Monday, April 30, 2012

Week of 04/30/2012

Stop Making America Sorry
– by David Matthews 2

“Good men don’t need rules. Today is not the day for you to find out why I have so many.”

Leave it to the world of science fiction to say what pundits and politicians cannot. In those two sentences, Matt Smith, playing the title role in the BBC series “Doctor Who”, sums up a matter that conservatives and neo-conservatives have been whining about for years.

Almost from the day President Barack Obama took office, the conservatives and neo-conservatives have been whining about how Obama is “apologizing to the world”. Their continual complaint is that the United States shouldn’t be apologizing for anything it does, no matter what it is. So anytime there is some sort of outrage, some screw-up, some faux-pas, some scandal, some embarrassing mess that the United States gets caught up in, Obama says “We’re sorry”, and the conservatives and neo-conservatives stomp their feet and pout about it.

GOP Presidential Wannabe Mitt Romney reportedly said “We may make mistakes as a nation from time to time and step on others’ toes, and we’ll say we’re sorry for that, but apologizing for America is something I will never, ever do.” Go ahead and try to wrap your mind around that contradiction. Then get some aspirin.

This hostility to apology comes from many factors, including arrogance, narcissism, manufactured hysteria, not to mention this inherent self-serving belief that those in government not only are above reproach, but that they can do no wrong. The imperialist notion of sovereign immunity gives politicians the belief that since they can do no wrong, they have nothing to apologize for.

It’s even worse when it comes to war. Governments are quick to recite Cicero’s phrase “Silent enim leges inter arma”, or “Silent is the law amidst arms”, which loosely translates to saying there is no law as long as there is war. It puts the conservative and neo-conservative fixation to wage a “War on” everything in a new and really disturbing light.

Well since cons and neo-cons have a hard time grasping complex notions, and they prefer things to be simple enough for it to be regurgitated repeatedly on FoxNews, then the solution should be painfully simple, shouldn’t it?

Stop doing the things that make us sorry.

There! A FoxNews-simple solution! If you don’t want to have the President of the United States apologizing for anything we do, then don’t do the things that require that apology. Even the peroxide-haired Barbie-style anchors of FoxNews would be hard-pressed to find fault with that sort of solution.

And in fact it’s the same kind of FoxNews-simple solution that conservatives and neo-conservatives give to the rest of America for many other issues! Birth control? “Stop having sex.” Bad economy? “Stop buying things.” Unemployment? “Just get a job!” Simple, easy, brainless, soundbyte-ready solutions that the plastic Ken-and-Barbie anchors at FoxNews can recite over and over and over again.

So why not feed it back to the cons and neo-cons? Don’t want Obama apologizing for things? Then don’t give him a reason to. Stop doing the things that make us sorry.

Unfortunately for the rest of us, it’s not as simple as it sounds.

For instance, not too long ago the media told us that US soldiers were seen in pictures posing with dead terrorists in Afghanistan like they were out deer-hunting. The FoxNews solution, of course, is to blame the media for showing it. But that kind of fascistic response only covers up the act and delays things for a little while. If the American media didn’t report it, then the European or Arab media would have gotten wind of it. Rumors would still circulate. The Internet would eventually expose it. The truth would eventually come out.

But where did those soldiers get the idea to treat what they were doing like a deer-hunt?

Most likely it came from pictures from the 1990’s and early 2000’s of terrorists doing the same thing to American victims in places like Somalia. But we could probably also trace it back to the email messages that we circulated to our friends and co-workers after September of 2001 that said that we should treat the enemy like it was a deer-hunt. There were plenty of so-called “Terrorist Hunting Permits” that circulated the Internet. I’m sure we all had a good laugh about it then. I wonder how many of us are laughing now that we are seeing it carried out for the whole world to be disgusted at.

We claim that we’re the “better people”. We claim that our cause is “just” and that our intentions are “pure”. Well what kind of message are we sending when we’re acting no differently than the terrorists themselves? And what happens when the next batch of terrorists do the same thing to American corpses and actually reference our own previous actions as justification? No doubt we’ll deny it, which will only make our own stains that much more obvious.

