Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Pedophile Guide Author's Arrest

Today, the police in Polk County, Florida arrested the man who wrote a manual for pedophiles. The arrest was made after the man sold and mailed his book, "The Pedophile's Guide To Love And Pleasure: A Child Lover's Code of Conduct" to the Polk County sheriff's deputies for $50. For that he was arrested on obscenity charges which, for whatever reason, was the only the only charge that could be brought on a person who wrote a manual for people who would want to sexually abuse and rape children.

I first had my attention pricked by this man's story the time it first broke in November when the people's outrage forced Amazon to pull his book from their shelf. Only in America will it take the people complaining loudly for a book of instructions on how to sexually molest and rape children to be pulled from a major book seller's shelves. Only in America will such a book be on sale in a reputable book store.

Elsewhere it would have been forced into the underground black markets, if it gets published at all. Not that I'm blaming Amazon, or the publishers of that book. I'm not, after all, this is capitalist America where everything has to be, and is, all about the almighty buck. No, my grouse is not with them, my grouse is with the laws of the land that make it legal to teach something that is illegal.

During that public uproar, the author said, in an interview, that he wrote his manual to guide would be pedophiles on how to make a sexual encounter with a child safe. He went on to say this, "Every time you see them on television, they're either rapists, murderers or kidnappers, and, you know, that's not an accurate presentation of that.... sexuality"

We say it is a freedom of speech issue and even though everybody is outraged by it, we let it go as if our hands are tied. Some pundits have even gone as far as comparing it with books about bomb making and how they are legal. Well, I say you can argue that not all bombs are used for terrorism, some bombs are actually used for good causes. Can you make that same argument about pedophilia? No good can ever come out of pedophilia therefore, that argument holds no water.

When things like this happen, it always makes me wonder whether we are actually as intelligent as we think we are. I often wonder whether we made the law or the law made us. Really, were we made for the law or was the law made for us? I mean, how much sense does it make that you can go to jail for being a pedophile while somebody else's "freedom of speech" protects them to teach you the same thing for which you'll get jailed?

I believe this to be a perfect example of where our interpretation or a law emanates strictly from intelligence while completely ignoring wisdom. I also believe there has to be a better way to interpret this freedom of speech law especially concerning something as completely wrong as this one. And, even when there's no way, we should make a way because as humans, we should be able to tweak and reshape our laws in order to make sure that they are working for the good of the society at all times. That's the reason laws are made, anyway.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Why Trickle Down Economics Never Works.

Everybody is ostensibly searching, looking in every possible nook and cranny, for the cause of the hard financial times that has befallen our country America. Hundreds of reasons have been proffered as the cause by thousands of politicians, economists, specialists and experts; you name them, and they probably have put forward some reason(s) and solution to this conundrum.

As can be expected from a situation like this, these reasons and solutions have been as varied as many have been wild. Some have been sincere but many have been self serving, either for individual or group financial gains, or for political gains. In all, few have been willing to say the truth about it and that is the major reason why we have remained in the mess more than two years later.

The Republican Party's solution has always been to give more and more to the wealthy and hope that they will create jobs and employ the rest of us. This policy is known as trickle down economics and was in practise throughout the eight years of the Bush administration contributing in no small measure to the present recession. The way to do this, they claim, is to have the rich keep all the money they make without having to pay any taxes thereby leaving them with enough money to create jobs.

The problem with their claim is that over the ten years that that system has been in trial, what has happened is that the rich have kept almost all the money for themselves making them stupendously richer and the rest of us infinitely poorer. A country cannot be self sufficient when much of its money and wealth is going into the hands of people who do not put it back into the economy but save it. Now, with these lowest ever tax rates for the rich, government cannot even get some of the wealth back and put back into the economy like it used to.

So what you get is government having to keep borrowing more and more money in order to keep the economy and society going. But, because of the system that has been set up, all the money that's borrowed quickly end up in the hands of the same super rich who dump it in banks setting up a vicious cycle that needs to be broken if this country will survive.

Everywhere you look, you see signs indicating that America is unravelling, and fast, but we are not heeding any of these warnings. Our life expectancy has gone down, we are living longer in our parents' houses (those of us whose parents still have houses) and our kids have started begging for clothing. This year, more American children than ever asked for clothing in their letters to Santa.

A new report says that 1 in 4 American children go hungry. Do you notice the trend? Americans have begun to lack the three basic necessities of life which are, food, clothing and shelter. Yet our government still finds it expedient to borrow more money - hundreds of billions of dollars - on our behalf, and hand over to the richest among us who are just about 2% of us. How is that sane?

