Monday, April 27, 2009
by Ron Powell
Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napalitano, has issued a warning against travelling to Mexico due to the outbreak of swine flu.
Kidnappings, beheadings, random shootings and the like were apparently not enough to stem the tide of Americans travelling to Mexico.
What is it about Americans that political, social and economic conditions in a given place will not deter the morbid voyeurism. The pass time that is so attractive that, against the odds and logic, Americans will run to take a condescending look at what they believe to be the spectacle of those less fortunate. A good deal of American travel and tourism amounts to little more than a kind of international rubber-necking.
Mexicans stream into the United States illegally by the thousands every year. Americans travel to Mexico by the thousands every year to see why.
We can anticipate a strengthening of the guard at the known entry points for illegals. We should be limiting travel to Mexico to humanitarian necessity. Warnings of the possibility of contracting a potentially fatal disease will not be enough to shut it down completely.
Even as UN and World Health Organization officials have determined that "containment is not an option". President Obama in his usual calm tone and demeanor said, "while there is cause for concern, there is no cause for alarm." Due in large measure to Republican political posturing, we have no Secretary of Health, no Surgeon General, and no Director of the Centers for Disease Control. President Obama is either on his own, or he must rely on Bush Administration hold-overs.
There might well be an order to quarantine the entire Mexican population. The Mexican government has closed all the schools and subways.
Would orders to shoot to kill anyone trying to cross into this country from our southern neighbor be far behind if people like Lou Dobbs, Rush Limbaugh, Hannity and O'Reilly were in charge? Would these folks rush to lock-down and quarantine if the threat were coming from Canada?
Why is the media always able to trace outbreaks of this kind, and always find that they originate in places were the population is predominated by people of color? How does a virus which combines genes from swine, bird, and human flu come into existence on a pig farm in Mexico, as reported?
What do you suppose would be the fate of those who would be trapped at the border, unable to return to the US because of a quarantine. Perhaps we would do well to stay away from Mexico for a while. Buy or rent some films like "Outbreak" or "The Andromeda Strain", melt some butter for the popcorn, and get the cheap chills and thrills the old fashioned way.
But first, wash your hands.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
by Ron Powell
Back in October, two weeks before the election, Joe Biden warned that America's enemies would test Barack Obama with an international crisis within six months if he was elected president. "Mark my words," Biden told donors at a Seattle fund-raiser.
"It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We're about to elect a brilliant 47-year-old senator president of the United States of America. Watch. We're going to have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy. And he's going to need help . . . to stand with him. Because it's not going to be apparent initially; it's not going to be apparent that we're right."
Who could have known that one of the qualities Joe Biden would bring to the Democratic Ticket, and then, the Vice Presidency would be clairvoyance. His October predictions have been spot-on. To date, President Obama has shown that he has the requisite intelligence and capacity to allow his thinking to evolve into a positive response and course of action.
by Max Ehrmann
Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Strive to be happy.
Max Ehrmann (September 26, 1872 - September 9, 1945) was an attorney and businessman of Terre Haute, Indiana. He is best remembered for his 1927 prose poem "Desiderata" (Latin: "things desired").
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
By Ron Powell
“First, do no harm….” is the primary moral and/or ethical imperative of the medical profession. It means that the interests and needs of the patient are to be placed above the interests and needs of the physician or caregiver. Profit driven corporate medicine has taken over American medical practice. Corporate models and methods of industrial competition have eliminated clinical expertise and the notion of care in the delivery of medical services. The result is that corporate profits are more important than patient prognosis. This is not only tragic and mistaken, but also unethical and immoral.
Health care in America is no longer based on the personal relationship between doctor and patient. It is based on the impersonal relationship between corporation and consumer. The consumer of medical services is no longer perceived as the individual patient in need of medical attention. The consumers of medical services are the entities that pay for the delivery of the services: primarily the insurance companies and the government. This gives the health care provider an incentive to minimize costs by minimizing care. It makes the provider and individual patient financial adversaries.
Corporate medicine is bad medicine because it compromises patient care, is administratively inefficient, and involves unethical practices. Corporate medicine compromises patient care by disrupting the continuity of care. Nearly half of for-profit patients have been forced to change physicians. Corporate care compromises patient care by reducing staff and replacing highly trained providers with less trained providers.
Corporate care compromises patient care by subjecting the personal care plan recommended by physicians to impersonal protocols administered by untrained or less trained personnel. Corporate care compromises patient care by discouraging health care providers from advocating for quality care for their patients because managed care negotiations are time-consuming, frustrating and unpaid. Three quarters of all physicians believe managed care compromises patient care. No less than four out of five of all Americans believe profit considerations compromise quality of care.
Corporate medicine is administratively inefficient. Studies have shown that administrative costs administrative costs of for-profit hospitals are greater than not-for-profits by an average of about 25% and about 35% more than public institutions. For-profits spend more than 25% of health care premiums on administrative costs. Canada, under a national health insurance system, spends about 9% on administration, and that Medicare spends about 3% on administration. The Health Care Finance Administration has calculated that the United States would save enough money administering our health care system through a single payer to provide health care for the 44 million uninsured, while avoiding managed care and allowing free choice of providers.
Corporate medicine results in immoral, unethical, corrupt practices. True health care reform cannot and will not occur unless and until we remove profit and the profit motive from the health care equation. “First do no harm…” must come to mean that no one should reap a benefit or profit from the injury, illness, or disease that result in the misery or suffering of others.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
by Ron Powell
Some dreams may come and go, but the desire and capacity to dream should be permanent aspects of the human condition. We shouldn't cry for the lost dreams of our youth, though in many respects we should be sued for breach of promise, cry if you have lost the willingness and the courage to continue to dream the impossible dreams. It is the abilty to dream that is our primary weapon against the demons we face as individuals and as a nation.
