Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Check Out the "Jon Swift Memorial Roundup 2011"


My March 10, 2011 piece, "How Unions Make a Nation Competitive," was featured in Vagabond Scholar's "Jon Swift Memorial Roundup 2011." If you haven't already, be sure to check out this roundup, which offers a lot of great articles from many of the Web's top progressive blogs. And also, be sure to check out Vagabond Scholar itself, which is one of our favorite liberal blogs. Here's to a great 2012 for all progressive bloggers everywhere.

Why Jesus Would Call Tim Tebow a Hypocrite

"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven."

--The words of Christ, as quoted in Matthew 6:1, The Bible, New International Version.


Denver Broncos football star Tim Tebow seems like a nice, likeable fellow. It seems harsh to say anything negative about him.

But for years, Tebow has been outspoken about his Christian faith, instead of keeping it (as millions of Christians do) as a personal, private matter. Indeed, with his extremely public displays of prayer, Tebow wants the whole world to know that he's a Christian. And frankly, if you take a look at the actual words of Jesus Christ, it becomes clear that Christ regarded people like Tebow as hypocrites.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary offers the following definition for hypocrite: "a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings."

Now, let's turn to the Bible and look at the actual words of Christ in Matthew 6:5-15. This is one of those Bible passages that I've never, ever seen any mainstream or evangelical "Christian" quote.

In fact, the vast majority of "Christians" always carefully tiptoe away from this passage and just try to pretend it doesn't exist. It shouldn't really surprising why. The passage very clearly questions the need for organized church services---and, for that matter, churches, period. Given that churches are an enormously profitable (and tax-free) cash cow that sustain the gigantic industry known as organized religion, it shouldn't be surprising that most "Christians" ignore Matthew 6:5-15.

Matthew 6:5-15 quotes Christ's actual words and reads as follows:

"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

The fact is, Christ very clearly disapproved of public displays of prayer. In fact, he specifically called people who do so "hypocrites."

This year, Tebow has captured endless headlines and publicity for his trademark habit of "Tebowing" (kneeling and praying) during key moments of football games. As a result, tens of millions of NFL viewers have repeatedly watched Tebow pray during football games.

It's difficult to imagine a more high-profile, public way of praying than "Tebowing." Tebow is not content with simple prayer in private. Instead he turns it into a "Hey, look-at-me!" public spectacle, before the television cameras.

Whatever one thinks of this spectacle, it's clear that Tebow is completely ignoring Christ's own words about how to pray. Once again: Jesus said when you pray, you should go into your room and close the door and pray in secret. To do otherwise, as Jesus notes, is to be an attention-seeking "hypocrite."

Speaking of hypocrisy, Tebow recently signed a contract that will pay him tens of millions for playing football in the years to come. Whatever one thinks of the inflated, obscene pay packages that today's pampered athletes make, there's one thing that is clear: once again Tebow has been ignoring the words of Christ that condemn wealth.

In Mark 10:21, Jesus states that the only way a rich person can enter heaven is to sell all his assets and give the money to the poor. And in Matthew 19:24, Jesus says that "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." In Matthew 6:24, Jesus says, "You cannot serve both God and money."

These are three Bible passages that quote Jesus and that specifically condemn mega-millionaires like Tebow. The Bible, in fact, is full of passages that condemn wealth (which is the reason that the early Christians, as described in the Book of Acts, lived a socialist lifestyle).

Tebow may well regard himself as a fine, upstanding Christian. But his version of "Christianity" in fact has little to do with the actual words of Christ.

And it's also clear that Christ himself would have regarded Tebow as a hypocrite.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Film Review: "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," Another Unnecessary, Inferior Hollywood Remake


Once again, Hollywood takes a perfectly fine foreign film and thinks it can do better, simply by throwing an enormous amount of money at a remake and hiring top actors and an acclaimed director. I'll bet the catering budget alone for this bloated, unnecessary remake was bigger than the entire budget of the Swedish original.

What Hollywood can't do, though, these days, is originality. I very rarely even bother to go to the movie theater. Most U.S. movies are terrible. The only movies I watch are the occasional indie film, as well as European and, especially, East Asian movies. It's not because I'm an elitist, or a hipper-than-thou fanboy. It's simply because I'm bored stiff by 99 percent of what Hollywood does.

The best of Hollywood these days may be polished and technically accomplished. And there may be some good acting, here and there. But there is no real originality. And most importantly, there is little soul.

Today's Hollywood moguls only focus on a bland movie-by-committee approach that cynically has no other aim than to appeal to as many customers world-wide as possible. It makes for very lucrative business----but lousy art.

For me, the The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has its moments. But overall, it's just another depressing example of a Hollywood industry that is creatively bankrupt. Hollywood has become a parasite industry that just leeches off the ideas of other cultures. (Thank God for off-the-wall films like Tokyo Gore Police and Martyrs that are so extreme and uncompromising that it'd be impossible for Hollywood to remake them).

I realize that there are a lot of Fincher fan-boys who lap up everything he does. But to me, he's overrated.

For me, The Social Network was dull. Just the story of a bunch of pampered Ivy college kids without a care in the world, going to endless parties and expensive clubs.

Hmmm, interesting. When I worked my way through college, my life wasn't anything like this. Just a lot of brutal 16-hour shifts, misery, and constant worry about finding the money to pay the electric bill. And I was hardly the only one. (Actually, the struggles of working-class kids in college would make for a much more interesting film, in my opinion).

Oh, and I know a thing or two about building a popular Web business, too. The Social Network isn't anything like what I went through (or what anyone I know in the biz went through) in building a Web site business. There was little partying, or hanging around in clubs with beautiful models. Instead, there was just an enormous amount of tedious, grueling work, hunched over a computer terminal far into the night. No alcohol---but enormous amounts of coffee.

To be sure, my Web business is a mosquito, compared to the all-conquering behemoth that is Facebook. But I know enough about the biz to know that The Social Network is a fantasy (and an overrated, crap movie as well that is nothing like the real world of building a successful Web biz from scratch).

And as for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo---it's a totally unnecessary and inferior Hollywood remake of what was a perfectly fine original Swedish film.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Facts That Republicans Have A Hard Time Grasping: No. 1 In A Series


Republicans these days inhabit a world that is different from the rest of us. Their world is a hermetically-sealed unit through which certain facts can never penetrate. Argue with Republicans all you want, but you will never break through this barrier.

This is one reason you simply can't argue with Republicans on many issues of the day, from Global Warming to the missing WMDs in Iraq. No matter how many indisputable facts you toss into your argument, you'll simply never get anywhere.

In my experience, the Republican will simply deny the existence of facts. If that's not possible, he or she will claim that your source is unreliable (even if your source is rock-solid numbers from, say, the U.S. Treasury Department). If all else fails, the Republican will simply start screaming and shouting his point of the view (as though simply raising one's voice enhances one's argument). Finally, as a last resort, the Republican will simply try to change the subject, or just walk away.

I saw the above tactics in action during a recent argument with a right-wing friend. He was peddling the standard GOP line that "Obama's 2009 stimulus was a failure and a waste of taxpayer money." I pointed out to him that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the stimulus increased the number of people employed by between 0.4 million and 2.4 million. The CBO also noted that the stimulus raised GDP by between 0.3 and 1.9 percent in the third quarter of 2011. In other words, the stimulus was a success and it prevented the Second-Great-Depression-in-the-making that Obama inherited from Bush from ever happening.

My right-wing friend disputed the CBO report. The CBO, he claimed is a Liberal partisan group and in any case, their numbers are suspect. (This is probably what Rush has been peddling to his audience lately).

Earth to GOP: the CBO is hardly "partisan." Basically, it's the government's own statistics agency and its numbers are widely used by both the Republicans and the Democrats. The CBO is a mainstream government agency that is about as partisan as the phone book. All it does is crunch numbers, compile them and then release them to the public.

It speaks volumes about the GOP mindset that my friend would even attempt to attack the CBO as a "partisan" and "non-reliable" source. I mean, if a mainstream government agency like the CBO is unreliable, then who, exactly, is a reliable source?

While he bashes the CBO as "partisan" and "unreliable," my friend, during his arguments, routinely quotes anything and everything Rush Limbaugh says as the absolute gospel truth. If Rush said it, it must be true. Yes: this drug-using, obese, fact-challenged, racist, serial liar is a "reliable" source---and yet a mainstream non-partisan statistics agency like the CBO is "suspect."

Such is the alternate universe in which Republicans live.

Trying to inform these people about basic, fundamental facts that challenge their Rush-twisted world viewpoint is like trying to teach a shark to appreciate Mozart.

One of the hardest facts to try to get a Republican to accept is that the GOP in reality is NOT the fiscally conservative party that it sells itself as. In fact, the Democrats are America's fiscally conservative party as this chart (see below) clearly reveals.

Despite this, the GOP succeeds in continuing to sell their party as America's "fiscally conservative" party. By simply repeating this lie, over and over, they've managed to convince tens of millions of America of this---not just Republicans, but millions of independents, and even many Democrats.

Go to any encyclopedia and look up "Republican" and you'll consistently find the GOP described as America's "fiscally conservative" party. It's incredible that this image endures, despite decades of hard evidence to the contrary.

In this case, not only are Republicans oblivious to the facts. But so is virtually everyone else in America, from encyclopedia authors to the mainstream media. By simply repeating their mantra of "we support fiscal conservatism" over and over, the GOP has managed to pull the wool over everyone's eyes.

