Tag Archives: rich

Confusion

obama 2 cropNow that we’ve disentangled the quantum data, my mind has been struggling to reassemble and compartmentalize the various strings from that theory. Or perhaps it’s just my political junkie nature which is causing me to shake and tremble so violently from the confusing current events and media spin?

Stranger in a Strange Land 2012-12-01: Confusion by The Stranger on Mixcloud

PLAYLIST
In the Hall of the Mountain King – Christian Elsässer
What Difference a Day Makes – Dinah Washington
Confusion – Fela Kuti
Who Do You Love – Bo Diddley
Time Is Marching – John Lee Hooker
A Foggy Day – Billie Holiday
In A Silent Way / Shhh Peaceful / It’s About That Time (Bill Laswell Mix) – Miles Davis
Il Ricordo Di Serena – Riz Ortolani
Neurotico – Sergio Mendes
Inutil Paisagem (Useless Landscape) 3’11 – Antonio Carlos Jobim
Cubano Chant – Art Blakey
Mara-Jat’s Love – Alberto Baldan Bembo
Machine Gun – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Nautilus (Rob Swift Scratch Remix) – Bob James
Look To The Sun – Guru
Bridge on the Ninth Dimension – Sun Ra
I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know – Blood, Sweat & Tears
Whole Lotta Love – Ike & Tina Turner
The Thrill is Gone – Chet Baker
A Very Precious Time – Gil Scott Heron and Brian Jack

A look at the electoral map reveals that America isn’t mostly red or blue, but largely purple. Something that we’ve known for some time on this show, and will continue to represent going forward. After all, if you’re going to drink somebody’s Kool-Aid, purple is the best flavor.

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American voters rejected voter id, racist rhetoric, class war politics, and saw that Obama’s efforts to stimulate the economy were working (slowly) and needed more time to honestly kick off.

We must avoid a false “centrism” that has been pulled to the right along with the other loud loonies, and dispel with notions of compromise that are actually false dilemmas.

As Bill Maher put it, “There’s no third term, Mr. President, so you may as well throw caution to the wind, ’cause it’s not like we’re using it to produce energy.” Because “if not now, when?”

Americans aren’t stupid. And we know what to expect. A national CNN/ORC poll found that the expectations for Congress in the budget showdown are low, with two-thirds of respondents saying they expect lawmakers to act like ”spoiled children,” not “responsible adults,” during the negotiations.

77 percent of those surveyed also said they believe they would be personally impacted if the country is allowed to go off the “fiscal cliff” – but if that happens, 45 percent said they would blame Congressional Republicans, as opposed to 34 percent who would blame Obama.

AlterNet covers the various social programs that are being threatened by our esteemed leaders:

  • Medicaid ( $258 billion ): Though Obama has largely targeted providers for potential Medicaid cuts, Republicans want beneficiaries to fork over more. In which case, says Kogan, patients might be forced to make copayments, or program costs may be shifted to the states, which could decide to scale back coverage.
  • Food Stamps ( $78 billion in 2011) : The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program serves about 45 million people . It is not part of discretionary spending, but Ellen Nissenbaum, senior vice president for government affairs at CBPP, toldThe Nation it faces a real prospect of being cut in negotiations.
  • Supplemental Security Income ( $47 billion ): Social Security itself is mostly off the table, but Supplemental Security Income for the blind, elderly, and disabled, is likely to take a hit
  • Pell Grants ( $36 billion ): These need-based grants help some 10 million low-income students afford college.
  • Title 1 Education Grants
  • Section 8 Housing Assistance
  • Job Training
  • Head Start
  • Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program
  • Community Health Centers
  • Women, Infants and Children ($8.9 million in 2011): The Department of Agriculture’s WIC programhelps low-income moms and babies get access to supplemental nutrition and health care referrals. WIC has about 9 million participants , most of whom are kids.

The entire debate is stupid. Obama won the election based (partly) on promises raise taxes on the extremely wealthy, but Republicans would rather hock damaging “entitlement reform” than raise taxes one penny. In other words, “asking old people to work longer and accept less in return.”

Cutting (or “reforming”) Medicare in response to a pseudo-crisis invented by Congress would be an effective way to prove that liberal conspiracists are correct when they claim that all deficit hysteria is merely an excuse to roll back social insurance programs.

Any “serious” and “responsible” discussion must love austerity and upward-redistribution. Any precondition for cooperation is for Democrats to support Bush-era tax rates (which we are still in, btw)!

According to the conventional wisdom, any grand bargain should be modeled on plans like the Bowles-Simpson plan or the Rivlin-Domenici plan — financing lower tax rates on the rich by closing tax loopholes and cutting Social Security and Medicare. Social Security does not and cannot add to the deficit, and both programs only need minor tweaks, but are overall sustainable for decades.

But there is no evidence that the low tax rates on the wealthy encourage them to spend or invest, no evidence that higher tax rates would deter the spending and investment that they might otherwise do.

Via The Next New Deal:

The Simpson-Bowles budget balancing plan seems to have become the common-sense standard for dealing with America’s future budget deficits. this move toward the right is dangerous to the future of the nation and essentially cruel—far more dangerous than the level of the deficit over the next 15 years. The commission proposed cuts in Social Security benefits of 15 percent for medium earners, for example. The right-wing Heritage Foundation spawned many of their ideas, and any progressive notions like those of Paul Volcker or Warren Buffett, seem to be watered down or cut out or ignored.

But these lies that the rich promote growth and that America can’t afford the Social Security that we’ve already been paying into are repeated often enough that they become ‘Beltway wisdom’. But no amount of repetition will turn them into facts.

The United States needs a middle-class welfare state that is bigger, not smaller. It’s the restricted, elitist private welfare state that needs to be cut, not the universal public social insurance system. Most industrial nations do not rely as heavily on private over public programs as we do here (retirement security and health care are prime examples). Deficit hawks would make cuts to stingy social security benefits, leaving the poor, the old, and the laborers to the mercy of their employer’s fickle pension programs, 401Ks and IRAs.

George Bush failed to privatize our social programs due to public outrage and popular outcry, but the con artists are still trying to take what little pittance is left form the elderly, compelling them to gamble their savings in the private markets and mutual funds.

Their objective is to compel Americans to try to make up the losses in public benefits by gambling more with their savings in mutual funds, from which hefty profits will be skimmed by overpaid money managers. Meanwhile, unscrupulous money managers capture many of the returns from private investments for themselves via deceptive fees. Wall Street wants to charge fees on as much of our programs as it can.

Furthermore, there is no looming crisis of debt or deficits, such that sacrifices in general are necessary. None. Not in the short run – as almost everyone agrees.  But also: not in the long run.  What we have are computer projections, based on arbitrary – and suspicious – assumptions. CBO has adjusted its interest rate forecast, and even under its “alternative fiscal scenario” the debt/GDP ratio now stabilizes after a few years.

There is no looming crisis of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, such that these programs must be reformed?  There just isn’t!  Social insurance programs are not businesses. They are not required to make a profit; they need not be funded from any particular stream of tax revenues over any particular time.  Reasonable control of health care costs – public and private – is necessary and also sufficient to keep the costs of Medicare and Medicaid within bounds, but none of our politicians are speaking about this.

They are more concerned about military sequestration, even though Pentagon spending is already set to decline as we adjust our military programs to our national security needs.

Social Security doesn’t add a penny to the debt and should not be part of any deficit reduction talks.” ~Sen. Dick Durbin

“cutting Social Security and Medicare for the sake of an arbitrary and needless budgetary reduction of $4 trillion and as a “solution” to an entirely contrived fiscal crisis is bad policy. It is bad economic policy and worse social policy. And for Democrats, it is dumb politics. If Republicans want to be the ones to attack America’s two most valued social programs, Obama should let them go right ahead—until they march off their own fiscal cliff.” ~Rob Kuttner

Medicare and Medicaid aren’t “chief drivers of the deficit”; Bush tax cuts and two unfunded wars are. The best solution to deficits is to let all the Bush tax cuts lapse and not cut spending at all, while taxing capital gains and dividends as regular income. This would raise some $2 trillion, which the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities argues would be enough deficit reduction to stabilize the national debt.

Instead we have dishonest actors who would gladly lead us over their own constructed “cliff” rather than lead to real solutions, avert mythical problems as opposed to real ones.

Even ignoring that it was entirely invented, the “fiscal cliff” is not even a cliff. All of the tax and spending cuts “scheduled” to take effect Dec. 31 will take effect gradually, and can be reversed by Congress.

Why try to make a deal with this Congress, anyway, when the next one will have more Democrats, and most important, more liberals, on both the House and the Senate side?

The Brookings Institution held panels on the future budget, and in general, centrists on those panels agreed that spending as a percent of GDP should be 23 to 25 percent 20 years from now. He thinks the Simpson-Bowles plan is simply wrong for America. In truth, Social Security is inadequate today, and Medicaid tragically so.

All this while a few of the country’s wealthiest and most patriotic billionaires are calling to for more taxes on themselves.

“Let’s forget about the rich and ultrarich going on strike and stuffing their ample funds under their mattresses if – gasp – capital gains rates and ordinary income rates are increased. The ultrarich, including me, will forever pursue investment opportunities.” ~Billionaire investor Warren Buffett

But most of the rich feel so entitled, they claim that anything that hurts them will also hurt the economy. They are essentially threatening ‘a knife to the throat of America’s frail recovery.’

