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Plunge in Oil Prices Foretells Looming Economic Disaster. Aribrary pricing can go up easier than it came down.

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, December 8, 2014

During the 2000 presidential campaign, after oil climbed a whopping 72cents in one day (yes, that’s sarcasm) to $33.05/barrel, causing gasoline prices to hit an “unthinkable” $1.68/gallon nationally, Interstate “long-haul” truckers across the country threatened to go on strike saying that the soaring price of fuel was putting them out of business. Naturally, the leading candidates, Bush & Gore, were both forced to respond. On June 22nd of that year, George W Bush openly criticized the Clinton Administration for rising gas prices, saying (famously) that if HE were president, he’d tell OPEC to “open up the spigots” to bring down gas [sic] prices. Over the prior two decades, the price of gasoline had not fluctuated by more than a few cents a year until the “dime a gallon” spikes we saw in early 2000. But that stability vanished following G.W.Bush’s ascent to the presidency:

DoE graph of weekly oil prices from 1991 to Present (link)
Weekly gas prices 1991 to present

The range circled in yellow is the relatively flat/stable gasoline prices we had become accustomed to for decades, with a slight dip following 9/11. Gas prices rarely rose more than a couple of pennies per gallon in a month let alone a single day. After becoming president, the price of gasoline under George W Bush remained in the “strike zone”… and by that, I mean quite literally the “over $1.50/gal” price point at which truckers had threatened to strike… for the next three years. The day AFTER 9/11… and for the next two years… oil was still (roughly) only $29/barrel. It took the unwarranted invasion of Iraq and tossing the Middle East into chaos to drive the price of oil into the stratosphere (I’ll let you decide if that was the goal all along.)

The range circled in red is the dramatic plunge in gasoline prices after peaking at just over $4.10/gallon in July of 2008 (reportedly, one journalist asked President Bush at the time what he thought about the price of gas breaking $4/gallon, to which a startled president Bush… who last saw gas prices around $1.68/gal during the 2000 campaign… supposedly said in surprise, “How much???”) Breaking the $4.00 barrier was probably the final straw in the looming collapse of the economy, the bankrupting of the banking industry and the implosion of Wall Street, with the price of gas falling to a national average of just $1.89/per gallon in just seven months. The election of President Obama and the promise of getting out of Iraq was seen as likely to bring some stability to the Middle East (don’t laugh), which in turn would reduce the threat to our oil supply, allowing prices to quickly “rebound” back to the “new normal” of over $2.50/gallon in less than a few months (and over $3.50/gal in the year to follow). Again, as you can see from the graph, gas prices began to flatten out (relatively) until this most recent plunge (circled in green.)

I’ve been writing about the skyrocketing price of oil under Bush for many years now, so one might think I’d be thrilled to death to see the price of oil (and gas) plunge back to Earth… and under a Democratic president no less to really rub it in Republican’s faces. Low gas prices are like a shot of nitrous in the economic gas tank. What Republicans think “tax cuts” do for the economy, falling gas prices actually DO (because the benefits hit the Poor & Middle-Class FAR more directly/substantially.) But sadly, this current plunge has only highlighted a big flashing neon-sign at just how arbitrary oil pricing was to begin with, and how likely this rubberband is poised to snap back in our faces. Not to sound like a “Debbie Downer”, but there is a reason oil prices have been falling so precipitously in recent months and the chance they could shoot back up at almost any time is very real (if not likely)… the consequences of which could get very ugly.

The reason oil prices are falling are manifold. First, the United States, under President Obama, has dramatically increased oil production to a 38 year high. The “Drill here! Drill now!” crowd that vilified Obama during the 2008 & 2012 presidential races has an unexpected ally in President Obama. While touting the need to cut our dependence on fossil fuel and invest in renewable energy, President Obama has disappointingly been very supportive of increased drilling across the country (mercifully, he stood up against the “Keystone XL pipeline”, but have you noticed since the vote failed in the Senate, Republicans aren’t exactly banging the drum on how they’ll hold another vote after they take control of Congress?)

Increased U.S. production has triggered a price-war with OPEC… which represents about 1/3 of all the oil produced in the world… increasing their own production to compete with America. So right now, it’s a fight to see “who blinks first”. Two weeks ago, OPEC voted on whether they should CUT production in an attempt to drive prices back up. In the end, they voted “No” because they knew they would lose Billions in sales as more people purchased American oil. OPEC’s response was that they could withstand the price of oil falling to as low as $50/barrel again… a price not seen since right after the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

But American oil companies are likely to blink first before allowing oil prices to fall that low again, and would cut their own production to drive prices back up. OPEC would happily cut their own production in turn, the price of oil would skyrocket overnight and the U.S. economy could crash.

And American oil companies have ample incentive to drive prices up. First, when you sell a product billions of people literally can’t do without, you can almost charge whatever you want. And if they want $75 oil again, they wouldn’t break a sweat getting it back up there. And if you’re “TransCanada” and have millions of acres of oily sludge just begging to be turned into a pile of cash if only it were cost-effective to do so (presently, oil needs to be over $75/barrel to make converting tarsands sludge into oil profitable), nothing would make them (or their investors) happier than to see the price of oil shoot back up.

Of course, U.S. oil production can’t remain at this pace forever. Eventually (very soon I believe), production is going to start falling off (either from actual shortages or artificial ones), thus prices will start inching back up and the U.S. economy will falter. Desperate to eschew blame, Republicans… having missed the lesson entirely… will cry, “If only Democrats hadn’t blocked the Keystone pipeline in 2014, it would be built by now (actually, most of it is already built) and the price of oil wouldn’t be so high!”

No, the lesson to be learned here is that now more than ever, while oil prices are low and the economy is growing, we need to be investing in Green Energy now more than ever. Think of it as a “rainy day fund”. You don’t put money in the fund when you’re struggling and need it most, you fill it when times are good and need it least. We shouldn’t allow our… nay The World’s economy to be subject to the whims of the Oil Cartels. They’ve already subjected us to ONE global economic disaster. Do we REALLY wanna try for TWO… especially with so much warning?

POSTSCRIPT: I decided not to report on the recent protests regarding the deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and whomever is next because the subject is already being covered thoroughly by others. Rush Limbaugh went on Fox “news” Sunday yesterday to blame “high taxes on cigarettes” for the death of Eric Garner (the “logic” being that the only reason there was a market for him to sell lose cigarettes was because of the high taxes on them, and the city’s dependence on that tax revenue is why “so many” cops descended upon him to the point of taking his life.) Yes Rush, blame the government; blame the victim; just don’t blame the guy with his arm around Garner’s neck… which “wasn’t a choke hold” because the cops told him so.

Limbaugh… the man who sang “Barack the Magic Negro” on his radio show to the same Teanut listeners who carried signs of Obama dressed like a witch doctor while protesting “ObamaCare”… complained bitterly that “people thought electing a black president would move the country past racism” (an irony lost on Limbaugh), but instead President Obama is to blame for an even greater racial divide in this country. He went on to lament that “you can’t criticize Obama without being accused of being a racist.” No Rush, before Obama, closet racists like yourself kept their racism in check. Once they were able to openly use racial code to criticize a black politician under the protective guise of simply “criticizing the president”, that’s when you and your ilk were exposed as the racists asshats we always knew you to be.

 



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Filed in Economy, Energy Independence, Greed, Money, Predictions, Seems Obvious to Me December 8th, 2014 by Admin Mugsy | • No comments | Add/View

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Keystone XL: Not Just a Potential Environmental Disaster But An Economic One Too.

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, November 17, 2014

Did you know about 1/2 of the Keystone XL Pipeline has ALREADY BEEN BUILT? The KXL project is a 1,200 mile long pipeline extending from Hardisty, Alberta to refineries in Houston, Texas near The Houston Ship Channel. The southern legs of the pipeline, one branch from Steele City, KS to the pipeline hub of Cushing, Okla., and the other to two refineries near Springfield, Ill, were constructed between 2011 and earlier this year. in The state of Kansas… which just reelected Governor Sam Brownback despite a record of extraordinary economic malpractice thanks to massive unpaid-for tax cuts strapping the state with a whopping $279 Million dollar budget deficit… gave the Canadian oil company “TransCanada”$15 Million dollar ANNUAL tax cut (ibid first link) to entice them into building the pipeline through their state. That’s like bribing a highway construction crew already knocking on your front door to reroute the freeway through your living room. The tax revenue lost to Brownback’s idiotic tax cut was NOT recovered in tax revenue from new employment. Worse, when that pipeline starts leaking… and it will… the state of Kansas can TRY to get TransCanada to pay for the cleanup, but the imposed fine (if there’s even one at all) won’t cover the actual cost of cleanup or damages. It never does. Who picks up that tab? But “health” and “cleanup” costs are just two of the half-dozen or so economic pitfalls from allowing this pipeline to continue. I already noted the loss of tax revenue in Kansas. Consider that land and the immediate area around it a dead zone for the next 100 years as people decide they don’t want to live near a pipeline (noisy, smelly, dangerous). And the list goes on.

