Tuesday, December 20, 2005

King Midas in Reverse

Half a TRILLION U.S. dollars.
2158 American soldiers dead.
16,061 more wounded.
7068 wounded so badly the cannot return to duty.  Maimed for life.  Ruined.

And for what?  For another Iran!  That's right, Iraq is now Iran II, the Sequel. News from the recent voting is leaking and the word is that Islamic Fundamentalism is winning -- and winning BIG!

Well, at least now we officially know that the vast majority of Iraqi voters think no more of George Bush than do fully 56% of the U.S. population.

Despite the propaganda, despite toppling Hussein, Iraqis have figured out on their own that George Bush never so much as touched anything that didn't immediately turn to SHIT.

I've said it before and I'll say it again...  EVIL BEGETS EVIL!

Get out of Iraq. Get out now. This very second. And then put Bush, Cheney and the Republican Congress in jail where they belong.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Your tax dollars at work...

The guy that built and runs nowthatsfuckedup.com lets soldiers post "gore" photos for free access (to porn, etc.).

Now he's up on pornography charges in Florida. The porn is tame, but the "gore" (like flag draped coffins) is a little too much for the neocons, at least in Florida, where they have a pretty good winning percentage this decade.

It's gory stuff all right, and the last thing THEY want is something like this on the evening news. So this "pornographer" has to be stopped. But that's too bad, because I found the picture of the little boy with a hole where his face used to be very compelling.

JUST BLOW ME UP NOW! Because my taxes support this shit, and I deserve it. We ALL deserve it. Justice is one thing. Bringing criminals (bin Laden) to justice is one thing. A society without rule of law is not a society. Murder is wrong and murderers must be punished.

But the never ending (after the same period of time from D-Day, U.S. soldiers were on the outskirts of Berlin) Iraq "war" is simply a crime against the human race. Moreso a "crime" than simply being a citizen of a nation consuming 1/3 of the world's resources while comprising 1/20th of its population...

Just like Viet Nam (2 million Vietnamese killed), once again, WE are the Nazis. And that is why no good has nor ever will come of it. Nothing good should ever come from pure evil. You cannot turn evil into good.

But you can stop perpetrating evil.

Stop this evil war now! Today. This second.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Surviving U.S. Decline...


Seem these days that parading around the world stepping on everyone's else's throat, shoving guns in their mouths, and telling them to "wake up and smell the McNuggets..." just isn't working very well any more...

Perhaps it's because instant information (AKA the Internet) makes the whole corrupt Syriana game a little too transparent and obvious.


Well, Well, Well, maybe there is a little justice in this universe.

Meanwhile, it makes sense to speculate how to economically survive the fall of the Great War Pig United States of America.

Not possible, probably, but one at least tries.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

WMFP?

What's my fucking problem...

I watch the Sunday morning talk. I sit in my 1890 mansion constructed of millions of pounds of granite stones (because I live in Montana I could at least afford it). But I cannot afford to pay to restore it, so I do what I can, when I can. I am a working person. I am in the top 10-15% of the U.S. income-wise.

AND I FEEL UNHAPPY AS SHIT MOST OF THE TIME.

Because, God help me, I but I cannot stop worrying about the rest of this festering, endangered planet. About where we, the human race, is headed.

In other words, I'm tired of talking about wheat beer or plasma televisions or web sites. It's time to start talking about just how long any form of political stability survives on a planet where 99.9% of the population is now expected to stand by while the other .1% has a REAL GOOD TIME -- at least until the ice caps melt, the Great "I told you the earth was warming!" Wildfire begins, or we all drown in our own sewage.

Think about it. Do something about it: Stop consuming. Start rebuilding. Start preserving. Start believing there are human solutions to human problems. Otherwise, as Liberals once said about the "survivability" of Nuclear War, "Bend over and kiss your ass goodbye..." because we will all live to see nihilistic change, when the answers (economic justice, tolerance, and liberty) were right under our noses.

And this leads to my Sunday Morning prayer to the Universe


Please, let George W. Bush be the Marie Antoinette of the 21st century. Because, it is not too late for the human race to stop making insane choices and start doing the right things for the vast majority. After all, isn't regulating the worst human impulses essentially the sole reason for Government in the first place.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

There's a new sheriff in town boys...


And he's old and feeble and gentile but as smart as a whip.  Smart enough to blow the doors off Washington today.  And his name is Harry Reid.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Two of America's Biggest Problems...

1) Hubris

Case in point: The Donald

2) Stupidity

DuOh! Why sell all those Treasury bonds that we can later default on, when we could just sell America outright to China?

Saturday, October 22, 2005

The 100% Solution

Environmentalism.  Seems well intentioned.  Only I don't see the environment getting any better.

The New Deal and Social Welfare?  Don't blink, or you might miss its final dismantling.

Communism.  Let's face it: top heavy and uncompetetive.  Property may very well be theft, but without at least some form of materialism, there seems little capacity in human behavior for innovation.  Granted, this is truly sad!  But until humankind overcomes the basic limits of biology, it is all too real.  And without continuing innovation, there is no hope for a growing human population on a planet with diminishing natural resources.

So, until biology is surmounted, when ideas and hopefully ideals rule, here is my proposal to, at least, prevent less capable, less intelligent, less optimistic, and (discounting inheritance) less successful people like George W. Bush from controlling governments, and to a lesser extent corporations (e.g. Johnson and Johnson isn't run by Johnson descendents anymore).

A 100% Inheritance Tax


After all, isn't it about time for human society to abandon self-diminishing, self-limiting concepts rooted in Euro-feudalistic and Anglo-American legal traditions.

Simply stated, my proposal is that: upon death, ownership of all capital and material assets controlled by the deceased individual personally or in trust, shall immediately revert to the United States Department of the Treasury.  Collection will be under the auspice of the Internal Revenue Service.  The Federal Reserve will then decide upon the following course with regard to each asset:

1. Sell the asset at market value.  Then use or destroy (see below) the resulting capital.  Granted, all this selling will undoubtedly produce price deflation.  And in case you don't realize it, U.S. deflation is good and long overdue, unless of course you're a serious debtor, like the U.S. government or most U.S. families.  But, in case you missed it, I just solved the U.S. government's deficit.  So the Treasury can stop printing most of its bonds for increasingly risky sale to our global economic competitors: China and Japan.  Furthermore you will not much longer have a median home price of $568,890 in the State of California under my proposal.  Individuals, of course, will have to dig themselves out of debt.  Perhaps the government or charitable organizations can help in the interim, but living beyond one's means is simply immoral and selling yourself and your family's future to financial institutions must be discouraged.

2. Destroy the asset.  In the case of capital, this is also deflationary.  Deflation allows for lower wages (remember, U.S. currency becomes more valuable – i.e. your dollar buys more tomorrow not less).  Lower wages allow America, with its generally higher productivity, to once again compete industrially with "infinite human capital" nations like China and India. (Nations that U.S. entrepenuers granted admittance to the global marketplace by developing the Internet.)  But did you know that U.S. corporation Walmart sells DVDs in China for $2?  The same DVDs it sells for $20 in its stores in the U.S.?  Is this fair to the United Auto Workers' employees and retirees that General Motors has forced to accept benefit cuts, even as their health care and living expenses continually increase under the present U.S. inflationary spiral that presupposes 2-5% (at best; ? at worst) annual price inflation, then turns around the next year and essentially reclassifies this inflation as growth in the Gross Domestic Product, because the numbers got bigger?  No!  U.S. deflation, coupled with Chinese and Indian inflation is desperately needed for this country to remain economically viable for the vast majority of its citizens -- AKA the workers.  And my 100% solution guarantees it, without reducing essential, sustainable production.

3. Designate the asset for use toward the greater human good: museums (mansions are excellent choices in this regard), land/wilderness preservation, etc.

