Thursday, May 29, 2008

DECEPTION & INEPTITUDE ... ENDEMIC

The first time could have been seen as an anomaly. It wasn’t.














The second time suggested a pattern. It was worse.


















The third time tells us it was all true.













My friends, when you have accomplished insiders at this level - and from distinct political angles - telling us that deception and ineptitude were/are endemic in Bush’s White House something is wrong. These aren't disgruntled former employees. They are disappointed Americans. We all are.

That 28% of Americans still think President Bush is doing a good job is beyond me.

- Mark

ICE POLICY AS "COSTUME DRAMA"

Interesting. Geraldo Rivera, who we might normally expect to jump on the "costume drama" he speaks of, is actually criticizing the incredibly stupid actions of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (which operates under the Department of Homeland Security).

Driven by the most savage talk radio and cable news anti-immigrant propaganda campaign in our nation's history, the Department of Homeland Security has unleashed an unprecedented crackdown on undocumented workers ...

... Many hundreds of otherwise law abiding, hard working, family men and women have been arrested in recent weeks under circumstances more appropriate to operations targeting al Qaeda. With noise and fury, these heavily armed and armored SWAT teams from ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, are surrounding a particular plant, then with great quasi-military flourish sweeping in to arrest and handcuff the 'aliens', bring them en masse to a hearing, conviction and sentencing, all pending deportation. These completely overdone costume dramas are targeting cowering economic refugees just trying to feed their families. They would be ridiculed as overkill and posturing by any real soldier or cop ...
What Rivera doesn't say (although he alludes to it) is that ICE apparently has nothing on the terrorist scare the Bush administration has been hyping, so they need to do something to show they are "protecting" America.

As is the case with much of what has happened under the Bush administration, the actions of ICE speak more to moral cowardice and political drama (or "costume drama"?) than to substance.

We're going to deal with immigration and the politically-driven policies of ICE on the program by the end of June.

- Mark

UNPREPARED?



- Mark

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A CULTURE OF LIES?

Politico.com is reporting that former Bush White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan has written what looks like a "Mommy Dearest" memoir of the Bush administration. The books tells us that President Bush “veered terribly off course,” was not “open and forthright on Iraq,” and took a “permanent campaign approach” to governing.

The results, according to McClellan, is that "candor and competence" were sacrificed during Bush's presidency. In What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception McClellan explains that:

• President Bush relied on “propaganda” to sell the war (as opposed to hard evidence).

• The White House press corps was too easy on the administration during the run-up to the war.

• Some of his own assertions from the briefing room podium turned out to be “badly misguided.”

• Karl Rove and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby “had at best misled” him about their role in the disclosure of former CIA operative Valerie Plame’s identity.
Look, we're all adults here. At what point does the press, the American public, and official Washington act upon the reality that "propaganda" and "misled" are simply bad euphemisms for "lying." It's because we accept these euphemisms that nothing is done when the NY Times reported the Pentagon regularly sent the press high level military plants (many of whom worked for the Defense Industry) to sell the war in Iraq.

That we willingly accept a culture of lies is the real reason our blood and treasure is being wasted in Iraq. But, then again, I may be wrong. A president who lies about a girlfriend just might get impeached.

Am I the only one who sees something wrong with this picture?

The sad thing is that, at the end of the day, we all may be misguided about the real source of our problems. President Bush may simply be a symptom of a larger disease in America ... which you can read about in Chalmers Johnson's Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic. Whether you agree with Johnson's premise or not, the points he raises make for good discussion topics.

I'll be sure to discuss McClellan's book, and some of the points raised by Johnson, within the next 2-3 programs.



- Mark

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"WE HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR ..." EXCEPT CONSERVATIVE FEAR-MONGERING



Whatever happened to “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself”?

… I’ve been commenting on this issue for a while now. Put simply, the Bush administration is still trying to get the telecommunication industry legal cover for helping his administration spy on Americans. The problem is that the Bush administration was asking for the industry's help months before 9/11.

Again, I ask, What was the national emergency before 9/11?

