Saturday, July 31, 2010

From Media Matters

On Sunday, July 18, unhinged ex-convict Byron Williams loaded his truck with guns and headed up a California highway with the intention of starting a revolution. If he hadn't been stopped by brave officers -- two of whom were wounded in the confrontation -- he could have carried out a plan to kill staff at progressive organizations, including the Tides Foundation.

What is the Tides Foundation? It's the nonprofit that Glenn Beck brags about "turning the light of day" on by constantly attacking it as part of a socialist conspiracy to destroy our government. The Tides Foundation isn't the shadowy political influence of Beck's fantasies -- it's a transparent organization known in the philanthropic community for doing good public service. Make no mistake: Beck's intention was to paint the Tides Foundation as a dangerous, increasingly powerful threat to freedom that must be stopped. And Williams set out to stop them.

It's time for those who profit from Beck to take responsibility for his incitements to violence. Beck's paranoid, dishonest and incendiary rhetoric doesn't just reflect on Beck -- it reflects on News Corp., Fox News' parent company, and its shareholders. Morgan Stanley owns nearly $300,000,000 in News Corp. stock, Bank of New York more than $175,000,000, Goldman Sachs $115,000,000, and JPMorgan Chase nearly $70,000,000. As owners of the company, they need to take responsibility for the conduct of its employees.

Demand that News Corp.'s major shareholders renounce Glenn Beck's violent rhetoric and its dangerous consequences.

As Media Matters Senior Fellow Eric Boehlert wrote:
Indeed, for more than a year Beck has been portraying the progressive organization as a central player in a larger, nefarious cabal of Marxist/socialist/Nazi Obama-loving outlets determined to destroy democracy in America. Beck has routinely smeared the low-profile entity for being staffed by "thugs" and "bullies" and involved in "the nasty of the nastiest," like indoctrinating schoolchildren and creating a "mass organization to seize power."

As Media Matters reported, the conspiratorial host had mentioned (read: attacked) the little-known progressive organization nearly 30 times on his Fox program alone since it premiered in 2009, including several mentions in the last month. (Beck's the only TV talker who regularly references the foundation, according to our Nexis searches.)

So yes, Beck has done all he can to scare the hell out of people about the Tides Foundation and "turn the light of day" onto an organization that actually facilitates non-profit giving.

And guess what? Everybody in America would have found out about the Tides Foundation last week if Byron Williams had had his way.
Demand that News Corp.'s major shareholders renounce Glenn Beck's violent rhetoric and its dangerous consequences.

Thank you again for your support.

Ari Rabin-Havt
Media Matters for America

From The White House

Weekly Address

President Obama praises the successes of the auto industry restructuring as good news for our economy, and calls on Republican leaders in the Senate to “stop holding America’s small businesses hostage to politics” by blocking a vote to help them  create jobs.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Joan Baez at Cheekwood

Last night, July the 29th, LIVE! at Cheekwood welcomed legendary folk singer, songwriter, and activist, Joan Baez, to their summer concert series. Ms Baez began her career over fifty years ago performing in coffeehouses in the Boston-Cambridge area. She emerged out of obscurity in 1959 as an unknown performer at the Newport Folk Festival.

She began her recording career a year later in 1960, achieving immediate success with her first three albums – Joan Baez, Joan Baez, Vol. 2, and Joan Baez in Concert. All three albums achieved gold record status, and stayed on the charts for more than two years.

Ms Baez is well known for her distinctive vocal style, the topical songs she writes, and the material she has chosen to record. In the 1960s and 70s she recorded and was instrumental in helping to bring the songs of Bob Dylan to national prominence. She has spent her entire adult life as a social activist dealing with nonviolence, human rights, and environmental issues.

She is, perhaps, best known for such hits as "Diamonds & Rust", Phil Ochs's "There but for Fortune", "Love Is Just a Four-Letter Word", and The Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" – all of which she performed last night to standing ovations.

Despite the heat and humidity, the croaking (rib-bit) of frogs in the background, and the stage lights attracting numerous bugs, Joan made it a magical night for all who came. The outdoor venue and gorgeous scenery of the Cheekwood gardens and ponds, with the famed Chihuly glass sculture exhibit only added to the enchantment of the evening.

