In the early summer of 1989 in Washington, D.C., my Dad and I took a Metro downtown (or maybe we drove) and went to the Capitol to see the mighty legislator Claude Pepper lie in state. As I recall, it was kind of on a whim. He at the time was running his own newsletter so his schedule was flexible; I was a kid, so my schedule was flexible. We woke up, he said hey, let’s go see Claude, and we went.

My Dad up and moved to D.C. a few years before this. By this time, he had purchased a hovel of a house over the river in Virginia that he would soon raze and replace. So I had been hanging out in D.C. for several years by that time. I was commuting like a pro by age 15, taking the Metro to wherever I liked, and where I liked was often to the National Mall. My favorite spot was the Lincoln Memorial, where you could stand at the man’s feet and see so much of our Nation’s Capital’s great landmarks all in a line. I’d sometimes walk the whole way from Lincoln, down to the Vietnam, along the Mall passing all of the great museums, past the Washington, and then wonder at the majesty of our U.S. Capitol building.

I would later spend a semester in D.C. via a program sponsored by my school, interning and visiting various interest groups and lobby shops. I would work a summer there as a busboy just off of Georgetown Much later, I would finally succumb and move there, landing a job on a magazine published by a trade association, and ending up as their Web guy until the job was too much for me. I lasted there 13 years. And, when the weather was nice, a lunchtime walk around the White House was a usual event. (This blog, in fact, was born there, a nice way at the time to get this introvert to go out and meet people.)

Washington, D.C. is in my backbone. And though I haven’t even been there in more than a decade, it is one of the places in the world that I call home. It is decades of memories. And many of those memories involve that big beautiful bicameral building.

So I was properly horrified watching the events of January 6, 2021. I was not just horrified for my country, or for my government, or for the insurrection’s victims. It was as if my own house was being mauled. It was as if someone had crapped all over my temple. I think of the fellow who sat with a big grin on his face with a foot up on Speaker Pelosi’s desk. I think of those morons rifling through legislators’ notes looking for “dirt,” as if they had half the brain-power required to even comprehend what was on those papers. I think of that douche in the horn-hat crowing from the lectern, those who climbed the walls, those who came prepped with plastic cuffs, and my blood boils.

Due to this, yes, I wanted to hear more from Attorney General Merrick Garland today. I have liked to imagine that his demeanor through his speech would be closer to how I feel about this event, that he’d get a vein-bulge on his forehead, that his eyes might bug out some, that he’d clench his fists and declare that heads will roll. But Garland doesn’t seem to be the veiny-forehead type. C’est la vie.

But I want to see heads roll for this. 365 days now and I have yet to witness this cathartic experience. I want heads to roll. I want tales told. I want names. I want to know who paid for this. I want to know who advocated for it. I want these people to suffer as I suffered seeing my home, my temple, so horribly violated.

More than anything, I want that orange idiot to be shuffled off in chains for this. Not for tax evasion. Not for fraud. This. I fear largely that this country may punish him for his toilet business practices but may never assign him accountability for his septic tank presidency. The Republican Senate failed to do this job. It failed to do it twice. And while the Attorney General is taking massive pressure to do something regarding this, I think every conversation about that should note that had the Senate done its job in February 2021, Garland’s position would not be nearly as precarious as it is now. He would feel far less political pressure as he does now to do the right thing, to prosecute this doorknob to the fullest extent of the law. Don’t land this on Merrick Garland. Land it on Mitch McConnell. He drove the getaway car.

As an American. As a person who used to live there and considered it home to my heart. As a person who followed public policy since I was 4 years old. As a guy who took a field trip with his Dad to see Clace Pepper’s dead bald head. As a person who would genuflect entering the Capitol but would refuse to do so in any other building.

I detest what took place one year ago. I hate them all. I hate them all with a passion that spills bile from my eyes, from my mouth, from my penis. I hate them all. I hope they all find a place in a burny place after they die, I hope that burny place chops them into little pieces one crouton at a time. I want them to suffer. I want them to know that what they did wrong. They invaded my home. They violated me personally. And I want them to pay the price.

Let’s go.