Now we have another Right Wing, Swiftboat-like group attempting to scare Americans into thinking that we need to give the Bush administration what they want. If we don’t, according to Senator Mitch McConnell, “some Americans are going to die.” Newsweek has the “Factcheck” goods on their fear-filled efforts here.

At the end of the day while these conservatives groups may be effective, they're pathetic losers. They need to get off their knees, change their drawers, and grow a spine.

America should be beyond living in perpetual fear.

- Mark

Friday, May 23, 2008

JOHN McCAIN'S PARALLEL UNIVERSE?

One of the more interesting developments during this presidential season has been the transformation of John McCain. A one-time "Maverick" who took shots at right wing religious fanatics and special interests, McCain learned the lessons of republican politics well during his first presidential run in 2000.

Specifically, McCain learned that in order to win the hearts of Conservatives he would have to break with his principles and embrace both groups if he was going to succeed in his quest for the White House. In the process, McCain lost his political soul and has given himself up to Conservative Puppet Masters. This might not be all bad if McCain had the energy to stand up for himself. But, alas, not only has McCain been muttering inconsistent and incoherent thoughts on Iraq, war, and the economy, but he seems tired on the campaign trail.

Fast forward to a parallel universe in 2268. We see another respected leader propped up by selfish and egotistical forces, bent on promoting their interests above those of society. In the Star Trek episode "Patterns of Force" John Gill is a former Starfleet professor who breaks Starfleet principles laid out in the Prime Directive (don't get personally involved in the affairs of planets).

By breaking with principles laid out in the Prime Directive, Gill exposes himself to the militarism of Melakon (rhymes with "neo-con") and other evil forces that drug and use his tired body to pursue war and rule society.













While there is no doubt that McCain is not drugged like Star Trek's John Gill, there is also little doubt that both McCain and Gill compromised basic principles that led both to be manipulated by Puppet Masters they, under different circumstances, would have rebuked.

Unfortunately, the prospect of winning the presidency has created a toxic brew of special interests and compromised principles that John McCain seems only too eager to drink. In the process, The Maverick has become The Puppet of Conservative forces he simply cannot control.

- Mark

Thursday, May 22, 2008

DEBUNKING THE “TAX-CUTS CREATE GROWTH & REVENUE” MYTH

Here’s an article from The Wall Street Journal that, once again, claims higher tax rates on the wealthy are not good for the country. Essentially the WSJ article makes this standard Republican-Conservative claim: Tax cuts for the rich will spur economic growth, enhance tax revenue, and lead to balanced budgets.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Here’s what’s NOT happening, and why we're in dire straits today ...

... THE REVENUE ARENA

BALANCED BUDGETS? When Supply-Side economics arrived on the political scene with Ronald Reagan in 1980, our country owed approximately $979 billion (with a “B”). Today, after almost 20 years of tax cuts for the rich, America now owes $9.4 trillion (with a “T”). This, my friends, helps to explain the dollar’s collapse, and why prices are climbing. As an aside, the only time we started balancing budgets was under President Clinton, who raised taxes on the rich.

ECONOMIC GROWTH? Do tax cuts on the rich increase economic growth? Check this out. With the exception of five years, federal tax receipts have increased every year since 1962. Did Bush’s tax cuts (or supply-side economics) have an influence on the economy starting in 1962 that we don’t know about?

INCREASED REVENUE/CORPORATE INCOME: A 2007 Congressional Budget Office report makes it clear that increased tax revenue after 2003 is due primarily to an “increase in corporate profits” and other policy measures that disallowed certain write-offs. Read the report. Tax policy plays a minimal role.

... IN THE AREA OF ECONOMIC GROWTH


THE BUBBLE ECONOMY: The vast majority of growth that occurred during the Bush administration was driven by low interest rates and the subsequent housing bubble. As the value of homes increased, homeowners took out equity lines and used their homes to purchase cars, boats, vacations, etc.