I'm sure that future historians, when they survey the wreckage of the collapsed American empire, will marvel that Republicans managed to fool so many people for so long.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Marc's Jukebox: The Anti-Nowhere League: "Let's Break the Law"



Sometimes a society passes bad laws. And bad laws deserve to be broken.

For example, take the law that enabled New York City's Michael Bloomberg to send in his heavy-handed cops to break up OWS's peaceful protest.

That was a bad law. And it was meant to be broken.

So was the law (the 2002 Iraq War Resolution) that enabled Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the rest of the NeoCon goons to launch their war of aggression against Iraq.

U.S. soldiers were obligated by U.S. law to participate in this war. But what they should have done is laid down their weapons and refused to fight. (Actually, some of them did just that---and they, in my opinion are the true heroes in the U.S. military).

The bottom line is that if the law of the land is a bad law, then We The People not only should break it, we have an obligation to do so.

Fighting against the oppression of the oligarchy that currently rules this nation is going to inevitably involve breaking some laws. I suspect that OWS is only the beginning. And the more the working class is oppressed today, the higher the odds that the People's Revolution that inevitably follows will turn violent someday.

Speaking of breaking laws, the British punk band The Anti-Nowhere League are a crew that I want on my side of the barricades, come the revolution. Actually, I'm not sure how politically aware these guys are. But there is definitely no mistaking their sincerity to the cause of creating mayhem in the streets, as a listen to their song, "Let's Break the Law" reveals.

The Anti-Nowhere League initially made a splash in the U.K. in 1982 with their classic album, We Are...The League, which soared up the independent charts that year. The album had many classic tunes, including a high-octane cover of Ralph McTell's "Streets of London," a celebration of the downtrodden, the oppressed, the lonely, and the forgotten members of society.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Today's Nazi Of The Day Award Goes To Rush Limbaugh


Today marks the inaugural edition of our Nazi of the Day Award. The first recipient of this award is: Rush Limbaugh.

True, any one of the right-wing talk show hosts that pollute our nation's airwaves with their toxic bile could be eligible for this award. (For example, Mark Levin is a truly creepy, twisted fascist who actually makes Limbaugh sound like a moderate and reasonable fellow at times, by comparison).

But let's face it: Herr Limbaugh is in a different league by virtue of the fact that he's been doing this so effectively and for so long. His racist, bigoted, Nazi ramblings long ago short-circuited the outrage meters of Liberals (and for that matter, anyone who isn't seriously mentally disturbed).

It's gotten so bad that Limbaugh can call First Lady Michelle Obama "uppity" and his use of that racially charged insult is only good for a moderate 12-hour news cycle before it is forgotten.

Quick question: in the past half-century has anyone ever used the word "uppity" in anything other than a Ku Klux Klan-like context? Has anyone ever used the word "Uppity" who wasn't a angry white bigoted male who was slamming African-Americans? If so, I've certainly never heard about it.

But using racially charged language is what Limbaugh excels at. His brief, after all, is to act as a matador of sorts for the Rich and Powerful in America. As a matador, he waves a red flag as a distraction to trick millions of gullible angry white working class people into voting against their own interests.

But how does Limbaugh achieve this feat of manipulating his audience into voting for the party of billionaires? It's simple. He does it by shamelessly scapegoating African-Americans.

Hence, tens of millions of Limbaugh's listeners are convinced that the source of all their problems is that the government supposedly is stealing their hard-earned dollars and handing it out to lazy black people who don't work.

Never mind that America's social safety net for the poor is already embarrassingly threadbare for a First World nation. Never mind that millions of low-income people never receive a dime of welfare in this country. Never mind that corporate welfare and welfare for the rich and powerful is vastly more costly than our nation's skimpy programs for the poor.

I've long believed that, for all his hundreds of millions of dollars in income, Limbaugh has the easiest job in America. All he does is sit on his fat ass and spew lies into a microphone for three hours a day.

The Pig-Man does zero research and zero fact-checking. Of course, none of this matters, as his audience laps it all up with a spoon. They dismiss Media Matters and other fact-checking sites that expose Limbaugh's many daily lies and his blatant racism.

"It's all a Librul conspiracy to hurt Rush," the Ditto-Heads claim.

But while Limbaugh has an easy job, one thing he does do very well is the way he skillfully dances around the "N" word. Although he doesn't actually ever use the "N" word to demonize blacks, he very artfully dances around saying the word "n*gger" on the air.

In doing so, Limbaugh can use the language of the KKK in calling First Lady Michelle Obama "uppity" and then claim with a straight face that he is no racist. (This, despite, an established decades-long track record of making outrageously racist and bigoted statements).

You know, on a certain level, I think I actually have more respect for the likes of the KKK than I do for Limbaugh. After all, the KKK openly admits its racism. It doesn't try to hide anything. Give the KKK credit for one thing: they're honest and upfront about it. By contrast, Limbaugh truly sickens me the way he uses KKK-like language and then disingenuously claims that he not a racist.

So in addition to being a racist, he's also a liar.

Oh, and he's also a Nazi. In fact, I have no doubt that Reich Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels would find much to admire in Limbaugh's technique.

After all, Limbaugh is scapegoating African-Americans in much the same manner that Goebbels scapegoated the Jews.

Just as Limbaugh manages to convince his gullible audience than black people are somehow to blame for their problems, Nazis like Goebbels managed to convince millions of people that the Jews were the cause of many of Germany's woes. (The "stab-in-the-back legend" in which people like the Jews were blamed for Germany's World War I defeat is a good example of the latter).

Like Goebbels, Limbaugh is spewing his toxic nonsense in a decaying, declining nation. And I believe that, as was the case in the Third Reich, it's a situation that could eventually turn tragic.

After all, the more Limbaugh convinces his audience to vote against its own interest, the more we'll see the U.S. increasingly turn into a Third World nation. And the more the latter happens, the angrier and more bitter Limbaugh's audience will become. It's a vicious circle---and I believe it could someday lead to serious violence. These people are already heavily armed and they're very bitter and angry.

After all, America already has a sinister history of racial violence (although most Americans remain unaware of tragedies like the deadly 1921 Tulsa race riot).

Thanks to the legacy of three decades of increasingly extreme GOP policies, the U.S. today is a fading power. America's corrupt political leadership and the criminals run many of our largest corporations and financial institutions have driven this nation into the ground. Although the Top One Percent have never been a bunch of angels, I believe that today, they're more corrupt than ever. And, tragically, they now exercise total control over our government more than they ever have in our nation's history, thanks to Supreme Court rulings like Citizens United.

In previous decades, America's rich realized that while it's OK to gorge themselves at the banquet table, it's smart to occasionally brush off a few crumbs onto the floor for the rest of us. Today's wealthy elite don't even bother to do that. I mean, why bother when you have the likes of Limbaugh to poison the minds of millions of working-class people and to persuade them to vote against their own interests?

As Bill Maher once said, democracy doesn't work when people vote against their own interests. So, in addition to his other crimes, Limbaugh is playing a key role in the dismantling of democracy in America. Clearly, Limbaugh, with his outspoken support for wars of aggression, stolen elections, state-sponsored torture, and his contempt for democracy, would feel right at home in the Third Reich.

So there you have it: today's Nazi of the Day Award goes to Rush Limbaugh. I'm sure that Adolf Hitler would be proud.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens: A Champion of Reason Or A NeoCon Toady?


On the excellent Infidel753 blog, I recently noticed that the site owner was paying tribute to Christopher Hitchens with a YouTube video that praises the man and his work.

Personally, I believe Hitchens' work on atheism and other topics is commendable--but outweighed by his despicable support for the Iraq War and his shameful propagandizing on behalf of Bush/Cheney and the rest of the NeoCons who have the blood of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis on their hands.

The comment thread below, which originally appeared on the Infidel753 blog, sums up my thoughts about this. I'd be curious to know: do readers of this blog agree or disagree? Does Hitchens' fine and intelligent body of work outweigh his support for the Iraq War? Or does Hitchens' parroting of Bush/Cheney lies damage his integrity and his reputation for intellectual honesty?

The comment thread, from Nov. 13, 2011:

I like this blog and you have a lot of good content. But frankly, I must disagree with all this praise for Christopher Hitchens.

Personally, I will always despise Hitchens for his outspoken support for the Iraq War. That horrific gang-rape of the Iraqi people was probably the world's greatest tragedy since Vietnam.

And every step of the way, Hitchens had his nose firmly up Bush's ass and loudly supported that fiasco.

I consider what Hitchens did to be even more reprehensible that the war-mongering coverage at "news" networks like Fox.

Hitchens' cheerleading for the war was actually more sickening than the likes of Limbaugh. After all, to any sensible, informed person, Limbaugh is a clown and his words carry little weight.

But many Americans (even the well-informed) bizarrely seem to believe that anyone who speaks with a British accent is somehow more intelligent than the rest of us.

As Hitchens is regarded as an "intellectual", his words on Iraq were far more influential to reasonable, intelligent opinion-makers than the likes of Fox News.

What's worse, is that Hitchens downright LIED about Iraq on many occasions. It's one thing to support this evil war. But to lie through his teeth about it was just downright evil. Memo to Hitchens: there was NO CONNECTION between Al Qaeda and Saddam--despite what you and Bush claimed otherwise on many occasions.

Hitchens may have done some good in his philosophical writing. But these were far outweighed, in my opinion, by his support for the evil that was the Iraq War.