In the coming months John Hiatt, the Indigo Girls and the Del McCoury Band will also perform LIVE! at Cheekwood.

From The New York Times

Curbing Your Enthusiasm 


Published: July 29, 2010

Why does the Obama administration keep looking for love in all the wrong places? Why does it go out of its way to alienate its friends, while wooing people who will never waver in their hatred?

These questions were inspired by the ongoing suspense over whether President Obama will do the obviously right thing and nominate Elizabeth Warren to lead the new consumer financial protection agency. But the Warren affair is only the latest chapter in an ongoing saga.

Mr. Obama rode into office on a vast wave of progressive enthusiasm. This enthusiasm was bound to be followed by disappointment, and not just because the president was always more centrist and conventional than his fervent supporters imagined. Given the facts of politics, and above all the difficulty of getting anything done in the face of lock step Republican opposition, he wasn’t going to be the transformational figure some envisioned.

And Mr. Obama has delivered in important ways. Above all, he managed (with a lot of help from Nancy Pelosi) to enact a health reform that, imperfect as it is, will greatly improve Americans’ lives — unless a Republican Congress manages to sabotage its implementation.

But progressive disillusionment isn’t just a matter of sky-high expectations meeting prosaic reality. Threatened filibusters didn’t force Mr. Obama to waffle on torture; to escalate in Afghanistan; to choose, with exquisitely bad timing, to loosen the rules on offshore drilling early this year.

Then there are the appointments. Yes, the administration needed experienced hands. But did all the senior members of the economics team have to be protégés of Robert Rubin, the apostle of financial deregulation? Was it necessary to install Ken Salazar at the Interior Department over the objections of environmentalists who feared, rightly, that his ties to extractive industries would make him slow to clean up a corrupt agency?

And where’s this administration’s Frances Perkins? As F.D.R.’s labor secretary, Perkins, a longtime crusader for workers’ rights, served as a symbol of the New Deal’s commitment to change. I have nothing against Hilda Solis, the current labor secretary — but neither she nor any other senior figure in the administration is a progressive with enough independent stature to play that kind of role.

What explains Mr. Obama’s consistent snubbing of those who made him what he is? Does he fear that his enemies would use any support for progressive people or ideas as an excuse to denounce him as a left-wing extremist? Well, as you may have noticed, they don’t need such excuses: He’s been portrayed as a socialist because he enacted Mitt Romney’s health-care plan, as a virulent foe of business because he’s been known to mention that corporations sometimes behave badly.

The point is that Mr. Obama’s attempts to avoid confrontation have been counterproductive. His opponents remain filled with a passionate intensity, while his supporters, having received no respect, lack all conviction. And in a midterm election, where turnout is crucial, the “enthusiasm gap” between Republicans and Democrats could spell catastrophe for the Obama agenda.

Which brings me back to Ms. Warren.

The debate over financial reform, in which the G.O.P. has taken the side of the bad guys, should be a political winner for Democrats. Much of the reform, however, is deeply technical: “Maintain the requirement that derivatives be traded on public exchanges!” doesn’t fit on a placard.

But protecting consumers, ensuring that they aren’t the victims of predatory financial practices, is something voters can relate to. And choosing a high-profile consumer advocate to lead the agency providing that protection — someone whose scholarship and advocacy were largely responsible for the agency’s creation — is the natural move, both substantively and politically. Meanwhile, the alternative — disappointing supporters yet again by choosing some little-known technocrat — seems like an obvious error.

So why is this issue still up in the air? Yes, Republicans might well try to filibuster a Warren appointment, but that’s a fight the administration should welcome.

O.K., I don’t really know what’s going on. But I worry that Mr. Obama is still wrapped up in his dream of transcending partisanship, while his aides dislike the idea of having to deal with strong, independent voices. And the end result of this game-playing is an administration that seems determined to alienate its friends.

Just to be clear, progressives would be foolish to sit out this election: Mr. Obama may not be the politician of their dreams, but his enemies are definitely the stuff of their nightmares. But Mr. Obama has a responsibility, too. He can’t expect strong support from people his administration keeps ignoring and insulting.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

From The White House

The Affordable Care Act makes it possible for millions of families and small business to get affordable, quality care. And makes it easy to find out what options are available to you based on your location and circumstances.