Via In These Times:

The GOP sore losers have America up against a wall. Republicans don’t care that the majority of the country voted for a candidate who promised to raise taxes on the rich. Republicans don’t care that an even larger majority—60 percent—told election day pollsters they wanted those taxes raised. Republicans don’t care about majority-rule democracy at all. They’re demanding ransom—extension of tax cuts for the rich. If Americans don’t submit, Republicans will slash the nation’s economy.

The party that lost the Presidency, lost seats in the House and lost seats in the Senate is willing to take down the economy, to eviscerate programs like the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Federal Aviation Administration rather than require the entitled rich pull their weight as citizens of the country that enabled them to live lives of unprecedented luxury.

Romney and the GOP said that Obama bought his votes with promises of gifts, but THEY don’t think they were buying the votes of the rich with their promise to add another 20 percent break on top of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest.

That’s because they believe they’re entitled. They derisively refer to the social safety net programs that prevent the nation’s poor and elderly from being reduced to eating cat food as “entitlements.” But it’s the entitled rich—Romney, the Koch Brothers, Sheldon Adelson and their ilk—who demand that America give them “stuff” like tax breaks for sending jobs overseas, like tax loopholes for hoarding their assets in the Caymans, like government-paid roads and sewers and rail lines to their businesses.

The CEOs, calling themselves the “Fix the Debt” coalition, claim they’ll pay a secret amount more in taxes if the 99 percent suffers cuts to its social safety net and endures slashed government programs, just accepts cat food as its meat course.

They’ve proposed extending the tax cuts for the 98 percent right now. The richest two percent would benefit from these breaks as well, receiving them on the first $250,000 of their earnings. Everybody gets something. This proposal passed the Democratic-controlled Senate. The Republican-controlled House refuses to even vote on it.

That gap between America’s high-income and middle-income households, after all, has been growing almost as fast as the gap between rich and poor.

A new income inequality study from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities and the Economic Policy Institute has found that in the three-year span from 2008 through 2010, in 15 different states, our most affluent 20 percent averaged over eight times the income of our poorest 20 percent. Back in the late 1970s, the new Pulling Apart points out, not one single state had a top-to-bottom ratio that ran over eight times.

In all 50 states, the gap between top 20 and middle 20 percent has widened “significantly.” The gap between middle 20 percent and top 5 percent has widened even more. By almost five times in the largest states.

Plus, these Census surveys do not even take into account income from capital gains. 87 percent of all capital gains “will go to families in the top 5 percent of the U.S. income distribution.”

Rising inequality, they contend, “adversely affects our economy and political system.” They eat away at our social cohesion. Deeply unequal societies just don’t work together in a democracy. The rich in these societies live apart, in their own private universes.

Here are some other numbers the conservative rich would rather have ignored, distorted or fudged:

  1. Only FOUR OUT OF 150 countries have more wealth inequality than us.
  2. Only THREE PERCENT of the very rich are entrepreneurs: According to both Marketwatch and economist Edward Wolff, over 90 percent of the assets owned by millionaires are held in a combination of low-risk investments (bonds and cash), personal business accounts, the stock market, and real estate. Only 3.6 percent of taxpayers in the top .1% were classified as entrepreneurs based on 2004 tax returns. A 2009 Kauffman Foundation study found that the great majority of entrepreneurs come from middle-class backgrounds, with less than 1 percent of all entrepreneurs coming from very rich or very poor backgrounds.
  3. An amount equal to ONE-HALF the GDP is held untaxed overseas by rich Americans.
  4. Corporations stopped paying HALF OF THEIR TAXES after the recession: After paying an average of 22.5% from 1987 to 2008, corporations have paid an annual rate of 10% since. This represents a sudden $250 billion annual loss in taxes.
  5. Just TEN Americans made a total of FIFTY BILLION DOLLARS in one year.
  6. Tax deductions for the rich could pay off 100 PERCENT of the deficit.
  7. The average single black or Hispanic woman has about $100 IN NET WORTH.
  8. Elderly and disabled food stamp recipients get $4.30 A DAY FOR FOOD.
  9. Young adults have lost TWO-THIRDS OF THEIR NET WORTH since 1984.
  10. The American public paid about FOUR TRILLION DOLLARS to bail out the banks.

We have the radical right to thank for much of this. There will always be those in the GOP, or proudly to its right, who will protest any policy movement toward the center as an abandonment of conservative principles.

You are allowed to believe whatever you want in America, but remember that false beliefs ultimately lead to suffering.

Stranger in a Strange Land 2012-12-01: Confusion by The Stranger on Mixcloud

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

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Under the Influence

The world is going out of it’s damn mind. We’ll let the music explore each fucked up mindset, as we fall under the influence of politics, madness, intoxicants, and (as always) lack of sleep.

A mind is a wonderful to waste.

PLAYLIST
Hall Of The Mountain King – Self Diagnosis
Blinded By The Light – Manfred Mann’s Earth Band
Morning Meditation – Ali Akbar Khan
I’m So Tired – The Beatles
Sunday Morning Coming Down – Johnny Cash
Lost in the Ozone – Commander Cody
Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) – Kenny Rogers & The First Edition
The Transmigration of Hop Heads – Acid Mothers Temple & the Melting Paraiso U.F.O.
Reclaim Your Mind – Cosmic Gnostic and the Astral Travelers
Becoming Insane – Infected Mushroom
Anxiety – Astor Piazzolla and the Kronos Quartet
Where Is My Mind – The Pixies
Think I Lost My Headache – Queens of the Stone Age
I Almost Lost My Mind – Zalman Yanovsky
Stoned Guitar – Human Instinct
Stairway To Heaven – London Philharmonic Orchestra
7 Days Drunk – The Adventures Of Robert Savage
Slow Down – Ozzy Osbourne
Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd
Drinking – They Might Be Giants
I’d Rather Have a Bottle in Front of Me (Than a Frontal Lobotomy) – Randy Hanzlick
They’re Coming To Take Me Away! – Napoleon XIV

Mitt Romney this week showed what a great world leader he would be by insulting our greatest allies, inflaming tensions in the Middle East and desecrating holy ground. His travels, however, were not in vain. He was able to pander to a religious population (Jews, but really the evangelical Christians at home) with his meritocratic clout and raise money from the LIBOR-scammer elites by promising even more deregulation!

“I’d like to get rid of Dodd Frank” ~Mitt Money Romney

Romney hailed the Israel’s health care system for holding down costs and broadening coverage more effectively than the U.S., though Israel contains costs by adopting a very centralized, government-run health care system that conservatives in this country equate with European-style socialism.

One of his top advisors also caused a stir by seeming to say that Romney would back an Israeli strike against Iran, but they seemed to realize that tough talk does not equal foreign policy credibility. His real gaffe was in implying that the downtrodden Palestinian people have chosen to be there, or that their “culture” proves that they deserve to be under the boot-heels of the Israelis.

Mitt Romney boldly declared that Israel’s economic superiority over the Palestinians was due to its culture… which seemed to imply that he believes that Palestinians are just sort of naturally inclined to live under military occupation. (This didn’t seem to bug that many Israelis, even though it does suggest that he believes they are … innately good with money, let’s say.)

Romney believes, in other words, that Palestinians just don’t value freedom enough to get it for themselves. The territory is under a decades-long military occupation and residents face restrictions on movement and trade.

“During my recent trip to Israel, I had suggested that the choices a society makes about its culture play a role in creating prosperity, and that the significant disparity between Israeli and Palestinian living standards was powerfully influenced by it,” Romney wrote in the National Review. “In some quarters, that comment became the subject of controversy. But what exactly accounts for prosperity if not culture?

He directly compared the per capita GDP of Israel and the Palestinian territories and attributed Israel’s comparative strength to “culture” and the “hand of providence.” He implied that the Palestinian territories are socialist, which isn’t true, and a quick look at wikipedia shows that their economy was growing by leaps and bounds between the 60’s and 80’s, and has been slowing with the West Bank occupation and oppression, Israeli “security measures” and rising unemployment (surely a ‘choice’ as it is here in America).

“I have just returned from a trip abroad. I visited three lands — Israel, Poland, and Great Britain — which are defined by their respective struggles for freedom. I met with some of the greatest heroes of those struggles.”

“I realize that there will be some in the Fourth Estate, or whichever estate, who are far more interested in finding something to write about that is unrelated to the economy, to geopolitics, to the threat of war, to the reality of conflict in Afghanistan today, to a nuclearization of Iran,” Romney said.

But the radicalization of right-wing America is only going to hurt Romney, and others, in the long run. Gingrich was successful in ousting many moderates in the 90’s, but many old and new are leaving in disgust, or sticking around just to badmouth the extremism rife in their own party.

“For a long time, words like ‘compromise’ have been like dirty words. I always believed that the art of being a legislator is finding common ground.” ~Republican Ohio Rep. Steve LaTourette 

But speaking of compromise, it takes many Democrats as well as Republicans to push through the Bush tax rate on those making more than $200,000 annually.

