Monday, July 29, 2013



One of my favorite things to do on a glorious Sunday morning was to drive with my wife to Tiburon, go to Sam's Anchor Cafe, and sit out on the deck and have a delicious brunch.  Little did I know the city of Tiburon was taking a picture of our license plate and creating a database of every single car that passes into or out of their town.  No one knows how long they hold on to this data, who has access it or whether they share it with anyone else or even if you need a warrant to see it.  It is a small example of how we are losing the war on privacy and the 4th amendment on the premise the more the government knows the better we are protected.  (anyone remember Ben Franklin's quote?)

     In the last week, the House of Representatives failed to rein in the N.S.A. (National Security Agency) program which sucks up every bit of electronic communications in America and abroad every day.  San Franciscan's will be pleased to know their congressional representative, Nancy Pelosi, voted to protect the N.S.A. and continue to let them spy without warrants or probable cause.  This is the same Pelosi who voted to give the telecom companies immunity after they illegally turned over customer information to the Bush White House without warrants of any kind.  This says allot about how she views her constituents.  Despite President Obama's assurances he welcomed a debate on this issue, it turns out he quietly lobbied the House to defeat this attempt to rein in a program which clearly violates the constitution's protections against unreasonable searches and seizures of your person and private papers.  The mainstream media was nowhere to be found on this debate either.  While CNN were all George Zimmerman all the time, and maybe a little royal baby thrown in for good measure, there were no clips of Congressional floor speeches, analysis of the issue, chronicle of who is on what side or even the final vote tally.

     While the House debate was going on, other news has surfaced to lend credence to the concerns of civil libertarians that the situation is much worse than originally thought.

     Professor Randy Bennet, of Georgetown School of Law, has revealed the Consumer Federation Protection Bureau, a creation of the Dodd/Frank financial services reform legislation, is compiling a national database of personal information including monthly credit card, mortgage, car and other payments.  The Post Office, according to USA Today, has the "Mail Isolation Control and Tracking Program" which photographs "every" piece of mail processed in the United States.  (160 billion pieces last year)  The picture shows whom you are writing to and their address.  No one knows how long this data, or the Consumers Bureau data, is kept, where it is kept, who has access to it.  While a warrant is needed to open the letter, no warrant is needed for the Post Office to track who you write to or correspond with.  It is clear a warrant is not needed to access this Post Office data.  (you will heartened to know in 2007 President Bush asserted in a signing statement the government did not need a warrant to open mail in an "emergency")  The Oregonian quoted a former federal agent as saying, "...looking at just the outside of letters, and other mail, I can see who you bank with, who you communicate with and much more."

     The Post Office program came to light when a man in Buffalo, New York, who used to be associated with the Earth Liberation Front more than 10 years ago, found a memo in his mail showing it was being monitored by the government.

     USA Today is reporting Obama Care is creating a national data base of every prescription you have ever received, treatments, procedures, doctor's notes and anything else healthcare related, once again with no transparency on how long they keep the data, who has access on what criteria and how it can be disseminated.  As genetic testing increases...genetic mapping Obama care pays for mental health treatments, this information becomes more and more intimately personal and more dangerous if it is released or made available to employers or insurance companies.

     The irony should be lost on no one that as Edward Snowden sits in the Moscow airport seeking asylum in some country, the programs he revealed are being debated and discussed at the highest levels of government.  German Chancellor Angela Merkle justly demanded explanations from the U.S. about spying on German citizens without their knowledge.  How could Snowden be a traitor or danger if what he revealed has generated so much concern worldwide?

     Obama, Bush, Pelosi, Feinstein and the rest hope the short attention span of the American people will guarantee the tempest over the destruction of the 4th amendment will dissipate.  They might be right.  However, what is now being revealed is your privacy is under assault from your doctor's office to the corner mailbox to your favorite brunch site and you need to know and you need to find out how to protect the information and find out who has access to it.  Someone has to say hold it and set some rules and defend the 4th amendment.  Someone has to say the tradeoff between privacy and security is not absolute and it’s not a tradeoff you are willing to endure.  Someone has to say we have much more to fear from these huge data troves than we will ever have to fear from terrorists.  Someone has to say our democracy is threatened when there are few or no restrictions on the power of the government.  If you wait too long, you will wake up to find no amendment left to defend.


