Archives For Government

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1: Mississippi. The poorest state in the U.S. Also the one whose corruption most approaches levels in a Third World country.

SOURCE:  Gallery: America’s most corrupt states.

When they talk about corruption in this article they are talking about corruption of public officials and that is generally from taking bribes. As shown above Mississippi comes in as number one in this category. And as also mentioned they are also the poorest and most uneducated State.  I suppose those facts are somewhat related.

I read an article somewhere that much of the South’s poverty came from their reliance on slave labor which prohibited a free market place type competition to reign. Yes, slavery was  abolished officially over 150 years ago but most of us know that it continued to have its effects until the Civil Rights area and even today has not disappeared from the mentality of some of its citizens and their public officials.

Here is the list of the ten most corrupt:

  1. Mississippi
  2. Louisiana
  3. Tennessee
  4. Illinois
  5. Pennsylvania
  6. Alabama
  7. Alaska
  8. South Dakota
  9. Kentucky
  10. Florida

It is interesting to see that six of the ten States are in the south, two in the Middle, one in the Plains, and then Alaska.  During much of my lifetime Louisiana was at the top of this list. Huey Long and his dynasty openly had their hands out in almost all public contracts and such. The same goes for Illinois, particularly Chicago with Mayor Daily (the father that is).

It is surprising to see South Dakota on the list but with all the shale oil boom going on I suppose it is ripe for corruption and kickbacks.  What is even more surprising is that there is no State from the Northeast/New England on the list. Tammany Hall ruled New York City for years but I guess that effects have finally evaporated.

If you are interested in more click on the source above to see the article. Some of what you read will probably surprise you too.

 

2014-08-07_08-41-18Out of the horror of World War II came one of the great achievements in all of human history: the Geneva Convention of 1949. It was a statement from humanity to itself that, in the aftermath of the bloodiest war in history, some decency might still be rescued. Despite the millions of senseless dead, despite all the mass murder and genocide and terror bombing, despite all the filth and hypocrisy and witless incompetence, the Convention states these things shall be held inviolate in war:

Wounded and sick soldiers shall be treated humanely, and medical facilities shall be off-limits to attack.

The same shall be true of wounded, sick, or shipwrecked sailors, and humanitarian ships.

Prisoners of war shall be treated humanely.

Non-combatants shall be treated humanely.

In 1988, President Reagan signed into law a treaty adding another stipulation to the list:

Torture shall be absolutely forbidden.

Reagan was no saint. His foreign policy caused tens of thousands of pointless deaths in Nicaragua alone. But he worked hard to get this treaty passed, and it is to my mind his greatest achievement. It added a bright star to the narrative of human progress….

Let’s compare that to the text of the Convention Against Torture:

No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

Perhaps the most distinctive characteristic of President Obama (aside from his unflappable, even cadence) is the way he instinctively tries to understand and legitimize both sides of every debate. When well-applied, as it was during his famous speech on race during the 2008 campaign, it adds needed nuance and complexity to difficult subjects.

Torture, on the other hand, is a simple subject that has little nuance or complexity. It is an absolute evil that has no place or function in a civilized, decent society. It is illegal under United States law. Only a complete idiot would try to use it to gather intelligence. Its only effective uses are thoroughly totalitarian: to intimidate, punish, and extract false confessions.

SOURE: President Obama’s despicable whitewashing of torture – The Week.

For the most part I am going to let the words above speak for me. Torture and anyone condoning it is simply idiocy. Yes, I kind of agree that one of President Obama’s most distinctive characteristics is trying to legitimize both sided of a debate.  Many times he is just too intellectual for his own, or the country’s good.

I also agree that Reagan was no saint but he came through with his abject hatred of torture.  I wonder how that affects his image for many of the current crop of conservatives who condone that tactic? Torture simply has no place in humanity.  Enough said…..