Businesses near the pipeline will soon be forced to relocate as the local population moves away. That translates to fewer jobs and less tax revenue. At the destinations of these pipelines, not only will residents/businesses flee the pipeline itself, but the massive lakes of toxic waste (called: “tailing ponds”) will chase away new residents better than being told their house was the site of a brutal murder/suicide.

Ask anyone from South-East Texas about a place called “Texas City”, and the first thing they’ll mention is how bad it smells. “Texas City” is home to three major oil refineries, only a short hop away from “Port Arthur”… one of Keystone’s three destinations… with its three additional refineries. Trust me, no one lives there unless they have to (employed at the refineries). Not only does the air stink of rotten eggs (sulfur) for miles around, but the air actually burns your eyes and throat after just a few minutes (it is common local knowledge to “roll up your windows” when driving past this section of East Texas.)

I keep hearing supporters of the pipeline say, “It will create jobs!” like it’s a universally accepted statement of fact, and to doubt “that one simple fact” makes you irrational. During last Friday’s episode of “Real Time With Bill Maher”, CNN “Political Contributor” Margret Hoover stated as a fact: “The reality is that the Keystone XL Pipeline will create jobs. Who could be against that?” And MSNBC’s Chris Matthews also repeated the mythical “it will create jobs” claim during “Meet the Press” yesterday. In both cases, NO ONE challenged those assertions. JUST ONCE I’d like to hear someone ask the obvious (bleeping) follow-up: “DOING WHAT?” Seriously. Certainly not in the actual construction of the pipeline itself. As I’ve already pointed out, nearly HALF of the pipeline has already been built. And most of the steel pipe used to construct the pipeline has already been purchased from India. And if you think that Indian steel is stronger than American-made steel with less risk of rupture as 1million barrels a day of liquified dirt SANDBLASTS the walls of that pipe 24/7/365, I have a bird estuary to sell you. No surprise by the lack of pushback on MtP, but one would think that at least on a Left-leaning show like Maher’s, he’d challenge the notion. But he didn’t. Yesterday, ABC’s “ThisWeek” had on the CEO of TransCanda who conceded an AP report that the pipeline would create “just 50 permanent jobs in the U.S.”, but countered that it was still a “job creator” because it would also create “9,000 (low-paying temporary) construction jobs” and “42,000 indirect” jobs (over 2 years)“:
 

CEO of TransCanada, Bill Girling, concedes that the costly pipeline may create only FIFTY permanent jobs in the US and perhaps only 50,000 “temporary” and “indirect” jobs along the construction route over TWO years.

 

Seriously? These are the “jobs, jobs, jobs” Republicans have been promising? We’re risking certain environmental disaster to produce less than half as many jobs as the U.S. economy needs EACH MONTH just to keep up with population growth, over the span of TWO YEARS? Tell me we’re not being ruled by people THAT dumb!

UPDATE: Doing the math, best case scenario of 51,000 temp jobs (9,000 + 42,000) spread out over two years has the same impact as adding just 490 jobs a week for the next two years, or roughly a 0.45% increase in monthly job growth.

While live Facebooking/Tweeting the Sunday News Shows yesterday (click here to follow us on Twitter or here to follow us on Facebook), I found myself in a Twitter “debate” with a “Proud Truther” that thought I wasn’t very bright if I couldn’t figure out all the jobs that could be created from “Construction and maintenance” of the pipeline. Long story short, after I advocated promoting “Green jobs” over the pipeline, he responded with the familiar Republican claim that “government does not create jobs”. This is a common (and painfully stupid) response by Republicans whenever talking about using the government to promote job creation. The “logic” (if you can call it that) goes this way: “If the government creates the job, it costs tax dollars, for a net gain of zero.” And if government were the employer, he might have a point (he’d still be wrong, but at least a defensible argument.)

So I respond back, “Government doesn’t create jobs? That’s demonstrably false. The government creates jobs ALL THE TIME.” May I just point out that this mental midget was arguing with me OVER THE INTERNET… which was a government project and now responsible for hundreds of millions of jobs. Before that, we are STILL reaping the benefits of President Eisenhower’s “Interstate Highway Project” today. And the next time you drive over an eighty year old bridge built under FDR’s WPA (Work Projects Administration), ask yourself how much each of these things has contributed to Commerce in this country?

Remember that “failed” government program that lost millions on “Solyndra“… a GOP punchline for the past six years that Republicans pointed to as an example of “money wasted trying to promote green jobs”? Well, it’s slated to turn a $5 to 6 BILLION dollar profit next year as the majority of companies backed by the program more than out-performed the losses.

Some “reluctant” supporters of constructing the pipeline (and many Republicans, like Sen. John Thune, trying to straddle the fence on Fox “news” Sunday yesterday) like to say, “Construction of the pipeline is inevitable. They are going to sell that oil whether we build the pipeline or not, so we might as well just build it.” Few arguments in favor of the pipeline anger me more than this one. It’s the, “we’re all going to die someday so why not just put a bullet in our brains now?” argument. Former Talk Radio host Ed Schultz made this asinine argument on his radio show last year creating a firestorm. People like myself quickly set him straight and eventually he recanted, but the damage had been done and his show was off the air a few months later.

No. Construction of the pipeline is NOT “inevitable”. Turning tarsand into “oil” is an extremely expensive process, and it is only cost effective with oil between $65-$75/barrel (add this to the mess with ISIS and it’s just one more way the Bush Administration royally screwed this country.) Get the price of oil below $70/barrel and it is no longer cost effective to try to turn that sludge into “oil”. Last week, the price of oil fell below $75/barrel for the first time since 2006. The price of oil the week before the invasion of Iraq? $32/barrel. 

I heard numerous Conservative Commentators yesterday repeat the “common sense” logic that “increasing the supply of oil” (by tapping the Tarsands reserves) will bring down the price of oil. I’ve already detailed in my “Truth About the KXL” report how there isn’t enough oil in the Alberta tarsands (even when added to our our own Bakken shale reserves) to “glut the market”, and that even if there were, OPEC would simply cut production to drive the price back up. So any idea that the tarsands oil will mean lower gas prices is based on nonsense.

For FAR less money… with the side benefits of creating FAR more PERMANENT high-tech green jobs and without the double costs of environmental and economic disaster… we can REDUCE our dependence on oil… the ONLY thing that would actually have an impact on oil prices. I pointed out a couple of years ago that roughly 8% of our electricity is generated by oil-powered turbines. Replace them with windfarms and you DRAMATICALLY reduce the amount of oil this country consumes each year (FAR more than “8 percent”), which in turn would bring oil prices down… quickly. OPEC can’t simply drive prices up by cutting production of a product for which there is already less of a demand. They’ll just drive away customers.

There is no economic future in continuing our dependence on fossil fuels. Green jobs pay better and have an actual future, but our government is about to be dominated by people desperate to protect the Blacksmithing Industry from the invention of the Automobile. Senate Democrats are suddenly willing to hold a vote on Keystone because they think helping Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu agree with her opponent on the pipeline will save her job (bang head on wall repeatedly). Have they learned NOTHING from the beating they took just one week ago? Conceding your opponents position doesn’t win you elections. I can think of no better/safer time to kick Landrieu to the curb as a warning to other Democrats. Keeping this notorious DINO in office doesn’t change the balance of power. She’s about to vote with the Republicans (again) in opposition to President Obama (again), so tell me again why I should waste ONE DIME trying to save her seat in Washington? Keystone is a White Elephant for Democrats. Add to that the economic costs of cleanup and the decimation of local economies from “blight flight” (you like that? I just made it up) and Republican “tax cuts” to attract something any sane group would pay to keep away, and you have a project that is SO bad on SO many levels, it’s almost inconceivable that anyone is taking this idea seriously.
 



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Filed in Economy, Energy Independence, Environment, Global Warming, Greed, Jobs, Money, myth busting, Right-Wing Insanity November 17th, 2014 by Admin Mugsy | • 3 comments | Add/View

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Boehner Says House Has “focused like a laser” on jobs. Seriously. (Fact-checked.)

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, September 29, 2014

We start this week with another quote:

“A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”Mark Twain

Even more true today in the age of the Internet.

And I hate to tell you this, but Democrats just lost the Senate. As soon as you start letting the other side frame the debate, you’ve lost. I don’t say this discourage you. I say this to EN-courage you… to get off your butt and vote this November. When you’re winning, you get complacent. The person everyone expects to come in second on American Idol ends up winning because his/her fans rally to help their fav win. (And remember what an all GOP Congress did in the last two years of a Democratic president: They impeached him.)