Iran has announced a new deal with Iraq.  Iraq has agreed to purchase $14 billion worth of natural gas from Iran.  The deal will allow Iran to generate much needed economic activity and enable it to put a dent in sanctions imposed by the West to punish Iran for its pursuit of a nuclear weapon.  Officials in the State Department say they are concerned Iraq is helping Iran mitigate the sanctions and reduce the pressure on Iran to abandon its nuclear plans.

    Wait...I'm sorry...isn't this the same Iraq we "liberated"?  Isn't this the same Iraq about 5,000 Americans gave their lives to secure?  This is the Iraq George Bush assured us would welcome us and throw flowers at our feet so overjoyed would they be because we deposed Saddam Hussein right?  One trillion tax dollars later, hundreds of thousands of wounded Americans later, one million dead or wounded Iraqis later, the efforts of this nation on behalf of the people of Iraq are being repaid by the Iraqi government making a deal to strengthen Iran, our enemy, at our expense.  Am I missing something?

     What do we say to the parents of all the dead and wounded Americans?  George Bush was asked by Cindy Sheehan to explain what her son died for in Iraq.  He could not, or would not, answer her then, what would his or Cheney's response be today?  We went to war in Iraq and Iran won.

     Iraq is allowing Iranian planes to fly over its airspace to supply the government of Syria with weapons and troops.  We know Hezbollah fighters are in Syria and fighting for the Syrian government.  We have asked Iraq to refuse Iran permission to transgress their air space.  So far, Iraq has refused to do so.  Every day there are more new reports of how the government of President Maliki, a Shiite, is building alliances and close ties with Iran.  The same Maliki continues to restrict freedoms and build towards a possible dictatorship in Iraq.  Al Qaida in Iraq is flourishing and crossing over the border in Syria to further inflame the civil war and set itself up to fill a power vacuum at some point in the future.  If you were a parent who lost a child in Iraq, how would you feel to watch them thumb their noses at us and the memory of Americans who paid the ultimate price for what now appears to have been an effort to create a Shiite bloc extending from Iran through Iraq into Syria and Lebanon?

     The same people who wanted us to militarily involve ourselves in Iraq now want us to do the same thing in Syria.  Will we never learn?  Senator John McCain still touts his support of "the surge" in Iraq as the reason we "won the war".  What did we win Senator?  We replaced one dictator with another.  Al Qaida is alive and well in Iraq.  When Saddam was in charge, Iran was marginalized and had little influence.  Now the State Department issues warnings about the growing influence of Iran throughout the region.  Can you say Pyrrhic victory?

     Those who opposed the war in Iraq predicted almost everyone of these outcomes...predicted the rise of Iran...predicted the chaos which would ensue between Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds...predicted Iraq would move closer to Iran and predicted the rise of an authoritarian government.

     The State Department says it is making inquiries about this gas deal between Iran and Iraq.  Could they sound any more pathetic and powerless?  America was taken into an immoral war by Bush/Cheney and the gang...a war of liberation to protect us against Al Qaida and weapons of mass destruction and $1 trillion later...5,000 dead Americans later...hundreds of thousands of physically and mentally wounded soldiers later...a broken military later...our "friend" is in bed with our enemy.  Will we learn any lessons from this?


