Friday, December 19, 2008

Privatization gone wild

The United States government has been privatized. It is now a corporation, formed to conduct business. The takeover is complete.

Since Ronald Reagan, every single administration, with the help of congress, has chipped away at the institutions of government, in essence redefining the role of government. For over thirty years, both conservative and middle of the road politicians have pushed the concept that "big" government is bad, bureaucratic, a waste of money. It is an ideology driven by the radical "free market rules all" camp à la Milton Friedman and Alan Greenspan.

We have witnessed the most radical culmination of this ideology under the Bush II era. Government hollowed out to the point that it can't fight its own wars, it has to use a privatized fighting force instead. Government gutted to the point that it can't respond effectively to natural disasters. Government so weak that it can't regulate important industries like banks. Government which no longer can govern.

In the past a revolving door existed between the private and public sector. In recent years, that door has been blown to pieces. Now there is a gaping hole. It is virtually impossible to differentiate between corporate executives, politicians and lobbyists. Hank Paulson? Dick Cheney? Rahm Emanuel? Erik Holder? Donald Rumsfeld? Who are they working for?

We are all now suffering the consequences of this dangerous merger of private and public. Former corporate executives run the government and former politicians run the corporations.

See here just one example of what happens when there is no one around to keep watch.

Throw a shoe at Bush

George W. Bush, a bad President. We all know how unintelligent the man is, but in the end, and at risk of insulting our President, he has a great deal of blood on his hands......and for what? Now you can throw a shoe at Bush. Good luck though, he's sneaky.

I love people who say that even though you disagree with Bush that this shoe thrower committed a great offense and this his actions were disrespectful. Are you kidding me? After all W. has done, why should anyone respect him?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

GE loves war in Iraq

Now it's clear why at least one American media organization swallowed Bush's justification for war and helped sell the concept to the American people. General Electric, the mammoth company which pretty much makes and sells everything, including NBC Universal, has just won the largest single order in the company's storied history. Any guesses where? It has to do with a country in the Middle East.

You got it.....IRAQ! GE won an order to provide $3 billion in electricity-generating equipment and services to our new friends. Yes! Now that is imagination at work.

Pay close attention: This is how a good company makes tons of money.

Using your own network, NBC, you support an illegal war based on lies. Then you cover the run up to the war like a NFL pre-game show and the war itself like the game. Meanwhile, your GE Aviation department sells military engines for the F-16, the Apache and a number of other war making machines which will help America fight the war, kill innocents and completely destroy the infrastructure of the country.

Stay with me, this is when it gets good. Now that you've duped the American public into a war, supplied the military with their war machinery and destroyed the country, now it's time to go in and fix it. And that's where the big bucks come in. In this case, $3 billion.

Some would argue that there's no correlation between NBC's news coverage and its parent company's other business areas. Yeah right.

I can't say it better than Amy Goodman from Democracy Now. "The corporate media is an extreme media beating the drums of war," she says. "They offer us a monolithic view through a corporate lense. We need a media that covers power, not covers up for power."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Blagojevich arrested, went after Bank of America

Before the Governor of Illinois was arrested for corruption, he ordered state agencies to stop doing business with Bank of America because the bank closed All Republic Windows & Doors' line of credit. The bank's decision forced the company to close their doors and led to the layoff of 250 people, most whom have locked themselves in the factory in protest.

Now that the story has received national attention, Bank of America said Tuesday it would extend some credit to the company. For the first time in a long time we are seeing some in government stand up to their main masters - the multinational corporations.

This corporate backlash has been coming for a long time, and it is because everyday people have been demanding it. And wouldn't you know, it works.

It works. It works. It works. It works. That can't be said enough.

Do you think the Bank of America would have reconsidered extending credit to All Republic Windows & Doors if the employees, with the support of their union, weren't so brave in taking over the factory? Of course not.

In my view, the only way to save the country is to ratchet up the criticism and critique of the private sector, to stay on their case and to continue to take these types of actions. If banks, or any other corporations, which by the way are only allowed to exist because we let them, attempt to harm us, we can successfully force them to change, or else.

It works. This is the dirty secret that the powers don't care to share.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Government stakes in automakers?

This is great. America is turning into the new Sweden.

