In Contempt Of Congress.

Yesterday, the Teapublican-controlled House of Representatives voted to find Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.  If I could speak directly to Mr. Holder, I would offer my congratulations.

I think most American citizens are in contempt of this Congress!

As I’ve previously written, the charges that Mr. Holder is withholding “vital” information on Fast and Furious that would expose corruption in the administration is fantasy.  Contrary to Congressman Issa and the National Rifle Association’s bizarre conspiracy theory, the ATF did not let guns “walk” across the border in order to create an outcry for stricter Arizona gun laws.

I’ve read conspiracy theories about UFO cover-ups that are more plausible than that!

We don’t need some crazy conspiracy to draw attention to the need for common sense gun laws.  All we need is to focus attention on the fact that there are now more deaths each year as the result of guns than from auto accidents.  Further, what is the sense of allowing anyone over 18 to purchase enough assault weapons and handguns to outfit a small army?  Was that really the intent of the Second Amendment?  And, if so, do we really want to allow buyers to turn around and sell them to others without a license or background checks?

Too bad there isn’t a mechanism to allow ordinary citizens to officially cite Congress and the NRA for contempt.  Oh wait…there is.  All you have to do is vote the NRA-supporting Teapublicans out of office this November.

The Panderer-In-Chief.

Anyone else amused at Mitt Romney’s response to the Supreme Court ruling on Thursday?  We were treated to the Panderer-In-Chief attacking the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act as an unconstitutional over-reach.  He called it morally wrong and vowed to repeal and replace it his first day in office.

Can anyone believe anything this man says?

Does he actually think that we don’t know that the healthcare mandate was a conservative idea?  Does he think we don’t know that he proposed an almost identical healthcare plan for Massachusetts and signed it into law as governor?

Never mind his lack of compassion and understanding for ordinary citizens.  Never mind his actions as a vulture capitalist.  Never mind that he destroyed businessess and shipped jobs overseas.  Never mind that his proposals would throw our economy into a recession while bloating our deficits.

Anyone with so little respect for the intelligence of voters should never be elected to office.

Fast And Furious Lies.

In 2010, Sen. John “McNasty” McCain, Gov. Janet “Finger Wagging” Brewer and many other Teapublican politicians vilified immigrants in order to be elected.  The only things that have changed for 2012 are the candidates and the scare tactic.  Since the Supreme Court gutted SB 1070, the focus has turned to Fast and Furious.

Fast and Furious, of course, is the name of the ATF program designed to stop the flow of guns into Mexico.  In case you don’t know, it’s illegal for anyone in Mexico outside of the military or police to own a gun.  So the drug cartels have made Arizona their personal gun store.  Arizona’s gun laws are so lax that anyone over 18 can buy as many guns as they can afford.  All they have to do is pass a quick background check.  And, if they want to avoid the background check, they can go to any of the state’s hundreds of gun shows and buy guns with no questions asked.

Is this a great state or what?

As a result of this lunacy, Mexican cartels have shipped drugs into the US in exchange for cash and guns.  This arrangement has been so successful, Mexico claims the resulting gun violence has resulted in the deaths of 47,000 Mexicans since 2006!  And that’s despite the fact that ATF has seized more than 68,000 guns over the same period.

How do you think Americans would react to the deaths of 47,000 of our citizens as the result of lax Mexican laws?  That’s more than double the number of deaths from 9/11 every year for 6 years!

But Teapublicans seem to not care about those deaths.  Instead, they have their teabags in knots over the death of a US Border Agent who was shot with a gun that was being tracked by the ATF.  Obviously, any such death is horrible. But it seems our Teapublicans also view it as an opportunity.  So based on the flimsiest of evidence, they have set about politicizing the ATF and the Department of Justice.  They have used it to attack Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama.

Now Katherine Eban has exposed the truth about Fast and Furious in an investigative report for Fortune magazine.  In short, the article places the blame for the “failed” operation on a bureaucratic Assistant US Attorney and Arizona’s insane gun laws.  It also appears that the so-called “whistle-blower” was a recalcitrant and incompetent subordinate with a grudge against the ATF Division leader.

As for “gun-walking” and a supposed cover-up?  It appears those were merely the figments of Teapublican imaginations repeated by a lazy and biased media.  The entire controversy could have been avoided if either the press or the Congressional Oversight Committee had been more focused on finding the truth than scoring ratings or political points.

Clean Coal? Is That Like A Poor Billionaire? (aka American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity) is currently running a television campaign attacking the Obama administration’s evironmental protections.  The commercials claim that “clean” coal is an important part of our nation’s energy needs.

They ignore the fact that there simply is no such thing as “clean” coal.

While it is true that much of our electricity comes from coal and will for many years to come, coal should be viewed as little more than a necessary evil.  We will not be able to completely avoid its use for the foreseeable future. However, we should be working to free ourselves from it.