Chuck Schumer is no Democrat

Chuck Schumer is now officially the Senator from Israel. He is no longer a member of the Democratic Party that I belong to, and his primary constituency is the small number of well-moneyed AIPAC contributors who have bought up all his stock.
Now he is trying to cover his tracks with a story that he didn’t really mean to oppose the President. That’s why he waited until the middle of the GOOP debate to announce, and caught the very slow Friday news cycle. So no one will notice. Well I noticed.
And he is trying to sound moderate. We just need a better plan he says. We can go back to the table and get a better deal, he says. Bullshit. Let me count the ways. First, there is no better deal. You don’t have to take that from me. Listen to the guy who used to make his living opposing ANY nuclear deal with Iran, Gary Samore, until recently president of United Against Nuclear Iran, a job he resigned because UANI is still opposed to the deal. (He has been replaced by none other than Joe LIEberman, which will tell you which direction UANI is headed.) Samore, a Harvard professor and authority on Iran and nuclear disarmament, had this to say: “I’m skeptical that we can reject this agreement and negotiate a substantially better deal within any kind of reasonable time frame.”
Second, the fact is everyone wants to get this done, Iran has gone as far as it will go (which Samore says it’s much further than he ever thought possible), and our negotiating partners are as tired of the trade embargo as are the Iranians. So Sen. Schumer is rejecting a common sense approach to one of the most delicate diplomatic challenges of this century… exercising the galling presumption that he somehow knows a lot more about this deal than does the President, or Secretary of State, both of which have staked their legacy on its outcome.
Third, common sense tells you it is not a bad deal. It substantially reduces the ability of Iran to make weapons. It provides for and establishes a significant and unprecedented inspections program that can easily inform the participating nations in the event of any breach or attempted breach by the Iranians. AND any breach of the agreement by Iran will lead to re-imposition of sanctions… an action that is binding on all signers of the pact. That is important. Russia and China are also signers to the pact. Without a pact they are likely as not to abandon the process and never return. With it they have an obligation to support the others if there is a breach.
The Iranians will get something for their participation, most importantly, they get relief from stringent economic sanctions and they get access to billions in Iranian assets that have been frozen in the US since 1980.
Fourth, the agreement will have positive repercussions worldwide. For the USA, for better or ill, lifting the sanctions will open the market to Iranian oil and lower the cost of fuel. Gasoline is expected to drop below $2 in the USA for the first time in years. In the Iranian economy, stifled by sanctions for decades, access to world markets is expected to be dramatic.
Fifth, political implications are significant. Iranian oil is another assault on the Saudi oil monopoly which has already been challenged by Iraq, Koch brothers’ Bracken Crude from Canada (which we hope is also challenged by Iranian oil) and natural gas from world-wide fracking. Thus it will further diminish the influence of Saudi Arabia in the Middle East and beyond. We should remember that Saudi money is still fueling ISIS, still funds hundreds of madrassas throughout the region, all of which are no more than recruiting centers for terrorists and suicide bombers. In Iran, the hard line Mullahs are as opposed to the deal as are Israel’s hard liners, and for similar reasons. The pact gives more credibility to moderate forces and creates opportunities for further cooperation between Iran and the rest of the world. Hard liners, who use fear as a tool of control, hate moderation.
Sen. Schumer has yet to offer an alternative that will improve on the already substantial world-peace potential of this agreement. All he has are threats and fears. The tools of despots. He says we can’t trust Iran, what happens if Iran backs out? The answer to that is written in the terms of the agreement. We are back to sanctions and a continued effort at economic isolation, and every signer of the agreement is obliged to re-impose sanctions.
Sixth, Sen. Schumer has forgotten one important element in the game. The USA is not the principal player in on the field. Also playing are the four permanent members of the United National Security Council (China, France, Russia, The United Kingdom), Germany and the European Union. Other affected nations that have been more or less honoring the sanctions include India and Pakistan and Japan. Some of these nations, China and Russia in particular, are unlikely to agree that more talk is useful or necessary. With or without an agreement, they may reopen trade with Iran. Once they open trade, the rest of the world is likely to follow. In short, whether or not the USA agrees to the deal, the other parties will likely go ahead without us.
Senator Schumer’s claim that we need a better deal offers no deal that we can get. Especially appalling, nothing in his statements have improved on the talking points offered by the Republican Party, all of which were originally offered by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he came the USA with the specific intent to embarrass President Obama in an address to a Republican Congress particularly hostile to the President.
Chuck Schumer is no Democrat. He has no party loyalty, he is a traitor to his President.

