Monday, May 26, 2008

Week of 05/26/2008

McCain’s McPains
– by David Matthews 2

In the world of professional wrestling, one of the great entertainment gimmicks for a “heel” or “evil” champion to keep his title is to have a group battle. It doesn’t matter if it is a “fatal-three-way” or even gimmicky Battle Royale with dozens of opponents, the trick is to have the “favorite” run through the gauntlet of opponents, surviving through insurmountable odds, only to have the “evil” champion come running in fresh and rested and steal the victory. It works because, much like the 3-Card Monty game, there are just too many things at play for people to keep track of who is still involved.

Well, the same thing applies to politics.

With Hillary Rodham-Clinton and Barack Obama busy fighting a very caustic primary battle to be the official champion for the Democrats, it’s sort of easy for people to forget that there IS a Republican candidate also running for President, one for whom the voters (and with a little help of his own party’s rules) made it somewhat easier to secure the nomination.

Of course Senator John McCain would love it if people would stop thinking about him right now and just let Clinton and Obama fight it out. The divisive in-fighting amongst the Democrats over who is more qualified or who has the most votes or who has the most delegates pretty much serves to benefit McCain since the bitterness only poisons the voter base and makes him appear to be the more reasonable alternative.

But that doesn’t mean that McCain really is the better alternative. And while the punditry is busy wasting their collective breath and wasting time worrying about the petty pissing contests between a scheming manipulative politician who will stop at nothing to get her way, and the baritone common-man who just can’t seem to get a break in regards to whom he associates with or what he says, there are plenty of faults in McCain’s McCamp that are pretty much going unnoticed right now.

The “Maverick” Myth – John McCain considers himself to be the “maverick” in Congress… the rogue politician supposedly dedicated to cleaning up that corrupt institution and making everyone play fair. He had to re-invent himself and anoint himself with that title after narrowly escaping punishment in the Keating Five affair of the 1980’s. Yes he wrote some of the most restrictive campaign finance laws and worked with the Democrats to get it all passed and enacted. But as will be pointed out shortly, McCain is operating on the erroneous belief that “reform” need only apply to campaign contributions and not necessarily to other parts of the political processes, such as the campaign staff.

McCain’s Temper – One of the behind-the-scenes stories that has popped up over the years is McCain’s “volcanic” temper. The Washington Post had one such article about it back in 1999. Despite his repeated denials of his short fuse, the accusation continues to show up as seasoned politicians and his so-called “friends” recount moments of anger and rage at not getting his way.

To be certain, he is not the only person in this race with a chip on his shoulder. The carpetbagging Senator from New York by way of Washington DC had her ego-driven moments of rage as well, which were documented in the book “Unlimited Access” by former FBI agent Gary Aldrich. But when you’re dealing with an office that has enough power to literally destroy the whole planet and kill every human being, you certainly don’t need someone with a hair-trigger temper holding the future of humanity in their hands. There is a difference between being passionate about what you believe in and being an egotist on a tantrum.

McCain’s “Friends” – While the media has been busy complaining about the people that Barack Obama has been hanging around with, it takes a lot for them to catch on that McCain has some really caustic players in his McCamp as well.

We’ve heard about the “non-affair” affair that the New York Times spearheaded this past February, alleging that a lobbyist by the name of Vicki Iseman was told by McCain’s 2000 campaign staff to distance herself from the Senator. Supposedly this was done because the lobbyist was marketing herself to be so close to the senator that it would IMPLY an affair. That, of course, was the magic word… IMPLY. But the GOP spin made it appear that McCain was being accused of having an actual affair, which of course was not true.

But that was the tip of the iceberg with McCain’s monetary affinity for lobbyists. While he pushes for and defends legislation that cripples campaign contributions and campaign messages, he has no problem with lobbyists being on his own staff. In fact, at least up until recently, most of his key positions in his campaign staff were filled by high-powered lobbyists, some of whom were involved with business interests in areas that have come to embarrass the so-called “reformist”.

Riddle me this, political crusaders: when is a reformer not a reformer? When he’s been in office for so long that he’s considered an insider!

McCain’s “War Song” – For the record, the Beach Boys tune is “Bar-bar-bar-bar-Barbara-Ann”... NOT “Bomb-bomb-bomb-bomb-bomb-Iran”. Yet that pretty much spells out John McCain’s mindset. America is currently involved with war on multiple fronts, costing us thousands of lives and billions of tax dollars, and yet here’s a candidate that is blasé enough to want even MORE war on even MORE fronts, and to do so with a parody song borrowed from a political comedy group.

There is no questioning John McCain’s war record or his service to the United States. His status as a former POW is in and of itself proof of his service. But part of being a leader is not only about taking action when needed, but also NOT taking action when needed. And being flippant about bombing other nations is not a good sign of leadership.