I've lived in Sweden for three years. In that time the government has sold a number of state-owned companies, including Vin & Sprit, the maker of Absolute Vodka. The argument by the "free market rules all" camp was that government should have no stake in large companies because they were inefficient at running them and a waste of tax payer money.

This privatization frenzy has been taking place for a number of years in many countries. It is surely one of America's greatest legacies.

But privatization is so 2007. The opposite is happening in America today. First banks, now maybe automakers. I'm starting to like this new American socialism. Maybe it's time to move home.

Nah, not yet. I think I'll wait until Ronald McDonald becomes a federal employee.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Workers occupy factory in Chicago

The 8-hour workday, child labor laws, the right to collective bargaining and the middle class. Generations of American workers have fought and died for these rights. And for generations, America's ruling elite and the government have been fighting just as hard to protect profits and to keep workers unorganized and fearful of losing their jobs.

Now, after endless years of government shoving their "free market rules all" ideology up our you-know-whats, the discrepancies are becoming clearer and clearer. Bailouts for banks while
homeless tent cities sprout up. Could it be any clearer?

Well, some are fighting back. 250 angry laid-off workers in Chicago peacefully occupied their factory on Saturday after receiving three day's notice that it was closing.

Richard Berg, president of Teamsters Local 743 said: "Across cultures, religions, union and nonunion, we all say this bailout was a shame. If this bailout should go to anything, it should go to the workers of this country."

I love this story. This is America's story. For as much as government and big business try, the American people will always be pushing back.

That push back (strikes, occupying buildings, the fight for a living minimum wage) is a necessity against this radical philosophy that both Democrats and Republicans have been selling us for years. The philosophy: It is a constant search by big business for cheaper labor and increasing profit margins which has had the affect of destroying America's manufacturing base and replacing it with TGI Friday's and WalMart. It has kept the minimum wage at near-poverty levels while executive salaries have exploded. It has placed all more responsibility, blame and risk on the worker while protecting the corporations, whether they make good decisions or bad.

We can no longer trust the mainstream American media to tell our story because they adhere to the same philosophy. CNN (the better of the networks?) was recently ordered by a judge to rehire 110 workers who were fired because they were union members.

The only thing we can do is live and write our own stories and tell them ourselves. That's what these workers in Chicago are doing today. They are my heroes of the week.

Friday, December 5, 2008

"I am through with giving this crowd money to play with."

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd said that on Thursday when referring to whether or not congress would give Henry Paulson the second half of the $700 billion in bailout money. Isn't that a classic line?

He's admitting that, once again, congress screwed up. It's clear to no one what the first $350 billion did besides teaching banks that they can take on as much risk as they want and not worry about the consequences because government will bail them out if they get into trouble.

But that's OK. It's only $350 billion. We couldn't use that money for anything else, could we?

What's striking in all of this is how bad congress is. On probably the two most important issues of the past eight years, these people, Democrat and Republican, gave Bush the power to go into Iraq and the power to bailout the banking system.

Both plans didn't work. In fact they have hurt the average citizen and helped three of the biggest industries in the world: Defense, Oil and Financial.

Ah, congress doing what it always has in our country's great history. Should we expect anything else? Nope. The only thing we can do is fight to change it because they won't.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Obama embraces Green Path

Obama stuck with Bush's man at the Pentagon and has surrounded himself with many hawkish Democrats, so it's not surprising that progressives are wondering if he fooled them into thinking he was on their side. My sense is that Obama does lean slightly left of center, but does it matter? I think he'll be hard to define and that's what scares both sides. It does seem however that the capitalists are pretty comfortable with him.

I must say though, after eight years of attacks on environmental regulation and global warming denial, isn't it a breath of fresh air to read about Obama's plans to create green collar jobs and launch environmentally friendly projects?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Why is India being attacked?

If you watched or read the mainstream media's coverage of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India then, like me, you may be confused. I had a ton of questions and no answers. Why these targets in Mumbai? Who could be behind the attacks? Who benefits from the attacks and what would the motivation be? After all, many of the spots targeted were luxurious Indian hotels, but also a Jewish center and a train station.

