Friday, August 31, 2012


During his acceptance speech at the Republican Convention, Mitt Romney repeatedly asked the crowd if they were better off today than they were 4 years ago.  If this had been an audience of honest brokers, they would have answered in unison, "...yes we are!"  4 years ago, 2008, by almost any measure we are better off today.  Now, Romney was referring to President Obama in his remarks and trying to tar him with the same brush Ronald Reagan used on Jimmy Carter.  However, Obama didn't become president until January 20, 2009, so 4 years ago, in August of 2008, President Bush was in charge and the fiscal meltdown was his baby.  Romney couldn't even get the dates right let alone the facts.

     Four years ago the unemployment rate was over 11% in many parts of the nation.  The economy was shedding jobs at a desperate rate.  The banking system was in shambles.  President Bush had forced the TARP (Troubled Asset Recovery Program) legislation through Congress.  Over $700 billion of taxpayer's money thrown at Wall Street with no oversight or mandates as to how the banks had to use the money. (they sat on most of it...refused to lend...and made profits at average American's expense)  Wall Street was cratering and the global economy was reeling from the American contagion.

     Today, the surviving banks are bigger and more profitable than ever.  They are making money hand over fist.    The American financial system is the envy of the world and in better shape than any European Union member including Germany, and in better shape than China.  Today, banks have been forced to have more capital on reserve and Congress passed the Dodd/Frank Financial Services Reform.  It is not the best, but among other things it could impose the Volker rule prohibiting banks from gambling with your federally insured deposits in the hope of staving off another disaster.  Today, the dollar is the strongest currency in the world and inflation is barely noticeable.  (regressive pundits predicted when Obama's economic stimulus package was passed the dollar would crash and inflation would blow out of control)  The United States is able to borrow money, sell Treasury notes, at a negative interest rate.  People, and nations, are willing to pay us to shelter their assets because we are the safest haven in the world.  Today, bank lending is at its highest level in years.  Today, the stock market is over 13,000 and holding.  Today, we have had 17 straight quarters of job growth and the unemployment rate is 8.3%.  Yes, we are better off.

     Four years ago, pundits were predicting the end of the American auto industry.  The Big 3 were going to go out of business and shutter all their factories.  The ripple effect would destroy all the companies who made up the auto supply chain and numerous other industries would be crippled as well.  The economies of a number of mid-west states would be decimated.

     Today, the auto companies are a true success story.  Bailed out by Obama, (both Romney and Ryan say they would have let them go bust) They are making money, re-hiring workers and re-opening plants, re-building the economies of states like Michigan and the unemployment rate in those states is less than the national average.  Ironically, it is poor European sales which are hurting Detroit's bottom line.  We are in much better shape than any number of members of the European Union.  Yes, we are better off.

     Four years ago, young Americans were dying in two immoral and failed wars.  Under Bush, Afghanistan became an after thought.  The Taliban and Al Qaida had grown strong and rebuilt.  The Afghan government barely held on to control of Kabul.  Resources had been drained from Afghanistan and diverted to Iraq.  Iraq was a basket case held together by 140,000 American troops and an equal number of contractors and mercenaries.  The Kurds in the north wanted independence and the Sunnis couldn't stand the Shiite and vice versa.  The war in Iraq created a power vacuum that was quickly filled by Iran.  The U.S. was seen by most of the peoples of the world as a pariah state.  We were spending billions a month, borrowing every dollar and adding to the national debt, with nothing to show for it except more dead or wounded young soldiers.

     Today, American is out of Iraq.  (this nation we "saved" is now letting Iran use its banks to get around economic sanctions imposed by the U.S.)  Americans are no longer dying for nothing.  In Afghanistan, the Taliban have been driven into Pakistan and hold no ground.  American troops will be out by 2014 unless Romney and Ryan decide to keep them there for God-knows how long.  Afghanistan is not a success story, but Americans will no longer be dying there and it is better off than it was 4 years ago.

     Today, gay Americans who want to serve their country, and possibly sacrifice their lives in its cause, can do so openly and without fear of being thrown out.   4 years ago, gays in the military were being hunted and expelled because of bigotry and prejudice.  Today, women can aspire to serve their country in combat...something they were kept from 4 years ago.  (Romney and Ryan would reverse both of these progressive gains).  Yes we are better off.

     It shouldn't be lost on anyone how Obama has disengaged the American military from disastrous and immoral overseas adventurism.  Romney promises to go to war in Syria and Iran and is employing and listening to the very same neo-cons who were the architects of the disastrous foreign policies which resulted in the debacles in Afghanistan and Iraq.

     Four years ago, the housing market, which is a major component of a strong economy, was disintegrating.  Millions of homes were lost to foreclosure.  Prices dropped to lows not seen in 40 years.  The ripple effect was to devastate everything from the furniture industry to appliances and cities saw their property taxes melting away along with their ability to deliver services.

     Today, Toll Brothers Home builders have reported profits, which have increased by over 100%.  Home prices are rising in the top 20 markets.  Home Depot and Lowes report strong sales.  Banks have been forced to change their foreclosure policies.  They will pay over $25 billion in penalties for all the illegal tactics they used to steal people's houses.  There are now worries there isn't enough supply to meet demand.  Yes, we are better off.

     Four years ago if you or your child had a pre-existing health condition, it was almost impossible to get health insurance.  Four years ago, health insurance companies could charge women higher premiums than men.  Four years ago those same insurance companies could cap how much they would pay for an illness, meaning one catastrophic illness could financially ruin a family.   Four years ago your child was dropped from your insurance when they reached the age of 23, and four years ago, there was no requirement as to how much of your premiums had to be spent on actual health care.

     Today, the Affordable Care Act ends these and many other shortcomings and abuses in the health care industry.  This legislation also reduces the deficit over ten years and slows the rising cost of health care, which is considered a direct threat to our economic health in the future.  (Romney and Ryan promise to repeal the ACA and reverse all of these gains)  Yes, we are better off.

     Four years ago, Bush and the Republicans will still talking tough about what they were going to do when they found Osama Bin Laden.  They had no idea where he was and Al Qaida was increasing in strength in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and other nations in the Mideast.

     Today, Bin Laden is dead...most of Al Qaida's leadership is dead...the number two of the Haquani network is dead...the head of Al Qaida in Yemen is dead...El Shababb in Somalia is on the run...Yes, we are better off.