  • Jason Altmire (Pennsylvania)
  • John Barrow (Georgia)
  • Dan Boren (Oklahoma)
  • Ben Chandler (Kentucky)
  • Jim Cooper (Tennessee)
  • Jim Costa (California)
  • Henry Cuellar (Texas)
  • Joe Donnelly (Indiana)
  • Larry Kissell (North Carolina)
  • Jim Matheson (Utah)
  • Mike McIntyre (North Carolina)
  • Jerry McNerney (California)
  • Bill Owens (New York)
  • Collin Peterson (Minnesota)
  • Mike Ross (Arkansas)
  • Kurt Schrader (Oregon)
  • Heath Shuler (North Carolina)
  • Mike Thompson (California)
  • Tim Walz (Minnesota)

When it comes to taxes, we may see an unfair tax code get even worse. This is far more important issue than whether Mitt Romney paid his taxes, or other secrets from his returns. His tax plan would be a boon for the wealthy, but a tax hike for 95% of Americans, according to a new nonpartisan study by the Tax Policy Center, a joint project of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution.

And though the Romney team have called the group a bunch of liberals (they hailed them in the past as “objective, third-party analysis” when the findings benefitted them), he couldn’t dispel any of their specific claims. Even more damning for himself is the revenue neutrality, or Romney’s own non-commitment to specifying the tax loopholes or breaks he’d close, probably because he wouldn’t close any (he has suggested that he would only look to breaks that benefit the wealthy).

“Even if tax expenditures are eliminated in a way designed to make the resulting tax system as progressive as possible, there would still be a shift in the tax burden of roughly $86 billion from those making over $200,000 to those making less than that amount,” the report reads.

“Americans making over $1 million would see an increase in after-tax income of 4.1 percent (an $87,000 tax cut), those making between $500,000 and $1 million would see an increase of 3.2 percent (a $17,000 tax cut), and those making between $200,000 and $500,000 would see an increase of 0.8 percent (a $1,800 tax cut).”

As for the other 95% of Americans? Not so much. The average tax increase needed to pay for the elite’s gains would be $500 per household.

Obama was quick to jump on this opportunity (the opportunistic bastard):

“He’s not asking you to contribute more to pay down the deficit, he’s not asking you to pay more to invest in our children’s education or rebuild our roads or put more folks back to work,” Obama said. “He’s asking you to pay more so that people like him can get a big tax cut.”

Romney claimed that the report is “biased” as it fails to take into account the explosion of economic growth that would theoretically occur in the future under a potential Romney’s administration.

Apparently anticipating this criticism, the Tax Policy Center decided to humor them by including an alternate (reality) analysis in its study in which it assumed that Romney turns out to be correct and his tax proposals produce unexpected floods of new revenue. However, even that generous concession didn’t change its analysis.

“Although reasonable models would show that these tax changes would have little effect on growth, we show that even with implausibly large growth effects, revenue neutrality would still require large reductions in tax expenditures and would likely result in a net tax increase for lower- and middle-income households and tax cuts for high-income households,” the study concluded.

In other words: How will he PAY for these cuts!? Perhaps Romney would be a good little engine of the economy and make up the difference out of his own offshore accounts.

As the richest of the rich, or .001%, or fewer than 10 million people, have used secret tax shelters around the world to hide anywhere from $21-32 trillion, or more, since they shutter around various accounts and are nigh-untrackable (according to the Tax Justice Network). An amount equal to the US and Japanese economies.

At a low 3%, this is anywhere between $190-250 billion in tax revenue —which is about twice the amount OECD countries spend on development assistance. That’s just income taxes. Capital gains taxes, inheritance taxes, and other taxes would bring in even more.

In order to save a few bucks on taxes, they essentially put themselves in the same category as copyright trolls and drug lords. They hide funds in the Cayman Islands, Singapore, Switzerland, as well as “virtual” havens, “nominal, hyper-portable, multi-jurisdictional, often quite temporary locations of networks of legal and quasi-legal entities and arrangements” facilitated by too-big-to-fail Goldman Sachs, UBS, and Credit Suisse (the top three), with Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and JP Morgan Chase all in the top ten of “key enablers of the global tax injustice system.”

The lost tax revenue from offshore tax shelters, they note, “is large enough to make a significant difference to all of our conventional measures of inequality. Since most of the missing financial wealth belongs to a tiny elite, the impact is staggering.”

Many Americans are already misinformed about our level of inequality—but this report confirms that even supposed experts were wildly underestimating the problem. The developing world, for example, has $4 trillion in debt, but their own elites have stores $10 trillion offshore. “That means this is really a tax justice problem, not simply a ‘debt’ problem.” Those debts fall on the shoulders of the everyday working people of those countries, those who can’t take advantage of sophisticated tax shelters.

Of course, this is merely yet another lie spun by the conservative media:

  1. Higher taxes on the rich will hurt small businesses and discourage job creators

A recent Treasury analysis found that only  2.5% of small businesses  would face higher taxes from the expiration of the Bush tax cuts.

Over 90% of the assets owned by millionaires are held in a combination of low-risk investments (bonds and cash), the stock market, real estate, and personal business accounts Angel investing (capital provided by affluent individuals for business start-ups) accounted for less than 1% of the investable assets  of high net worth individuals in North America in 2011.  The Mendelsohn Affluent Survey  agreed that the very rich spend less than two percent of their money on new business startups.

Even the Wall Street Journal noted that the extra wealth created by the Bush tax cuts led to the “worst track record for jobs in recorded history.”

2. Individual initiative is all you need for success.

If anything, it’s harder than ever today to ascend through the ranks on one’s own. As summarized in the  Pew research report  “Pursuing the American Dream,” only 4% of those starting out in the bottom quintile make it to the top quintile as adults

3. A booming stock market is good for all of us

But as the market rises, most Americans are getting a smaller slice of the pie. But the richest 10% of Americans  own over 80%  of the stock market. Thanks in good part to a meager 15% capital gains tax, the  richest 400 taxpayers DOUBLED their income and nearly HALVED their tax rates in just seven years (2001-2007). And the stock market scamming grows faster than our GDP.

The truth has a nasty habit of coming to the surface, as the Koch brothers-funded climate scientist Richard Muller discovered:

“Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.”

“Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases. Our record is long enough that we could search for the fingerprint of solar variability, based on the historical record of sunspots. That fingerprint is absent.”

“The carbon dioxide curve gives a better match than anything else we’ve tried. Its magnitude is consistent with the calculated greenhouse effect — extra warming from trapped heat radiation. These facts don’t prove causality and they shouldn’t end skepticism, but they raise the bar: to be considered seriously, an alternative explanation must match the data at least as well as carbon dioxide does.”

But good old-fashioned fear-mongering always seems to work. The FBI cast anarchists and activists as terrorists and criminals, even as they violate their constitutional due process by targeting them based on politics *ahem* “criminal evidence” such as black clothing, anarchist literature, and placard signs, flags and… flag-making materials. Essentially, a fishing expedition.

“It’s related to political opposition, it’s related to political dissent,” says Dennison Williams. “They’re trying to create a wedge within people who are resistors… They’re specifically pursuing anarchists.”

Political supporters calling themselves the “Committee Against Political Repression” have already set up a website to post information about the case and take donations to the legal fund: NoPoliticalRepression.wordpress.com with a “solidarity statement” from numerous activist groups condemning the “series of coordinated raids.”

Likewise, we should FEAR the cybercrime which costs us $1 trillion a year, according to Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency and oversees U.S. Cyber Command, which is causing “the greatest transfer of wealth in history.” He must not have read the other articles that we have.

But the source of his numbers remains a mystery. The trillion-dollar estimate was first published in a news release that McAfee issued to announce the report; the number does not appear in the report itself.

McAfee’s trillion-dollar estimate is questioned even by the three independent researchers from Purdue University whom McAfee credits with analyzing the raw data from which the estimate was derived. “I was really kind of appalled when the number came out in news reports, the trillion dollars, because that was just way, way large,” said Eugene Spafford, a computer science professor at Purdue.

Of the 17 other researchers and contributors, Ross Anderson, a security engineering professor at University of Cambridge, said that he did not know about the $1 trillion estimate before it was announced. “I would have objected at the time had I known about it,” he said. “The intellectual quality of this ($1 trillion number) is below abysmal.”

When asked about the reporting, politicians simply repeat the number as if it were gospel. Then again, lawmakers don’t know shit. They don’t even know what the fuck all those drones are doing up there. The NYPD is going to start tracking and surveilling people all over the city with help from Microsoft as part of their “domestic awareness system”. The FBI will be ramping up their Next Generation Identification (NGI) Facial Recognition Program in 2014, containing at least 12 million “searchable frontal photos.”

“Facial recognition takes the risks inherent in other biometrics to a new level . . . [it] allows for covert, remote, and mass capture and identification of images, and the photos that may end up in a database include not just a person’s face but also what she is wearing, what she might be carrying, and who she is associated with.” ~EFF testimony at the Senate Subcommittee hearing on facial recognition

All this authoritarian technology is frightening enough, but even if we manage to stave off the worst implications of a technological takeover, we still face existential threats to our identity, autonomy, anonymity and individuality as we enmesh and embed with out digital devices.