Few things annoy me more than Democrats that try to sound like Republicans in an attempt to win (re)election (I’m looking at you Alison Lundergan-Grimes.) When given the choice between a Dem-hating Republican or an “embarrassed to be associated with the president” Democrat, the Republican always wins. The FIRST thing they teach you in Debating-101 is to “NEVER concede your opponents position”. And in this case, it’s the GOP idea that President Obama is somehow a “failure” whose policies are unpopular. This is why Red States stay red despite obvious crushing failure (eight of the 10 richest states are Blue while nine of the ten poorest states are Red), and how Blue States elect Republican governors. As I’ve been noting for weeks now, we have record job growth (already THREE TIMES as many jobs created in six years than Bush created in eight.) The ACA (“ObamaCare”) has actually slowed the rate of growth in insurance premiums while ensuring everybody… and clearly did NOT cost jobs or “destroy the economy” as they claimed. No “Death Panels”. The same people that destroyed the economy in 2008 and threw Iraq into chaos in 2003 producing the likes of ISIS, are now telling us how “bad” things are and how we need to put them back in charge.
 

Boehner (9/28/14): “We have been focused like a laser on jobs.
Oh, and bi-partisan.”
(1:02)

Look at Boehner’s face there at the end. Even HE knows he’s full of shit. This has been THE least productive Congress in history… BY FAR. They’s made Truman’s “do-nothing Congress” look like work-a-holics. Number of days this congress worked: 133. Annual salary: $174,000.

After claiming to have “focused like a laser on jobs”, Boehner claims there are “over 40 bills sitting in the United States Senate” that Reid refuses to let come to a vote. Notice though that he carefully does not says “jobs” bills, though that is clearly what he’s implying. This Congress has voted at least 54 times to “repeal ObamaCare” (something that doesn’t exist.) Ted Cruz is declaring at every campaign stop (to raucous cheers) that “The Republican Party won’t rest until we have repealed EVERY WORD of ObamaCare!” That would include reinstating “pre-existing conditions”, kicking your college-aged children off your insurance, and making women pay for their birth control. “Lifetime caps?” You want ‘em? You’ve got ‘em! Insurance companies can go back to kicking sick people off their insurance as soon as they start costing them money (or even long before.) Bully for you, Senator Cruz. But pity the rest of us that must endure your jackassery because like-minded morons that have no clue of the consequences of your rhetoric rejoice in your hatred of all things Obama to the point of their own detriment.

So I checked out the list of bills passed by the House in search of those “40 jobs bills languishing in the Senate” (and it shouldn’t be too hard since they only passed 163.)

The first “jobs” related bill passed by this House was 113-24: Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act… not passed until August 9, 2013… eight months into their first year… and that bill WAS picked up and passed by the Senate. So, moving on…

Hmmm. Not a single other “jobs” bill passed the House in 2013. And I’m not being picky. Most of the bills looked something like these:

113-10 – An act to specify the size of the precious-metal blanks that will be used in the production of the National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coins.
113-43 – Congressional Award Program Reauthorization Act of 2013
113-49 – An act to name the Department of Veterans Affairs medical center in Bay Pines, Florida
113-64 – Community Fire Safety Act of 2013
113-103 – An act to amend the Act entitled “An Act to regulate the height of buildings in the District of Columbia”
113-112 – An act to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 14 Main Street in Brockport, New York, as the “Staff Sergeant Nicholas J. Reid Post Office Building”.

Moving on to 2014, “113-79 – Agricultural Act of 2014″ looks promising. Nope, it’s just a bill to let the DoA keep doing what it’s been doing, and it passed the Senate too. Still looking for those “40 jobs bills” supposedly passed by the House that Reid won’t let come to a vote. Heck, right now, I’d settle for just ONE “jobs” bill (the “jobs” bill mentioned above isn’t one either.)

Maybe I need to broaden my definition of “jobs”. How about “113-97 – Cooperative and Small Employer Charity Pension Flexibility Act”? Nope. That passed the Senate too. Hmm, we’re already a third of the way through 2014 and most of the 113th Congress’ entire session.

July 22, 2014. Have I finally stumbled upon a “jobs” bill? “113 – 128 – Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act”. Nope. Just a minor change to an existing law… and it too passed the Senate. The hunt goes on. Just 25 bills to go. How many [jobs] bills did Boehner claim the Senate is refusing to vote on? We’re not going to make it.

“113-144 – Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act”. A bill to allow people to switch carriers even on “locked” phones. Not a “jobs” bill and passed the Senate.

Not much point in continuing. You get the idea. I found NO “jobs” bills. ZERO, NADA. ZILCH. You think I’m kidding, check the list out for yourself. While I might be willing to concede some of the bills might have some tangential impact on jobs, NOT ONE was blocked by the Senate. Sorry Boehner, you’re full of crap on this one (like everything else.) But how many voters are going to take the time to peruse EVERY SINGLE BILL PASSED BY THE HOUSE OVER TWO YEARS to learn the truth? (I do the work so you don’t have to.)

Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) actually complained on Fox “news” Sunday yesterday that “Harry Reid” dismissed the Senate for “the second earliest recess in history.” (that may be bullshit too. Can’t verify.) Problem is, the House called for an early recess first, and the Senate can’t do a damn thing w/o the House. So, left with no choice, Reid recessed early as well. But Fox viewers that only know what they hear on Fox are going to blame Harry Reid for Congress doing nothing. Naturally, host Chris Wallace was all too willing to let Barrasso’s half-truth go unchallenged.

Democrats already have an uphill battle trying to hold onto the Senate. Unprecedented Gerrymandering has ensured the House will stay in GOP hands for perhaps the next decade (unless a mass revolt flips the House in 2020.) Dem’s don’t do themselves any favors when they allow the GOP to frame the debate, “conceding” that the President’s policies are a failure and/or unpopular… neither of which are true, and run AWAY from the President’s (successful) record rather than run on it.

Twain didn’t know how right he was.
 



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Filed in Election, Jobs, Money, myth busting, Partisanship, Politics, rewriting history, Right-Wing Hypocrisy, voting September 29th, 2014 by Admin Mugsy | • 1 comment | Add/View

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No, the Keystone Tar Sand Oil is NOT Inevitable

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, February 24, 2014

A little birdy tells me that President Obama is now considering approving the final leg of the infamous “Keystone XL” pipeline because some big names on the Left have resigned themselves to the idea that the tar sands making it to market is “inevitable”, so we might as well be the ones to do it before a “less” environmentally conscientious nation “like China” (who is investing heavily in Green energy and focusing on pollution after Beijing started hitting blindingly toxic levels of smog prior to the 2008 Olympics.) Meanwhile, ask North Carolina and West Virginia what they think about our environmental record. Quite honestly, anyone claiming to be “a Liberal” that tells you the KXL “is inevitable so we might as well do it”, isn’t really a Liberal. Because a true Liberal finds the better way. They don’t just throw up their hands and say, “Okay Big Money, you win! I surrender!” Screw you and the Iron Horse you rode in on. That’s like saying, “Wall Street is going to find a way to screw us out of our money anyways so we might as well deregulate the whole damned thing.” No, Naysayers, the tar sands oil making it to market is NOT “inevitable.” Answer me this: That “tar sand” has been there for tens of thousands of years. Why now? Why are we suddenly considering using it “now”? Was there a sudden drop in the supply of oil that I’m not aware of? Are we running out of places to drill? Has OPEC suddenly cut back production because oil is suddenly harder to find? No. The reason… the ONLY reason they are suddenly looking at it is because it’s suddenly economically feasible thanks to the Bush Administration driving oil prices into the stratosphere. In the past, converting tar sand into “oil” was just too damned expensive. Now, with $95/barrel oil, suddenly, the process is cost effective. Wanna stop the tar sand’s from being used, GET THE PRICE OF OIL DOWN. And there’s several ways to do it.

As I reported last week, if the price of oil were to fall $30 to just $65/barrel, excavating the tar sands would no longer be cost efficient. And arguably, I don’t see the U.S. refining tar sand for China. If they want it, they are going to have to ship it someplace else to refine it. Suddenly, we’re not looking at $65/barrel, you’re looking at more like $75/barrel before it becomes too expensive for a foreign country to try an utilize it.

Ever wonder why CANADA doesn’t just simply refine it THERE in Canada? Why not simply build a refinery there rather than bisect the United States with a 1,800 mile long pipeline to the Gulf? Because they plan to EXPORT that oil once it has been refined. No port, no profit. And as long as oil is in the $75+ range, there’s profit to be made. Get that price down, and all your worries about Keystone go too.