Triangle Factory Fire…

August 19, 2014

The Triangle Factory Fire was a defining moment in US history. Here is a little about what Wikipedia says about it

2014-04-30_09-32-20The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in Manhattan, New York City on March 25, 1911 was one of the deadliest industrial disasters in the history of the city, and resulted in the fourth highest loss of life from an industrial accident in U.S. history…

The fire caused the deaths of 146 garment workers – 123 women and 23 men [1] – who died from the fire, smoke inhalation, or falling or jumping to their deaths. Most of the victims were recent Jewish and Italian immigrant women aged sixteen to twenty-three…

Because the owners had locked the doors to the stairwells and exits – a common practice at the time to prevent pilferage and unauthorized breaks[6] – many of the workers who could not escape the burning building jumped from the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors to the streets below. The fire led to legislation requiring improved factory safety standards and helped spur the growth of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, which fought for better working conditions for sweatshop workers.

I recently watched a very moving documentary about it on PBS. One of the shocking things I learned from that program was just how much the “system” was against the striking workers. The police, judges and city hall did monstrous things to beat the women back.  It would take J.P. Morgan’s  very privileged daughter to turn this trend. When she came out in favor of the workers things finally started to shift.

For those who might misunderstand the meanings of my words I want to state up front that I believe capitalism is the greatest monetary system in the world. Nothing else even comes close.  But this tragedy is a lesson learned that you just can’t have unregulated industrialization.  Without regulation greed overwhelms the capitalistic system. The owners who caused these unnecessary deaths took their insurance money and basically disappeared with no consequences for the deaths they caused.

I do thank God that these sort of things don’t happen in this country today but they continue to happen in those countries that supply us with our unquenchable desire for more and more cheap goods. We have current government agencies such as OSHA and although they are generally very understaffed compared to those they regulate they do a good job of reigning in unsafe corporate greed.

 

 

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This congress, like the last one is known as the “Do Nothing Congress”. But I guess it is hard to get anything done when one party is against everything except shutting down government and leaving this country totally to the greedy capitalists. It looks like those yahoos are going to go on another long vacation without passing any highway funding bills. *

We are the joke of the world when it comes to our infrastructure. Like so many other things the rest of the first world countries spend what is needed to keep their roads and such pothole free and up to date. I have even heard stories that some German companies refuse to put another factory in our country until they see us get serious about bringing up our standards in this area.

Our congressmen spend less time in their job than any other profession I can think of except maybe teachers :)  But at least teacher to a certain degree get the job done. The politicians seem to just manage to scream and diss each other and anyone else who disagrees with them. What a joke…..

* UPDATE

It isn’t often that an individual, company or government gets everything wrong simultaneously, but members of Congress, clinging fiercely to ideology, expediency and cynicism, are regularly doing just that. There can be no better illustration than the pathetically ignorant and immoral “solution” fashioned last week to forestall the pending insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund.

No thinking person — Democrat, Republican or Unicorn — can possibly believe that encouraging companies to further shortchange already inadequately financed pension plans is a sensible approach to funding highway construction. Nevertheless, that’s what Congress just did, before rushing off to an ill-deserved vacation.

SOURCE: Highway funding bill illustrates everything wrong with Congress | Dallas Morning News.

2014-08-03_11-10-40But the problem is we have structured our economy in this sort of death spirally way, where huge profitable organizations like Wal-Mart pay poverty wages to a million workers, and then taxpayers make up the difference in social services programs like food stamps and Medicaid and rent assistance, and so on and so forth.  It’s as morally repugnant as it is economically inefficient.

It’s a fact that Wal-Mart earned $27 billion in profit last year. They could afford to pay their bottom million workers $10,000 more a year, raise all of those people out of poverty, save tax payers billions of dollars, and still earn $17 billion in profit, right.

It’s simply nuts that we have allowed this to happen. And the only way you can change things is to raise the minimum wage. Certainly the people that run Wal-Mart will not do this on their own.  The idea that businesses will go out of business if they pay workers more is just not true, even though I understand the sort of visceral fear that some of them feel about this change.

SOURCE: Why capitalism has nothing to do with supply and demand | Making Sen$e | PBS NewsHour.

These quotes above drive home what I believe is a very basic reason our economy is still in the state that it is. We just give too much power to the most avid capitalists among us. In other words we give too much power to those few who control most of our nation’s wealth. I am a firm believer in the idea that government’s role in a democratic/capitalist society is to reign in the greed that naturally comes with capitalism.