Stranger in a Strange Land 2012-08-04: Under the Influence by The Stranger onMixcloud

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

Reaching Out Right

There are many things keeping the underemployed and oppressed people of both left and right at polar ends of the spectrum. Radicalizing extremist movements, manipulative systems of power and hard fought biases prevent the largest, most powerful populist movement in American History from emerging and meeting on the ground between their silos.

 It seems a little dismissive and condescending to assume that low-income, working class white America votes against its self interests. Democrats have done almost as much harm to the poor over the decades as Republicans have, and offer few strong, progressive solutions. Both sides understand that change is needed, but disagree on the details. The minds of those on the right are as complex as someone with any other ideological stance, and to think otherwise reveals a disturbingly close-minded bias. As for the conservative bias, however, research indicates a predisposition to obey authoritarian social orders and subtle cues.

Researcher Chris Mooney calls them “authoritarians,” those who are particularly allergic to uncertainty and fiercely refuse to modify their beliefs in response to new evidence. They “extol traditional values, are very conventional, submit to established leaders, and don’t seem to care much about dissent or civil liberties.”

Science is discovering that the brains of those who rely on belief and intuition shift away from analytical and critical thinking, and vice-versa. All it takes is a little movement over time towards the science-based facts, to being a more “open personality” than a close one, and people will begin to work with one another. There are always those out there who, deep down, value individual liberty more than conformity.
This may even result in conservatives seeming happier, by large. They may be unburdened with the worries of the social contract, and cheerfully resolute in their locked-in worldview. But it can also result in a nasty case of cognitive dissonance, since so many facts about the economy, business ethics, science and education are in direct opposition to the deceptive claims of the GOP leadership. When faced with such facts, research indicates that believers become more entrenched in their position, as all humans are wired to do. In fact, as conservatives get more educated or “informed” on an issue such as global warming, they end up more disconnected from the facts. While most people do not get their news from anywhere at all, repeated studies show that those that get theirs from FOX News are consistently the least well-informed.

“If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read then newspaper, you’re misinformed.” ~Mark Twain

The echo chamber of Big Conservative Media, and the center-right media bent on protecting the status quo of inequality, “frames” every argument in moral terms that benefit their side, of course. Their twisting of quotes, research, statistics and rhetoric have resulted in millions of Americans distrusting science, medicine, and even critical-thinking itself. Contrived controversies obscure the actual state of humanity’s knowledge at this point in history. Analytical people are all ignorantly cast as atheists, who are now the most hated subgroup in the country. (Interestingly, testing shows that those “primed” with reminders of America’s secular authority and history are less likely to distrust atheists).
False dichotomies have forced the conservative mind further to the right, as moderates were slowly ousted during the Gingrich era (and again today), and replaced by the fundamentalists who worship selfishness instead of a more morally responsible individualism. To get an idea of this devolution, one need only read the harshest words of William F. Buckley and Barry Goldwater, then compare them to the most reactionary accomplishments of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, to the radical activism of Karl Rove and Dick Cheney, to the angry language of the Tea Party. (For a thorough shock to the system, read some Abraham Lincoln for comparison).
“When you say “radical right” today, I think of these moneymaking ventures by fellows like Pat Robertson and others who are trying to take the Republican Party away from the Republican Party, and make a religious organization out of it. If that ever happens, kiss politics goodbye.”
~Barry Goldwater
Much of this extremism was introduced so slowly that people did not even notice they were caving into it, like the fabled frog in the pot of boiling water. Things that would have been ghastly yesteryear are commonly accepted “best practices” today; spying on all domestic communications, suspending habeas corpus and due process, corporate bribery, assassinations and torture.
The social contract fails when the masses are enslaved and subjugated by a select, powerful few. This classist bias has existed since the beginning of our history, but so has the gradual, progressive march away from restrictive, totalitarian systems.
Ayn Rand’s psychotic philosophy has been shown to be a disaster. The super-rich prove to us that they cannot be trusted again and again. Trickle-down economics was a failed experiment for a long time, but it continues now as a virulent lie. Milton Friedman’s unregulated ‘free market’ principles have become religious tenets, both in their fundamentalist tone and faith-based refutation of facts. Many have suggested that the primary role of neoliberalism was as an ideological cover for capital accumulation by multinational corporations.

“The laws of commerce are the laws of Nature, and therefore the laws of God.” ~Edmund Burke

Their wealth is essentially no better than hoarding, and their risky banking as dangerous as drunk driving. Conservative think tanks have been corrupting data with bias, slowly overtaking think tanks, and lobbied for less regulation than we’ve had in 30 years.
The history of our Protestant work ethic has written these ideas into our culture, so we are painfully susceptible to being manipulated by them.

“At the unconscious level, Americans believe that good people succeed, that success is bestowed upon you by God, your success demonstrates that God loves you.”

~Clotaire Rapaille, author “The Culture Code”

Now, the dystopian visions of Upton Sinclair’s It Can’t Happen Here are coming true, with the rise of corpofascism helped along by right-wing activist courts, bought legislators, unleashed lobbying, propaganda, disenfranchising voters and silencing dissent. The rich are not particularly smarter, (though they can afford higher education without incurring crippling debt). Nor do they create more jobs, as corporations are always looking to downsize, outsource, automate or maximize profits by destroying the middle class. Consumerism has been shown, in fact, to be a driver of antisocial behavior, and the percentage of psychopaths in finance may be higher than the percentage of the general population.
The powers that have been growing have successfully engineered a false moral argument that all taxes are immoral, and that the rich are the infallible engines of the economy, when any reasonable mind knows that some taxation is needed to maintain and  grow an infrastructure as large as the United States, and that no group is without faults. The rich are all too quick to remind the populace that the working class are not the producers or job creators, and may even be leeches of the system. All in the hopes that the people will forget that we are The Public, the working class, the constituency, the consumers, and the voters of the United States of America.

“Democrats have moved to the right, and the Right has moved into a mental hospital!” ~Bill Maher

American democracy needs two strong, solid political parties, but currently one of the parties is just a mess – incapable of making coherent policy when it’s in office, and dangerously obstructionist when it’s out of office. It has also has the effect of energizing sovereign citizens, secessionists and white nationalists.

Though American democracy needs two strong political parties, one is just a dangerous, incoherent mess, and neither the president nor the voters are likely to change this. It will probably take interests within the party who are worried that the crazy will impede their ability to get things done, that will push to end it.

We’ve seen a little bit of this already. During the healthcare debate, many normally Republican-leaning groups chose to work with the Obama administration and cut their best deal, rather than sticking with the rejectionist GOP. Several companies quit the conservative state lobbying organization ALEC when it became controversial by lobbying for ideological and partisan goals. On the national security side, a break has emerged between the Department of Defense and movement conservatives; both conservatives who care about national security and (on some issues) businesses might choose to stick with the Pentagon. And it’s not quite the same thing, but there’s been a small but steady stream of defectors from the movement.

Many in the Republican party (or conservative or libertarian or center-right independents), are not happy about the destructive course the party is on.
Rep. Alan SimpsonFormer Chairman Jim GreerReagan-appointed Judge Richard PosnerFreshman Republican Richard Hannah, and others have decried the co-opting of their political philosophy by scheming conspirators. Though they are discounted as ‘moderates’ (as if it were an insult) or ‘RINOs’ (Republicans in Name Only). This fracturing creates opportunities for reform.
There have to be ways to amicably bring people in the Red States to a more rational and reasonable mindset, where even if real progress does not take hold, at least they won’t be working against the development of a civilized human race. A way for conscionable and socially-responsible citizens to declare, “Not in My Back Yard!”
There is even a small conservative town in Texas where the city’s mayor, police force and Tea Party movement support their local Occupy protestors.
Even within the Catholic church there are progressive elements and stirrings. Attacking religion is ignorant and counterproductive anyway.
The trends also show us some hope. For even though polls shoe that about 40 percent of Americans believe that God created the Earth less than 10,000 years ago, secularism is on the rise in America. The Millenials (the ‘digital native’ youth on the cusp of adulthood), are more science-minded and skeptical than ever before:

Polls and surveys, like this one from Pew or this one from the Center for American Progress, have helped paint a picture of the Millennials. They’re the most ethnically diverse generation in American history: just under 60% are white, a record low. They’re also one of the most politically progressive generations in decades: they voted for Barack Obama over John McCain by a 2-to-1 margin and opposed the Iraq war by 77% to 21%. They’re disinclined to prolong the culture wars: for the most part, they’re comfortable with gay marriage, immigration, racial and gender equality. They tend to marry later in life, to be highly educated,politically engaged and technologically savvy, and to place a high value on leisure and civic engagement. And they’re the least religious generation of Americans ever;  the number of religiously unaffiliated Americans now exceeds 1 in 4 among the Millennials, a record high.

Millenials also exhibit a new phenomenon, they are getting less religious as they get older. Most importantly, by 2020, the Millennials will represent almost 40% of all American voters.
Other trends in America include the record low approval ratings of government (where conservatives have always led the way) and distrust of organized religion.
But this should not just be a waiting game. Nor should it be a zero-sum game. There are many social issues that, we must all agree, will not be solved with consensuses reached, and will remain for each side to argue and debate for decades. But on many issues, we do agree, and are both amenable to compromise in the light of the truth and moral reality. A plurality of Americans support a tax hike on the rich, for example.