DEBT FINANCED PURCHASES, I: If more money was put into the pockets of ordinary Americans it’s not because of higher wages or the jobs created by new investments (effectively zero in both areas). It’s because the Bush administration borrowed money to send to American tax payers. A monkey could have borrowed money and sent out checks. Tax cuts were a political Trojan Horse designed appeal to unsophisticated voters. But they worked politically.

DEBT FINANCED PURCHASES, II: Americans went further into debt to finance consumption. This helped create the illusion of prosperity. Credit card and personal debt are at all time highs.

That's it. Debt, demographics, and bubbles. This explains the Republican-led spending and debt binge since 1980.

My friends, the argument that tax cuts for the rich creates growth is, at best, misleading. More probably, it’s a lie. At the end of the day we need to build bridges, roads, and schools. Someone has to pay for this. Contrary to the ideas pushed by Republicans, there are no Infrastructure Fairies out there. Oh, and did I mention that we now need to pay down trillions in debt caused by the Republican's tax cut jijad? No? Well, we do.

Borrow and Spend is not an economic policy we should continue to follow. That almost one-half of America can't see this says alot about the state of this nation.

- Mark

LOVE IS BEING THERE ...

I don't usually post on topics like this, but I wanted to share this "smell the roses" moment ...

This past Tuesday when my ex came to pick up the kids, my 10 year old daughter Monica informed me that her school's last recital and choir for the year was that evening at 7:00 pm. It was 5:30 pm.

After going through the usual routine of "Why didn't you tell me about this earlier, I have plans, and I need to teach class tonight ...", I told Monica that I might not make it. As she went off to her Mom's car my feelings went from consternation to guilt. I changed my plans.

When I walked into the auditorium, I saw an open seat in the middle isle. As I made my way toward the seat I spotted my daughter playing the clarinet. She saw me and seemed surprised. But her eyes lit up in a way that always let's me know that she has a smile in her heart. And just like that my guilt was gone.

The next day I asked Monica about her look of surprise. She responded, "I wasn't surprised Daddy. I knew you'd be there. You're always there ... because you love me."

- Mark

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

THE BLIND LEADING THE BLIND?

The blind leading the blind? Nope, it's worse than that.

First we had White House spokesperson, Dana Perino, doing her best Sgt. Schultz impersonation and admitting that she knew nothing about the Cuban Missile Crisis (she apparently doesn’t know much about the Bay of Pigs either).

Now we are treated to Right Wing nut job, Kevin James, railing against Barack Obama’s apparent appeasement in the Middle East because he's willing to talk to the enemy. Never mind that Bush the Elder's Secretary of State used and called for the same strategy.

For his effort, Keving James is then painfully embarrassed by Chris Matthews for not knowing what Neville Chamberlain did to forever earn the title of Hitler’s Appeaser.



Apart from demonstrating what a blowhard Kevin James is, the clip is actually pretty funny … until, of course, you realize that Perino and James are the same “people of influence” who like to use historical references to justify their positions.

No wonder everything’s messed up under Bush. History is not something to learn or draw lessons from. Team Bush sees history as something to be manipulated and used to prop up failed policies, or to adorn a bankrupt ideology.

This really puts another spin on former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill's description of President Bush approaching policy like a “blind man in a room full of deaf people.”

- Mark

Monday, May 19, 2008

EINSTEIN & RELIGION

From the NY Times ... A letter Albert Einstein wrote to philosopher Eric Gutkind in 1954 just sold for $404,000. In the letter Einstein described the Bible as “pretty childish” and scoffed at the notion that the Jews could be the “chosen people.”


This should help settle the issue for those who enjoy sending that annoying "Evil is the absence of God" chain-letter. The chain-letter is usually sent by true believers who (1) want to revel in the humiliation of an atheist teacher by Einstein when he was a schoolboy (which hardly seems Christian to me), or (2) seek to use Albert Einstein as a foundational source for Intelligent Design, which requires a stretch of imagination (like what you are asked to believe if you visit the Creationist Museum in Kentucky).

But, alas, the appearance of this letter probably won't settle anything. Evidence is a hard thing to accept when you're used to making things up.