What We Should Be Asking of the TPP

I am not sure I know any actual facts about what the TPP will do. We are told it is a wonderful thing for us and its terms are completely top secret, so should we be suspicious?
Indeed the first and maybe most controversial aspect of the TPP is that it is so secret. Congresspersons are allowed to read it only in a locked and guarded sound proof room in the Capitol Building and are forbidden to take notes out of the room. It may provide some comfort that trade negotiations are always surrounded by secrecy… allegedly because the information is very valuable to investors and because trading partners are very goosy about letting their public know what is happening.
The basic facts about the TPP are simple enough. It will remove trade barriers between the majority of nations on the Pacific Rim. The parties to the TPP are the USA and Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. Trade barriers are not just tariffs. These include laws and regulations specifically intended to be trade barriers, intellectual property laws (copyrights and patents), labor laws and other matters having to do with commerce.
Because the agreement is so secret (not to mention massive, Congresspersons are said to have access to thousands of pages including the current draft and annotated position statements of trading partners) most of what we think we know about the TPP comes from leaks and more significantly, what is reported about what has been leaked. We also have a Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report that provides a basic analysis. Surveying the two, I cannot say that we have a clear picture.   For example, the leaks focus on a section intended to protect imports from fake trade barriers, such as  Japan’s claims years ago that American electronics (Motorola pagers) were inferior to Japanese products.  Current trade agreements allow corporations to sue to remove such artificial barriers, but this provision has been abused and misunderstood. Recently, tobacco companies sued Brazil under this provision because of local rules that prohibited the use of company logos on cigarettes in order to discourage cigarette sales. The reporting on this in many cases has been about the ability of corporations to use this provision to circumvent local laws. The CRS report points out that the US sees this example as an abuse of the rules and is looking for language that will clarify this.
Also reported widely is the complaint that the TPP does not demand stringent protections for labor and the environment, and has no mechanisms for enforcing the limited standards that are included. If the CRS description of the standards and enforcement mechanisms are correct, this criticism is accurate, and indicative of the abuse of power our government so frequently allows its corporate masters.
While rich and powerful corporations and investors have a seat at the negotiating table and participate fully in the process of drafting this top secret treaty, working Americans, labor unions and consumers are not even allowed to read it. Among the certain results of this imbalance are weak labor laws, poor consumer protections and limited environmental expectations.

American labor has lost out in prior trade agreements because it is competing with countries where employees work 16-hour days, seven days a week for three dollars a day. They have no health or safety standards and take no special pains to protect the environment. These conditions are perfect for rich corporations and investors, not so good for the rest of us, and disaster for the lowest end of the US labor market. Economic studies show that NAFTA has been particularly damaging to people on the lowest end of the economic spectrum… low-skilled workers with limited education are now essentially competing with the lowest skilled Mexican labor market.

Congress has approved the President’s authority to fast-track the TPP negotiations but it has one more opportunity to influence the process. I have three suggestions that will ensure that the TPP will work to the benefit of all Americans.
1. The Environment: Participating countries should all be required to adhere to the terms of the Kyoto Protocol (and its subsequent agreements). This provision provides a particular problem for the USA because most of the signers of the TPP are also signers of Kyoto, but the USA is not. While the President supports international  environmental agreements, the Congress, which is owned by the oil industry, does not.
2. Labor: The TPP should include minimum health and safety standards, a guaranteed work week of no more than 40 hours, annual leave and a minimum wage based on local “living wage” measurements. These standards should be specific and mandatory for each participating nation. There should be enforcement mechanisms in place… i.e. companies that do not follow the rules should be banned from international trade. Unions organizing should be legal and widely encouraged in every participating country.
3. Corporate Taxes: The ability of corporations to avoid paying taxes by forum shopping should be addressed through trade agreements. Corporations should be required to pay some stated tax in each jurisdiction where they store money, and that tax should be shared in some negotiated proportion with the country of manufacture which bears the cost of supporting infrastructure, the country of origin, which initiated the company’s success and continues to provide legal protections, and all markets where goods are sold.

Pam Geller You Crazy Slut

So USA Toady calls Pan Geller a “fiery activist” who is “known for taking on Islam.”

True maybe. She is also an idiot and a bigot best known for her campaign against the “Ground Zero Mosque,” which is not a mosque and not located at ground zero. Geller and her partner Robert Spencer have been said to be “the primary sources for the anti-Muslim propaganda that had helped give voice” to the manifesto of Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian mass-murderer.

Now, Geller and her American Freedom Defense Initiative, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has called a hate group, is sponsor of what she calls a “free speech event” that gives prizes for drawing the best comic representing Mohammed the Prophet.

This weekend a security guard at the event, held in Garland, TX, near Dallas, was shot down by two yahoos out to defend the honor of Islam and wage jihad against infidels. The Yahoos, as could be predicted, were gunned down by Texas police. Here there is a buttload of what the popular media calls “controversy” that is “swirling.” This is the kind of “controversy” that has one primary aim… make MS. Geller rich and famous and promote the interests of her obvious patron, Bebe Netanyahoo. Some points are worth making.