Now the latest story is that the Republican controlled congress is going to target the safety nets instituted by our forebears as a fall back cushion for the poorest amongst us when they can no longer help themselves. They say safety nets like social security and medicare are the cause of the country's economic problems and are planning to make cuts to them.

That they can make arguments like that with a straight face is what baffles me given that all they do, beside looking for new ways to stiff the middle class and poor, is carve out tax cuts and favors for their rich benefactors. How does one reconcile the fact that they just reached a deal to give $700 billion in additional tax cuts to their rich sponsors while readying their chopping block for cuts to social security and medicare?

They claim that they are trying to cut down the country's deficits and reduce debt as a reason for wanting to cut social security and medicare. When anyone asks about the propriety of borrowing, and therefore, adding hundreds of billions of dollars to the debt and deficit in order to give additional tax cuts to people who are already obscenely rich, there is no reasonable answer.

The best answer they can muster, and which they keep repeating, is the tired line of the rich creating jobs with the extra money they make from the tax cuts. Unfortunately, the tax cuts have been in place for ten years already and the only jobs they created were in China. The only thing they created here is the biggest economic downturn since the great depression.

But, like they keep repeating to everyone who cares to listen, they won the election and therefore, they have the mandate to do everything they are doing right now, and everything they will do throughout their tenure. To be fair to them, they actually campaigned on many of the things they are doing and won which is a fact that does not reflect well on our sanity as Americans.

We are here and will remain here for the next two years before the next elections in 2012. My hope is that we learn enough in this coming two years to realize that the Republican road cannot lead us to where we will love to be as a country. I hope that we will learn enough to recognize that trickle down economics only benefit the very rich who get to keep a disproportionate portion of the wealth while trickling down too little for the rest of us to survive on.

I hope that we will learn enough to go back to what worked for us in the past and made our country the greatest in the world. I hope that we will learn enough to want to go back to the economics of empowering every single one of our citizens instead of just a few and hoping that that few will save the rest of us. I hope we will have learned for certain that they never do.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

American Kids Begging For Clothes From Santa!

According to yahoo news, United States Postal Service workers who handle the millions of letters addressed to Santa by America's children say that this year's batch contains more heartbreaking pleas from children for basic necessities.

One 7 year old wrote "This year my moom don't have much money to spend on Christmas gifts so I'm writing to you. It would make us happy if you and your elves would bring us toys and clothes." 

I had tears in my eyes by the time I finished reading this note from this unknown, to me, 7 year old as I considered how much these things cost that this child's parents, and going by the letters to Santa, many American parents couldn't afford for their children.

I wondered if anybody else is concerned, as much as I am, that children in the country that is considered the richest in the world have become so poor that they have begun to fantasize about clothing, of all things. Not toys, not video games but clothing, a basic necessity.

Things like that are supposed to be coming from the poorest of third world countries and yet here we are, in America, in the twenty first century and our children are going naked, cold and hungry, starting to beg for boots and clothes.

Juxtapose the above story with the fact that, right now, our president and elected congress are squabbling about how best to hand over more than seven hundred borrowed billion dollars to millionaires, multi-millionaires and billionaires as tax cuts.

Consider that while they are trying to decide whether to hand the billions of dollars over to our richest people kneeling, genuflecting or lying prostrate on the ground, American children, the same American children, on whose heads this massive debts are being compiled, are begging for one of the basic human needs.

This begs the question, what is happening to America the great and is this really the country we want? Is this the direction we want our country to take? I believe that all of us should ask ourselves that question and try to find the most honest answer we can for them. Maybe then we might start to steer ourselves and our country towards a future that might be able to compare to our past.

Monday, December 6, 2010

President Obama Finally Caves And Seals His Waterloo?

Today, the 6th of December, 2010, President Barack Obama sealed his fate as a one term president by reaching a deal with the Republican Party to extend the extra tax cuts for the rich. This he did against the wishes of his party and supporters. Finally, he proved what all progressives had suspected ever since he took office that he is not a progressive.

Defending this political suicide, the president said that he agreed to this deal because he did not want the unemployment benefits of jobless workers to expire as Republicans had threatened to let it expire unless they got the extension tax cuts for their masters. This Mr. Obama said, made him go against the wishes of 67% of Americans who do not want the Bush tax cuts extended according to a CBS poll.

This latest capitulation of the president is likely going to be the last straw for his followers as many have come out to condemn what they see as his spinelessness and untrustworthiness. The news media and blogosphere is filled with disappointed and, in many cases, disenchanted followers who are now, mostly ex - followers because of what they see as a blatant betrayal of trust by President Obama.