Conservative Doubt – Yes, conservatives and neo-conservatives are still not comfortable with McCain. They would much rather have put their support behind Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee. They don’t like McCain. They can’t trust him. And even though they have sold their souls to the Republican Party and are thus bound to support the guy who becomes the nominee for that party, they still can’t wholeheartedly support McCain after the things he’s done to hose them over. They still haven’t forgiven him for working with the liberals to pass the McCain-Feingold Act.

Conservatives have to constantly wonder if the conservative and neo-conservative rhetoric that he’s been spewing of late is genuine. They have to wonder if he’s going to screw them over. And McCain needs to constantly make sure that they’re on his side too. He needs to know that they could very well turn on him and vote for the Libertarian candidate if they feel threatened, since a couple of years of all-Democrat rule could very well be what the Republicans need to get their act together.

Bush Legacy – You have to seriously wonder why McCain would actively entertain an endorsement from what is slowly becoming the worst president in recent American history! But then again, he really needs that endorsement in order to secure the few conservatives and neo-conservatives that still cling to cultish myth that the Bush Imperium is the greatest government in history.

In normal circumstances, a candidate really treasures the endorsement of the outgoing president, because it gives him (or her) the illusion of carrying on the “tradition”. For presidents like Ronald Reagan, it’s the closest thing to having a third term.

But our current president is someone whose support and credibility has been slowly dwindling after 2005. This is the guy who took us through one economic downturn only to watch as the slide into another, and he even refused to admit we were in one until it was too late. This is a president who glossed over one war, dragged us through a second one, and then was looking for new wars to start while using Orwellian logic to justify and sustain the first two. A president who acts like he barely glossed over the Cliff’s Notes version of “Waging War for Dummies”. A president that claimed that he didn’t care what history thought of him and now is believing that history would treat him better than the public is treating him now. A president that has to go OUTSIDE of the United States to find people who love him… and then he has to make as ass out of himself in the process.

THIS is now John McCain’s baggage! The moment he picked up the endorsement of George W. Bush, he inherited not only what little that was right, but he also inherited all that was WRONG with the Imperium. He has given the voters a reason to vote for anyone BUT him.

But perhaps the biggest of McCain’s McPains is…

McCain’s “Allies” – While the media has been busy looking at Barack Obama’s former minister and anyone they can possibly connect to him, John McCain has a whole crew of caustic ministers in his camp.

First there was the late blowhard Jerry Falwell. You remember Falwell, don’t you? The same guy who blamed liberal groups for 9/11.

Then there’s Rod Parsley… yes, he’s really named after an herb… who believes that Islam is “the mouthpiece of a conspiracy of spiritual evil”… not to mention an “anti-Christ religion that intends through violence to conquer the world."

And then there’s the equally bombastic John Hagee, who has condemned the Roman Catholic Church as being “the great whore”. As soon as he apologized for that statement, another one of his caustic sermons come out whereby he claims that Nazi Germany was operating on “God’s behalf” as part of the overall plan to drive the Jews to Israel. The latter comment forced McCain to distance himself from the unholy trinity of self-righteousness.

But here’s the thing… McCain didn’t just arbitrarily pick up these three voices. He actively SOUGHT their support! He went out there and BROUGHT them into his camp, knowing full well what they stood for!

Which is worse: inheriting a caustic minister that you’ve known for years, or actively searching for and begging for the support of that caustic minister? At least when it’s someone that you’ve known for years, you can always say that you didn’t want to hurt their feelings.

And that makes you wonder… whom else in his camp is just like Parsley or Hagee? Or, perhaps, is there someone even worse than them that has yet to come out?

All of these things, when put together, point to a very dangerous picture of McCain’s campaign. One that, if the media wasn’t distracted by the caustic infighting between Democrats, would pretty much sink his presidential aspirations for 2008 and possibly beyond.

Let’s get brutally honest here… the best that John McCain can hope for right now is that the political squabbling between Clinton and Obama continue well beyond that party’s national convention. Because if by some chance the Democrats get their act together before the November election, they will turn their attention over to McCain’s various McPains, and then the same scrutiny that they put on each other would be put on him and his campaign. At that point, he wouldn’t stand a chance in November.

John McCain’s campaign seems to be pretty much a comedy of errors, and he is really very lucky that the voters picked him since he was on the verge of actually going bankrupt before he started pulling off his winning streak. He should consider that to be a sign of his campaign is far from sound, and that eventual success for him is far from certain.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Week of 05/19/2008

When All That Is Left Is Fear
– by David Matthews 2

There is something incredibly pathetic when a person is reduced to being a caricature of their former self. To know that a person’s whole potential can be reduced to something so trivial and so quaint is really very sad.