Unions used to have some control over this wage vs established wealth issue but that is just no longer the case. As is typical of these sort of thing unions themselves became too powerful and as a result too self-focused and corrupt to continue to hold the influence they once had. Unfortunately there was nothing there to replace the void left by the extinction of unions so it is necessary for our government to step in. But even that is another tragic failure in this very disjointed country.

With the almost total breakdown of the ability to govern, especially at the national level, this dichotomy between wages and wealth has gone unabated for a couple of decades now. Our economy is almost totally based on consumer spending but if consumers are stripped of any sense of discretionary income it seems like that is a natural spiral that we will not escape from. The richest among us just don’t eat out 10,000 times a month to replace those who can no longer afford such luxury.

We depend on our government to reign in the excess of our capitalist system and that is just not happening in today’s world.

2014-08-04_09-16-05WASHINGTON AP — The United States declared Sunday it is “appalled” by Israel’s “disgraceful” attack on a United Nations school sheltering some 3,000 displaced people in southern Gaza.

Related Stories US ‘appalled’ by ‘disgraceful’ UN school shelling Associated Press US ‘appalled’ by latest UN school shelling in Gaza

In language that was rare in its directness and severity, the U.S. denounced the attack earlier Sunday, which killed 10 people. The statement released by the U.S. State Department noted that the school had been designated a protected location.

SOURCE:  US calls Israeli attack on UN school ‘disgraceful’ – Yahoo News.

This is the second and last day on this subject or me. I will keep this one short and to the point.

It is nice to finally hear that the U.S. at least at some level is saying “enough is enough” to the Israeli bombing in Gaza. They have now killed over 1,900 mostly citizens in Gaza. The Israelis call it a war but by most standards it would be called a slaughter.

The U.S. was very quick to condemn Russia in the  Ukraine because they might be supplying some of the rebels with weapons. They then followed up  this condemnation with some severe sanction proposals.  I hope to hear a like-minded thing for Israel. At least we could limit the number of new bombs and missiles we send to them to replenish their arsenal. If Israel won’t listen to reason maybe they will listen to us taking their weapons away?

 

SCOTUS Said So…

July 21, 2014

2014-07-07_08-52-54My religious belief strongly oppose war. I think our military budgets are totally outrageous! We, 5% of the world’s population, spend more on our war machine than the rest of the world combined.  With the latest ruling SCOTUS (Supreme Court Of The United States) tells us that religious groups can pick and choose which laws they choose to obey. Thanks to you my tax bill just got smaller. Thanks Mr Scalia and your co-conspirators for making it happen.

You guys never fail to amaze me as to how far you are willing to go to reshape this country to your views. You say you are against “activist judges” but you end up being the epitome of that category by your very rulings. First you upend our voting practices and now you are giving religions power they were never intended to have.

As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wondered aloud in her dissent, “Would the exemption … extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions Jehovah’s Witnesses; antidepressants Scientologists; medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus?”

SOURCE:  8 Other Laws That Could Be Ignored Now That Christians Get To Pick And Choose.

I certainly align with Justice Ginsburg’s comments. If a corporation says we are aligned with a religion that believes that God will take care of all our medical needs does that give them the right to ignore ACA? The whole argument just reeks of possibilities.

For any IRS  or NSA folks who might read this blog I am only kidding about not paying taxes so don’t come after me. ;)

2014-05-30_09-29-20Shinseki reiterated other steps he’s taken, including putting the leadership at the Phoenix facility on leave and ordering a “nationwide audit of all other major VA health care facilities to ensure understanding of, and compliance with, our appointment policy.”

Some question whether removing Shinseki would address the core problems at the VA or simply serve as a distraction for now.”Is him resigning going to get us to the bottom of the problem? Is it going to help us find out what’s really going on?,” asked House Speaker John Boehner, the chamber’s top Republican, adding that his answer so far was “no.”

SOURCE: Shinseki initiating removal of senior leaders at Phoenix VA – CNN.com.