So go ahead, have your capitalism.  Buy as much as you can afford.  Sell anything people will buy.  Build a better mousetrap.  Raise the technological bar for humankind.  Build a personal empire.  Acquire wealth beyond human comprehension.  Honestly, I have nothing fundamentally against capitalism.  Just don't expect to pass the fruits of your labor to your undeserving offspring! Unlike you, they didn't make it the old fashioned way.  They didn't earn it!

Because as George W. Bush clearly illustrates, inheritance, aristocracy if you will, is the last and greatest inequity facing humankind.  How can we humans evolve (oops), or rather advance, when we automatically endow social and economic opportunity to the undeserving -- to the un-earning.  This is a phenomena best described as the Born on Third Base syndrome. Success in capitalism is not an inherited trait.  It's a lottery.  So why are the rewards of that success inherited?  Loving, providing for, and protecting your children is one thing.  Insuring them an unfair advantage in life is quite another indeed.  And there are more of us than there are of you.  It’s time to play fair, at least after you die.

Personally, I wish to be led by philosophers like Plato.  But I would settle for intellectuals like Karl Marx, maybe even capitalists like Bill Gates.  But George W. Bush has proven that the U.S. is overdue some method to prevent unfairly endowed leaders, devoid the essential moral and intellectual capital to lead, from leading.  

And just where are these people without their aristocracy?  It seems to me that answering this question can only improve the general quality of life on this planet.

Monday, October 03, 2005

America despairs of its shitty way of life...

I'm seeing it everywhere these days.

Yes, mostly since Katrina, but not just since Katrina.

For example, I was reading one of those "New West" (that's not the correct title, but you get the idea) magazines in a local opthamologist's office here in Helena this morning, waiting for the prognosis on my wife's recent eye surgery. And there was this curious article about Ross Macdonald, author of the "Drowning Pool" and, generally, a long series of crime/detective fiction novels depicting the career of a private detective named "Archer," that was also popularized in several films of Macdonald's novels starring Paul Newman.

Well, Macdonald's "Archer" was something of a philosopher king and Macdonald was one hell of a poetic writer. But the point I really want to make is that his writing could be dark, almost despairing, full of faded dreams and broken dreamers, of which Archer was not the least. So here, right in the middle of my wife's Dr. visit, I am reading this recent periodical, but not recent enough to be Katrina-aware. Seemingly not current enough to be so damn despairing to make such an effort to demonstrate Macdonald's dark California mythology, so fed up with an American dream that just couldn't get the job done quite right, of an America not having, or having sold, its soul.

And then it hit me. This feeling, which I am, myself, all too familiar with these days, has been building for almost a year now. And I wondered if perhaps, like me, nearly every thoughtful, well meaning person, and by this I mean every person with a even a glint of human idealism left, didn't really "take stock" after Bush's reelection; hasn't really, truly despaired for the human race since then. And now it seems I see it everywhere. Despair! In pre-Katrina magazine articles, like the one that inspired these words, ending abruptly and surprisingly as it did with a quote from Macdonald's "Drowning Pool", about swimming in the Pacific ocean; about how it's the only time that Archer, Macdonald's hard-boiled protaganist, ever felt really "clean" in his life; about how all California really needed was a proper "rise in sea level."

In "crime fiction" such emotions are often misread as mere ennui. But their juxtaposition in this article, coupled with its "cut to black" ending... No. This was sadness, real, despairing sadness on the part of the author and perhaps the editor of this article. Sadness without redemption. I say without redemption because, believe me, I looked. When the article just ended so darkly and abruptly, I went searching... for the next page, for a redemptive prolog, for some mitigating conclusion. But there was none. The piece just ended there. QED.

And such, in my opinion, is a current manifestation of intellectual and emotional life in America today. In an America where George W. Bush is not just elected, but reelected, what emotion is left, really, for any thoughtful person, save despair? Where do we go from here? What event can resurrect human hope? What deed can overcome such pure and unknowing corruption? What prayer redeems, or even exorcises, black water and broken faces from America's soul?

No. George W. Bush is not the devil. I am not saying that. But he is the most visible symbol I know for that which is terribly, terribly wrong with this country, and this world. And much as I try, much as I would like, I cannot see past his sneering, cynical, contemptous hatred for the human race, from which his blinding, impossible to conceal, elitism cannot possibly lift him.

God help me, but I still cannot understand how the United States of America reelected George W. Bush!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

You can't fool Mother Nature:  Bush and Cheney should RESIGN IMMEDIATELY...

GWB and his neocon minions have fooled a lot of people -- enough to steal two Presidential elections.  But it seems they cannot fool Mother Nature.  Unfortunately this conclusion has come only after thousands of innocents have suffered and died, sacrificed as if before a neocon altar, selfish, short-sighted and perhaps thirty years in the making.

And we, as citizens of the U.S. and the world, should not allow this death and suffering to be in vain!

And that is why I demand the resignation of Bush and Cheney, chief presiders over a Ponzi scheme government of contemptuous and incompetent cronies and lobbyists at virtually every level. Affirming evidence literally speaks for itself:

1. The over-reaction to Hurricane Rita: Bush calling for fuel "conservation" then making an 11th, energy sucking, helicopter escorted, photo-opportunity questing trip to the Gulf Coast.

2. The tragedy and travesty of Hurricane Katrina: being "on vacation" for four days while a class five hurricane bore down on New Orleans. Michael Brown, Bush's appointed head of FEMA, doing nothing for four days, after declaration of a National Disaster was requested by the governors of Louisiana and Mississippi. And just today, at a congressional investigation so obviously neocon CYA in scope that most committee Democrats refused to attend, "Brownie", probably the least trustworthy person (with the possible exception of Rove) in America today, had the unmitigated gall to blame others, specifically the Democrat governor of Louisiana, for his incompetence.

3. The "Pack of Lies" Iraq war: >$200 Billion spent or committed; >1.8 Billion bullets; >50,000 "insurgents" killed; >2000 "coalition" servicemen/women killed.  When will it end?  Why did it start?  Who, save the Halliburton and Bechtel corporations, can possibly benefit?

4. Karl Rove's possible criminal leaking of the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame, followed by his possible perjury recounting the event before a Grand Jury investigating the leak.

5. Richard Nixon, the last U.S. President to resign, was guilty of far less. Guilty of perjury and an organized coverup -- yes; but not attempted murder and contrived war!  Lest we forget, Nixon ultimately ended Viet Nam, he didn't start it.  Nixon initiated detente' (disarmament) with the former Soviet Union.  Nixon visited China and sought further diplomacy and normalization of relations.  Nixon may have been paranoid or even mildly insane, but he didn't work to bring about Armageddon.  Bush is our first Armageddon President.

For these reasons and many many more, Bush and Cheney should be forced to resign!  2008 is simply too far in the future to allow this insanity and hypocrisy to continue; to allow the deep, perhaps fatal, wounds these fools have inflicted to fester inside the body of our great Democracy; to prevent this great nation from resolving its present fiscal, moral, legal, economic, and international political crises.

And here is my immediate agenda for a newly appointed, post-Bush, emergency government:

Immediately appoint a commission of government, academic and industry leaders to begin a new, noble race against time; a "Manhattan Project" or "Moon Shot" for the 21st Century.  But not to create unthinkable weapons of mass destruction or uselessly project people into space.  Instead, this time, to once-and-for-all rid this nation and this planet of the political tyranny and unmitigated pollution from extracting fossil-fuels and burning them in internal combustion engines and electricity generating plants.  If all government incentives and subsidies designed to insure an enduring U.S. and global aristocracy were eliminated, solar and solar-thermal power would be competitive, price-wise today (albeit with high initial system costs that must be amortized) and hydrogen fuel cells will be competitive soon as U.S. domestic petroleum reserves are exhausted and our only alternative is importation at prevailing market prices.