     Are things in this country all sunshine and roses today?  No!  Unemployment is too high.  Youth unemployment is a scandal as is the unemployment rate for minorities.  Dodd/Frank isn't strong enough.  Underwater homeowners need more help.  Someone on Wall Street needs to go to jail.  Iran is still a flash point.  (Romney and Ryan say they want to go to war with Iran if necessary.  It would be a disaster of a policy and make Iraq look like a walk in the park)  No one has a solution as to what to do about the civil war in Syria.  (except John McCain and Romney and Ryan who want to use the American military and arm the rebels without knowing who they are or even if this would end up arming Al Qaida like when we armed the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan)  The European Unions could still drag us under and China is flexing its muscles in the South China Sea.  College is too expensive...gas as well.  However, today America is on the path to energy independence which certainly wasn't the case four years ago.
     There is no measure, no metric from August of 2008 where we are not better off today than we were four years ago.  It tells you how awful it was then that even some improvement moves us to a better place than where we were at then.  Actually there is one area where we are not better off....4 years ago the gap between the uber-rich and middle class Americans was not as wide as it is today.  4 years ago the 1% were not as rich as they are today.  How do you think those numbers will look 4 years from now if Romney is elected president?

P.S. I invite you to add to this list of ways in which we are better off today than four years ago.  I'm sure I missed quite a bit, but someone had to speak truth to fiction.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Lance Armstrong announced he would stop fighting charges he illegally used performance-enhancing drugs to win 7 Tour de France titles.  He is taking withering criticism for his decision, criticism based on the premise anyone who is innocent would never stop fighting to clear himself.  If Armstrong has thrown in the towel, it must be because he is guilty as hell.

     I have no idea whether Armstrong cheated or not.  However, I understand his decision perfectly.  He was asked to participate in a system where the cards are marked...the bat is corked...the fix is in and his guilt was already a forgone conclusion.  Why would anyone agree to participate in a rigged game?

     According to the Wall Street Journal, anti-doping authorities have been pursuing Armstrong for over 10 years.  During that time he was tested hundreds of times.  Out of these numerous tests, the U.S. Anti-doping Agency says there might have been two, which were questionable.  However, both were thrown out because the agency failed to follow protocols for handling samples, which had been established by the international anti-doping organization that oversees competitions like the Olympics.  Other than that, the agency doesn't have squat in terms of hard evidence against Armstrong.

     During the same period Armstrong was being pursued and tested, U.S. and international authorities tested and caught dozens of cheaters.  One, American Floyd Landis, also was a tour winner.  He tested positive, lost his appeal and that was that.  In fact, testing has caught any number of Tour winners and participants including members of Armstrong's postal system team.  However, while all the others couldn't avoid taking tests and while the test showed they cheated, Armstrong continued to pass every thing they threw at him.

     The evidence against Armstrong is not built on testing and concrete results, but rather on the testimony of his teammates and others in the sport.  These teammates, many of whom have admitted cheating themselves, are not eyewitnesses.  There is no smoking gun.  What you have is hearsay, from people who got caught, against someone who has never been caught.  We can try to divine why they are saying what they are saying, but the bottom line is there is no defense against someone saying they "think" you cheated.  How does Armstrong answer this?  What do you ask, in cross examination, of a witness who says they didn't see you cheating but believe you are guilty while at the same time there is no chemical evidence to support their claim?

     I understand perfectly the decision not to fight with the anti-drug agency because their approach is similar to allot of the federal government's approach to criminal justice.  It is no longer news when information surfaces to show innocent people have been jailed in this country.  Recently USA Today reported on some sixty plus men in federal prison who are actually innocent.  The justice department and Attorney General's office admit they are innocent, but still tried to keep them in prison anyway.  It isn't a headline anymore when we find out an innocent person even confessed to the crime.  The way the system works today, you are charged for a crime.  You are told if you agree to plead guilty you will get 5 years.  If you assert your innocence and decide to fight in court, you will get 30 years.  How many of you would take that gamble?  How many of you would give in to the 5 years instead of fighting and possibly facing 30 years?  Over 95% of federal cases are settled by such plea bargains, and we now know many of these people were innocent but took the deal because the game is rigged and the alternative was much worse.

     For over 10 years, this agency chased Armstrong.  They came up empty until they shifted their strategy from irrefutable drug tests to easily constructed guilt based on innuendo and opinion devoid of facts.  What was Armstrong's defense going to be if he fought?  "...They're wrong...they are mistaken...they are lying? " What would you do?

     The argument goes no innocent person would ever give innocent person would ever stop innocent person would roll innocent person would fight to his or her last breath etc.  I'm here to tell you such common sense is really non-sense.  Innocent people plead guilty, give up the fight, roll over, every day because the alternative is much worse and because the game is rigged and fighting it means even more hardship and heart ache.

     I have no idea if Armstrong cheated.  However, his decision not to fight a government agency which had been chasing him for 10 agency which had created a "he said/she said" case without one single eyewitness, and demands he respond.  I understand perfectly why he decided not to play their game any more.  I wish more Americans would refuse to play the game and force the system to actually prove guilt or innocence.  We would be more secure in our homes if that was the case.


A lone gunman decides to attack innocent moviegoers in Aurora, Colorado.  Another stalks and kills at Virginia Tech University and still another shoots and kills at an Army base in Texas.  In the more distant past, we have the shootings at Columbine High School and the carnage one man caused at 101 California St. in San Francisco.  All of these events are inevitably followed by a call to expand the rights of Americans to carry guns, particularly concealed weapons.  The argument proffered...if some of those in the audience in Colorado or classrooms in Virginia had carried concealed guns, they could have shot back and stopped or killed the perpetrator of such horrendous events.

     Laws are being proposed in states across this land to allow people to carry concealed weapons in bars, (yes really), churches (I'm not making this up) college campuses, bowling alleys and anywhere else people gather.  If trouble starts, stalwart and steeled Americans who are "packin' " would pull out their gun and take out the bad guy ending the threat.  These people are on crack.

     On Friday, August 24, a man shot and killed his former boss on the streets of mid-town Manhattan.  After the shooting, he walked away.  Two people followed him and yelled for two cops guarding the Empire State Building to help.  The two officers approached the man 3 blocks away from the first shooting.  In front of the Empire State Building they confronted the shooter.  They were about 8 feet from him, in broad daylight, when he reached for his gun and pointed it at them.  They both fired.  They fired a total of 16 shots from less than 8 feet.  Of the 16 shots fired, seven hit the assailant, nine did not.  Those errant nine shots wounded nine people who happened to be in the area at the time.  They fired 16 shots from less than 8 feet and still missed with over 50% of them.  Each miss resulted in a wounded civilian.

     A city like New York, or San Francisco, can spend up to $1million to train one police officer.  Much of that training is aimed at teaching them how and when to fire their weapon.  They are taught to control their feelings and not react emotionally or irrationally.  (Think of the cops who pulled Rodney King over as being object lessons in the failure of their training)  A significant amount of time is also spent teaching them how to hit what they aim at.  Hundreds of hours are spent on ranges perfecting their accuracy.  Yet, after all of full daylight...with no obstructions...within 8 feet of their target...these cops missed over 50% of their attempts and wounded nine people.  These are the pros.  Imagine what would happen with slightly, if at all, trained amateurs?