Dreams are the plans and blueprints that provide the basis for the course and structure of our lives. If somebody, somewhere, at some time did not dream it possible and act upon the notion that the dream could become reality, Barack Obama would not be President today. Ideas and inventions are the products of healthy and active imaginations. Our imaginations reside in our dreams for a better life, a better future, and a better world.
Friday, April 17, 2009
Since the election and inauguration of Barack Obama as 44th President of the United States, Conservative Republicans have become increasingly more confused , apparently suffering from cognitive dissonance, the uncomfortable feeling caused by holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously. Their attitudes and beliefs regarding patriotism, and the awareness of behavior that is contrary to those beliefs and attitudes are causing the dissonance which normally occurs when a person perceives a logical inconsistency among his or her thoughts and actions.
This happens when one idea implies the opposite of another. Awareness of the contradiction can cause anxiety, guilt, shame, anger, embarrassment, stress, and other negative emotional states. Love of one’s country and disdain or hatred of its newly elected black president are causing internal psychological conflicts for many individuals and ideological identity conflicts for the Republican Party and the conservative movement.
Like the fox in the fable, many conservatives and Republicans are expressing a "sour grapes" attitude regarding their failed attempt to win the presidency and control of the executive branch. The “tea parties” have been characterized as nothing more than an unsportsmanlike or ungracious expression of anger or frustration at having failed to defeat the black Democratic candidate. In short, they are behaving like a bunch of sore losers. The efforts to instill or rejuvenate fear of a black man in a position of power and authority, the attempts to vilify and/or demonize the President and his plans or policies are clear evidence of this.
Further evidence of the ‘sore loser’ mentality being adopted and even encouraged by conservative Republicans is the obstructionist posture that congressional and gubernatorial Republicans have taken. Some have expressed their wish to see the president fail. Others have refused to help him, and hence the country, succeed. Some have gone so far as to call for secession from the union in language which borders on sedition or which is at the very least seditious in nature.
Sedition is the legal term which refers to covert conduct, such as speech and organization, that is deemed by the legal authority as tending toward insurrection against the established order. Sedition often includes subversion of the constitution and incitement of discontent or Resistance to lawful authority. It may also include any commotion, though not aimed at direct and open violence, against the law, and or legitimate enforcement of the law. Seditious words in writing are deemed seditious libel. A seditionist is one who engages in or promotes the interests of sedition. Put simply, sedition is the stirring up of rebellion against the government in power.
In 1940, the anti-sedition or Smith Act was passed. The Act made it a crime to advocate or teach the desirability of overthrowing the United States Government, or to be a member of any organization which does the same. Although unused since at least 1961, the Smith Act remains US law.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
If you have any memory of these images,
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
by Robert Reich
From TPM Cafe, April 14, 2009
With only $110 billion remaining in the TARP bailout fund, all signs are that Tim Geithner is preparing to return to Congress seeking more bailout money. He’ll bring along the results of his bank “stress tests,” which will probably show many that big banks are still technically insolvent, along with bankruptcy scenarios for General Motors and Chrysler, and a couple of CEO scalps – he’s already got GM’s. Congress won’t be happy but in the end it will cough up another 300 to 500 billion.
Geithner believes the only way to rescue the economy is to get the big banks to lend money again. But he’s dead wrong. Most consumers cannot and do not want to borrow lots more money. They’re still carrying too much debt as it is. Even if they refinance their homes – courtesy of the Fed flooding the market with so much money mortgage rates are dropping – consumers are still not going to borrow more. And until there’s enough demand in the system, businesses aren’t going to borrow much more to invest in new plant or machinery, either.
That’s the big issue – the continued lack of enough demand in the economy. The current stimulus package is proving way too small relative to the shortfall between what consumers and businesses are buying and what the economy could produce at full capacity. (According to today's report from the Commerce Department, retail sales fell in March, as did prices paid to U.S. producers.)
Worse yet, the states are pulling in the opposite direction. States cannot run deficits, which means that as their revenues drop in this downturn they’re cutting vital services and raising taxes to the tune of $350 billion over this year and next. This fiscal drag is wiping out about half of the current federal stimulus.
If Geithner gets Congress to give him more bailout money, Congress won’t be in any mood to do what it really needs to do – which is to enlarge the stimulus package. Voters are already worried about too much government spending. At most, the administration is going to get only one more bite at the congressional apple. Make that more stimulus rather than more bailout.
Monday, April 13, 2009
By Ron Powell
"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." --- George Orwell
Contemporary politics is full of deceit, evasion, distraction, hostility, and confusion. Contemporary political reporting, commentary, and analysis is a reflection and hence an instrument of the environment in which it functions.
The enemy of clarity in communication is insincerity. The language used by most politicians is designed to make lies sound like the truth and give the feeling of substance to that which is no more than hot air. Political news reporting, commentary and analysis is designed to help them do it.
‘Spin’ is the attempt on the part of the person speaking, to influence or alter the meaning or interpretation of what he or she has said or done. ’Slant’ is the way the media chooses to handle, manage or manipulate the ’news’ or the reporting of the ’news’ that is related to what was said or done.
Because, most news organizations are now driven by the profit motive inherent in business, instead of the ethical or moral imperatives inherent in journalism, the obligation and responsibility to be truthful, honest and objective is seen as a costly impediment to turning a profit. When a news operation reduces costs to increase the bottom line, the first victim of the reduction is the truth.
Today, for most newspapers, the process of deciding what is ’news’ and what isn’t, is either a reflection of the biases and prejudices of the people who read them, or is a reflection of the biases, prejudices and agendas of those responsible for publishing them.
