty young girl’s heart, but winning the future is far beyond my humble comprehension. I suppose that if you die, in that sense you have lost the future. Maybe it’s possible then to win the future by managing to stay alive.

But, wait a second, there’s no such thing as “the future,” the future is entirely imaginary, so the prospect of America actually winning it is unimaginable. Most politicians though, are experts at winning the past, and they never seem to let the facts get in the way during the process. Why not use the same tactics for winning the future?

Can’t you just see a big map of the United States engaged animatedly in the process of battling for, and eventually winning, the future by out-innovating, out-competing, and out-hustling the rest of the globe like an ambitious Manhattan shoe-shine boy? I can’t either. No collective has ever innovated anything save the means to steal or destroy the property of honest individuals.

The president has spouted an awful lot of similar nonsense lately:

"We can’t sacrifice investments in our future."

You can make an investment in this or that, I know, but how does one sacrifice an investment without losing it? I suppose he means that we will sacrifice if we don’t make this investment; we’ll lose the investment if we don’t make it, which makes absolutely no sense. And I can’t stop thinking about a big fat unblemished future investment roasting and crackling in the fire on a sacred alter while the high priests whoop and chant in a circle all around.

“If we want to make sure Intel doesn't have to look overseas for skilled, trained workers, then we’ve got to invest in our people, in our schools, in our colleges, in our children."

You can spend your money, or invest your money; blow it, or save it, but blowing it is not the same as saving it, and saving it is not the same as blowing it. The real investors in America are the bond holders from all over the world who own the colossal $14 trillion in U.S. debt; debt which resulted from the out of control spending sprees of politicians like Obama, Bush, and the United States Congress. We had to borrow the money to make those “investments.” If all that spending was intended as an “investment,” I ask you: where is the return?

"If we want the next technological breakthrough that leads to the next Intel to happen here in the United States -- not in China or not in Germany -- then we have to invest in America’s research and technology, in the work of our scientists and our engineers."

I see. We can all of us contribute to the next big scientific breakthrough by throwing money at it. He’s talking about spending, not investing. The creditors of our nation are the ones doing the investing. They’re the ones collecting regular interest payments while retaining their principal for more investments. Politicians are the ones doing the spending. They’re the ones blowing the cash into the Twilight Zone, i.e., the pockets of political beneficiaries. Why should we care if some scientist in Germany scores the next Nobel Prize?

"In a world that is more competitive than ever before, it's our job to make sure that America is the best place on earth to do business."

How about that? All the nations on the planet are at perpetual war competing with each other like gladiators in the world market place, to win the future, of course, and our job is to invest huge sums of taxpayer money to make sure our Americans are more competitive so that the future will be ours. But how does a collective maintain a good place to do business, thereby insuring the prosperity of its citizens? By shutting up, and going away, that’s how. Cuba and North Korea aren’t coming up with many big breakthroughs these days in spite of all the government “investments.” 

 “Companies have a responsibility to invest in the nation's future by keeping jobs here, hiring American workers and paying decent wages.”

So companies aren’t so much in business to satisfy all our needs and desires, and make a sustainable profit for their shareholders and employees while doing it; no; companies are here to help us win the future in the big war of the cosmos to out-hustle the universe. Companies are just as much, if not more, the slaves of the collective as the rest of us sorry souls. The American company’s job is to keep decent paying jobs in America. That’s a new one on me.  

And now the White House, in the midst of a national necessity to cut spending, wants to “invest” $90 million for financing just the first year of an Advanced Research Projects Agency, a brand new federal agency under the Department of Education, which would give money to companies to come up with new high-tech gadgets for the classroom.

Obama calls it "educational technology." You know; like 3-D chalkboards, and video games “teaching you something other than just blowing something up," quipped the president. Our low tech gadgets (teachers) aren’t working so we’ve got to spend some cash on more high tech gear.

"We're working to make sure every school has a 21st century curriculum," Obama crowed. "Today, unfortunately, we greatly under-invest in R and D in education,” said Department of Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, another government flunky. "Imagine if we could have a digital tutor that could allow a student to catch up two grade levels in a year."

