Saturday, March 28, 2009

USA Network's Character Project

HIGHLY recommend a website ... USA Network's Character Project.

"Character Project is USA Network's ongoing artistic initiative committed to celebrating America's characters - the interesting, dazzling, and distinctive people, from all walks of life who make this country extraordinary."

11 world-class photographers spent the summer of 2008 traveling America ... photographing the people and places of America. "From Alaska to New York, the subjects they encountered are a stunning example of our country's diversity."

I SO recommend this site -

Listen in particular to the words of the Photographer David Eustace


OUTRAGEOUS - the big wall street bonuses!! But why are there bonuses paid out in the first place? Wall Street and big business greed? Our propensity to reward non performance? - wait we already have that in a Congress that rewards itself each year with automatic pay raises ... hmm, I wonder --- as Jeffrey D. Korzenik wrote last month, at;
"Our politicians have sharply criticized Wall Street's bonus culture. President Obama has referred to the latest round of industry bonuses as "shameful;" Sen. Dodd has demanded their return and Paul Volcker pointed to this compensation system as a contributory factor in our current crisis.
What hasn't been discussed is the way misguided regulation fostered these pay arrangements in the first place."
cut and paste the link below for a very revealing piece.

Friday, March 27, 2009

At youtube there is a video of the Congresswoman questioning the Treasury Sec. and the Fed. Chairman about the constitutionality of granting or the executive branch grabbing these expanded powers

My comment to this was that it is frightening (their response or lack of, actually) - I received this "comment" in return..
"You're right, Bachman is scary."
to me, this needed a response - so I wrote;
"So, she was wrong to ask that question? And - though was not part of your comment, rather from someone else, the Constitution DOES NOT give the Congress broad powers ...
Joesph Story - Supreme Court Justice in the early 1800's rendered this opinion;
"The plain import of the clause is, that congress shall have all the incidental and instrumental powers, necessary and proper to carry into execution all the express powers. It neither enlarges any power specifically granted; nor is it a grant of any new power to congress. But it is merely a declaration for the removal of all uncertainty, that the means of carrying into execution those, otherwise granted, are included in the grant. Whenever, therefore, a question arises concerning the constitutionality of a particular power, the first question is, whether the power be expressed in the constitution. If it be, the question is decided. If it be not expressed, the next inquiry must be, whether it is properly an incident to an express power, and necessary to its execution. If it be, then it may be exercised by congress. If not, congress cannot exercise it."
Opinions rendered by other Supreme Court justices since hold the same opinion. So, I think that the question was well put.
It amazes me the lack of knowledge Americans have concerning what is really in the Constitution. But more dangerous, no matter which political party - members of Congress (both houses) have little understanding of a document that they took oath to defend and uphold.
What also rails me is the unrelenting call for "term limits" - personally I think it is a good idea .. However, This MUST be initiated by Constitutional amendment - Reformers during the early 1990s used the initiative and referendum to put congressional term limits on the ballot in 23 states. Voters in every one of these states approved the congressional term limits by an average electoral margin of two to one. HOWEVER, in May of 1995, in U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, The United States Supreme Court ruled that states cannot impose term limits upon their federal Representatives or Senators.
This has been tried in Congress - but each time, it failed to garner the sufficient number of votes to move this to a proposed constitutional amendment.
In fact it was the Democrats who were in control of both houses of Congress in the 1940's who were able to muster the required 2/3s majority necessary to put forward an amendment that ultimately set a limit on the number of consecutive terms that a President may serve.
SO - personally, I don't look at what is happening in the context of Liberal or Conservative - nor do I in the context of Democrat or Republican ... I am seeing activities and actions in Washington that indicate that the Central Government has become not only detached from their constituency - but more, has become arrogant about it. It has, in a very real sense, granted themselves the status of "Ruling Elite: THAT is a danger to ALL Americans.
We need representatives of principles, values, and conscience ... NO MATTER WHAT THEIR PARTY AFFILIATION OR THEIR POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY ... where to serve in office is NOT a career path, rather a desire to serve their country.
I personally knew one man who, I think, was very much like that -- He was a liberal Democratic Senator from Minnesota, the late Paul Wellstone - Paul and I were close friends for many, many years, and although we NEVER saw eye to eye on political philosophy, when I resided in Minnesota, I voted for him ... because he was a man of principle. And I admit, I miss him.
I am pleased to say that this dialog continued, This was his/her response - “I appreciate you taking the time to explain your thoughts on the Legislative process and the obligations of our elected officials. Undoubtedly, we all would like our elected representatives to act consistently within their own conscience and follow the intent of the Constitution. However, Michelle Bachman's departure from "normal" politics rebukes coherent governance and erodes the discourse of public policy.”
To which, I thought this necessary..
"'normal' politics - is what got us into this situation to begin with - and this dates back decades and is perhaps the one truly "bi-partisan" thing they have done.
"coherent governance"and "discourse of public policy" - sorry, I don't think we have known this in our lifetime ... I was a journalist for nearly 25 years and have been retired for 14 ... I visit DC often, and still know most of these legislators quite well - which perhaps is a bit telling right there, as most were in office when I was practicing my craft and now nearly 14 years later - they're still there! To a person, they are ALL decent people - but to a person, they are all out of touch with reality.
I am convinced that there is a booth somewhere just before one enters the "beltway" where legislators are required to stop and check their brain - only to able to collect it when they return home after they either loose an election or retire.
The late Congressman Tip O'Neill once told me that a legislator has LONG passed his or her time to hold the office when they think that the government and the country can't run without them.”