The palpable feeling is that the president has finally allowed the Republican Party to seal his Waterloo like they said they would. Now, his base no longer has any faith in him, and being that he is not likely to get any Republican votes during an election, Mr. Obama has become damaged goods that needs to be replaced by the Democratic Party if the party will stand any chance in the 2012 presidential election.

And why does this president always seem to not know where to direct his anger? Why does he always want to channel his anger towards his own supporters who only want him to succeed? This question beats me every time and, believe me, I have tried to find an answer, any answer as to why. Just last night, after almost everybody supporting him showed outrage over his latest capitulation to the Republicans, the  president called a hasty and unscheduled news conference to, once again, chastise the only people he seems able to - his base.

He called them purists who can't understand the need for bipartisanship and even made connections between what is happening now and the public option debate during the health care bill passage. The president went ahead to suggest that we, as his followers, should be grateful to have him, and be glad that he has achieved more that all the democratic presidents of the past.

First of all, Mr. President, bipartisanship is not always doing what the opposition wants which is what you have almost always done, I don't know how he could think that's what it is. Second, he may have it in his head that he has achieved so much and that we should be grateful but the reality is that we voted for him, we put him there for our own reasons and he has not met our expectations. Therefore, when he goes raving and ranting at us,  he shouldn't forget that he is the one who's supposed to impress us and not the other way round. Don't also forget that we reserve the right to chose someone else to lead us if he can't meet our expectations as he is not doing right now.

There's a huge difference between bipartisanship and doing what the opposition wants and the president is showing us that right now. He has dared the Republicans to try him and see whether he is ready for a fight but I wonder what they have to do to bring out this fight he is talking about, challenge him to physical fisticuffs? The president has a heck of a lot to do to pacify his base before 2012 - even if I don't know what he can do - so he should really get to work or be a one term president like I said.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Privatization and Small Government: What Connection?

What does the corporatist Republican Party actually mean when it says less government like it keeps repeating like a mantra? I took a moment to ruminate on that statement and what I found out, which you can also discover, if you take a moment to think about it, is this.

Everyday, at every opportunity they get, the Republicans always advise that the only way to go is to shrink government. Their most favorite quote, as handed down to them by their mascot, Ronald Reagan, is " government is the problem and not the solution." That quote is really the rallying cry of the upper class in the greatest class warfare that this country has ever seen. That quote, ably and masterfully delivered by a master salesman, has been the fall back piece of ready made deception for the Republicans ever since then.

Now, to examine what less government means, we must first remember that what we operate is a democratic government, or democracy. Democracy is defined as a government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected representatives under a free electoral system. What this means is that government, in our case, means you and I, we the people.

Then consider the only alternative they give every time they suggest the government gets its hands off anything. Privatize. So, what does it mean to privatize? What is privatization? Privatization means to transfer from public or government control or ownership to private enterprise. It is to transfer ( the production of goods or services) from the public sector of an economy into private hands, ownership or operation.

When you consider the above two definitions, you will realize that what they are really saying, when they clamor for privatization, is for us, the government, to hand everything over to them, the big businesses and corporations, because we the people cannot handle our business. They are trying to make us believe that they love us more than we love ourselves and are the only ones who can manage our affairs. What they are saying is "trust us - even though you have no way to hold us responsible if we mess up - with your affairs instead of yourselves.

Well, that will be something to consider if we have not all been witnesses to the efficiencies, or lack, of the private sector over the years. We have all been witnesses to the many recessions and depressions that private ownership of the production of goods and services has thrown us into, from time to time, only for us, the government, to bail them out. Imagine what will happen if we hand everything over to these individuals and they mess up again, like we know they always do. Many of us are still licking our wounds from the last private sector crash owing to our 401ks that were thrown into it.

It is a very huge risk for us to take considering the places and things they are targeting for this privatization. Starting from Social Security to medicare and medicaid, these are very important and crucial safety nets that we put in place because we understand that as people, there always comes a time when we become too weak to work, maybe because of old age, or illness. Those will just be for starters if they had their way, the Republican Party. They have shown that nothing will be left in the hands of the people (the government) if they had their way.

Imagine a situation where all our security apparatus are privatized; the army, the police, the FBI and the CIA are all privatized and run by private individuals who are not accountable to anyone but their share holders. If you think I'm being dramatic consider that most of the security needs of our diplomats in places Iraq and Afghanistan are being provided by private contractors. Who are these private contractors if not private armies who will be ready to take over control of our armed forces in event of  privatization.