  The United States Chamber of Commerce, one of the most evil organizations in this land, and regressives throughout the nation, hate the Environmental Protection Agency more than almost any other federal entity.  They condemn it for putting the environment, and it's health, ahead of the needs and wants of corporate America.  They rail against its dictatorial ways and despotic regulations.  The E.P.A. kills jobs, decimates communities and hurts the economy by retarding the ability of corporate America to grow and prosper.  "Tree-huggers" are killing entire industries.  Clean air and clean water laws are strangling the coal industry and wrecking entire states.  The Endangered Species Act puts the rights of the snail darter ahead of the needs of logging companies and the towns they control.  Since 1973, it has been a war funded by the Chamber and corporate America against those who believe we have an obligation to be good stewards of the land.  (regressives forget it's even in the Bible)  The ideal world would be one without any environmental rules, no regulations of particulate concerns about acid rain or green-house gases or climate change...a return to the Gilded Age of the 19th and early 20th centuries with a weak central government and no corporate oversight...they want exactly what has been true in China for the past 50 years.

     The Wall Street Journal reports a new study in China claims poor environmental quality is costing them as much as 3% of their gross domestic product each year.  In some parts of the nation, poor air and water quality are reducing life expectancy rates by as much as 5 years.  They have discovered toxic chemicals and traces of heavy metals in their rice and milk.  Foreign corporations are finding it difficult to recruit executives to live in large Chinese cities because of the fear and concerns they have over how the poor environmental conditions will affect their children and families.  The new premier of China is announcing initiatives which will place environmental quality on an equal basis with economic growth when it comes to determining promotions of local government officials.  For over 50 years, the Chinese government paid no attention to air quality, water quality and other environmental issues.  Chinese corporations were only concerned with growing and did not have to worry about nettlesome regulations concerning the impact their industries had on the world around them.  It was a regressive's wet dream of corporate freedom and environmental profligacy and now the chickens have come home to roost.

     China is now experiencing the disaster that occurs after you allow corporations to do anything they please.  In Shanghai, thousands of pig carcasses float to the surface of the harbor.  The ground is so contaminated, rice grown in it springs up toxic.  Milk is suspect because of what the cows eat.  The air in cities like Beijing makes Los Angelis on its worst days look crystal clear.  Children have to be kept inside on bad air days.  Emphysema and asthma rates are skyrocketing.  A nation with total dictatorial power is scrambling to deal with a restive population no longer willing to go along with the Faustian bargain of jobs at the expense of their and their children's health and welfare.

     It is now possible to see what America would look like if the Chamber and its minions get their way and roll back regulations and convince Americans its a choice between clean air and water and their jobs.  The Hudson River Basin would still be a cesspool of heavy metals dumped there by G.E. and other companies.  The Cuyahoga River would still catch fire from a dropped match.  The Potomac would be a smelly, polluted mess flowing through the nation's capital.  In California there would be offshore drilling with all its attendant pollution.  The California Aqueduct would be killing the Delta and its environs.  Central Valley agribusiness would suck up all the water and spew out pollutants so toxic as to make even the Chinese blush.  Los Angeles' air would be a toxic soup.  The clarity of Lake Tahoe would be destroyed and old growth Redwood forests would be a thing of the past stolen by rapacious logging companies.  The latest debate is over fracking.  Once again the Chamber tells us its a choice between drilling and jobs...a choice between pumping chemically dangerous water into the ground and losing out on an energy bonanza...that pumping that water into the ground might cause some earthquakes but its a little price to pay for progress...and many communities across this land are making the deal and will find themselves, like Chinese peasants, wondering what to do for their children and communities.

     Regressives get apoplectic whenever you mention government regulations and they go into shock when you defend environmental rules designed to protect the future from their greedy hands.  However, the Chinese are waking up to the fool's gold which is unrestricted corporate power and the economic benefits they claim, versus the value of clean air and water and a world in which we try to preserve what we have.  (the word is conserve...the root of the word conservative)  It's a lesson we should take to heart.

     (Oh, and the same lesson is there to be learned about climate change and greenhouse gases...I wonder if we will learn it in time?)


 George Zimmerman recently helped to pull a family from their overturned SUV on the side of the road.  As with all things Zimmerman, some people called him a Good Samaritan, while others claimed it was a story invented by the white media to make him look good.  These days there isn't much neutral ground when it comes to this subject.  (considering the atmosphere in Washington and in some states perhaps neutral or middle ground is as rare a commodity as gold will ever be.)

