Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Little Hippie Music For Ya

by Rich Miles

Here's a musical moment for you from, quite literally, all over the world. Listen to the music, but also watch the names and locales as they go by on the screen. Bono, lead singer of Ireland's U-2, is included, but I'm bound to say tnat I haven't heard of any of the other players on the video.

Note, too, the truth in the lyrics. War has GOT to stop. It's not human. In fact, it's anti-human. We don't need no more trouble.

And while America is not alone in the warlike business, why is it that we are the most warlike of all nations? Why are we the bullies on the block? Why don't we take care of our people, instead of getting them killed on foreign shores?

Listen to the music. Maybe some ideas will occur to you.

Friday, April 24, 2009

"We do not f__king torture"

by Rich Miles

Update at bottom of piece: I found it.

I don't know how it happened exactly, but the comment by Jack Jodell that's attached to this post was actually created BEFORE the post was written. All I saved was the title, and Jack popped up with his remarks. I guess that's because the topic of this post is pretty obvious.

On April 24th, Fox News golden boy Shepard Smith had a bit of a hissy-fit on the air. He slammed his hand down on the countertop in front of him, and declared in no uncertain terms, "Goddammit, we're America! We do not fucking torture!"

He did this live on the air, in the presence of two of his colleagues, one of them female. Not that her femaleness should matter, but to rightwing fanatics such as Smith, it presumably does. One must always be a gentleman, after all!

At any rate,no matter what your political leanings, I ask you to consider what your response to such an action would have been if the "sinner" had been a leftie - a Democratic-leaning commentator. The Fox pundits would be climbing the walls, going off on how the very nature of being a liberal lent itself to such indecency, such obscenity, and so on and so forth. Somewhere in the rattling would almost certainly be something about the end of Western civilization as we know it, or some such drivel.

But because the miscreant is from the right wing, the incident first off, disappears, and the few comments one can find on the incident - well, I can't find any comments on it. A rather serious breach of etiquette, not to mention FCC rules, just simply - disappears. From the annals of broadcasting. It's gone! I did about 10 web searches, looking for Shepard Smith, the quote, the quote in quotes, etc., etc., and nothing came up. I saw it right after it happened on You Tube, but now, a day or more after the fact, it's not to be found.

If you want to see/hear this piece, try your own search. If you find the piece, drop back by here and leave a link for it in the comments. You'll be doing me and your fellow readers a favor. And if you don't find it, leave a comment saying so. I'd like to know if Fox News has "disappeared" this little mistake.

In the next few days, I'm going to discuss why it's so important to foxites to convince themselves and us that what our people did on our behalf is both necessary, and NOT torture.

From preliminary research, the reasons for this are pretty scary psychological stuff. Denial is not just a river in Africa...

Update: Operator error - I don't know why I couldn't find it before, but this time I got 296,000 hits in a search. Here's one randomly chosen one for your perusal.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Gail Collins has a valid question

by Rich Miles

Gail Collins is one of the most famous people you never heard of. She's a columnist for the New York Times, and I don't even know if she has a regular column or not, cuz normally she is so mild that I can't remember what she said last time or when.

But she's a good writer, and often says things that no one else has thought of. So it is today, when she asks the following very important question: How...can you stand at a rally waving the American flag while yelling “Secede”?

It's a valid question: the equivalent of asking, "how can one be a patriot while seeking to dismantle the very government that makes your country so unique?"

So what nutball has so thoroughly screwed this particular pooch as to be on record doing these two mutually exclusive activities?

The person in question, the one who made that ridiculous public picture, is that old GWB protege, Rick Perry, governor of Texas.

So my question in return is, "What the fuck?" Why is it, since November of last year, that so many right-wing "patriots" are so keen to leave the country? And I don't just mean travel abroad, I mean start another civil war, unless of course the administration in Washington just says, "Fuck 'em. Goodbye and good riddance, let 'em leave."

Unlikely, but it would serve them right.

In fine, I am getting so effin' tired of Repug posturing. I keep hoping Pres. Obama will too, and will call them on their bullshit in a national forum. I don't really get why that happens so infrequently.

I've had enough of loudmouth demagogues. I want some of them publicly and unmistakably embarrassed.

What about you?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Why We Hate the Rich

by Rich Miles

OK, let me get away from that title a bit here - I don't hate the rich. Hell, I don't know enough of them (zero = not enough) to hate them. But I wanted to comment on an article in today's New York Times in which the mayor of New York City feels the need to defend the poor rich people who are currently under attack in the press and the public forum (AIG bonuses, among other issues.)

Now we mustn't overlook the fact that the mayor of NYC is himself a billionaire - yes, that "b" is correct - several times over, and that therefore he has a personal stake in rehabbing the public image of the wealthy man. But let's think this concept through a little: Why are the rich so vilified these days?