Repeal the Bush tax cuts.
If Bush's fiscally and morally irresponsible attacks against our government and its ability to fund its legislated agenda are not repealed, then the U.S. must simply face the following economic reality: we cannot, as a nation, simultaneously pursue internationalization, social reform, educational reform, and government/tax reform. We simply cannot afford it. Our nation is approaching historically unprecedented deficit (as a percentage of GDP) levels -- the effects of this debt might be nothing short of catastrophic, given present funding formulae and projected future liabilities.  Our lower and middle classes are tapped, stressed, un/under-employed, or haven't seen pay raises in three or more years.  If all these goals are to be pursued, simultaneously, then quite simply, the wealthy, the only class growing and prospering under the neocons will have to make up the shortfall.

Remove the cap on Social Security taxes.
Progressive taxation? How can we call our tax system progressive (whereby higher income earners pay more, because they can afford to) when the 15.3% (employer and employee combined) Social Security tax rate disappears for wages in excess of $87,900. Removing the regressive cap can cover 42% of the present unfunded, future Social Security shortfall beginning in 2017 when payments exceed collections under current benefit formulae.

Raise the U.S. Inheritance Tax to 100% of assets.
No limits. No exceptions. After all, it's one thing for a government to allow individuals to amass ridiculous wealth.  It's quite another, altogether more sinister and class stratifying thing, to allow such wealth to pass directly to heirs, in perpetuity.

End the Illegal, Immoral, Imperialist Invasion and Occupation of Iraq
There is a word for killing someone because they might want to kill you: MURDER!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

on Bill Marr...

He is wonderful.
He speaks the truth, almost always. Which is more than you can say about just about any other human being on this rotting planet!
Latest, greatest quote: "If you think that boys doing it to each other is worse than the polar ice caps melting, then YOU ARE THE BOGEYMAN!"

Welcome to GWB America!
Welcome to the end of the world!
And may God's next enema (Katrina, Rita, etc.) strike your face, your home, your breeding ground!

Good night, sweet prince (that's quote from William Shakespeare, Hamlet, in case you didn't know, you illiterate GWB-voting cretins)!
Todd Ryder 9/20/2005

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Why I Hate George Bush: A Labor Day Manifesto

People often ask me... "Why do you hate George Bush so much?"

Allow me to count the reasons...

1. He Lies and surrounds himself with Liars


Bush's government outed a working CIA agent, Valerie Plame, apparently as punishment for negative reports and editorials by her husband, Joe Wilson, because those reports were counter to Cheney and Rumsfeld's propaganda surrounding Iraq and WMD. Then Bush's press secretary, Scott McClellan, stated publicly that the "leaker" if found, would be summarily dismissed from Government -- that is, until the leaker was found to be Carl Rove!  Now it seems such statements are "no longer operative." In short, with each passing day, the neo-con garbage heap of deceipt, mis-information and "spin" seems deeper and more egregious than the day before.

2. His actions (and inactions) have tarnished the U.S.


"America's crisis President," did nothing, even as a category 5 hurricane beared down on the city of New Orleans; did nothing while airplanes crashed into the Twin Towers; and does nothing in general, except force a rich, selfish, inhumane agenda upon our Government, our States, our Judiciary, and our Schools.

In response to hurricane Katrina, why didn't Bush's Government, in advance of the catastrophe, use FEMA, the Military and other Federal resources to evacuate 40,000 mostly poor, mostly black, Americans from New Orleans and other soon to be devastated areas. These desperate people were and are citizens -- that don't own cars and couldn't even hitch rides out of evacuation zones when they needed them. So thousands died and thousands more are still stranded on rooftops or suffering in ill-prepared shelters. But preparedness for catastrophes is part of the government's responsibility. However, five years of tax cuts for the rich and horrendous, nepotistic Federal appointments have rendered the U.S. powerless -- against Al Queda; against mother nature; and against negative World opinion.

3. He symbolizes selfishness and undue privilege in a nation founded on opportunity, equality and democracy


By now, I'm sure we've all seen or heard reports of middle and upper class tourists abandoning hotel rooms in New Orleans before Katrina -- refusing rides to unfortunate strangers, despite the desperate circumstances.  Why did they refuse?  Because toting luggage prevented taking on passengers.  It was too great a loss to leave luggage behind!?  Such intolerable selfishness, in my opinion, is the true legacy of neo-conservatism in this country.  It is the legacy of George W. Bush's "I've got mine! Now go fuck yourself!" America.

And WHY do we, the richest and most advanced nation in human history, practice such utter disregard for others, endangered species, natural wilderness, in short, virtually everything but our immediate selves; everything but our pathetic, genital nerve centers?

Because none of those things represent power and money.  Because the neo-con doctrine we've gorged on since Reagan has played us for fools.  And now it's as if we're virtually pawns; tools for exploitation:  as consumers and voters.  But when elections are over, our neo-con leaders need all the money our government can print (without collapsing our economy, of course) to win their unjust, un-winnable Iraq (Vietraq) war.

4. His Pack of Lies Iraq War


A war for it's own sake.
A war because "... That man put out a contract on my Dad..."
A war because we're good and they're evil?
A war for which we are expected to blindly stay the course.
A war to save face.
A war to insure the legacy of one George W. Bush and the neo-cons.
A war so wrong and mis-represented it was lost before we invaded!

5. He favors the Corporatization of America


Under George Bush it seems to me that our Government fights and kills and maims and prints and spends for all the wrong reasons -- e.g. to fund tax breaks for the real neo-con constituency.  Hint: it's not the "culture of life" but rather BIG ENERGY, BIG PHARMA and BIG BANKS, all while the neo-cons gut and dismantle Medicaid and Social Security -- the very New Deal that represents the only safety net for the poorest, most suffering and least able U.S. citizens.

Under the neo-cons, this nation has become the UNITED STATES OF CORPORATE AMERICA. And in the corporate-owned United States, I see no real democracy and no real justice. And without Justice and Fairness and Charity and other basic human ideals, regardless of whom or what GWB thinks he prays to, there can be no living God -- not without someone to do its work.  And even if I don't believe that dead bones (of believers, only, mind you) will be made flesh; that Jesus lives in Heaven; that one day he'll return...  I do believe in the ideals implicit in virtually all religions -- Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Taoist, etc. -- and they all begin and end with Justice, by which I really mean just-ness!

6. He's a PRESIDENT seemingly intent to Destroy Government


Quite simply, our nation has concentrated too much of the world's wealth and resources in too few hands. And collectively, it engages in over-consumption at virtually every level of human behavior. But despite our nation's vast wealth, its government is more bankrupt and its deficit larger than ever in its history. Still it fails to adequately fund what I consider very basic societal needs:
a. Clean air and water
b. The basic rule of law
c. Health care
d. Transportation and energy
e. An economy based on fair wages and trade

And, without these, our great nation and our wonderful, living planet is losing its ability to sustain our economy, to sustain human and animal life, and to advance human ideals.

In the neo-con world view, responsibility for providing basic human needs and engendering individuals with basic human ideals has been abdicated by our government -- to the already disintegrating family; and worse, to the free marketeers, Social Darwinists and Libertarians -- in short, to the takers and give-nothings, who believe that all persons are equal -- equal to take as much as they can, whenever they can, for as long as they can, and then to pass individual gains to their children as some absurd birth right to insure another selfish generation.

Rather than grapple with obvious wealth inequity, over-consumption and the pollution that's literally burying this planet in carbon dioxide, what does our neo-con government do? a.) Bush refuses to sign the Kyoto Accord on Global Warming; b.) His neo-cons in Congress deny the very existence of Global Warming; and c.) They promote business as usual regarding our country and our world's insane dependence on crude oil, despite the obvious and increasingly measurable risks. Don't bother asking why there is no "Apollo space program" to replace fossil fuel? It's because of people like George Bush.