That brings us to the other part of this problem; the self-righteous, self-serving hypocrisy that the cons and neo-cons eagerly engage in when it comes to apologies. Why complain about Obama apologizing for anything and then demand that he apologize for every gaffe, joke, or misstep made either by him or by anyone even remotely connected to him?

Think about it… the cons and neo-cons proclaim that Obama shouldn’t be apologizing for anything, and yet when it comes to jokes about Sarah Palin and her “As Seen On Reality TV” family, or references to Mitt Romeny’s wife, those that scream about not apologizing for anything suddenly scream even louder for that apology.

And let’s not forget that these cons and neo-cons certainly have no remorse when it comes to trashing those even within their own party’s ranks. Remember Meghan McCain? How many times did the cons and neo-cons berate the daughter of Senator John McCain for her positions? How many references were made about her weight? How many apologies were given from within the GOP?

And yet these hypocrites want an apology from Obama for what Bill Maher and Hilary Rosen say. Maher, whose only connection to Obama is the check he wrote to Obama’s Super-PAC (which according to the GOP’s own weasels is “not under the candidate’s direct control”), and Rosen, who has even less of a connection to Obama. What’s next? An apology from Obama for what Natalie Maines said about George W. Bush almost ten years ago?

Let’s get brutally honest here... this one-sided demand for an apology and then hypocritically complaining about apologies not only does their own cause a disservice, but it makes the United States look petty and dangerously narcissistic.

Bear in mind that this comes from a practical libertarian who is more than just mildly disgusted by the belligerence of the conservatives and with the spineless cowardice of the liberals. They have stopped acting like they’re political factions and act more like wife-beaters and their facilitating spouses. The only things missing are the torn tee-shirts and the beer cans.

Again, I’ll make this FoxNews-simple: if you don’t want the President of the United States to be in a position to apologize for anything, then don’t do the things that would make America sorry. Don’t encourage others to do the things that would make America sorry. And don’t demand others do what you refuse to do yourself. If you want to adhere to Sarah Palin’s motto of “Don’t retreat, reload” when it comes to hurling insults, then don’t demand or expect any kind of apology when they are hurled back.

And if that is still too much for the FoxNews-simplistic minds, then I hope you’re willing to trade in your rapier wit for actual rapiers. Because when you try to impose your dysfunctional and clearly hypocritical rules over others, you not only prove that you’re far from being “good”, but you also guarantee that at some point the others will also be far from “good”. When that happens, you won’t have to worry about having to say “sorry”. Then we will all just be sorry.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Week of 04/23/2012

No, They Have No Decency
– by David Matthews 2

I have been writing online commentaries for over sixteen years now. And when it comes to the depths of the GOP in terms of their hypocrisy, their narcissism, and their self-serving self-righteousness, it feels like I am sounding like a broken record, pointing out things that most people should have long accepted by now.

The most aggravating part is how the GOP has co-opted every criticism, pretended to be the victims, and then manufacture some alternate history where somehow every sin they committed could be traced to some mythical sin committed by someone else.

For instance, do you remember when Democrats booed and spit on President George W. Bush when he would make his State of the Union speeches? Do you remember when the Dems in both the House and Senate openly called Bush Junior a “traitor” and a “liar”? Go ahead and recall those specific instances.

You can’t, can you?

That’s because they never existed. At all. Period.

Were there protesters in the spectator’s seats making that kind of ruckus? Yes, there were a few that did that. And those people were taken outside immediately by Capitol Hill Police. But those are not sworn members of the House of Representatives or the US Senate.

And yet conservatives and neo-conservatives will swear on a crate full of Bibles that the Democrats did those things and then some on the floor of the Congress. Yes, they will lie to the American people and they will lie to their own deity that these fictional things happened in order to justify their own revulsion of the current President. And their myrmidons will believe it happened and they will recite the fictional times when they saw or heard these things happen simply because they were told that they happened.