I personally believe that protesters that focus on the catastrophic environmental damage the KXL would do are doing themselves a tremendous disservice. If your target audience is people that don’t believe in “Global Warming” and believe in all the lies they’ve been fed about what an economic boom it would be, you might as well be claiming the KXL kills “Spotted Owls” for all the good it would do. No, you’ve gotta hit them where they live. TELL THEM that it WON’T “create a million jobs” like they’ve been told. TELL THEM that it WON’T lower… but in fact RAISE… the price of gas. TELL THEM that it means an enormous 11-foot deep lake of black toxic sludge the size of Central Park (840 acres) in their backyard blighting the landscape, stinking the air, and lowering their property values. Hit them where they live. And be ready to answer question when they ask you to defend your claims. Because as long as these lies are allowed to persist, they become the truth. “Everyone” was gung-ho to invade Iraq over “Weapons of Mass Destruction” that we were literally guaranteed were there (“slam dunk”). But afterward when the weapons didn’t turn up, suddenly everyone realized they had been lied to for someone else’s personal gain and WE were stuck with the check.

I plan on taking part in a “Stop the Keystone XL pipeline” protest this Saturday, and I hope to create some nice “ready-to-print” signs that I can distribute in file format to fellow protesters. If I do, I’ll be sure to post them here on M.R.S. for free download sometime this week.
 



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Filed in Economy, Energy Independence, Environment, Global Warming, Jobs, Money, myth busting, Seems Obvious to Me February 24th, 2014 by Admin Mugsy | • No comments | Add/View

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Guest Blogger: A Degree Of Civilization; The American Prison System

By Ebon - Last updated: Monday, January 20, 2014

The degree of civilization in a society may be judged by entering it’s prisons” ~ Dostoevsky

Pop quiz, kids: Which nation has more of it’s populace imprisoned than any other country on earth?

Nope, it’s not China. It’s not Russia either. Cuba? Good guess but they’re number five. According to Wikipedia (which has it’s problems but is generally fairly reliable), the number one prison population on earth is the USA, both per capita and in sheer numbers. In per capita terms, the US locks up around 743 people per 100k. In absolute terms, the BBC tells me that there are 2,193,798 people in prison in the USA. Obviously, that number rises and falls slightly each day as people get imprisoned and released but still, over 2 million people. Red China, where the government is outright oppressive and dictatorial, has around 1.5 million under lock and key but free and democratic America has two million and change locked down.

Of those, around a quarter are there for drug offenses of various kinds. That’s the population of San Bernadino locked up for drug offenses. According to the Department of Justice, 17% of state and 18% of federal prisoners committed their crimes to obtain money for drugs (Bureau of Justice). According to DrugWarFacts.org, around fifty thousand total are held purely for offenses relating to cannabis. Full disclosure: I haven’t smoked pot in about twenty years but I did when I was a teenager and I’m sure a fair few of you did as well. Were we dumb to smoke pot as teenagers? Yeah, probably. But we were teenagers, making dumb decisions is what teenagers do. Another piece of full disclosure: I think pot should be legalized. Age-restricted but otherwise legal, just like alcohol. I still wouldn’t smoke it because taking any form of mind-altering substance is a very bad idea but it makes no difference to me if my neighbour chooses to smoke a joint rather than have a drink. I also don’t want to turn this into a rant about the virtues of legalising weed (although, if you’ve a mind, Salon has a chilling piece about pot sentences) so let’s move on.

Around 40% of the US prison population are black. According to the Census, black people comprise about 14% of the US population but around 40% of prisoners. What explains that? Well, partly, it’s because black people are more likely to live in poverty and poverty is the most reliable indicator of criminal acts during life but it’s mostly because the average prison sentence handed down to a black guy is 20% longer than the sentence for the same crime committed by a white guy (Wall Street Journal). The 100-1 ratio of crack to cocaine sentences has led to the incarceration of thousands of non-violent drug offenders. Even though that difference has been reduced to 18-1, those prisoners remain in the system. The US prison population was mostly static from 1925 onwards. It started to rise in the late Seventies (as crime always rises during recessions) but then it exploded during the Eighties and onwards (Wikimedia). Why is that?

Two reasons. Firstly, the drug war. Let’s be honest here, the drug war has been lost. It is no more difficult to buy a hit of heroin now than it was in 1975. It hasn’t been a success and it can’t be a success. It can’t be a success due to a basic fact of human nature: Where a demand exists, people will appear to meet that demand. That’s just how things work, a basic law of humanity. So the laws against drugs are commonly broken and, by that breaking, a massive number of people are classified as criminals. Now, proponents of the drug war would argue that the laws against murder are commonly broken so should we abandon them too? That’s a fair question. The difference is that murder harms someone else whereas taking drugs, in and of themselves, harms only the taker. What about the crimes committed to support a drug habit, like theft? What about them? We already have laws against theft and I’m not proposing the legalization of all drugs anyway, just of certain soft drugs like pot.

The other thing that changed was the rise of mandatory minimum sentencing laws. This is one of the stupidest movements in human history. The whole reason we have a judge deciding sentencing is so that the sentence can reflect the circumstances of the crime and the perp. Mandatory minimums throw out all that human wisdom in favour of flat sentencing that pays no attention to circumstances. In New York, for example, possessing (note that’s possession, not supply) more than four ounces of any hard drug will get you a minimum of fifteen to life. There are easily found stories of people locked up for life under three-strikes laws for offenses as minor as stealing a slice of pizza or a loaf of bread.

And the US does a lousy job of rehabilitating prisoners as well. We’ve all been shown on tv that prisoners get to complete their education. There are good reasons to educate prisoners. A prisoner who earns their GED inside is half as likely to re-offend. A prisoner who earns their college degree will almost certainly never see the inside of a prison again. You might say it’s unfair that people get sent to prison and get a free education. I would respond that firstly, I’d like to make everyone’s education free and secondly, look at the facts. According to a study conducted by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, every dollar spent on inmate education saves twelve dollars in future crimes (ABC News). Another study by UCLA found that a million dollar investment in incarceration produced 350 jobs while that same million invested in education, produced 600 jobs (ibid.). Prisoners used to be able to apply for Pell grants to cover the cost of their courses but that was eliminated in the mid-Nineties. The result is that there isn’t funding for prisoners to get educated. Prison budgets are constantly being cut and the first thing to go, after the gyms that tv thinks are in every prison, are education programs.

Oh, and your prisons are over capacity as well.

So what happens when the average prisoner gets released? He probably hasn’t had a chance to finish his education. Because of the prejudice against ex-cons (in fairness, not entirely undeserved prejudice), he’s probably not going to be able to get a job. Ex-cons are routinely discriminated against in housing, public assistance and education (Guardian). So what does he do simply to get by? Chances are pretty good he goes back to crime. That’s why the recidivism rate in 2004 was about 67% (Bureau of Justice). In countries that take rehabilitation seriously, like Sweden or Canada, it’s about 35% (Released & Restored).

Some would say that we send people to prison to be punished. But we don’t. The prison is the punishment. With the exception of lifers, we send people to prison in the hopes that prison will, in some rough and ready fashion, turn them into honest people. The lifers, we’re just warehousing them until they die (or, in some cases, executing them) but for the rest, we have to acknowledge that they will eventually be released and, if we want them to become productive members of society, we have to equip them to be productive members of society. That means educating them. It means drug rehab facilities, preferably at the end of their prison stay (works better that way). It means making an effort to ensure that ex-cons can find work. Look, I’m not saying that we can just open the gates and let all prisoners free. That would be stupid and, more importantly, unjust. But it’s also unjust that people whose only offense was puffing a joint years ago should be rotting in jail twenty years later. It’s unjust to impose a life as a member of the underclass on someone who has paid their debt to society.

And that’s not even touching on the subject of private prisons. This is another incredibly stupid idea brought to you by the worship of private enterprise. The states and the Fed already do prisons about as cheaply as it’s possible to do them so the only way private prisons can do it cheaper is to cut corners. Less guards, less nutritious food, less education. And the corporations that run private prisons are going to behave like any other corporation, they’re going to try to maximize their profits. That means they’re going to lobby for more and longer prison sentences. That means that your government, which is already thoroughly corrupted by campaign contributions and lobbying, have every incentive to create more crimes with longer sentences. That means your prison population will continue to grow. And those prisoners are increasingly being used as a profit centre for big businesses too (Global Research). Workers who work for pennies an hour, can’t unionize, can’t refuse to work or quit, who have very few rights and to whom their employers owe nothing. The corporate dream. The rich against the rest, as always.
 