The first analysis we hear is based on religion. Islamic extremists were probably behind the attacks in Mumbai we're told. This may well be true. But is it ever only about religion? I instantly thought about the extreme poverty in India despite the country's booming economy and how that could lead to unrest.

I know virtually nothing about the situation there so I started to do some research and talked to a friend who lived in India for a number of years. I found out that in many ways the Muslim population has been left behind despite the economic boom India has been experiencing. This doesn't give motive for the attacks, but could help more extreme elements of the society with recruitment efforts. Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International and Mumbai native, spoke with and shed some light on what is happening in India.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Five Thanksgiving facts

Holed away in my office in Sweden, feeling far away from home - turkey, cranberry sauce and beer - I started to think about turkey.

The list:

1. Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in the middle of the Civil War. The year - 1863.
2. It's unlikely turkey was eaten at the first Thanksgiving in 1621, but supposedly there was lots of venison. It was given to the Pilgrims as a gift from the Wampanoang king.
3. They also didn't eat pumpkin pie at the first Thanksgiving.
4. 78% of business and government workers were given paid holidays in 2007 both on Thanksgiving and the day after.
5. Remember Squanto? Did you ever wonder how he spoke English? Well, he had learned English as a slave in Europe.

Sources: CNN and Wikipedia

Monday, November 24, 2008

Government bailouts are all the rage

Here we are again. I'm afraid it won't be the last time. The U.S. government has guaranteed $306 billion worth of Citgroup's troubled mortgages and toxic assets and injected another $20 billion into the fast falling bank. That's in addition to the $25 billion it threw in last month, all of which consequently, has disappeared.

Once again we are told that the bank is "too big to fail" and that it "had to be done" and that it will "restore market confidence". So far this philosophy hasn't worked.

I'm no banker but if you gave the money directly to homeowners and helped them pay their mortgages wouldn't the "toxic asset" then become healthy? Wouldn't the banks then in turn also become healthier? Tell me if I'm wrong. Like I said, I'm no banker.

Behind each troubled mortgage or toxic asset there are thousands of families with no homes or in danger of losing their homes. Yes, they shouldn't have taken loans they couldn't afford and the banks and mortgage lenders shouldn't have lent them the money. Both parties are to blame, but only one party - the banks- are being forgiven, and bailed out. It's backwards.

Both Democrats and Republicans, with the support of corporate America, are drowning us with the "banks can't fail" mantra. We are continuously warned of the dire consequences we would face if this was allowed to happen. Meanwhile people and families are being allowed to fail all over the country. The truth we are aware of but don’t want to talk about and very rarely see shoved so blatantly in our face is that the government prefers corporations over people. And remember corporations aren't actually living, sentient beings. They are a creation.

I think if polled, the American people would say that people are more important than corporations. Am I even allowed to write that? Our government has it all screwed up. Corporations should be allowed to fail, especially when they have made horrible decisions, but people should be saved.

Maybe the global behemoth banks have enjoyed their heyday. It's time to get back to the basics. People over profit.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Class issues never went away

Renowned historian Howard Zinn, writing about the growth of the labor movement and the rise of class consciousness in America before, during and after the Civil War, argues that the two main political parties leveraged the issues of war and reconstruction - national issues - to quell the class conflict expoding during that period.

He writes: “On these issues the political parties took positions, offered choices, obscured the fact that the political system itself and wealthy classes it represented were responsible for the problems they now offered to solve.”

We can apply this quote to the current crisis America is facing - the credit crisis or financial turmoil or deep recession or worst recession since the Great Depression (call it what you will).

The Democrats and the Republicans took positions and offered choices on how best to deal with the economic crisis facing America and then acted as if they, and the wealthy classes they represent, were not the ones who caused it.

Everyone knows both parties are in the pockets of big money and that lobbyists with the most bling bling are the ones with the most bills bills. Democrats are trying to claim the high ground, like they have nothing to do with the way America looks today. Sure George W. Bush ran the country into the ground for eight years, but we also had major problems under Clinton.

A country with such wealth and such incredible poverty, and both are completely out of control. Ford Motor Co. recorded a $12.7 billion net loss in 2006 and gave its new CEO at the time $28 million for four months on the job. This is a guy who, together with the other "big three" CEOs from the auto industry, flew into Washington D.C. this week on a private jet to ask congress for a $25 billion bailout. Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-New York said at the hearing, "It's almost like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in high hat and tuxedo. It kind of makes you a little bit suspicious."