     I am tired of all the Old West, O.K. Corral, Dodge City, vigilante talk being spread by the National Rifle Association and its surrogates.  I'm tired, and quite scared, of this rhetoric of people taking the law into their own hands and opening fire at any perceived threat.  It is this mentality which leads to stand-your-ground laws and the acceptance of the use of deadly force by people who have no idea how to control their emotions or to hit a target.

     That night in Colorado, the assailant starts by throwing at least one tear-gas canister into a darkened theater.   People can't see and start diving for cover.  Imagine the scene if from the other side of the theater more shots ring out.  This guy is covered in body armor from head to toe.  He is firing in one direction and now someone else is firing back from another.  The people in between are caught in crossfire.  Two New York cops wounded nine people with friendly fire when conditions were perfect.  What would the dead and wounded toll be in Colorado if 3 or 4 patrons opened fire on the gunman?  How many of their shots would miss?  They would be lucky to hit him at all and even luckier to penetrate the body armor, but in their wake they would leave a scene of death and destruction geometrically more than what the one crazy man could cause.

     We need to publically shame and embarrass any politician who proposes to allow hidden guns in populated areas.  We need to condemn as unbalanced, anyone who suggests amateur vigilantes are the equivalent of trained professionals.  We need to look at this incident in New York and understand it is typical of the accuracy of the police and understand how much worse the performance of armed "do-gooders" would be.

     You and I both know, if one of these "John Wayne" types pulled a gun and shot in that theater and the errant round struck and killed an innocent person, the NRA and all the rest of the regressives would rush to their defense and demand they not be charged or prosecuted for their actions.  We know further, if it was a white shooter and a black victim that would be treated differently than if the circumstances were reversed.

     It is time to end all of this talk and make it plain.  I don't want to go to a movie, or college or church and have to wonder who might shoot me in the back trying to act out a fantasy or some faux heroics.  16 dead...9 wounded is the best we can hope for by trained professionals.  That's bad enough, and we can't let anyone else take a turn without admitting it would be much worse.  The results would be tragic and unacceptable.


 At every national convention, each party passes a platform document laying out their top policy priorities and expressing the true nature of what the party stands for philosophically.  The Republicans passed their platform telling all Americans what they will do with any power they are able to obtain in November.

     Despite Mitt Romney's attempts to distance himself from the comments about "legitimate" rape by Congressman Todd Akin, the reality is both Romney and his party march in lockstep with the Missouri senate candidate.  The platform endorses a "human life amendment" which calls for a total prohibition on abortion with no exceptions for rape, incest, or the life of the mother.  The committee also agreed to language, which would outlaw any contraceptive which acts after conception.  This would eliminate Plan B morning after pills.

     Both Romney and Ryan, who goes further and would outlaw all forms of contraception if his personhood amendment were passed, claim to be in favor of smaller government and a less intrusive government, yet they cede to the feds the right to tell a woman what she can do with her body and they impose the government between a woman and her doctor.  (What is the difference between a Chinese government which can force a woman to have an abortion and the Republican government which can force her "not" to have an abortion?)

     The platform "salutes" so-called "informed consent" laws.  Because women cannot be trusted to be informed...because women are emotional wrecks and don't make rational decisions...because pregnant women have no idea what an abortion does and take a cavalier approach to the procedure, the Republican platform supports the contention government needs to force them to wait and have an ultrasound and have the doctor explain what they are about to do.  This salute comes on the heels of a law in Virginia, proposed by the governor...McDonald...who leads the platform committee, which would require an ultrasound stick to be inserted in a woman's vagina.  I guess that would be an example of "legitimate" rape.

     Continuing the theme of a small, unobtrusive government, the platform calls on the government to decide who can get married and who can't.  Not only does the Republican platform denounce same sex marriage, it also opposes even civil unions calling them "counterfeit marriages".

     Romney's party calls for more laws like the ones passed in Arizona and Alabama giving the government the right to stop you and demand your papers proving you are an American citizen.  They also call for the creation of a "national" database (maintained by the government) which would contain data about all Americans so employers can check to see if an applicant is in the country legally.  (Gee, you think they might do other things with this information too?)  The same party which supports state and local rights without interference from Washington, would prohibit cities from voting to become sanctuary cities refusing to cooperate with the federal immigration service.  The Tea Party's avatar wants to force cities to knuckle under to the federal government.  (They also oppose any state which voted to legalize medicinal marijuana and Oregon's assisted suicide law)  Their hypocrisy knows no bounds.

     As the Republicans pay lip service to championing the individual, the platform calls for an end to women in combat and a reinstatement of the prohibition on gays serving in the military.  The platform opposes statehood for Washington D.C. (apparently approving of taxation without representation...wasn't that the original reason for the first Tea Party?) and want Congress to force the D.C. city council to expand gun rights in the district.

     The same Republican party which refused to raise taxes to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, ballooning the national debt and deficit by borrowing the money from China instead, now wants a plank in the platform which calls for a super majority in order to approve any tax increases.  (We know how well this worked in California...voters passed an initiative to eliminate a similar law and got the first on-time budget in over 20 years)  This again is designed to let a minority thwart the will of the majority, which runs contrary to everything they say they stand for in their party.

     It is impossible to read the Republican platform without seeing all the ways they contradict themselves and how they say one thing and do another.  They spout small government rhetoric, but in reality it is a party this wishes to use the government to intrude in your house, public library, computer, vagina, personal health care decisions, privacy and to tell you what is legal for you to conscientiously believe in.

     This is not a conservative document.  Conservatives preserve the best aspects of a nation and its culture.  This is a classic regressive manifesto designed to turn back the clock...roll back social progress...undo most of the good done in the 20th century and walk us back towards the Gilded Age of vast wealth, no income tax, awful poverty, no middle class, a castrated central government unable, or unwilling, to protect the most vulnerable and neediest of its citizens.

     For women the message could not be clearer.  By virtue of your gender we will tell you what you can or cannot do regarding your reproductive desires and outcomes.  We will deny you access to contraception.  We abolish your civil liberties once you are pregnant.  We will not fight for equal pay for equal work...affordable day care...comprehensive pre-natal care, nor will we fight for a safe environment which you can live and work within.

    Romney and Ryan are one on this platform, so when you talk about who the next president should be, imagine this platform implemented in full and imagine who the winners and losers would be.  My guess is the breakdown would come out 1% vs. 99%.  Do you disagree?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


     Mitt Romney's choice of Congressman Paul Ryan to be his running mate tells you all you need to know about Romney and about the state of the 2012 presidential campaign.  Romney's choice confirms what many polls have been saying, namely, there is virtually no one left to convert from the undecided ranks and this campaign will rise or fall on turnout.