7. His philosophy and policies are myopic and cruel


Here's a news flash. They don't hate us for our freedom. They hate us because we're often liars and thieves and almost always hypocrites. I still remember a powerful quote I read a decade or so ago in Rolling Stone by Joe Strummer of The Clash:  "All men are not created equal!"  Instead each of us is born into a complex society that, as I see it, disproportionately rewards birth status, intellect, and political ability. But what about the weak, sick, poor and under/mis-educated? Who helps them in George Bush's America. I suppose his answer would be faith-based, non-government-organizations (NGOs). But why do I need a "dose of religion" when all I need is a bowl of soup and, hope against hope, a job -- where I don't have to get my face blown off in Iraq.

So (and I know this is an all too recurring them by now) WHERE is Justice, for all, including the less fortunate? Today it seems that societal benefits, under the neo-cons and George Bush are increasingly available only to the rich and the powerful; or perhaps, for a short while longer to those of us in the middle; at least as long as we're needed to swing "democratic" elections for those, like Bush, that seem to hold nothing but contempt for the rest of us. Some neo-cons (e.g. former Reagan Interior Secretary, James Watt) actually believe in Dominion Theory -- a twisted take on a passage in the Bible's Book of Genesis whereby human beings are endowed by God with absolute impunity to exploit the physical world entirely as they see fit.

Well, we're not. And it's time for a serious re-examination of social, moral, and ethical responsibility in this country; time to hold the neo-conservative gospel to the light; to reveal its fallacy, hypocrisy, and insanity. Because I don't want to live in a nation where workers are unable to retire because they can't afford to or cannot even die with their debts paid. And I'm sorry but Karl Marx was right about a great many things. Socialism isn't evil, but people certainly can be, especially when they're delusional enough to believe they receive mandates from God.

Government, for all its flaws, may be our best, perhaps only, hope for the betterment of humankind. And it's time to choose: stronger, more responsible, better funded governments or bigger, more dehumanizing corporations? And if you don't know whose side the neo-cons are on by now, then I've just wasted another Sunday afternoon.

Todd Ryder
9/4/2005

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Yesterday, Baghdad. Today, New Orleans. Tomorrow... Your Town.

"My only weapon is my pen..." Sly Stone, 1970, "There's a Riot Going On."

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                    Evil begets eEvil begets evil.             Evil begets eEvil begets evil.                    
                     Evil begetsEvil begets evil.               Evil begetsEvil begets evil.                     
                      Evil begeEvil begets evil.                 Evil begeEvil begets evil.                      
                       Evil beEvil begets evil.                   Evil beEvil begets evil.                       
                        Evil Evil begets evil.                     Evil Evil begets evil.                        
                         EviEvil begets evil.                       EviEvil begets evil.                         
                           Evil begets evil.                          Evil begets evil.                          


Todd Ryder
9/2/2005

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Heaven Spits on George Bush's America...

When was the last time the wrath of God smacked down the South HARD! Not one, not two, but THREE years in a row?

That's right, folks. GOD HATES GEORGE BUSH -- especially his Intelligent Design, voting-for-tax cuts-they'll-never-get, Katrina backwash enema, Supefund toxic waste dump, deep, deep SOUTH.

Thanks George! Thanks for $4.00/gallon gasoline. Thanks for all those new "army of one" jobs fighting your pack-of-lies war. Never mind the missing legs and blown off baby's faces. It's a job, man, -- a GEORGE BUSH job -- making the world safer for Halliburton!

Welcome to Armageddon!
But just don't say I never told you so!
Todd Ryder
8/31/2005

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Legacy of a Fool...



George Bush is a blithering blathering idiot.  And when a democratic majority of this nation elected a blithering blathering idiot President of the United States, this is what it (and unfortunately the rest of us that didn't vote for him) got:


1. HEALTH CARE COSTS: UP 30% UNDER GEORGE BUSH.
2. FEDERAL DEFICIT: UP 300% UNDER GEORGE BUSH.
3. CRUDE OIL: UP 300% UNDER GEORGE BUSH.
4. MEDIUM HOUSE PRICE: UP 100% UNDER GEORGE BUSH.


Yes, all you Jesus Freak Republican, American Idiots out there, your blithering blathering idiot Republican President has destroyed your party.  You are done!  You are over!  Republicanism/Conservatism is over.  The conservative wave that began with Ronald Reagan has ended with George Bush.  Your blithering blathering idiot President cannot blunder a war (that never should have been in the first place) and on top of that blunder a 13 trillion dollar economy for five years without real consequences...

Iraq
We should not be there now.  We never should have invaded.  Check my record!  I have been saying this almost as long as Howard Dean has been saying it.  A nation (Iraq) that allows improvised explosive devices to be set on the same roads every night -- unhindered:  no one does anything about it except for our U.S. troops -- cannot be saved from itself.  Cannot form a "democracy".  Has no future except chaos, war, and bloodshed.  Three years of war in Iraq, and a human being still cannot safely fly into the Baghdad airport then drive a car to the city of Baghdad.  If U.S. troops leave now or U.S. troops leave 25 years from now, the result will be the same for Iraq.  But if the U.S. leaves now, the result, for the U.S., will be:

1. ONE BILLION U.S. DOLLARS PER DAY SAVED (not deficit spent).
2. HUNDREDS OR THOUSANDS OF U.S. LIVES SAVED.


The U.S. is a nation with a great past and maybe a chance for a great future.  Ours is a nation where you can walk most streets without lawlessness, physical violence or government persecution.   We have a nation where the average citizen endures only a statistically insignificant chance of being blown up by a bomb (or commandeered airplane) planted by a religious or political radical.  A nation where, if/when a bombing or attack occurs, the response is swift, immediate and substantial.  People march. Take up arms. Coalesce politically... Literally die to prevent such events from repeating.  But, alas, Iraq is not such a country.  And I'm really and truly very sorry about this, but no amount of troops or deficit spending can change that.  Only Iraqis can!  Saddam is gone!  And it is way past time to undo this invasion -- this war that never should have been in the first place. And, quite frankly, to impeach the evil, lying, blithering, blathering idiot, George Bush, that lied our nation into it!

Prediction (OK, desire hoping against hope to become prophesy.)
The 2006 mid-term elections will begin a watershed in American politics. Stupidity, bad ideas and Carl Rove (e.g. gay marriage) diversionary tactics will not win a single election.

And THAT, my friends, was, is, and ever will be George Bush's legacy!  The Legacy of a Fool.

Todd Ryder
Thursday, 8/11/2005

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Che Lives!

Today's post is a tribute to one Ernesto "Che" Guevara -- a man who found health in the sickness of a leper colony but only sickness and sadness in the health of this world.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0318462/

So, in the spirit of all who long for the end of this world -- not THE world, just THIS one -- I pray:  Long live the revolution!

Saturday, June 25, 2005

USA = POS

God Dammit!

XOM is headed for $70. It's inevitable.
All investment gains eeked out this year are wiped out. I timed back in to NBGEX based on the "bull signal" from the week before last and then went to Maine on business and stopped watching for two days and got killed. Absolutely killed.
The USA is a POS! Stick a fork in its ass and turn it over. It's done.
George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Alan Greenspan deserve nothing short of public execution! These contemptuous pukes have single handedly prevented me or anyone else from EVER making any real money in this POS country.

And now for today's... headlines:
1. There will be no retirement!
2. There will be no future!
3. The younger you are today, the WORSE it will be for you!

But then I guess I should be thankful that I am (barely) in the "baby boom." So I guess I got lucky enough in birth to at least exist on the safer, most status-quo side of the pathetic demographic.