     Two people who have introduced some sanity, humanity and comity into this maelstrom are the parents of Trayvon Martin.  They lost their teenage son.  They believe he was hunted and killed.  They are one of the primary reasons George Zimmerman was arrested after police initially let him go, as they refused to be quiet or intimidated by law enforcement or the stand your ground law.  They wanted their day in court.  They were connived a jury would conclude their son was murdered and they would see justice done.  They were wrong.

     They lost.  Zimmerman was freed.  The jury refused to convict him for either murder or manslaughter.  They were shocked, chagrined and disgusted.  There would be no justice for their son.  Their supporters were outraged...the system was racist...if it had been a 17 year old white boy killed by a black neighborhood vigilante, the jury would have locked him up and thrown away the key.  It was now open season on black, hoody-wearing teens in Florida and other stand-your-ground states.  They took to the streets and violence broke out and the rhetoric heated up with verbal logs being thrown on the fire by everyone from Jesse Jackson to Al Sharpton and the N.A.A.C.P.  Not participating, or piling on were Trayvon's parents.

     They took a breath...receded from the public view for a moment...swallowed their grief and sadness and then spoke out.  They spoke of God and prayer and how both will help them through this.  They spoke of their disappointment in the verdict, but not the system.  They defended their son but didn't demonize Zimmerman's lawyers or defenders.  They said how much this decision hurt, but their remarks were measured and thoughtful and could not be used to fuel the continuing media fire.  They acted exactly the opposite of the way people are supposed to act these days.  They were examples of class, faith and groundedness.  HUZZAH to them !!!

     At the end of the day, what did we have?  Zimmerman saw a black teen and made assumptions.  He confronted him.  A scuffle broke out.  (one of the key questions never answered was who started it)  Trayvon was kicking his ass and Zimmerman could not defend himself physically so he pulled the gun.  In all the debate and shouting about this case, almost no one even talks about the gun.

     I have said it in the past.  With over 300 million guns in this country, we are like people in a room up to our armpits in gasoline and groups like the N.R.A. (National Rifle Association), and state legislatures and Hanbaugh and company, keep giving out books of matches to everyone in the room claiming it will make them safer.  Zimmerman is living proof of what the matches will cause.  If he isn't armed, he gets beaten up and that's that.  Martin goes away.  Zimmerman can still report him to the police...swear out a complaint...get Martin arrested...prevent any ancillary crime he thought Martin might instigate in his neighborhood.  Martin gets to his father's house, but still might be held accountable.

     Once you add a gun to the mix, all bets are off.  Zimmerman can't defend himself physically, a fact which might have deterred him initially if he wasn't armed, so he has to go for his gun.  The great state of Florida made this a no-brainer.  Zimmerman was invoking the stand your ground law from the moment the police arrived.  If this law did not exist, he would have been far less enthusiastic about being armed or using the gun.

     The jury followed the law.  It didn't help how poorly the prosecution's case turned out to be, but they followed the law.  We should be heartened by this.  The jury refused to be stampeded or give deference to the government.  That is good news.  We want juries who will tell the government to take a hike.  We want the government to lose more than they win in situations like this.  Unfortunately, the presence of a gun turned a fistfight into the end of a young man's life and no one can be pleased about it.

     Trayvon Martin's parents did not fuel a racial fire.  Their reasoned response expressed their sorrow and disappointment while they also called for calm and reason.  Good for them.  Shame on Florida for the stand your ground law.  They are accessories to Trayvon's death.  Shame on those who want more concealed weapons permits...guns in schools and churches and bars...those who exploited this tragedy for political gain...those who are quiet while children in Chicago, Washington, Oakland are being gunned down daily and they do not take to the streets across the land.