No longer content with reporting political events as they occur, most news operations now choose to participate in the political process, not by simply trying to influence the outcome, but by manipulating the process in such a way as to profit from the outcome as well. Factual reporting in pursuit of the truth is simply not considered profitable. The primary reason why newspapers are dying all over the country is that truth, honesty and objectivity in gathering and reporting the news no longer exist.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Barack Obama/Louis Arstrong Music Video: What A Wonderful World
Music and Message:
by Ron Powell
Being somewhat 'old school' when it comes to music enjoyment and appreciation, I am not a big fan of music videos. I prefer to listen to music. For me, 'watching' music detracts from, or altogether destroys, the capacity of the viewer to hear the true meaning of any message the composers of the music are attempting to communicate. The video I offer for your enjoyment here is, in my view, a rare exception to the notion that to be truly appreciated, music should be heard, not seen. (Click the play button to see, and hear, the video featuring a Barack Obama photo slide show and Louis Armstrong's signature rendition of What A Wonderful World.)
Vocal arrangements are comprised of two primary communicative elements, the musical composition and the lyrics. (Three, when you take into account that rhythm is the most primitive and fundamental communicative element of all.)
The musicians and vocalists are the messengers of the lyricists and composers, and when everything was just right the performer would become associated with a melody or song. The connection between the message and the messenger became such that it is difficult to imagine one without the other.
The popularity and the commercial success of the music video has altered the process of enjoyment or appreciation of music by making the messenger the message. Generally, music videos are not like Broadway or movie musicals that tell a complete story independent of the story of the individual performers. The music video has made the performer more important than the music. The message in the music, if there is one, is less meaningful. There is little or no mention made of the composer or lyricist these days. Rap artists need no music at all and there are some 'stars' who can't sing a lick.
When everything comes together in a perfect blend of composition, lyric, and performer, the result is a phenomenon that becomes representative of who and what we are as a people and a culture. Would it be Christmas without Bing Crosby singing Irving Berlin or Nat 'King' Cole singing Mel Torme? The combinations seem to be endless, but they are all very special, and can be identified or listed according to the diverse and multicultural tastes and preferences of the many audiences that exist in the population of our country. Where else, but in America, could the most popular Christmas songs have been written by composers of Jewish persuasion? Is it any real wonder that we would eventually elect a president of African descent?
In many ways, our music is a reflection of our democratic impulses and institutions. Our country gives us the right and freedom, if not always the opportunity, to imagine who we are and what we would like to become in much the same way as music encourages the listeners to think, or imagine, or dream.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Are we at the beginning of the end? Mortgage interests are now so low (the average rate on 30-year fixed mortgages was 4.87 percent Thursday, slightly higher than the 4.78 percent last week, but still the lowest level since 1971) that President Obama has begun urging Americans to refinance their homes so they can save money and start spending again. Presidential aide Larry Summers says the country is likely to see positive economic signs in the next few months. Wells Fargo Bank rallied stocks and surprised analysts Thursday (9 April) when it predicted a strong $3 billion first-quarter profit, citing surging mortgage originations. And executives at the nation's biggest three banks -- JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Citigroup -- say their operations were (at least by some measures) profitable in the first two months of this year, mainly because a resurgent debt market and equity trading lifted earnings in the investment banking divisions.
But we're not at the beginning of the end. I'm not even sure we're at the end of the beginning. All of these pieces of upbeat news are connected by one fact: the flood of money the Fed has been releasing into the economy. Of course mortgage rates are declining, mortgage orginations are surging, and people and companies are borrowing more. So much money is sloshing around the economy that its price is bound to drop. And cheap money is bound to induce some borrowing. The real question is whether this means an economic turnaround. The answer is it doesn't.
Cheap money, you may remember, got us into this mess. Six years ago, the Fed (Alan Greenspan ET AL) lowered interest rates to 1 percent. Adjusted for inflation, this made money essentially free to large lenders. The large lenders did exactly what they could be expected to do with free money -- get as much of it as possible and then lent it out to anyone who could stand up straight (and many who couldn't). With no regulators looking over their shoulders, they got away with the financial equivalent of murder.
The only economic fundamental that's changed since then is that so many people got so badly burned that the trust necessary for consumers, investors, and businesses to repeat what they did then has vanished. Yes, banks will lend to highly trustworthy borrowers, and the low-hanging fruit of highly trustworthy borrowers is the first they'll pick. But there's not much of this kind of fruit to go around. And yes, some consumers will refinance and use the extra money they extract from their homes to spend again. But most will use the extra money to pay off debt and start saving again, as they did years ago. Most consumers continue to worry about their jobs, and for good reason.
Some of the big banks will claim to be profitable, but don't bank on it. Neither they nor anyone else knows what their assets are really worth. Besides, the big banks are sitting on over $500 billion over taxpayer equity and loans. Who knows how they're calculating profits? Most importantly, there's still a yawning gap between the economy's productive capacity and what it's now producing, and absolutely nothing will turn the economy around until that gap begins to close.
I spent the better part of an hour yesterday evening debating Larry Kudlow on his CNBC program, along with Arthur Laffer and two other financial analysts, all of whom were sure that the stock market had hit bottom and was now poised for a major recovery. I admire cockeyed optimism, and I understand why Wall Street and its spokespeople want to see a return of the bull market. Hell, everyone with a stock portfolio wants to see it grow again. But wishing for something is different from getting it. And cockeyed optimism can wreak enormous damage on an economy. Haven't we already learned this?
by Ron Powell
An honorary degree or a degree honoris causa (Latin: 'for the sake of the honor') is an academic degree for which a university (or other degree-awarding institution) has waived the usual requirements (such as matriculation, residence, study and the passing of examinations). The degree itself is typically a doctorate or, less commonly, a master's degree and may be awarded to someone who has no prior connection with the institution in question. Usually the degree is conferred as a way of honoring a distinguished visitor's contributions to a specific field, or to society in general. The university often derives a greater benefit by association with the person so honored, than the honoree derives by receiving the award.