But the very idea of living through 40 more years of this fucking SHIT... I honestly question whether I can take it.

You see, all my life I have suffered from a "superiority complex."

Somehow I grew up to believe that it's not enough to work at Walmart or Applebees or "ChinaRus" (or whatever amoral, blood-sucking, cancer-inducing, George-Bush-annointed corporation ends up owning this pathetic, bloodless, Jesus-Freak country).

So call me sick. Call me angry. Call me a punk.
Guilty!
All counts.
Simply drawing breath along with every other asthmatic, diabetic, 400 pound, coach travelling excuse for a human being is simply not enough for me.

Or is it?

Because so far I can't seem to put a gun to my head... To exhibit the courage of one Curt Cobain... Of one Jesus of Nazareth.

So just call me Courtney Love -- your next contestant on Survival of the Most Disgusting!

Oh to own "the button" they way Bush and Greenspan do... Maybe I'd feel better knowing I was at least taking everyone else down with me!
Todd Ryder 6/26/2005

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Got Grenade?

"Singing this borrowed tune..." Neil Young "Tonight's The Night"

Excerpt from macleans.ca

HOW DID THE U.S. GET INTO THIS MESS?
In January 2001, George W. Bush took over leadership of a nation that was on its most solid financial footing in decades, thanks to years of strong economic growth and a booming stock market. That very month, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the federal government could expect US$5.6 trillion in surpluses over the coming 10 years. The key political issue of the day was how to spend the windfall. Bush's team was determined to return the money to the voters in the form of massive and widespread tax relief. What the world didn't know was that this surplus cash was largely illusory, the result of faulty bookkeeping.

The CBO's rosy outlook was based on a few deeply flawed assumptions, in particular that most government spending would not exceed the pace of inflation over the following decade, even though the rest of the economy and tax revenues were projected to grow much faster. Laurence Kotlikoff, a professor of economics at Boston University and a prominent critic of U.S. budgetary planning, released a paper that year drawing attention to what he called the CBO's "fiscal fantasy." But his was a single, lonely voice, and few on Capitol Hill were listening. The tax-cut agenda had taken hold, and there would be no stopping it.

The CBO and other agencies have since gone back and found that a more realistic surplus projection would have been US$2.2 trillion -- over 60 per cent less than initially thought. And that cushion quickly disappeared as Bush whittled or eliminated one tax provision after another, from the marriage tax and personal income tax rates to capital gains, gifts and dividends. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington think tank, estimates that between 2001 and 2004, federal tax revenue dropped by some US$600 billion. Most of the tax cuts introduced so far are temporary, but the Republicans have made it clear they intend to make the reductions permanent before the end of the current term.

In the midst of this tax-relief bonanza, and nine months into the new President's first mandate, came Sept. 11. The horror of the terrorist attacks profoundly changed the American public's attitude toward security and defence almost overnight. Within months, the U.S. military was on the ground in Afghanistan attacking terrorist camps and overthrowing the Taliban regime. From there, the troops moved on to Iraq. Between 2001 and 2004, the annual budget for the Pentagon and domestic security rose by US$87.1 billion, an increase of 27.5 per cent in four years. In the process, a budget that had a surplus of US$128 billion in 2001 crumbled into a deficit of US$412 billion last year -- the biggest annual shortfall in United States history.

But that's just one symptom of a much deeper fiscal problem. The U.S. is heading for a massive demographic shift as baby boomers start retiring in three years. As they do, the costs of providing social programs and health care are going to soar. "It's not the deficits of today that are the big problem," says Josh Bivens, an economist with the non-partisan Economic Policy Institute in D.C. "It's that, if you make the Bush tax cuts permanent, you're going to have deficits as far as the eye can see."

HOW BIG IS THE PROBLEM?
A trillion is a hard number to wrap your head around. Most people know it's a thousand billion -- 12 zeroes -- but even that is difficult to fathom in terms of value. So think of it like this: a trillion U.S. dollars is roughly the size of the entire Canadian economy. The world's six biggest oil companies had combined 2004 revenues just shy of US$1 trillion. And if you piled a trillion dollars in $1,000 bills, the stack would be more than 109 km high.

As of February, the U.S. national debt stood at US$7.7 trillion. And this year, the country is projecting another record deficit of US$427 billion, increasing its debt by about US$1.2 billion a day. Thanks to low interest rates, the cost of borrowing all that money remains relatively low, amounting to about 8.6 per cent of the federal budget for 2005. But when rates rise, so will the cost of carrying that debt, and current White House forecasts suggest that by 2010, those yearly costs will hit US$314 billion.

But even those projections don't adequately capture the depth of America's financial hole. For one thing, current budget estimates do not include the costs of the ongoing military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are expected to require an additional US$80 billion in funding over the next year or so. The budget also does not factor in any costs associated with the President's plan to reform Social Security, which would give people the option of diverting some of their tax contributions into private retirement accounts they manage themselves. That plan will call for between US$1 trillion and US$2 trillion in additional government borrowing over the next decade. Bush has proposed cutting the budget deficit in half by 2010, but that strategy doesn't take into account his pledges to make permanent many of those temporary tax reductions introduced in 2001 and 2002, not to mention other tax cuts promised but not yet implemented.

What's more, none of this even begins to deal with the most pressing challenge of all: how to pay for the sunset years and medical costs of about 77 million baby boomers getting set to retire. Walker refers to this as a "demographic tidal wave" coming to swamp the country's finances. He estimates that when you take into account the unfunded liabilities of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid -- programs that together comprise the heart of the U.S. social safety net, paying pension and health-care costs for the elderly, as well as providing medical coverage for the poor -- America's long-term budget shortfall is approximately US$43 trillion, about four times the size of the nation's economy, and more than 20 times the federal government's annual tax revenues. And some actuaries think even that number understates the size of the problem.

To most observers, it's becoming increasingly obvious that, within the next 10 years, the U.S. government will simply not be able to borrow money fast enough to keep up with its exploding expenses. That has huge implications for everything Americans do, from funding the military to protecting the environment. The Economic Policy Institute recently projected that under the current tax regime, by 2014 all government revenue would be consumed by four areas of spending: health care for the elderly and the poor, Social Security for retirees, national defence and interest on the debt. There will be no money left for such fundamental initiatives as education, transportation or justice, which means the government would be forced into ever-escalating borrowing to pay for basic programs. Walker's department projects that, under the current tax rates, interest costs on the skyrocketing national debt would be about half of all government tax revenues by 2031. Ten years later, the cost of servicing the debt will exceed all government revenues.

Laurence Kotlikoff described this burgeoning crisis four years ago in a paper entitled "The Coming Generational Storm." Last year, he provided a dark summary of the situation in a Fortune magazine article. "The U.S. government is effectively bankrupt," he wrote. The available options to close the fiscal gap? Hike income taxes by 78 per cent; slash Social Security and Medicare benefits by more than half; or eliminate all other discretionary spending. "That," he concludes, "is America's menu of pain."

HOW MUCH LONGER CAN THIS SITUATION GO ON?
The United States is the world's best customer. It buys far more from foreign countries than it sells to them, resulting in a sizable trade deficit. It also spends more on public programs than it collects in tax revenues. And to pay for all these outlays, the U.S. must attract mountains of foreign capital each year, which essentially amounts to borrowing from foreign governments and investors. This is commonly referred to as the current accounts deficit -- which was running at US$665 billion last year.

Those foreign countries don't lend out of the goodness of their hearts; for the most part they lend because the U.S. uses that money to buy goods from them and other nations. In many ways, the prosperity of the developed world, including Canada, Europe and parts of Asia, has been financed over several decades by America's rampant spending, says David Rosenberg, a Canadian who is chief North American economist for Merrill Lynch in New York. In Canada's case, by year-end this country had sold $8.8 billion more in goods to the U.S. than we bought from it -- despite the loonie's sharp rise against the greenback that made Canadian exports less affordable to Americans.