1. If you want to paint a target on yourself and attract a carload of Moslem terrorists, you should hold an event that offers a big prize for the best comic depiction of The Prophet.

2. Is this a free speech event? Yes it is, not a noble one, but it is a highly important constitutional principle that free people have a right to say whatever they please about anything, even religion. You cannot take the “free” out of free speech and leave it functional. Having said that, we should note that the sponsors of this event have an obligation to support all free speech… just like the ACLU supports nazis and liberals and gays and christians. So the christians, and Jews (and Ms. Geller’s Israeli patron) who supported this event should be equally supportive of events that promote Jesus and Mary jokes or Wailing Wall jokes (Jesus and Mary walk into the Wailing Wall Bar and Grill and sit at the bar next to a pig)… or the truth about how many Palestinians Bebe has killed today.

2. I saw the winning cartoon. It proves once again that conservatives have no sense of humor. An average disaffected sophomore could have done a better job.

3. Most important, why is it that the good guy who got shot was a renta cop? In fact, a moonlighting school security guard. While trying to pick up a couple of extra bucks to make the car payment, he takes the hit for… Pam Geller and the half dozen or so hot shots who put this dangerous event on the ground and stand to make money and fame from it. As in all wars, the people who suffer most are not the people who benefit from it.

Pity the Poor Rich People

The latest theme of the right wing propaganda machine is how abused the rich people are because they pay so much in taxes. The issue is so important to the mega money political handlers that even Willard Romney, who refused to reveal his tax history when he ran for President, has opened his books.

According to the NY Post, last year Willard paid $1.9 million in taxes on an income of $14 million — and gave $4 million to charity. AND, the year before, he made $21.6 million, paid $3 million in taxes and gave $3 million to charity. Poor Willard, after paying all those taxes he will have a hard time feeding his wife’s $800,000 horse.

So here are a few things they are not telling you about Willard’s income. First of all Willard has made a big deal about how he tithes to his church and relies on the church to engage in appropriate charitable activities. In other words, if he made $4 million in contributions to his church, his gross income is $40 million. (In 2013, he made only $30 million and had fewer deductions, so he is  showing a higher income.  He is getting a lot of tax breaks to get his $40 million net gross income down to $14 million. Those breaks include the care and feeding and transportation of the horse and depreciation on the barn and so on.

Moreover, if he is paying 1.9 million on his $14 million income, he is paying an effective rate someplace under 15 percent. A family with an adjusted gross income of $50,000 pays an effective rate of over 16%. In real numbers when Willard paid a tax of $1.9 million, he had $12.1 million left to live on. The family with an AGI of $50,000, on the other hand, has $41,700 left to spend. In short, Willard is not missing any meals after having paid his taxes, neither is his horse. The other folks may also not be starving, but they do have to worry about how to send the kids to college, getting the car fixed, paying medical insurance… on and on.

Ask yourself what is more productive, putting more money in the hands of people like Willard, who are not likely to spend it, or people who need it to meet immediate needs. And do not try to feed me that bullshit about how rich people are “job creators.” In the average case, most jobs come from small businesses that do not pay anything near the taxes Willard pays (or should be paying). Willard’s specific history reveals he has killed more jobs than he has produced and many of the jobs he “created” were over seas.

Since the Busch tax cuts, most tax breaks have favored the rich at the expense of everyone else. The fact that millionaires have to actually pay taxes should be no surprise. The surprise is how little they pay in relation to the rest of us.

A Warm Place to …

Now the big Conservative Bugaboo is whether transgendered children can choose their place to pee. A school in Oklahoma had decided that a “boy” who identifies as a girl may not pee in the girl’s “bathroom” because… maybe he is a regular boy who is pretending that he is a girl so he can watch girls pee? Whatever…

All this while I am still processing all the marvels I beheld on my first trip to Europe last fall… including the rules for where you pee. Among the excellent local customs are these:
• When you are in a bar and want to pee you ask the waitperson for the toilet (OK “la toilette” which you ask with your best French accent which you have studied for minutes using the translator on your phone… so he/she will not think you are some dunderhead American). None of this bathroom stuff, or restroom nonsense. When was the last time you took a bath in your local bar? Or bothered to pause to rest in the toilet?
• There are no annoying cute designators on the doors… no “Does and Bucks” no “Sitters and Standers.” In fact there is usually only one toilette and if it’s big enough there could be girls in there peeing.
• Many towns have public toilets, usually on the town square, which cost about 20 cents. The better ones include showers in case you are biking and camping. When you are finished and close the door, the place locks up and is automatically sprayed down to make it nice and clean for the next person.
• The best town toilet was in Soissons (where an ancient local cathedral once boasted of having the Blessed Virgin’s shoe). There is a trough along the back wall so that guys who don’t want to spend the 20 cents can just pee in public.
• At a highway rest stop in Belgium there were long lines for the toilettes, which were operated by a British company and thus called “loos.” (Oddly enough the Europeans have commoditized pissing.) They had segregated pissers. Travelers who preferred not to pay were perfectly comfortable pissing on the lawn… backs discretely turned to the parking lot. I did not see any women watering the lawn and presume they chose to pay.