     Romney claims he wants this campaign decided on the question of the economy and jobs, but the choice of Ryan shows the true agenda he is pursuing.  Ryan is an ideologue popular with the most regressive wings of the Republican Party.  Romney is not trusted by these folks and there was a danger some might stay home rather than vote for him.  In order to fire up that base, and bring them out in November, Romney abandoned his focus on the economy and has now placed a bet that a war on the New Deal and Great Society will turn out enough regressives to propel him into the White House.

     Nothing in Ryan's career, or his legislative accomplishments (of which there are few) shows a concern for creating jobs.  Much like Romney himself, Ryan is in favor of an unrestricted free market with few, if any, restrictions.  Just as Romney made his fortune borrowing money, buying companies, loading them with debt and then selling them or bankrupting them to the tune of millions of dollars in management fees, (fees taxed at 15% for the 1% who benefit most from them), Ryan has made his bones railing against the excesses of government and regulations used to monitor the market's activities just as his patron saint, Ayn Rand, encouraged him to do.

     Ryan, like Romney, wants to cut taxes for the wealthy.  A new study by the Tax Policy Center, confirms R2's cuts could not be offset by "closing loopholes" in the tax code.  The only way to make up for the over $300 billion lost to the treasury each year would be to raise taxes on the middle class and shred programs for the working poor.  On top of tax cuts for the 1%, both Ryan and Romney want to increase military spending and offer no way to pay for it.  We have seen this before.  George H.W. Bush accused Ronald Reagan of engaging in "voodoo economics" when he said he could cut taxes, increase military spending and balance the budget.  Reagan went on to sign 8% tax increases including the largest peacetime tax hike in history.  Al Gore accused Bush 43 of "fuzzy math" when he said he could cut taxes, increase military spending and balance the budget.  We know how well all that worked for the economy and jobs.  Bush 43 did not create a "net" new job in almost six years of his presidency and we know what condition the economy was in when Obama became president.  Now Ryan and Romney want to do it all over again promising different results.  What is Einstein's definition of insanity?

     Ryan represent far more than Reagan/Bush/Bush redux.  Ryan is the avatar of the regressive war against the New Deal/Great Society programs of the 20th century.  He is the child prodigy of those who have been fighting to undo all the progress made fighting poverty, expanding the middle class and building a safety net for the most vulnerable of our citizens.

     Ryan's proposed budget, which Romney now endorses implicitly, would end Medicare and Social Security as entitlement programs and he would turn Medicaid (health care for the poor) into a state block grant, which would guarantee its death by a thousand cuts.  By ending Medicare and Social Security as entitlements, it opens them up to the whim of Congress to fund them or not and we have seen how regressives in Congress feel about funding programs for the 99% of Americans.  Ironically, Ryan doesn't deny any of these contentions.

     Ryan would change Medicare into a voucher program.  The government would give you a check to pay for private health insurance.  If the check isn't enough, you have to make up the difference out of your pocket (early analysis says it would require between $3,000- 6,000 a year of extra spending by each recipient).  Of more concern is Congress could cut the voucher or refuse to increase it to adjust for inflation, something the Tea Party and Ryan's other supporters brag about wanting to do and the result would be millions of American who couldn't afford or get medical coverage.  (If Romney and Ryan were able to repeal Obama care, seniors with pre-existing conditions...most...wouldn't be able to participate in the private markets or would have to pay much higher premiums than a voucher would cover).

     Ryan would privatize Social Security.  Each American would get a 401k program in which to invest.  All your eggs in a Wall Street basket.  It would be a huge windfall for Wall Street banks.  Most 401K plans have lost up to 50% of their value in the last 5-10 years.  What happens of this occurs in the future?  You are S.O.L.

     With Medicaid, Ryan would turn it into a block grant program managed by the states.  If Obama gets re-elected, 17 million poor Americans, who currently don't have medical coverage, would be eligible for Medicaid.  If Ryan and Romney get their way, those 17 million lose out and states would be free to cut back even further.  Right now California and states across the country are cutting Medicaid.  Republican governors are refusing to take federal money to expand coverage for the poor.  Imagine what they would do if given a part of the money in the form of a block grant intended for the poor but available for other purposes as well?

     Romney chose Ryan because it will increase Republican turnout and because he isn't trusted by the extreme wing of his party.  He didn't pick him because of a plan to increase jobs or broaden the economy...he didn't pick him because it will help him return the economy to health...he didn't pick him to appeal to women, independents, undecided or young voters.  Adding Ryan doesn't do anything to create one new job.  Romney has capitulated to the most radical wing of his party in order to bribe them into voting for him.  (surprise, surprise).  This is now a war to see whether this is a nation committed to all its people...poor, elderly, working poor, middle class...or one increasingly dedicated to the top 1%.

     It is not hyperbole to observe a Romney/Ryan ticket could put the final nail in a coffin built for the remains of an America at its best when it decided to spread its wealth to all its raise all recognize a society's morality is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable members.  The question yet to be answered is whether Obama's base, given the choice of a future dominated by Romney and Ryan, will now storm the voting booths to fight back and reclaim the future vision of this country.


By a margin reaching into double digits (15 points), American women say they will not vote for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.  This gender gap appears to be widening.  The same antipathy women have for Romney extends down the ticket to Republican Senate and House candidates as well.  Two recent events lend credence to the fears women have if a regressive Republican gets into the White House or regressives can take the Senate and hold on to the House.

     In Missouri, the regressive candidate running for the Senate against incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill, Todd Akin, was asked if he would allow a woman to get an abortion if she was raped.  He pooh-poohed the question by announcing in "legitimate" rapes; a woman rarely gets pregnant so this is not a big issue requiring an exception.  (A reproductive rights group released data showing over 64,000 rapes in 2007 resulting in over 3,500 pregnancies)  Akin went on to offer further light on the issue by opining how we shouldn't punish the baby because his or her mother was raped.

     The firestorm was swift and intense.  Akin has been asked to step down and there are threats his money could be cut off.  He says he is in the race to stay.  Before the dust settled, Romney condemned the statement; the Republican Senate Committee denounced it along with House and Senate candidates.  President Obama called the statement offensive.  The candidate himself now says he "misspoke".

      This is not a "gotcha" journalistic moment.  This is not just another political gaffe, and this is not something regressive Republicans can distance themselves from.  This man, and his regressive Tea Party supporters, believe this stuff and it's how they speak about it in private all the time.  These are men, and some women, who actually make distinctions between legitimate and illegitimate rape.  They are quite comfortable making value judgments about women's sexual habits and if a woman gets pregnant in an immoral manner, she is suspect...her judgment is suspect...her morality is suspect and her intelligence is suspect.  (How else do you explain laws requiring a 24 hour waiting period, mandatory explanations about what an abortion can do psychologically to a woman, required video viewing of a fetus, descriptions of the pain a fetus might feel and other laws which suggest women neither think about nor care about this decision)  Women cannot be trusted to make the right decisions regarding their health, their bodies and their reproductive lives so "we" have to pat their heads and either make the decision for them or take it away entirely.  These Einsteins want to take away a woman's access to contraception, and prevent health insurance companies from being required to pay for standard contraceptive services.  Women can't be trusted after all.