A message to the many middle-class people in this video, sitting in their cushy, comfortable homes sipping scotch: please, spare a thought for the hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqi civilians---all senselessly slaughtered in a war of lies that Hitchens passionately supported.

A response from site owner, "Infidel753":

MM: I consider Hitchens a great intellectual because of his writings and speeches against religion, not because of his accent. Yes, he was wrong about Iraq, but there is no one out there who has never been wrong about something.

To me, his contribution to the central struggle -- the struggle against religion -- far outweighs his errors on Iraq.

My response:

>>Yes, he was wrong about Iraq,
>>but there is no one out there
>>who has never been wrong about

Yes, I agree with you here. However, eight long years after the invasion of Iraq, it'd be nice to finally hear Hitchens say, "OK, I was wrong on this issue."

I don't expect to ever hear that from the likes of Bush, Cheney or Rumsfeld. But it'd be nice to hear Hitchens say it after all this time. It'd be nice to also hear an apology for the vicious attacks he made on the likes of Michael Moore, Cindy Sheehan, and other anti-war figures.

Having said that, I did read Hitchens' God is Not Great some time back and I do admit, it was a very good book.

BTW, sorry about the tone of my previous comment. I do tend to get blinded by rage over all matters, re: Iraq War. Rather than "despising" Hitchens, I guess the more accurate term would be that I'm disappointed in him, at least on this issue.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Memo to Rick Perry: Next Time, Read Your Palm Like Sarah Palin



Texas Gov. Rick Perry suffered one of the most spectacular debate fiascos in history Thursday night when he was unable to name the third of three government agencies that he'd eliminate, if elected president.

A couple of quick observations about Perry's latest idiocy. One: in the future, he should follow the example of Sarah Palin. Next time, Perry should write down notes on his palm, like Palin did in a TV interview in 2010 (see above video).

A second, and less funny, observation: I disagree that this latest episode dooms Perry's campaign. After all, Perry still has the most potent weapon in U.S. politics: lots of deep-pocketed financial backers. These are ruthless, powerful people who are used to getting their way.

Another advantage Perry enjoys: tens of millions of fanatical GOP voters who are chomping at the bit to cast their vote for anyone besides President Obama in 2012.

Think I'm exaggerating? Consider this: in 2004, George W. Bush was presiding over one of the most disastrous terms that any president has inflicted upon the nation in history. And what did voters do? They turned around and sent Bush back to the White House for another four years.

We should remember: it's still a long, long ways to Election Day, 2012.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sexual Harassment Report Aside, How Can a Moron Like Herman Cain Be Considered A Candidate for President in the First Place?


GOP front-runner Herman Cain's campaign is denying "allegations Sunday that he was twice accused of sexual harassment while he was the head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s."

Will this report amount to anything? Will the mainstream media continue to explore this story, or will it disappear after a 24-hour news cycle?

I have no idea. What I do know, though, is that Cain is a blithering idiot. His comments on abortion alone confirm this.

The fact that this alone hasn't sunk Cain's presidential ambitions is proof positive that GOP candidates are simply held to a standard by the MSM that is trillions of miles removed from Democrats.

Note that President Obama has been raked over the coals now for months over a simple gaffe that he made, mispronouncing the word, "corpsman." Talk to a Republican and they're all familiar (and livid) over this "story."

By contrast, I'd bet that most Americans have never ever heard of George W. Bush's joking about missing WMDs.

In one of the most jaw-droppingly offensive performances by any U.S. politician in history, Bush laughed and joked about the missing WMDs in Iraq, during his March 24, 2004 appearance at the White House Correspondents Dinner.

Of course, I guess the MSM does have an excuse for not reporting this. After all, they were there that night, listening to Bush, and laughing heartily at his "humor."

Back to the topic of Cain and abortion. If you've heard Cain's pronouncements on abortion, you know that this issue alone should disqualify him from being president.

After all, we're not talking about mispronouncing a single word. In our 24/7 media era, our presidents tend to live a goldfish bowl existence, in which they have cameras pointed at them for hours every day. It's perfectly understandable that, after a typical hectic, grueling day, that a president would have a brain fart and mispronounce a word. It doesn't mean they're stupid.

But trying telling that to the Repukes. Every single one of them I've spoke to is convinced that Obama mispronouncing a word "proves" that he is stupid and unfit for office. Oh, and he also showed "disrespect" to the troops with this gaffe, they claim. (But of course, Bush didn't disrespect the troops when he lied the nation into a war that slaughtered over 4,400 U.S. soldiers---and then later joked about the missing WMDs). Such is the creepy, twisted worldview of Republicans these days.

Speaking of creepy and twisted, what Cain has said about abortion is so incoherent that it borders on surreal. Watch the video below. Cain's position on this topic is literally all over the map.

Even though he is making his pronouncements on abortion on friendly (Fox "News") territory, the hosts are staring at him in amazement. Cain's gibberish makes anything Michelle Bachmann ever said sound like Einstein. Cain flip flops back and forth on a variety of positions on abortion probably a dozen times, just in this one short interview. It's an astonishing sight to behold. Is this a Saturday Night Live comedy sketch or is it the reality that is the complete moron named Herman Cain?

What's even more amazing about Cain's gibberish is that abortion, of course, is one of the key issues for any GOP politician. In some ways, it is the key issue, for millions of GOP voters. That a Republican candidate wouldn't have at least rehearsed a coherent position on abortion is mind-boggling.

I mean, abortion simply isn't a difficult position for a Republican is it? "I'm Pro-Life." That's really all you have to say in order to satisfy the base. I mean, f*ck those cases involving rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. The base doesn't give a sh*t about any of that. They just wanna hear you say you're "Pro-Life." How hard can it be?

Simply put, Cain is a blithering idiot. The fact that he is still somehow in the race to be president says a lot about the Decline and Fall of the American Empire, as the rot, the corruption, and the stench of decay settles in upon our crumbling nation. And the fact that he is now the GOP front-runner is positively surreal.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Marc's Jukebox: Halloween Edition: The Damned's "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"



From time to time on this blog, I've presented a regular feature called, Progressive Music Classics, which spotlights notable and challenging Left-Wing music. Today, I'm launching a new music feature, Marc's Jukebox, in which I'll occasionally highlight a song or band that I believe has been unfairly neglected over the years.

Today's tune is "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," by British band, The Damned. With a classic horror theme, it's a perfect song for Halloween.

"Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," appeared on The Damned's 1980 double album, The Black Album. If that title sounds familiar, it's because it's been ripped off by other artists over the years, most notably by Prince (in 1987) and by Jay-Z (in 2003), among other artists. To my knowledge, The Damned were the first to use this title for a record (in homage, of course, to The Beatles' "White Album").

If you've not heard of them before, The Damned are a long-running British music act that started out as a punk band in 1976. The band was notable early on for being the first U.K. band to release a single, ("New Rose," in 1976). The band went on to release Damned Damned Damned and Machine Gun Etiquette, two of the greatest punk albums ever made.

Unlike critically acclaimed bands like The Sex Pistols and The Clash, the Damned were never about trying to "make a statement," or creating "Art." They were only in it to have a good time. And in this, they succeeded brilliantly. It's impossible for me to imagine anyone with any interest in rock music listening to The Damned's best work and not wanting to get up and dance. This is life-affirming music that is first and foremost fun.

After the Great Punk Explosion of 1977 began to wane, The Damned, like their contemporaries, began to think about what do for an encore after punk. The band still enjoyed three-chord high-energy punk rave-ups, but clearly was eager to explore other styles as well.

Just as The Beatles once embraced a variety of music styles with their 1968 "White Album," The Damned also decided to branch out. The Black Album, which arrived in October 1980, showed a new side to the band. I remember buying the U.K. import and being very impressed at the variety of styles: from punk to garage to psychedelia to cabaret(!). The album showed a new "mature" Damned who were capable, as "Dr. Jekyll" showed, of writing memorable melodies. (For its U.S. release, The Black Album was whittled down to a one-disk release and sank without a trace).

Although I wasn't really much of a Damned fan before, The Black Album quickly converted me. I remember eagerly looking forward to their 1982 follow-up, Strawberries. It was another classic Damned release. The U.K. import arrived in an elaborate package that literally smelled of strawberries. It was a great gimmick (and, of course, gimmicks like this, along with colored vinyl, were one of the things that made the vinyl era so exciting for music fanatics). I suspect it's the sort of thrill that today's music fans would have a hard time understanding, as they go to iTunes and buy sterile MP3 files.

After Strawberries, my interest in The Damned waned. The band went silent for several years and, when they resurfaced, with 1985's Phantasmagoria I wasn't particularly impressed and moved on. By then, there were too many other amazing bands competing for my attention (The Smiths, The Nightingales, Sonic Youth). (Actually, looking back, Phantasmagoria was a worthy release and showed the band further exploring gothic horror themes).

In my opinion, The Damned has been unfairly neglected by the masses over the years. They were never critical darlings, and they never cultivated the respect of bands like Sex Pistols and The Clash. With a few exceptions, they never had much chart success in their native U.K. (and, of course, had zero commercial impact in the U.S.)

Still, The Damned are survivors (they continue to this day) and they still have loyal fans around the world. They should be recognized as one of the true great original punk bands (and well as a great rock'n'roll band, period). Although I'm sure the Hall of Fame will never come knocking, that's probably just fine with The Damned. In fact, as punk heroes, they wouldn't have it any other way.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Steve Jobs Represented Much Of What's Wrong With The U.S. Economy Today


The late Steve Jobs was a genius. He was an incredibly shrewd businessman. And he was a marketing wizard.