It is with this insight and revelation in mind, and tongue planted firmly in cheek, that I offer the following:
The degree to which the degree factory at Arizona State University has gone to defend the decision not to be honored by awarding an honorary degree to President Obama is, to a certain degree, a manifestation of the hypocrisy that is involved in the awarding of such degrees as a means of bestowing honors, benefits, and privileges on, often not so honorable, privileged fat-cats and big-wigs, who, to one degree or another, have no greater qualification for the accolades, ceremoniously uttered during a perfunctory presentation, than the ability to pick up a pen and write a check, thus displaying a proficiency in the skill of penmanship, the learned talent in which, by varying degrees, those who have become so intellectually advanced and so academically accomplished, that they have greatly benefited society by leaving the 3rd grade.
By the way, Sharon Keeler, for your outstanding body of working in performing slavishly on behalf of your masters at ASU, to defend, rationalize, excuse, and justify a decision which is in no way what so ever affiliated with anything that makes sense, and the outstanding contribution you have made to your field for doing this with a straight face, The Uncles at Thomas Cabin University have your honorary Simon Degree ready. You may pick it up at the drive-through window.
Friday, April 10, 2009
by Ron Powell
No one has been a more ardent supporter of President Obama than I. However, I do believe that he has developed a blind spot when it comes to the 'average' or 'regular person'. There are no "middle class" people appointed to serve on The Task Force on the Middle Class, or anywhere else in his administration. All of his Cabinet appointments have been either Ivy Leaguers, Clinton left-overs, or ex-Wall Street insiders. I believe that he has left himself open to criticism and charges of being elitist. I would like to think that the candidate who ran on "Change we can believe in", would seek to avoid old style patronage and cronyism which can cause tunnel vision and thus create the blind spot of which I speak. The danger in having a blind spot is that you can get blind-sided as a consequence.
Social Origins of the American Corporate Predator State
By Thomas Palley - August 12, 2008
It is important to understand the origins of the American corporate predator state because understanding is a necessary part of developing responses for caging the predators and replacing them with another better order. Those origins clearly trace back to the military - industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned about in his final televised address to the nation on January 17, 1961.
That complex has corrupted and captured politics and the business of government, including of course the conduct of national security policy. The fact that it has wrapped itself with the flag and entwined itself with the military makes it impossible to confront without being charged as unpatriotic. Worst yet, its enormous enduring profitability has provided a model for imitation by other industrial complexes like Big Pharma and Big Oil.
The political success of these predators is clearly linked to money's role in politics. Money gives the power to buy the political process, and that power is defended by a gospel of free speech that takes no account of the fact that out-shouting someone is qualitatively equivalent to silencing them. Economics also comes to money's defense with its absurd myth of a market for ideas in which participants compete on a level playing field and truth is effortlessly sorted from error.
The American worship of business and businessmen, which Sinclair Lewis (Babbitt, 1922) wrote about long ago, also plays a role. This worship privileges business over thought and other activities, and is behind the dismissive sneer "if you're so smart how come you are not rich?" As a result, Americans are all too willing to hand over their government to business predators. Today, it is in Goldman Sachs we trust.
Another feature of business worship is a tendency to conflate profit with free markets. That means the distinction between fair competition (which is good) and fat profits (which are bad) is lost, thereby providing cover for predators.
Lastly, there is the legacy of the Cold war which contributed to economic dumbing-down and suppression of awareness of class and class conflict. This suppression was seen as necessary for blunting the dangerous appeal of Soviet communism, but a consequence was to create blindness to the predators in our midst.
All of this reveals a deep deficit in America's social and economic understanding (some deficits really do matter). And as long as the deficit remains, the predators will have a starting gate advantage in the game of political persuasion.
Yet, how to close the deficit and insert another understanding is an enormous challenge. There are deep institutional obstructions in the academy, media, and elsewhere. Moreover, raising these issues may create unsettling cognitive dissonance that pushes voters into denial and a closer embrace of the predators.
In effect, there is a paradox to be solved. Lasting progressive political victory requires transforming understanding, but the immediate political incentives are aligned to discourage engagement with such a project.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
by Ron Powell
The following is an e-mail that I had occasion to send to then candidate Barack Obama, when I received a communication from his campaign which asked "ordinary people" to participate in certain events and make contributions in support of the Obama candidacy:
Dear Mr. Obama,
I am anything but ordinary......Please find another way to refer to those of us who are not fortunate enough to be multimillion dollar celebs who are currently in the glare of the spotlights at the center of the American political stage. In many respects you are where you are because 'ordinary' people, like me, made commitments and sacrifices before you were born or came of age, in order that this moment in history might have the chance to unfold as it is.
You are the benefactor of the efforts of 'ordinary' people like myself, who, despite the personal costs, kept the faith and worked diligently to bring down the barriers that have, until now, kept us from having the opportunity to achieve precisely what you have achieved. I and the rest of us 'ordinary' people have a way to go yet before we can rest knowing that our legacy is you, your candidacy and your presidency.
Please instruct your writers, or surrogates to refrain from using language which can be construed as condescending or elitist. You and your candidacy are the product of extraordinary efforts on the part of extraordinary people.
I know you can do better than to refer to us in such an off-handed, cavalier fashion. I know you can do better, because I am convinced that you know better.
If there is anything I can do to assist you and your campaign, professionally, please feel free to call on me at any time, and do so in the knowledge that should you ask me to participate in the process, you will be acquiring the services of someone who is anything but 'ordinary'.
by Ron Powell
President Obama was a regular in the low stakes games that he and members of the Illinois State legislature engaged in during ling sessions. He brought some of the tendencies he displayed around the card table to his presidential campaign. They are certain to be evident and analyzed through the course of his presidency.
By the accounts of his poker buddies, Democrats and Republicans, lawmakers and even the lobbyists, Obama is careful and focused. He's not easily distracted and doesn't give away his intentions unless it's to his advantage. He's not prone to taking risky chances, preferring to play it safe. He's is seriously competitive. They say that when he plays, he plays to win.