This is why actors hate being typecast. The late George Reeves, for instance, considered his role as TV’s “Superman” to be just another job, but when it was all that anyone would ever recognize him as, it was too much for him. Leonard Nimoy is a writer, a singer, a major motion picture director, a talented and veritable actor, and a photographer… but people will ONLY see him as the “Star Trek” role of Spock. They won’t ask him about being the director of “The Good Mother” or about his work entitled “The Shekhina Project”. No, they just want him to give the Vulcan salute (which, by the way, hurts his hands now) and talk about being the pointy-eared half-human character that was created by the late Gene Roddenberry more than forty years ago.

The same thing happens to politicians. They can start out with really great intentions, and then become nothing more than a shell of their former selves. Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy went from being a serious presidential contender to being seen as nothing more than a stereotypical politician complete with Roman-style excesses. The only real significant thing that he did of late has been to pass the “Kennedy torch” over to Barack Obama.

Some folks, of course, know when to leave well enough alone. Former President Richard Nixon didn’t try to reinvent himself after he resigned in disgrace. History gave him some of his credibility back, but he would still be the president that resigned in disgrace after Watergate. Ronald Reagan didn’t try to do anything after he left office. Of course, having advanced Alzheimer’s didn’t help. George H.W. Bush also didn’t try to reinvent himself after he left office. He let his son do that for him.

Bill Clinton has certainly become a caricature of his former self. This guy used to be the harbinger of the “New Democrats”. Then he spent the last years of his White House tenure reduced to being a career politician desperately trying to keep his job by latching onto any concept he could get his hands onto. Heck, how many politicians would ever try to get a whole MILLENNIUM moved up a year just so he could take credit for it? Now he’s the husband of the Senator from New York by way of Washington DC and desperately trying not to embarrass her while she’s running for the White House.

Former president Jimmy Carter certainly tried to reinvent himself after his administrative quagmire. His work with Habitat for Humanity has been outstanding. But unfortunately some of his post-White House foreign activities have only reminded people of the blunders he made in the 1970’s. Any guesses who brokered the failed deal with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in 1994 that turned out to be a farce?

That brings us to our current president, George W. Bush, and the sad degradation of what would normally be referred to as his career.

It’s hard to imagine that there was a time when this commentator would actually give Bush Junior a break in regards to his fumbling and bumbling through his job. Yes, he’s certainly not one of the more well-educated presidents in recent history. He’s certainly not one of the more eloquent presidents in recent years. He’s had more pratfalls than Gerald Ford; he made more verbal gaffes than Rush Limbaugh; and he pulled off more comedic antics than thirty years of political satire on Saturday Night Live put together. This guy couldn’t even eat a pretzel without his throat getting confused about which way was up.

He’s had faults, to be certain, but at least for the first half of his tenure, this commentator was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt because of it. But eventually even his faults couldn’t excuse his actions.

And you would think that after seven years in office, with his public approval is so low that he gets booed at a baseball game and he has to travel outside of the country to find people that can applaud for him, that he would follow the lead of his Republican predecessors, including his father, and leave well enough alone so he could leave the White House in 2009 in relative obscurity. Unfortunately that would require an accurate appraisement of the situation around him and some modicum of planning, two things which he has demonstrated a profound lack of.

The first sign of his degradation into his self-parody were the series of news reports where Bush Junior would continually complain about Congress not passing the bills HE wanted passed. It seemed like every other day where the White House would grumble and fumble and complain that there was a certain bill or a certain program that wasn’t getting the attention that HE felt it deserved. He even threatened to not going to his ego-gratifying trip to Africa if Congress didn’t pass one of his little pet projects… but he ended up going anyway when it was clear that he was getting ignored. He so thoroughly enjoyed having the Congress at his beck and call that he simply didn’t realize that these Democrats were not going to do the same.

But then came two zingers this past week that clearly showed just how out-of-touch he is with the American people.

First was the not-so-subtle dig he made in Israel to celebrate its 60th anniversary. In speaking with the Knesset, Bush Junior dropped a reference to Hitler in the pre-war years when an “American Senator” said prior the Germans invading Poland “Lord if only I could have talked to Hitler this might have been avoided” as a warning about politicians who want to talk with “the enemy”.

Now why would he make that statement? Who has been wanting to “talk with the enemy”? Why that would be presidential contender Barack Obama. Obama has said that he would speak with Iran and with leaders of other “rogue nations” first before taking military actions. So much for that promise to not interject himself into the 2008 Presidential campaign. But then again, he already did that when he more or less anointed John McCain as the “de facto heir” to the Bush Imperium.

Oh, and the quote Junior used from that “American Senator”? That was Senator William Edgar Borah, representing the state of Idaho from 1906 until his death in 1940. It should also be noted that Borah was a Republican, and he was well-remembered after his passing... even after his statement was made a year earlier.

Then came the second zinger… Junior’s interview with Politico and Yahoo… and it pretty much sealed his descent into being his own sad parody.

First, he claimed that he was “disappointed” about the bad intelligence leading up to the Iraq War. And he said that the intelligence was shared “all across the world”. Uh, no. If that was the case then other nations would have come the same conclusions that the Bush Imperium did and there wouldn’t have been this huge level of disconnect with the other nations. Certainly the UN weapons inspectors wouldn’t have disagreed with the White House on the threat if they shared that same intelligence.