     What was lost amidst all the noise over the idea of a "legitimate" rape was Akin's other comment.  He said the rights of the fetus supersede the rights of the pregnant woman.  Yes, she was raped, but she doesn't have the right to harm the fetus because of that incident.  He totally dismisses as irrelevant any psychological or physical harm this pregnancy could cause the woman.  This is a radical and dangerous tact, which regressives have been pushing through the use of personhood amendments and other restrictive laws.  This is how they arrive at calling abortion murder and a capital crime.  Once a woman is pregnant she loses all civil liberties in their mind.

     The second event, which should not be overlooked, is Romney's nomination of Congressman Paul Ryan to be his running mate.  Ryan is quite comfortable with all this regressive rhetoric.  Ryan is opposed to all abortions, no exceptions.  Ryan supports a personhood constitutional amendment, which would effectively outlaw abortion and prohibit most of the common forms of contraception.  Ryan supports cutting off federal funding for Planned Parenthood and has led the fight to protect the Catholic Church from being required to provide contraceptive care in the health insurance it offers to employees of Catholic schools, hospitals and social service agencies.  Ryan goes further and supports legislation, which allows any Catholic business owner to refuse to include contraceptive coverage in employee health insurance for religious reasons.  If you add his budget proposal to cut Food Stamps, childcare credits, Medicaid, Head Start and end Medicare as we know it, (women being the majority of those who benefit from such programs) and Ryan and Romney are right to fear how women will vote.  When you declare war on women...when you proclaim you are for smaller government (except where you want the government to control a woman's choice about her own health and body)...when you tell women you will gut a social safety net which they benefit from would be wise to duck and cover when they are given a chance to vote on your candidacy.

     I've never been a supporter of single issue voting.  Life is more complex than one single issue.  However, abortion and reproductive access are gateway issues.  The position a politician holds on abortion and contraception is a direct predictor of how they will vote on the top 10 issues important to women.  If they will vote to deny you contraceptive access...if they will vote to give the government the power to take control of your body away from you...imagine how they will vote on equal pay, domestic violence legislation, pre-natal care and a host of other issues.  Actually, you don't have to imagine.  You already know and at that point you might also come to understand what "they" mean by legitimate rape.


  Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney proudly proclaimed from the front pages of the New York Times his income tax rate for the last ten years was 13%.  He and his campaign sought out reporters to announce this important revelation.  This was damage control.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid accused Romney of paying no taxes in that 10-year period.  While continuing to refuse to release any more tax returns, Romney assures America he has reviewed them and thus the 13% figure is a result of his compilations.  What is truly mind-bending is Romney, and his advisors, believe this is a good news story and will end the controversy once and for all.  It is an example of how out of touch he is with the realities of everyday life for most Americans.

     In the last 10 years, if 2010 is any indication, Romney received as much as $200 million in income.  He is in the top 1% of the top 1%.  He wants us to know that while the top tax rate for an average American receiving that much income would be about 38%, he only paid an effective rate of 13% and he is not ashamed to admit it.  Through the use of Swiss bank accounts and trusts set up in the Bahamas and Grand Cayman Islands, and numerous other tricks of the accounting trade, Romney denied the American treasury of millions of dollars.  This lost revenue must be replaced by either government borrowing (which Romney says he abhors) or by revenue collected aggressively from working Americans taxed at higher rates and who don't have access to the financial legerdemain Romney is able to perform.  You should now vote for him because he did pay some taxes.  Yes, they are at a rate lower than the income tax rates were in 1950, and yes, he denied the government millions of dollars in revenue, and yes, other Americans have to make up the shortfall with more out of their pockets, but no one can claim he didn't pay "any" taxes during that 10 year span and he is proud to announce that to the world.

     One problem with all of this fiscal giddiness is we have nothing but Romney's word he paid any taxes at all.  Without the actual returns, there is no proof he is telling the truth.  (Imagine if no official Hawaiian birth certificate had been released for the President...would the regressive media and pundits have accepted his word?)  President Obama was asked why his campaign is spending so much time on Romney's taxes.  Aren't there more important issues Mr. President?  Obama responded with two concerns.  First, anyone running for president is expected to release their private medical records for the public to analyze about their health and fitness for the office.  Because of scandals, like the terrible health of President Kennedy, which was kept from the public, they want to know the medical history of each candidate.  The same is true of tax returns.  Obama reminded the reporters, running for president ain't beanbag.  The American citizens expect a level of disclosure, which is invasive, uncomfortable and leaves one fully exposed before they decide on how they are going to vote.  Second, Obama pointed out the Swiss bank accounts and the corporations (false?) and trusts set up in the Bahamas and Grand Caymans.  We learned of all of this from one return.  What else is there to know?  What other loopholes was Romney able to access?  Many of these loopholes were passed by Congress after intense lobbying by Romney and Wall Street and the 1%.  How much has Romney benefitted from such legislative largesse?  Where has Romney ever lobbied or advocated for similar loopholes to benefit average working Americans?  It is, according to Obama, a character issue.

     Only regressive Republicans could want a New York Times headline trumpeting the low tax rate paid by their standard bearer and think this is politically good news.  Only someone who had never faced the gut-wrenching, stomach-dropping moment on April 15th when they discover they owe thousands of dollars in taxes and don't have that kind of money lying around, would think announcing how well he has gamed the system would boost his political fortunes.  Only Romney would ask Americans to trust he only took advantage of some of the escape routes the tax code makes available, but only some of them, not all of them.

     If you invented an app, or an Internet company or you struck gold under the Bering Straight, and you made $200 million this year, you would pay taxes at around the 38% rate because your windfall was "ordinary" income.  However, because Romney's money comes from investments made by Bain Capital, his money is considered "carried interest" and taxed at a 15% rate.  There is no reason to distinguish between ordinary income and carried interest.  Numerous studies have shown carried interest does not result in the creation of more jobs.  (The reason lobbyists claimed for why it should be taxed at a lower reward risk takers like Romney)  This is a gigantic give-away to the 1% which they pressured Congress to create.  Obama tried to change the tax rate on carried interest.  Guess how much success he had on that?  Guess what Romney and his regressive supporter's position was on that issue?

   I suspect the 13% figure is an average of some sort.  I suspect Romney won't release his tax returns because there were years he paid a lot less, if not zero, in taxes.  I am amazed at how tone-deaf Romney and his campaign is to the concerns of average Americans.  Tone-deaf enough to proudly announce what chumps the rest of us are and how brilliant Romany and his accountant turned out to be.