Thursday, March 26, 2009

We may well have passed the tipping point

here was a very telling interview this Sunday with President Obama.
Amid the continuing backlash over AIG bonuses, on CBS’s 60 minutes, President Barack Obama is defending his embattled treasury secretary and touting his ambitious $3.6 trillion budget proposal as a boon for ordinary Americans.
And in the interview with 60 minutes, pay attention to when; "Obama noted that corporate executives would better understand the public's outrage over bonuses if they ventured out of New York and spent time in Iowa or Arkansas. There, he said, people are thrilled to be making $75,000 a year with no bonuses." ??
This was a response to the criticism of the banking community, both here and abroad, that these "retribution taxes" on bonuses AND, according to the NYT, "The Obama administration will call for increased oversight of executive pay at all banks, Wall Street firms and possibly other companies as part of a sweeping plan to overhaul financial regulation, government officials said."
Do people, INCLUDING those who did not vote for the president and are critical of this out of touch Congress (being kind) who are so vocal in their rants and raves about Wall Street, AIG, and bonuses not see? These are "straw men" ... to be knocked down -- by the congress in their phony indignation and questionable taxes AND by the people with their "rage" and their "bus tours" We are being played! They are driving deep the roots of a "war between the classes" ... they are playing upon one of our most deeply rooted faults; our intolerance of others. And we are still "sheeple" enough to a large extent, not recognize it.
With each passing day, the similarities between the PATTERNS of behavior - of actions between this administration, and the congress AND those of Germany and Italy of the late 1920's and early 30's are becoming more and more apparent. BUT, I caution you - DO NOT fixate on the characters and the "props" on the stage as that theater was unfolding - FORGET HITLER, MUSSOLINI, Nazism, or in their classical sense, Fascism or even Socialism. President Obama IS NOT - by any stretch, Hitler - nor Mussolini (even though that would be a closer analogy) .. Hitler and Mussolini were unique unto them selves. (the danger is that is that when people begin to recognize the similarities, we immediately fixate on Hitler, et. al. and rightfully say ... "Are you saying President Obama is another Adolph Hitler?" The truthful answer is "Absolutely not!" THEN we overlook these obvious patterns and actions that are costing us our freedom, our democracy, our way of life. Before you know it - we are lost.
Keep this in its most basic form -- WE ARE rapidly spinning into the clutches of an Authoritarian and repressive form of government, PERIOD.
This form of governmental form of control is using US and two of our most pervasive faults to seize the day (No matter where you are along the continuum -from supporter to opponent) - our, as a society, GREED and even more dangerous, OUR ENVY. This is a classic strategy -classic, because you can see how well it is working.
But each point in history is different and unique - and what, in my opinion, is different about this particular "grab for control" is that its underpinnings are weak to non existent. We operate in an environment of a fiat economy, with a fiat currency .... we as a nation, have NO infra-structure in place for self-sustainability, nor do the participants in this Authoritarian movement have the depth of intellect to effectively pull this off. What they DO have is arrogance and EGO (they truly are "heroes in THEIR own minds) They are living examples of the "Peter Principle", if any of you are old enough to remember that.
Add to this what "we the people" seem to have - as a society - an excess of "ENVY and GREED" .... and I am, more and more, beginning to think that utter collapse and chaos (The "Mad Max Effect") is more than a plausibility, more than a possibility, it is rapidly becoming a probability,