When I was in about the 6th grade there was a peep hole carved between the bathrooms at St. Rose School (which I was, in fact, too timid to use) so I recognize our long standing … concern regarding separate facilities… confusion regarding sex and peeing? I suspect they don’t have that problem in France. And ask yourself, if you desegregated toilets in the USA would people begin to hook up in the “restroom”?

Keep Those Boots Off the Ground

The history of the current situation in the Middle East is long and twisted and increasingly confused by people who have their agendas. Republican politicians want to attack Obama, Jews want to not see any further cooperation between Iran and the USA. The oil oligarchy wants to get back to the good old days of prohibitive gas prices. Crazy Christians want to bring about the end of the world, which is also what the really crazy Moslems want. To make some sense of it for myself, and for some of my friends who have talked about it with me, I sat down and made this list of my understanding of the situation. I also offer my conclusion that only a crazy person would think the USA should put troops on the ground there again.
1. After WWI, Britain, which claimed all the colonies in the Middle East not claimed by France, organized new governments there. The Brits never paid much attention to religious or tribal or ethnic differences among their conquered people, thus the Iraq they created includes three distinct groups: Sunni Arabs, Shiia Arabs and Kurds. Sunni and Shiia hate each other for reasons that date to the time after Mohammed’s death. Kurds are a distinct ethnic group, not Arabs. Until recent times they worshiped Zoroaster, Mithras and variations of those ancient Persian religions (Yazid is one we have recently heard). They are now mostly Sunni although they are not as serious about it as some would like to think. For political reasons the Brits placed Sunni in charge in Iraq even though they were a distinct minority.
2. Saddam Hussein was not a religious ruler. He governed through the BAATH party, which was an Arab nationalist party derived largely from the pan-Arab movements of the post WWII era. (Nasser and King Hussein were allied under the Pan Arab Banner, for example.) Saddam was a cruel and vicious bastard, but he managed to keep the lid on the fairly volatile stew of ethnic and religious groups he governed. (He is correctly compared to Tito, who ruled Yugoslavia … comprised of Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Catholics and Moslems… see what happened after he died and the strong central government failed.)
3. Iran is a Shiia nation of Persians. Not Arab or Kurd, they proudly trace their ancestry to Cyrus the Great. They generally view Arabs as lowly scum and Sunni Arabs as apostate, lowly scum.
4. Iran and Iraq fought a bitter war (from 1980 to 1988) in which millions were killed and neither side gained anything. The US, which had for years considered Iran, ruled by a CIA backed King or Shah, its closest ally in the region, now backed Iraq, having been tossed out of Iran by the 1980 Revolution. Iraq, being a not religious based government, was a natural ally for us in a region of religious governments.
5. In 1991, Iraq invaded Kuwait because Kuwait was drilling vertical wells under Iraq and stealing its oil. When asked whether it was OK to invade, the US Ambassador to Iraq told Saddam the matter was of no interest to the USA. Then the USA changed its mind (at the behest of the Saudi family which has long business ties to the Bush family) and threw Iraq out of Kuwait but did not invade Iraq itself. (While this happened, Kuwaiti army officers, exiled by the Iraqi army, partied in Lebanon and Paris), the Saudis, who had urged the USA to help Kuwait, loaned us some bases and its air force flew some missions, but for the most part the Saudi Army did not participate.
6. During the American invasion, The Kurds who had dominated the northeast corner of Iraq where all the oil was located, rebelled. They say they anticipated aid from the USA, which never came. Saddam retaliated by using nerve gas on the Kurdish people. The USA (now under Bill Clinton) and the UN imposed an embargo on Iraq in retaliation, and declared a no fly zone over the Kurdish region. This action allowed the Kurds to build their own governing system and establish an army without interference from Baghdad.
7. In 2011, a gang of terrorists financed by Osama Bin Laden, the son of a billionaire Saudi family, financed a raid on the US that resulted in destruction of the World Trade Center towers and a direct assault on the Pentagon. 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi. Saudi Arabia is dominated by a radical version of Sunni Moslem faith known as Wahabi. The Wahab originally came from India, but were suppressed there by the British who, ironically, helped the Saud family secure the Arabian Peninsula in the early 20th Century (you know, Lawrence of Arabia). The Saudi operated by offering opposing tribes the option of joining them… by adopting their religion…or fighting to the death. Oil was not initially an issue in these days. The Brits were interested in controlling trade by controlling the Persian Gulf. To this day, the Saudi civil government operates under a medieval legal system operated by Mullahs who act as moral police with broad powers to correct citizen behavior in public. (The private behavior of Saudi citizens is a tale of the most egregious hypocrisy since the days of the Borgia papacy.) Beginning in the 1980s, the Saudi government began financing schools throughout the world, especially in Pakistan and Afghanistan, that taught the Wahabi version of the Koran to children of mostly poor families. The term Taliban means student and is derived from these schools. Mullah Omar, who led the Taliban’s conquest of Afghanistan, was a graduate of one of these madrassas. (Worth noting that the USA showed no interest in supporting Afghanistan after the Russians were thrown out with aid of the CIA. Many Afghans who are now fleeing their homeland were educated by the Russians, speak fluent Russian and miss the days of freedom under Russian rule. Benazir Bhutto came to the USA to plead for assistance in establishing schools in Afghanistan. As much as we praised the people who forced the Russians out, we did not stay around to help them establish a modern governing system. Instead we left them to the mercy of the Talban, which were financed largely by Osama Bin Laden (Saudi money) using American equipment and financing mechanisms initially established by the CIA.)