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Filed in Crime, Greed, Guest Blogger, Money, Taxes January 20th, 2014 by Ebon | • 1 comment | Add/View

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Pinging the Bullshit Meter: Gingrich Says Poorest Big Cities All Have Dem Mayors

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, December 16, 2013

“Sorry Newt, that’s a Bullshit statistic.” That was my immediate reaction to Newt Gingrich’s claim that, “Every major city which is a center of poverty is run by Democrats. Every major city!” He said it as a rebuke to Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich’s suggestion that the GOP was responsible for the inability of so many people to move out of poverty. Having lived in the South almost my entire life, and in a very tiny town for much of that, if there’s one thing I know: Most dirt-poor rural residents vote Republican. The poorest states in the Union are deep red states like Mississippi and Louisiana, where some of the richest are deep blue like Massachusetts and California. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard that “statistic” about “Democrats running the poorest cities” (and “Detroit” always tops their list), but it’s a bit like arguing that ALL Republicans are soulless turds because all of the 2012 GOP Presidential candidates were soulless turds. It’s a highly selective feux-“statistic” that is representative of nothing. If nothing else, Gingrich is guilty of wildly over-simplifying the matter.

Wiki (for what it’s worth) lists the top 10 poorest major cities in the United States (w/percentage living in poverty):

  1. Detroit, Michigan – 42.3% – Democratic Mayor
  2. Cleveland, Ohio – 36.1% – Democratic Mayor
  3. Cincinnati, Ohio – 34.1% – Democratic Mayor
  4. Miami, Florida – 31.7% – Republican Mayor
  5. Fresno, California – 31.5% – Republican Mayor
  6. Buffalo, New York – 30.9% – Democratic Mayor
  7. Newark, New Jersey – 30.4% – Democratic Mayor
  8. Toledo, Ohio – 30.1% – Independent Mayor
  9. Milwaukee, Wisconsin – 29.9% – Democratic Mayor
  10. St. Louis, Missouri – 29.2% – Democratic Mayor

(I would like to point out that Michigan’s Republican governor stripped Detroit’s mayor and City Council of ANY power, declared bankruptcy, and is about to liquidate the city’s assets, treasure-for-treasure, with NO plan to grow the local economy. Of the seven Democratically run cities on that list, FIVE are in states with Republican governors.)

Is the list top-heavy with Democrats? Yes. Is it exclusively Democrats? No. So what does this prove? Nothing. Inner-cities typically have larger minority populations that tend to vote Democratic. So are they poor because they vote Democratic or do they vote Democratic because they’re poor? That same Wiki page lists the Top-100 poorest cities in America regardless of size. By my count, EIGHTY-FOUR of the top-100 poorest cities in America are in Red states (with Texas accounting for more than 1/4 of the 100.) Of the Top TWENTY states with the highest per capita income, only TWO are Red states (Alaska at #8 and Wyoming at #17). The rest are all Blue. of the Top-20 Poorest states, just two are blue states (Michigan, the least poor at #30 and New Mexico at #45.) The rest are all Red.

(I feel I could do a far more in-depth analysis of this nonsense pseudo-“statistic”, looking back at whether previous mayors were Republican or Democrat and which Party’s policies were more responsible for the poor economic conditions in these cities, but that would only lend credibility to this particular bit of nonsense.)

In the 60’s many large cities fell victim to “White Flight”, a phenomena where many affluent whites fled to the suburbs, leaving behind large minority populations in the inner city. Poverty and unemployment are higher among Blacks and Latinos than whites. So it just goes to follow that poverty and unemployment are higher in the city than in the suburbs. They also tend to vote Democrat. Newt and the GOP would have you believe that the poverty-stricken people in these big cities are either too dumb to figure out that voting for Democrats is why they are still poor, or that they’re just lazy and like all the “free stuff” Democrats promise them.

Gingrich has had a problem with viewing Blacks as a different breed of human being altogether. “Poor work ethics” are responsible for their chronic poverty that can be cured if we just gave all their kids janitorial jobs at school, and the only “work” Black kids are interested in is crime where they can make a lot of money with very little effort. They vote Democratic because they’re clearly too stupid to figure out that Republican policies will lift them out of poverty… the way it did under the last two Republican presidents (Bush-I and Bush-II) but not under Clinton (yes, that’s snark.)

Newt Gingrich is just one of those Republicans that bugs the crap out of me. Like Rush Limbaugh. They are race-baiting pseudo-intellectuals that make ridiculous claims with all the authority of Stephen Hawking, pass morality judgements upon others when they themselves are guilty of the same or far worse, and the Media showers them with undeserving praise & respect as authority figures even though they are ALWAYS wrong. And I do mean ALWAYS.
 


 

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Filed in Economy, General, Jobs, Money, myth busting, Politics, Seems Obvious to Me December 16th, 2013 by Admin Mugsy | • No comments | Add/View

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Strike Nine. No lawyer will take Mom’s case because of Texas tort law. Help.

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, October 28, 2013

Over the past few months, I’ve kept you apprised of the situation regarding my mother, first ending up in a Houston hospital after receiving chemo over my objections, reporting on how Obamacare has already helped her, and my update this past week on how the Shutdown created still more problems for her. Well, as the saying goes, “it gets worse”. My mother was unquestionably catastrophically harmed by a series of medical mistakes from incompetent doctors, and getting her the care she needs will be incredibly expensive (no, this is NOT a plea for money). Mom’s sole source of income is Social Security and a tiny pension (remember those?) of about $80/month. I’m as poor as a church-mouse myself, so who’s left to pay for the extraordinary care she really needs? Well, apparently, no one. My attempts to find a lawyer fell flat. NINE lawfirms have now all refused to take her case deeming it “too complicated with too little payoff”, all citing Texas’ draconian 2003 “Tort Reform” law pushed through by Governor Rick Perry, the GOP, and their overlords from the insurance industry.

A brief recap of what happened to Mom: Last April, my nearly 76 year old mother was told that she needed full-body chemo to treat a lump in her cheek. I told her doctor, “No! Absolutely not!”, but the doctor convinced my health-obsessed mother that if she didn’t have the chemo she’d die. As expected, the chemo made her seriously ill after developing a chest cold, and rather than stop the chemo, her Oncologist simply prescribed antibiotics and pressed on. Mom ended up in the hospital where additional mistakes resulted in a collapsed lung. A week later when she told her nurse she was constipated and hadn’t had a bowel movement in five days (how do the nurses not know?), they got her out of bed for only the third time in two weeks to use a commode-chair despite a collapsed lung and chest tubes hanging out her side. She immediately went into respiratory distress & cardiac arrest that resulted in severe brain damage, leaving her in her in a vegetative state. The doctors then attempted to cover up their mistake by repeatedly lying to us about how she was revived in “under two minutes” and couldn’t account for her condition. We later learned from reviewing her medical records that she actually flatlined for nearly twenty minutes before she was revived.

So that happened.

My mother is now in serious need of diagnostic tests and intensive therapy if she is to ever regain even a modicum of recovery. With every passing day, we see the light flicker out of Mom’s eyes. Once slightly responsive, looking at faces with her eyes and turning her head slowly with interest, those actions are becoming more & more rare after only four months. Time is definitely not on our side. But tests and therapy are expensive and my mother is on Medicare and Social Security (without which, she would be destitute). I’ve contacted NINE Medical Malpractice attorneys here in Texas (including a few ambulance chasers that advertise on TV), but no one will take her case, ALL citing our ridiculous “Tort Reform” law here in Texas.

In 2002, Governor Rick Perry (America only had to endure President Bush for eight years, but in Texas, we had Bush and his Lt. Gov Perry going back to 1996 followed by “Governor Oops” taking over in 2000 where he has remained, long past Bush leaving office, until he retires at the end of next year… 18 years total) pushed for “Medical Malpractice Tort Reform” that he (with the aid of massive funding from the Insurance lobby) claimed would “control soaring health care costs”. It didn’t. All it did do was limit judgements to a mere $250,000… including lawyer-fees… to cover a lifetime of care (whether the victim be 1 or 100.) Unless your case is incredibly simple or you can join in a class-action lawsuit, there’s just too little payoff for a lawfirm to pursue a complex case like my mother’s. Translation: The bastards that ruined my mother’s life will never be held accountable, and are still out there treating unwitting patients.

I’ve contacted one local TV station (I may try others now) and several national TV shows seeking help. None have responded to my emails. Over the weekend, I contacted my local Democratic State Senator and Democratic US Representative (everyone else is a Republican and a likely waste of time, but I’m probably going to try contacting them as well now), but I don’t know what any of them can do short of reversing a ten year old state law in a matter of weeks.