Jobs was the larger-than-life visionary behind Apple, which has been hailed as one of the all-time great American economic success stories.

But there's one big problem with this rosy picture. The fact is, Apple represents a great deal of what's wrong with the U.S. economic system today.

Since around 1980, the U.S. capitalism has increasingly become a "winner take all" system. This corresponded with a trend in which the very top elite in society began seeing an enormous increase in their compensation. These "winners" included everyone from CEOs to movie stars to hedge fund managers to sports superstars.

And nobody was more representative of this new breed of elite "winners" than Jobs.

The only problem is that, since 1980, wages started stagnating for the rest of us. Allowing for inflation, average workers' wages have barely budged in more than three decades.

The result is that America now has the income inequality levels of a Third World nation. In fact, the top 400 richest Americans now own a titanic amount of wealth that exceeds the combined wealth of the bottom 155 million Americans.

And that's only the beginning of the problems with U.S. capitalism today.

However, if you talk to the vast majority of economists today, they'll tell you that the American economy is still the world's crown jewel economy. We have nothing to learn from the likes of East Asia or Europe nations, the economic "experts" tell us. In fact, Europe and China ought to be taking notes from us, they claim.

As an "Exhibit A" of their claims, economists usually point to the great U.S. corporate success stories that have emerged in recent years: Google, eBay, Facebook and, first and foremost: Apple Inc.

While Americans fret over the ongoing destruction of the nation's once world-beating manufacturing base, our free-market economists and globalist politicians tell us not to worry. After all, they claim, high-tech, prosperous companies like Apple will ensure that the U.S. remains economically dominant.

But out here in the real world, there's a big problem with these grand claims. They simply don't hold up to scrutiny.

America, after all, has lost millions of good-paying manufacturing jobs just in the past 10 years. We've lost over 42,000 factories, just since 2001. By contrast, even America's most prosperous and high-profile companies, like Apple, haven't even come close to replacing the job losses in the manufacturing sector. Hence, America's stubbornly high jobless rates (and the even more troubling absence of new well-paid jobs).

For all the grand claims made upon its behalf, it is important to note that Apple is still a remarkably small company. That shouldn't be surprising, considering that Apple doesn't actually manufacture the products it sells. Apple only employs about 50,000 people worldwide. That's a mere drop in the bucket, compared to the great U.S. corporate success stories of the past, like General Motors. In fact, even today, a vastly-shrunken GM still employs over 200,000 workers in the U.S. alone.

A second problem with Apple is that many of its workers are not particularly well-paid. Sure, the likes of Jobs and other company top elites have pocketed enormous pay packages. But the average Apple employees make mediocre wages. In fact, most of Apple's employees simply consist of the unskilled sales people in the company's retail stores.

All of this represents serious problems for any economist who holds up the likes of Apple as an "Exhibit A" of how America's economy still supposedly leads the world.

Economists also hail the likes of Apple's wildly popular iPhone as proof that America is still in the world's technological forefront. At first glance, it appears that this claim is valid. After all, the iPhone is a high-tech marvel. And it is in heavy demand, worldwide.

The problem is: is the iPhone really even an "American" product?

Yes, it is sold by Apple, an American company. Yes, Apple came up with the concept. And yes, Apple does all the marketing.

But who really manufactures the iPhone? If you said, "China," you're only partly right.

The fact is the real heavy lifting and the technological wizardry that makes the iPhone possible comes from Japan (and to a lesser extent, Germany). This shouldn't really be surprising: virtually all of the world's most advanced manufacturing takes place in either Japan or Germany these days.

China does have a high-profile role in the building of the iPhone in that Foxconn, the Taiwanese-owned assembler of the iPhone, has captured a lot of media publicity over the harsh working conditions of its workers in mainland China. By contrast, Germany and Japan's vastly more important role in the iPhone's production is virtually invisible.

But it's important to note that China's only role is the assembly of the iPhone. (Assembly is by far the least sophisticated part of the modern manufacturing process).

The real high-tech manufacturing heavy lifting is done mostly by Japan. That shouldn't be surprising: Japan has long completely monopolized the making of the key, crucial components at the heart of all the world's smart phones.

So is the iPhone really an "American" product?

Consider this: as Robert Reich pointed out in an article in December:

About $61 of the $179 price goes to Japanese workers who make key iPhone components, $30 to German workers who supply other pieces, and $23 to South Korean workers who provide still others. Around $6 goes to the Chinese workers who assemble it. Most of the rest goes to workers elsewhere around the globe who make other bits.

And the share of the U.S. workers (whose role is mostly research and design on the iPhone): a mere $11.

It's clear that the iPhone is really much more of a Japanese product than it is an American product. The key, crucial enabling components that make smart phones like the iPhone possible are made only in Japan. By contrast, the iPhone's research and design work could be done in any number of countries which excel in R&D (everywhere from Israel to South Korea).

Note that barriers to entry for service economy activities tend to be vastly lower than those for high-tech manufacturing.

These days, high-tech smart phones are designed by a number of nations, from Finland to Taiwan to South Korea. South Korea's Samsung, for example, makes phones (like the Galaxy S2) that rival and even surpass the iPhone technologically. And it's important to note that all these nations' phone builders get their high-tech phone components from the same Japanese suppliers as Apple does.

What's troubling about all this is that it completely upends the "conventional wisdom" about the global economy that has been sold to the American people over the past few decades. The conventional wisdom dictates that America's loss of millions of manufacturing jobs was an "inevitable" part of economic globalization. And in any case, we're told, U.S. manufacturers supposedly can't compete these days, unless they move their jobs overseas, where they can pay lower wages.

But if America's free-market economists and globalist politicians ever took a look at the real world for a change, they'd see that the "conventional wisdom" is wrong.

For a start, nations like Japan and Germany are simply no longer low-wage countries. Both have wages that are as high, if not higher, than what U.S. workers earn. Both nations have strong organized labor and strict pro-labor laws that would be inconceivable to Americans. Mass layoffs are virtually impossible in both nations. And the extremely strong yen of recent years has made Japan a particularly expensive nation to do business in. But despite all these "obstacles," both nations continue to go from strength to strength in leading the world in high-tech manufacturing.

(Incidentally, the story that Japan has been "struggling" economically that has been widely peddled by the U.S. media in recent years is nothing more than a myth).

In short, there must be other reasons why the likes of Apple rely on Japanese and German suppliers for key iPhone components. Low wages and low manufacturing costs simply can't be the reason.

It's clear that a big part of the reason is that the U.S. simply can't compete with nations like Japan or Germany in high-tech manufacturing. The reasons for this are many: everything from America's abysmal public education system to our nation's crumbling infrastructure to our complete lack of a logical industrial policy.

By contrast, nations like Japan and Germany have honed carefully planned long-term industrial policies aimed at boosting both nations' industrial competitiveness.

It is extremely unlikely that the U.S. will ever regain its former high-tech edge. After all, no economic activity on earth has higher entry barriers than high-tech manufacturing. This is evidenced by the fact that all the world's high-tech manufacturing these days still takes place in the First World, rather than low-wage nations like China.

To give just one example: aerospace. While Boeing has lost market share in recent years, it hasn't lost it to low-wage Third World nations. Rather, it has lost market share to the high-wage First World producers of Airbus.

Incidentally, Boeing shares with Apple the same distinction of being a U.S. company that increasingly can't manufacture the products it sells. Note that the 787 Dreamliner, Boeing's latest generation Boeing jet, is largely made by overseas suppliers. And Japan is the nation that has the most crucial role in building the Dreamliner: the manufacture of the Dreamliner's extremely sophisticated, high-tech carbon fiber composite wings.

The fact that Japan placed massive early orders for the Dreamliner has little to do with "market forces" and everything to do with long-term Japanese industrial policy. With every new generation of Boeing airliner, Japan has negotiated to manufacture a bigger share of each plane. It's clear the Japanese eventually intend to dispense with Boeing entirely in the future and go it alone in developing its own commercial airliner industry.

It's clear that, far from being a showcase of U.S. high-tech might, Apple in fact reveals many of America's shortcomings in the modern global economy.

And for all the praise heaped upon Steve Jobs over the years, it's clear that his role in making the iPhone a reality was greatly exaggerated.

Jobs' role was akin to Aladdin rubbing the magic lamp. The super-sophisticated high-tech manufacturers of Japan and Germany then brought Jobs' ideas to reality.

Of course, the limelight-loving Jobs got all the glory---which is perfectly in sync with the "winner take all" ethos that characterizes today's U.S. economy. And no doubt, all that was just fine with the industrial planners of Japan and Germany, who are happy to take a low-profile role. The reason for the latter is that, if both nations' roles in the iPhone were heavily scrutinized by the U.S. media, it would shine an unwelcome spotlight on policies that have methodically decimated America's high-tech manufacturing in recent years.

Yes, Apple came up with the idea for the iPhone. But it's clear that other nations benefited vastly more from the manufacturing process of the iPhone than American workers ever did.

And this raises a troubling questions about the state of U.S. capitalism today. America continues to lose millions of good-paying manufacturing jobs. And it's clear that the likes of Apple are simply never going to be able to create jobs to replace those that have been lost. This is no small point when you consider than Apple now rivals Exxon Mobil as America's most valuable corporation.