The website is a great resource, and it’s only going to get better.

Throughout the site, there are little yellow boxes where you can give feedback and help the website be as informative, clear and complete as possible. And I know for a fact that the team at the Department of Health and Human Services meets every week to go over this feedback and has already made some improvements based on it.

More information for businesses and families is coming soon, including pricing data for insurance plans, additional ways to compare quality of health care services and providers, and new consumer protections that are ending the worst abuses of the insurance industry. Be sure to check back often as new materials are added.

As the President said, “no matter what your age or situation, there’s something for everyone at” You can help us spread the work about this great new resource by forwarding this email and video to your friends and family.


Nancy-Ann DeParle
Director, White House Office of Health Reform

P.S. – If you are interested, we are creating a special email list that is focused on health care implementation. While has a ton of consumer-oriented information, there are often news stories, blog posts, in-depth reports and other implementation-related issues that we want to share from the White House.

Take a moment to sign up:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

From The White House

View More White House Photos

Today’s Schedule
The President will travel to Edison, New Jersey to meet with a group of small business owners at Tastee Sub Shop to discuss the economy and urge Congress to pass support for small businesses, the engines of private sector job growth. 
The Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden will travel to Fort Drum, NY, to welcome home the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, from Iraq.
All times are Eastern Daylight Time.
9:30 AM: The President receives the Presidential Daily Briefing
10:00 AM: The President meets with senior advisors
10:40 AM: The President meets with Senator John Kerry
11:45 AM: The President departs the White House en route Andrews Air Force Base
12:00 PM: The President departs Andrews Air Force Base en route Newark, New Jersey
12:50 PM: The President arrives in Newark, New Jersey
1:30 PM: The President meets with a group of small business owners to discuss the economy and urge Congress to pass support for small businesses
1:30 PM: The Vice President and Dr. Biden deliver remarks at the Welcome Home Ceremony for the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division
2:20 PM: The President delivers a statement to the press
5:40 PM: The President attends a DNC finance event at Four Seasons Hotel, New York City
7:20 PM: The President attends a DNC finance event at a private residence in New York City
8:50 PM: The President departs Newark, New Jersey en route Andrews Air Force Base
9:40 PM: The President arrives at Andrews Air Force Base
9:55 PM: The President arrives at the White House
Check out the schedule here.  Subscribe to the schedule via RSS feed or add it to your calendar using iCal.
In Case You Missed It
Here are some of the top stories from the White House blog.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Joan Baez

On Thursday, July the 29th, I'm going to see and hear Joan at Cheekwood. It has been awhile and I am really looking forward to it.

For those who did not read my post (Who in the . . .) about the 1972 "Ring Around Congress" March in solidarity with the women and children of Vietnam that Joan organized click here.

Monday, July 26, 2010

From WikiLeaks

The Afghan War Diary

Sunday, July 26 5pm EST.

WikiLeaks today released over 75,000 secret US military reports covering the war in Afghanistan.

The Afghan War Diary an extraordinary secret compendium of over 91,000 reports covering the war in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2010. The reports describe the majority of lethal military actions involving the United States military. They include the number of persons internally stated to be killed, wounded, or detained during each action, together with the precise geographical location of each event, and the military units involved and major weapon systems used.

The Afghan War Diary is the most significant archive about the reality of war to have ever been released during the course of a war. The deaths of tens of thousands is normally only a statistic but the archive reveals the locations and the key events behind each most of these deaths. We hope its release will lead to a comprehensive understanding of the war in Afghanistan and provide the raw ingredients necessary to change its course.

Most entries have been written by soldiers and intelligence officers listening to reports radioed in from front line deployments. However the reports also contain related information from Marines intelligence, US Embassies, and reports about corruption and development activity across Afghanistan.

Each report consists of the time and precise geographic location of an event that the US Army considers significant. It includes several additional standardized fields: The broad type of the event (combat, non-combat, propaganda, etc.); the category of the event as classified by US Forces, how many were detained, wounded, and killed from civilian, allied, host nation, and enemy forces; the name of the reporting unit and a number of other fields, the most significant of which is the summary - an English language description of the events that are covered in the report.