His friends say that Obama would study the odds carefully. If he had strong cards, he'd play. If he didn't, he would fold rather than bet good money on the chance the right card would show up when he needed it. That reputation meant that he often succeeded when he decided to bluff.
Some of the participants in the games described Obama as a careful player who manages risk and has excellent control regarding behaviors that could give away the strength of his hand. He is what poker players might describe as a "Rock". Republican players often teased him about being his being a conservative only when assessing the strength of his opponents in the game and the relative strength of his bankroll.
President Obama hasn’t played poker since he left Springfield to become the junior senator from Illinois. He didn't join a Washington version of his weekly poker game and he didn’t play while running for the presidency. But, those of us who know the game, know that if Obama was as good as they say he was, even though he has left the game, the game hasn’t left him.
We know that the game of poker is as much a part of who Barack Obama is, as his game on the basketball court. It is in this regard that President Obama would do well to think back on the days of playing poker in the back rooms of the Illinois legislative building and remember that: He who holds the best cards at the beginning of a hand doesn’t always win the pot.
One day an old man approached the White House from across Pennsylvania Avenue, where he'd been sitting on a park bench.
He spoke to the Marine standing guard and said, "I would like to go in and meet with President Bush.
"The Marine looked at the man and said, "Sir, Mr. Bush is no longer president and no longer resides here."The old man said, "Okay" and walked away.
The following day, the same man approached the White House and said to the same Marine, "I would like to go in and meet with President Bush."The Marine again told the man, "Sir, as I said yesterday, Mr. Bush is no longer president and no longer resides here."The man thanked him and, again, just walked away.
The third day, the same man approached the White House and spoke to the very same U. S. Marine, saying "I would like to go in and meet with President Bush.
"The Marine, understandably agitated at this point, looked at the man and said, "Sir, this is the third day in a row you have been here asking to speak to Mr. Bush. I've told you already that Mr. Bush is no longer the president and no longer resides here. Don't you understand?
"The old man looked at the Marine and said, "Oh, I understand. I just love hearing it."
The Marine snapped to attention, saluted, and said, "See you tomorrow."
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
I am having an out-of-money experience.
Talk is cheap because the supply exceeds the demand.
I live in my own little world, but it's OK, everyone knows me here.
If you think there is some good in everybody, you haven’t met everybody.
Remember, half the people in the world are below average.
WHATEVER HITS THE FAN WILL NOT BE DISTRIBUTED EVENLY.
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IS NO MATCH FOR NATURAL STUPIDITY.
Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.
BY RON POWELL
THE ECONOMIC SITUATION WE ARE STRUGGLING WITH HAS TO DO WITH DEREGULATION AND LACK OF OVERSIGHT WHICH CAUSED AN UNFETTERED FEEDING FRENZY ON WALL STREET. AS A RESULT OF UNCONTROLLED GREED, AND INDIFFERENCE, AND THE ABSOLUTE LACK OF MEANINGFUL ACCOUNTABILTY, THE AVERAGE PERSON HAS BEEN EATEN ALIVE BY PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN ABLE TO INSULATE THEMSELVES FROM THE ECONOMIC CONSEQUENCES OF THEIR DECISIONS AND THEIR ACTIONS.
WHY ISN'T MEDIA COVERAGE OF THE SITUATION MORE FOCUSED ON THE INDIVIDUALS WHO CAUSED THE ECONOMIC MALAISE? THEY TREAT THE ECONOMY AS THOUGH THEY'RE READING FROM A TEXT BOOK AND NOT ENGAGING THE INDIVIDUALS IN THE GOVERNMENT AND IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR WHO WERE DIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT HAS AND IS HAPPENING.
THEY NEED TO STOP TALKING ABOUT NUMBERS AND START TALKING TO THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE BENEFITED FROM, AND THEREFOR SHOULD BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR, THIS SITUATION.
by Ron Powell
The media is handling the Obama Presidency like a child with a new toy on Christmas morning. They will play with it until they wear it out or break it. We would be hard put to remember a time when so much attention has been paid to the smallest details of a new president’s administration. This observation includes the love affair that we had with JFK’s administration and family. Would we be hearing and seeing so much detail and analysis if McCain had won the election? Perhaps the media should be reminded that Barack Obama will still be the first African American President four years from now and, even if he is just mildly successful, will most likely become the first 2-term African American President…..
by Ron Powell
The Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) is the government program created for the establishment and management of the Treasury fund made available to try to curb the ongoing financial crisis of 2007-2008. The TARP gave the U.S. Treasury purchasing power of $700 billion to buy up mortgage backed securities (MBS) from institutions across the country, in an attempt to improve access to cash and loosen up the money markets. The fund was created by a bill that was made law on October 3, 2008 with the passage of H.R. 1424 enacting the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. The Treasury was given $250 billion immediately. As required by the legislation, President Bush certified that additional funds were needed. Accordingly, an additional $100 billion was released and distributed. $350 billion remains.
Under the current legislation Congress has the right to not approve release of the remaining TARP funds. At the urging of then President-Elect Obama, who threatened to veto any attempt to block release of the remaining funds when he took office, the Senate voted to release the remaining 350 billion on the 16th of January. At the same time in the House of Representatives, Democrats unveiled an $825 billion fiscal recovery plan aimed at putting millions of unemployed Americans back to work.
In September 2008,Global credit markets came to a near stand still, as several major financial institutions, such as Lehman Brothers, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and American International Group, went under. In a few surprising moves, two big investment firms, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, changed their charters to become commercial banks, in an attempt to enhance and stabilize their dwindling cash reserves. The bailout is supposed to increase the availability of cash in the secondary mortgage markets by purchasing the bad or ‘toxic’ mortgage backed securities in order to reduce the potential losses that could be felt by the institutions who currently own them.