     Trayvon's parent's deep religious faith caused them to react to tragedy with dignity and care.  Imitating them would improve the divisive conditions we find ourselves in locally and nationally.  I take hope in their example.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


  According to the Wall Street Journal, the F.I.S.A. (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Court has been making "secret law".  They and others have arrived at this conclusion based on the information leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden.  The court took it upon itself to re-interpret one broadly it allows the government to suck up all electronic communications between Americans and anyone else.

     This revelation means the entire system of checks and balances in our government has broken down.  Congress ceded this control to the F.I.S.A. court in 2006 when it re-authorized the Patriot Act.  Some in Congress wanted to tighten restrictions on government spying.  Instead, the "relevance" standard was adopted and Snowden's leaks show the F.I.S.A. court, in secret, interpreted the word so broadly former Senator Russ Feingold's warning in 2006 has come true.  Feingold said if the word was interpreted too widely it could be defined to the point of "irrelevance".

     The ruling by the F.I.S.A. court cannot be appealed.  There is no vehicle for such an action.  It's rulings are issued in secret...discussed in secret...administered in secret...and there is no higher court or body to go to protest these rulings may be unconstitutional and violate the 4th amendment.  If this isn't enough to freeze your giblets, it will comfort you to know people like Diane Feinstein, and the heads of the Congressional intelligence committees, have been "extensively" briefed on this usurpation of power, and they raised no objections.  They act as if because they were informed, and approved of these practices, the American public has its day in court.  The fact these briefings are in secret...discussed in secret...objected to in secret and none of their constituents knew how big Big Brother had gotten, is lost on them completely.

     Timothy Egan, a privacy law specialist, says the changes the court made were "aggressive".  (really?)  The reinterpretation of "relevant" was the equivalent of making "secret law".  He goes on to say Congress did not fully debate the issue because the program wasn't public.  This is representative government at its best.

     You would know none of this were it not for Edward Snowden.  You would be totally unaware of the destruction of your privacy and the fact a secret court, with no oversight or appellate mechanism, created new law in which opens you to prying and peeping at a scope unknown in modern history.

     Congressman James Sensenbrenner (R. Wisconsin), one of the authors of the Patriot Act, is outraged.  "...the government must request specific records relevant to an argue otherwise renders the protections meaningless.  It's like scooping up the ocean to guarantee you catch a fish."

     For those who argue if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to worry about, remember it is the government which decides what is legal or illegal...the federal code contains over 4,500 different provisions and administrative agency regulations which mandate prison time if violated.  Even more worrisome, thousands of these provisions do not require you to even know you were breaking the law, yet still require you to go to jail.  This is the ultimate definition of a fascist state.  Make everything illegal and give the government the discretion over what to prosecute and what to ignore. (do you see the power and leverage this gives those in power over you?)

     It can go deeper...which of your personal, private actions or thoughts would you be appalled to find broadcast on the giant neon screen in Times Square?   Knowing who you call, text or email...knowing where you are at all times...knowing how frequently you contact your doctor, therapist, lover or political allies...all of this meta-data allows the creation of personal profiles of you describing everything from your marital status, physical and mental health, political leanings, sexual orientation, to what books you read and movies you download.  How could any of that be relevant to the government and more importantly isn't this exactly what the founding fathers opposed when they wrote the 4th amendment?
     The British could quarter soldiers in your home...arrest you on trumped up anything and everything of your personal property without your permission.  The 4th amendment was written to protect you and your papers and property from government intrusion.  Today they don't need to put a government agent in your home, they can do it all with the help of the telecoms and search engines resulting in the 4th amendment being eliminated in secret.

     This issue has been losing steam and sting.  The soap opera that is " where in the world is Edward Snowden going to end up", has eclipsed the real issues at work here.  Why have Californians failed to confront Feinstein and Boxer to get them on the record as to whether they support legal decisions made in secret by secret courts?  Why hasn't there been even the beginning of this public debate about the balance between privacy and security which Obama says he welcomes?  Why are Americans so blasé and cavalier about their civil liberties?  Is it true Americans secretly hunger for a strong, authoritarian daddy figure to make them safe and give them the illusion of security?