Coal is a carbon-based fuel and, as such, its use spews large quantities of carbon dioxide (aka greenhouse gases) into the atmosphere. According to Richard Conniff in his article, Myth of Clean Coal, coal-fired power plants produced 2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide — 36 percent of total U.S. emissions in 2006. So even with the use of the most advanced technology, coal-fired plants are harming the environment. And many older power plants lack the technology to clean other elements from their smokestacks, such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, mercury, and fine particulates. Indeed, coal power plants are the primary reason most of the lakes across the upper US have warnings limiting the number of fish that should be consumed due to mercury pollution.

And emissions are not the whole story.

Much of our coal is mined by mountaintop removal in the Appalachians, transforming the beauty of the region forever.  In addition to flattening the terrain, over 1,000 miles of West Virginia streams have been buried by strip mine waste.  300,000 acres of hardwood forests in West Virginia have been destroyed.  And 75 percent of West Virginia’s streams and rivers have been polluted.  Underground mining is not much better.  For generations, some coal mining companies have skirted around safety regulations, endangering those who work in the mines.

Yet another issue is coal ash (aka fly ash), the residue from burning coal.  Operators of coal-fired power plants have long been puzzled as to what to do with this by-product.  In the area of the Tennesee Valley Authority, they built vast containment pools.  In 2008, one of those containment dams burst creating a torrent of this poisonous residue into the Emory River. Cost of the cleanup is estimated at more than $1.2 billion.  A few weeks later another spill occured in Alabama polluting Widows Creek and the Tennessee River.

The real crime is that, with a little investment in our infrastructure, we could be moving away from coal as a means of generating electricity.  Studies have shown that roughly half of all the electricity generated in the US is lost in our outmoded “grid.”  So half of the pollution to our air, water and soil is completely unnecessary

A modern grid coupled with increased use of solar, wind and other alternative means of generation could all but eliminate coal-fired electric generation in the US.  But “America’s Power” will never include that information in its ads.

More Evidence That Mainstream Media Are Not Liberal (Or Fair).

ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox’s Sunday morning “news” guests between June, 2011 and February, 2012 have been 70% Republican, 86% men and 92% white according to the monitoring agency, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.  This is particularly revealing since Sunday morning programs are some of the most-watched programs for government and business leaders. 

These statistics are a reflection of those who are deemed to be most influential in our government.  And since they are given more access to promote their agenda on national television, they are allowed to gain even more influence.

So tell me again, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, et all.  Exactly where is this liberal “lamestream” media you constantly whine about?

There’s A Reason It’s Called Gun Fire.

Much of the western United States is tinder dry as the result of a prolonged drought.  Wildfires are breaking out throughout Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah at an alarming rate; many caused by people taking target practice in remote areas covered in tinder dry grass.  The resulting fires have cost millions, yet the shooters are not going to let that get in the way of their second amendment rights.

It seems the states can ban campfires, even camping, but they don‘t dare ask a gun owner to hold his fire until the drought eases.  They can’t even ask them to confine their shooting to gun ranges thanks to the National Rifle Association.   You see, the NRA vehemently refuses to accept any restrictions on guns, no matter how many people are needlessly killed.  No matter how much damage their “rights” cause to others.

As long as politicians continue to fear the NRA, we can forget about common sense gun laws. Although NRA members have an abundance of guns, ammo and political influence, they’re entirely lacking in common sense.

Fast And Furious Politics.

The name of the failed ATF gun-walking program could also apply to the Teapublican attacks on the US Attorney General and, by association, President Obama.

In case you don’t already know, Fast and Furious was a program intended to reach the leaders of the Mexican drug cartels who are using “straw buyers” to obtain assault weapons from Arizona.  This was a program unique to the Phoenix division of the ATF that followed a similar program called Wide Receiver that began in 2006.

Neither program succeeded in achieving its goals.  And they likely would have gone unnoticed had not two of the guns been involved in the death of US Border Patrol agent, Brian Terry.

Of course, Teapublicans have never passed up an opportunity to attack President Obama.  So Congressman Darrell Issa called for hearings into the matter.  That could have been constructive had his committee decided to examine the origins of the program, the reasons for the program and the participation of all involved.  Instead, Issa used the opportunity to attack and embarrass Attorney General Eric Holder.

It seems that Holder originally testified that he was unaware of the program, and that’s quite likely.  In his 8 ensuing appearances before the committee, he apologized and cooperated to the tune of more than 7,600 documents provided.  According to Issa that was not enough.  Issa demanded transcripts of wiretaps and other documents that Holder could not legally provide “in the interest of full disclosure.”  That’s rich, considering that the committee refused to call for testimony from the previous Attorney General or any of the individuals who orginated the program under the Bush administration.

Some “full disclosure.”