Maybe Junior was defining “the world” as being only those nations that supported his views?

"`Misled' is a strong word," quibbled Junior. Never mind that the threat WAS intentionally over-exaggerated by Saddam’s Iraqi critics. Now why would they do that if NOT to mislead people into taking a specific course of action?

Then Junior played the fear card… the only card he has left in his deck… and said that if the Democrats win in November and they do pull the troops out of Iraq as they promise they will do, that it would "eventually lead to another attack on the United States."

NEVER MIND that we have been told from this same government that there would be “another attack on the United States” BEFORE the Iraq War and all THROUGHOUT the Iraq War. NEVER MIND that we have been warned BY THIS SAME GOVERNMENT that at some point we should PREPARE for yet ANOTHER attack from the bad guys with every anniversary and every special event and every election that comes up. We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t, but apparently this president thinks that we’re doubly-damned if his anointed “de facto heir” doesn’t get into the White House.

This goes back to the argument made by Republicans since 2004 that Democrats equal DEATH and that ONLY Republicans can keep you “safe”. Or at least keep the war-profiteers safe. Even New York’s thug ex-mayor Rudy Giuliani used the “Democrats equal DEATH” argument as recent as 2007 as part of his failed campaign for the White House. It was thoroughly condemned not only by the media but also by the voters.

And so we have George W. Bush’s last gimmick… the only reason for his continued existence in this world, never mind in the White House. It is this dystopian Chicken Little argument that comes straight out of George Orwell’s book “Nineteen Eighty-Four” that ONLY the Bush Imperium and their ever-dwindling allies can keep the civilized world “safe”, and that supporting anyone else is DEATH.

As if that were not bad enough, our president then laid open the final insult on America. His assertion that he gave up the game of GOLF in solidarity for the family members who lost loved ones in Iraq. Over five years of battle, over four THOUSAND American lives lost, countless THOUSANDS more maimed or otherwise seriously wounded, and an untold number of Iraqi civilians killed or wounded during that time, and our president wanted to show his solidarity by giving up the game of GOLF!

Worse yet, his reason for this supposed “sacrifice” is as flawed as the rest of his judgment and logic. Bush Junior claimed that he gave up the game after the 2003 bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad. There’s just one problem with that… the attack on the UN building was in August of that year. The president was still playing golf in OCTOBER of that year, as captured by photographers.

So here we have an actual, real, I-kid-you-not, indisputable LIE from the President of the United States about the kind of heart-rending personal SACRIFICE that he made on behalf of the THOUSANDS of American servicemen who have lost arms, lost legs, lost parts of their skulls and brains, and even lost their very lives. He’s claiming to show solidarity to the soldiers and their families and he can’t even get the justification straight! How utterly PATHETIC do you have to be to reach that level of arrogance and general disconnect from the rest of the world? We have soldiers going to back to Iraq after three, four and even FIVE tours of duty, and coming home with injuries both physical and psychological, with veterans facilities so deplorable that they make the 2005 FEMA response in New Orleans look like a model of efficiency, only to be told they have to go back over to Iraq to serve yet another tour of duty. And our president gives up GOLF… which just happened to coincide with a personal injury, but he claims it was for an attack made three months previously.

You know, before this moment I was dubious of the “yellow ribbon” breed of political chicken-hawk that thinks that supporting the troops meant that you just needed to slap a yellow ribbon car magnet on your SUV and pompously shout down anyone who questions the rationale. Now we know where they get their lead from.

Let’s get brutally honest here… George W. Bush has become nothing more than a sad and utter parody of himself. An arrogant, elitist, fearmonger trying desperately to stay relevant so as to keep people from questioning why they have wasted the past six years of their lives living in fear of their own shadow.

Any notion that our president can somehow offer some solution to our current problems is pretty much out the window here. When faced with higher gas prices, Bush Junior went begging to his so-called “friends” in Saudi Arabia for help… only to be laughed at. His office stopped the refueling of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve only because Congress had passed veto-proof legislation demanding it. Sure there is MORE that he could do as President… some of which he could even get overwhelming Congressional support for. He chooses, instead, not to because he doesn’t believe this is his problem to deal with anymore.

With an economy in decline, Bush Junior still REFUSES to admit there’s trouble, but he still pushed through rebate checks all the same thinking that this would help out America. If things are so great, though, why need the stimulus checks? And why push to tell people that they HAVE to spend it all IMMEDIATELY?

Meanwhile, of course, his acolytes still sing praises of how GREAT everything is because he’s running things, or at least when they’re not busy parroting his fearmongering message that ONLY HE and his “de facto heir” McCain can keep the world “safe”.