While we're on the issues of soup kitchens, new government figures showed that nearly 700,000 people went hungry last year in America.

As much as the political parties, the wealthy they represent and the mainstream media want to avoid it, this has everything to do with issues of class. We need to call the problem what it is if we really hope to solve it.

So what do you do when the two political parties offer solutions and choices on how best to fix the problem while obscuring the fact that they, and the wealthy they represent, are responsible for it? Let me know what you think.

How is Obama's AG pick linked to death squads?

Man, the Obama bubble has been bursting and bursting. Sad. The center and right are happy that he's bringing up the same old names while the left is broken hearted. Now news comes out that Obama's pick for Attorney General, Eric Holder, represented Chiquita Brands, which recently settled with the US government for paying right wing terrorists and death squads in Columbia, among other human rights violations. Sad, sad, sad.

Michael Moore nails auto industry

Larry King had Michael Moore on his show last night. He tore up the auto industry and brought it home like only he can do. He said president-elect Obama should give the "big three" the money they need so they can use it to save jobs. Then he said we should completely replace the management and take control of the companies like Roosevelt did in WWII.

Moore said the government should use the big three to build mass transit and cars which use little or no gasoline. The justification for the takeover, he says, poor management, the fact that they made horrible cars for years and that we are facing an economic crisis.

Watch it.

Bailout illegal

According to the Washington Post, it seems while all eyes were on the bailout late September, the Treasury Department sneaked through a significant change to two decades of corporate tax policy that corporate tax lawyers now say will give American banks a windfall of as much as $140 billion. The banks had been lobbying for this change for years.

Also analyzing the equity deals the Treasury negotiated with the banks, Naomi Klein is calling this "a trillion-dollar crime scene". Her article is a must read. And her book, The Shock Doctrine, outlines this disaster capitalism model. I think this book is a breakthrough in the analysis of how the neo-liberal, "free trade rules all" ideology has developed and how we can break it.

This is insane, the administration is robbing the federal treasury on its way out of the capital and the Democrats are afraid to anger the market. The free marketeers are holding us hostage.

I think when the Republicans realized that they couldn't privatize social security they figured out another ingenious plan - privatize the Treasury, and who better to do that than former CEO of Goldman Sachs, Hank Paulson.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Clinton to accept Obama's offer

The Guardian is reporting that Hillary Clinton will accept President-elect Barack Obama's offer to be secretary of state. It's pretty obvious to me that some sort of deal was made before the election, but that doesn't matter anymore. If this is true, and Hillary Clinton becomes secretary of state, I think it says more about Obama than it does about her.

Again and again, he surrounds himself with talent, people with whom he may disagree, rather than those who will yes him to death. He also doesn't seem to hold grudges, as he showed this week when he met with McCain. His approach so far is a breath of fresh air and it may be the sign of a remarkable leader.

I think she'll do a pretty decent job, but I don't feel too strongly about it either way. What do you think?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Child Hunger in US rose 50 percent in 2007

Now I'm really insisting that the top execs at Goldman Sachs, and all the rest of the banks, give back their bonuses. The same year bonuses all over Wall Street ballooned to unprecedented levels, 36.2 million adults and children struggled with hunger in the United States. And you're telling me we shouldn't be spreading the wealth?

I'd take what some would call socialism....(I call it fairness)....any day of the week over the current "free market rules all" version of democracy.

Read the whole article

Monday, November 17, 2008

No bonuses for Goldman Sachs?

At the end of 2006 Goldman Sachs awarded employees with over $16 billion in bonuses - an average of over $600,000 buckaroos per employee. 2007 was even better. That year Goldman employees shared nearly $19 billion in bonuses. Many of the bonuses were performance-based.

This year however, according to the New York Times, the top seven executives at Goldman won't receive bonuses. Goldman's spokesman reportedly said "they believe it's the right thing to do." Oh, how generous, how compassionate. How will they be able to put any food on the table this Christmas?