8. In 2003, the USA conquered Iraq, disbanded its army and disenfranchised the Baath party. This removed the strong non-religious central government that had kept the lid on the rival Moslem groups and ultimately brought about civil war between Sunni and Shiia. (Bush advisor Billie Kristol once said that there was no fundamental difference between the two sects.) The Sunni militia comprised largely of Iraqi army regulars, including officers who became unemployed when the USA took over. The Shiia were neighborhood insurgents trained, if at all, by Iran. The USA’s last ditch effort to stabilize Iraq, known as the Surge, worked because we began to support Sunni militia groups that we had previously fought. After we left, the Shiia dominated government remained in control of Baghdad and the southern marshes, but Sunni controlled the remainder of the country NOT controlled by the Kurds. Efforts of the central government to reassert control over the rest of Iraq failed mostly because the Shiia army treated the Sunni citizens badly, and the US armed Sunni Militia, left with what they saw as no viable choice, ultimately affiliated with ISIS. While USA advisors have been dispatched to Iraq, the Iraqi army is relying mostly on assistance from its Shiia brothers from Iran, which has sent advisors and troops to help counter the ISIS insurgency (aided by USA air strikes).
9. ISIS is an extreme fundamentalist Sunni sect determined to re-establish the true religion of Mohammed by building a Caliphate in the vast territory comprising large parts of Iraq and Syria. They believe in converting people by force and killing those who do not (or in some cases are not permitted to) convert. They view Jews and Shiia and Christians with the same distain. They are well armed (mostly with USA weapons) well led (a lot of experienced Iraqi military leaders) and financed (Saudi money, stolen oil and trade in everything from hostages to ancient art). They will cut off your head or burn you alive. No doubt scary fuckers.
10. The majority population of Syria is Sunni. The Assad government is dominated by the minority Alowite Moslem sect… which is Shiia and closely allied with Iran. Assad demonstrated what a bastard he is when he began slaughtering citizens participating in what was supposed to have been a peaceful protest widely known as the Arab Spring. (My opinion: Obama may have screwed up when he declared fairly early (as did most of the civilized world) that Assad should step down.) As the revolt spread and became an armed conflict, several militia groups took up the fight against Assad. Obama resisted significant pressure to arm the militia because he could not know who he was arming. (For example John McCain went to Syria and met with a rebel group and demanded the USA arm them. The group turned out to be ISIS.) This is all by way of stating the well-known fact that Syria is a mess.
9. Lebanon, which is the first place most of us came face to face with the Sunni/Shiia conflict is dominated now by Hezbollah, a Shiia outfit that essentially won the Lebanese civil war with the backing of Iran. The USA stepped into Lebanon a number of times. The only successful foray was in 1957, when Eisenhower sent in the army and made a peace that lasted nearly 20 years. Beirut became a major fashion and business center, but was literally blown to oblivion by the revolutions of the 1980s. Raygun sent in the marines, lost about 400 men in one suicide bomb incident and then made what is likely the wisest decision of his career… declared victory and brought the troops home.
11. Jordan is a corrupt but fairly successful parliamentary monarchy ruled by the same family since 1952. It is stable because the population is 95 percent SUNNI and most of its people are not starving.
12. Everyone in the Middle East hates Israel.
13. The Saudi Army is 250,000 active troops and can draw from a manpower pool of 15 million. It has a lot of money and the best equipment money can buy. This does not include its air force, which is well equipped, trained and experienced.
Kuwait has an active army of 11,000 troops, with a 6,000 person national guard and another 43,000 reserve force. The army is well financed with oil money and very well equipped. It also has an air force.
Lebanon has a 53,000 man army that is well equipped (financed largely by Iran) and experienced. It also has a 6,600 man navy.
Jordan has an army of 110,000 with an active reserve of 65,000. It can draw on an eligible population of over 3 million men of military age.
Egypt has enough trouble of its own.
Some Conclusions
Regardless what some people in Congress say, Israel ain’t in this. Israel is a convenient wedge issue for Moslem politicians. Just like Republicans have to hate gay people to get elected, so do Middle Eastern politicians have to hate Israel. Israel is not a primary concern of any Moslem leader at this moment.  In fact, as long as Sunni hate Shiia Israel can consider itself insulated from its neighbors. The more the Moslem world fights against itself, the greater protection Israel has from the Moslem world. If Israel has anything to worry about it is that the Moslems will fight it out once and for all. Not at all a likely result.