If I were president Obama, I’d set my sights a little lower. Imagine winning the future by finding some government paid human beings – teachers – capable of teaching more than 30% of America’s eighth-graders to read.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

More Money Spent; Dumber We Get

“We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world," declared President Barack Obama during his second State of the Union Address, urging lawmakers to throw ever more taxpayer dollars at education. "At stake is whether new jobs and industries will take root in this country or somewhere else," he claimed, as if the more money Congress spends on education, the more competitive the U.S. will be in the global market place – as if government spending is the mother of education and national prosperity.

The president likes to call such spending “investments.”

But recent news reports reveal this sad truth: federal education “investments” aren’t paying off so well. Not only are there no dividends, the principal is disappearing as well.

The federal government, in 2008, for example, provided $669.6 million in subsidies to the public schools in Wisconsin. The State of Wisconsin spends more cash per pupil than most states. It increased expenditures from $4,956 per pupil in 1998 to $10,791 per pupil in 2008. That’s more than a 100% spending increase on education in only ten years.

Yet all that increased spending apparently didn’t add a single point to the reading scores of Wisconsin’s eighth grade students from a decade ago. Two-thirds of these kids remain unable to read proficiently according to the U.S. Department of Education. Nationwide, only 30 percent of public school eighth graders earned a rating of “proficient” or better in reading.

If public schools can’t even teach a simple majority of kids to read proficiently by the eighth grade, which is well beyond elementary school, it only stands to reason that these same students are just as intellectually deficient, if not more so, in all the other basic subjects.

To put it bluntly: this news confirms that public school education in America suffers from a 70% failure rate, and no amount of money thrown at it will improve the dismal situation. No private school would last for long in the market place with that kind of track record.

Education cannot be bought with money. Money does not create innovation; innovation creates money. Throwing good money after bad at public education will not create jobs here or make the nation more competitive. It only bleeds and unnecessarily impoverishes the people.

Education doesn’t require compulsory attendance; lavish buildings; plush facilities; swimming pools; stadiums; sports programs; and dozens of other extra-curricular activities. Education requires only genuine motivation on the part of individual students who want to learn. It’s motivation, not money, which counts most when computing the quality of education.

But individual student motivation doesn’t buy political influence or votes; money does. That’s why public education is so deeply entrenched in America -- $10,000 plus per pupil per year is big money by any definition.

All that money is going into the pockets of political beneficiaries. Some people are getting rich. While the politicians and their entourage of political advantage seekers continue to prosper more and more at the expense of the taxpaying sheep, the vast majority of the taxpaying sheep just get dumber.

You have to wonder if that wasn't the plan all along.

Friday, March 4, 2011

For a Few Trillion More

Former United States Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, interviewed on the Fox News Bill O’Reilly Show today, confirmed that so far the Iraq war has cost our nation more than 4000 dead and over a trillion dollars.

We creamed Saddam’s army, toppled his regime in a matter of days, hunted him down, dragged him out of his spider hole, and let his angry subjects hang him from the gallows till dead. That all happened years ago.

So my question is this: What did we get for it?

After the horror of 9/11, we invaded Afghanistan, routed the Taliban, installed a puppet regime, and chased Osama Bin Laden into a life of hiding. That all happened years ago.

So my question is this: What did we get for it?

Consider every other international conflict the United States has been involved in since the end of WWII; all the thousands upon thousands of dead soldiers; all the trillions and billions of dollars cast into the Twilight Zone; and all the tremendous sacrifices of our ever accommodating population. That all happened years ago too.

Same question: What did we get for it?

What does John Q. Untied States Citizen get for it?

Even now there is big talk in high places about invading Libya by imposing a no-fly zone there. The United States has begun moving warships toward Libya. The Obama administration has declared all options are on the table in its diplomatic, economic, and military campaign to drive Moammar Gadhafi from power.

"Gadhafi has lost the legitimacy to govern, and it is time for him to go without further violence or delay," Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, candidly told reporters, as if it is a given from above that the natural, proper duty and responsibility for the U.S.A. is to take sides and jump with all of our considerable might into every political controversey on the planet, no matter what the eventual cost and sacrifice.

What will we get for it?

The French got all their money back to the penny with interest and everlasting gratitude after they supported our American revolution.