I maintain that it's because those of us firmly entrenched in the middle class or below for the past 8 years have seen a lot of this trouble coming - redistribution of wealth upward, overvaluing of stock shares, the total corruption of our unregulated financial systems, and more. I personally saw it coming that unregulated greed was much more powerful than unregulated human generosity. I'm not sure I understand why everyone didn't see it. I mean, has there ever been a period in human history when people could be counted on to conduct themselves with kindness and generosity, without some governmental body forcing them to do so? Haven't there been several somewhat lengthy periods of our history in which exactly the opposite has happened? The Gilded Age, the period just prior to the Great Depression, other less prominent eras?

It's far too obvious to dispute: rich people cannot be counted on to conduct themselves in a way that will not harm other people and the financial systems in which they operate. It simply cannot be done. Greed always - and I mean always - wins out.

And the net result, then, is that rich people must be regulated - history has shown us this, and for us - any of us - to maintain that government regulation is unnecessary or optional is - has been proven to be - foolish and risky.

And the rich, or even the moderately well-off, disagree with this premise, not because they've thought it through and have reasons for it, but because it's to their personal benefit to disagree. Because it's their perception that if they're left alone, with no government interference, they can get ALL the money.

And that kind of attitude - we want it all and we don't want the government telling us we can't have it - is why we hate the rich.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Conscience Clause, my Ass!

by Rich Miles

Back in college, back during the last Ice Age, we used to sit around in someone's dorm room discussing the most arcane shit - deep-level discussions, or so we thought, on stuff that no one else had ever thought of, or so we thought. We actually used to do this without the aid of intoxicants most of the time. It was kinda fun to reduce shit to its lowest possible intellectual common denominator. Or at least it was back then. Or at least, we thought so. Back then.

Apparently, somebody still likes to do this sort of thing, except that they do it in ways that have the potential to harm or even kill other people. The method they use to do this is the executive order now commonly referred to as the "Conscience Clause".

It's one of those messes we knew we'd have to clean up after Shrub left office. He put it in place with one foot out the door, within the last weeks of his term, and quietly so no one would know about it till he was well and truly gone. What it means is this:

If a doctor or other medical practitioner is asked to perform a procedure or provide medical care or medicine, and that practitioner believes it would offend his/her moral precepts to perform the procedure, the doc may refuse to involve him/herself in the procedure, and the executive order in essence lets the medico off the hook for any consequences of the refusal - like, if the patient dies or something. You know - consequences.

I think this concept sucks.

Y'see, I didn't become a doctor because I didn't want to be confronted with such moral dilemmas. (Among other reasons - like, I'm skeeved out by the sight of blood and guts). But my objection to MY participating in such behaviors is not moral in nature, nor is it a function of my conscience. No, it's a choice I made many years ago - not to be a doctor.

And it's my belief that those who DO make the choice to be a medical practitioner make in that same breath a choice to do ANYTHING that's required to be a medical practitioner. Not just the parts of it that are fun, or easy, or don't cause one moral qualms. ALL of it.

And if one does choose to be a doctor (or more to the point, a pharmacist) and then at some future point refuses to do some part of his/her legitimate practice, then that person should lose his/her license to practice medicine. Lose one's RIGHT to be a doctor or other practitioner.

That's my opinion - what's yours? How many patients have to die or suffer other serious consequences of such a refusal before this stops even being an issue? Before one may not accept a state-granted license to practice medicine at any level, and then refuse to provide this care?

The short answer to this quandary is, if you have such strong moral beliefs that you could actually do that, refuse to provide any measure of medical care including the rendering of pharmaceuticals to a person whose illness you are unlikely to know with certainty, to anyone, then you should not go into the business of providing medical care of any kind to anyone.

That's my opinion - what's yours?

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Come Home, America

by Rich Miles

I don't usually recommend books on this site, mainly because my reading tastes tend toward ancient history (pre-1700), but also because reading choices are such personal things, and I don't wish to impinge on what you like with what I like.

(Also, I don't often find books I like well enough to suggest that you read them.)

But today, I've come across a book that I AM going to recommend to you, even though I myself haven't read it. My only contact with this book is a lengthy interview on NPR's "Diane Rehm Show" today, in which the author, without even trying, managed to convince me that he thinks just like me! Or nearly so, at any rate.

He says the things I try to say here - the obvious stuff about why America is falling apart in spots, and what should be done to stop the decline and get our country's international pre-eminence back on track for reasons that apply today and are not holdovers from our "imperial era", over a hundred years ago. Which is a long time for a country that's not much over 200 years old.

So at any rate, here's the book I want to call to your attention today:

"Come Home America: The Rise and Fall (and Redeeming Promise) Of Our Country" by William Greider.

It's available on, and if you Google it, you can get several reviews of the book and reader discussions as well.

If Greider's on-air discussion of his beliefs is anything like what the book has to say, we should all have a copy.

I'm not going to try to review the book - there are professional examples of this available all over the Web.

But I recommend you take a look at this book, because it's not just flag-waving and "Rah, rah America" kind of stuff. It's the author's ideas of what we've done wrong, and how we might benefit from doing those things a different way.

Monday, April 06, 2009

What the 'estate' tax really does

by Rich Miles

Sometimes a blogger experiences that bane of our existence, the comment that explains the thesis better than the original post did. Or really, it's not a bane, it's just mildly embarrassing - if we're so smart, why didn't we say it that well to begin with?