Today's America continues to bleed the sort of good-paying manufacturing jobs that made possible the Great American Middle Class. The latter made America's economy the envy of the world for decades. The jobs that are replacing the lost jobs tend to be low-skilled and low-paying (think Walmart and McDonald's).

And even the occasional U.S. economic success story like Apple these days offers little to cheer ordinary American workers. After all, as noted above, Apple is not a particularly large company---and most of the jobs it creates in the U.S. are unskilled and not particularly well-paid. The only real U.S. beneficiaries from companies like Apple are the handful of people at the very top, as well as the stockholders (which, of course, are not only in the U.S., but worldwide).

In the 1950s, it was once claimed that "What's good for General Motors is good for the U.S." And actually that statement had a kernel of truth to it. General Motors, after all, in those days, offered hundreds of thousands of workers good-paying jobs that helped built the backbone of the Great American Middle Class.

But economic titans like Apple that outsource all their high-tech manufacturing will never play a similar role in today's economy. And as a result, the once-Great American Middle Class continues to shrink. Today's America has a Top One Percent that increasingly owns everything, while the bottom 99 percent become more impoverished, year by year.

Far from being the "crown jewel" of today's economy, it's clear that Apple represents a great deal of what has gone wrong with the U.S. economy since 1980.

It's inconceivable that a genius like Jobs never grasped the fact that the massive outsourcing of high-tech manufacturing jobs (as practiced by Apple) posed a serious, long-term threat to the U.S. economy. It's a shame that Jobs never used his high-profile position to call attention to this crisis, or to offer proposals to fix the problem. Instead, he was simply happy to outsource everything, make loads of money, and keep his mouth shut on the issue.

Jobs has been hailed as a genius and visionary who contributed a great deal to the U.S. economy. But I beg to differ. In reality, he was nothing more than a narcissistic, greedy, modern-day Robber Baron whose policies account for a great deal of what is wrong with the U.S. economy today as America continues its long-term decline.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Bush Was Greater Force For Evil In The World Than Gaddafi Ever Was


It's hard to see Muammar Gaddafi's death Thursday as anything other than positive for the world. However, there's a couple of issues that continue to trouble me about the dictator's violent end.

One is that if those who killed Gaddafi really wanted to show the world that they were morally superior to the dictator, they should have given him a trial. If Libya is really going to turn over a new leaf and become a democracy, it will now do so on a weak foundation of violent, blood-soaked anarchy.

Gaddafi was a tyrant. But for any nation that is supposedly based on the rule of law, even tyrants deserve a trial. The exact circumstances surrounding Gaddafi's end are murky, but the videos of chaotic scenes around Gaddafi's bloody, battered body show lynch mob rule at its worst.

The world is better off without Gaddafi. But frankly, lynch mob violence is nothing to be celebrated.

The second issue that nags at me is that the U.S. media once again fails to put things into perspective about Gaddafi. Let's be clear, the man was a tyrant. But he was a third-rate dictator who presided over a poor and relatively small Third World country that has little real influence in the world.

If you stop and think about it, George W. Bush was a far greater force for evil in the world than Gaddafi ever was.

Take the Iraq War for example. This was a totally unnecessary, illegal, immoral war that killed as many as 1.4 million Iraqi men, women and children civilians.

Gaddafi was guilty of many crimes over the years, but these were all nickel-dime crimes compared to the Iraq War.

I'm old enough to remember back in the 1970s when U.S. leaders like President Carter would criticize other nations for human rights violations. From time to time, we'd hear about some dictator in a far-off land that was guilty of human rights violations, including (gasp!) the crime of torture.

Fast-forward to 2011. These days, America still goes around the world and lectures other nations about human rights. But our words simply don't carry the same weight as they did when Carter was president.

After all, under Bush, we became the nation with little respect for human rights. We became the nation that invaded other countries that posed no threat to us. We became the nation that waged wars based on lies. We became the the nation that ran hell holes like Gitmo and stunned the world with the shocking photos of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib.

We became the nation that thumbed its nose at international law.

In short, under Bush, we became an outlaw nation.

Make no mistake, Gaddafi was a tyrant. But he was a nickel-dime, small-time crook, compared to the truly massive crimes of the likes of Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and the rest of the NeoCons that caused an enormous amount of death and destruction around the world.

Gaddafi ultimately paid a horrible price for his crimes, as the videos of his battered, bloody body show. By contrast none of Bush's NeoCon team has ever faced any sort of justice for their crimes. Indeed, they continue to thrive on the lucrative book-writing and lecture circuit and no doubt will continue to pocket many tens of millions of dollars for the rest of their comfortable, prosperous lives.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Progressive Music Classics. The Mekons' "Fight the Cuts"



Welcome to another edition of Progressive Music Classics.

In the era of "Occupy Wall Street," this is what it all comes down to: As Noam Chomsky has pointed out, every single right that workers today enjoy was fought for, tooth and claw. The 40-hour week. The minimum wage. The dole.

Hell, even the right of 8-year-old kids to not have to work in a dangerous, filthy coal mine in order to line the pockets of greedy plutocrats (who only ended child labor when legislation forced them to).

Now, the bastards want to take it all away from us. Everything from the New Deal to Medicare.

It's interesting how there's always trillions of dollars readily available for war, death and destruction and "military" profiteers.

But when it comes to the working class, "our" government can never do enough slashing and burning of the programs that we fought for decades to give us a decent life with some measure of dignity.

So while these plutocrats are spending trillions on the likes of Halliburton and the crooks on Wall Street, they're always claiming that the "money just isn't there" for "wasteful" domestic spending.

Yes, that's definitely the problem. Our nation simply has the wrong priorities.
We just spend too goddamn much on the likes of roads, bridges, schools, teachers
and firefighters.

In this song, Britain's mighty Mekons spell out what the working class must do: Fight the Cuts.

The Mekons have been going for some three decades now. Most of their existence,
they've produced a unique body of work that draws inspiration from the likes of
Hank Williams (the original, not his fascist retard son) as well as other traditional
country music, folk and rebel music.

But in an earlier incarnation in the late 70s, the Mekons were a punk band. On "Fight the Cuts" the band are gloriously amateurish and fired up by righteous progressive anger at the outrages of Tory Britain.

As the "Occupy Wall Street" continues to grow, it's important that we Fight the Cuts that the Ruling Class Pigs are trying to force down our throats.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Film Review: Lars von Trier's "Melancholia"



Picture this: there's a wedding ceremony and party at a big, beautiful estate, where dozens of upper-middle class people have gathered to celebrate. Lots of family, friends, good times and bad. Laughing, drinking, toasting, arguing and crying--and then drinking some more.

Oh, and a mysterious planet has appeared out of nowhere and is about to crash into the earth, ending all life.

Sounds like my kind of movie.

If you're fed up with the usual predictable Hollywood dreck these days, you should check out Melancholia, the new film by the Danish director, Lars von Trier, who created such controversial films as Dancer in the Dark and Antichrist.

Von Trier's films (and his eccentric personality) tend to divide his audience. Either you love him or you hate him. But I will give him credit for making thought-provoking films that push the boundaries and give little consideration to commercial appeal.

Melancholia is by turns strange, outlandish and depressing. In fact, depression is a big theme in the film. It's a topic that von Trier (who himself has suffered from crippling depression) knows a thing or two about. Melancholia won't cheer you up. But it will make you think about our short existence on this earth in ways you never have.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

I Smack Down An Obama-bashing "Financial Times" Columnist


I've long been of the opinion that Britain's The Financial Times is the best newspaper in the English-speaking world. It has everything that has been increasingly disappearing from U.S. newspapers since the 1970s: solid in-depth reporting; outstanding international news coverage; and a welcome absence of fluff, sleaze and sensationalism.

The New York Times often smugly claims that it is the "best newspaper in the world." To which I say: bullsh*t. Maybe the Times was the best 40 years ago. But it's important to note that the The New York Times has been coasting on past glories for decades. (This is a paper, recall, that featured the stories of one Judith Miller, a reporter who worked tirelessly in 2003 to assure us that Bush's case for war in Iraq was solid). It should be no surprise that Miller went on to work for Fox "News." She and Fox were made for each other.

In my opinion, The Financial Times is better than the The New York Times ever was. But even FT has a few weak spots. One is the columnist Christopher Caldwell, who regularly pens articles that unfairly bash President Obama.

In one recent column, Caldwell slammed Obama for supposedly not working with Republicans in addressing the health-care crisis. I've heard this argument before, from the likes of right-wing talk radio and Fox and frankly, it is a crock.

I responded with a letter to the editor that set the record straight. I expect my letter, which appeared today in the FT, will in turn get typically incoherent responses from the handful of wingnuts who read the FT.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

America Prospered in the 1950s With a 91-percent High-End Tax Rate


I must admit, listening to the current debate over President Obama's tax hike proposal is a surreal experience. It just goes to show you that in the modern era, Americans have memories that stretch back no more than 15 minutes.

During the 1950s, America had a 91 percent high-end tax rate. If the 50s had been a dismal economic decade, then it could stand as "Exhibit A" for the GOP to use in attacking high tax rates today.

But in reality, it was an extremely prosperous decade for America. In fact, it was a prosperous decade for the great majority of Americans (in contrast to the past three decades, which have seen only the Top One Percent prosper). In fact, in many ways, the 1950s was a truly golden decade. While it wasn't, of course, perfect, the 1950s seems like a million miles away from today's Third World-like America.