Friday, August 17, 2012


 MItt Romney’s choice of Congressman Paul Ryan confirms Romney has abandoned any attempt to moderate his views or to close the gender gap.  Ryan's budget proposals, his antipathy towards Medicaid, his opposition to choice are just a few examples of how women will be affected if his policies are implemented.  Romney has now acknowledged he will not win by seeking common ground with undecided, independent or women voters, but is only going to win if he can get the extreme regressive wing of his party to turn out in large enough numbers to support his candidacy.

     Conversely, President Obama's re-election will hinge on his base turning out and voting.  It is a base disillusioned by Obama for a variety of reasons, but with the Ryan choice, Romney now is committed not only to killing affordable health care, but to ending Social Security and Medicare as entitlements, cutting taxes for the 1%, increasing military spending and either expanding the deficit or raising taxes on the middle class and working poor.  Obama's base of African Americans, Hispanics, women, young people and independents would take the brunt of the Romney/Ryan evisceration of the social safety net, roll-back of environmental regulations and murder of the Dodd/Frank Financial Services Reform Act resulting in Wall Street returning to business as usual.  (How is that for a nightmare scenario?)  If they cannot see their own enlightened self-interest being served by a re-elected President Obama, then they will get a radical agenda and no seat at the table.

     Over 40% of Americans say they don't know much about Ryan.  Let's start with his Catholicism.  Ryan is a regressive Catholic.  He is more committed to his idol, Ayn Rand, than he is to his Christianity.  He has morphed Jesus into someone who would cut programs for the poor, support survival of the fittest and encourage free market rapaciousness all in the name of God.  He claims the Church supports his budget proposals to balance the budget on the backs of women, children and the poor.  If not for the resurrection, Jesus would be spinning in His grave at Ryan's calumny. (When you inspire seven nuns to create a bus tour to refute your interpretation of scripture, you are definitely out of the mainstream.)

     Ryan wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act which would expand health coverage to over 17 million women.  If the ACA is repealed, health insurance companies could continue to charge women higher premiums than men, refuse to cover maternity care and deny women contraceptive access.  As a Catholic, Ryan supports allowing Catholic businesses to deny contraception access as a part of their health care options.

     Ryan's wants to increase military spending and cut taxes for the top 1%.  To offset revenue losses, he would cut funds for non-defense discretionary programs such as childcare, Head Start, Pell Grants (for college-age students from middle class families), housing and energy assistance programs.  He would cut non-defense discretionary programs, which support millions of women and children, by $1.2 trillion while increasing military spending by over $200 billion over 10 years.

     Ryan's budget would cut Food Stamps by 17% over ten years affectively eliminating 8 million people, mostly women and children, and he would cut Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.  Women represent 66% of SSI beneficiaries and 86% of TANF clients.  He voted to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood and would outlaw all abortions with no exceptions for rape, incest or the life of the mother.  He is in favor of a personhood amendment to the Constitution giving full civil rights to a fertilized egg and ending a number of forms of contraception.

     Neither Romney nor Ryan denies any of these assertions.  What is most interesting is Ryan justifies his draconian budget as the only way to address the looming budget deficit.  The only problem is his budget proposal, if adopted, would actually add to the deficit over the next 10 years, not balance it.  He cuts taxes for the rich, increases military spending and takes a meat-ax to almost all other programs and the end result is a higher deficit?

     Nothing about either Romney or Ryan's resumes are indicative of a concern about jobs or expanding the economic pie to a larger percentage of Americans.  There is plenty of evidence they are willing to protect the 1% at the expense of women and children.  Choosing Ryan shows Romney is not interested in expanding his appeal to independents and undecided voters.  He has doubled down on winning by energizing the Tea Party/extreme regressive wing of his party to get them to turn out in November.

     The question is will Obama's base now respond in kind...get energized...turn out and vote in numbers similar to 2008?  If they do, Obama wins.  If they don't, Ryan and Palin and Grover Norquist and Wall Street win.
     In the next 100 days, every time you hear Romney/Ryan talk about jobs and the economy, understand it is all fluff and cover for a social agenda Romney has capitulated to in order to get elected.  It is now a clear stark choice.  Which ever side can turn out its base will win.


 The Obama justice department just announced it would not bring criminal charges against anyone at Goldman Sachs.  After an exhaustive (their word) investigation, no one at the Justice(?) Department could come up with a single law which Goldman violated.  This continues a pattern of failing to convict even one of the architects of a global robbery which almost destroyed the world's economic framework.

     After the repeal of the Glass-Steagle Act, commercial and investment banks became one and they were free to gamble with depositor's money knowing they were backed by a federal guarantee not to let them fail.  Starting in 2000, these casinos began creating and selling derivatives, collateralized debt, swaps and other vehicles most of which these geniuses had no idea how to value or evaluate their risk.  (They used algorithms devised by M.I.T. graduates who totally failed to adequately assess or predict risk)  The greedier they grew, the more exotic the offerings.  Eventually, they began to offer packages of sub-prime mortgages bundled together, which they knew would fail miserably, and sold them while at the same time betting against them and making billions.  They were no different than Madoff or Sanford.  They were creating and selling fraud and profiting from it.

     Goldman Sachs created a package of securities christened "Abacus".  They allowed a privileged customer and trader, John Paulsen, to pick which blighted properties would go into this toxic soup.  Then Paulsen, and Sachs, took positions betting against their own product.  They made sure it would sink and made money off the suckers they induced to invest.  This practice, and many others like it, robbed, de-frauded, cheated investors out of billions of dollars and exposed the banks to such extreme jeopardy, the American taxpayer had to bail them out to the tune of trillions of dollars.  Yet, the Justice Department could not find any crime they committed.

     Goldman paid hundreds of millions of dollars in a civil settlement, without having to admit any wrongdoing, as have numerous other banks.  This continues a pattern of the very rich and powerful buying their way out of jail.  Angelo Mazzillo, the CEO of Countrywide Savings and Loan, was one of the worst offenders on sub-prime mortgages.  He paid a $70 million fine, about 1/10th of his net worth, and no criminal charges were pursued.  It is clear there is a different set of criminal statutes for the rich than for average Americans.

     More recently, Barclays Bank paid over $400 million in fines for manipulating the LIBOR lending rate which affects trillions of dollars of loans each day.  Sixteen other banks also engaged in this manipulation and are under investigation.  (Can you say conspiracy?)  New York bank regulators announced the British bank Standard Chartered PLC would pay $340 million to settle allegations they were laundering money for Iran in violation of American law.  Another American bank stands accused of laundering perhaps billions of drug cartel dollars.  Again, no criminal charges for anyone involved.

     If the Justice Department is telling the truth...if they really can't find a criminal statute to use against these thieves and bunko artists, then Congress should do what it always does in cases like this...pass new more restrictive criminal laws.  When the F.B.I. had trouble busting mobsters, Congress passed the R.I.C.O. Act.  This law is credited with breaking the mob's hold in this country.  In the drug wars, conspiracy laws are the prime weapons the feds use to convict.  They don't have to find you with drugs.  Even without evidence, a photograph, wiretap or actual drugs on your person, they can still get a conviction if someone else is willing to testify to dealing with you thus creating a conspiracy.  Easily half the federal drug convictions involve defendants accused of a conspiracy and in many cases there is no physical evidence of drug use or possession at any time (scary if you think about it).