- Mark

P.S. It should be noted that Einstein was an agnostic, and not an atheist. There's a difference. He believed that any understanding of God “is too vast for our limited minds.”

THE "REAL McCAIN"

Sunday, May 18, 2008

BUSH FAILS IN OIL ... AGAIN


Everyone in America knows that George W. Bush was a failure as a businessman in the oil industry. Well, in spite of touting his oil credentials as a potential plus with OPEC members when he ran for the White House, it turns out that he's an abject failure at Oil Diplomacy too.

Here's a quick overview of President Bush's most recent efforts at "jawbone" diplomacy, which he claimed he would bring to the White House.

For the second time in two months, President Bush's efforts to "jawbone" his Saudi friends over the cost of oil fell on deaf ears. On Friday, oil surged to a record $127 after Bush's meeting with King Abdullah failed to secure a production increase beyond the meager 300,000 barrels the Saudis previously committed to on May 10th. In all, it was just the latest dismal failure for the jawbone of the Texas oilman who campaigned on his powers of persuasion when it came to OPEC ...

... For its part, OPEC brushed off Bush's feeble entreaties and rejected calls for an emergency meeting ahead of the cartel's next scheduled gathering in September. On Saturday, the Qatari oil minister put it simply, "The oil market is balanced...There is no threat to or crisis in supply."
There's no secret to what's happening here. OPEC members do not respect, nor trust, the capabilities of George W. Bush. And they're particularly not happy with the Bush administration's dollar policy (there is none). As Fadel Gheit, an oil analyst at Oppenheimer & Company in New York, put it: "It's really not surprising that they have ignored [Bush]" when you consider the collapsing value of the dollar.


Indeed, while Saudi King Abdullah has "shut down grandstanding talk from Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad" (which focused on moving OPEC away from the "worthless piece of paper" this past February) OPEC Secretary-General Abdullah al-Badri is still suggesting that the oil cartel might switch to euro-based pricing.

My guess is that this will become a real issue some time during the next administration. When this happens it will be yet another tattered feather in President Bush's lifelong headban of failure.

- Mark

OBAMA IN PORTLAND, OREGON

We've seen big turnouts for Barack Obama before, but this one is impressive. Here's Obama in Portland, Oregon. Official estimates for this rally are 75,000.




Check out these other Obama rally photos from Oregon.

- Mark

Friday, May 16, 2008

THE PATH TO PEACE?

I've been meaning to post this now since Sunday. Better late than never ...

I attended the Bakersfield Jazz Festival this past weekend and had blast. As I sat down to enjoy the Festival this Saturday our neighbors came up and offered cheese, crackers, sausage, strawberries, etc. With the wine flowing, I sat back and thought to myself, "If the world were one big jazz festival there would be no wars." The environment was simply awesome.

I know, I know ... my hypotheses is not going to help me develop a paper that will make into my discipline's top journals. But I was thinking it (the wine, I'm sure, helped).

I'm posting this because - and I'm embarrassed to say this - in the 14 years that I have lived and taught at CSUB I had never attended the Bakersfield Jazz Festival. I had gone to my office to work many times during the Festival, thinking that I would go after finishing my activities. But I always left. What a mistake.

In the process I learned something else. If there's a medal of Julian the Hospitaller, the Patron Saint of wandering musicians, Dr. Doug Davis deserves it. What an event. I'm going next year.

- Mark

THE ART OF WAR ... "IF I WAS A TERRORIST"

Over five years ago I wrote this article.

In the article I suggest we should consider that Osama bin Laden might NOT be some deranged lunatic, or an out of control fanatic. I ask, What if he believes destabilizing America only requires pushing the United States into a sustained wartime economic binge? Further, what if he understood that goading the United States into massive budget deficits, which shove trillions of dollars into the global economy, would eventually undermine the value of the U.S. dollar and threaten our economic stability?

This kind of thinking would impress Sun Tzu, author of The Art of War. In the book Sun Tzu argued true mastery of war involves "deception" and the capacity to break the enemy without seeking military battle.