In the 1950s, American workers made the highest wages in the world. We also enjoyed the best workers' benefits and the longest vacations. Most high-tech products were made in America. I'm not sure what the world's top 10 corporations and top 10 banks were in the 50s. But I'd bet they were all American.

American had a trade SURPLUS in the 50s. The dollar was strong. The U.S. middle class was the envy of the world. The U.S. made the best cars in the world. America's manufacturing base and infrastructure were second to none. U.S. public schools trounced their counterparts worldwide. Nations around the world regularly sent representatives here to study how we did it.

The 1950s was the decade that America became AMERICA, the superpower. We really were No. 1 back in the 50s. Today, we're only No. 1 in the minds of the "Rah Rah U.S.A.!" jingoistic retards of the Tea Party.

And all of this with a high-end 91 percent income tax rate.

Today's Republicans condemn Obama's attempts to raise the tax rate even modestly. They'd have us believe that even a small increase in taxes on billionaires would be disastrous for the U.S. economy.

The GOP, as usual, relies on the ignorance of the American public. I mean, how many people even know that the high-end tax rate was ever as high as 91 percent in the U.S.? I talk to Republicans all the time who're convinced that tax rates today are the highest they've ever been in U.S. history. Credit the Great GOP Noise Network of Fox/Drudge/Rush for dumbing down tens of millions of Americans.

Today's Republicans are always babbling on about "What Would Reagan Do?" (In fact, Reagan himself raised taxes on 11 occasions).

I find it interesting, though, how the Republicans never consider "What Would Eisenhower Do?" I find it interesting how they ignore the wisdom of Eisenhower, a true American hero who won World War II for America and then presided over the booming, prosperous 1950s.

Today's Republicans completely ignore Ike. Instead they worship at the altar of Reagan, a mediocre president, a lousy B-movie actor, and a coward who never set foot outside of Hollywood during World War II.

The GOP worships at the altar of a man who had contempt for international law, who presided over a White House that illegally sold arms to terrorists in Iran and then used the money to fund terrorists in Central America. Oh, and Reagan more than tripled the national deficit, leaving America with the ever-growing multi-trillion dollar deficits that plague the U.S. to this day.

One wonders what Eisenhower would have made of today's GOP. I'd suspect he would be sickened by today's Republicans, who want to roll back the New Deal. In fact, he called those who would abolish Social Security "stupid."

"Should any political party attempt to abolish Social Security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid."
---President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1954

Monday, September 19, 2011

Palin Book Author Joe McGinniss Unfairly Attacked By "Liberal" Media Outlets


I have to admit, I'm baffled by the hostility coming from "Liberal" media outlets toward The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin, Joe McGinniss's new book.

For me, the only question is whether McGinniss's revelations about Palin are true or not. If Palin wants to dispute their accuracy, then fine: she can file a libel suit. Otherwise, she needs to STFU.

Another question is this: is it really important whether Palin snorted coke? Yes, I believe it is. Palin is a Bible-thumping, holier-than-thou, right-winger and a member of a political party that supports a harsh "lock-them-up-and-throw-away the-key" approach to drugs. That idiotic stance accounts for a large portion of the $200 billion that taxpayers are forced to pay yearly to keep 2.2 million Americans behind bars.

If Palin was a true Libertarian and openly supported decriminalization, then her personal drug use would not be that important. But given that she is on the far-right of a GOP party that has been responsible for the insane Drug War over the decades, then, yes: I do think people should know whether or not she's a hypocrite on this issue.

I also find it interesting how "Liberal" outlets like Salon are suddenly feeling so sorry for Poor Little Sarah. They're taking Mean Old Man McGinniss to task over his bare-knuckles expose of Palin's hypocrisy.

But all McGinniss is doing is serving up a big dose of what Palin has always served up to others in her bare-knuckle style of politics.

In fact, what Palin has done to others is far worse. After all, nothing McGinniss has written has proven to be wrong.

By contrast, Palin routinely lies and smears her opponents with outrageous falsehoods. Recall how she smeared President Obama's health-care bill with her despicable lie that it provided for "Death Panels."

Over the years, Palin has repeatedly smeared Obama with various malicious attacks. Recall how she claimed that Obama was "palling around with terrorists."

And let's not forget Palin's infamous "target" map that illustrated Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' 8th district with target crosshairs

As Giffords herself put it in an MSNBC interview 8 months before she was shot, "The way that she has it depicted has the cross hairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they have got to realize there are consequences to that action."

Frankly, the Democrats who are falling over themselves to slam McGinniss sicken me.

Increasingly since 1980, the GOP has come after the progressives with a switchblade. And we think we can fight back with politeness and good manners.

The increasingly rabid right-wing has gotten pretty much everything it wanted since 1980 with bare-knuckle tactics and fighting tooth and claw. They even stole at least one presidential election, simply because they were more aggressive in claiming they "won." And now, they're systematically tearing down what remains of America's social safety net.

And what have progressives gotten for all their politeness and good manners over the decades? Nothing. We've taken it up the ass over and over while the GOP has driven this nation over a cliff.

Look, progressives, if you want to criticize "bad" journalism, please give McGinniss a break. Instead, take the fight to Fox "News" and other right-wing propaganda outlets that are committing the real outrages in this country.

All McGinniss is doing is giving Palin a well-deserved dose of her own medicine. And by exposing her contemptible hypocrisy, he's doing the nation a favor.

Friday, September 09, 2011

A 9/11 Conspiracy Theory That Makes Sense


I find it interesting how, as we approach the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the whole once-noisy "Truther" movement seems to have faded away. 9/11 conspiracy theories were already on the wane before Bin Laden was killed. Now, they've faded into the woodwork.

I myself have long been allergic to conspiracy theories. Whether one is talking about the JFK killing, or Princess Diana's death, or 9/11, the problem is that conspiracy theories tend to suffer the common problems of either (A) being too implausible or (B) raising more questions that they answer.

Personally, I believe "our" government has yet to tell us the truth of what really happened on Sept. 11, 2001. But on the other hand, I'm not ready to join the ranks of those who believe that the Twin Towers were brought down by explosives that were covertly smuggled in.

Most 9/11 conspiracy theories I've heard are just wacky. They don't make much sense. For example, if the Twin Towers were really brought down by planted explosives, then what, exactly, was the whole point of the hijacked airliners? If some secret Bush cabal was really behind 9/11, then why not just detonate the towers and leave it at that? Why make the whole conspiracy vastly more complicated by including the hijacked airliners scenario?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not one of these Bush-supporting, Truther-bashing wingnuts who scoff at the very notion of a 9/11 conspiracy.

In fact, I personally believe that there was a 9/11 conspiracy. But it wasn't anything like the "Truther" movement has conceived. And unlike some elaborate James Bond-style plot, this 9/11 conspiracy theory was prompted by decidedly unsexy factors like plain old incompetence and the U.S. government's "cover-your-butt" mentality.

After all, as we now know, George W. Bush himself was real big on butt-covering himself. Exhibit A of the latter came on Aug. 6, 2001, when, in the middle of a 5-week vacation, Bush was handed a Presidential Daily Briefing that warned: "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." Bush's response that day was to tell his CIA briefers: "All right. You've covered your ass, now."

However, unlike most of the elaborate, far-fetched 9/11 conspiracy theories out there, there is one conspiracy theory that actually makes sense.

My own 9/11 conspiracy theory is as follows. The Saudi government (or at least powerful, key elements of it) knew about the 9/11 attacks in advance. And what's more, powerful key players in the U.S. government now know that the Saudis knew in advance.

Note that I'm not saying that the U.S. government knew about 9/11 in advance. But I do believe it's highly plausible that key players in our government did know, after the fact, that the Saudis knew in advance.

Personally, I think this conspiracy theory makes sense and it goes a long ways toward explaining a number of mysteries that linger from that day.

For example, Truthers have long (rightly) been skeptical about why the Bush White House long fought to cover any 9/11 investigations with a veil of secrecy.

Whether one believes in a conspiracy or not, one undeniable fact is that our government has long been working hard to cover up something.

I believe the 9/11 conspiracy theory I've presented would explain several other mysteries. One is why the Bush White House was so eager to fly various Saudis, including extended members of Bin Laden's own family, out of the country, in the days following 9/11.

Some commentators, including Michael Moore, raised this issue years ago. Now, a decade after 9/11, this mystery continues to be unexplained. In fact, at least one flight of a Saudi national took place during the period in which all flights were ordered grounded by the FAA. For three years, the White House denied the very existence of this Sept. 13, 2001, flight, from Tampa, Fla. to Lexington, Ky.---that is, until Tampa International Airport finally confirmed it, in 2004.

(Note that the Snopes.com site attempts to make the case that the Tampa, Fla. to Lexington, Ky. flight didn't actually occur before national airspace was open to general aviation. But in this case, it appears that Snopes.com is wrong).

It's clear, then the U.S. was giving the Saudis special treatment. But why? If the Saudis had damaging information about the U.S. government's 9/11 knowledge, this would make perfect sense.

It'd also explain why the U.S. always treated the Saudis with kid gloves after 9/11. It's odd when you consider that, at a time the Bush White House was already gearing up to go to war with Iraq (a nation that, of course, had nothing to do with 9/11), the Bush team was bending over backwards to accommodate the extraordinary demands of Saudi Arabia---the nation where 15 of the 19 hijackers came from.