Sixty years ago, a despicable human being with an otherwise unremarkable history as a U.S. Senator made a speech in West Virginia where he claimed to have in his possession a list of names in the State Department that he said were members of the Communist Party. At first he claimed that list to have 205 names on it, then it was 51, then it was 57, then 81.

Remember that last number.

That abrasive and abusive despicable human being used fear and hysteria to gain power over his fellow politicians and over the rest of America. He pitted American against American, neighbor against neighbor. He rode a wave of fear-mongering that ruined lives and destroyed careers. He even preyed on the very armed forces that he once served in during World War II.

And he was never held to account for any of it. He was never forced to atone for the careers he’s ruined, the jobs he lost, the families that were broken, and even the lives he drove to suicide. He was given a censure by his peers, which is no different than a slap on the wrist. It’s like catching mass-murderer Ted Bundy after he killed his last victim (which was a child, by the way) and then just slapping him upside the head and letting him go with a “don’t do it again” message.

That despicable human being was one Joseph McCarthy, and even after his censure, his fascistic hatred never stopped. He still claimed to see communists in every corner, in every facet of society. The only thing that truly stopped Joe McCarthy was his own demons when he drank himself to death. But the stain of McCarthyism continues even to this day.

And now it has been resurrected, picking up right where the despicable McCarthy himself left off.

On April 10th, 2012, Congressman Alan West of Florida gave a speech where he claimed that he knew of 78-81 members of Congress that were members of the Communist Party.

Yes, 81. The same “final number” that McCarthy gave almost sixty years ago of people that he “knew” were members of that same party. It should also be noted that those same “78-81” people that he claims to “know” are Communist Party members are all Democrats.

Much like McCarthy, Congressman West is a war veteran. Much like McCarthy, West clearly has no love for civil liberties. In fact it is said that his service record in Iraq is a reflection of that disdain.

And much like McCarthy, when pressed for this “list” on CNN, West simply waffled on naming names and doubled-down on his assertions that they somehow exist.

Well let’s get brutally honest here… with all due respect to the office - and only to the office – Congressman West, much like the late Senator McCarthy, you are despicable. You bring disgrace to your office just as much as you brought disgrace to your uniform in Iraq.

By resurrecting the ghosts of a disreputable and dishonorable Senator, you do more than just resurrect a dead issue. You drag the United States Congress once again over the thousands of Americans who were victims of McCarthyism. Thousands, Congressman.

And they weren’t all “liberal elitists” or Hollywood actors. They were schoolteachers. They were construction workers. They were Middle-class families. They were hard working people, and their friends, and their spouses. Even the children of McCarthyism’s victims were victims themselves. Anyone that an accuser could link to their target became a victim as well.

Worse yet, Congressman, you do this in the name of political extremism! You resurrect the unpunished crimes against the American people for nothing more than ego gratification and to further balkanize the political environment with no regard as to the consequences of your actions. Those are not the characters of a political representative worthy of any measure of respect. Those are the characters of a sociopath.

It was then-former President Harry Truman who said in 1953: “It is now evident that the present Administration has fully embraced, for political advantage, McCarthyism. I am not referring to the Senator from Wisconsin. He is only important in that his name has taken on the dictionary meaning of the word. It is the corruption of truth, the abandonment of the due process law. It is the use of the big lie and the unfounded accusation against any citizen in the name of Americanism or security. It is the rise to power of the demagogue who lives on untruth; it is the spreading of fear and the destruction of faith in every level of society.”

This is what you are championing with your words, Congressman. The worst kind of politician; the disgraceful, dishonorable, disrespectful kind. And unlike Joseph Welsh, I don’t have to ask if you have any sense of decency, because your party has long since proven it has none.

I can only hope that the vast majority of the American people have learned what you apparently have not. That they remember those dark days of American history in their proper perspective; that they recognize the lives that were ruined six decades ago in the name of political partisanship and some fascistic sense of loyalty masquerading as patriotism, and that they give a resounding “No” to bringing those days back.