Specifically, Sun Tzu wrote the "skillful leader subdues the enemy's troops without any fighting; he captures their cities without laying siege to them; he overthrows their kingdom without lengthy operations in the field."

If this was Osama bin Laden’s thinking, the events of 9/11 were a big score. Today we have record debt, the dollar is in free fall mode, inflation is a coming reality, and inattention to the nation’s economy because of President Bush’s Blundering Wars Project. This has to be pleasing to Osama bin Laden.

All of this helps make this clip – “If I was a Terrorist” – so interesting.



If 9/11 was designed to be the catalyst for a series of responses and events (which President Bush clearly fell into), Osama bin Laden might prove himself to be a Master Student of yet another Sun Tzu maxim: "The opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself."

- Mark

Thursday, May 15, 2008

PRESIDENT BUSH'S HIDDEN TAX

The Bush administration is taxing the hell out of America. And they’re doing it the same way medieval monarchs and petty tyrants have done it through the ages – by forcing you and I to cover their debts. Here’s how it happens.


Whenever you create or produce too much of anything its value goes down. Today America prints and spends more dollars than we can back with the goods we produce (or the gold we have on hand). Hence, the value of the dollar has gone down. This is how President Bush’s policies make this situation worse.

Since George W. Bush came into office we have added over $3.8 Trillion to the national debt. Today we owe roughly $9.4 Trillion (when Jimmy Carter left office we owed about $979 billion).

Every time President Bush spends money we do not have he's telling the American taxpayer "I'm irresponsible. But you still have to pay this back ... today and well into the future." This, my friends, is a hidden tax.

But it’s also the simple part of our hidden tax.

As the Bush administration continues to send dollars out to the rest of the world the value of the dollar declines. Over time people and countries, like our rich Arab friends, who use the dollar to purchase stuff eventually start looking around and say to themselves, “Hey, this Lexus costs me more in dollars.” But they can’t really complain because our Japanese friends are saying, “There are too many dollars out there. They are not worth as much today. Let’s raise the price of our Lexus.”

Our Arab friends, in turn, raise the price of their product (in this case, oil) so they will have more dollars to buy the Lexus they want. This helps to explain the surge in gas prices (and rising prices elsewhere).

The fact that Americans have to fork over more money – for petroleum and a Lexus (among others) – is a direct result of the falling value of the dollar. Simply put, rising prices (or inflation) constitutes a “hidden tax” on the American consumer.

The worst part? The hard-working American consumer is paying this hidden tax so President Bush can pursue his Blundering Wars Project and, incredibly enough, so he can cut taxes on his rich friends.

Nice.

John McCain, and the Bush administration, are banking on the fact that Americans won't figure this out.

- Mark

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

DOES THE "GREAT WHORE" STILL LIVE?

Well, it looks like “veteran bigot” and McCain supporter extraordinaire John Hagee is apologizing to the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue.

Hagee, who has called Catholicism the “great whore” and the “apostate church,” now says he has “an improved understanding of the Catholic Church, its relation to the Jewish faith, and the history of anti-Catholicism.” He also recognizes now that the terms he used were a “rhetorical device” that are not “synonymous with the Catholic Church.” Here’s his letter.

While the McCain camp – and Hagee – deny McCain’s presidential bid had anything to do with Hagee’s new insights, common sense and political strategy says otherwise.

Specifically, we know that if Hagee’s history of ignorance and bigotry were pasted all over the media like Rev. Wright’s comments, there’s the chance that McCain’s candidacy could be derailed. If that happened how could Hagee and his followers get to Heaven? Someone has to start Armageddon.


And then there’s the issue of Hagee’s sudden change of heart going beyond his letter to Donohue and the Catholics.

For example, there’s no word on whether Hagee is apologizing to the gay community for saying that their parade (and lifestyle) brought Hurricane Katrina down on the city of New Orleans. And we also have no word on whether Hagee is apologizing to the Jewish community for suggesting they've brought persecution upon themselves.

I'm not sure, but it seems to me that Hagee's “great whore” still lives.