The Saudis, in fact, rarely cooperated with the U.S. in the aftermath of 9/11. They refused for years to allow U.S. investigators access to the financial trail of the hijackers, for one thing.

Why, exactly, didn't the Bush White House press the Saudis on this valuable data? Could it be that the Saudis had the Bush team by the balls?

The U.S.-knew-that-the-Saudis-knew conspiracy theory would also explain a major mystery that was uncovered by investigative author Gerald Posner, in his 2003 book, Why America Slept: The Failure to Prevent 9/11.

In the book, Posner related the amazing story of the CIA interrogation of Saudi citizen Abu Zubaydah, a man who has never been charged with a crime, but who was waterboarded during CIA interrogations. (The CIA later destroyed videos of the interrogations in 2005).

Posner writes that the CIA flew Zubaydah to an Afghan complex painstakingly furnished to resemble a Saudi jail chamber, where "two Arab-Americans, now with Special Forces, would play the role of his new inquisitors."

Posner continues:

"What transpired in the next hour took the American investigators completely by surprise. When Zubaydah was confronted with men passing themselves off as Saudi security officers, his reaction was not fear but instead relief. The prisoner, who had been reluctant even to confirm his identity to his American captors, suddenly started talking animatedly. He was happy to see them, he said, because he feared the Americans would torture and then kill him. Zabaydah asked his interrogators to call a senior member of the ruling Saudi royal family. He then provided a private home number and a cell phone number from memory. "He will tell you what do," Zubaydah promised them."

Posner notes that, during the interrogation, Zubaydah revealed the names of four powerful figures, from both Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Not long afterward, all four people met untimely deaths, under mysterious circumstances.

What's notable about Posner's revelation is that he is an extremely skeptical writer who has built his career by debunking conspiracy theories. He is the author of two books that demolish many of the conspiracy theories surrounding the assassinations of JFK and MLK.

The more one reads about the Saudi government's behavior in the aftermath of 9/11, the more clear it becomes that the Saudis have long demanded (and received) extraordinary special treatment from the U.S. on all matters 9/11-related.

It's clear the U.S. government has been extremely reluctant to provoke the Saudis in any way. A reasonable explanation for this is that the Saudi have dirt on the U.S. government (or at least a number of powerful key players in our government). The U.S.-knew-that-the-Saudis-knew conspiracy theory would go a long ways toward explaining this mystery.

I'd expect that many conspiracy-weary readers will object to my theory on the grounds that President Obama would certainly have investigated and revealed this matter by now.

But if anything has been certain about Obama since he assumed the White House, it's that he simply isn't interested in investigating any of the crimes of the Bush administration. We've already seen clear evidence of that in other areas. After all, three years after the 2008 financial crash, not a single high-profile Wall Street player has faced criminal charges in the aftermath of what was the biggest financial fraud ever foisted upon the American people.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Real Reason Why TeaBaggers Are Up In Arms Over Light Bulbs


To hear the TeaBaggers tell it, the ban on incandescent bulbs is a good example of "Big Government" interfering with the lives of ordinary citizens.

At first glance, it might appear that the Tea Party has a point. After all, what right does the government have to tell us what type of light bulbs to buy?

However, the reality, is that the light bulb "controversy" is nothing more than a red herring. It's designed to distract the dim bulbs who constitute the ranks of this AstroTurf movement.

In reality, the TeaBaggers have no problem with the government legislating how people live their lives. After all, they support Republicans: a party that constantly micromanages every aspect of ordinary citizens' lives---even our personal morals.

You hear a lot of talk about "freedom" at TeaBagger rallies. But while TeaBagger/GOP types talk a good talk about freedom, they have nothing but contempt for real freedom for ordinary citizens.

The GOP supports outlawing everything from gay marriage to a woman's right to choose. It supports a "lock them up and throw away the key" approach for even casual drug use. Indeed, most TeaBaggers I've talked to would support the government embracing an evangelical right-wing theocracy and ramming it down the throats of the rest of us. So much for less "government intrusion" into our lives.

Indeed for all the rage the TeaBaggers claim to have toward Big Government, it's clear that (as usual) they have no idea what they're talking about. Polls have even shown that a majority of TeaBaggers support programs like Medicare (although they seem to be ignorant of the fact that it's a government program). They seem to be clueless that the GOP would abolish Medicare in a heartbeat if it only could muster the votes.

Despite all this, the TeaBaggers continue to rage against "Big Government intrusion into people's lives." The interesting thing is that, their "Exhibit A" of such intrusion is always the light bulb issue.

But is the light bulb ban really an "intrusion" by government into people's lives? Actually, it's the very opposite.

After all, the new compact fluorescents use 75-80 percent less electricity than incandescent bulbs. If every U.S. household bought just one CFL and used it in the place of an ordinary 60-watt bulb, the energy saved would be enough to power a city of 1.5 million people. It'd be the equivalent of taking 1.3 million cars off the roads.

Here's where the TeaBaggers are clueless about "government intrusion." If everyone uses CFLs, America will save millions of barrels of oil a year. And let's face it: that just increases the odds that our nation won't be involved in further oil wars in the Middle East.

Speaking of "government intrusion" into people's lives, the Iraq War alone is expect to cost U.S. taxpayers around $3 trillion.

As usual, the TeaBaggers and GOP can't see the forest for the trees. They want to save us from "government intrusion" by banning CFL bulb laws. But they have no problem with the U.S. government forcing taxpayers to cough up trillions for wars to steal other countries' oil.

Actually, if the U.S. was more energy efficient, we could easily live off the oil we produce right here at home. And we could do it with off-the-shelf technology that already exists. For example, Japan already gets an astonishing three times as much economic activity per barrel of oil than the U.S. does. If the U.S. were as energy efficient as Japan, we'd save many millions of barrels of oil per year.

Bottom line: the light bulb "issue" is nothing more than a red herring, aimed at distracting the ignorant TeaBagger crowd into believing that the leaders of this AstroTurf movement are actually acting in their interests.

To be sure, the real leaders of the Tea Party movement (like the billionaire Koch brothers) are indeed against government intrusion. But they don't give a damn about government intrusion into the lives of ordinary citizens. No, the government intrusion they oppose is any and all regulations against multinational corporations.

If the rich and powerful interests who really control the Tea Party had it their way, corporations would face zero government regulations. Corporations would be free to rape and pillage the planet as they pleased. They'd even be free to continue gorging themselves on corporate welfare. The latter, of course, is one Big Government program that the TeaBaggers have no problems with.

I've yet to see a single sign at a TeaBagger rally that condemns corporate welfare. Or a sign that condemns TeaBagger darling Michele Bachmann's family from hypocritically gorging on our tax dollars. Or a sign that condemns the U.S. spending trillions of our tax dollars to invade other countries to steal their oil.

It's clear the whole light bulb issue is nothing more than a fake "controversy," cynically contrived to mislead the American people, and the mainstream media, about the real intentions of the Tea Party movement.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

After 8 Years, U.S. Officials Still Recklessly Lying To Troops In Iraq


The disastrous Iraq War was originally built on a colossal lie. Now, eight years after George W. Bush ordered the invasion of that country, American officials are still lying to our troops. And the Big Lie today is just as dangerous and reckless as when Bush first told it.

On July 11, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, during a visit to Baghdad, sounded very Bush-like when he connected U.S. invasion of Iraq with 9/11.

Speaking at Camp Victory, Panetta said, "The reason you guys are here is because on 9/11 the United States got attacked," Panetta told the troops. "And 3,000 Americans--3,000 not just Americans, 3,000 human beings, innocent human beings--got killed because of Al Qaeda. And we've been fighting as a result of that."

After eight horrific years of war in Iraq, it's clear that Panetta is still peddling the same lies Bush told in 2003.

It's clear why Panetta follows the Bush party line. After all, the truth would be too terrible. We certainly couldn't tell the troops that, all these years, they've been fighting an illegal, immoral war that had absolutely no connection to 9/11 or Al Qaeda. We certainly couldn't tell the troops that the Iraqi people want them out now. Not to mention the U.S. public. (Or, for that matter, the entire rest of the world).

No, the truth is too horrible. It'd be too depressing and demoralizing for both the troops and their families, who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

It's a Big Lie that Bush/Cheney peddled endlessly when they worked to sell their war to the American people. Recall how Bush worked tirelessly for months to try to connect Saddam to 9/11.

And (as it usually does for Republicans) the Big Lie worked. One poll, in 2006, revealed that nearly 90 percent of U.S. troops believed that the Iraq war was retaliation for Iraq's role in 9/11.

If we're going to send young people into battle, I've long believed that we at least owe them the truth. That was one thing America never offered our soldiers in Iraq.

But, as the Iraq War has shown, Bush's lies to the troops have also had dark consequences for the people of Iraq.

As author Mark Crispin Miller noted in his 2004 book, Cruel and Unusual:

"Bush sent a very different message to our troops....by harping on Iraq's alleged complicity in 9/11, and by hyping the fictitious `terrorist threat' posed by that nation. Because of such inflammatory propaganda, our troops were motivated mainly by a craving for revenge, as after the destruction of Pearl Harbor. Throughout the march to war, and through the first year of the war itself, payback was on everybody's mind. `The only thing that motivates all the soldiers fighting in Iraq is payback for Sept. 11, 2001,' reported Reuters."

Miller continued:

"That lust for righteous vengeance has helped push our troops toward barbarism---which is often frightening even to themselves."