CEO Lloyd C. Blankefein raked in a salary and bonus worth over $68 million in 2007. The two co-presidents each earned around $67 million. The right thing to do is to give your bonuses back for the past three years. Use it to save your company and your job, instead of allowing the Bush administration to threaten disaster if taxpayers don't step in and save you.

Goldman Sachs recently received a $10 billion gift as part of the federal government's $700 bailout package.

So, let's see. Some simple math, hmm... take only 2006 and 2007, Goldman employees received over $35 billion in bonuses. I wonder if it's possible to use that much money in less than two years. There must be some money still lying around in safes, off-shore accounts and duffle bags hidden in storage. Surely, if Goldman's top executives scraped their cash together they could come up with some spare change. $10 billion sounds reasonable.

Hey, wait, I can't believe it. I just figured it out. They should bail themselves out. If you're homeless, on welfare, poor, unemployed, well, "pull yourself up by your bootstraps." What if you're a millionaire?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Hillary Clinton secretary of state?

During the campaign Bill said that Obama's campaign was a fairy tale. Hillary basically said white people wouldn't vote for him. But when the Clintons backed Obama and hit the campaign trail hard for him, you knew something had to be in the works. Maybe Hillary was promised something. What do you think? Will Hillary Clinton be Obama's secretary of state?

My call is, yes. Absolutely. It makes perfect sense. Please, please, please leave John Kerry in the senate.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Biden to meet Cheney

If you watched the Obama clan meet the Bush clan then I'm sure your jaw tightened up a bit and you began to feel nauseous. The body language was classic. W. fidgeting. Barack strutting. Laura extending her hand, the perfect southern Bell. Michele going in for the hug. What a clash of worlds! I would have paid a million dollars to be a fly on the oval office carpet that day.

Now it's Joe Biden's turn to meet with the most powerful man in the free world - Mr. Cheney, the shadow president, the hunter. On the campaign trail Biden called Cheney "the most dangerous vice president we've had." I hear Obama's inauguration tickets are being scalped for thousands of dollars. I'd rather watch this spectacle.

Foreclosures jump in October

Supreme Court, Navy go sonar on whales

The U.S. Navy is hunting for submarines with sonar in the seas off of southern California. The threat - the United States is under attack from new Al Qaeda submarines powered by nothing but hate for America and our way of life.

As in all wars, the US military does what it can to minimize "collateral damage", but in this case the threat is too imminent. So the Supreme Court has sided with the navy despite the fact that sonar has been linked to mass strandings and hemorrhaging of innocent marine animals, whales and dolphins.

I wish the animals could fight back.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Let the banks fall

The Wall Street Journal reported that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, former CEO of former investment bank Goldman Sachs, got down on one knee at the White House on Thursday to beg a group of Democratic leaders to “not say anything that might blow up the troubled deal.”

The “deal”, as we all know, is the Bush administration’s desperate $700 billion bailout plan for the financial industry. Welfare for Wall Street being packaged and sold as necessity for Main Street.

By now we recognize this sky-is-falling argument from the current administration:

Saddam Hussein = terrorism, mushroom clouds, loss of freedom.
Financial crisis = economic calamity for the nation, loss of the American way of life

From stealing an election, to spying on Americans, to invading a country based on lies, to claiming the economy was sound while mortgage defaults soared to records not witnessed since the Great Depression, and now this - “ imminent economic calamity”. Even if it were true that we were on the brink of an economic apocalypse, we wouldn’t know, because no sane person can trust this administration. Never cry wolf.

Down they go

I say let the banks and financial institutions fall. Let them fail. Aren’t these the people who talk about survival of the fittest?

Here’s a short and hopefully easy to understand history of how the banks have robbed us blind over the past decade.

Banks and mortgage lenders busied themselves over the past ten years pushing too-good-to-be-true mortgage terms to encourage borrowers to buy homes they couldn’t afford. Housing prices peaked in 2005 and began declining in 2006, and prices still haven’t bottomed out. Housing foreclosure rates began increasing in 2006 as the housing bubble burst. Simply put, banks and mortgage lenders committed crimes and Americans lost their homes.

Meanwhile, with the country focused on the war in Iraq, congress passed a new bankruptcy law in 2005 that made it harder for individuals to clear their debts through bankruptcy. The banks wanted to make sure that people kept paying their credit cards, no matter what. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Washington Mutual, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup spent $25 million in 2004 and 2005 lobbying for bankruptcy reform to protect credit card profits.