And if that is too much to ask for, then people like myself will fight to make sure that, unlike McCarthy, you are actually held to account for your actions. Because I am tired of sounding like a broken record when it comes to the political molestation of the United States.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Week of 04/16/2012

“Buffett Rule”: Good In Principle, Bad In Practice
– by David Matthews 2

When I was in school, students used to get around doing their reading assignments by hitting up the abridged versions those textbooks called “Cliff’s Notes”. Pick a story, any story, and there would be a Cliff’s Notes version in bookstores for you to go through and get the essential portions.

And this worked in a lot of courses. Students didn’t need to spend three hours reading whole chapters when they could get the “essential” parts, the parts that pretty much every teacher wanted you to know and would probably ask in the final exam.

Then one of my teachers decided to have a pop quiz… and asked for specific quotes from parts of the book that were not covered in the Cliff’s Notes version. Guess who suddenly got “D’s” and “F’s” for the first time?

With that in mind, let’s talk taxes.

When it comes to taxes, there are two truths that we cannot avoid.

The first is that our tax system is intentionally complex and complicated. There are a lot of hands involved with this, and plenty of parties that benefit from the system being as messed up as it currently is. Politicians and lobbyists are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg of beneficiaries in this matter. The true list of people involved with this first truth will probably blow your mind.

The second truth is that this flawed system is reinforced by an ongoing hypocrisy that says that each of us firmly believe that we pay “too much” in taxes but, at the same time, we also firmly believe that there is always some other group that is not paying “enough”. We cannot make any kind of changes to the tax system to free it of that first truth without running head-first into the second truth. Every attempt to fix the tax system, no matter how well-meaning, to make it more “fair” ends up failing because someone always complains that they are being taxed “too much” and that some other group is not getting taxed “enough”.

Because of these two truths, every attempt at changing the tax system, be it purely cosmetic or an actual change, ends up being shot down by a rash of demagoguery and class warfare. If you need to know why, I refer you back to the first truth.

So we have the latest attempt at “fixing” the tax system which is dubbed by both President Barack Obama and the media as the “Buffett Rule”.

The funny thing is that the “Buffett Rule” is not really a policy. It’s a statement. It is an observation made by billionaire financier Warren Buffett, who noted that he pays less in taxes than his secretary does. Of course he’s not the only one who does that, and the list happens to include President Obama himself, but the difference between Warren and the rest of the one-percenters is that he thinks there’s something wrong with that observation. The rest of that super-elite crowd just thinks there’s something wrong with Buffett.

This observation has led to the new “tax plan” of President Obama and the Democrats, which essentially says that anyone making a million dollars a year or more in income should pay no less than thirty percent in federal taxes. This would supposedly be accomplished by eliminating a lot of the tax breaks and loopholes and exemptions and exceptions that currently allow those at the top of the top of the economic pyramid to keep far more of their money than the people below them.

I’m sure some of you are thinking about this and wondering how this could be in the first place. After all, isn’t the tax rate for anyone making over $388,000 a year at 35%? And even if you could get around that, isn’t there something called the Alternative Minimum Tax Rate? Why yes there is. And it is because of this AMT that some of the tippy-top richy-rich have been able to pay 26-28% while their secretaries pay 35%. And that’s not counting all of those tax breaks and tax exemptions and tax deductions that they’ve managed to amass. Again, I refer you back to the first truth.

And now that the idea has been submitted, in comes the eternal whine from the conservatives and neo-conservatives; riding in on the second truth like Slim Pickens at the end of “Dr. Strangelove”. They’re quick to scream “class warfare” and complain endlessly about some mythical “47%” of people that supposedly don’t pay federal income taxes. Everyone likes to say they exist, but much like the Chupacabra, it’s next to impossible to actually bring one forward.