Most Americans oppose the Citizen’s United decision, and do not consider corporations to be people.

We agree on our rights and liberties being protected and protecting the constitution. We recognize the importance of community, family, social responsibility, the need for transparency and accountability in our leaders and the powerful, and the consequences of not planning for the future. We believe in freedom of speech, freedom from religious oppression, guarding against unreasonable searches and seizures, and supporting our patriots. Very few on the right are criticizing Obama for his murder of citizens without due process, violations of human rights, and suppression of the freedom of press. Instead, rabid demagogues condemn the president for wanting to take away guns, institute Maoist socialism, and kill babies, (none of which have come to pass).

 There are Ron Paulites who can be won over, libertarians who can be de-brainwshed, and Tea Partiers to be deprogrammed. The moderates must reclaim and recover the Republican party from the hawkish, neoconservative elites.
But there are many who refuse to let help each other to help each other. They cannot be reached, defying all reason and ethical pleadings for compromise. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” only works when the other party doesn’t also believe that “you’re either with us or against us.”
As for the stubborn power-mad elements within the GOP, it will be a slow, building process. Taking a cue from the very rise of the ‘New Right’, it will be a war by inches, death by a thousand cuts.
They have turned ‘liberal’ into a bad word, and shamelessly attempt to do the same to ‘progressive’. We can turn their own conservative tactics against them: projection (the ‘I-am-rubber-you-are-glue’ now employed by Romney), false polemics, shouting down opponents with ‘Gish Gallop‘ and sound bites, “framing” or changing the conversation, picking subjects made to look ridiculous, and perhaps even dirt-dishing perfected by the likes of Karl Rove. If facts and figures will not convince them, use their own tactics to steamroll over them, not on their terms, but on their own turf.
All while building a new progressive movement with the trust-busting powers to make Theodore Roosevelt proud. We can construct a new economy movement of worker-owned co-ops, small local banks and credit unions, “responsible banking” ordinances, and consumer protection laws. We can endeavor to put worker, consumer, environmental, or community representatives of “stakeholder” groups on corporate boards. In other words, democratizing the American infrastructure.

Other models fit into what author Marjorie Kelly calls the “generative economy”–efforts that inherently nurture the community and respect the natural environment.

We must wage a media war on all fronts, with “new” media transforming our world and providing key tools that help organize revolts and even revolutions. We must present literature, research, and viable solutions in every medium in order to influence the mainstream, open dialogues with other political camps and change the national conversation.

People of any ideology will be able to see that the lower classes (anything below rich or super-rich or ‘filthy stinking’ rich), that we are being branded as corporate slaves, cyber-terrorists, dissidents or ‘dead weight’ for simply living free as we always have, and exercising what were once inalienable rights.

The solutions and actions are many, and need not come from one camp, or one level of expertise, or mandate. We can utilize social justice hacks as readily as pranks and culture jamming, hard-boiled citizen journalism and activism as well as street art and theatre. Create apps that bring more into the fold. Create freeform political ads (endorsed by neither candidate) informing the electorate that they are being manipulated. We need flyers, mailers, transmission interrupts, piracy, co-sponsored DJ events, town hall meetings, flashmobs and boycotts! It may take decades. But despite where we may disagree on those one or two issues, despite what the elites try to peddle us, we are all in this together.

Olde Times are Goode Times

At the request and behest of our esteemed guest, who arrives just too late and right on, we exemplify how the olden times are the besten times, with music from the turn of the Swingin’ Century, slowly evolving as have our petty mindsets. Some political rations and weird subsidies later, you arrive in the Strangeland.

So stick around for the BONUS segment where fellow Revengerist Dr. Tasty reacts to the show and current events, and lo, the Earth mightily trembles.

PLAYLIST
In The Hall Of The Mountain King – Will Bradley-Ray McKinley Band
For Old Times’ Sake – Annette Hanshaw
Ragtime Regiment Band (1913) – Heidelberg Quintet with Billy Murray
Frog Legs Rag (1906) – James Scott
Original Rags (Piano Roll) – Scott Joplin
Hobomoko – John Philip Sousa Band
Pozzo – Frisco Jass Band
Dixie Jass Band One Step – The Original Dixieland Jazz Band
Alexander’s Ragtime Band – Ethel Merman, Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, Sophie Tucker
Lady Is A Tramp – Sophie Tucker
Changes – Bing Crosby
Paul Whiteman – The Charleston
Everything Is Hotsy Totsy Now – The California Ramblers
Maple Leaf Rag – Bix Beiderbecke
Down South Camp Meeting – Fletcher Henderson
Night And Day – Django Reinhardt & Stéphane Grappelli
Making Whoopee – Eddie Cantor
Let’s Misbehave – Irene Bordoni
Anything Goes – Cole Porter
You Do Something to Me – Billy May & The Andrews Sisters
Canned Heat (1947) – Chet Atkins
Jolly Banker – Woody Guthrie
Old Blind Sow, She Stole the Middlins – John W. Summers
Death of J.B. Marcum – Asa Martin
I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive – Hank Williams, Sr.
I’m Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town – Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five
Juke Box Boogie Woogie Chick – Snookum Russell
Jumpin At The Jubilee – Big Joe Turner
Finger poppin time – Hank Ballard & the Midnighters
The Stuf Is Here – Cleo Brown
Powerhouse – Spike Jones
Rhapsody In Blue – George Gershwin & Paul Whiteman
Frankie And Jonny – Gene Vincent
My Baby Don’t Love Me No More (1957) – Happy Wainwright & The VI-Counts
Red Hot – Billy Lee Riley
Rink-A-Din-Ki-Do – The Edsels
All Right, Baby – Janis Martin
I’m Getting Sentimental Over You – Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass
Runaway – Del Shannon

Stranger in a Strange Land 2012-06-16: Olde Times are Goode Times by The Stranger on Mixcloud

Romney blurted out more of his anti-American anti-government anti-populist anti-worker conservative rhetoric. We already know that he “likes being able to fire people,” wants to privatize formerly public fields so that unregulated industries can sap the life from the Public, and now he’s also aiming at “firemen, policemen, and teachers.”

I’ll just say it. Mitt Romney is soft on crime. He’s anti-education, and pro-fire.

Indiscriminate privatization, and the greedy politics of unfettered selfishness, will bankrupt and destroy this economy, this country, and the American people.

All the more reason to believe that the GOP is doing this on purpose.

Be it ideology or stratagem, the GOP has blocked pro-growth policy and backed job-killing austerity – all while blaming Obama.

“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” -Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell

Republicans will do anything, including short-circuiting the economy, in order to hurt Obama politically.

Then again, it’s a hard accusation to prove: after all, one person’s economic sabotage is another person’s principled anti-government conservatism.

Republicans have opposed a lion’s share of stimulus measures that once they supported, such as a payroll tax break, unemployment insurance, bargaining against the interests of Americans (or holding their needed public services or national credit rating hostage) to keep tax cuts for the wealthy.

Republicans have made practically no effort to draft comprehensive job creation legislation. Instead, they continue to pursue austerity policies, which reams of historical data suggest harms economic recovery and does little to create jobs.

Meanwhile, a critical document from President Barack Obama’s free trade negotiations with eight Pacific nations was leaked online early Wednesday morning, revealing that the administration intends to bestow radical new political powers upon multinational corporations, contradicting prior promises.

The new leak follows substantial controversy surrounding the secrecy of the talks, in which some members of Congress have complained they are not being given the same access to trade documents that corporate officials receive.

The newly leaked document is one of the most controversial of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact. It addresses a broad sweep of regulations governing international investment and reveals the Obama administration’s advocacy for policies that environmental activists, financial reform advocates and labor unions have long rejected for eroding key protections currently in domestic laws.

But foreign corporations operating within the U.S. would be permitted to appeal key American legal or regulatory rulings to an international tribunal. That international tribunal would be granted the power to overrule American law and impose trade sanctions on the United States for failing to abide by its rulings.

China, of all places, has just released a report on the (lack of) human rights over the past year in the U.S.A. Are we living in an authoritarian society without knowing it? Via China Daily, and they would know!

Whatever the deep reasons for the (Occupy) movement are, the single fact that thousands of protesters were treated in a rude and violent way, with many of them being arrested – the act of willfully trampling on people’ s freedom of assembly, demonstration and speech – could provide a glimpse to the truth of the so-called US freedom and democracy.

While advocating press freedom, the United States in fact imposes fairly strict censoring and control over the press and “press freedom” is just a political tool used to beautify itself and attack other nations. The US Congress failed to pass laws on protecting rights of reporters’ news sources, according to media reports. While forcibly evacuating the Zuccotti Park, the original Occupy Wall Street encampment, the New York police blocked journalists from covering the police actions. They set cordon lines to prevent reporters from getting close to the park and closed airspace to make aerial photography impossible. In addition to using pepper spray against reporters, the police also arrested around 200 journalists, including reporters from NPR and the New York Times

Even the Russians now know our press (non)freedom is a joke:

“They just put handcuffs on me. I tried to tell him that I am a journalist. He pulled out my State Department accreditation and asked whether I have a New York police one. Unfortunately, that one expired,” explained journalist Kirill Belyaninov.

The reporter has been working in the US for the last three years.