I know some people turn to Facebook, starting Action pages seeking help on an individual level. But I just don’t see something like that going viral based on my one lonely voice. So I come to you dear reader, looking for advice/support/assistance on how to get out the word on how The System has failed my mother and is desperate for your help. This wasn’t a “crack” that Mom slipped through, this is a gaping chasm crowbarred open beneath her feet by Rick Perry, The GOP, and clueless voters that voted this nonsense into law without considering the consequences, all on the false-promise of saving a few bucks on their insurance.

(Please share this story on your Facebook page or Tweet it to your friends. The more people that hear about her story, the better the chances are of finding help. Thanks. – Mugsy)
 



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Filed in Crime, General, Healthcare, Money, Politics, Rants, Right-Wing Insanity October 28th, 2013 by Admin Mugsy | • 8 comments | Add/View

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Time to Liberate the Debt Ceiling Hostage

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, October 14, 2013

Why do we even HAVE a “debt ceiling”? Plenty of people have asked this question in the past and no one seems to have a good answer. It doesn’t limit spending. Spending is decided in The House, and clearly Congress doesn’t keep the Debt Ceiling in mind when passing a Budget or appropriations. It’s a self-imposed limitation passed in 1917 during the First World War as a way to streamline the government by allowing it to spend money whenever it felt it necessary without putting every expenditure to a vote. Senator Coburn (R-OK) blithely stated last week that “We don’t [actually] have a Debt Ceiling” [because we just keep raising it anyway]. That’s not the point. ALL spending originates in the House, and this House is controlled by Republicans. And how many times have I pointed out that Republicans apparently lack the gene that allows them to foresee the consequences of their actions [see: Iraq]? So they pass spending bills and tax cuts without any consideration for how they’ll pay for them (Iraq was to be paid for with “Iraqi oil revenues” and “tax cuts pay for themselves”.) Then when we run out of money, they simply raise the Debt Ceiling. That’s what they did eighteen times under Reagan and six times under GWBush (three under Clinton and now Obama). If the ceiling exists only “in concept” (according to Coburn), then why would the GOP go apoplectic if President Obama were to bypass Congress and simply raise it on his own to avoid certain economic catastrophe inflicted by a select few Teabaggers with a third-grade understanding of economics telling them that sucking a half Trillion dollars out of the economy won’t hurt us? Because then you take away their hostage.

Two weeks ago, I predicted that the Tea Party extremists that think nothing bad will happen if we fail to raise the Debt Ceiling have a secret goal in mind: forcing President Obama to invoke the 14th Amendment to circumvent Congress and avoid default, and therefore provide them with an excuse to begin impeachment hearings in the House against the president in an election year. It’s a win/win for Teanuts with NO incentive to give-in and raise the Debt Ceiling before the deadline. If the deadline passes and the ceiling is not raised, they do irreparable harm to the government and they win. If President Obama invokes the 14th, the House begins impeachment hearings and they win again. The Teanuts have NO incentive to compromise as long as they stay insane. However, it appears the “Tea Party” is about as popular with the public right now as a pimple on a first date, and Moderate Republicans are starting to have second thoughts about being seen as aligned with them. If a clean vote to raise the Debt Ceiling comes to the floor before the ceiling expires, there’s probably not enough Teanuts to prevent the bill from passing and their grand scheme falls apart.

IF however they convince enough Republicans that saying “No” is a “win/win”, they might very well take us to the brink.

Consider for a moment though that if the Debt Ceiling is raised at the last minute once again, it’s future value as a threat drops to nil, and the GOP knows it. Because the next time they do it, the rest of the world will just yawn, knowing it’s just the GOP playing games again, confident in the knowledge that it will eventually be raised at the last second. So we might as well just abolish it. Take it away from Congress so the full faith & credit of the United States can’t be held for ransom once again. (Knowing it’s future value as a hostage drops precipitously after this, only increases the odds there will be no deal by the end of the week. “Impeachment” may be the only thing of value they can extract from this final losing battle.)

If the Debt Ceiling is not raised, we’ll have to raise interest rates to entice other countries into loaning money to a nation that might not pay them back. Every 1-point increase in interest rates would costs us an additional $120-Billion dollars a year. So much for claims of “fiscal responsibility” to justify this charade.

President Obama, screw the GOP. Invoke the 14th Amendment and deny the GOP this hostage now & forever. If you give a child a gun and that child threatens you with it till you exchange it for a cookie, you don’t then turn around and give the gun back. “ObamaCare” passed Congress and it became law on the condition that it not take effect until AFTER the 2012 election (believing the public will so hate it, they’ll elect a Republican to overturn it.) It survived a Constitutional challenge in the Supreme Court AND the 2012 Election, yet less than half of one-half of one-third of the U.S. government (the Teanut minority in the House) is now holding the Debt Ceiling hostage in order to extort everything they lost in the 2012 election out of the other 5/6ths.

It’s time to stop handing this hostage back over to the kidnappers and set it free.
 

Reagan on Raising the Debt Ceiling: 1983/85/87 (1:45)

 



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Filed in Economy, Money, Partisanship, Politics, Predictions, Right-Wing Insanity, Unconstitutional October 14th, 2013 by Admin Mugsy | • 1 comment | Add/View

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What the Debt Ceiling Fight is REALLY About: Impeachment

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Tuesday, October 1, 2013

By the time you read this, you’ll already know whether or not the GOP has once again Shutdown the Federal Government for the first time since they last did it 17 years ago. But let me make a last minute prediction that in the wee hours of the morning, both sides will agree to a one-month extension, at which point we’ll be right back here to start all over again. But first, a refresher: Almost from the moment Bill Clinton was sworn in as the 42nd President of the United States in 1993, the Republican Party was already hell-bent on destroying him. And the reason for their endless “Scandal-du-Jour” hysteria couldn’t have been more clear: they were plotting his defeat in 1996. But their plan backfired following, not one but TWO incredibly unpopular government shutdowns in 1995 & 1996 that the public clearly knew was purely partisan gamesmanship. They demonized the president for four straight years and STILL he won reelection, meaning they were now “stuck” with him for another four years. Any of this sounding familiar? Once again, extreme partisans within the GOP are threatening… not only the shutdown of the Federal government, but a possible default on the National Debt by refusing to raise the debt ceiling to pay for the things THEY THEMSELVES already agreed to spend money on, the results of which would be catastrophic. So why are they doing it? “Why”, I pondered previously, “would anyone invite CERTAIN economic disaster to prevent something they only speculate would be an economic disaster?” (and as I’ve heard others point out, you would think the GOP would be EAGER to see “ObamaCare” implemented only to crash & burn). No, what they REALLY want is something much more sinister/cynical: they want President Obama to invoke the “14th Amendment” to unilaterally raise the Debt Ceiling on his own so they may use it as grounds for impeachment.

Why? Because that’s what Republicans apparently do now when a Democrat is in charge. They are childish sore losers that can’t bear the idea of a Democratic president advancing Democratic solutions only to see them succeed and last another 80 years the way Social Security has (It’s a damn shame they didn’t call it “FDR-Care” only to hear Republicans defend it today.)

The relevant portion of the “14th Amendment” regarding the Debt reads as follows:

Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

But the infamous “14th Amendment”, passed in 1868, isn’t just “Section 4″. No, Republicans want to make The 14th a 2014 campaign issue because it’s just chock full of headaches for the GOP:

Section 1 is where anyone born “in the United States” is automatically a citizen regardless of the parents’ citizenship… a clause that is the source of unlimited pain for the Nationalists in the GOP, which I’m certain they’d love to see stricken. Unfortunately, the next line of that SAME clause mentions not “depriving life” of any “person without first receiving due process”… a clause commonly used by the Pro-Birth Life crowd to argue the unconstitutionality of Abortion.

Section 2 is regarding the appointment of Representatives based on the number of adult males in each state. Irrelevant here.

Section 3 is regarding “insurrection” in support of the Confederacy. Also irrelevant.

Section 4 noted above is regarding ensuring that the Federal Government will always pay its debts (translation: the repatriated South can’t stop the Government from repaying debts incurred by the North during the war, and by that same token, the Federal Government is not obligated to repay debts incurred by the Confederacy because they weren’t part of the U.S..)

Section 5 gives Congress the power to enforce the prior four Articles.

Clearly #5 is the stickler. Since this is a Constitutional Amendment, it’s not a “law” and therefore can not be ignored nor repealed. But it also doesn’t give the power of “enforcement” to the president. So what happens if Congress fails to comply with the “Enforcement Clause”? That’s one for the courts… The Supreme Court to be exact. And with a 5/4 Conservative advantage, I’d be willing to bet that young “Tea Party” Conservatives full of piss & vinegar like Ted Cruz are more than happy to push this to the Supreme Court…

…for “what” exactly, who knows? It certainly wouldn’t get past a Democratically controlled Senate to remove President Obama from office. No, for that, they need to retake the Senate as well. And, gee, let me think… What mid-term election issue can we think of that would attract Conservative morons to the polls in 2014? Maybe if we delayed the implementation of “ObamaCare” for one year? And it’ll be a lot easier to clinch that vote if they institute a bunch of voter ID laws and reduced voting hours to keep a whole bunch of the “wrong” people from voting… say the poor and minorities… the very people who would benefit the most from “ObamaCare”?