The Diary is available on the web and can be viewed in chronological order and by by over 100 categories assigned by the US Forces such as: "escalation of force", "friendly-fire", "development meeting", etc. The reports can also be viewed by our "severity" measure-the total number of people killed, injured or detained. All incidents have been placed onto a map of Afghanistan and can be viewed on Google Earth limited to a particular window of time or place. In this way the unfolding of the last six years of war may be seen.

The material shows that cover-ups start on the ground. When reporting their own activities US Units are inclined to classify civilian kills as insurgent kills, downplay the number of people killed or otherwise make excuses for themselves. The reports, when made about other US Military units are more likely to be truthful, but still down play criticism. Conversely, when reporting on the actions of non-US ISAF forces the reports tend to be frank or critical and when reporting on the Taliban or other rebel groups, bad behavior is described in comprehensive detail. The behavior of the Afghan Army and Afghan authorities are also frequently described.

The reports come from US Army with the exception most Special Forces activities. The reports do not generally cover top-secret operations or European and other ISAF Forces operations. However when a combined operation involving regular Army units occurs, details of Army partners are often revealed. For example a number of bloody operations carried out by Task Force 373, a secret US Special Forces assassination unit, are exposed in the Diary -- including a raid that lead to the death of seven children.

This archive shows the vast range of small tragedies that are almost never reported by the press but which account for the overwhelming majority of deaths and injuries.

We have delayed the release of some 15,000 reports from total archive as part of a harm minimization process demanded by our source. After further review, these reports will be released, with occasional redactions, and eventually, in full, as the security situation in Afghanistan permits.

Additional information from our media partners:
Der Spiegel:,1518,708314,00.html
The Guardian:
The New York Times:

Saturday, July 24, 2010

From BuzzFlash

No to Oligarchy

By Senator Bernie Sanders

The American people are hurting. As a result of the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street, millions of Americans have lost their jobs, homes, life savings and their ability to get a higher education. Today, some 22 percent of our children live in poverty, and millions more have become dependent on food stamps for their food.

And while the Great Wall Street Recession has devastated the middle class, the truth is that working families have been experiencing a decline for decades. During the Bush years alone, from 2000-2008, median family income dropped by nearly $2,200 and millions lost their health insurance. Today, because of stagnating wages and higher costs for basic necessities, the average two-wage-earner family has less disposable income than a one-wage-earner family did a generation ago. The average American today is underpaid, overworked and stressed out as to what the future will bring for his or her children. For many, the American dream has become a nightmare.

But, not everybody is hurting. While the middle class disappears and poverty increases the wealthiest people in our country are not only doing extremely well, they are using their wealth and political power to protect and expand their very privileged status at the expense of everyone else. This upper-crust of extremely wealthy families are hell-bent on destroying the democratic vision of a strong middle-class which has made the United States the envy of the world. In its place they are determined to create an oligarchy in which a small number of families control the economic and political life of our country.

The 400 richest families in America, who saw their wealth increase by some $400 billion during the Bush years, have now accumulated $1.27 trillion in wealth. Four hundred families! During the last 15 years, while these enormously rich people became much richer their effective tax rates were slashed almost in half. While the highest paid 400 Americans had an average income of $345 million in 2007, as a result of Bush tax policy they now pay an effective tax rate of 16.6 percent, the lowest on record.

Last year, the top 25 hedge fund managers made a combined $25 billion but because of tax policy their lobbyists helped write, they pay a lower effective tax rate than many teachers, nurses, and police officers. As a result of tax havens in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and elsewhere, the wealthy and large corporations are evading some $100 billion a year in U.S. taxes. Warren Buffett, one of the richest people on earth, has often commented that he pays a lower effective tax rate than his secretary.

But it's not just wealthy individuals who grotesquely manipulate the system for their benefit. It's the multi-national corporations they own and control. In 2009, Exxon Mobil, the most profitable corporation in history made $19 billion in profits and not only paid no federal income tax -- they actually received a $156 million refund from the government. In 2005, one out of every four large corporations in the United States paid no federal income taxes while earning $1.1 trillion in revenue.