When you have a situation in which troops are filled with anger and a desire for revenge, you increase the odds that atrocities will occur. And of course, we've seen plenty of horrific atrocities in the eight years of war in Iraq. And we'll likely continue to see atrocities on the battlefield as long as our leaders brazenly lie to our soldiers.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Progressive Music Classics. The Pop Group's "Rob A Bank"



Welcome to another edition of Progressive Music Classics, a salute to left-leaning music that champions the cause of working-class people around the world.

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away from dogsh*t like "American Idol," music really mattered. Back then, there were artists who followed their own muse, commercialism be damned. If it meant toiling away in obscurity, then so be it.

The late, great The Pop Group, from Bristol, England, were a fantastic example of a band that refused to ever compromise in the slightest bit. They refused to compromise on their radical message. And they refused to compromise on their abrasive music and make it radio-friendly.

I've heard critics of the band over the years who've said that The Pop Group were simply too extreme. But that's what I always enjoyed about them.

Early punk bands laid the groundwork for this sort of music. The Pistols and The Clash tore up the rulebook and called for an end to the lazy, complacent, radio-friendly pop scene of the late 1970s.

But punk also raised a question: what to do afterwards? After all, three chords and a lot of rage will only get you so far, musically.

And after The Clash made the definitive punk statement, with their first album, it was clear that there needed to be a new music that'd be worthy to pick up where punk left off. Regurgitating the Pistols and the Clash over and over simply wasn't a worthy successor music (despite what dullards like Green Day and their fans believe).

Bands like The Pop Group took up this challenge in the late 1970s. They mixed up the punk template with abrasive noise, dub, funk and avant-garde sounds. They sounded (back then, and now) like a hurricane of hand grenades, threatening to blow up in the listener's face. First and foremost, they tried hard to create something totally new.

And then there was the message. The Pop Group grabbed you by the collar and forcibly showed you the evils of the world and how you were getting f*cked by The Rich and Powerful. The band raged against a wide variety of worthy targets: social injustice, racism, fascism, hunger, war, evil multinational corporations, inequality, and much more. The Pop Group didn't do love songs.

Of course, The Pop Group's deeply uncommercial records sold poorly. And they weren't even released in the U.S. But in the intervening decades, the band's message has only grown more powerful.

If anything, the world is a far more f*cked up place today than it was when The Pop Group was around. Inequality, for example, has grown dramatically, in both Britain and the U.S.

And multinational corporations have, if anything, grown even more evil and soulless (see monstrous entities like Halliburton and Goldman Sachs).

Between the horrors of George W. Bush, Gitmo, state-sponsored torture, Fox "News" and the Iraq War, it's clear that The Pop Group wasn't exaggerating when they implied that a whole new form of fascism was on the horizon.

In 1980, The Pop Group released their second, and final, album, For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder? Featured in the video above, "Rob a Bank" is a song that has grown increasingly ironic over the past three decades.

But as we all found out, after the economy collapsed in September 2008, it was the banks who wound up robbing us. The Bush administration took $1 trillion of our tax dollars and used it to bail out the crooks on Wall Street.

It was an outrageous crime against the people. And it shows that The Pop Group weren't being overly pessimistic in their indictment of corporate capitalism.

Incidentally, The Pop Group recently reformed to do some gigs in Europe. The band now plan to release a new studio album in the fall.

If you like what you hear in the video above, I urge you to check out both the band's studio albums, as well as the compilation, We Are All Prostitutes. All the band's records seem to be (at least in the U.S.) only available as imports from Japan (where the band has long had a sizeable audience). Band front-man Mark Stewart has also released a number of phenomenal albums as a solo artist, since 1980.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Today's Bible Verse: "Listen, You Rich People, Weep And Wail Because Of The Misery That Is Coming On You"

"Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty."

---James 5:1-4, The Bible, New International Version.


One of the great political mysteries to me has always been how on earth the money-worshipping, screw-the-poor Right Wing in today's America have somehow managed to convince many people that the Bible supports their twisted beliefs.

In reality, the Bible is full of hard-core socialist messages as radical as anything I've ever written on this blog. To be sure, I've blasted America's greedy rich on a number of occasions on this site. But I've never said that, simply because one is rich, one will almost certainly burn in hell (like Jesus did).

After all, the rich who I target are those who (like the Koch brothers) who seek to destroy organized labor and America's already skimpy social safety net, simply so they can pad their already fat pockets. But I don't condemn all rich people. For a start, I admire George Soros.

Anyway, back to the Bible. It's one thing for deluded Right-Wingers to wrap themselves in the Scripture and to claim that the Bible somehow supports their beliefs. But what disappoints me far more is that the Progressives allow them to get away with this.

The fact is, the vast majority of the Bible is full of archaic, obscure verses that only a fool would claim to understand. However, the Bible does contain a number of verses that are quite clear and unambiguous.

James 5:1-4 is a good example of the latter. This passage doesn't beat around the bush: it very clearly issues a warning to rich oppressors. It condemns the greedy, exploitative rich ever bit as much as anything Marx ever wrote.

The problem is that Bible verses like this languish in obscurity. Right-Wingers carefully tip-toe away from such explosive verses that they no doubt find deeply disturbing. Instead, they dig through the Old Testament, looking for passages that seem to validate their homophobic, bigoted views. And Progressives, as always, sit around passively and allow the Right-Wing to get away with it.

We Progressives need to reclaim the Bible from the bigots, the hate-mongers, the money-grubbers and the supporters of brutal dog-eat-dog "capitalism."

Every time one of these bigoted money-grubbers claims that the Bible supports their views, we need to take crystal-clear Progressive Bible verses like James 5:1-4 and throw it into their faces.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

While Texas Kids Go Hungry, Rick Perry Lives Large On Taxpayers' Dime


Child poverty is rising sharply in Texas. But while Texas kids go hungry, Gov. Rick Perry is living a lavish lifestyle on the taxpayers' dime.

Since 2000 (the year Perry became governor) the number of Texas children living in poverty has climbed 17 percent, even as the state has gutted spending on programs for kids. Currently, an astonishing 1 in 4 Texas children lives in poverty. The infant mortality rate is also up 10 percent since 2000.

Like George W. Bush before him, Perry demands steep sacrifices from ordinary working people---while living a luxurious taxpayer-funded lifestyle.

Take Perry's mansion, for example. While Texas is facing an eye-popping $27 billion deficit, Perry is spending $9,000 per month in taxpayer's money to live in one of Austin's most upscale estates.

When the Texas governor's mansion was damaged in a 2008 fire, Perry looked around for another place to live. With the state in financial meltdown, one might think Perry would have shown a little restraint in picking his new digs.

But no such luck. In fact, as of May 2010, Perry, according to AP, had already spent nearly $600,000 in tax dollars living in a lavish 5-bedroom, 7-bathroom sprawling rental mansion the previous two years.

As AP noted, Perry's mansion is 6,386 square feet and sits on more than three acres in the hills overlooking the Texas capitol.

Here's what Perry has been spending with our tax dollars:

  • A 6,386-square-foot rental property that sits on more than three acres and was advertised in 2007 for sale at $1.85 million.
  • $18,000 for household supplies and cleaning products.
  • $1,001 in window coverings from upscale retailer Neiman Marcus.
  • $1,000 for "emergency repair" of the governor's filtered ice machine
  • A $700 clothes rack.
  • A $56,000 stipend for food and beverages.
  • Maintenance on the heated pool has cost taxpayers at least $8,400.
  • The tab for grounds and lawn maintenance has topped $44,000.

Of course, none of this comes out of Perry's own taxpayer-funded salary, which is $150,000 per year.

While Perry spends our tax dollars generously on himself, the state of Texas is sinking into an ocean of red ink. The state's deficit is one of the largest of any state and puts it in the same league as California and other states facing fiscal meltdowns.

Even though Perry is living like a king, he still demands extreme sacrifice and fiscal restraint from the rest of us. And, of course, poor people rank at the top of Perry's list among those who should "sacrifice."

For example, despite rising child poverty, Texas ranks dead last among the 50 states in its extremely miserly and Scrooge-like food stamp program.

As the Houston Chronicle noted:

Texas does not have enough workers to process food stamp applications and is one of only three states that fingerprints applicants for food assistance. The state also imposes a time-consuming and complicated assets test that impedes the effort to help desperate and hungry people, Concannon said.

As Democratic state Senator Eliot Shapleigh noted in his "Texas on the Brink" report, it's a wonder that Texas has a budget deficit at all, considering how meager the state's programs are. Texas has abysmal rankings on just about every quality of life issue that exists for working people.

Here's how Texas ranks, in comparison with the other 49 states:

  • Progressivity of Tax Revenues: 44th.
  • Average Teacher Salary As A Percentage of Average Annual Pay: 49th.
  • State Aid Per Pupil in Average Daily Attendance: 47th.
  • Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) Scores: 46th.
  • Percent of Population 25 and Older with a High School Diploma: 50th
  • Percent of the Population Without Health Insurance: 1st.
  • Percent of the Population with Employer Based Health Insurance: 46th.
  • Percent of Uninsured Children: 1st.
  • Air Pollution Emissions: 1st.
  • Rate of Incarceration: 2nd.

If Perry is elected president in 2012, we can expect a big, hefty dose of his "screw the working class" policies to be implemented at a national level. Perry is nothing less than Bush on steroids. If you think America is increasingly Third World-like now, you ain't seen nothing yet.