But foreign investors cannot go on forever supporting U.S. spending. A banker who holds your mortgage and car loan will get nervous if you keep coming back to up the limit on your credit cards, and international debt markets work in much the same way. The question becomes, how much longer will those investors be willing to lend to the U.S., especially at the current low interest rates, when the country appears to have no plan for meeting its long-term funding needs? The issue is even more pressing given the fact that the U.S. dollar has been falling for more than a year, decimating returns for those foreigners who invest in U.S. bonds.

Stephen Roach, chief economist at Morgan Stanley, is an outspoken critic of U.S. fiscal policy and has long warned that America's increasing reliance on foreign lending puts it at risk of a major economic shock. A sudden drop in the dollar could trigger, among other things, a stock market crash, a plunge in the real estate market, a deep recession, or all of the above. "There's nothing stable about America's dependence on the kindness of strangers," Roach wrote in a report last summer. "The funding of America is an accident waiting to happen."

At a recent meeting with fund managers in Boston, Roach said he believes there is a 90 per cent chance the country's rampant borrowing will eventually lead to a disaster for the economy. Others, including former U.S. treasury secretary Lawrence Summers and former president Bill Clinton, use less inflammatory language but have also warned that the size of U.S. deficits could compromise the nation's foreign policy and trade and security goals. For example, how long can Washington stick to its commitment to defend Taiwan against Chinese aggression when it borrows so heavily from China to support the American economy?

David Rosenberg scoffs at alarmists like Roach, but he does acknowledge the current fiscal path is unsustainable. He quotes economist Herbert Stein's old maxim: "Anything that cannot go on forever, will stop."

WHY SHOULD WE CARE?
History provides some harrowing examples of what happens when an economy collapses under the weight of unsustainable debt. One of the most chilling is Argentina in 2001. When the International Monetary Fund cut off its support for the country's escalating debt, the effect was catastrophic: the value of the national currency plunged, decimating the savings of millions. The resulting surge in inflation and sudden slowdown in consumer spending put thousands of businesses into bankruptcy within weeks. That, in turn, put further millions out of work and pushed one of South America's biggest economies into a punishing recession.

As unfathomable as it may seem, most economists think something like that could happen in the United States. "If foreign investors look at the long-run outlook for the federal budget and decide there is going to be a crash, you get a financial panic," Bivens explains. "Interest rates spike. That causes a huge recession. You'll have the dollar falling fast, so maybe inflation is sparked at the same time." And if interest rates spike, that would squeeze millions of U.S. consumers who have taken out loans against the rising value of their homes in recent years. A sudden hit to the real estate market would further constrain consumers' wallets, leading to a cycle of lower spending, and deeper recession, Bivens says.

Kotlikoff outlines a frighteningly similar scenario in his book The Coming Generational Storm. In it, he describes America in 2030 hurting from "unprecedented" tax levels, drastic reductions to social programs, unsustainable borrowing, spiralling inflation and an explosion in tax evasion. He compares the United States in 25 years to what Russia's economy looked like at the the turn of the millennium.

When he considers the numbers, Bivens can't disagree with Kotlikoff's forecast. "You've got all the ingredients for a pretty spectacular crash that a country as rich as the U.S. should just never be even close to flirting with," he says. "Another six or seven years along this path and I think we'll really be flirting with it. It's rather insane."

And this insane behaviour is a huge problem for everyone else because of America's importance to the world economy. Literally millions of workers in Canada, the U.K., Germany, Japan and elsewhere are directly or indirectly reliant on a healthy U.S. market for their jobs. "If suddenly Americans were unable to buy those goods from those countries, the countries would have to very quickly figure out how to keep their people employed," Bivens explains. Accordingly, most economists agree that a severe downturn in the United States would drag the rest of the world down with it. "If a country as big as the U.S. gets sick, everybody's gonna get sick," says Bivens.

That is a reality Canadians don't seem to fully grasp. A recent Maclean's/Rogers Media poll found only 41 per cent agree that the domestic economy is closely tied to that of the U.S.; 11 per cent choose to believe the two economies are not at all interrelated. In reality, virtually every region of the country and every major industry -- forestry, energy, mining, auto manufacturing, agriculture, technology -- depends on U.S. demand for its prosperity. If American consumers are suffering under surging unemployment, spiking interest rates, collapsing housing prices and rising inflation, those same forces will inevitably spill over into Canada.

Rosenberg, for one, believes the U.S. will restructure its fiscal policy to avoid a major crash -- but even such a process of reform is sure to have negative effects on trading partners like Canada. To close its fiscal gap and reduce its need to borrow abroad, the U.S. must find ways to boost its exports while slowing imports. In other words, it must make it more difficult for other countries to sell into its market. This is what economists refer to as a "beggar thy neighbour" policy. "For the world economy, this means the free ride is over," Rosenberg says. "The days of partying on the U.S.'s fiscal Ferris wheel are over. It's done."

HOW CAN AMERICA FIX THE PROBLEM?
On Nov. 1, 2000, as George W. Bush was campaigning for the White House, he warned an audience in Minneapolis that the Democrats would lead the nation into a future of higher taxes and slower economic growth that "could mean an end to this nation's prosperity." Bush won the election in part by portraying himself as an antidote to tax-and-spend liberals. Yet despite this bold austerity rhetoric, discretionary spending rose 23 per cent in Bush's first term. Just over four years after harping on the dangers of fiscal irresponsibility, the President is on his way to making his own warnings a reality.

Virtually every reputable independent observer who has looked at the United States budget shortfall concludes that some combination of significant tax increases and major spending cuts is unavoidable. But making those reforms happen, and closing that budget gap, will require the kind of deft touch used to dismantle a bomb. The American currency must be slowly, carefully managed lower to boost U.S. exports, but without triggering a sudden plunge in the greenback that could spark a devastating jump in inflation. Interest rates must gradually rise to ward off inflation and encourage consumers to save more of their earnings. Spending must be reined in, but not so severely that it compromises U.S. security and other public priorities. And taxes must be raised, but not so drastically that they stunt economic growth.

In many ways, the U.S. must now emulate the program that Canada instituted in the 1990s to bring its deficit spending and surging national debt under control. That was done with higher taxes, billions in spending cuts and a sharp drop in the dollar's value, combined with healthy economic growth. But south of the border the size of the challenge is much larger, the stakes are higher, and it seems clear the standard of living that millions of Americans have come to take for granted will have to change.

Walker stresses the need to make "tough decisions," and none will be tougher than tackling the runaway costs of providing health-care coverage for the elderly and the poor. Health spending in the U.S. is projected to jump 63 per cent by 2010, and to continue rising even faster after that. Most analysts agree that, at some point, the government must find a way to clamp down on those costs, yet any cuts in coverage are sure to raise an outcry from the swelling ranks of senior citizens -- a highly influential voting bloc.

Academics have proposed such reforms as a national retail sales tax, a luxury tax and a rollback of all tax cuts enacted since 2001. Others are calling for increased funding for the Internal Revenue Service to catch tax cheaters. Many insist there must be increases to Medicare premiums, as well as massive cutbacks in a wide range of social programs. But telling voters that they will have to pay more in taxes for fewer services is not an easy sell, and so far no politician has been willing to try it. In February, Bush tabled a proposed budget that would eliminate or trim back 150 government programs, but even with that, the U.S. would be racking up deficits well in excess of US$200 billion for years to come. "They're not being serious about austerity at all," Bivens says. "They're talking about very big cuts to very small programs. They mean a lot to the people getting them, but it's pennies in the overall fiscal problem."