The passage into U.S. law on October 3, 2008, of the $700 billion financial-sector rescue plan (or bailout) is the latest in the long history of U.S. government bailouts that go back to the Panic of 1792, when the federal government bailed out the original 13 United States, which were over-burdened by their debt from the Revolutionary War. It also marked the fourth time in 2008 that the government interceded to prevent the ruin of private enterprises or the entire financial sector. There have been five financial crunches in the past century that resulted government intervention: The Great Depression; the savings and loan bailout of 1989; and in 2008, the collapse of Bear Stearns, an investment bank and brokerage firm; American International Group (AIG), a giant international insurance company; Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, government-backed mortgage lenders.
In October of 2008, shortly after the legislation was passed and signed into law, revisions to the program were announced by Treasury Secretary Paulson and President Bush; allowing for the first $350 billion to be used to bail out nine major U.S. banks, and many smaller banks by buying some of their stock. This stock purchase program demands that companies involved lose some tax benefits, and in many cases incur limits on pay for executives. The unilateral revision of TARP by Bush and Paulson has caused confusion in accounting and accountability for the first half of the 700 billion that is to be provided under the legislation. President Obama is committed to using the remaining half as a stimulus to the economy by giving tax relief and financial assistance to those hurt by the crisis, making personal and business credit more readily obtainable, and by creating jobs.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
by Ron Powell
In the 1983 movie “Trading Places”, The well-healed Duke brothers, who own a commodities exchange, are engaged in the classic nature v nurture debate. Mortimer Duke believes that a well-bred individual will be able to conquer whatever challenges are presented to him, while an ill-bred one will fail even if he is given many advantages over others. Randolph Duke, on the other hand, thinks that the former will degenerate if stripped of his position, but the latter will become a changed man if given the proper chance. To settle the dispute, the Dukes decide to ruin a successful man’s life, allow a poor man to take his place, and observe the results. They wager their “usual amount” (one dollar) on the outcome. Written as a comedy, the prophetic results portrayed in the film don’t seem quite as funny when you realize that today’s papers are full of the results of what happens to otherwise law-abiding people when they are thrown out of work and into poverty literally overnight.
Conservatives do not deny that the poor commit more crimes than the rich. But instead of assuming that poverty causes crime, conservatives, like Mortimer Duke in the film, usually assume that poverty and crime have a common cause, namely the deficient character or misguided values of the poor. Sleeping outside or in a vehicle, soliciting employment, suffering in public from a mental illness are citable offenses in the United States.
Whites are discovering in growing numbers what black people have known all along. They are learning that it is a crime to be poor in America. They are finding out that the poorer you become, the more criminal you are assumed to be. They are learning that if you have no job and are so poor that you have no place to live, and you live on the pavement or sleep in a car or in a park, you have committed a crime.
In a country where nearly everyone violates some laws, and many people knowingly run afoul of the law without ever being considered, or considering themselves, criminals, it's against the law to sleep on the streets or in a park. People who once exaggerated tax-deductible expenses, lied to customs officials, bet on card games and sports events, disregarded jury notices, drove while intoxicated, and hired illegal aliens to work for substandard wages are discovering that they are subject to being profiled as criminals simply because they are out of work.
When the government fails to be responsible to its citizens and ignores the social dynamics of poverty, people will seek alternate, often illicit, means to eke out an existence. As joblessness rises, more and more middle class whites will encounter police harassment, abuse, and incarceration simply for no longer being middle class. Jails are full, but that hasn’t reduced criminal activity because the real criminals aren't in jail.
Social repression has increased over the past several decades as evidenced in the willingness to spend more on building prisons than repairing or building schools, and increasing law enforcement budgets while cutting education and social service budgets. During the same time, harsher legal sanctions have been developed and passed by legislators who are apparently blind to the social implications of poverty as an impetus to committing crime. The current economic crisis and the continuing trend toward the criminalization of poverty, will combine to turn America’s middle class into a sort of criminal class and correction facilities will become shelters for the jobless. In many jurisdictions, joblessness will do that to people whose only offense is being broke.
By Ron Powell
We are faced with the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, brought on by unscrupulous and unethical Wall Street finance types with the aid of their deregulatory Republican counterparts. In the name of free enterprise and free markets, these criminals were allowed to raid the public treasury for personal gain. They were able to manipulate the economy for selfish purposes in a manner that is unrivaled in the history of the nation.
Those who would return the country to the tyranny of the privileged rich and the powerful few are faced with the prospect that President Obama might succeed. Those who enjoyed political, economic, and social ascendancy by manipulating the racial prejudices and fears of the majority white electorate are now openly calling for President Obama to fail. In an effort to instill or rejuvenate fear of a black man in a position of power and authority, the attempts to vilify and/or demonize the President and his plans or policies grow uglier by the day.
The Republican obstructionists in Congress, the conservative ideologues in the media and the right wing demagogues on the lunatic fringe are working in concert with the power elite to sidetrack, derail and ultimately bring down the Obama administration even before it has a chance to demonstrate any capacity to turn the country around and chart a new economic, political, and social course.
There are those who wish to see that this does not happen. There are those who believe that if the President succeeds, America succeeds. They believe that when America succeeds in living up to the principles upon which it was founded, we all succeed in keeping our economic, political, and social options open. They believe that when America succeeds, we all succeed in maintaining an equal share in access to the rights and opportunities that should be available to all citizens of the United States.
By Ron Powell
Historically, the majority of white people in America have voted for Republican candidates in the belief that the economically, politically and socially conservative republicans would see to it that black progress would not encroach upon white lives, white livelihoods, and white life styles. Since the advent of the Civil Rights Movement more than forty years ago, the expectation was that the Republicans would keep black people at bay economically, politically, and socially, to ensure that blacks would not take away all to which whites felt entitled, or all for which whites felt that they had worked and thus earned. Now, the country has turned to a black man, Barack Obama, in the hope that he will do, for them, precisely what many whites had repeatedly voted for, and elected, Republicans to not do for black people.