But, perhaps the most outrageous tax break given to multi-millionaires and billionaires happened this January when the estate tax, established in 1916, was repealed for one year as a result of President Bush's 2001 tax legislation. This tax applies only to the wealthiest three-tenths of 1 percent of our population. This is what Teddy Roosevelt, a leading proponent of the estate tax, said in 1910. "The absence of effective state, and, especially, national restraint upon unfair money-getting has tended to create a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power. The prime need is to change the conditions which enable these men to accumulate power which is not for the general welfare that they should hold or exercise.... Therefore, I believe in a ... graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes, properly safeguarded against evasion and increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the estate." And that's what we've had for the last 95 years -- until 2010.

Today, not content with huge tax breaks on their income; not content with massive corporate tax loopholes; not content with trade laws enabling them to outsource the jobs of millions of American workers to low-wage countries and not content with tax havens around the world, the ruling elite and their lobbyists are working feverishly to either eliminate the estate tax or substantially lower it. If they are successful at wiping out the estate tax, as they came close to doing in 2006 with every Republican but two voting to do, it would increase the national debt by over $1 trillion during a 10-year period. At a time when we already have a $13 trillion debt, enormous unmet needs and the highest level of wealth inequality in the industrialized world, it is simply obscene to provide more tax breaks to multi-millionaires and billionaires.

That is why I have introduced the Responsible Estate Tax Act (S.3533). This legislation would raise $318 billion over the next decade by establishing a graduated inheritance tax on estates over $3.5 million retroactive to this year. This bill ensures that the wealthiest 0.3 percent of Americans pays their fair share of estate taxes, while making sure that 99.7 percent of Americans never have to pay a dime when they lose a loved one. It also makes certain that the overwhelming majority of family farmers and small businesses never have to pay an estate tax.

This legislation must be passed because, with a $13 trillion national debt and huge unmet needs, we cannot afford more tax breaks for millionaire and billionaire families. But even more importantly, it must be passed because the United States must not become an oligarchy in which a handful of wealthy and powerful families control the destiny of our nation. Too many people, from the inception of this country, have struggled and died to maintain our democratic vision. We owe it to them and to our children to maintain it.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Who in the . . .

by Dee Newman

Early on the morning of June the 22nd, 1972, while standing in the sanctuary of the St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, just two blocks east of our nation’s Capitol, amidst a noisy throng of mostly women and children, suddenly, with some force, a woman’s body pressed up against me. As I turned to face her, feeling the warmth of her breath upon my face, I instantly recognized her.

It was Candice Bergen. Only six months earlier I had watched her on the big screen playing Susan opposite Art Garfunkel and Jack Nicholson in the controversial film, Carnal Knowledge.

After accepting her apology for bumping into me, I turned to my left and nudged my friend, George, with my elbow.

George and I had left Nashville only twenty-four hours earlier. We had not had a wink of sleep. It was, literally, a miracle that we were standing there at all, unscathed and alive.

Three days before, on June the 19th Agnes came a shore along the Florida panhandle as a category one hurricane. Moving northeastward, it weakened considerably over Georgia. As it did, my friend and neighbor, George, a freelanced photographer for a number of national news publications, suggested that we drive to Washington, D.C., to cover what was later to be known as the women’s and children’s “Ring Around Congress.”

Unfortunately, unbeknownst to us, after we were well on our way, Agnes began to regained strength and intensity along the eastern coast of North Carolina, ravaging the mid-Atlantic region as a tropical storm, killing 129 people and destroying $1.7 billion in goods and property. The worst damage occurred along a path from Virginia through Maryland and Pennsylvania to the Finger Lakes region of New York, when Agnes combined with a non-tropical low to produce widespread rainfall and severe flooding.

By the time we reach central Virginia, the rainfall had become extremely intense. Many rivers and streams were overflowing their banks. Eventually, around 9 o’clock that night, we were forced by local authorities to hold-up in the community center of a small town just west of D.C. The once placid stream on the outskirts of the town had become a raging river, rising several feet above the bridge that crossed it.

The next morning after the rains had stopped, we drove out to the bridge to survey the situation. We soon found ourselves stuck between two large eighteen-wheelers whose drivers had obviously decided to attempt the crossing. Fortunately, my little Volkswagen Karmann Ghia, literally, was suck across the bridge by the wake of the truck in front of us. To this day, I still believe that if it were not for George’s size (six-feet-four-inches) and weight (nearly 300 pounds), we would have easily been swept away with the river’s excessive current.