Are you starting to see how this all fits together?

My prediction? If I’m right, the GOP will have agreed to a one-month extension of the Budget just to move the “Shutdown” vote until AFTER the Debt Ceiling vote, which they will then refuse to pass come mid-October when the Federal Government runs out of money. Then at the stroke of midnight on that day in mid-October when the government runs out of money, President Obama will invoke the 14th Amendment and extend the Debt Ceiling on his own, prompting a feux “Constitutional Crisis” set up by “outraged” Republicans. Impeachment proceedings will begin in the GOP-controlled House in early 2014 and extend thru the year till Election Day. Efforts to disenfranchise typically Democratic voters will go into over-drive in “Red” states next year as efforts to recapture the Senate become the GOP’s top priority.

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Filed in Economy, fake scandals, General, Healthcare, Money, Partisanship, Politics, Predictions, rewriting history, Right-Wing Insanity, Unconstitutional October 1st, 2013 by Admin Mugsy | • 1 comment | Add/View

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When Republicans Start to Agree with Me on Egypt, I Get Nervous

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, August 19, 2013

We’ve all seen the famous photo of the Egyptian Sphinx with its missing nose. I learned as a child that the nose of the Sphinx was shot off by Napoleon’s Army using it for target practice when they invaded Egypt in the early 1800’s. It’s an historical fact. A bit of trivia I’ve carried around in my mental Rolodex for decades.

It’s also not true.

And so it goes in politics, just when you are SURE that the two Parties are hopelessly split by ideology, something happens to surprise you. For me, that surprise was the support of many in the GOP of President Obama’s reluctance to cut off financial aid to Egypt. And when I find myself agreeing with the likes of Bill Kristol and Sen. Bob Corker, my first instinct is to question my own thinking.

 

[T]here still are things within Egypt that are very much in our national interest. And we need to keep the lines of communication open. … I think, [not] a suspension but a recalibration.” – Senator Bob Corker (R-TN).
 
“What better thing is going to happen in Egypt or in the region if tomorrow morning the president got on TV and said we’re cutting off the aid?” – Bill Kristol

Both comments during ABC’s ThisWeek yesterday (8/18/2013)

 
Now (of course), I disagreed with just about every other comment to spew from these two men’s mouths during the program, but in this one regard, we agree (as much as it pains me to say it). We can & should reevaluate our funding of Egypt’s military, and flat out cutting off aid to Egypt would be cutting off our nose to spite our face (you were wondering when I’d get around to the Sphinx reference).

My own position on continuing to give $1.3 Billion dollars a year to a nation on the brink of Civil War while its military continues to slaughter literally hundreds of its own citizens, has been just as complex as President Obama’s own thinking on the matter. On one hand, it buys us influence where we otherwise would have none (my position on Foreign Aid in general). On the other, the Egyptian military is using that money to fund their slaughter. The best solution, in my opinion, has been that we attach strings to the money, demanding that none of it goes towards the purchase of weapons or munitions. Yes, they may violate the agreement and just buy those munitions from someone else, but if they do and we find out, bye-bye aid.

On “Meet the Press” yesterday, intrepid roving reporter Richard Engle pointed out the obvious:
 

[D]oes Washington really want to back the Muslim Brotherhood? At the end of the day, we can talk about process and our love for the democratic process, but now that is broken and the choice is binary. Do we want to be with the military or do we want to be with the Brotherhood? Israel doesn’t think we should drop the military and side with the Brotherhood. Neither does Saudi Arabia, neither does Jordan, neither does the UAE. I don’t know why Washington would want to go against so many of its key allies.

 
Despite the slaughter, most Egyptians still support the military. The crackdown is against supporters of ousted (and currently imprisoned) President Morisi and The Muslim Brotherhood.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-Bachmannville), the newest “Amigo” of the McCain/Graham Trio since Lieberman took a powder in 2012, ACTUALLY said (after acknowledging that our aid buys us influence) that we should “cut off” that aid. Not “threaten” to cut it off, but flat out cut it off, because doing so would motivate the Egyptian military to do whatever it takes to get that funding back:
 

“[T]hey are obviously getting the impression that no matter what they do, our aid will continue, so we do need to exercise our influence by saying we’re going to follow the law [the 1980 Camp David Peace Accords], particularly in light of your recent violent crackdowns, suspend aid until you restore democracy.

 
“No aid till you restore democracy!” So we suspend aid to Egypt, they tell us to F-off and turn to Russia for their funding. Brilliant! Think Putin might demand Egypt cede some control over the Suez Canal in exchange? Nah! He’d never do that! Putin’s a pussy cat.

Oh, but it gets better (worse?), dear reader.

Senator Rand Paul (R-Chucky Cheese) pointed out on Fox “news” Sunday yesterday that we can safely cut aid to Egypt because not all that money is going to fund Egypt’s military anyway:
 

“I don’t think we’re buying any love of the Egyptian people when they see an American tank on the street, when someone is shot down or rolled over by a tank that was purchased with American money, do you think that buys any friendship with the Egyptian people? What happens with foreign aid is basically foreign aid to Egypt is more likely to buy a lavish chateau for a dictator or a general in Paris than it is to buy bread for people in Cairo.”

 
So I’m confused here. Is the money going to buy weapons to kill Egyptians or is it (quote) “more likely” being spent by Generals on lavish chateaus on the French Riviera (which kills no one yet continues to buy us influence?) Setting aside for a moment that in (literally) the same breath, Paul expresses more concern over the waste of taxpayer dollars on a “lavish chateau” than tanks used to kill civilians, I understand not wanting to waste Taxpayer dollars so some tinpot dictator can live like a Pharaoh, but if your justification for defunding Egypt’s military is because it’s using that money to kill its own citizens, only to then argue that very little of the money is actually going to do that, haven’t you just destroyed your own argument? And just how many of these “lavish chateaus” are Egypt’s generals buying? You think there’d be a way to find out.

Who knew the GOP loved The Muslim Brotherhood so much? Well, you know what they say about “your enemy’s enemy”? They hate Obama more than they hate TMB.

Naturally, the GOP is split between those who attack President Obama for his continued support of Egypt’s military, and those who believe that our aid to Egypt buys us leverage we otherwise would not have.

We’ve listened to the GOP blast the president for over a week for his “failure” to “act decisively” on Egypt, yet now suddenly, many in the GOP seem to be switching gears faster than a NASCAR driver on the final lap of the Daytona 500 (author bows for the apt redneck metaphor.) But Democrats are likewise split on whether or not we should continue funding Egypt’s military… though their hesitation has more to do with whether or not what happened in Egypt is indeed a “military coup”, which would make funding that coup illegal. I don’t like when people allow “semantics” to drive policy. “Yes” it’s a coup, and “yes” funding a coup is technically illegal. But does stopping that aid put us in a stronger or weaker position? A few Republicans seem to be willing to side with the President on this one and give him a pass on the issue.

But wait for it: this tenuous “support” for the president by members of the GOP cannot and will not stand. If I had to make a prediction, I foresee a call for “military intervention” in the near future… something President Obama would NEVER support short of quelling a genocide. Very soon, dear reader. Because the Republicans that want war always win out over the ones who don’t.
 



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Filed in Middle East, Money, Partisanship August 19th, 2013 by Admin Mugsy | • 1 comment | Add/View

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Thinking Outside the GOP Box: Creating New Jobs Without Resorting to Tax Cuts

By Admin Mugsy - Last updated: Monday, August 5, 2013

Last Tuesday, President Obama began his “Better Bargain” jobs tour promising to “overhaul business taxes” in exchange for jobs created here at home. Every time I hear a Democrat using the language of Republicans, suggesting “tax cuts” as a way to create jobs, I cringe. There are PLENTY of ways to encourage job growth here at home without destroying the tax base. Corporations are ALREADY paying next to nothing in taxes (see blue line in chart on left) by exploiting the dozens (hundreds?) of tax loopholes already provided them by the GOP (see: Arthur Andersen/Enron). “Why do they need more tax cuts?” It seems like the only solution anyone in Washington (BOTH parties) can think of the encourage businesses development here at home rather than overseas is to give huge tax breaks to corporations (destroying the greatest source of tax revenue we have) and shifting the tax burden to workers so that they end up footing the bill for all public services (including roads, security and fire safety of the business itself). And in the end, the companies that receive these imperious gifts rarely produce enough jobs to make up for the lost tax revenue. There’s a better way. Zero interest loans, Free use of publicly owned buildings and/or land, faster/easier licensing, local infrastructure improvements (roads/bridges/beautification) that benefit the surrounding area around a business to make it more attractive (which also creates public jobs), for starters.