- Mark

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

EXPLAINING THE McCAIN VOTE, II


On Saturday we read a letter from a "Friend" who seems to dislike Barack Obama. Not because he's an African-American, mind you. Our Friend is so sophisticated that he's moved beyond race which, incredibly enough, makes him an authority on sniffing out trouble as it relates to race (I know, I know ... forget the logical inconsistency here for a moment; they do).

Believing that he has pulled back the curtain that reveals who Oz really is, our Friend believes he has also sniffed out Obama's secret positions - Obama doesn't like America and, apparently, hates himself.

From his correspondence to me, here's the beginnning of our Friend's "Obama's A Hater" logic ...

I was referred to your site by a friend ... I am sorry I went there. Your article "Time For A Loyalty Oath?" made me cringe. I think you are quite a pompous @%?-hole. It has been proven, in previous recordings of Rev. Jeremiah Wright's sermons, that he is anti-white. And to say "God damn America", I can't think of anything worse. He is a racist, prejudiced bastard, and anyone who follows his beliefs does not deserve to be president ...
Our writer (who apparently doesn't like me either) then uses his insights on race in America to tell me this ...

To me, [attending Wright's church] makes Obama prejudiced as well because he follows someone who is. It has nothing to do with Black America. I would be equally angry if a white pastor of a white presidential candidate said, "God damn America." That person would lose my vote. That is no kind of attitude to have towards a country you want to lead.

So I was thinking. What would our letter writer say about President Bush after reading Bush's reported response to those who reminded him that certain provisions he wanted in the Patriot Act might violate the Constitution:


“I don’t give a goddamn,” Bush retorted. “I’m the President and the Commander-in-Chief. Do it my way.”

“Mr. President,” one aide in the meeting said. “There is a valid case that the provisions in this law undermine the Constitution.”

“Stop throwing the Constitution in my face,” Bush screamed back. “It’s just a goddamned piece of paper!

It appears that President Bush, who had a history of ignoring the law (2 or 3 arrests? can't remember) and shirking his duties in the National Guard, is the type of person our letter writer would not have voted for - but I suspect that he did anyways. Then he probably voted for him again after President Bush lied to us about the reasons for war, and violated the Constitution while pursuing his Blundering Wars Project.

Barack Obama, however, doesn't have this kind of history. Yet, our Friend doesn't believe Obama is fit for the White House because of something he thinks (and wants to believe) Rev. Wright said.

So, here we have President Bush, who refused direct orders to take a drug test and all but told the National Guard to "Go to Hell" because he wanted to party in Alabama ... and Barack Obama, a man Conservatives want to tie to remarks made by another man that were taken out of context.

At the end of the day, it really shouldn't come as a surprise that this nation is where it's at under President Bush. His Enablers will simply invent and run with a fantasy world that make their beliefs come true (at least in their minds). They reside in a world where they believe if they click their Ruby Red Shoes enough times and repeat "It's true, it's really true ..." they can justify both their desparate positions, and the past incompetence of the Bush administration.

This, my friends, helps explain the McCain vote.

- Mark

P.S. Here's the link to my first "Explaining the McCain Vote."

Monday, May 12, 2008

YOO'S TORTURE MEMO ...

The "Torture Memo" that supposedly gave the Bush administration legal cover to torture detainees is now coming back to haunt its author, John Yoo, who has returned to UC Berkeley to teach law. There are several faculty members who want a discussion on the legal arguments Yoo made while he served the president. They also want to know whether Yoo's writings violated professional standards and/or threaten the academic integrity of UC Berkeley.

Among their concerns are that Yoo ...

1. Gave more than an "opinion" and was a conspirator in pushing torture.

2. Didn't properly inform "his client" (the President) of precedent and law.

3. Committed "violations of the rules of argument" by deliberately ommitting information that he knew existed (specifically the Youngstown case).
There's more, but the crux of the argument is that Yoo was blinded by his proximity to power and failed to uphold standards of the profession. For those of you who have the time, the issues presented to the UC Berkeley faculty by Economics Professor Brad De Long are here.