Some thoughts about AIG ... or Pay NO attention to that man behind the curtain.

What really made things even clearer - in my opinion - as the wheels are rapidly coming off this wagon...
Look, We - gave, bailed, loaned the the money ... WE the prying public - and we ARE, we intrude into the lives and operations of people and businesses that a year ago we didn't care and knew NOTHING about - from Bernie Matoff, (what he did was beyond doubt terrible - but was ANYONE HERE biked by him personally?, or Anna Nicole Smith, Paris Hilton, Jessica Simpson's figure, or Chris Brown and Rihanna's relationship. The last I check, I wasn't on their Christmas card list - then again, neither are they on mine.
In many respects we are as bad as this inept Federal Government (Congress and the administration) that we, with good reason, object to.
From the Washington Post ...
"A tidal wave of public outrage over bonus payments swamped American International Group yesterday. Hired guards stood watch outside the suburban Connecticut offices of AIG Financial Products, the division whose exotic derivatives brought the insurance giant to the brink of collapse last year."
and this;
""It's a mob effect," one senior executive said. "It's putting people's lives in danger."
Hopefully, we are all beginning to see the intent of the moral platitudes spewing from Washington ... Over at the 912 Project website under the The AIG Story Continues to develop;
here are a few of the comments ... and there are MANY...
as Texas Yankee put it;
"....because it stirs up the populace into a frenzy, which leaves them ripe for his "Rules for Radicals" tactics. "
or Angrydave;
"...This is all to enrage the angry mob and gain more power in the polls of public opinion to move forward a fascist/socialist/communist agenda. Its all the same."
"When people in government start to suggest death for people in private business, how is this different then what Stalin or Hitler did?"
You know, one is often admonished for failing to learn the lessons taught to us by history ... I would suggest that the main reason we have trouble do so is that we fixate on the event and especially the characters on the stage, rather than recognizing and understanding the patterns that cause an even to occur. I would suggest that the patterns are becoming more and more obvious.
There is talk that banks aren’t loaning money - banks ARE loaning money ... But it is much more difficult .. in part because the era of loose loans is over and in large part, many banks are very reluctant to loan money because thanks to the financial geniuses in DC - THEY DON"T KNOW THE RULES, because they are changing all the time. "Around the websites is the “outrage” (Being led, by the President and the - you can supply the adjective - members of congress) over AIGs overseas banks monies received in the “bailout package” - like Deutschebank, Barclay's and Societe Generale!"
Well, actually isn’t quite true ... a good article to read is “AIG details bailout money use after anger over bonuses”
These pay outs were to help meet securities lending obligations and in collateral for banks to meet obligations related to credit default swaps. By the way - Credit default swaps protect investors from defaults on bonds backed in many cases by subprime mortgages. Gee, interesting how it comes back to the Halls Of Congress once again!!
But we exist in a world with both a global financial and global economy - so to think of Deutschebank, Barclay's and Societe Generale (for example) as if they were financial institutions on some other planet is to not realize that money from these and other foreign institutions as as ingrained in the debt of your community – perhaps even you personally (credit cards - mortages, etc) as much as the BB&T, TCF, or a multitude of local and regional banks (most ALL by the way in sound financial shape) as OUR banks are ingrained in the “credit lives” of those living in other countries.
In addition the term "retention bonus" is usually applied to an amount paid to keep the person around until their job is eliminated - sort of like a severance pay ... but you are required to stay and work for it.
SO, angry ... YES be that way.. but direct that anger to the proper culprits ... ones who created the futile bed - loans for people who not only couldn't afford the loan payback OR fraudulently obtained the loan ... and most importantly - in my view - Those who VIOLATED THE CONSTITUTION by issuing bailouts in the first place!!!!
I would add .. think about it ... they (government) raises the stink and we, even those of us here that abhor rapid move toward socialism and CONTROL of our lives, are acting like lemmings ... and following along in step.
One of the keys to the socialist movement is to create, define, and solidify a class distinction - create an environment of class warfare, if you will. It might be said .. we are being USED by the forces we most object too.
I would just suggest that we use caution.
Remember the scene from the Wizard of OZ

A "blog" - alright some ramblings - same difference

Alright, rambling time - oops, I mean time to write a “blog” ... same difference,
One of the demands I am seeing consistently mentioned at the growing plethora of websites such as the 912 project, is the demand for term limits. How short our collective memory is. Let me take you back to the 1990's - Reformers in the early 1990s used the initiative and referendum to put congressional term limits on the ballot in 23 states. Voters in every one of these states approved the congressional term limits by an average electoral margin of two to one. In May of '95, the United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, 514 U.S. 779 (1995) that states cannot impose term limits upon their federal Representatives or Senators. In other word, it was ruled that ONLY CONGRESS could enact and impose it OWN limits on terms. In order for limits to be imposed it would take the passage of a constitutional amendment. Attempts to put forward that legislation (especially when the Republicans held sway in Congress) also fell short of the required number of votes to put it forward as a proposed Constitutional Amendment.
When you take this, add it to a Congress that votes itself automatic pay raises, passing legislation that runs counter to a torrent of constituent comment in opposition. (remember the remarks of Senator Dianne Finstein ( --- it is about a minute into the video) In short she was saying the people just don't know any better, but we do! And remember the remarks of NY Senator Charles Schumer?
In effect, WE (the voters) have created a "ruling class"
One of the many things I have seen and sense in Washington (I was a journalist for nearly 25 years, have been retired for nearly 14 - but remain in close contact with many lawmakers, sadly many STILL hold office and these were in office when I began my career!!!) is not only a dis-connect from the world outside the beltway, but also an arrogance and elitism. This arrogance seems to know NO party affiliation. How "We the People" deal with that .... I am at a loss.
However, that "at a loss" may be changing, I came across this interesting Op-Ed in today's edition of the Chicago Tribune. A piece written by Ronald D. Rotunda, professor at Chapman University School of Law:
"Some strings attached
Is the stimulus law constitutional?,0,216570.story
This raises another interesting question - there is nothing in the Constitution that either forbids or set procedure for a state or states to leave the union. There was in the Articles of Confederation, however, nothing was mentioned i the Constitution, there is this unwritten concept that a state or states would have first to get the consent of the other states. However, the persistent circumventing of the Constitution by the Federal Gov. causes that document to become null and void ... so in theory, The Central or Federal government, by its actions have abrogated this document - thus, it could be argued, creating the Constitution null and void. Therefore, what would prevent states from seceding from a Union that is without charter? Does make one wonder.
At last count some 22 states have resolutions before their legislatures in effect drawing such a line in the sand. Perhaps much better and less dangerous than revolution would be to start all over again. THIS TIME ADHERING TO THE CONSTITUTION -- THE REAL CONSTITUTION, as it was written.
Wanted to tell you about a long time friend of mine --- he is a constitutional lawyer John Remington Graham - one of his books I wanted to pass along is .. A Constitutional History Secession.
His most recent - published by a small publishing company in one of the Southern States is titled; Blood Money: The Civil War and the Federal Reserve
I just wanted to highly recommend both and not because he is a friend.
In addition, when I was looking up the "correct title" ... I sometimes love web searches, as when looking for one thing ... one often stumbles up other treasures, like this .. a paper written by Andrei Kreptul, Seattle University of Law
Unlike many people, I don't look for villains ... I see things in terms of cycles and that includes the "nation-state" and I truly believe that we are on the down side of our cycle. Most of us, I think, falsely labor under a notion that all things are linear (it must be a "Darwinian thing") - I believe in the Other theory, that things are cyclical, having a beginning, a pinnacle, and a slide to an end --- only to begin the cycle again. This has been the lesson (or it should have been) of the history of civilizations and nation-states.
I believe a good friend of mine, FREEMAN DYSON who s professor of physics at the Institute for Advanced Study, in Princeton. In an essay he wrote a couple of years ago. The entire essay is great ... it is called,
In particular to the point I wanted to make about cycles ... he wrote;
"To conclude this piece I come to my third and last heresy. My third heresy says that the United States has less than a century left of its turn as top nation. Since the modern nation-state was invented around the year 1500, a succession of countries have taken turns at being top nation, first Spain, then France, Britain, America. Each turn lasted about 150 years. Ours began in 1920, so it should end about 2070.
... Who will be the next top nation? China is the obvious candidate. After that it might be India or Brazil. We should be asking ourselves, not how to live in an America-dominated world, but how to prepare for a world that is not America-dominated. That may be the most important problem for the next generation of Americans to solve. How does a people that thinks of itself as number one yield gracefully to become number two? "
I think we are at the end of our cycle ... to be sure this won’t be a “walk in the park” ... but I think it has the potential for being a very exciting time. There is such a rumbling, a rumbling that often is the early stages of “revolution” ... an event that I believe would be so counter-productive. Something about anarchy that just doesn’t sit well with me.
I would suppose that is why I am becoming a stronger advocate of secession as perhaps being the only way we can dismantle what this has all become and begin again, THIS TIME REALLY PAYING HEED TO THE CONSTITUTION. Becoming a radical in my old age? Naw, just OLD AND CRANKY.
You know, one is often admonished for failing to learn the lessons taught to us by history ... I would suggest that the main reason we have trouble do so is that we fixate on the event and especially the characters on the stage, rather than recognizing and understanding the patterns that cause an even to occur.

This is troubling

This concerns me -
It has been mentioned that the Government - Treasury and the Fed - have begun to monetize the national debt. First sale was today and drew a less than enthusiastic turnout (oh, also today - In Great Britain, a routine sale of Government bonds today fell short. The Treasury failed to find buyers for £120million worth of debt.
It was the first time since 2002 that the Government has been unable to sell its debt, and this will be seized on by those who have warned that there is insufficient demand for the volume of debt being sold by the Treasury.
However, our loaning ourselves money has gone on for a while ... according to a piece at
"the biggest holder of US government debt is the United States itself. The Federal Reserve system of banks and other US intragovernmental holdings account for a stunning $4.806 trillion in US Treasury debt. And with recent announcements from the Fed, potentially another $1 trillion could be added... About a decade ago, this number was "only" $2.5 trillion."
Now let’s add this - moving this morning on Bloomberg
“Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco President Janet Yellen said the central bank wants authority to issue its own debt, a move that would bolster its efforts to raise interest rates as the credit crisis abates.
The Fed normally raises interest rates by selling Treasuries on its balance sheet, draining reserves from the banking system. That task is tougher with the Fed’s commitment last week to buy more than $1 trillion in mortgage-backed securities, which are harder to sell quickly without roiling markets. The central bank cut its main rate to almost zero in December and switched its focus to emergency credit programs.
On the power to sell debt, “I would feel happier having it now” so the Fed could use that authority to adjust its balance sheet, Yellen told reporters yesterday after a New York speech. Even without that tool, “there is a great deal we can do,” she said, “but it would certainly be a nice thing to have.” “