While people were beginning to lose their homes, congress was busy doing Wall Street’s dirty work and the banks and financial institutions were pulling in record profits. Take a look at these numbers:

Goldman Sachs
Over $5 billion in profit in 2005
Over $9 billion in profit in 2006
Over $11 billion in profit in 2007
JP Morgan
Over $8 billion in profit in 2005
Over $13 billion in profit in 2006
Over $15 billion in profit in 2007
Bank of America
Over $16 billion in profit in 2005
Over $21 billion in profit in 2006
Close to $15 billion in profit in 2007
Over $10 billion in profit in 2005
Over $14 billion in profit in 2006
Over $6 billion in profit in 2007
Over $24 billion in profit in 2005
Over $21 billion in profit in 2006
Over $3 billion in profit in 2007
Lehman Brothers
Over $3 billion in profit in 2005
Over $4 billion in profit in 2006
Over $4 billion in profit in 2007

Total: $202 billion in profit from 2005-2007

This is profit, this is in the pocket, this is take home cash. Wall Street Executives were paid over $3 billion in the last five years, according to Bloomberg. With the cost of food, heating oil and gas shooting skyward during the same period, I wonder if you were able to make a profit those years?

But now they need our help. The public. The people.

These people and their predecessors are the “free market” advocates. Since the 1960’s they’ve promoted a global “free market” economy with deregulation and privatization at the heart of their argument. These are the neoliberalists whose religion has been to transfer control of the economy from the state to the private sector.

These are the people that have gotten us into this mess, with their immoral and criminal thirst for profit. These are the people who have pushed for less tax on the rich which has led to the widening gap between rich and poor. These are the people who believe it to be an American right to earn salaries of $20, $30 and $40 million dollars a year.

You mean the market isn’t the best judge? You mean big government is good after all? You mean these greedsters, these psychopaths who feasted on enormous salaries and even larger bonuses generated off of our misery now need that lazy welfare mom’s help, the school teacher’s tax dollars? They have the nerve to ask the American people for help?

Is it a surprise to any of these fraudsters, that the American people, the public, the tax payers, aren’t feeling too generous these days?

We are the engine that keeps the system alive, not them. Not the banks. Not the mortgage lenders. Not the overpaid executives who are running for cover behind Paulson and the threat of disaster. The administration is trying to convince you otherwise. That without this bailout, financial institutions will fail and you won’t be able to get a loan for your car, or college or home. Baloney.

No doubt there is a lot more pain to come for America’s financial institutions. More will go bankrupt. More will be forced into merger or sale. More jobs will be lost. World economies will suffer. Of this there is no doubt. The market will be cleaned out, the worst banks will go and there will be tough times for all.

This will last for a few years, but it will pass. Others banks and financial instituions will survive, as they have through many economic depressions and recessions. And in their wake, a new breed of banks will arise to carry the mantle of capitalism.

But will they have learned a lesson? Will we have learned a lesson?

Only if we shelf any sort of government bailout now and let the banks fail. Only if we put the executives that are guilty in jail for a very long time and send a signal that you will be severely punished if you put yourself ahead of the nation’s well-being. Only if we always remember that capitalism breeds corruption if left to run free. That unfettered capitalism doesn’t work. That strong government regulation is vital to limit the corruption and excessive corporate tendencies that put us in these situations every five to ten years.

This crisis has pushed class issues to the forefront, yet no one wants to talk about it in terms of class. If this isn’t class warfare, tell me what is. Now is the time to send a message that the people make the rules, not the bankers, not private companies, not without our say. Now is the time to drive home the message that it is inhumane to make exorbitant amounts of money while others struggle on a minimum wage that leaves them hovering near the poverty level; that this is not good for our country. That this is unethical and criminal.

Ghandi said "You can judge a society by how they treat their weakest members." You can also judge a society by how they treat their most powerful members. It is judgement day.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Miss Universe crowned in Vietnam

Miss Venezuela was crowned Miss Universe 2008 on Monday in Nha Trang, Vietnam. Dayana Mendoza, 22, says she was once kidnapped in her home country so she was well prepared for the high stress of the pageant.