     The government invented new criminal statutes to get the people they wanted to get.  I've told you about sole liability laws, thousands of them, where you don't even have to know you broke the law and yet can still be convicted.  The government, and Congress, pride themselves on being tough on crime, but it appears they are only tough in poor and urban areas and with people who don't have much power and clout.  Every year they pass more laws to lock up more folks, yet not a single official of any bank, brokerage, insurance company or securities firm has even been charged with a criminal offense, because the Justice Department can't find anything to charge them with.

     I wish my pen, or my vocabulary, were capable of writing or communicating the derision and contempt I have for this turn of events.  These institutions, and their executives, engaged in massive fraud, theft, destruction of wealth and endangered national security and they walk away scot free from it?  Not only do they skate, but you had to pay for their thieving ways.  If even you need proof the 1% operate in a different world, with different standards, different consequences and different results than you or I, this is proof.

     The definition of a fascist state is one in which everything is illegal and the government decides what to prosecute and what to let go.  The definition of a fascist/oligarch-state is one in which everything is illegal for most, but a small privileged class of people.  Our republic is in serious danger of collapsing from internal rot as we see our tax code, (returns Gov. Romney?) banking laws, drug laws etc written in such as to exempt the 1% from any reckoning.  Given the state of our civil liberties, it means no American is safe from those with the most money and power.

Monday, August 13, 2012


One of the blackest marks on American foreign policy was this nation's support of right-wing death squads in El Salvador in the late 70's and 80's.  Of the 70,000 citizens killed in that nation's civil war, international human rights reports attribute 65,000 of those deaths to the forces of the ARENA party and its leader Roberto D'Aubuisson.  Now the Huntington Post is reporting Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney became rich using money from Salvadoran oligarchs who also financed the death squads.

     The Post has all the details, but the gist of the story is Romney needed money to start Bain Capital.  He went to Miami to solicit funds from 8 families who fled there when civil war broke out in El Salvador.  At least two of the most infamous families gave Romney about $9 million which was 40% of initial capital used to start Bain Capital.  These same families were funneling money to ARENA to fund its death squads, which executed as many as 30 people a day at the height of the war.  They also poured money into Republican coffers, particularly Ronald Reagan, who in return sponsored and protected D'Aubuisson against congressional criticism and attempts to cut off American aid to these murderers.

     To this day, Romney is still receiving millions of dollars in income from Bain Capital, money he would not have were it not for the help of these Salvadoran investors.  These families owned 90% of all land in El Salvador, and when the people finally revolted, they poured money into ARENA to crush the rebellion and protect their wealth.

     Maybe you don't remember the ARENA party or even D'Aubuisson.  It's possible you do remember the murder and rape of 4 American nuns who worked with the poor in El Salvador.  Or perhaps you remember the men who broke into the Jesuit seminary in San Salvador and executed 6 Jesuit priests and their housekeeper because they expressed sympathy for the poor and condemned the violence of the death squads.  You must remember the most notorious act of D'Aubuisson and company when he ordered armed men to walk into the cathedral of San Salvador and execute Archbishop Oscar Romero at the altar while he was celebrating Mass.  All of these actions, and much more, were financed by the same families who invested in Bain Capital.  In fact, Romney increased their wealth enabling them to increase the violence and enhance the murder of men, women and children.

     Romney's people claim he vetted these families and found nothing incriminating in their backgrounds.  It reminds me of Sgt. Schultz in Hogan's Heroes..."..I see nothing...I hear nothing."  As early as 1978, the U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador, Robert White, identified these families and their role in the death squads.  They were accused of funding assassination plots in Guatemala.  It would have been impossible not to know of the source of their wealth and their support of D'Aubuisson.  D'Aubuisson was the darling of the Republican establishment (of which Romney was a part).  Reagan funneled billions of dollars to ARENA.  The infamous School of the Americas, an American military academy, trained the Salvadoran military on how to put down a rebellion including how to torture, rape, kidnap and execute opponents.  North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms championed D'Aubuisson and sponsored a trip for him to Washington to gin up support for him and his cause.  All of this at the same time reports were published, and events documented, about mass murder, torture, political executions all carried out by ARENA sponsored militias.  (FYI...A New York Times reporter broke the story of a mass grave filled with dozens of bodies and reported on ARENA and D'Aubuisson's involvement.  The Reagan administration denied the connection and pressured the Times to fire the reporter.  They did.  Only to find out later he was absolutely much for an independent media.)

     For Romney to claim he didn't know about these family's involvement in all of this defies is incredible.  What is much more likely is he knew and didn't care.  He knew, as did Reagan, Helms, the C.I.A. etc, and approved of these tactics because the rebels were "communists" receiving aid from Fidel Castro.  Romney's wealth is directly tied to Bain Capital and Bain Capital only exists because he was able to find investors including these Salvadoran oligarchs to get it off the ground.

     Oscar Romero, the 4 murdered nuns, the Jesuits and their housekeeper and 65,000 others were murdered because they wanted justice.  They had the courage to speak out against the immorality of crushing poverty caused by 8 families owning all of the land and the political party using terrorism to protect their interests.  Mitt Romney also protected their interests and increased their wealth at the very time this wealth was paying for bullets in the back of the head of innocent people.  His claim of ignorance does not wash.  What does make sense is it didn't bother him in the least.

     The reason Romney's flip-flops on issues are important is not because he changed his mind, but because they show a pattern of a man willing to do anything...say anything...ignore get ahead, or more recently, to get elected.  He was willing to accept the blood money in order to get Bain Capital started.  He was wiling to ignore the murders and executions and assassinations because he stood to get rich if Bain was successful.  These recent revelations reveal Romney to be a moral windsock blowing in any direction the wind blows in order to achieve his goals.

     I don't expect this story to have very long legs.  Most Americans have no memory of El Salvador, or the civil war, the sanctuary movement and the role our government played in propping up regressive dictatorships throughout Latin America.  Most Americans do not know about this nation's role in facilitating the deaths of tens of thousands whose only crime was a desire for justice.  However, for me, this new information shows a cynical, calculating, morally ambiguous man willing to do anything to get ahead.  What will he do to get elected and what is he willing to do to hold on to the office?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he spoke to a highly placed source at Bain Capital and was told former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney hasn't paid any federal taxes for 10 years.  Let the weeping and gnashing of teeth begin.

     The head of the Republican Party called Reid a "dirty liar".  Republican senators attacked Reid for making "baseless" accusations.  Still others accused Reid, and President Obama, of using Romney's tax returns as a distraction from the real issue in this election, the economy.  Romney himself told Reid to "put up or shut up".  Other than Romney himself, however, the rest of Reid's critics have no idea if the accusation is true or not.