     There is a secret court full of secret judges making secret decisions which secretly amend the Bill of Rights.  What we learned as children about our system of checks and balances, so brilliantly conceived by our founding fathers, is in danger of being re-defined into oblivion.  Now you know it thanks to Snowden.   My father always said knowledge is power.  Power to do what?

Friday, July 5, 2013


  -While there is great joy over the Supreme Court's decisions concerning gay rights and same sex marriage, it's equally important to note the strong regressive tilt of this court.  The regressive majority ignored both precedent and the will of Congress by gutting the Voting Rights Act and setting the stage to destroy most affirmative action programs across the nation.   (within hours of the court's decision, Texas immediately reinstituted a new map of Congressional districts disenfranchising Hispanic voters all over the state...but as Justice Roberts said, racism is no longer a problem in this country.  Times have changed) It has further eroded the 4th amendment by allowing government to forcibly take a D.N.A. sample from a citizen who has been arrested but not convicted of any crime.  It is falling over backward to side with corporations against labor and consumers.  The United States Chamber of Commerce, the most evil organization in this country, was on the winning side of over 90% of the cases it filed briefs on.  Kennedy's libertarian streak my play well for gay rights, but if you are a worker, consumer or an innocent caught up with the police, this court is not your friend in any way.

-Former President George Bush says N.S.A. leaker Edward Snowden has harmed our national security.  We now have the ultimate example of the pot calling the kettle black.  Bush violated federal law... hell, he folded, spindled and mutilated it... when he ordered the N.S.A. to spy on all Americans.  He wrecked the 4th amendment when he grabbed all Internet activity, as well as cell phone and any electronic communications, without a warrant, probable cause or a court order.  (all mandated by the constitution)  He took us to war twice and lied about the reasons resulting in the deaths of thousands of American soldiers, wounding of hundreds of thousands more, killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and all based on a claim of self defense which was a lie from the very beginning.  His two wars, plus huge tax cuts for the rich and a total abandonment of any kind of financial regulation, set the stage for the worst depression in over 50 years and at the end of his term, this nation was an economic and military basket case.  Snowden only told Americans Obama was continuing to out Bush, Bush on spying and intrusive surveillance.  Bush has made this nation less secure for years into the future with his phony war on terror.  Maybe the new definition of chutzpah is George Bush criticizing anyone for doing harm to this nation's security.

-Is anyone surprised by the response of prominent, supposedly progressive Democrats, to Snowden's revelations?  Harry Reid, Diane Feinstein, Obama, John Kerry coming together as a Greek chorus in one voice declaring there is nothing wrong with government's all legal...we have known about this for at least 7 years...there are adequate safeguards and checks built into the system...this is saving prevents terrorism...Close your eyes and put these words into the mouths of Cheney, Wolfowitz, Pearl, Fife, Bolton or any of the other PNAC gang and you wouldn't be able to tell the difference between them and those supposed progressives among Democrats in Congress.  When did this coup take place?

-Snowden's leaks do spell huge problems for the U.S. abroad.  Europeans, except for the U.K., woke up to find that great sucking sound they were hearing was all their private information and communications going up into the N.S.A. vacuum.  They found out there is no check on their American big brother.  This is no F.I.S.A. (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) court to limit America's reach.  Many of these nations have very strict privacy laws and they now know such laws are useless against U.S. spying.  This is going to cool a wide range of issues including a free trade agreement, cyber spying and attacks which the U.S. has accused China and Russia of carrying out against us.  The recent news of the U.S. bugging European Union missions and embassies is a further embarrassment for Obama as many in Europe believe this spying had nothing to do with national security and much more to do with good, old fashioned commercial espionage.