Israel has nothing more to do with ISIS than does Iran. ISIS hates every person who does not conform to its rigid way of thinking about the world, it views Jews the same way it views Shiia. There are many millions of Arabs and Persians and Kurds who have a personal stake in the battle with ISIS. There are very large armies available to fight that battle, some of which are engaged (Iran and the Peshmurga and Iraqis.) There are many armies that are not engaged and should be. The US Army is not among them.
The USA and western nations in general should only be concerned about ISIS if it wins. One way to make it easier for ISIS to recruit young soldiers… and thus win… is to make this a war between ISIS and western (i.e. in their mind Christian) nations. This is why ISIS is baiting us so strongly with demonstrations of violence against western captives. We are fools to rise to the bait.

Tell Us Again Why We Need More Tech Visas


Sillyicon Valley has been telling us for years that it cannot find enough tech graduates to fill its ranks, so  it MUST recruit overseas or outsource (also overseas). This is why, the Tech gurus say, we must reform immigration laws so they can recruit more scientists and engineers from India and Pakistan.

I have been saying for  almost as many  years that the real  reason Sillycon Valley wants to  open the immigration gates to techies from India and Pakistan is  that employees from the subcontinent work cheap.  The bosses who run the tech industry would not feel the need to go outside the USA for workers if they could pay them what they might pay comparable employees in India.  After all, a lower payroll means a bigger bonus. For some reason, American graduates who spend zillions attending American universities think they ought to  get paid well enough to live comfortably and pay back their student debt.

Now comes USA Toady with a report that only half of the minority graduates (i.e. Black and Hispanic) with tech degrees from major American universities are being hired by the high technology gods.  These include PHDs from fine American Universities with pretty good football programs like Rice and Florida and even Kansas (OK not so much on the football program).

An explanation for this  is that Sillycon Valley only recruits from Stanford and Berkeley and UCLA and Carnegie Mellon.  Another is  that the world works better for plutocrats when the middle class has significantly lower expectations.  In any case it certainly gives the lie to the notion that we do  not train enough techies in the USA.

More Lies About Immigration

The Republican Party’s lies and fabrications surrounding President Obama’s current immigration debacle are so many and obvious that it is hard to tell where to start.  Maybe with the most important issue… the demand that the President violate the Constitution of the United States of America and deport all these immigrants IMMEDIATELY!!

Yes,  immediate deportation without due process is a clear violation of the Constitution, which the right wing crazy people who dominate the GOOP so frequently complain that the President violates regularly.  (Although to be fair I have never read of a Republican complaining that someone is  getting too much Due Process.) Check out the Fifth Amendment.  It says “No person shall be …. deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.”  Note how it says “No Person.”  Not “no citizen,” or “no native English speaker,” or “no adult citizen.”   It says no person, meaning that every person who is taken into custody in the USA will get a hearing that will determine his/her rights.  This is a good thing because it protects us from arbitrary actions by law enforcement which can be biased or controlled by lawless forces; and it protects us from errors … for example what if one of those kids is actually a sixth grader born in Florida and vacationing in Texas?  So the President would be violating the Constitution of the United States if he failed to provide each alleged illegal immigrant a hearing. EH?