When Holder agreed to provide more documents under the condition that Issa would agree that the subpeona for documents had been satisfied, Issa refused.  Recognizing that Issa was more interested in embarrassing Holder than seeking the truth, President Obama exerted Executive Privilege over the remaning documents.  Of course, Issa and the Teapublican media were outraged.  The committee responded by voting to find Holder in contempt.

Far more contemptable are Arizona’s idiotic gun laws.  These laws make it all too easy for straw buyers to provide weapons to the cartels.  Even with intense searches of vehicles leaving Arizona for Mexico, guns are crossing the border with great frequency; not all that surprising considering that anyone can walk into one of hundreds of gun shows and buy weapons without having to pass a background check.

The truth is, the Obama administration has been more transparent and done more to secure the border than any administration in recent history.  Unfortunately, at the same time, Issa and his colleagues have done more to obstruct the administration than any Congress in history!

The Freedom To Fail On Your Own.

There’s a long-standing attitude of individualism in the US that causes people to inherently dislike any form of collectivism, such as collective bargaining through labor unions.  As I wrote in a previous post, we come from a long line of independent-minded people; people who were pushed out of Europe by dictators of all ilks, from royalty to the Roman Catholic Church.

Unfortunately, corporations and their lackeys on the right have been able to exploit this inborn streak of independence to extract money from us.  They have used a combination of lobbyists, campaign contributions, exportation of jobs, and right wing media megaphones to undermine labor unions and pit workers against one another in order to maximize profits while minimizing wages and benefits.

As a result of the propaganda, far too many Americans equate labor unions with socialism or communism.  Many poor and middle class workers vote for candidates that will continue the pattern of withdrawing employee benefits, eliminating pensions, depressing wages and foreclosing on homes.  Now they are turning their attention to the “entitlements” – Social Security and Medicare.

Yet many of us will continue to support corporations out of the fear of losing our jobs, misplaced loyalty, or the determination to “make it on our own.”  What these people don’t understand is that any individual’s disagreement with a large, heavily capitalized corporation is not a fair fight.  A retail clerk cannot fairly negotiate with a big box retailer.  An assembly line worker cannot win against a large manufacturer.  A maid cannot fight a large hotel chain.

The only chance they have to improve their position and their wages is to band together.  Individuals, no matter how hard they work, are far more likely to fail on their own than to make it on their own.

Liberal Media, Huh?

If you’re a media observer, as I am, you may have noticed a change in the political coverage over the past several weeks.  The majority of stories are now about Mitt Romney’s rallies and statements.  The few stories about President Obama have been largely negative – showing his decline in the polls or supposed “gaffes” by his campaign.

Another more subtle trend is to refer to President Obama as Mr. Obama.

It seems that the narrative has become “Mr. Obama is a nice man, but he has failed to live up to his campaign promises.”  Never mind that he has faced the most obstructionist Congress in history.  Never mind that the right wing media has blathered endlessly about his “socialist” policies.  Never mind that the Teapublicans have rallied the nation’s racists into a hateful fever over the birther “controversy.”

The “liberal” media seems to have accepted the right wing propaganda that, since the economy has not rebounded quickly, we may as well let Mitt Romney have an opportunity to lead.  They don’t even discuss the fact that Romney’s policies are nearly identical to those of the presidential predecessor who drove our economy off a cliff.

The “lamestream” media seem too partisan, too lazy or too brainwashed to do their jobs.  Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see a network news reporter ask a question that’s as insightful and penetrating as Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert?

It’s a sad fact that our comedians are now better reporters than most of our journalists.

The Age Of The Corporation.

Following the Great Depression and World War II, most people in the US were independent.  Many owned a small family farm or a small business such as a Five and Dime, a soda fountain, clothing store or whatever.  If they managed to set aside any savings, the money likely went into a Certificate of Deposit or US Savings Bond with guaranteed interest.

Things pretty much continued that way until the 1970s and 1980s.  Then, large indoor shopping malls and big box stores began replacing small retailers.  Farms became larger and larger until only a few families and wealthy corporations could afford the land and equipment.  Much of the US population moved to large cities to work for large corporations. Whatever savings we managed to accumulate went into large, corporate-controlled mutual funds, corporate 401Ks or IRAs.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, yet another trend toward corporate control began as on-line shopping sites began to replace brick and mortor stores cutting salaries and moving many jobs off-shore.

The result of all of this is an almost total corporate dominance of our lives.

We not only rely on large corporations for our jobs.  We have grown to rely on them for food, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, communications, entertainment and our investments (if we’re lucky enough to still have some).  And now large corporations are beginning to seize control of many other aspects of our lives such as education, transportation, even the military.  And, in the most disturbing intrusion of all, thanks to the Supreme Court ruling for Citizens United, corporations are now exerting even more control over our election campaigns.

Our once proud democracy is slowly fading into history.  Welcome to the age of plutocracy.