There comes a point in an abusive relationship when the only thing left keeping it together is fear. The abuse, physical and/or psychological, is so complete that nothing else is left. Where the only exchange that remains between abuser and abused is the reinforcement of fear. “Satisfy me or else you will be hurt.” “Obey me or else you will be hurt.” “Do what I tell you to do or else you will be hurt.” At that point there is no relationship left other than slavery. At that point any notion of “partnership” and “cooperation” and even “fidelity” itself exists in the delusional mind of the abuser. Only they see nothing wrong with their situation.

All that George W. Bush has left for America is fear. That is the only card that he can continue to play, and it will continue as long as we buy into it. And WHEN he leaves office next January, it would be better for him if history barely mentions him at all. It would be only fitting since he has already said that he didn’t care what history thought of him in the first place.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Week of 05/12/2008

– by David Matthews 2

Back in the early 90’s, my sister and I were asked to house-sit for my parents so they could get their home sold while getting things set up in Atlanta. The arrangement was simple… my parents would pay for the mortgage, so all we would have to pay for is the utilities and food. It seemed like a good arrangement, especially since both my sister and I were working.

Six months into it, I was at the breaking point, and my parents couldn’t understand why. Sure I was working hard, but they couldn’t understand why I was the one spending every penny into paying ALL of the bills when we were supposed to split the costs evenly. Well it turned out the other half of this “arrangement” wasn’t living up to their part of the deal. My sister lost her job and she was depleting what little money she had left in savings to pay for clothes she would buy on layaway. Every time I would tell her how much she owed me for the electric bill, the cable bill, and especially the phone bill (long-distance dial-up online service is NOT cheap), she would tell me how much she paid to department stores for her clothes on layaway. Somehow a sense of priority was missing.

Well fortunately that was well over a decade ago and my sister has paid up those debts and learned a very healthy lesson about living within your means.

Unfortunately, it’s a lesson that quite often a lot of us have a hard time grasping… myself included.

I take a look at my financial burdens and I sometimes ask myself how I could have gotten into this situation. And then I remember… oh yeah, I screwed up. I put myself into these burdens!

I look at some of the things that I get… CDs, DVDs, video games, books… and I realize that a lot of the things that I’ve been getting have been things that I WANTED, not the things that I NEEDED. I didn’t NEED to get the latest blockbuster hit on DVD, never mind in the extra-special deluxe director’s cut edition with the gold-foil cover. I didn’t NEED to get the special computer add-on to City of Heroes. In fact, City of Heroes itself isn’t a NEED. These are all WANTS.

Once I realized that, I realized that the huge economic problems that America is facing right now are all because of our inability to really differentiate between our WANTS and our NEEDS.

For instance, as much as people hate to admit it… unless you live ten miles away from any kind of beaten path, never mind a paved road, and you have to cross rivers every day to get to your home, then having an urban assault vehicle (aka sport utility vehicle) is not a NEED. It is a WANT. It is an overinflated, overpriced, overhyped WANT. In fact a lot of what is IN that vehicle is also a WANT. Do you really need a GPS system? Or subscription satellite radio? Even the OnStar service has plenty of WANTS in there along with its sole NEED which would be used in the event of an emergency. The built-in DVD player, the individual headphone jacks for passengers, the keyless start button, the electronic seat-warmer, even power windows and air conditioning are WANTS, not NEEDS.

Sure, for many of us driving is a NEED, but when you’re having to get a rental car because you got into a car accident and the insurance company will only cover the bare minimum, you will understand and appreciate the difference between what you NEED and what you WANT. In fact, that’s why I think that the Ford Motor Company came up with a clown car called the “Aspire” in the first place.

A cellphone is clearly a WANT, not a NEED. It’s a convenience, not essential to your existence. And then you have all sorts of WANTS on top of that WANT. A camera and ringtones and surfing the Internet and storing music and videos and push-to-speak… these are WANTS. The iPhone probably could be better renamed as the iWant, because that is what it is… just an overpriced WANT.

In fact, what I’m going to say now will be seen as utter sacrilege, but it is still true… having children is the biggest WANT in the world! Seriously! There’s really no NEED to bring another mouth into the world. It’s just a collection of WANTS from social, personal, and biological urges. This is especially true when you hear about a family in Arkansas that is on welfare from all of their children they’re having and they’re expecting their EIGHTEENTH child! That is probably the best example that I can ever come up with of childbearing being a WANT!

Unfortunately, we in America live in a consumer-driven society now. Our economy has become based on our WANTS instead of our NEEDS. And this is where our problems come in, because we’re now paying the price for all of these different WANTS.

America’s energy policy, which is now highly dysfunctional and unstable, is based on our WANTS instead of our NEEDS, because being stupid enough to block off places where we could have oil and then making deals so we would be dependant on foreign sources for our energy resources is a WANT (not to mention STUPID), not a NEED. Being self-sufficient is a NEED. Being idealistic and fraudulently calling it “eco-friendly” is a WANT. And it’s being done to satisfy a whole bunch of other WANTS, such as those gas-chugging urban assault vehicles.