I actually talked with a tax preparer who said that such people do exist, but in order for them to avoid paying federal income taxes, they essentially have to be brood mares and pop out enough kids to qualify for enough deductions for their tax rate to equal zero. Come to think of it, I seem to recall that those are the very people that the conservatives and neo-conservatives complain about in the first place. Maybe this is the real reason why. After all, only the religious groups and the super-rich are supposed to be allowed to skip out on taxes.

But let’s get back to the so-called “Buffett Rule”, because spending too much time on the distraction is merely playing right into the second truth.

In terms of an observational standpoint, Mister Buffett is spot-on. Is it right to have millionaires and billionaires paying far less in taxes than their underlings? Hell no! Especially when you have a system in place that says that the more money you make, the more you should be paying in taxes. It is nothing short of an insult to that very system to be able to then invert the process at the very top.

Having said that, though, do I think that the so-called “Buffett Rule” as a tax policy is right? No, I don’t.

Let’s get brutally honest here… what President Obama is suggesting as the “Buffett Rule” is a bitter hypocrisy of the very observation that Buffett made. Even if the GOP-controlled House and the GOP-bullied Senate somehow managed to approve the “Buffett Rule” as a tax plan – and stranger things have happened in the past – you would still have that huge tax gap between the super-rich and their underlings.

Remember, the highest tax bracket is 35% for anyone making more than $388,000 a year. So you could still have a secretary to the super-rich making that much money and still get taxed that much, while their millionaire or billionaire employer only has to give up 30% in taxes. Then you’d have Mister Buffett back out here again complaining that his employees would still pay a higher tax rate than himself and his millionaire and billionaire friends.

In fact the media is already pointing out how Obama’s “solution” would still allow millionaires and billionaires to pay less taxes than their underlines. So at this point you have to seriously ask what the point of this whole “program” is if not for it to serve as a cheap Election Year gimmick.

Keep in mind that a lot of these exceptions and exemption and deductions were slipped into the tax system as part of someone’s earmark, or because of some congressional wheeling and dealing, or because of some so-called “economic solution”. They were put in because of the first truth, and they can be quickly and quietly reinserted later on, probably under different names.

The real solution to Buffett’s observation about who pays what in taxes does not rest with haggling over the various exceptions, exemptions, and deductions that are doled out as political favors. The real solution rests with replacing the current dysfunctional tax system with one that is so easy to understand that the lobbyists of K-Street and C-Street cannot game it, eliminating the first truth. A system that everyone pays, no matter how much money they have, thus destroying the second truth.

This kind of proposed system does exist. The only thing keeping it from being put in place is our own willful ignorance and political cowardice.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Week of 04/09/2012

Women, It’s Not Just You
– by David Matthews 2

One of the weasel-like ways we try to let other people down gently is to say “It’s not you; it’s me.” This is especially true when the person you’re letting down is desperate to do or try anything to stay within favor while you’re just looking for a quick escape.

Of course, even when we say “It’s not you; it’s me”, that doesn’t mean it’s the truth. Sometimes we’re saying it to be kind. Sometimes we’re saying it to avoid admitting the real reason why we’re looking for the exit. Maybe there is something wrong with that other person but we just don’t want to admit to it. Maybe they have bad breath or a grating laugh. Maybe they have some personality flaw or bad relatives. Either way, you want out and you want it to be relatively painless for someone.

Having said that, let’s turn our thoughts over to the GOP’s master crusade, referred to by the pundits and politicians as the GOP’s “War on Women”. In true douchebag politics, the GOP has decided to suck up to their theo-conservative base by doing everything in their power to make life unbearable for women in various ways.

They have managed to maliciously demagogue the subject of birth control, a subject that should have been resolved fifty years ago. Fifteen years after whining about wanting insurance companies to cover erectile dysfunction medicine, my fellow men (and I use that term loosely) have mercilessly attacked women who tried to defend legitimate uses of birth control.

Remember abortion? The GOP never forgot. Now they’re outlawing it one state at a time, mirroring the efforts of liberal to legalize same-sex marriages.