Hilzoy over at Washington Monthly has had this happen to him/her, though at this writing, I'm not sure he knows it yet, unless he's an early riser. He offers a quite cogent, yet rather technical explanation of the ins and outs of the estate tax, and then, a person calling herself Jennifer comes along, and in essence says, "This is what Hilzoy really meant." She's not snarky about it - she just says it a little better and a whole lot funnier than Hilzoy did. Here's Jennifer's comment, in its entirety because I laughed out loud at the observation in the last sentence:

The estate tax was imposed in the first place because there was a recognition that over-concentration of wealth into fewer and fewer hands is ultimately detrimental to the economy. The estate tax is one means the government has to put the brakes on over-concentration of wealth; progressive income taxes and capital gains taxes are the others. All of those have been slashed to the bone and guess what? The utterly predictable thing happened - too few people now control too much of the money, the rest of us have had to borrow from them just to stay afloat the past 10 years, and a lot of people can't pay it back - leading to the credit crisis.

The "death tax" tripe has always irritated me no end. Dead people don't write checks - they're dead, and they could care fuck-all about anything at that point. They use this terminology to boost their ridiculous argument that it's somehow "unfair" that the money "gets taxed twice". Uh, no, it doesn't - it's treated like every other dollar in the economy - it's taxed when it changes hands. Such as when rich dude dies and the money goes to his heirs. At base, the argument is that Paris Hilton shouldn't have to pay any taxes, even though she's very wealthy without ever having worked, but you and I should pay full freight on every dollar we earn doing actual useful work. Paris' daddy or granddaddy isn't being "taxed twice" because it's not his money anymore. Paris isn't taxed twice because the money belonged to someone else when it was taxed before. Just like I pay income taxes on my earnings, then spend some of my money at the grocery store, where I pay sales taxes, then when the cashier at the store gets a paycheck in part underwritten by money I spent at the store, she pays taxes on her income as well.

In short, the Republican argument (and make no mistake, Miz Blank IS a Republican in all but name) is one that only makes sense to stupid people who have no idea how the estate tax works. Since stupid people are the natural constituency of the Republican Party, expect this moronic argument about the "unfairness" of "death taxes" to continue ad infinitum.

Since stupid people are the natural constituency of the Republican Party...Wow. I wish I'd said that. It is precisely le mot juste (or is it les mots justes?)

It's particularly important in both Hilzoy's and Jennifer's words to note this fact: the "inheritance tax" was first imposed to keep the rich from becoming richer to an obscene degree, and they (the rich) have never gotten over it. It is amazing how entitled one thinks oneself to be when one has money, and ONLY money, never having contributed to anything by the sweat of one's brow or the work of one's hands or mind.

Seriously, this redistribution of wealth upward MUST be curtailed, and soon. I mean, the question I've always had about the concept is, if the rich people get all the money, and the rest of us starve, what are the rich people going to do for servants?

I'm kidding, of course. It will come to an American storming of the Bastille long before that.

And remember, rich bastards: to most of us, the guy who makes $500K a year is just as much a plutocrat as the guy who makes $250 million. And will be dealt with just as harshly when the Revolution comes.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Limbaugh propaganda kills 3 cops

by Rich Miles

Update below: Corrects my remarks about Pres. Obama's statements on guns and gun control, and also adds information about the deaths of 4 policemen in California several weeks ago.

In Pittsburgh today (April 4th), 3 police officers were killed by a gun nut who claimed he heard President Obama was going to take away everyone's guns. (Unlike most such nuts, the guy didn't kill himself, and survived the firefight he started with only wounds to his legs. He was wearing a bulletproof vest.)

Do you wonder where he got that idea, that the president was going to take away everyone's guns? I do, since Pres. Obama has at NO time I'm aware of EVER made any statement about what he was going to do concerning private ownership of firearms. He's never said he wanted to take everyone's guns away from them. In fact, he's never said ANYthing about them, pro, con, or neutral.**

Do you want to know who has been saying that Pres. Obama plans to take away everyone's guns?

Right-wing talk radio nuts. Like Limbaugh. Michael Savage. Any number of other fanatical nimrods of their ilk, whose names escape me because I don't listen to that kind of tripe. In fact, the only reason I know that these morons say these things is that I have read about them doing so in various and sundry national and local publications, and heard it mentioned on some LEFT-wing broadcasts.

They (the right wing propagandists) have frightened weak-minded people. They have made up a supposed position of Pres. Obama's, and preached that position to their weak-minded followers, and this is the result: three dead cops.

Rush Limbaugh is just as responsible for the deaths of those three cops as the guy who pulled the trigger. All those nutcases on the radio and TV are responsible.

But will they ever be brought to task for their crime? No, I rather assume not.

If they had any conscience at all, any honor at all, they'd take responsibility for their actions without prompting. I rather assume that won't happen either.

My deepest sympathies to the family and colleagues of those three dead cops. Look to your supposed "friends" in right-wing radio for the reason behind this horrific event.

**Update: Revised Article