Now, of course, we can’t afford that WANT of an urban assault vehicle, because the price of gasoline is rising higher than inflation, so now we’re looking at OTHER vehicles with better mileage. However, the American automakers bet the farm on those urban assault vehicles, so now they’re spiraling into bankruptcy and having to lay off workers and shut down assembly plants because of that overhyped WANT.

Credit cards are a WANT, even thought the banks make it sound like they are an essential NEED. The last time I checked, the greenbacks in my wallet still say “This is Legal Tender for all debts public and private”. The local stores accept them just the same as credit cards. In fact some of the stores I go to are THANKFUL that I give them those greenbacks instead of paying for my WANT on plastic.

But here’s the thing… the banks have successfully managed to hook us into putting our lives on plastic, and then they started messing with the rules. They change the rates, they change the terms, they offer us dozens of paper checks and make it sound like we’re giving ourselves a treat by using them off our account.

And it’s become so damn EASY buying stuff on plastic, isn’t it? Just swipe and go, just like in those TV commercials. Or go online and just CLICK.

So now some folks are turning to the Congress and asking them to step in and put some limitations on these crazy rules by the banks. And the banks are screaming bloody murder over this and are saying that putting in limitations would mean that SOME PEOPLE may not be able to get credit cards! Well that’s good because many of the people who have been having problems with credit cards have been allowed to put their lives on MULTIPLE cards and using one to make payments on another. Maybe they would be able to better manage their money because they won’t have that particular convenience.

Plus it may actually cut down on the barrage of “You have been pre-authorized” offers that we are getting for the SAME credit cards from the SAME bank! Excuse me, Bank of the Gouge, but didn’t you know that I ALREADY have a Bank of the Gouge card from you? You would think that after the numerous monthly payments made to that bank that they would figure out that they already have me hooked. Or maybe they think that they can get me again and again.

Either way, folks, credit cards are a WANT, not a NEED. Having money is a NEED, and greenbacks and coin are just as good as the plastic in your local store.

Here’s another big economic headache… the subprime mortgage scam!

Again, what I’m going to say next is going to be considered heresy, but it still needs to be said… you DO NOT HAVE to own a house! Having a roof over your head is a NEED. Owning a home, however, is a very big WANT. And it is a WANT with a huge mantra around it. That mantra comes from so-called “financial experts” and even from family members that tell you that “you NEED to buy a house”. NO YOU DO NOT! If you can’t afford to make the monthly payments on a mortgage, then you CERTAINLY DO NOT!

Once upon a time there were benefits to being a homeowner. If you owned property, then you could vote in elections. But those days are deader than Elvis. Now the only perk to owning property is being able to get a tax break on your mortgage payments. But it doesn’t do you any good if that mortgage balloons to where you can’t afford to make the payments anymore!

And that’s where we got into some serious trouble, folks. Once again the lenders… the banks… changed the rules so that more people could have mortgages, just like they did with credit cards, knowing full well that when the rates go up in a few years, those same people will be driven into bankruptcy and/or foreclosure. Of course it probably wouldn’t matter for many of the lenders because now we also have debts large and small being bought and sold like so much Wall Street stock. Do homeowners really know who owns their debts now? They may be writing the checks to one lender even though the actual paper is being held by another lender.

So combined with that unrealistic demand that people buy homes at all cost and lenders desperate to get as many suckers as they could, it’s no wonder why America is facing a serious financial problem right now with home mortgages.

Our consumer-driven economy has become so dependant on us fulfilling our WANTS that it pretty much collapses when we can’t afford to indulge in them. That’s why our government was QUICK to tell us to go SHOPPING after the September 11th attacks!

SPEND! That was their mantra! SPEND AWAY! Keep spending! Don’t stop spending! Don’t worry if you don’t have enough money, you can refinance your home of you have to! We’ll help! We have all-new LOANS for you to help, but you have to keep on SPENDING! Put it on credit! Put is ALL on credit! It’s okay; we’ll give you all the credit you need just as long as you continue to SPEND! What are you doing here? Why aren’t you spending? You HAVE to keep on SPENDING… or else the terrorists win!

Even now in 2008 we have a president that is willing to give us MONEY to help “stimulate the economy”… but only as long as we SPEND IT ALL! Spend it! You gotta SPEND it! Keep spending it! Spend every penny! Don’t save it! Don’t try to pay down your debts! Don’t use it on bills! Your country NEEDS you to spend every penny of that “stimulus package” so you can kick-start the economy. SPEND IT! Buy a big-screen TV! Buy that new computer system you’ve always been looking at! Go on a trip! If you just came back from one, then use this to take another trip. Just keep on SPENDING that money, because that’s the only way that the economy is going to survive. That’s the message, and it’s coming from the White House and the Congress and merchants all across the country.