This is what we get:

The Vietnam War was lost big time; it was all sacrifice for no gain. Bin Laden is still at large. We’re stuck in a quagmire in both Iraq and Afghanistan. All of the underlying political problems surrounding every conflict still remain. Our nation still maintains, after all these many decades, a hugely expensive presence, together with substantial numbers of troops and armaments, in or near almost every former hot spot all over the globe. We’ll be doing so for decades to come with no end is sight. If we don’t, as the government theory goes, the situation will revert right back to chaos in no time, or our national security will be threatened. And the world hates us more than ever.

There are just as many or more real and imagined terrorists, bad guys, and bogey men as ever. Domestic security measures have become paranoid, overly intrusive, and unreasonable; yet we’re less safe in our beds now than ever – from our own legal authorities. Cherished constitutional rights are eroding.

Oil is priced at over $100 per barrel, gold at $1,400 per ounce, and climbing; the U.S. dollar is crashing. We will never, ever see any of those trillions and billions again. Not only is it all gone forever, but we’re still paying dearly on the debt it has caused, and new demands are escalating beyond human control; this shit never ends.

That’s why we’re $14 trillion in debt. That’s where the big money has been going and disappearing since WWII. It’s not so much the domestic general welfare and entitlement programs that are busting us; those are a drop in the bucket compared to what is spent on defense, security, international intrigue, and military folly.

At least with entitlements John Q. Untied States Citizen is getting something out of the deal. Social Security and Medicare at least benefit some American citizens.

I would rather have groceries in everyone’s pantry, and food on the table, than F-16 fighter planes in Iraq, Americans in body bags, and $14 trillion in the Twilight Zone.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Trillions in the Twilight Zone

The nonpartisan United States General Accounting Office has compiled a report card confirming that we're now over $14 trillion in debt, and nobody knows exactly where all that money has gone. Fourteen trillion -- that’s at least a thousand times more dollar bills than the supposed cosmological age of the universe. "We don't know what we're doing," quipped senator Tom Coburn.

Bernie Madoff, a guy who should know, recently told reporters that the U.S. government is a Ponzi scheme. This GAO report card is proof of that beyond a reasonable doubt.

Looking at federal agencies, the GAO found overlap, duplication, and fragmentation in dozens of areas. There are, for just one small example, 20 different federal programs for the homeless administered by seven different agencies, amounting to an overlap of $2.9 billion. Three different federal agencies administer 18 different food assistance programs to the poor resulting in $62.5 billion in overlap and duplication.

Out of 47 different federal job training and employment programs, 44 of them overlap with other programs, amounting to another $18 billion in waste. Several different federal agencies, and numerous presidential appointees, share activities’ relating to the nation’s biodefense, but none of them has any authority, or owes any responsibility or accountability for the billions they consume.

Meanwhile, over at the Pentagon, the Department of Defense claims that it is just way too big for an accounting audit now; but the secretary of defense is working on the problem so that it might be audit-ready by 2017, six years from now. The GAO report found that the Pentagon has no tracking mechanism for the use of "urgent need" funds, resulting in an estimated $77 billion in overlap waste in just 6 years.

According to CNN, the Defense Department military budget is larger than most countries' entire economy; the Pentagon is the largest office building in the world; and it consumes a gargantuan average of $2 billion to $3 billion taxpayer dollars every business day. Last year, the GAO cited "serious financial management problems at the Department of Defense that made its financial statements un-auditable." "They don't know if they've paid contractors once, twice or not at all. They don't know if they've spent more than they were appropriated."

Contractors engaged in fraudulent dealings and misuse of taxpayer funds received $285 billion over a three-year period; 100’s of millions were overspent in a fund paying benefits to Army service members; and more than a trillion dollars has been spent to purchase weapons systems without a method to determine the full cost breakdown of materials and equipment for the systems. So the Pentagon is unable to manage and control operating and support costs for major weapons systems, including repair and maintenance costs.

If this were just government stupidity and waste, that would be bad enough, but this is not really what I would call stupid or waste. Waste is like leaving good food on your plate to be thrown out in the garbage; it’s leaving the lights on when you go out; contributing to political campaigns. Stupid does not know better.

Someone is getting this money. It’s not going down the toilet. All those billions and trillions are going straight into the pockets of the “political beneficiaries.” There are people driving around in brand new BMW’s because of this graft, and these politicians not only know all about it; they perpetrated it.  

The GAO report: "will make us all look like jackasses," senator Coburn concluded.

Not exactly, I’d say.

In my mind it makes you all look like criminals.