GOP Presidential wannabe Mitt Romney made it clear that he would personally end Planned Parenthood. Not just de-fund. End. Terminate with extreme prejudice. Sure, he later would claim that he would only “strip it of federal funding”, but even if he could be taken at his word (which is subject to revision at a moment’s notice), there are still plenty in his party that have made it their mission in life to do just that.

The social safety net isn’t just collapsing; the GOP is overseeing its dismantling. At a time when the economy is still abysmal, when millions of Americans are still being systematically forsaken by Big Business, when the misery is not only continuing but is slowly getting worse, the GOP has decided to turn those Americans into third-class citizens (behind corporations and now the pre-born), leaving them to suffer at the mercy of their sponsors in Corporate America. The party that believes that they have the right to wage war at any time and any where against any enemy they choose, and at any cost, now claims that we can’t afford to help our fellow Americans. Gee, I wonder where that money went. Isn’t it funny how “9/11” can be used to justify every government expense, except for the programs that actually help people?

So let’s see… no birth control, no help for those with children, no prospects getting a job, and if you speak up about it then you’re branded a “slut” and a “whore”.

Yeah, I can see how women could see this as being a crusade against them.

Well I’ve got some good news and I’ve got some bad news for those women who feel like the GOP are ganging up on them.

The good news is that you’re not crazy. The GOP do have it in for you. If you have a uterus and you’re not sucking up to any of the conservative special interest groups, then you are the enemy as far as they’re concerned. They have clearly made it their mission in life to see you suffer for no other reason than because you’re not submissive to their will. And here we thought that kind of thinking was only reserved for the Middle East!

But here’s the bad news, ladies… it’s not just you!

Let’s get brutally honest here… the GOP have not just been waging a war on women. They have been waging a war on freedom itself! And perversely enough, they’ve been doing so under the banner of freedom.

Never forget that it was the GOP that spearheaded efforts to censor the Internet as part of their “Contract With America”. Never forget that they pushed to re-censor radio and television through the Federal Communications Commission. Never forget that they tried to push through censorship by corporation through the SOPA and PIPA legislation. Yes, some of these efforts were sponsored by Democrats, but their efforts would have no traction in a GOP-dominated legislature unless they were supporting them as well.

And all the while, they claim to support “freedom” and they have their myrmidons dress up like America’s Founding Fathers, as if they knew anything about what the Founding Fathers truly stood for.

The party that claimed to be about “jobs, jobs, jobs” have spent the past year in control of the House doing anything but dealing with “jobs, jobs, jobs”. Instead, they’ve been reaffirming the national flower and declaring their love for a McCarthy-era fear-mongering crusade and nit-picking every second syllable uttered by the President of the United States.

Don’t get me wrong; I am no supporter of the Democrats, and I have sixteen years of posted commentaries to back that up. I’m just as pissed off at the Dems for their political impotence as I am with the GOP for their blatant and dishonorable hypocrisy. When the whole matter of birth control and the slander of Sandra Fluke started to manifest, what did the Democrats do? They essentially said “we’re sorry to hear this… now give us some money and maybe we can do something about it after the elections.” Do they even understand why they lost control of the House in 2010? I’m guessing they still don’t have a clue on that one.

In fact, I’m sure the GOP would like you think of it as only being a “War on Women”, because it keeps you focused on a singular issue, separate from any other cause that they are working on, and it keeps you isolated from working with other groups that could help yours out. It’s about divide-and-conquer.

The GOP have an inherent flaw as a party. They talk about freedom while they move to sabotage it. They talk about ethics when their actions show a lack of ethics. They scream about wasteful spending and yet still demand a blank check for warfare. And their ego does not allow them to admit that this hypocrisy even exists, much less address it.