- Mark

Friday, May 9, 2008

HEY, WHERE'S YOUR FLAG PIN?


With all the carping about patriotism and wearing flag pins, you would think the media - or the Republican Party - would have it in them to call attention to the fact that Americans are NOT patriotic enough to enlist and fight in Iraq or Afghanistan - Wars with ends the Bush administration has tried hard to compare to World War II, the Civil War, and just about anything else that allows them to hype and sell their Blundering Wars Project.

Once again, because the Republican Party thinks draping their rhetoric in the flag makes them men (and absolves them from enlisting), the U.S. Army has to involuntary extend the enlistment terms of our soldiers to prevent them from leaving the military. Unfortunately - and this may come as news to the False Patriots - flag pins can't be taught to fire guns.

While Conservative Chickenhawks continue to call for more war, while cowering behind their flag pins, there appears to be some grumbling about extending tours of duty.

... many soldiers subjected to the stop-loss policy consider it a backdoor draft. Critics argue that once soldiers have completed the enlistment period they agreed to, they should be allowed to return home. The involuntary retention program is so unpopular that it helped inspire a recent movie called "Stop-Loss" ...

This report has the details about stop-loss damage.

You would think that forcing others to "Stand and Die" for the political blunders of the Bush administration might compel President Bush, or John McCain, to support something like the GI Bill working its way through Congress. Think again.

Both Bush and McCain understand if our fighting men and women had more options (like leaving to get an education after serving their country) the "stop-loss" numbers would be far worse than this ...

The number of soldiers held in the Army under the stop-loss program reached a high in March 2005 of 15,758. That number steadily declined through May 2007, when it hit 8,540. But since then, the number of soldiers subjected to stop-loss orders began to increase again, reaching 12,235 in March 2008.
At the end of the day, this is what happens when you combine incompetence, moral cowardice, and false patriotism. And republicans want four more years of this?

Hail Caligula.

- Mark

EXPLAINING LOOPHOLES & POTHOLES

Have you ever wondered why the gap between Middle America and the wealthy keeps on growing? We could chalk it up to hard work. But the person working 2-3 jobs also works hard, but without fabulous reward. We could point to simple greed. But the object of the greedy does have its limits (e.g. you can only stiff so many people).

The reality is our government representatives in Washington write favorable legislation that allows certain people to pay fewer taxes, dump debt on others, and undercut the local tax base. How does this happen? Check out this video. It's just one of many examples that explain how government creates the conditions for wealth creation for a few, while leaving Middle America holding the bag. It also helps explain why our infrastructure and local tax base gets undercut.



- Mark

Thursday, May 8, 2008

THE ROOTS OF MARKET & WEALTH

I finally sent the manuscript for my book, The Roots of Markets & Wealth, to the publisher. I'm expecting at least 6 weeks (if not longer) before I get the first request for revisions. In all cases, here's another clip from the book. The photo here is Bush the Elder with Prince "Bandar Bush" - the tutor, diplomat extraordinaire, and Saudi family friend that President Bush thanked for for keeping the price of oil low before the 2004 elections.

... In Sleeping With the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude, former CIA operative Robert Baer tells the story of returning from Langley, Virginia. Coming from the direction of the Potomoc River was a convoy led by a Chevy Suburban with flashing lights. He suspected it was the President because “he’s the only official in Washington who gets that kind of protection.” When the convoy turned into an estate, he recognized the enormous iron gates.

The next day he learned the convoy was escorting Prince Bandar, the Saudi Ambassador to the United States – who “alone of all ambassadors got official State Department protection.” And why not? Granted the title of “Bandar Bush,” for his long and cozy relationship with the Bush family, Prince Bandar is dean of the Washington diplomatic corps – its brightest star, with a constellation of resources and political contacts that give him both access and power. But perhaps his greatest trump card is how he uses money and oil to move U.S.-Saudi relations.