Second, there is the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA). Signed into  law by George  Busch it provides that unaccompanied immigrant children who come into the custody of the USA be placed in the care of the Department of Health and Human Services.  This law is an amendment to and expansion of the child protection provisions of the USA Patriot Act, which established the Department of Homeland Security and granted the NSA vast powers to spy on citizens.  The purpose of this provision was to protect children from international sex trafficking.  Among other things, it provides that children have a right to  claim asylum, that they will have an appointed lawyer and that they be screened to determine their physical condition.

Does it seem strange that the GOOP Leadership, which has complained loud and long that the President is making extraordinary use of the executive authority and ignoring the Congressional Will, is now complaining that the President is NOT ignoring the requirements of the statute which Congress passed by a substantial majority and which was signed into law by the Republican’s  own brave leader, Dubya himself?  They plan to sue the President for what they call ignoring congressional intent, and now claim that he should be ignoring Congressional intent.  HUH?

More folly is found in the consistent refrain of many prominent GOOPers and talking heads:  WE HAVE TO CLOSE THE BORDER… Obama HAS NOT CLOSED THE BORDER!!!  The idiot Texas Governor has been singing this aria all over the telewaves.    Think about this for a moment.  If Obama had not closed the border, would all these immigrants have been captured and detained?  Wouldn’t they have slipped through the net and found jobs at Mickey Dees and Home Depot by now?   Isn’t  the very fact that we are overstocked with captured immigrants a sure sign that the border is pretty well sealed shut?

And finally there is the absurd assertion by the batshit crazies that somehow Obama orchestrated this mess to undermine the government and destroy democracy as we know it.  This notion is just too stupid to address.

The  truth is there is no issue here.  The purpose of this nonsense is to continue the attack on the President, to undermine his authority and ensure the failure of the government.  We should be calling bullshit on this all the way to the polls in November.

That Deficit Spending Bullshit

The big lie told over and over again becomes truth. This was an observation of Herman Goebbels, and a lesson learned well by Ronnie Raygun, Roger Ailes and their heirs commanding the current right wing lie machine.
The biggest and most effective of the Raygunner’s many lies is the mythic evil of deficit spending.  This notion is now accepted as gospel by nearly every purveyor of conventional beltway wisdom. NPR loves it, NBC News courts it, and no one is heard to question its value who expects any respect on Sunday morning television… Paul Krugman excepted, although it is not clear how much actual respect he gets.

The deficit lie is a particularly pernicious and especially suited to the purposes of the GOOP. After all, if the government is forced to balance its budget it cannot spend in an economic downturn, and it cannot effect the programs it needs to carry out its most important missions. Infrastructure spending, maintenance of the social safety net, and most important for the GOOP… regulation.
The best lies work because they carry some kernel of truth that the masses can identify with… such as the notion that a government budget should be like a household budget. Doesn’t every responsible household balance its budget? People think they do because frugality is among the bedrock common sense values of the USA… and all bedrock common sense Americans honor it. The problem is this is not true.

Since the beginning of modern times, deficit spending has been the secret to accruing wealth in the middle class. It is access to credit, and the educated use of it, that makes the middle class. People who do it well join the club… people who screw it up are the people right wingers didn’t want the government to help with their mortgages back in 2009.
The financier Felix Royhatyn is said to advised young couples to buy a house they could not afford and plan to grow into the debt. Indeed, the heart of the middle class portfolio is the family home, still the engine of the economy and still acquired by deficit spending. Like the government, betting that someday, if necessary, the money can be raised to manage the debt, the middle class family bets it will always be able to manage the thirty-year motgage. Indeed, smart families take on more debt, buying additional real estate, laying it off on accruing equity over time. The more real estate you manage, the more middle class you become.

As I have already pointed out, this can get you into trouble. Just look at the recent real estate mess. None-the-less, and liberals hate this… the loans that got people in trouble were taken out by people who should not have been getting them. They were the work or sharpers and fraudulent sellers and mostly banks that would steal from their grandmothers. Still, people who were not naive found better lenders, bet on a rising market and managed to get out before the bubble burst , made money.  Deficit spending will make you rich if you know how to do it. That’s how family fortunes, some big ones, but mostly small, carefully cultivated ones, are grown.

One advantage that the government has over the average homeowner, of course, is its ability to boost its income any time it wants to. Raising taxes is unpopular, but RESPONSIBLE governments have done it many times over the years to pay for wars, for example, build infrastructure and do the other things necessary. Of course, people who believe we need to “balance the budget” do not believe in responsible government.