I understand that there are certain key issues that ring the alarm bell for people. Censorship and theocracies are mine. But just because the GOP pushed your outrage button doesn’t mean that they have it in specifically for your gender. To borrow from that weasel-line: It’s not you, ladies. It’s them.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Week of 04/02/2012

It’s High Time We Acknowledge The Greedy Elephant
– by David Matthews 2

It was fictional character Gordon Gekko in the 1987 Oliver Stone movie “Wall Street” that gave the infamous line…

“Greed… for the lack of a better word… is good.”

Gekko, of course, was the epitome of the business mindset of the 80’s. He was aggressive, direct, downright sociopathic, and, of course, filthy rich. He took pride in taking over companies, butchering them up, and selling them off to make as much money as can for the investors, and mostly for himself. For that he was idolized and celebrated, despite his critics.

At the end of “Wall Street”, we don’t know what happens to Gekko. The movie ends with his budding apprentice-slash-patsy Bud Fox being dropped off at the courthouse to give testimony that would bring Gordon down, but we don’t know whether or not he got away with his actions. We would have to wait until the 2010 sequel “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” to find that Gordon Gekko was actually convicted and sent to prison.

Perhaps the ultimate insult for Gekko that was pointed out in the sequel is that everything that sent him to prison in the 80’s would eventually be perfectly legal just a decade later. Not only legal, but commonplace and practiced with seemingly wild abandon.

We recognize the character and his quote. We recognize what he symbolized in the 80’s and again in the 2000’s.

Yet there is a certain white elephant that nobody wants to acknowledge when it involves Gordon Gekko and that infamous quote.

Gordon Gekko didn’t just materialize in the minds of Oliver Stone and Stanley Weiser. Real-life people were the inspiration behind Gekko. But more importantly, real-life environments gave rise to these people and the mindsets they operated under. It is this mindset that has been transforming the business world and society in general towards the predatory philosophy of plunder, the Raubwirtschaft, that is behind all of the economic problems we face today.

Even Gordon Gekko, in his famous movie speech from 1987, did not want to out-and-out admit to this. He tries to disguise it as being merely an aspiration; a quest to better one’s self, a desire to do more and to know more. “Greed,” he says, “for lack of a better word…”

But, then again, it was a sales pitch. He wasn’t trying to be philosophical. He wasn’t trying to educate the investors like they were in some business school. He was selling investors on the idea of making a lot of money now, instead of continuing to invest in the long-term for a business that benefits everyone.

He was selling greed.

And let’s get brutally honest here… greed is the big white elephant in the room that nobody wants to acknowledge, and it is the intentional, willful denial of the existence of that white elephant that is destroying America bit by bit.

Imagine being on a pontoon boat in the middle of a lake. You’ve already filled the boat to its maximum safe capacity of people and weight. Now add the elephant to it. Now run the engine at full throttle. Not only are you not going to get very far with all that weight, but you’re also going to start sinking.

Our sense of greed, that predatory philosophy of plunder, the Raubwirtschaft, is that elephant. We’re telling ourselves that we should be able to move, and yet we aren’t. We’re forcing ourselves to get rid of as many passengers as we can when we should be getting rid of the elephant. But as long as we refuse to recognize that very elephant that is weighing us down, we can’t get ourselves out of the dilemma. We continue to falter and sink.

Take a look at the price of gasoline. The price of gasoline goes up and up on a regular basis, and every single explanation offered from the conservatives, from the paid whores of talk radio, from the corrupt GOP politicians, and even from the oil executives themselves, have each been disproved. They talk about a lack of oil when there is a glut; they talk about a lack of refineries when they refuse to build new ones; they talk about repressive regulations even after those regulations are relaxed; they talk about a lack of an energy policy when they practically hand-wrote the 2005 policy that they had passed. We produce more oil here, as they ask, and then we end up selling it overseas. Why?

That leaves only one explanation: Greed. And nobody wants to admit that it’s about greed, even when every single piece of evidence points directly to it. Even after they have masterfully manipulated legislation so that the very definition of “price gouging” is so porous that it couldn’t even snare Snidely Whiplash red-handed, they are deftly afraid to admit that greed is the true force behind these price hikes. Greed from the speculators, seeking to plunder as much money as they can from the market, and also greed from the executives in the oil industry as they stand back and watch the speculators go wild while they rake in the profits.