After the oil price hikes of 1973 the U.S. convinced the Saudis to use their “petrodollars” to help underwrite U.S. budget deficits. Later, a combination of geo-politics and personal greed helped turn a simple funder-borrower relationship into a hydro-headed monster that thrives on national security imbalances and narrow self-interest.

Indeed, Baer writes things have gotten so cozy between Riyadh and former high level Washington officials that granting Prince Bandar the same protection afforded the President is only a small part of a larger story. For those fortunate enough to brush shoulders with Prince Bandar and his circle of friends, Saudi Arabia has become “Washington’s 401(k) Plan.”

Former cabinet secretaries, taking advantage of the Saudi Cash Cow, now work with the “good” bin Ladens, while the U.S. government works to keep Saudi regime safe, and its oil flowing. The financial cooperation the U.S. received from the Saudis after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait border is illustrative. Success in the first Gulf War, in Washington’s eyes, guaranteed that a grateful and friendly “House of Sa’ud would remain the world’s banker of oil.”


Perhaps more importantly, by keeping the Saudis in business, the global status quo was maintained, which meant (and perhaps more importantly) the sources that help fund the American Kingdom would continue. Interestingly, there appear to be historical parallels to this relationship.

In many ways the U.S. - Saudi relationship follows a pattern similar to the protection racket that existed between prosperous merchants in medieval Europe and their royal protectors. And just like their aristocratic predecessors, when they’re not busy tending to their economic interests, or bestowing politically powerful “titles” on their friends, American elites have become consumed with war.

But there is another, more ominous parallel. Much like the medieval period when Europe’s monarchs tried to keep rogue states and marauding nobles at bay, America’s aristocrats have been slow to recognize that the American Kingdom increasingly depends on the Good Will of others and no longer controls its own fate – a point the well protected “Bandar Bush” seems to understand quite well ...

- Mark

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

AM I RUINING AMERICA?

I've been meaning to post this from one of the e-mails I received a couple of days ago.

... People like you are the reason I quit attending college and went to a trade school. I can't stand the liberal bullshit being shoved down my throat. College is supposed to be about education and finding out who you are, but the whole system is biased due to people like you. You are ruining America.
The actual e-mail is much longer, and full of good talking points. Without mentioning names (unless he calls in) I'll read the entire post this Saturday. The commentary promises to be fun.

- Mark

Friday, May 2, 2008

"NATION HAPPY, LOVES BUSH ..."

Well, this is the headline FOX News would probably like to run with, except even they know they would be seen as a bigger news joke than they already are. But before we get to FOX News, as a point of reference, I thought we could take a look at this first ...

With China cracking down on protest movements in Tibet, China's state run media is letting the country know what's happening in Tibet and how good they have it.



If only we could have this kind happiness ... Wait, it looks like we can. As it turns out things are much better on the Iraqi front than we thought. We just have to watch FOX News.




Wow. It kind of makes you wish we could have some state-led crackdowns so we could be even more happy, right? Fortunately for us, if we do go down the state-led crackdown route, FOX News will be there to tell us how good we have it.




I have to run, but I know there's an Orwellian quote here somewhere ...

- Mark

Thursday, May 1, 2008

A NATION THAT SETTLES ...

One of the results of putting our country in the hands of Failing Mediocrity (i.e. the Bush administration) is that the bar for success has been lowered.

Worse, our sycophantic press seems content to chronicle it all by reporting on banalities that only P.T. Barnum could love. Record gas prices? Hey, look at what Rev. Jeremiah said ... Record personal and national debt? Did Hillary really see sniper fire? ... Stagnant and declining wages? Let's watch Bush dance in Africa ... A collapsing dollar? Is middle-America really "bitter"? ... Lost prestige and respect abroad? Let's watch Bush dance in Africa (again) ...

As if suffering through these national embarrassments weren't enough, when it comes to the war in Iraq we now have the bastard child of mediocrity and incompetence: A nation that "settles."

Nothing says "A Nation that Settles" like a country that goes from "Mission Accomplished," to "Stay the Course," to pushing "they have a budget" as a sign of progress, to thinking "make it 100 Years" is OK ...



- Mark