How about finally hiring a CEO type of person to run what remains of our government where he/she is only answerable to the share holders of which ever corporation gets the contract. Sounds far fetched doesn't it? We can keep it that way, or not, depending on what encouragement or otherwise we give the party of corporations because, make no mistakes about this, they will do this if they can find a way.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Julian Assange And That WikiLeaks Leak

Lately, the news has been awash with the story of the Swedish Website, Wiki leaks, which is run by an Australian web hacker named Julian Assange, that has published hundreds of classified United States Intelligence documents. Reactions have been as diverse as they have been many, and I have heard and read them all from the laiser fair - those who think it doesn't matter, to the extreme - those who believe that the perpetrators should face the firing squad.

I have even seen the confused - those who don't know the difference between Mr. Assange and Osama Bin Laden and believe that America should invade Sweden in order to take out the terrorist. In all, it has been a very interesting week of great confusion largely stemming from the novelty of this crime (if I can call it that) committed against the country. People don't quite know what to make of it because this is the first of its kind. Therefore, nobody seems to know under what criminal group to classify Mr. Assange, or what group to classify his crime. Is he a spy or a terrorist? Is his crime treason or is it terrorism against the United States?

And nobody seems to know, which is why you hear all of these references when Mr. Assange and Wiki leaks are being spoken about. Sarah Palin referred to Mr. Assange's crime as a treasonous offense in her tweet, the other day, where she also blamed the Obama administration for failing to stop the leak. Other politicians have called for the arrest and extradition, to the United States, of the Wiki leaks founder to face justice for the commission of this crime.

Even political pundits and news anchors on television don't seem to fully understand what this leak is all about and what risks, if any, it poses to the government of the United States. Many of them fall in the group of people who see no harm, whatsoever, that this leak can cause the country and are actually applauding Wiki leaks for "bringing the truth to the people."  I have seen some question the Secretary of State who said that "leaks like this can tear at the fabrics of responsible government."

The truth about this leak is that while Mr. Assange can't have committed treason for the simple fact that he's not a United States citizen, that does not, in anyway, ameliorate the seriousness of his crime against this country and its people. Like Senator Clinton said, this crime can really cause great destruction to a government if it continues unchecked. It's true that the documents that have been leaked, so far, contain nothing that is very harmful to the country but that doesn't mean that the country is home and dry unscathed.

Yes, the leak has not done any physical damage but it has harmed relationships that has been built over the years with blood, sweat and financial resources. The documents in this leak contain trivial stuff like Gaddafi's mistress and a jibe at the French President but that's not the issue. The issue is the crisis of trust that this has brought between us and our allies. How can our allies continue to have faith in our ability to keep our secret discussions secret?

Now, we have our friends and allies wondering what will be the next things to be leaked as we have proved that we are incapable of keeping secrets.That is definitely not how to maintain the trust of others, or earn it. The people who believe that the leaks don't matter say that citizens deserve to know everything their government is doing on their behalf. They, therefore, believe that leaks like this should come more often and some are already calling Mr. Assange a hero.

This, to me, is the most naive of all the positions I've seen taken on this issue. It is bothering on stupidity to think that it's safe to put everything the government does out in the public domain, especially in this day and age. We might as well have our enemies send a representative and put them in the room every time we are formulating a new policy on how to check mate them. That will be better because the representative will not have to take the minutes of such a meeting back and they will have to depend on what he can imbibe during the meeting, unlike this leak which has the ability to give them facts to keep and consult forever, if they want.

A government is like an individual, and every individual has secrets. You have secrets because you are in competition, at all times, with other people for everything, be they jobs, promotion, top spot on the stock market, you name it. You don't want others to know what hand you'll play next because if they knew, they might beat you to that job or promotion, or get on the market and spoil the opportunity. Governments are like that, too, and we don't want North Korea to know what we are planning for their nuclear reactors, nor do we want Iran to know. Therefore, it's simply stupid to say governments shouldn't have secrets just like it is to say individuals shouldn't have secrets.

While I don't subscribe to the extreme beliefs of those calling for Mr. Assange's execution, I believe that he has committed a grievous crime against this country and its people and should be brought to justice. That is why I support the stance of the Obama administration when it says it will find any possible legal means to bring him to justice. What Wiki leaks is trying to establish is a very dangerous precedent and that should not be allowed to happen. This thing, if it is left unchecked, has the potential to be more damaging to this country than Al Qaeda could ever be. It has to be stopped.