Monday, April 6, 2009
by Ron Powell
Back in January, after the Senate voted to release the second $350 billion of TARP money, President Obama said that he was "gratified" he'd been given the authority to "maintain the flow of credit to families and businesses." Prior to that time I had composed and submitted the following article to several news organizations:
“In light of the inability or unwillingness of the Bush Administration and nearly all of the recipient financial institutions to account for the 350 billion dollars already distributed, and in keeping with (then) President-elect Obama’s assertions regarding changing the mindset as well as the behavior of those in Washington who would propose to solve our economic and financial problems, I am proposing an alternative to the 'bail-out' scenarios that seem to be the standard response to the financial difficulties that major corporations and financial institutions apparently have come to expect when their greed and/or incompetence, resulting in bad decisions and bad management, threatens their existence.
"It is, at times like this, critical to establish and pursue alternative modes of looking at and solving problems of this nature. Otherwise, all we can expect is more of the same from different sectors of the economy. If we are to break the cycle of failure and bail-out we must shut the door on the prospect of a direct government / taxpayer funded financial fix. My suggestion is to establish a national credit union with a portion of the remaining 350 billion now being requested. Membership and credit lines or limits could be linked to taxpayer status. Make credit available to those who require it on a no, low, or deferred interest basis. Repayment plans could be linked to federal withholding from paychecks or other similar arrangements. Give us the opportunity and option to seek home mortgage financing, auto loans, education loans, business loans and even credit cards from an entity that is directly responsible for the appropriate use and distribution of our tax dollars.
"The notion that the unavailability of credit will cripple and ultimately destroy the economy can be countered by making an alternative source of credit available and accessible to the people who are being asked to fund and underwrite this 'bail-out'. My suggestion may seem primitive or naive, but the operative term here is 'alternative'. If the difficulties and problems we are faced with are rooted, at least in part, in the drying up of credit in the marketplace, then we should take some of the 'bail-out' money and make credit available directly to taxpayers by creating a Federal Taxpayers Credit Union and stop giving our money to people who cannot and will not address the needs of the average citizen in a meaningful way.”
As much as I tried, I could not get any one to publish it.
Now, just over two months later, during his much discussed appearance on the Leno ‘Tonight Show‘, President Obama stated that we have to find other ways to "maintain the flow of credit to families and businesses" Obama told Leno and his viewers that his administration plans to "open up separate credit lines outside of banks for small businesses" and "set up a securitized market for student loans and auto loans outside of the banking system" in order to "get credit flowing again".
During the past two months I did not read or hear any commentary that reflected my views or ideas on the subject. None of the recognized op-ed writers or political pundits on TV were making comments or suggestions similar to the one I proposed, but I couldn’t get my simple proposal / comment published.
It is not very often that those of us who are passionate about writing to express our opinions or educate the public are able to claim that they got it right. However, in this case I believe that not only did I get it right in principle, but I got it right in terms of the mechanisms that may be used in bringing my ideas into being. Rarely does a writer derive any real satisfaction or gain a sense of pride in being able to express a great big “I told you so…”
by Ron Powell
In November, 2008, Rahm Emanuel, told business leaders assembled by the Wall Street Journal, that the economic crisis facing the country is "an opportunity to do things you could not do before." The bailout and stimulus measures that are in place are bereft of any requirements that can produce fundamental change in the way Wall Street works and thinks. There has been no attempt to eliminate the waste and corruption inherent in the ‘old boys network’ which is rife with cronyism, nepotism, and patronage. Indeed, apart from limiting executive pay, the money that will go to Wall Street will not act as a catalyst for 'change' in any meaningful way. What would make a difference is a required change in the personnel charged with the responsibility of managing the bailout funds and changes in the standards against which 'success' is measured. If the criteria is not altered, the out-comes will be the same regardless of the mix of individuals involved in the process.
There is no mention made of the potential for the Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action implications of the Bailout and Stimulus plans and proposals. There is an opportunity here to ensure that there is a greater degree of competition, diversity, and inclusion on Wall Street, not just at the very top, but at the entry and middle levels as well.
President Obama saw the crisis as a great opportunity for bipartisanship. When he said "80 votes" or "bipartisan" was the goal, he gave the Republicans the ability to determine success or failure, because the Republicans are the only ones who can determine whether something is going to be "bipartisan" or not. He put a gun in the hand of every Republican who wanted to take a shot at his plans, and they're firing away. There is no inherent value in bipartisanship, it's a means to an end, not an end in itself. If the administration doesn't define what that "end" is and gives the Republicans the power to determine success or failure by a simple refusal to participate, they will continue to do so.
The Recovery and reinvestment, 'stimulus', legislation could have included a component that would have an immediate and visible financial impact on people's lives. For instance, requesting a 30 or 60 day moratorium on foreclosures, evictions, layoffs, collection or payment demands and enforcement procedures, utility/cable/internet shutoffs etc. In other words, require creditors of any type, including state, local and the federal governments, to back off and give people who are being squeezed, due to job loss or other income constraints, a chance to stabilize themselves and renegotiate or restructure their debts and payments in a manner that is consistent with their capacity to pay.
Finally, the economic crisis gives the Obama administration an opportunity to work at eliminating the criminalization of poverty. Crime is big business in America. Annually the laws are changed to ensure profitability in the industry of crime. Economic conditions that can increase the number of people driven into poverty, feed the industry of crime. The current economic crisis and the continuing trend toward the criminalization of poverty can result in turning America’s middle class into a sort of criminal class. Under the laws in many jurisdictions, joblessness and homelessness can do that to people.It is incumbent on the government to identify the real culprits, and seek the means to have them become accountable for their criminal behavior. This may very well include the redistribution of their wealth, and the reorganization of the social contract between the government and the governed.