James Horney spent more than seven years as a staffer at the Congressional Budget Office and now does analysis for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a non-partisan think tank in Washington. He says the solution to the debt problem can only emerge when both parties in Congress and the President sit down to work out a "grand bargain" that includes concessions on both taxes and program spending, and a strategy for reassuring international lenders. "It requires a deal in which everything is on the table and everyone is at the table," Horney says. "One just hopes it will happen before some major cataclysm."

Walker shares that hope, and clings to his own sense of optimism. He says he has detected a noticeable shift in attitude just in the past few months, as legislators slowly come to grips with the inevitable financial reckoning. But he acknowledges that, so far, there is little concrete progress to show for his efforts. "The thing that is frustrating is that you can talk to people and point to things, but that's all you can do," he says. "You can lead them to water, but they have to drink. And they better start drinking fast -- and soon."

To contact the writer, email: steve.maich@macleans.rogers.com

Friday, April 29, 2005

The Armageddon President...

So he goes on TV. For once he doesn't look quite as stupid as usual. But it's the same tired story:
1. More tax cuts for the rich who don't need any more money.
2. Carving out private accounts from Social Security so it becomes even less solvent.
3. The middle class takes up the slack:  his "progressive indexing" proposal places ANYONE with retired income above $55K in the SAME category (i.e. the TOP bracket for progressive benefit indexing).  Yes it's true.  If you earn $50K/year in retirement, then your just as rich as someone earning $5M -- per W's C-student calculus.  I'll say one thing: the man has an amazing amount of straight-faced gall!
3. Another $100 Billion for Iraq.  All so Chalibi can become the next Hussein. But we could have had HIM $200 Billion ago!  BTW, could someone please remind me again what we are doing in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. etc. etc.?  And why do we spend more on National Defense (aka WAR) than all other nations on Earth combined...  Oh yeah, "...fightin 'em thar so we don't have to fight 'em har..." Good luck with that one George. But if we ever really do have to fight to "preserve" our bloated, over-consuming way of life, then may the final battle of Armageddon occur in Crawford Texas!

I could go on.  What 's the point.  I'm short the stock market. I'm ahead.  But a LOT of people are down, and they're scared.  My dad is scared.  So scared he recently asked for my advice regarding this "offer" he obtained to place his life savings in an annuity with a whopping 3.65% return, "guaranteed" for 20 years.  The only problem is:  he could get a 1 year CD TODAY paying 3.6%, so why would he tie up everything for 20 years at today's pathetic short term cash rate.  But that's how scared people are now.

AND I BLAME GEORGE BUSH.

George Bush is so evil and so stupid that he makes people even MORE afraid of the future.  Oil goes up.  Investments go down.  Jesus returns?  I hope so, because the world as we know it simply can't take much more George Bush.

Todd Ryder
5/29/2005

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Burning Fossil Fuel is like living in caves - only we haven't stopped doing it yet!

Earth Day 2005 came and went.

Spring shined warmly yesterday as my little doggie and I ran Mount Helena.

But it snowed on George Bush's plans to demagogue (about CLEAN AIR of all things) in the Great Smoky Mountains and the trip was cancelled (...mysterious ways).

But then again...

Goodbye polar bears and penguins.
Hello desert.
A LOT of desert.

All of which brings us to this week's Hall of Shame


Senator James Inhofe - Republican - Oklahoma - for his Sentate address that Global Warming is a hoax.


House Majority Leader Tom Delay:
JESUS, please come back and punish this man.



And here's another cute jib-jab knockoff about W's Social Security "reform" agenda.

And finally, what more could I possibly add.


Todd Ryder
5/23/2005

Sunday, March 20, 2005

America VS Americana: who do you think is winning?

Today's question is: why should U.S. citizens' perception of our country be more important than our actual country?

Unfortunately, I now believe this is true, despite the fact that, rationally, such a disconnect is irreconcilable?

Disagree?

Well, did you watch the Sunday morning "news" programs today: Face the Nation (CBS), Meet the Press (NBC) and This Week (ABC)? Because if you did, then it seems quite clear that our media believes that the most important CRISIS facing the United States today is: Do professional baseball players use steroids to enhance their performance?!

My answers: 1.) WHO CARES!? 2.) OF COURSE THEY DO!

My thesis: Sports, especially professional sports are so tainted by "winning" that this very question is mute, absurd and ridiculous. Pro sports teams are corporations. Corporations, by their very nature, have one objective: sheer profit.

So asking if athletes, especially professional athletes, as arguably the most visible and respected corporate employees in the United States, use performance enhancing substances is akin to asking if corporate officers export jobs to foreign nations to maximize beneficial labor/wage arbitrage. I mean, there is no question. There is no doubt. There is only reality. End of discussion.

OK. So now that I've dismissed the very question as absurd and irrelevant, let's explore its larger and perhaps more important implications. Specifically: America's obsession with popular digressions like baseball, values, television, et al is, IMO, simply an indicator, a road-sign if you will, on the trail of our now colossal, all-time-high, personal and collective unhappiness and powerlessness as human individuals in an ever complex, but eroding, society.

In other words, rather than fix our collective budgets, feed the starving, mend the sick, pursue higher truth, walk the dog, etc... we seem instead wont to engage in pursuits more akin to masturbation than to any other term I can find to describe them. For example, this whole "Is baseball tainted?" crisis is not as much about Baseball in America as it is about Baseball in AMERICANA.

In other words, Welcome to Americana, the land of masturbatory nostalgia. Where, because our founding fathers drafted beautiful documents espousing terms like Inalienable Rights and Liberty and Justice for All (OK and because our nation almost single-handedly defeated communism and Hitler), we now seem fixated by a Disney-like perception of ourselves -- as holier, righter, truer, smarter, and dog-gonnit, more likeable, than any other homo sapiens in the history of mankind.

Well, dog-gonnit, it's just not true! And worse (and I'm using metaphor here, OK...), it's masturbation. By that I mean it's an activity that subverts and obscures reality, that keeps you from getting up out of bed on Sunday morning to clean the bathroom.

So my message for today is: Let's clean the bathroom! Or for heaven's sake, let's at least try. Because staying in bed, eating junk food, wistful for an America that never existed in the first place, isn't feeding, educating, or liberating anyone, least of all ourselves.

In short, if America IS good, then America must ACT good -- all the time, no matter what, to the best of its ability.

And a bunch of Congressmen, freshly suntanned and released from a corporate-sponsored junket to Europe or the Carribean, asking hardball questions to current or former professional athletes participating in sports that do nothing more than divert, entertain, or worse, reinforce the sick concept that winning isn't everything -- it's the ONLY thing -- is NOT good.

Perception is NOT reality.
It's just easier to improve.

Todd Ryder
Sunday, March 20, First Day of Spring, 2005

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Bye Bye Bernie... and Welcome to Justice? Mr. Ken Lay

So Bernie Ebbers got it good.
http://apnews.myway.com/article/20050315/D88RI66G0.html
If they throw the book at sentencing, I think it could add up to 85 years. No one ever deserved jail time more than this obvious crook, except maybe Ken Lay (Enron).

Not coincidentally both Lay and Ebbers have proffered the same defense. In a word: STUPIDITY.

"Yeah, I commanded millions in salary, appeared on television at least monthly to discuss the unbelievable dot.com-era growth of my company... blah... blah... But did I KNOW anything about what actually went on there? Are you kidding? I'm an idiot! A cheerleader. A stooge. A buffoon..."

Well, it didn't work for Ebbers, so hopefully it won't work for Lay or anyone else (Dennis Kozlowski http://www.nydailynews.com/news/story/18669p-17595c.html) that ripped off investors the way these lying pukes did.