“Whatever proof you have – they don’t really care. It’s just business, and your credentials can’t really protect you,” he said.

Sent through a whirlpool -like legal system, the seasoned journalist was treated as a protest participant under arrest. 24 hours behind bars, a quick trial, 600 dollars in fines were his punishment – for doing his job – covering the news of the day. And then there were the two days of community service and six months probation.

It’s just a matter of time before any non-corporate citizen journalist is automatically branded a terrorist. Though we now know that Americans Are as Likely to Be Killed by Their Own Furniture as by Terrorism!

Terrorist attacks killed 17 U.S. civilians last year and 15 the year before.

According to the report, the number of U.S. citizens who died in terrorist attacks increased by two between 2010 and 2011; overall, a comparable number of Americans are crushed to death by their televisions or furniture each year. This is not to diminish the real–albeit shrinking–threat of terrorism, or to minimize the loss and suffering of the 13,000 killed and over 45,000 injured around the world. For Americans, however, it should emphasize that an irrational fear of terrorism is both unwarranted and a poor basis for public policy decisions.

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

Also, enjoy this BONUS nugget of the Stranger in a Strange Land, guest starring the one-and-hopefully-only Dr. Tasty! The founding members of the Revengerists (Consortium of Stuff) are together again to discuss the minutiae of time distortion, powers, current events, robot apocalypse, world-ending cataclysms, crime-fighting, affinity groups like the Cacophony Society and other subversive underground organizations, and the 10 weirdest urban ecosystems on Earth.

Stranger in a Strange Land 2012-06-16: Revengerize with Dr. Tasty! by The Stranger on Mixcloud

Cool Dark Rock

06-09-12

I wanted to play something cool, something a little dark, and something that rocks tonight. Perhaps I was inspired by the politicians in the news, and all the pernicious trash that seems to be poking out from every cool, dark rock around.

PLAYLIST
In The Hall Of The Mountain King – Sounds Incorporated
I´ve Loved You – The Music Machine
Instrumental Duet – Bela Fleck
Ray Gun Suitcase – Pere Ubu
The Darker Days Of Me & Him – PJ Harvey
Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood – Elvis Costello
I Wanna Rule The World – 10cc
2/1 – Brian Eno
All The Trees Of The Field Will Clap Their Hands – Sufjan Stevens
She Is Staggering – Polaris
Fools – The Dodos
Change My Life – Spoon
Rumble – Link Wray
Baby, Please Don’t Go – Them
Bloodstains (Darkness Version) – Agent Orange
Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath
Red Right Hand – Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds
Guitar Solo 6 from ‘Dead Man’ – Neil Young
Bad Trip – Bo Diddley
Insanity Creeping – The Flow
Castles Made Of Sand – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Sittin’ On Top Of The World – Howlin’ Wolf
Free Ride – The Illinois Speed Press
Overture – The Collectors
White Room – Cream
When I Was Young – Eric Burdon & The Animals
Cool It Down – The Velvet Underground
Évasion de Julien – Miles Davis
The Old Revolution – Leonard Cohen

Stranger in a Strange Land 2012-06-09: Cool Dark Rock by The Stranger on Mixcloud

Even though Money Romney is trying to distract you from his social issues, he and his champagne campaign neglect the American voter’s intellect by implying that social issues and economic issues are not intertwined.

“Mitt Romney is pro-life,” senior campaign adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said. “He’ll govern as a pro-life president, but you’re going to see the Democrats use all sorts of shiny objects to distract people’s attention from the Obama performance on the economy. This is not a social issue election.”

via In These Times:

But the distinction between “economic” issues and “social” ones is inherently false, particularly as it pertains to reproductive choice. The economy isn’t separate from issues of choice, nor is it separate from any issue we might refer to as a “woman’s issue.” (Which, one hopes, extends beyond the simple matter of whether to have a baby.)

An economic downturn can alter the course of even a planned pregnancy. Since the recession, more people have been demanding contraceptive services, and more of them have been seeking abortions.

Poor women are more likely to terminate unintended pregnancies than their more well-to-do counterparts,” explains one study.” As more women and families fall below the poverty line and are otherwise constrained by financial circumstances, abortion rates can be expected to rise.”

Economic violence is real violence. It impacts people. It changes lives. And it’s what conservative fiscal policies enact. Cutting social programs such as domestic violence shelters (which are actually needed more often during times of economic strain), denying necessary insurance coverage for reasons of personal religious belief, or attacking institutions like Planned Parenthood that provide affordable reproductive health care, doesn’t strengthen the economy in any way. What it does is penalize the poor, making them less able to access contraception, and more likely, if they are pregnant, to need the abortions that Romney, as a potential “pro-life President,” would claim to abhor.

But as we’ve seen, Romney likes to have his cake and eat it too. He wants to court both Santorum-covered Bible Belters and critical-thinking independent moderates (some might point out that these are mutually exclusive). He wants to put aside social issues in favor of economic ones, but can’t seem to defend himself on either. He wants to get credit for good business sense running a private equity firm and earning capital gains, but can’t withstand criticism about his affluent, privileged status, low effective tax rate, or corporate-raiding, job-cutting image. He wants to claim that his programs as governor or Massachusetts created jobs, but that Obamacare (modeled on his own Romneycare) destroys jobs. It’s all a classic case of projection.

via TPM:

On Sunday, the campaign defended the former Massachusetts governor’s jobs record, arguing that the state’s 47th in job creation ignores the improvement made between the beginning and end of Romney term. But when it comes to attacking President Obama’s jobs record, the Romney campaign doesn’t always apply the same standard.

For example, the campaign’s press secretary Andrea Saul sang a different tune last month:

“President Obama hasn’t created a net single new job … Since he started his presidency, he has not created any jobs. Not when you look at the full picture of the economy.”

It’s a fine line for the campaign to walk, as it simultaneously uses averages and “net” jobs numbers to insist that Obama’s jobs record is sub-par. Romney adviser Kerry Healey said “Averages are an unfair measure of a chief executive’s record.”

And surely the Obama administration gets none of that benefit of the doubt, despite the bleeding having stopped, and some minor-if-not-exactly-celebratory progress being made, all despite the best efforts of the Republican party. Many are now charging economic sabotage at the hands of the GOP.

“I don’t have any doubt at this point — the Republicans are clearly rooting for recession as hard as they can,” said veteran Democratic strategist Bob Shrum, who believes the Obama campaign should aggressively make the argument. “People need to know what’s happening and there’s nothing wrong with explaining it. Republicans’ actions give more and more credibility to [the notion], and if independent voters become convinced of it they’ll be furious.”

Lately the charge has taken on a new vigor, from progressive commentary to the highest echelons of the Democratic totem pole. Obama’s senior campaign adviser David Axelrod last Sunday said Republicans have been “high-fiving each other on days when there is bad news.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) on Tuesday pointedly accused House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) of seeking to sabotage the economy for partisan gain.

Survey data from late last year suggest the public can be sold.

Proponents have pointed to the broader GOP lock-step opposition to Obama’s agenda, to Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R-SC) “Waterloo” remark and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s infamous 2010 quote, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

Economics writers also question why Republicans have turned sharply against deficit spending to boost the economy since Obama took office, after having historically supported the concept while in power. Last year’s self-inflicted debt ceiling near-crisis shook confidence in Congress’s ability to carry out its most basic functions, and Republicans are signaling a return to the same brinkmanship as early as later this year.

But of course, despite all their madness, some Republicans are going off-message (or: ‘Gone Clinton‘) on the economy.

Conservative Utah Republican Liljenquist voiced support for the Glass-Steagell bank regulation. Liljenquist said he is a “huge Mitt Romney supporter” and vowed that he would “use every ounce of my training at Bain Consulting and in the private sector to dive into the financial issues of our time.”

“When you take the downside of that behavior away, then people engage in riskier and riskier and riskier behavior,” he said. “And that’s what happened with Wall Street. They got away from all good lending practices, they got away from all rationality, they leveraged themselves up 42 to 1 on the dollar thinking, you know what, if this goes south, we’ll get ours and everything will be fine.”

And the former (conservative) justice who led the dissent says he’s increasingly convinced that Citizen’s United won’t stand the test of time.

In a speech at the University of Arkansas, retired Justice John Paul Stevens argued that events since the decision “provide a basis to expect that the Court already has had second thoughts about the breadth of the reasoning” and will likely return to its 5-4 decision in Citizens United v. FEC.

Stevens noted that Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion did not explicitly address the possibility that the decision could open up the floodgates for foreign entities to bankroll U.S. elections. It’s a notion that President Obama warned of in his 2010 State of the Union.

When the justices carve out exceptions, argued Stevens, they will “create a crack in the foundation of the Citizens United majority opinion.”

“[T]he Court must then explain its abandonment of, or at least qualify its reliance upon, proposition that the identity of the speaker is an impermissible basis for regulating campaign speech,” Stevens said. “It will be necessary to explain why the First Amendment provides greater protection to the campaign speech of some non-voters than to that of other non-voters.”

“I think it necessarily follows that such speech made or financed by the terrorist organization itself would receive no constitutional protection,”  If foreign entities are barred from bankrolling U.S. elections, then the court is conceding that “the identity of some speakers may provide a legally acceptable basis for restricting speech.” Not only would that require the court to explicitly explain why corporations meet the standard (Stevens argues they shouldn’t because they can’t vote), it would also bring into question the blurring of lines between issue advocacy and campaign speech in Citizens United.