Crystle Stewart, the US contender out of Texas, on the other hand, didn't hold up so well. She became the second Miss USA in two years to trip during the evening gown event. How symbolic for America recently? We try so hard to look good (everyone should own a house even if they can't afford it) and show the rest of the world that we have stagger (invade small countries and get our asses kicked), but we keep on tripping. Did I mention she was from Texas?

Hosted by Jerry Springer and Spice Girl Melanie Brown, the "classy" event, held forty years after the Tet Offensive, featured segments on some of Vietnam's most visited tourist destinations. Considering the similarities between the US invasion into Vietnam and the conquest of Iraq, I had a hard time wondering what such an event in Iraq would look like in 2045. After conjuring up all of the nightmarish scenarios, I decided on a utopian future with neither beauty pageants nor wars. And I call it a day.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Big oil time in Iraq

For five years mega construction and engineering companies like Bechtel and Halliburton together with defense contractors - everyone's favorite Blackwater included- have been literally making a killing in Iraq. As an American I am proud that the usual colonialist stew of blood and tax dollars has yielded these companies' incredible profits.

It's good then that the only thing people are talking about right now is the domestic economy, who will be the next president and the latest turn in the Britney Spears saga. You've got recession, greed, fraud, race, gender, elections, addiction and celebrity. You couldn't dream up a better diversion for the grand heist the big oil boys are about to pull off in Iraq.

They are quietly poised and ready to strike. Is anyone watching? Would it matter if they were?

Royal Dutch Shell, whose big, red and yellow cartoon-like Shell logo could just as well be a tool in Ronald McDonald's sand box, is in negotiations with the Iraqi government to build a $2.5 billion natural gas plant in Southern Iraq.

In fact, all the beasts - Exxon Mobil, BP, Chevron and Shell - have already quietly submitted proposals to the Iraqi Oil Ministry "to help develop selected oil and gas fields" in the country.

So while Republican candidates trade barbs over who is the bigger war supporter and Democrats talk about war authorization votes, the multinationals hardly care. It doesn't matter what party rules Washington for the next eight years because the Bush administration has already done the dirty work of war.

That's what's funny about the American political system and the myth of freedom and choice. For all their differences, the two political parties in the end will do whatever it takes to protect profits, big business and the American empire, no matter the damage.
Take populist John Edwards. He is considered a major threat by the political and corporate powers that be when he says he'll deny the big boys a seat at the table. That's why he had to go.

So the cash will continue to flow from Iraq and out of it. And flow it should as Iraq's Middle East neighbors' economies boom and diversify. Have you seen who has helped keep the giant International banks like Citigroup and Merill Lynch afloat through the sub-prime crisis? The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and the Kuwait Investment Authority are just a few names.

The Bush administration has cleared out the sandbox for the US military to bully so the corporations can play for a while, if they play nicely.

Move over Halliburton and Blackwater, it's big oil's time to roll around in the sand. Then comes Ronald McDonald.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Obama vs. Huckabee

Barack Hussein Obama vs. Rev. Michael Dale Huckabee

Can you believe these names? Only in America.

According to the Urban Dictionary, huckabee means a person who is really dumb. I don't know - I have never met the man.

I'm not sure what Barack means but I know what Hussein means - Evil. But that's OK because that's just his middle name and for some reason he doesn't use it. And of course, Obama is one letter away from Osama, so that's awesome.

Ding. Ding. Man I can't wait to see this one played out in the media.

Evil - a black guy who admitted doing cocaine vs. A person who is really dumb - who not too long ago said, "Sometimes we talk about why we're importing so many people (by importing I think he means illegal immigration) in our workforce. It might be for the last 35 years, we have aborted more than a million people who would have been in our workforce had we not had the holocaust of liberalized abortion under a flawed Supreme Court ruling in 1973."

Wow daddy! This guy's crazy. Can you imagine anything worse than forcing an aborted fetus to pick strawberries or wash dishes?

These guys are classic. Didn't Obama sound exactly like Rev. Martin Luther King in his Iowa victory speech? Man I love how he talks. And Huckabee (every time I write his name I want to chuckle) actually is a preacher.

God bless America.