Of course the oil execs don’t want to admit to greed, even if they’re not directly involved with it, because that would result in a public push to coral the speculators, and that ends their gravy train. Likewise, the politicians, the lobbying groups, the paid whores of talk radio and cable news, they all get a share of that gravy train greed. They have every reason in the world to not acknowledge that bloated white elephant that is slowly sinking our ship of state.

Likewise, the healthcare industry is full of companies engaging in nothing short of greed and plunder.

Not too long ago, I came across a story from Texas of a nurse that provides minor health services to those that cannot afford insurance. Her clientele range from those in absolute poverty to middle-class families that cannot afford the high monthly premiums of health insurance. This nurse provides everything except surgery. The medicine she gives costs her less than a dollar. She charges her patients ten-to-fifteen dollars. But if she went through insurance companies, then that same medicine costs almost a hundred dollars.

Now why is that? The insurance companies claim that they’re picking up the tab for the uninsured. But is that really the case? You would think that if they really had to “pick up the tab” for the uninsured that they would make insurance both affordable and available enough for everyone to purchase it. It’s like McDonald’s selling fifty-dollar cheeseburgers and then justifying the price by saying that they’re footing the bill for everyone that can’t afford to eat there. The logic is just wrong.

And isn’t it funny that when the talk of healthcare reform came up that nobody was talking about the insurance companies, the very source of the problem? We heard this continual rhetoric from the GOP about how government shouldn’t impose itself between a doctor and a patient when the problem was that the insurance companies were already doing that.

So ponder this: the price of heathcare continually goes up and coverage is rationed and micromanaged, giving rise to the call for the government to do something about it. If the government does nothing, the insurance companies continue to punish America by jacking up prices and rationing coverage. If the government does something, the insurance companies punish America by jacking the prices up even higher and further rationing coverage. If the government does something and then reconsiders, then not only do the insurance companies punish America, but they would supposedly punish America even worse simply because the government dared to do something in the first place. That’s not just greedy, that’s being maliciously vindictive. We’re talking a level of evil normally reserved for movie villains.

Let’s not forget those “Too Big To Fail” banks. You tell me, how can they justify getting hundreds of billions in taxpayer bailouts, making huge profits, and then hitting up their own customers for fees on top of fees while still raking in record profits, and not have it be about greed?

These aren’t the only businesses, of course, that are engaging in the Raubwirtschaft. These are just the most obvious example.

Of course all of this is camouflaged with political demagoguery. The current White House resident is blamed for enacting some non-existent socialist conspiracy that would make the John Burch conspiracy people look downright credible. Big money is spent on PR campaigns to suggest that any misery being imposed is tolerable and justified. The finger of blame is maliciously and fraudulently waived about by the paid whores of talk radio and cable news to accuse the great unwashed of being spoiled and reckless and… dare I say… greedy.

And all of it done to hide that bloated white elephant. All of it done to hide the fact that greed has become not only the prime motivating factor for business, but also its goal. It’s not enough to be rich. It’s not enough to be successful. It’s no longer how much one can make, but rather the new measuring stick is how much that business can take from others and get away with it.

We need that elephant exposed. We need to see its ugly bleached skin for the blight that it is and talk about the elephant and affix its handlers in business to that elephant. Our refusal to recognize that elephant creates the real-life versions of Gordon Gekko by the hundreds, and what is not mentioned in the sequel but is made painfully obvious is that these new versions of Gekko are never held to account for their actions like Gordon was in the first movie. That is how pervasive the elephant of greed has become both on the silver screen and in real life.

The ship of state is still sinking, despite the media push to the contrary. We can either recognize the elephant that is sinking us, or we can watch as it brings us all down. You better make your choice now before that elephant’s enormous weight makes it moot.