In other words, politics has changed fundamentally: the old style bosses are out and a new style media system driven in. Politics is now a business with advertising specialists, market researchers and pollsters all fostering polarization and continuing crisis so that their counsel will be solicited more often. Increasingly, political campaigns are run like military commands with centralized top-down direction, defensive and offensive strategies and tactics as well as psychological warfare.

Campaign gurus are well schooled in the techniques of perception management. This same techniques are also used to sell war, concrete proposals and results are less important than perception and image. Politics is now a growing industry with money and politics more joined at the hip than ever and an interest in keeping the big money flowing into its bank account.

This has been a slow and nefarious evolution going back to Reagan, or even Nixon. As economist Paul Krugman points out, as America may be entering another Depression, it’s time to stimulate, not enact austerity (which will wreak havoc in Europe), or ‘Keynesian economics.’ And historically, conservatives like Reagan have been all-too-happy to spend on big government, when they control the White House, of course. Now they are using the crisis to their benefit.

“After there was a recession under Ronald Reagan, government employment went way up. It went up after the recessions under the first George Bush and the second George Bush,” Obama said last month on the campaign trail. “So each time there was a recession with a Republican president, we compensated by making sure that government didn’t see a drastic reduction in employment. The only time government employment has gone down during a recession has been under me.”

More broadly, federal spending growth under Obama has been remarkably low by historical standards. The pressure from the GOP and D.C. political elites, who have been hostile to Keynesian economics in recent years, has put the administration in a tough spot.

Reagan, not Obama, was the big spender. While there was a brief burst of government spending early in the Obama administration — mainly for emergency aid programs like unemployment insurance and food stamps — that burst is long past. Indeed, at this point, government spending is falling fast, with real per capita spending falling over the past year at a rate not seen since the demobilization that followed the Korean War.

Here’s the truth. America has a huge budget deficit hanging over our heads. America is currently suffering from a classic case of debt deflation. This is exactly the situation in which government spending should temporarily rise to offset the slump in private spending and give the private sector time to repair its finances.

If the rich don’t pay their fair share, the rest of us have to pay higher taxes — or do without vital public services like Medicare, Medicaid, Pell grants, food stamps, child nutrition, federal aid to education, and more.

Republicans say we shouldn’t raise taxes on the rich when the economy is still in the dumps. This is a variation on their old discredited trickle-down economic theories. The fact is, the rich already spend as much as they’re going to spend. Raising their taxes a bit won’t deter them from buying, and therefore won’t hurt the economy.

In reality, Romney and the GOP are pushing an agenda that has nothing whatever to do with reducing the budget deficit. If they were serious about deficit reduction they wouldn’t demand tax cuts for the very wealthy.

We should have learned by now. The Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 were supposed to be temporary. Even so, they blew a huge hole in the budget deficit. Millionaires received a tax cut that’s averaged $123,000 a year, while the median-wage worker’s tax cut has amounted to no more than a few hundreds dollars a year. Bush promised the tax cuts would more than pay for themselves in terms of their alleged positive impact on the economy. The record shows they didn’t.

Romney and the Republicans are pushing a reverse-Robin Hood plan that takes from the middle class and the poor while rewarding the rich.

According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, Romney’s tax plan would boost the incomes of people earning more than $1 million a year by an average of $295,874 annually.

Meanwhile, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Romney’s plan would throw ten million low-income people off the benefits rolls for food stamps or cut benefits by thousands of dollars a year, or both. “These cuts would primarily affect very low-income families with children, seniors and people with disabilities,” the Center concludes.

Americans still hate the rich, according to yet another poll. Pew’s major Trends in American Values poll shows class resentments bridging the partisan divide:“Majorities in all educational and income groups agree that ‘today it’s really true that the rich just get richer while the poor get poorer.’ In the current survey, 76% of the public agrees with this statement, about the same as the 74% that agreed in 1987.”

Even the moderate pundit crowd’s beloved independents agree: Our ruling classes are worthless parasites. A mere 22 percent of “swing voters” “admire the rich.” (How many Romney supporters “admire the rich,” you ask? Thirty-eight percent. No one likes rich people.)

via Joseph Stiglitz:

Inequality in America has been widening for dec­ades. Warren Buffett put it well, “There’s been class warfare going on for the last 20 years and my class has won.” The rich do not exist in a vacuum. They need a functioning society around them to sustain their position. Widely unequal societies do not function efficiently and their economies are neither stable nor sustainable. There comes a point when inequality spirals into economic dysfunction for the whole society, and even the rich pay a steep price.

When one interest group holds too much power, it succeeds in getting policies that help itself in the short term at the expense of the rest of society in the long time.

Periods in which the broadest cross sections of Americans have reported higher net incomes – when inequality has been reduced, partly as a result of progressive taxation – have been the periods in which the U.S. economy has grown the fastest. It is no accident that the current recession, like the Great Depression, was preceded by large increases in inequality. When too much money is concentrated at the top of society, spending by the average American is necessarily reduced – Moving money from the bottom to the top lowers consumption because higher-income individuals consume, as a fraction of their income, less than lower-income individuals do.

The relationship is straightforward and ironclad: as more money becomes concentrated at the top, demand goes into a decline.

In a society in which inequality is widening, fairness is not just about wages and income, or wealth. It’s a far more generalized perception. Do I seem to have a stake in the direction society is going, or not? Do I share in the benefits of collective action, or not? If the answer is a loud “no,” then brace for a decline in motivation whose repercussions will be felt economically and in all aspects of civic life.

There is no good reason why the 1 percent, with their good educations, their ranks of advisers, and their much-vaunted business acumen, should be so misinformed. The 1 percent in generations past often knew better. They knew that there would be no top of the pyramid if there wasn’t a solid base – that their own position was precarious if society itself was unsound. Henry Ford, not remembered as one of history’s softies, understood that the best thing he could do for himself and his company was to pay his workers a decent wage, because he wanted them to work hard and he wanted them to be able to buy his cars. Franklin D. Roosevelt, a purebred patrician, understood that the only way to save an essentially capitalist America was not only to spread the wealth, through taxation and social programs, but to put restraints on capitalism itself, through regulation. Roosevelt and the economist John Maynard Keynes, while reviled by the capitalists, succeeded in saving capitalism from the capitalists.

According to Politico.com, the so-called “mega-donors,” unleashed by Citizens United and pouring boundless big bucks into this year’s political campaigns, are upset that their massive contributions are being exposed to public view, ignoring the right of every one of us to know who is giving money to candidates — and the opportunity to try to figure out why.

“Quit picking on us” is part of Politico‘s headline. Their article says that the mega-donors’ “six- and seven-figure contributions have… bought them nothing but grief.”

Wall Street titans have been whining for a couple of years now about the horror of people in politics criticizing ineffective banking regulations and the favorable tax treatment so many wealthy people receive… America’s barons feel assaulted, victimized, wounded, even!

Frank VanderSloot and his wealthy pals went ballistic and cried intimidation. “You go back to the Dark Ages,” VanderSloot said, “when they put these people in the stocks or whatever they did, or publicly humiliated them as a deterrent to everybody else — watch this — watch what we do to the guy who did this.”

Conservatives described the Obama ranking of Romney contributors as an “enemies list,” conjuring images of Nixonian wiretaps and punitive tax audits.

“Most of the megadonors backing [Romney’s] candidacy are elderly billionaires,” Tim Dickinson writes in Rolling Stone. “Their median age is 66, and their median wealth is $1 billion. Each is looking for a payoff that will benefit his business interests, and they will all profit from Romney’s pledge to eliminate inheritance taxes, extend the Bush tax cuts for the superwealthy — and then slash the top tax rate by another 20 percent.” As at least one of them has said, they view these cash infusions as an “investment,” plain and simple.

Not that Democrats are pure of heart and innocent. In fact, Adam Bonica, an associate political science professor at Stanford has put together a database indicating that since 1979, 377 members of the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans have given almost half a billion dollars to candidates of both parties, most of it in the last decade. The median contribution was $355,100 each.

And this, via Salon:

The Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality has put together a new package of easy-to-digest “educational materials on trends in inequality.”

The slides now available at www.inequality.com are divided into 14 categories: debt, education, employment, family, gender, health, immigration, income, mobility, politics, poverty, race, violent crime, and wealth.

If you are poor, you are more likely to be in debt and have health problems, and less likely to get a quality education or have your priorities reflected in politics. Of course, that’s always been true, not just in the U.S., but everywhere.

What’s alarming is how, as the wealthiest Americans get a bigger and bigger share of the income pie, U.S. society is stratifying in dangerous, self-reinforcing directions.

For example, in 1972, families in the top income quintile spent an average of $3,536 annually on “enrichment expenditures” to “supplement their children’s opportunities to learn and develop.” The bottom quintile spent $835. Twenty-five years later, spending by the top quintile had more than doubled, to $8,872, while spending by the bottom quintile had only risen by about 50 percent, to $1,315, and had hardly budged at all since the early 1980s.

This may partially explain why college completion rates for richer Americans have risen faster than for poorer Americans.