SCREW THE NEED! FEED THE WANT! That’s their message.

And let’s get brutally honest here… we are doing ourselves a HUGE disservice if we continue to satisfy our WANTS at the sake of our NEEDS. We are literally driving ourselves into utter dependency and indentured servitude to public and private institutions. We’re not just feeding the rampant consumerism, we’re gorging ourselves on it, and it’s driving us further and further into enslavement.

We need to collectively get our priorities straight. NEEDS come before WANTS; and we need to once again differentiate between a NEED and a WANT.

A roof over your head is a NEED. A house is a WANT. If you can’t afford to make the payments of a normal mortgage, then you really should not get a house. That’s the basic mistake that millions of homeowners failed to make and now they, and the communities they lived in, are paying for it.

Basic transportation is a NEED. An urban assault vehicle is a WANT. Yeah, once upon a time gas prices were so low you could fill your gas tank for under $20. But those days are long since gone, and as long as our government REFUSES to be responsible and REFUSES to enact meaningful energy policies, then it is up to YOU to choose the vehicle that you can afford to maintain.

Depending on where you live, a basic phone line is a NEED. An iPhone is a WANT. Living in an apartment may require you to get a land-line for security access. That’s understandable. But a cellphone is a convenience, not an essential part of your existence. Understand the difference.

Food on your table is a NEED. Going to restaurants is a WANT. It often costs you more to go out to eat than to make something at home. Takes a little bit of time, effort, and patience… but who knows? You might become good at it.

Spending some time away from work before you go crazy is a NEED. Going to Disneyland is a WANT. Seriously, why spend time dealing with crappy service on the airlines, prison-style security procedures at the airport, and then showing up at some overhyped amusement park where everything has a line going in and out and you HAVE to drink bottled water because the tap water reeks? Do yourself a favor and stay home for a while. You’ll really appreciate the difference.

Self-sustenance is a NEED. Having children is a WANT. I know, I know, it goes against biology, but if you can’t afford to have kids, then you’re not just doing yourself a disservice by going through with it anyway. You’re also doing your kids a disservice, especially if you’re one of those parents that think that your entire world should revolve around those little tax-deductions.

In short, boys and girls, the very institutions that want you to spend like there’s no tomorrow pretty much have an ulterior motive for doing so. They don’t care about YOU or what YOU need. They care about themselves, and their ultimate goal is to take care of themselves at YOUR expense. And if it means enslaving you, depriving you of your livelihood, your possessions, and driving you into bankruptcy, then so be it. The name of the game here is for you to take care of yourself FIRST and FOREMOST. Satisfy your NEEDS first, and then deal with your WANTS… but only if you can afford to.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Week of 05/05/2008

Gas Tax Holiday Is No Break
– by David Matthews 2

Twenty dollars.

Three years ago, twenty dollars could more than fill the take of my car. It could almost do it twice.

Today I’ll be lucky if that same twenty dollars will fill up half the tank.

It’s the same car. Same driving habits, same gas tank, same gas station, same everything… except for the price of gasoline.

And even back then we were complaining about the price going up too much, too fast, and too high. And it didn’t matter how many times the neocons and other ass-kissers of the Bush Imperium whined that we the masses were making too much of a matter of it. They would whine that the price still wasn’t as high as it was back in 1981 when you “adjust for inflation”, or that the price we pay in America is miniscule compared to the burden paid by other countries, or that the record profits the oil companies have been making really aren’t “profits” when compared to “other” industries.

So let’s just go ahead and shoot these neocons red herrings right now.

(1) Comparing prices from the past “adjusted for inflation” does not excuse or justify the price spikes of today. If it was unacceptable then, it’s equally unacceptable today.

(2) Comparing the price of gas in our country to the price paid in other countries is deceptive because there are some countries like Saudi Arabia and Venezuela that can afford to charge pennies per gallon, and others like the countries in Europe that hit their people with two-or-three times the price of gas with taxes to pay for government services. You want to compare how much America pays versus how mush England pays? Eliminate the taxes on both sides and you’ll find that we’re paying pretty much the same.

(3) There’s nothing wrong with a company making a profit, per se, but it doesn’t help that company’s public perception when they announce RECORD profits at the same time when the public is hurting because of those higher prices. It exposes your greed. Besides, unlike the pharmaceutical companies and other industries that make higher profits, the oil companies rely on society revolving around the use of their products. You don’t see the drug companies telling people they can get all sorts of diseases simply because the treatments are so cheap. Home supply stores make money because there’s a customer reward for improving the value of their homes. The oil companies can’t make that claim.

No matter which way you look at it, the oil companies and the countries that are feeding our voracious appetite for the “black gold” are getting rich off the rise in prices. And all of the justifications in the world – from tribal fighting in Africa to refinery shutdowns to Wall Street hysteria – does not detract from the fact that the higher prices HAVE played a role in the downturn of our economy.