When we finally arrived in D.C. we went straight to St. Marks where the women activists and their children were to gather before marching to the Capitol. George gravitated towards a small group of photo journalists clustered in the middle of the church’s sanctuary. On a raised platform at one end of the church stood Joan Baez, the event’s coordinator, her mother and her sister, Mimi. 

I would later learn from Joan that the demonstration had been nearly cancelled, due in part to the weather which had prevented hundreds and thousands of women and children from arriving either by plane, train, or automobile.

I also learned that Marion Barry, Washington’s mayor, and a small group of the city’s Black leaders for some unknown reason, had been trying for weeks to sabotage the march and prevent it from happening. It was later reported that the Nixon administration might have pressured the mayor and other black leaders to use their influence to prevent the march from occurring. If it were not for the weather and a series of peculiar and mysterious disruptions this symbolic act of solidarity with the women and children of Vietnam may have been one of the largest demonstrations Washington had ever witnessed. Unfortunately, in the end, there were no more than 2500 to 3000 women and children who joined hands that day to circle the Capitol and Congress.

Despite the fact that every black leader in the country, including Coretta King, and many White liberal activists decided to stay home that day, due to the flood and/or pressure from Washington’s Black leadership, the demonstration was held. And, was covered by all three networks, numerous newspapers and publications including Time, Newsweek and the Associated Press.

Now, as I was saying, after accepting Ms Bergen’s apology, I nudged George with my elbow and softly whispered, “George, Candice Bergen is standing right beside me.”

“What!” George loudly retorted.

“Candice Bergen is standing right beside me,” I quietly whispered, again.

“Speak up, Dee! I can’t hear you.”

After softly repeating myself for the third time, “Candice Bergen is standing right beside me,” George shouts, loud enough for the entire assembled throng to hear: “Who in the fuck is Candice Bergen?"

Thursday, July 22, 2010

From the White House

Video: What Wall Street Reform Means For You
Posted by Jesse Lee on July 21, 2010 at 10:00 AM EDT

We've got plenty more on the details of Wall Street Reform here at including The Top 10 Things You May Not Know About the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, but to get the gist of how it will hold Wall Street accountable and what the strongest consumer protections ever will do for your family, watch the video we put together below.

From Countdown (This is a Must See, Listen, or Read!)

Keith's Special Comment

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Just a Little Reminder

by Dee Newman

For eight years during the George W. Bush Administration Republicans told us that "the American economy is the envy of the world . . . [that] the fundamentals of our economy are strong."

When we look at the facts, though, economic growth actually was extremely weak during W's administration when the Republicans controlled congress.

The truth is – since 1960, no administration ranks lower in economic growth than W's, including his father’s – which was 1.9%.

Nevertheless, it was not until February of 2008 when W signed the stimulus package that he finally admitted what most of us already knew – the economy was in real trouble and had been for a long time.

To sustain the myth, his administration and his Republican cronies in congress had "barrowed and spent" more than any other administration in our nation’s history – even more than the Reagan administration.

The effects of Bush’s deficit-spending completely reverse the deficit-reduction of the Clinton years.

The massive trade deficits of the Bush years added more than $1.5 trillion to our foreign debt alone.

Without China and Middle Eastern countries financing that debt the United States’ economy would have become insolvent a long time ago.

The Dollar shrunk to an all time low.

Wages remained flat as the price of oil and food climbed to record levels.

Inflation increased.

Health-care coverage for most Americans became increasingly precarious. Over 45 million Americans had no health care at all.

What's more, his administration did absolutely nothing to help the average worker in this country.

Job growth was extremely low – until 2008 when we actually lost over 700,000 jobs, we averaged less than 900,000 jobs a year, compared to more than 2.5 million jobs a year during the Clinton administration.

The Republican's only strategy was then (as it is today) to give out massive tax cuts, but tax cuts that heavily favored the rich and powerful – trickled down economics or as DaddyBush use to say, voodoo economics.

In addition, between 2000 and 2006, the Republican controlled congress gave out a record amount of pork. But, Bush did not veto or even threaten to veto one single spending bill, that is, until the Democrats took over and reduced pork by 40%.