I don’t know about you but it seems I have been hearing the above type problems with the VA almost all of my life. It was pleasantly surprising to see that the top House Republican saying firing another head of that agency won’t fix the problem. If fact it would probably just delay the fixes more.

I’m just a simple guy but it seems that the solution to this problem is pretty logical. Why not just put veterans into the Medicare system? I have been on Medicare for about three years now and have never had to wait more than one month to see any specialist. The article above talks about 115 day waits in the Phoenix VA hospital!  Another fundamental question seems to be why does the VA need their own hospitals? Why can’t they go to the same hospitals as the rest of us.  If PTSD or other specialists are needed I’m sure they could be hired from the existing VA or trained by the private sector.

I’m pretty sure my conservative friends would jump on this solution as WRONG. Maybe we are reversing roles here. I say let the private sector take care of our veterans the same way as they take care of us seniors.  One thing that would be nice to carry over from the VA is for Medicare to be able to negotiate drug prices. VA can presently do that while Medicare can’t. That alone would save us billions in healthcare costs.

Eventually, probably not in my life time, all our health care will be folded into a single payer system as much of the rest of the world has already done. But until that time it just seems to make sense to once and for all get rid of these perpetual problems with VA hospitals. Our young men and women who have been traumatized by their war experiences deserve it. But then again this solution just seems to be common sense and logical so I doubt that those folks in Washington will even consider it…..

Freeloading…

May 29, 2014

2014-05-21_08-34-27“You are right there’s been a lot of freeloading, but the freeloading has been by the biggest financial institutions who got bailed out by the American taxpayers, who broke the law and were never held responsible,” Warren said.

“Here’s the key part — nobody went to jail for any part of this,” Warren continued. “The only people in America today who go to jail are regular folks. Big financial institutions get out there, they launder drug money, they violate the law, and still no one is held accountable. I think that’s fundamentally wrong.”

SOURCE: Elizabeth Warren Reveals What’s ‘Fundamentally Wrong’ About The People Who Go To Jail.

Oh Elizabeth certainly has a way with words. I wish she were as popular as Hillary.  She is an intellectual as Obama is but I won’t hold that against her, at least right now. Her actions in the Senate, if you can call anything in the Senate action, shows that she practices what she preaches.

Why are all the criminal indictments taken against poor and middle income folks? Why are all the “upper class” (I use those words very loosely) seem to be immune from any jail time? I see recently where Credit Suisse was recently fined $2.5 billion for helping the 1%ers hide their income from the IRS.  Attorney General Eric Holder said no bank is too big to jail but actually no one went to jail. $2.5 billions is a lot of money but evidently not to the banking companies as they announced that the money for the fine will cause a slight decrease in the quarterly profits!

My Republican friends seem to be so obsessed with poor people gaming the system and freeloading but then they totally ignore the freeloading by the biggest financial institutions. As Elizabeth said not one person went to jail for any of those things that almost caused the collapse of our country. One of the reasons I heard was that it is just too expensive to indict these millionaires as they would draw out the proceedings for years to come. What an excuse!!  I, and I hope most of you, also think that it is fundamentally wrong to allow someone to be above the law simply by their financial wealth or power status.

I would love to see Elizabeth as president. I know it won’t happen because Hillary has an almost lock on the Democratic ticket. I kind of think Elizabeth would look very much like that pesky Republican of a little more than one hundred years ago. Teddy Roosevelt took on the elite of his time and for the most part beat them. They were called robber barons then but the things they did were pretty much the same as these guys are doing now.  Wouldn’t it be interesting to see if Elizabeth could manage what he accomplished?

Something needs to change in the country soon. Our middle class is evaporating before our eyes. When it is gone and the financial elite are back in almost total control it will be hard to wrench power from them.

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We all are constantly exposed to all those red State folks who rail against the big bad federal government. But who actually benefits from this bigness? As usual it is not surprising to learn that the biggest ranters are also the biggest takers when it comes to this category. Almost twice as much money per capita goes to red states than blue. South Carolina is number one; they get back $7.87 for every dollar they send to the federal government.

Any of you bean counters who what to dig into the statistics click on the graphic above to see the numbers.