During that same gathering of business leaders Rahm Emanuel also said, "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste." Roosevelt had the New Deal, Kennedy, the New Frontier, Johnson, the Great Society. Thus far, Obama has an economic crisis of epic proportion. He also has an opportunity to define his administration as an administration of great positive social change. The window of opportunity for making “change we can believe in” will not again be as wide open as it is now.
by Ron Powell
"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." --- George Orwell
The primary characteristic of TV political news, commentary, and analysis is its mixture of vagueness and incompetence. The tendency is to not be concrete about anything. The commentators want their viewers to have an emotional reaction to what they are saying, but they don’t want their viewers to think about what they are saying so they don’t include detail.
The enemy of clarity in communication is insincerity. The use of long words and worn out phrases is an attempt to hide the gap between the real goals and the stated goals of the news outlets or organizations responsible for airing the programs we watch. It is not uncommon to hear extensive commentary on a particular topic which is totally lacking in any real meaning.
Contemporary politics is full of deceit, evasion, distraction, hostility, and confusion. TV political reporting, commentary, and analysis is a reflection of the environment in which it functions. The language used by most politicians is designed to make lies sound like the truth and give the feeling of substance to that which is no more than hot air. TV political news reporting, commentary and analysis is designed to help them do it. Objectivity no longer exists in the world of sound bites and talking heads. The line between opinion and fact is crossed repeatedly and without hesitation or guilt.
No longer content with reporting political events as they occur, news operations choose to participate in the political process by trying to influence the outcome. The process of deciding what is ’news’ and what isn’t is influenced by, and is a reflection of, the biases, prejudices and agendas of those responsible for gathering and reporting news.
‘Spin’ is the attempt on the part of the person speaking, to influence or alter the meaning or interpretation of what he or she has said or done.’Slant’ is the way the media chooses to handle, manage or manipulate the ’news’ or the reporting of the ’news’ that is related to what was said or done. It is the attempt to influence or control the effect or impact the report would have on the public perception of the reported incident or utterance and thus the public reaction and response to the report of the incident or utterance.
TV is the most powerful instrument of mass persuasion known to humanity. TV has become a catalyst powerful enough to alter political reality. When it comes to TV news and/or commentary regarding the political process, we would do well to heed the words of a song sung by the late Marvin Gaye........"believe half of what you see.... and none of what you hear........."
by Ron Powell
When you enter an indian owned casino on tribal land, you give up your basic civil rights and constitutional protections. Due to the notion that tribes are self-governing "nations" and/or the mythical concept of "tribal sovereignty," there are no constitutional protections or safeguards against abuse of power or authority which may occur on tribal property. In addition, Indian tribes are insulated from liability in civil suits by a legal fiction called “tribal sovereign immunity”.
All of the currently acknowledged members of the Pequot tribe, which was recognized on a technicality in 1983, apparently are related to, or are descendants of, just two women who lived on a parcel of land in Eastern Connecticut in the 1930s. The modern tribe is thus a sort of family condominium that reconstituted itself as an Indian tribe, which has in turn become a corporation that is also a “sovereign” state.
The fact is that tribes are not sovereign at all. The United States government owns reservation land, not tribes. Tribal lands are federal territories, owned and controlled by the United States government, which has been put in reserve, similar to a military reserve, for the use of an Indian tribe. Based on our system of law, land is what sovereignty is based upon. Tribes are not "sovereign nations" because they have no sovereign control over any land holdings; there is no "nation”. Indian tribes rely almost entirely on the legal support of the federal government to continue to exist, and on federal government permission to do almost anything. Tribes exist not as independent governments, but as an extension of the federal government. Yet, American citizens are deemed to have waived, abandoned, or forfeited their constitutional rights upon entering a gaming facility which is located on an Indian reservation.
In 1988 Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) (signed by President Ronald Reagan) grants “tribal sovereignty” which enables tribes, recognized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), to build casinos. Under this legislation, in order to proceed with the development of casinos on Indian reservations, the states and Indians must enter into Tribal-State compacts and the federal government retains the power to regulate the gaming. The most recent Indian gaming statistics, provided by the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), indicate that there are approximately 400 Indian gaming establishments in the United States. These casinos are operated by approximately 220 federally recognized tribes.
The two largest casinos in the world, Foxwoods in Ledyard CT, and Mohegan Sun, a few minutes away in Uncasville CT, have agreed to pay the state of Connecticut 25% of their gross slot machine revenue “so long as no other person within the State lawfully operates… [any] commercial casino games.” The terms of these agreements are weak, questionable, or silent regarding the securing of fundamental civil rights for casino patrons and employees on Indian reservations. Since entering into the agreement with Foxwoods, the State of Connecticut has received approximately 2 billion dollars from that operation alone. With so much at stake, little wonder that the civil rights of patrons and employees are lost in the bargain.
Now, because of the declining economy, states need politically “painless” revenue to pay for deficit-financing. States are less likely to be inclined to protect or defend the constitutional rights of patrons and employees of casinos located on Indian reservations. They enjoy self-regulation, immunity from lawsuit, and independence from state laws. They are also spared scrutiny by investigative journalism. Indeed, many Indians treat scrutiny of the tribal casino industry as an attack on “tribal sovereignty“, and racist virtually by definition. Tribal ideologues claim an absolute right to self-government without “interference” from state and federal governments, or any other outside institutions, such as the independent press.
The federal policies and practices which grant "tribal sovereignty" and "tribal sovereign immunity" have resulted in the denial of civil rights to patrons and employees of tribally-owned operations. Indian refusal to recognize constitutionally protected rights on Tribal land has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, which regards tribes as autonomous “nations”. Unfortunately, many judges, state officials and citizens carelessly assume that grants of “tribal sovereignty” and “tribal sovereign immunity” are somehow righting past wrongs done to Indian people. However, Constitutional protections do not reach onto Indian land, where tribal governments enjoy a degree of secrecy and immunity that would never be tolerated in any other American corporate enterprise.