Over the same time period in which the private sector unionization rate for men fell from 35 percent to 10 percent, the average CEO went from earning 25 times as much as the average worker in compensation to 262 times as much.

“Researchers who study mobility have consistently found that there is less mobility in the United States than in most other European and English speaking countries.”

So there’s the American Dream for you.

http://www.rt.com/s/swf/player5.4.swf

via In These Times (which I recommend all of you immediately subscribe to)

When a democracy functions properly, media revelations of executive branch misconduct typically result in an investigation by the legislative branch. Watergate epitomized this healthy dynamic— So when the New York Times this week ran the headline “Senate Will Investigate National Security Leaks About Terrorism ‘Kill List,’” it was a frightening sign that something has gone horribly wrong since the Woodward-and-Bernstein days.

Last week, the Times published an expose detailing how President Obama personally orders the execution of American citizens and foreigners that he labels “terrorists.” According to theTimes, this program deems “all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants”; allows the president to be judge, jury and executioner; and operates wholly outside of the law. Indeed, the Times reports that the administration justifies such dictatorial power by insisting that the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process can now “be satisfied by internal deliberations in the executive branch.”

However, the memo laying out this utterly preposterous legal theory is secret—and, of course, hasn’t been ratified by any court.

As the Times noted in that subsequent follow-up story, Congress is focused not on shutting down—or even overseeing—the assassination program. It is instead focused on making sure those who blew the whistle on it are punished. Why? Because that will ensure that other such unauthorized programs can continue. As Sen. John McCain (R) made clear, he wants revelations of illegal activity halted and possibly prosecuted specifically because “such disclosures can only undermine similar ongoing or future operations.”

Rather than celebrating the heroes who expose wrongdoing and then stopping the illegal acts, the government is shooting the messengers in order to let the crimes continue.

That’s why this war on whistleblowers is not just some theoretical problem only for academics to debate or for foreigners to worry about. It represents a genuine domestic threat to democracy itself. If through our silence and complacency we allow that threat to expand, we shouldn’t be surprised when more of us are in the government’s crosshairs.

And if war-crime whistleblowers like Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, or the countless others to be named are brought up on trumped up conspiracy, espionage, aiding the enemy, or treason charges, the penalties could be death.

In February, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism documented that after the U.S. kills people with drones in Pakistan, it then targets for death those who show up at the scene to rescue the survivors and retrieve the bodies, as well as those who gather to mourn the dead at funerals: “the CIA’s drone campaign in Pakistan has killed dozens of civilians who had gone to help rescue victims or were attending funerals.” As The New York Times summarized those findings: “at least 50 civilians had been killed in follow-up strikes after they rushed to help those hit by a drone-fired missile” while “the bureau counted more than 20 other civilians killed in strikes on funerals.”

This repellent practice continues. Over the last three days, the U.S. has launched three separate drone strikes in Pakistan: one on each day. As The Guardian reports, the U.S. has killed between 20 and 30 people in these strikes, the last of which, early this morning, killed between 8 and 15. It was the second strike, on Sunday, thattargeted mourners gathered to grieve those killed in the first strike:

At the time of the attack, suspected militants had gathered to offer condolences to the brother of a militant commander killed during another US unmanned drone attack on Saturday. The brother was one of those who died in the Sunday morning attack. The Pakistani officials said two of the dead were foreigners and the rest were Pakistani.

Note that there is no suggestion, even from the “officials” on which these media reports (as usual) rely, that the dead man was a Terrorist or even a “militant.” He was simply receiving condolences for his dead brother. But pursuant to the standardsembraced by President Obama, the brother — without knowing anything about him — is inherently deemed a “combatant” and therefore a legitimate target for death solely by virtue of being a “military-age male in a strike zone.”

Although as the New York Times points out, two-thirds of the most frightening post-9/11 plans for attacks on American soil were stings orchestrated by government agents. Typically, a bumbling, gullible, down on their luck “potential terrorist” with no history of violence is coaxed into some sort of involvement and then arrested, followed by news media trumpeting the “narrowly foiled plot”:

The United States has been narrowly saved from lethal terrorist plots in recent years — or so it has seemed. A would-be suicide bomber was intercepted on his way to the Capitol; a scheme to bomb synagogues and shoot Stinger missiles at military aircraft in Newburgh, N.Y.; and a fanciful idea to fly explosive-laden model planes into the Pentagon and the Capitol hatched in Massachusetts.

But all these dramas were facilitated by the F.B.I., whose undercover agents and informers posed as terrorists offering a dummy missile, fake C-4 explosives, a disarmed suicide vest and rudimentary training. Suspects naïvely played their parts until they were arrested.

Typically, the stings initially target suspects for pure speech — comments to an informer outside a mosque, angry postings on Web sites, e-mails with radicals overseas — then woo them into relationships with informers, who are often convicted felons working in exchange for leniency, or with F.B.I. agents posing as members of Al Qaeda or other groups.

Some targets have previous involvement in more than idle talk. But others seem ambivalent, incompetent and adrift, like hapless wannabes looking for a cause that the informer or undercover agent skillfully helps them find.

For more things you probably didn’t know about how the world actually works, subscribe to Lee Camp’s Moment of Clarity series:

And, of course, follow the Stranger in a Strange Land on Mutiny Radio!

Stranger in a Strange Land 2012-06-09: Cool Dark Rock by The Stranger on Mixcloud

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

Soulless Machine Gods

I do not claim that the Big Bads in charge of Wall Street and their psychotic, narcissistic, solipsism are entirely to blame for all of this. Corporations, as Cenk Uygur put it, are profit-creating robots. They were constructed of the same bent morality and depraved decadence of an insulated minority of powerful elites, but how could they be expected to do anything else, gone unchecked and unregulated? Fault might be better placed with our public officials and policy-makers… but if we’re extending the graces of ambivalence and blissful ignorance to cash-hungry machines, should we not do the same for the lying legislators, brutal police forces, lawyers, judges, bill collectors and heck, just about every one of us that let it get to this point because we sold out the American dream for false promises of greed?

It has been shown that those in the top 1% do not even know they are in the top 1%. And gaffes like Mitt Romney‘s numerous attempts at populism backfiring and revealing his alienating elitism serve to illustrate what little his perception of reality has to do with the ‘average American.’ However, who’s to say that any of us would be any different, given the chance? How the money is obtained seems of little matter; examples can be found in both the nouveau riche and old money of the corrupting, power-mongering miser or the socially-aware, generous philanthropist. Religious leaders with piles of cash turn out on both sides of the spectrum as well, brainwashing new cult members or funding community service organizations.

There are many philosophies of mind, but we are still at the forefront of scientific research into the most important organ of our functioning body, from which our identity and sense of being, our very abilities of self-awareness and understanding arise. It’s possible that we all have the capacity for evil, or that at the edges of a psychopathic diagnosis, we’re all capable of some form of psychopathic behavior or thought! The startling results from such famous and controversial psychological studies as Stanley Milgram’s authority experiment or Philip Zimbardo’s Stanford prison experiment may support this idea. This is perhaps similar to theories that we’re all a little dyslexic or attention deficit, we all may be somewhere on a scale of autism, that we all have an inherent amount of racism and sexism, we have all have a dose of psychosis, about half of all our time is spent daydreaming, all brains have different levels of focus, consciousness and multi-tasking, we all find coping mechanisms and adapt to sleep routines that work for us, we all react differently to psychedelics within a certain range, and we all may naturally hallucinate.

Our brains are all the same, and our brains are all different.

Evolution produces a range of functionality in organisms at any randomly given time in their history… our genetic variance may provide examples of many different levels of psychopathy. The same temptation to steal a pittance at your place of business (relative to the hefty sums they take in overall) is the same corrupted thinking that allows executives to routinely embezzle ridiculous sums (relative to the corporation’s ludicrous profits overall). If we strip a thing of all identity, any personal connection, we lose our innate and rational empathy which might otherwise prevent us from acts of malice.

Furthermore, if it’s true that most of the world is related to Ghengis Kahn, Alexander the Great and Charlemagne (psychotic conquerers all), then the genes are most likely inalterably embedded in all of us. Psychopaths, it has been shown, are more prolific maters. Most of us alive today are the descendants of those nefarious winners, not the losers.

It seems obvious to our understanding in this era that old modalities of ‘inherent good’ or ‘original sin’ are fallacious presumptions not rooted in biology. We’ve known for some time that we’re all a little angelic and a little devilish, to varying degree. True psychopaths, however, have a particular knack and tenacity for weaseling their way to the top. At a rate of four times the general population, in fact.

Scott.net interviewed Dr. Lobaczewski about psychopathy and political ponerology (the study of evil), posted by Harrison Koehli at the Ponerology blog:

This field of study is difficult, and relatively new. What was once in the realm of theology is now being understood in the terms of brain activity and genetics. Perhaps a deeper understanding will lead to the elimination of serial murderers, corrupt executives, and man’s predilection towards war and rape.

So lately I find myself wondering what will happen in the future when we have more reliable technology and methodology for identifying the psychopaths (or levels of psychopathy) among us. Do we root them out, treat them as pariahs, lock them up, force them into rehabilitation, or continue to vote them into office, hire them as CEOs, and revere them as gods?