On top of all this "barrowing and spending", the Bush administration and the Republican controlled congress, also, gave massive handouts and tax cuts, not to the poor and hungry or the middle class, but to big business and international corporations (the energy companies, the defense contractors, the drug companies, the insurance companies, and yes, the financial industry), essentially everything they wanted, and all at the public's expense while his government regulators turned a blind-eye to their greed and corruption.

None of which produce the growth Bush and Republicans promised.

And then, ”Bailouts!”

In other words – "Corporate Welfare."

Now, there is a lot of blame to go around, but it was Republicans' and Bush's decision to not only ignore, but also celebrate in hundreds of speeches the growth of the housing bubble. Let’s be honest, the insanity of the growth and deregulation of the mortgage market was one of the most disastrous economic mistakes in our nation's history.

The economic meltdown coupled with the billions and billions of dollars we spent on the unnecessary Iraq War brought our precious country to its knees.

Borrow, borrow . . . spend, spend.

Osama bin Laden must awake every morning laughing his ass off.

As he told us on numerous occasions since 9/11 – al Qaeda’s goal is to “bleed America to the point of bankruptcy.”

He told us in November of 2004 that al Qaeda had found it easy “to provoke and bait” the Bush administration. And, that America would suffer major human and economic losses while Bush’s buddies would rake in enormous profits.

“ The real loser is you," he said. "It is the American people and their economy."

As I have said before – how sad and depressing it is that the man Bush said he would capture "dead or alive" back in 2002 is still at large, and that it is his, Osama bin Laden’s words, not Bush's, that continue to ring true, today.

If the American people vote to return to the Republican policies of the Bush years, we will deserve the economic catastrophe which will surely ensue.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Three Questions

by Leo Tolstoy

One day it occurred to a certain emperor that if he only knew the answers to three questions, he would never stray in any matter.

What is the best time to do each thing? Who are the most important people to work with? What is the most important thing to do at all times?

The emperor issued a decree throughout his kingdom announcing that whoever could answer the questions would receive a great reward. Many who read the decree made their way to the palace at once, each person with a different answer.

In reply to the first question, one person advised that the emperor make up a thorough time schedule, consecrating every hour, day, month, and year for certain tasks and then follow the schedule to the letter. Only then could he hope to do every task at the right time.

Another person replied that it was impossible to plan in advance and that the emperor should put all vain amusements aside and remain attentive to everything in order to know what to do at what time.

Someone else insisted that, by himself, the emperor could never hope to have all the foresight and competence necessary to decide when to do each and every task and what he really needed was to set up a Council of the Wise and then to act according to their advice.

Someone else said that certain matters required immediate decision and could not wait for consultation, but if he wanted to know in advance what was going to happen he should consult magicians and soothsayers.

The responses to the second question also lacked accord.

One person said that the emperor needed to place all his trust in administrators, another urged reliance on priests and monks, while others recommended physicians. Still others put their faith in warriors.

The third question drew a similar variety of answers. Some said science was the most important pursuit. Others insisted on religion. Yet others claimed the most important thing was military skill.

The emperor was not pleased with any of the answers, and no reward was given.

After several nights of reflection, the emperor resolved to visit a hermit who lived up on the mountain and was said to be an enlightened man. The emperor wished to find the hermit to ask him the three questions, though he knew the hermit never left the mountains and was known to receive only the poor, refusing to have anything to do with persons of wealth or power. So the emperor disguised himself as a simple peasant and ordered his attendants to wait for him at the foot of the mountain while he climbed the slope alone to seek the hermit.

Reaching the holy man’s dwelling place, the emperor found the hermit digging a garden in front of his hut. When the hermit saw the stranger, he nodded his head in greeting and continued to dig. The labor was obviously hard on him. He was an old man, and each time he thrust his spade into the ground to turn the earth, he heaved heavily.

The emperor approached him and said, “I have come here to ask your help with three questions: When is the best time to do each thing? Who are the most important people to work with? What is the most important thing to do at all times?”

The hermit listened attentively but only patted the emperor on the shoulder and continued digging. The emperor said, “You must be tired. Here, let me give you a hand with that.” The hermit thanked him, handed the emperor the spade, and then sat down on the ground to rest.