I find it appalling that many Democrats… even Moderate ones like President Obama… are quick to jump onto the “tax cuts create jobs” bandwagon. Lord knows there’s ample evidence that “corporate tax cuts do nothing to promote job creation” and actually do more harm than good. If there’s one thing Progressives are good at is thinking “outside the box”, so it is maddening when a Democratic president and head of our own Party continues to promote the GOP gospel of “tax cuts” as a panacea for job growth.

Over the years, I have written extensively about ways to create jobs without resorting to budget-busting tax cuts. Yet still, the myth persists.

Sign my petition on the White House website:

Corporate tax cuts do NOT create jobs. Here’s a half dozen ways to create new jobs without resorting to costly tax cuts:

Be sure to click the link at the bottom of the petition to promote it on Facebook & Twitter. Thanks to Teabaggers and “9/11 Truthers”, it now takes 100,000 signatures in 30 days to reach the president’s desk, and 150 signatures just to get on the Front page of the White House’s Petition website. So please help out by spreading the word.
 



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Filed in Economy, General, Jobs, Money, Seems Obvious to Me, Taxes August 5th, 2013 by Admin Mugsy | • 1 comment | Add/View

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Guest Post: The Public And The Strings That Bind Us

By Ebon - Last updated: Monday, July 22, 2013

This week’s guest post is by Ebon (formerly of “Ebon’s Bear Cave”) in the UK. Ebon worked for Beliefnet.com for many years (until Fox fired everyone on the Community team), and openly writes about his own struggles with mental illness to mitigate the stigma associated with it. – Mugsy

 
Rewriting history.
Scene from 1992 HBO film “Fatherland” set in a world in which WWII ended in stalemate

I got into an argument some days ago with a fellow who saw an “Orwellian world order” behind current events in the USA. Naturally, I argued against the motion. Where we differ is that I see many orders (sometimes competing, sometimes complimentary) rather than one. And yes, they are Orwellian and have been since before Orwell wrote his prophecy. Even the Nazis phrased their attack on Poland as self-defense (the oppressor pretending to be the real victim is so common, there’s an internet abbreviation for it: DARVO for Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender). And they’re not conspiracies in the sense that they’re not really hidden. It’s more like a group of people who share the same views and tend to support one another.

I have said before that all politics is, ultimately, about the rich versus the rest (although that’s a shortened version of my original version: the rich bastards with all the power versus the rest). These days, that gets called things like “class warfare” (by the people who have been waging class war on behalf of the rich for decades, they only call it class war when we fight back) and “SOCIALISM!” in much the same tone as people once shouted “WITCH!” (for the record, I’m a Social Democrat which is a related but different thing). Because these aren’t really rebuttals, they’re labels, accusations, words used to shut down a discussion instead of answering it. And the people have been so well programmed that the ones being oppressed parrot the opressor’s arguments. Malcolm X once said “If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing” and damn if he wasn’t right on that. He understood, without ever being taught, how susceptible the human mind is to repetition. The only thing he got wrong was that he didn’t foresee the all-pervasive power of tv. And how many episodes of Honey Boo-Boo or Jeremy Kyle (think a British, moralistic, judgmental Jerry Springer) does a person have to see before they start thinking that maybe the rich bastards have a point? Maybe the poor aren’t really deserving of any money? And then you’re onto the slippery slope, the race to the bottom, because the only difference between cutting off that annoying mouthy woman and letting people starve in the gutter is the price you’re willing to pay.

The rich versus the rest, always. And the rich want what they’ve always wanted. They want a labor pool desperate enough to work for pennies that they have no obligations to, they want a market for their products and they want to pay as little taxes as possible. And that’s why the tax burden has slowly been shifted from the rich to you, that’s why labor protections are being stripped away, the minimum wage hasn’t been raised in years, why it’s now everyone on minimum wage instead of just teenagers and, by the way, some bastard Republican wants to take away overtime too. The US (and UK if the Tories get their way) are being turned into the ideal labor pool for the rich. Forget about selling their products in the US, they’ll sell to the much bigger markets in Asia and maybe a little to the European economies where people still make decent wages (not the UK, we’re a lot closer to the US culturally than we are to Europe). Fun fact: If the minimum wage had risen with inflation since the Sixties, it would now be around twenty dollars an hour. You want to go back to the Fifties? Support a union, raise wages and top tax rates and buy American.

And that’s why it was possible to raise a family on a single working-class income in the Fifties and Sixties but takes at least two incomes today. Because the rich stopped wearing furs and ermine while they oppressed you and started wearing suits. The traits that make someone a psychopath are the same traits that corporations select for: Ruthlessness, callousness, lack of empathy, remorse or guilt. Capitalism has become sacred writ in both our nations, a creed adhered to more strongly than the Scripture (I’m with Ghandi, who when asked what he thought of “Western Civilization” replied that it “sounded like a good idea”). Say a word against the most egregious excesses of capitalism and you’re a pariah. No-one wants to accept that capitalism inherently creates winners and losers, that it requires a percentage of unemployed to keep wages down (Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan once said that his job was “to create a certain level of income insecurity” so that people were less likely to change jobs, complain about the ones they had, and work for less. – Mugsy). Our culture believes so strongly in free markets’ uber alles that people would rather see the poor as just lazy rather than victims of the system. And I just know that someone is going to trot out a tired “I knew an unemployed person who exploited the system/did XYZ unwise thing”. It’s tired, it’s trite but that’s how powerful, how embedded the programming is. People would rather believe that the (very few) exploiters are the rule than accept that the system doesn’t always work to everyone’s benefit. It’s like a dog-eat-dog version of Candide.

See, it’s child’s play to manipulate the human mind. It’s so easy that psychologists have to be trained in how to avoid doing it unintentionally. Humans are instinctively conformist, Ashe proved that. Humans will instinctively obey perceived authority, Milgram proved that. And all you need to do is combine those traits with how ridiculously malleable the human memory is. People think memory is like a photograph, something the same every time. It’s not. Memory isn’t recalled, it’s reconstructed, incorporating new data as it goes. That’s why, whenever a serial killer is caught, his neighbors always say they knew there was something off about him. They didn’t know at the time (otherwise killers would be a lot easier to catch) but they remember it as if they did. Give me twenty minutes of your life (in person) and I can convince you that you like peanut-butter tuna fish pudding (well, maybe not). And I’m not special. Any psychologist can do that trick and, while I’d like to pretend that every member of the profession was virtuous and above this sort of thing, the rule of human nature means that’s not true. The rich bastards with all the power can afford to employ a lot of people who know exactly how to manipulate the public. Maybe it doesn’t work on you, maybe it doesn’t work on anyone reading this board (although that’s statistically unlikely and I know it’s untrue) but it works on most people.

Because most people are not bad. They’re not evil. But they are self-involved and selfish and shortsighted and easily distracted and very, very short on memory. And if they see a homeless guy, it’s easier to say “get a job” than it is to think about his story and what brought him to this. Most people don’t want to think about things. They want to regurgitate whatever pablum they’ve been fed and get complimented about how deep they are (Objectivists are the worst people in the world for this, sheep who think they’re cooler than the other sheep) but they don’t want to actually think about it. Because that requires real mental effort and might lead to uncomfortable cognitive dissonance. “People will say they want truth and justice for all. But what they really want is an assurance that life will go on, much as it did before, and tomorrow will be very much like today”. Terry Pratchett said that (through his consummate politician, Havelock Vetinari) and it’s one of the truest statements about human nature that’s even been written. People are puppets and most people want to be puppets. They want to be puppets because it’s easier than having to see things as they actually are. It’s easier to be a jerk to the homeless guy than toss him a quid or buy him a burger (or whatever healthy meal you prefer), people don’t want to make the effort because hey, they’re already being driven like a slave at work, working harder than their grandparents did and getting paid worse, why shouldn’t they coast through the rest of life? It’s easier being a puppet.

And I’m a puppet too, in my own way. I use Facebook. I play Minecraft. I love wrestling and still follow it avidly. I trained in law originally because that’s what people said someone like me should do. I was part of the drug crowd in school but never really fitted in there because I preferred booze. I’m a mentally ill psychologist. In my own way, I’m a puppet too. The only difference is that I can see the strings.
 

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Filed in Economy, General, Guest Blogger, Money, Politics July 22nd, 2013 by Ebon | • No comments | Add/View