     Romney could end all of this speculation quickly.  If he were to release the last five years of tax returns, he could embarrass Reid and Obama and end this kind of talk once and for all.  Romney could end this distraction which Republicans say they decry.  Yet, Reid and Obama seem to believe he will not release any more taxes and the accusations will continue to fly.  With prominent Republicans also calling on Romney to release more information, the question which hangs out so obviously is why he won't release more returns?  The implication of his actions suggests where there is smoke, there's fire...there is something to hide.

     I have no idea if Romney paid taxes or not.  However, given how rich he is, and given his use of tax shelters in the Bahamas and Grand Cayman Islands, and his use of Swiss bank accounts, it is easy to see how he could have used tax loopholes and exemptions to shelter the vast majority of his income from the I.R.S.

     If Romney avoided taxes on hundreds of millions of dollars in income, I guarantee every step he took, every deduction he claimed was completely legal.  I do not believe for one minute Romney committed any crime or fraud in figuring out ways to avoid a large tax bite.  The tax code is designed so the more money you have, the easier it is to avoid taxes.  Corporations, trusts, offshore accounts can all be used to shelter your money.  There are people who arrange to lose money on deal in December that they will recoup in January, but they still get to write off the loss in the previous year.  Rich owners of sports teams can even depreciate the value of the athletes in their employ.  Perhaps my favorite provision allows the rich to spend money lobbying Congress for more tax breaks and then deduct that money as a business expense and reduce their tax burden even more.

     In Romney's case, since the majority of his income appears to come from investments, this income is considered "carried interest" and gets taxed at a 15% rate rather than 36%.  This quickly reduces his taxes even though there is no evidence "carried interest" provisions have resulted in increased investment or the creation of large numbers of new jobs (the argument which was made when lobbyists pushed this loophole asking for investment income to be treated differently than earned income).

     Romney "legally" may not have paid any taxes for 10 years.  He followed the rules.  Yet, he knows his presidential hopes would be dashed if middle class Americans found out he made tens of millions of dollars and didn't pay any federal taxes on them.  Romney would be toast as far as Americans who make between $100,000-200,000 are concerned.  They are hammered year in and year out by all kinds of taxes and particularly by the Alternative Minimum Tax, which eliminates many standard deductions and dramatically raises their tax bill.  Romney appears to have figured out how to avoid the AMT and this will not endear him to successful, but still middle class, voters.

     Perhaps this is unfair.  Why should Romney be excoriated for using the arcane tax rules to his benefit?  Why should he suffer because he can afford tax lawyers and accountants who can hide or shelter his income?  Why should his hopes for the White House suffer because he knows how to play the game?

     90% of all Americans could do their taxes on the back of a postcard.  One blank for income...a second for standard deductions and a third for the result of subtracting one from the other.  The thousands of pages of tax laws are for those who want some way to claim they didn't make as much as they really did.  Unfortunately, most Americans cannot take advantage of all these escape hatches and they pay what the government demands.

     If Romney were to release returns which show he avoided paying taxes while most Americans were paying through the nose, he knows, and most of his rich colleagues know, there would be a wave of anger which would wash across this country and a call for real tax reform would echo from sea to shining sea. (It should happen anyway.)  Romney, and his ilk, are paying taxes at the lowest rates since the 50's.  Revenue from taxes, into the government treasury, is down by more than 1/3.  Rebuilding bridges and roads...creating a new and reliable electrical grid...improving education and providing funding for cutting edge research and innovation...retraining workers...are all vital tasks needed to keep our nation competitive and keep the American dream of a strong middle class alive.  A system that allows the rich, and corporations, to game it for their individual benefit corrodes trust and confidence in the system as a whole.

     Harry Reid may be a liar, or he may be telling the truth, but Romney is the only one who knows and he ain't talkin'.  Why not?


 The city of Houston recently released a video advising citizens what course of action to take in the event they are caught up in a mass shooting.  The video suggests three options:  Hide, run, or fight back.  It emphasizes the first two and suggests the third is a course of last resort.  They are now under fire, pardon the pun, for the content of their advice.

     It seems a number of Houstonians, and Texans in general, are upset the video doesn't call on people carrying guns to be a primary option in stopping a shooter.  Critics of the video say it ignores all the pistol-packing Texans who could turn a theater, shopping center or school into the Alamo or the O.K. Corral.

     In San Francisco, in any city or community, it costs hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to train a police officer.  A great deal of the training is focused on how to control adrenaline in a tense situation, and how to avoid using your weapon.  More time is spent teaching emotional control and how "not" to shoot then on actually firing a gun.  The tension levels after a high-speed chase, a long chase on foot, or an excruciating step-by-step search of a building in the dark not knowing if someone is there who means to use deadly force, are through the roof.  Tragedy occurs when the officer doesn't control the tension and pressure and succumbs to the easy solution of using a weapon only to discover an unarmed "victim" or a child or another cop.

     Inside a dark theater in Aurora, Colorado, a man throws tear-gas canisters at the crowd, fires a shotgun into the ceiling and then starts shooting with an assault weapon.  Imagine for a moment some members of the audience jumping up and firing back.  Imagine all the others in the crowd caught in the crossfire.  Imagine several audience shooters shooting from different directions and angles.  As they are shooting, they are hit and they shoot, they also have to duck to avoid being they shoot, they have to identify a suspect dressed in black in the midst of tear they shoot, they have to figure out if the other shots they see and hear are from more bad guys or are friendly they shoot at a man wearing body armor from head to toe, they attract his attention to them and everyone around them.

     How many times have you read news accounts of police shooting 40 or 50 times and their target sustains two or three wounds?  In one case, police fired over 100 shots and only hit the suspect once.  These are trained officers, certified at their gun range, who fire their weapon regularly in practice and under stress-induced scenarios.  How many more victims would there have been in that theater if patrons had opened fire at the original gunman?

     This lunacy has to stop.  Someone has to stand up and say the emperor has no clothes.  I am much more frightened of an armed citizenry, spraying the air with bullets as they try to play Dirty Harry, than I am of the occasional deranged individual.  Every police shooting is considered so serious it automatically requires a full investigation and, in many cases, people are shot who should not have been shot.  Who is responsible if an amateur shoots someone by accident?  If while trying to stop an alleged crime I shoot someone, can I be guilty of a crime too?  Will regressive legislatures, in states all over this nation, pass new versions of "stand your ground" laws immunizing citizen shooters from arrest if they are shooting "in good faith"?

     The gun lobby is pushing to let people carry concealed weapons at church, college campuses, IN BARS, and then, like in the movie Casablanca, they will be "shocked", "shocked", when more innocent people are the subject of gun violence.  Pogo is right again.