Lay actually faces TWO trials: one criminal case scheduled for January, 2006 with co-defendants Jeffrey Skilling and Richard Causey of Enron http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/news/022405_APlocal_layskilling.html and another, civil case brought by the SEC for allegedly profiting from $34M in personal stock sales back to his own company as he apparently realized Enron could no longer hide its massive, bankruptcy-scale debt and was doomed to fail financially. http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/whitecollarcrime_blog/enron/index.html

So all I can say, to legal crusaders like Elliot Spitzer and muckrakers like Maureen Dowd and Paul Krugman is: keep it coming folks. After all, yet another evil pig from Texas, Tom Delay http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/03/04/60minutes/main678234.shtml is still House Majority Leader!

Todd Ryder

Saturday, March 12, 2005

ART = NEW...

I watch IFC (Independent Film Channel). I like IFC. IFC represents part of my attempt to recover from Republicanism. I am a reformed Republican. I was never much of a conservative, but I was a Republican. Now I am not.

So anyway, I was watching short films on IFC this morning and I saw this amazing film about this guy (George [something or other]) creating "art" in New York city.

Now, what this guys does is post flyers: some advertising "a cracker" or "an eraser" or... anyway, prices range from $0.15-$0.35.

And the AMAZING thing about all this is just how many people tear off the phone number strips from his flyers, posted all over midtown Manhattan, and CALL him to get their cracker/eraser/pen-cap/[whatever]...

Now, many of the callers espoused "theories" about why they did this. The most eloquent can be paraphrased as follows: Buyer: "... This is art as social commentary isn't it? Commenting on the banality and futility of commerce, of CAPITALISM itself. Isn't it?" George: "Well,... Yes! It is."

And that says something about ART, per se, something that I want to espouse at this moment in time.

ART is not beautiful.
ART is not (at it's core) emotionally moving (I mean to say that is not its REAL point).
ART is NEW!

That is the most important aspect, as I now realize... to use old objects... to use new objects... to use ideas... but most importantly, to produce something NEW. Something that takes human consciousness, if only briefly, somewhere it wasn't going yesterday, or even 30 seconds ago. That is ART.

And, conversely, what I do: renovate old houses, restore an old pickup, graft lovely, elegant software algorithms to suit yet another business information system, is NOT art.

Not art, but instead advertising: a demonstration of examplary techniques and patterns of behavior designed to encourage mass consumption. And, unfortunately, making the world a worse place, by encouraging followers, increased consumption, and ultimately (banal, futile) commerce!

Next week, my goal is to stop watching and maybe actually pursue a legitimate NEW experience of my own. My wife, often angrily, encourages me in this endeavor. Thus, I resist.

But then that's another story, isn't it?

Todd Ryder

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Judgement at Iraq

Just finished watching "Judgement at Nuremberg" on televsion. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0055031/
Magnificent.

So now I find myself longing for 1960's America. Or more specifically, for a time when "survival" and the privileges of class seemed not mankind's highest aspirations.

But maybe I'm just deluding myself about actual reality then. After all, I was every bit of 8 years old at the end of that decade. But having watched Nuremberg I say unabashedly that the art of film has not risen since.

Sure "Million Dollar Baby" (though I haven't actually seen it yet) looks like a true, honest, and moving film, but does it address the larger philosophical issues reflected in times such as these. Times of war. Times where the speed of life and death (mostly death) seem accelerated.

OK. By today's standards, if not those of 1961, Nuremberg's morality was too obvious. Its acting too good. Its actors too fragile (Montgomery Clift and Judy Garland, both past their careers and very near the end of their lives... embarassingly tragic.)

But then that's really the point isn't it? At least for me it is. I mean, as human beings, what is it that we survive for? To what true purpose? To what great end? I was taught: for the advancement of our species -- for its highest principals and noblest aspirations.

So how does torturing human beings, simply because, given the opportunity, they would torture and behead us, fit this model of Western idealism? Are national pride and "animal spirits" ( http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/economics/keynes/general-theory/ch12.htm ) really worth dying -- and killing -- for? Nuremberg said NO. But Iraq says YES.

Biology is our curse. Art our last, best hope. And for today at least, Spencer Tracy is my hero.

Todd Ryder

Saturday, March 05, 2005

W = Government by the rich, for the rich...

Here's another prime example of W administration tax policy for U.S. corporations: the American Jobs Creation Act (or as I call it: pay minimal taxes on foreign earnings with few if any restrictions). This law allows multinational, U.S. based corporations to replace normal corporate taxes with a reduced rate of 5.25 percent if the earnings are "repatriated" (whatever that means -- on the surface it's supposed to mean if they bring the money back to the U.S. and create jobs by directly investing it here -- but the provisions for this are very sketchy, so corporations can basically do almost whatever they want as long as they appear to do it in the U.S. via its banks, lawyers, etc.).

Quoting from CFO.com: http://www.cfo.com/article.cfm/3710986/c_3711269
"Though the purpose of the tax holiday is to enable multinationals to use the tax savings to create jobs back home, some experts are skeptical about how many jobs will actually be created., without specific language in the legislation earmarking the tax savings for jobs creation, the repatriated amounts may be used by firms (to pay down debt or buy back stock , according to a recent story in CFO. In other words, jobs might be created only as a side effect of strengthening companies’ financial health."

It is expected that as much as $300B will be "repatriated" under the law this year.

So if one assumes a typical average corporate tax rate of say 30% (these are profitable corporations: IBM, Johnson&Johnson, Dell, etc. so by IRS law they would pay corporate rates of 30-35%) then simple math shows that the U.S. treasury shortfall this year from this legislation is $75B (30 - 5.25) = 24.75% = .2475 * 300B = $75B.

Now stop and think about who makes up the difference when U.S. corporations renege on the basic principle of "pay your fair share?" Answer: You, me, and future generations (children and grandchildren) -- personal and small business tax payers who do not own, run, or profit directly from multinational corporations. Was your tax rate reduced to 5.25 percent last year? Mine sure wasn't!

So why would anyone earning less than perhaps $300-500K/year ever cast a vote for someone like W? Well, here's my best guess: because the neo-cons have sold the U.S. taxpayer a bill of goods, starting with Reagan (and for a time I too bought it along with the apparent voting majority). And the lie is: Government = BAD. Corporation = GOOD.

But without government, without "democracy" having any teeth in the forms of taxation, regulation and basic protection for those most vulnerable, including someday perhaps more than a few of us, then the current state of affairs is what we get, specifically: corporate profit and worker fear. Fear of job loss, or at best, of never being able to stop working for wages. IMO, if you're under 50 in this country, you don't even think or talk about retirement anymore. Does the concept really even exist if you're under 50 in this country? Certainly not in my vocabulary. Not when virtually everything I own (except my 1890 house and 1960 pickup) seems built to fall apart or at best obsolesce, and my power bill (not to mention my property taxes) increase perpetually above the so called "core rate" of inflation.

Then there's the stock market. Yes, the DOW, the market index of the biggest, fattest, most powerful U.S. corporations (and I work for one) is at a 3 1/2 year high. So just put as much money (e.g. your 401K, soon, as per W, your Social Security payments) into the stock market and everyone will be safe and the future will be bright. Yeah, right!? Unfortunately, the stock market (and to a lesser degree real estate) is a PONZI SCHEME that depends forever on you selling to someone else at a profit. And just take a wild guess whom the last 100M people to get OUT of such a scheme are likely to be: YOU and ME. We, Joe and Jane Six-pack, waiting to cash out our 401Ks and social security retirement accounts before it's too late.

So I say it's time to stop this. It's time to demand accountability and fairness, from our government (which spends $20K per household per year, but borrows $3K of that, basically from China and Japan in the form of treasury bond sales) AND from our corporations. It's time to vote nationally for reformers like Elliot Spitzer and others who understand that without a strong, responsible government, without corporate fairness and social equity, THERE IS NO MIDDLE CLASS. And IMO, that is exactly what the people behind W and his government by the rich, for the rich intend.

Todd Ryder