-California Attorney General Kamala Harris has been getting great press for her "principled" stand which forced banks to pony up billions to compensate homeowners who were bilked, cheated, defrauded, flimflammed and robbed by these august institutions of free market capitalism.  Now we find out a large portion of California's share didn't go to homeowners, but rather was used to pay down the state debt and Harris did nothing to stop it.  We further discover the vast majority of homeowners who were victimized received checks in amounts ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.  The jokes on us again.  We've been had.  This too was a scam.  Harris did nothing to bring real help or relief to homeowners and the settlement was chump-change for the big banks.  She sold us out for headlines and political gain living up to her political roots which were watered for years by Willie Brown.

-Obama says the U.S. will arm only "moderate" Syrians in their civil war.  How well do you think that will go given our track record in the Middle East of identifying friends and foes?  Do you think the C.I.A. has any idea who's who over there any more than they did in Iraq or Afghanistan?  This is a recipe for disaster as usual.

-Russia threatens to send more sophisticated missile defense systems to Syria.  Their purpose would be to shoot down American planes when we set up a "no fly zone" in Syria.  (which we will do)  The Obama administration has done nothing about this.  They have not proposed any form of retaliation.  Yet, they are warning Russia, Uruguay, Hong Kong and anyone else who might think about giving asylum to Edward Snowden...huh?  What does this say about what Snowden revealed?  Russian technology would kill American pilots and we don't raise our voices even in mild protest, but we publically threaten anyone who protects Snowden?

-Oil is over $100 a barrel this week.  This is not because there has been a rise in demand.  In fact, new analysis concludes worldwide demand will continue to fall over the next two to three years.  Then the increase must be because of a dramatic drop in supply right?  Once again, the U.S. is pumping more oil than it has in 20 years and the global supply is stable, if not growing.  So why are prices skyrocketing...speculators.  Speculators are responsible for a much as 30-40% of the price of a barrel of oil.  Why do we permit this?  Why do we allow for oil futures to be traded?  Why have we allowed monied interests to turn speculation on oil into the latest, greatest casino floor?  We do not benefit in any way from speculator's activities.  Why don't we treat oil like a public utility and ban speculation?  It would immediately reduce a barrel of oil to about $70...drop prices at the pump to about $2.25 a gallon...strengthen the American economy because of cheaper energy for manufacturing and other needs and wouldn't affect supply and demand.

-What do China, Japan, France, Germany and Russia, among other countries, have in common?  Their populations are aging and not being replaced by enough younger workers.  The United States is also aging and not producing enough native young people.  However, immigration has offset this demographic time bomb enabling this country, and its economy, to continue to grow.  Immigrants are a great boon to this nation, a boon other nations envy.  Yet, we hear Republicans in the House will refuse to support the immigration bill just reported out of the Senate.  The reason...?   In over 180 Republican House districts, the population is actually "whiter" after the 2010 round of congressional gerrymandering than they were before.  These older, regressive, white voters do not want any path to citizenship for illegal immigrants even if it might benefit the nation and their representatives in the House are quite willing to accede to their demands.  The Republicans are officially the "white" people's party and if the House kills immigration reform, it is possible it could cease to be a national party.

-In the Senate immigration bill they will spend over $30 billion to double the number of border patrol agents and build more fences.  This at a time when the average border patrol agent catches fewer than 100 border crossers a year.  In the past, border patrol agents would catch upwards of 600 illegal border crossers a year.  Does anyone wonder if the additional $30 billion is just window dressing or, in more common regressive terminology, throwing money at the problem?  Regressives oppose throwing money at hunger in the form of food stamps...they hate the idea of funding additional housing through Section 8 vouchers...they are appalled at proposals to spend more on education in the form of more student aid of forgiving some of the massive debt students have taken on which could derail economic growth in the future...but they are thrilled to throw money at the border, prisons and the Pentagon.  What am I missing?

-Happy Fourth of July...we became a nation dedicated to certain inalienable rights and we sit on the cusp of watching many of those rights cease to exist.  Are we willing to fight, like the millions in Egypt, for our constitution and our democracy and our way of life, or are we willing to watch the 1% continue to take more and more resources at everyone else's expense.  It really is up to you.  I have great faith.