After he had dug two rows, the emperor stopped and turned to the hermit and repeated his three questions. The hermit still did not answer, but instead stood up and pointed to the spade and said, “Why don’t you rest now? I can take over again.” But the emperor continued to dig. One hour passed, then two. Finally the sun began to set behind the mountain. The emperor put down the spade and said to the hermit, “I came here to ask if you could answer my three questions. But if you can’t give me any answer, please let me know so that I can get on may way home.”

The hermit lifted his head and asked the emperor, “Do you hear someone running over there?” The emperor turned his head. They both saw a man with a long white beard emerge from the woods. He ran wildly, pressing his hands against a bloody wound in his stomach. The man ran toward the emperor before falling unconscious to the ground, where he lay groaning. Opening the man’s clothing, the emperor and hermit saw that the man had received a deep gash. The emperor cleaned the wound thoroughly and then used his own shirt to bandage it, but the blood completely soaked it within minutes. He rinsed the shirt out and bandaged the wound a second time and continued to do so until the flow of blood had stopped.

At last the wounded man regained consciousness and asked for a drink of water. The emperor ran down to the stream and brought back a jug of fresh water. Meanwhile, the sun had disappeared and the night air had begun to turn cold. The hermit gave the emperor a hand in carrying the man into the hut where they laid him down on the hermit’s bed. The man closed his eyes and lay quietly. The emperor was worn out from the long day of climbing the mountain and digging the garden. Leaning against the doorway, he fell asleep. When he rose, the sun had already risen over the mountain. For a moment he forgot where he was and what he had come here for. He looked over to the bed and saw the wounded man also looking around him in confusion. When he saw the emperor, he stared at him intently and then said in a faint whisper, “Please forgive me.”

“But what have you done that I should forgive you?” the emperor asked.

“You do not know me, your majesty, but I know you. I was your sworn enemy, and I had vowed to take vengeance on you, for during the last war you killed my brother and seized my property. When I learned that you were coming alone to the mountain to meet the hermit, I resolved to surprise you on your way back to kill you. But after waiting a long time there was still no sign of you, and so I left my ambush in order to seek you out. But instead of finding you, I came across your attendants, who recognized me, giving me this wound. Luckily, I escaped and ran here. If I hadn’t met you I would surely be dead by now. I had intended to kill you, but instead you saved my life! I am ashamed and grateful beyond words. If I live, I vow to be your servant for the rest of my life, and I will bid my children and grandchildren to do the same. Please grant me your forgiveness.”

The emperor was overjoyed to see that he was so easily reconciled with a former enemy. He not only forgave the man but promised to return all the man’s property and to send his own physician and servants to wait on the man until he was completely healed. After ordering his attendants to take the man home, the emperor returned to see the hermit. Before returning to the palace the emperor wanted to repeat his three questions one last time. He found the hermit sowing seeds in the earth they had dug the day before.

The hermit stood up and looked at the emperor. “But your questions have already been answered.”

“How’s that?” the emperor asked, puzzled.

“Yesterday, if you had not taken pity on my age and given me a hand with digging these beds, you would have been attacked by that man on your way home. Then you would have deeply regretted not staying with me. Therefore the most important time was the time you were digging in the beds, the most important person was myself, and the most important pursuit was to help me. Later, when the wounded man ran up here, the most important time was the time you spent dressing his wound, for if you had not cared for him he would have died and you would have lost the chance to be reconciled with him. Likewise, he was the most important person, and the most important pursuit was taking care of his wound. Remember that there is only one important time and is Now. The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion. The most important person is always the person with whom you are, who is right before you, for who knows if you will have dealings with any other person in the future. The most important pursuit is making that person, the one standing at you side, happy, for that alone is the pursuit of life.”

Friday, July 16, 2010

From Funny or Die

Two ladies (Kate Bosworth and Zoe Saldana) walk into a bar. Sure they look great. That's not in question. But as bartender Janeane Garofalo will tell you, they're idiots. Actual idiots. And from the sound of it, she's right.

"Quel guardo il cavaliere"

Watch Valerie (Sydney's niece) sing "Quel guardo il cavaliere" from Donizetti's 'Don Pasquale.' Performed in the Ridotto in Fidenza, Italy. Part of the Flagstaff in Fidenza Summer Opera Program (June 2010).

Click on the the Photo below to watch the video: