September 29th, 2012 ~ Permit me to take a little break from my political harangues to return to energy matters for a bit. I can feel your disappointment from here, but please be assured, I'll return to my soapbox shortly. I promise!
As anyone who has read my "New American Crisis" article knows, I'm a staunch supporter of electric vehicles (eV's) as our ONLY route to freedom from the death-grip of fossil fuels like oil and gas. I recognize, however, the range limitations imposed by even the most advanced of today's battery technologies. So does Bob Lutz, former General Motors Vice Chairman and the driving force behind the Chevy "Volt".
What makes the Volt exceptional in the eV world is its small "range extender" gasoline engine which serves ONLY as a generator for an otherwise purely electric drive train. While the Volt's all-electric range is about 40 miles (60 miles short of the approximately 100 mile range of eV's like the Nissan Leaf), its range extender generator gives it an overall range of 400 miles before a fill-up or recharge.
One of the key lessons Bob Lutz learned in his stewardship of GM's first modern electric car, the "EV1", was that Americans might use their cars only for short trips 90% of the time, but for that other 10% (family vacations, etc.) it BETTER have equivalent range to their gasoline powered cousins or "no sale".
Another more recent lesson Mr. Lutz learned was that while his Chevy Volt is a stylish, comfortable, well-appointed mid-size sedan (not the cramped Frankenwagen or plastic Jetsonmobile most Americans picture an eV to be), it's still not the big-iron pickup or SUV so many Americans love. He left GM shortly after the Volt's unveiling, but took his hard-won lessons with him to a new enterprise, VIA Motors, where he has applied those lessons to filling that gap in the eV offerings; the muscle gap.
I should caution you not to get too excited just yet. Because the economics of such eREV vehicles make them highly attractive to service industries, there's a considerable backlog of LARGE orders for VIA to fill before they can begin private vehicle sales. But because of those orders, private vehicle owners will have the comfort of knowing their truck or SUV is not some hand-built oddity with zero parts availability, but one of a growing number of identical vehicles rolling off assembly lines and onto the road.
Interesting times. And now... back to my tirades!
September 26th, 2012 ~ The calculus of democracy. If Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan win in November, we non-millionaires (non-QUARTER-millionaires), will likely see an approximately $2,500 increase in our annual income taxes to offset the average $250,000 tax breaks Romney and Ryan want for millionaires and billionaires like, well... Mitt Romney. But Romney/Ryan can't do this alone. They will need a GOP majority in Congress too. So, we're also seeing the Koch brothers, Dick Armey, Karl Rove and who knows how many FOREIGN supporters, pumping tens of millions of "dark money" into electing GOP Senators and Representatives who will rip up our social contracts and leave us swinging in the wind for their predator pals to pick off.
Looking at this situation from a purely "business" perspective, doesn't it seem a good investment to back the Obama campaign and especially the down-ticket Democratic candidates who will protect our clean air and water, our individual rights to our own bodies and who we love, our JOBS, our homes, our investments in our retirements, our children's futures, our NATION'S future?
So, if you can contribute $5, $10, $20, or whatever you can manage to the Obama-Biden campaign or ANY of the down-ticket campaigns like those of Tammy Duckworth, Sherrod Brown, Rob Zerban, or Elizabeth Warren, you're not just contributing to Democratic political campaigns. You're INVESTING in America.
In fact, ANYTHING short of $2,500 in total contributions to Democratic candidates in this ONE election year will prevent the GOP from taking $10,000 of our hard-earned income in taxes over the next FOUR years to support the CORPORATE WELFARE of Mitt and his pals. That's $7,500 or more, over four years, remaining in OUR pockets instead of THEIRS. Sounds like a good investment to me. Nothing personal, you understand; just business.
September 24th, 2012 ~ Flip-Flopper, Etch-a-Sketch, NOBODY seems to know the real Mitt Romney. Or DO we? What DOES this habitual liar (I'll let YOU decide which kind he is) and malignant narcissist have in store for the nation he LOVES so much? I think Terry O'Quinn nailed it in the 1987 classic, "The Stepfather".
Let's just back away, with soothing words, so he feels comfortable in his deceptions. No need to trigger that
family annihilator thing. After all, he still has Bain. And BILLIONS in offshore tax havens (thank you, Gawker.com). It's not like he lost his job as so many MILLIONS of Americans have. He never actually had one, did he? Do We, the People, need a restraining order?
September 21st, 2012 ~ After an initially small anti-militia protest in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, 30,000 Libyans stormed the Benghazi headquarters of Salafist jihadi group Ansar al-Sharia in protest of the killing of U.S. Envoy Chris Stevens and three other American diplomatic personnel. I have to admit, I was deeply moved by this entirely spontaneous and courageous response by the people of Benghazi on behalf of someone they had come to know as a friend and an ally in their struggle for Democracy.
Aside from the New York Times, al Jazeera, and at least one notable web media site, most of the U.S. corporate cable and broadcast news seem to have missed this story. Perhaps it occurred at a bad time in the 24x7 news cycle. We'll know more tomorrow. Maybe.
September 19th, 2012 ~ Two men of great material wealth. One man rich in spirit if not in health. A man who died at the tiller, steering our nation and our WORLD out of the dark and jagged shoals of fascist zealotry toward a bright and hopeful future for ALL. A man who helped define our American Dream and gave his LAST FULL MEASURE defending and helping many of US realize that dream.
Another man, BANKRUPT of spirit, but healthy as a horse. A man who lives only for his own self aggrandizement; who wants to see America returned to the dog-eat-dog nightmare of the turn of the Century. The turn of the 20th Century! A man who can casually write off nearly half of the American People as a bunch of freeloading moochers with no sense of personal responsibility.
September 13th, 2012 ~ As I listen to the income tax positions of President Obama and former Governor Romney, I find I keep coming back to the same unanswered question. The President wants all EARNED income above $250K taxed at the rates which attended the boom-boom economy of former President Bill Clinton. Romney and Ryan want the current Bush 43 tax cuts on EARNED income extended and further reduced by 20% across the board, AND they want the top UNEARNED capital gains tax rate reduced to nearly zero.
As egregiously devastating as the earned income tax cuts proposed by Romney/Ryan would be to our national debt, it's that UNEARNED income capital gains rate I'm most curious and concerned about. According to Citizens for Tax Justice, President Clinton kept the top capital gains tax rate at 28% until 1997, when, under intense GOP pressure, he agreed to lower it to 20%. President Bush then lowered that top capital gains rate further to 15% in 2003, where it stands today as part of Bush's "trickle down" economics agenda.
We KNOW how that "trickle down" approach worked. It worked quite nicely for the "job creators" who became exponentially wealthier from such sweetheart tax rates. It was an abysmal failure for millions of American wage earners who saw the job creators export MILLIONS of their jobs offshore; along with hundreds of BILLIONS of profit which the job creators want repatriated under a "no tax" amnesty program.
In this brilliant analysis by Reuters contributor John Wasik, it's clear that the lion's share of tax benefits are realized by those who EARN no income; by those manicured fingernails who profit from capital gains. So, with all the political rhetoric on both sides seemingly focused on the "marginal" EARNED income tax rates, it's REALLY the Billionaire's friend, the UNEARNED income CAPITAL GAINS rates, we hard-working American WAGE EARNERS need to be focused on.
Here, then, is my unanswered question: If President Obama prevails both in our upcoming election and in rolling back the Bush tax cuts for all EARNED income above $250K (no small accomplishment), does that include a rollback of the top capital gains UNEARNED tax rate from the current 15% to the 1997 Clinton rate of 21%? If not, why not?
September 12th, 2012 ~ Barely had I posted my previous missive, when I learned of the highly coordinated assassination of our envoy to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three other American diplomatic personnel, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty, and an as yet unidentified person, in Benghazi. The involvement of al Qaeda or its affiliates in this assassination is beyond question. The only question is who flooded YouTube with multiple uploads of the obscenity entitled, "Innocence of Muslims" claimed as the catalyst for that attack?
Initial reports stated a man who identified himself as Israeli-born "Sam Bacile" produced the film, but subsequent investigations by the Associated Press traced the phone number of Sam Bacile to 55-year-old Coptic Christian, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula. Nakoula claims he was the manager of the company that produced the film, but denied he had posed as Bacile. Other connections, however, seem to point to him, despite his denials.
Nakoula has frequently used alias' including Nicola "Bacily", in what appears to have been a long criminal career. In 2010, he pleaded no contest to federal bank fraud charges in California and was ordered to pay over $790,000 in restitution, sentenced to 21 months in federal prison, and ordered not to use computers or the internet for five years after his release. I'll repeat that. He was ordered BY A FEDERAL JUDGE, to stay away from computers and the internet, or face additional incarceration and possibly additional fines for contempt of court.
So, even if it turns out Nakoula indeed had a hand in the production of this so-called "film", wouldn't he be a complete IDIOT if he then posted that turd-in-the-punchbowl all over the internet? I don't know about you, but despite Nakoula's Coptic background, he doesn't strike me as someone who would publicly screw himself this way. Someone convicted for bank fraud, regardless of any ideology he might hold, would not invite the sort of withering world attention we're seeing. It's just NOT good for business. Anonymity is the con-man's friend.
We then need to dig a bit deeper to figure out who conned the con-man. Who would benefit MOST from inflaming the Islamic world against a film (which I'm beginning to suspect has never actually been edited into a complete work) and against the country in which it was made? Who might actually have waved a five million dollar payoff under the nose of someone known to be a con artist to get this travesty produced?
I wish I had the answers to these questions, but I don't. I only know there are forces at work in our world which seek to tear all decent people apart and to then DOMINATE us, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Wiccans, and Humanists alike, by wrapping their blood-soaked horrors in the snowy-white raiments of false righteousness. Whoever they are, wherever they are, ALL people of good will, of decency and tolerance, MUST put them under the intense light of world condemnation. They are a pox upon the face of our world. They MUST be stopped. They WILL be stopped.
September 11th, 2012 ~ On this somber eleventh anniversary of the al Qaeda attacks on American soil, thanks to President Obama and the heroes of SEAL team six, Osama bin Laden and many of his fellow Wahhabi cult followers are dead.
I was impressed by this morning's respectful moment of silence by our President, First Lady, and the entire White House staff. I was equally impressed by Kurt Eichenwald's new book, released today, "500 Days", an unblinking look at the Bush administration's manipulation of the 9/11 attacks to activate plans they already had in place for an Iraq invasion.
Read the excerpt. I really don't need to say anything more about who truly cares about the American people and who cared only about profit at any cost.
September 6th, 2012 ~ On 9/11/2001, Osama bin Laden's deluded minions drove a civilian plane packed with mothers and babies into the Pentagon and except for the tragic courage of the passengers aboard United Flight 93, might also have driven a plane full of mothers and babies into our White House or Capitol. But bin Laden's PRIMARY target was America's economy. He sent TWO planes full of mothers and babies into the World Trade Center towers, killing nearly 3,000 innocents, to cripple our economy.
Our financial markets DID take a big hit immediately after those attacks and Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz had no choice but to go after the mastermind. America and the world were watching. But Afghanistan was NOT where Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz wanted to be. Their REAL objective was Iraqi oil. So, they let bin Laden escape at Tora-Bora and let thousands of American troops die in Afghanistan over the subsequent seven years with no clear mission, to pursue their Iraqi ambitions.
Through a series of "Continuing Resolutions", Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz attempted to conduct their Iraq war "off the books", but the growing bill for that war, combined with Bush's massive tax cuts and laissez faire oversight of financial markets, eventually drove our economy to the brink of destruction in 2008. Exactly the sort of economic devastation bin Laden was hoping for.
Unfortunately for al Qaeda's aspirations and the Bush administration's profligacy, our election of Barack Obama as President put the brakes on that plunge and began the long, arduous, climb back toward economic security and prosperity. That climb has been made MUCH harder, not easier, by GOP Senators and Congressmen, who met ON THE DAY OF HIS INAUGURATION to conspire against our President and ultimately against US.
From foot-dragging on extension of unemployment insurance benefits, to opposing extension of low-interest student loans, to trying to kill the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to holding America hostage on the usually routine extension of our debt ceiling, House and Senate Republicans conspired to stymie ANY efforts by our President to accelerate our economic recovery. Even the American Jobs Act was stonewalled in both chambers, forcing it to be reintroduced as a series of smaller bills, the vast majority of which were ALSO blocked by GOP Senators and Representatives.
Why did GOP legislators hobble our economic recovery and hurt their own constituents this way? Because they see it as good politics to make Barack Obama look bad. Seriously. THAT'S their plan. Not to help unemployed or underemployed Americans get back to good-paying jobs, not to help recent college grads in an uncertain jobs market with their student loans, not to keep our nation's AAA credit rating from being downgraded by S&P to AA+ with their debt ceiling hostage crisis, but to ensure Barack Obama is a one-term president. I don't know about you, but I just can't wrap my mind around such craven sociopathy.
Which begs the question: If al Qaeda's ideology calls for the destruction of America's economy and GOP ideology calls for the destruction of America's economic recovery, how, exactly do I tell the difference between the two? Perhaps the secret funding by multinational oil interests!? No, that doesn't work. Oh, I know! The pandering to religious extremists to convert America's democracy into a theocracy dominated by the wealthy elites! No. That doesn't work either. I'm sorry, I just can't see a difference. Can you?
September 3rd, 2012 ~ Today, America officially celebrates Labor Day; a day of grilled dogs and burgers, frantic end-of-summer play, and honoring all the corporate CEO's and other business leaders who achieved their own success. Wait! WHA...?!
No, you read that right. Or, should I say, you read "THE Right" view of Labor Day, as tweeted by GOP House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor. The worst thing is it shows absolutely no creativity; no imagination.
Cantor could have claimed Labor Day to honor 13-year-old incest victims, compelled by federal law to give birth to their own brothers and sisters. I mean, if you're going to take a dump on America's middle class wage earners, why not make it a BIG DUMP? C'Mon, Cantor! I expect you and your fellow GOP douche nozzles to come up with something truly sickening for Mother's Day. Show us that REAL AMERICAN disdain for America! You don't want Akin, King, Gohmert, or BACHMANN to think you're a pussy, do you?
September 1st, 2012 ~ The Republican National Convention just concluded its circus in Tampa, Florida last Thursday with Willard "Mitt" Romney's acceptance speech. After listening to that mendacious litany, I can think of no one who sums up the Romney/Ryan ticket better than John Lovitz. Great thanks to "Comic Relief" for this Bon Mot.