This is a fact. Every single economic downturn in the past few decades have ALL been preceded by a spike in energy costs. Every single one of them!

Now you would think that someone in the government would figure that one out, wouldn’t you? Know this is happening, warn people before it occurs, and then possibly do something about it BEFORE it becomes a problem. But they don’t. People like yours truly can sound the alarm but it gets ignored time and time again.

So, here we are again. Another economic downturn is upon us and people are looking for help. They want solutions. They want to know that this mess WILL end, and preferably quickly. They want the price hikes to stop and the fleecing to end. They want to know when twenty dollars will fill up their tanks again and not forty or sixty or eighty dollars three more years down the line.

And the people who seek to inherit the mess created by the Bush Imperium… and make no mistake THIS IS the mess of George W. Bush and company… are eager to come up with ideas to resolve this matter. And preferably to come up with something that would work so that they really don’t HAVE to inherit this mess.

Senator John McCain seems to have come up with what appears to be a solid idea… which is to offer up a so-called “gas tax holiday” during the summer. This means that no gasoline tax will collected for the summer, which is when people supposedly drive the most. This idea is being seconded by Senator Hillary Rodham-Clinton… you know, she who would supposedly be ready on day one at 3am, but yet somehow didn’t come up with this idea first.

Meanwhile Senator Barak Obama has nixed the idea, although he’s not too quick to come up with alternatives that would help out Americans in the short run. He’s still thinking long-term actions, much like Bush Junior was excusing the energy policy scam of 2005 was more for the “long-term” plan. He would rather tax the profits of the oil companies; although he forgets that companies NEVER pay taxes… their customers do!

The idea SEEMS nice, doesn’t it? You supposedly see a drop in the price at the pump and that gives you this warm and fuzzy feeling that someone in the government cares about your plight.

There are just a few flaws in this idea.

First, the difference in price would only be noticeable IF gas prices were to stop climbing. But during the summer months, the price of gas doesn’t stay still. It continually rises. It rises prior to every holiday coming up, on the belief that people will use that time to drive. So any difference you might enjoy is gone in just a couple of weeks.

Second, the difference itself is minimal. The average SUV driver will save maybe three dollars if they have to fill up their tank. That’s nothing when it costs them sixty or eighty dollars to do it. That’s not much of a relief for the average American, especially since everything ELSE is going up in price as well!

Third, what goes down must go back UP when the “tax holiday” ends; and since gas prices have in the past not begun their post-Summer downward spiral until October, you would have to deal with a SHARP price spike in September when the “holiday” finishes after Labor Day.

Fourth, and perhaps more importantly, suspending the gas tax deprives federal and state governments of essential revenue for road repair, including bridge maintenance. We just had one bridge collapse in Minnesota a few months back because of poor maintenance. How long would it take before government large and small would start complaining about not having the available funds to check some of the other bridges or to fix the ones that are in danger of collapse? How long before governments large and small would complain that they lack the funds to pay for the needed maintenance or expansions of the highways and roads? Where would the money come for these things? Would you be willing to through still more deficit spending, putting us even further in debt to Japan, Mexico, and China?

Let’s get brutally honest here… this “gas tax holiday” idea is nothing more than a cheap political trick designed to get support from the voters on the illusion that they care. It really won’t help the average American, and it will actually HURT them in the long-run.

There is more that can be done, but the people who are looking to become the next president can’t do anything in the short-term to make them happen. The most annoying part is that they each certainly had the opportunity to make a difference back when it could have mattered. The so-called “energy policy” crafted by the Bush Imperium and passed by Congress in 2005 was supposed to help fix things, and so far they haven’t. Instead, all we’ve been given is nothing but a bunch of dog-and-pony shows from the automakers about what they COULD do to get us off gasoline, but nothing actually in the dealerships. Senators McCain, Rodham-Clinton, and Obama certainly need to explain why they would allow this travesty to take place in 2005 knowing full well that at some point it WOULD continue to make things worse for us. Bush Junior may have signed it, but the members of Congress were the ones that were responsible for the wording.

In the meantime, though, we can dream of the day when twenty dollars would be enough to fill up the gas tanks again, but those days are pretty much gone. We can’t turn to Congress for help, and we certainly can’t turn to our presidential wannabes for solutions, because they don’t have any serious ones to enact.

We need to be the ones to take the next step. We need to stop pretending that gas prices will go back below $3. We need to stop pretending that we can afford to work in the city and live in the country. We need to stop pretending that gas mileage doesn’t matter. We need to wake the hell up and make the changes to our lives that need to be made. The days of cheap gasoline are over with, and we need to adapt accordingly.

At best, we need to be wary of the parlor tricks and con-games of our career politicians, and especially of those who want to run for the White House. And if they do offer solutions, then it’s up to us to find out if they would actually WORK. If they don’t then they don’t deserve our support, either for Congress or for the White House.