Monday, August 31, 2009

Healthcare letter: for viral distribution

I've written a sample letter I'm hoping to get out to as many people as possible. This is the last week of the Congressional recess and your Senators and Representatives may think they can relax. We need to keep the pressure on to make them painfully aware that we - their constituents - are mightily pissed off about this and that we don't buy the BS coming out of the White House. I urge everyone to use this sample letter and send a copy to your Representative and to your two Senators. Then send a copy of the letter to everyone you know locally and to everyone you know in any other Congressional districts and states. Perhaps we can get this going virally and deluge the politicians with letters from the very people who elect them. Maybe we'll even get their attention.

Dear (insert Rep or Sen name):

I am a constituent, writing to you about the ‘healthcare’ issue. I use quotes because it is apparent that this is not at all about healthcare but about ensuring insurance company profits for the foreseeable future.

I am adamantly against any ‘healthcare’ legislation at this time, for two reasons: first, the ‘healthcare’ proposals, in any of the five versions of the bill that I have seen, are dedicated to preserving the status quo; which means they are not solutions at all. Second, if this sham proposal goes through it will destroy any chance for true reform, i.e., single payer, for at least one generation, probably two.

I say ‘single payer’ because that is the only way we are ever going to get true healthcare reform – private healthcare insurance has to go. Until we can face that simple fact we will not get healthcare costs under control, ever.

I say ‘we’ but of course I mean you as my Representative or Senator. You are responsible for getting us out of this mess and please don’t talk to me about ‘public options’ or ‘healthcare co-ops’ these are ridiculous red herrings and you know it. There is only one way to contain and control healthcare in this country: single payer. Every other modern country in the world has single payer in one form or another: they all work much better than ours and cost half as much to run.

There is a reason they cost that much less to run, here are the numbers from the 2008 annual reports of the top four private health insurers:

United Health Group 2008 Results of Operations SEC filing 10-K
Revenues    $81,186,000,000.00
Medical Costs   $60,359,000,000.00
Remainder    $20,827,000,000.00
Remainder as percentage of Revenue:  25.6%

Wellpoint 2008 Results of Operations SEC filing 10-K
Premiums   $61,679,200,000.00
Benefit expense    $47,742,400,000.00
Remainder    $13,936,800,000.00
Remainder as percentage of Premiums:  22.6%

Aetna Inc PA 2008 Results of Operations SEC filing 10-K
Revenues    $28,775,000,000.00
Medical Costs   $20,785,000,000.00
Remainder    $7,990,000,000.00
Remainder as percentage of Revenue:  27.7%

Humana 2008 Results of Operations SEC filing 10-K

Revenues    $28,064,844,000.00
Benefit Expenses    $23,708,233,000.00
Remainder    $4,356,611,000.00
Remainder as percentage of Revenue:  15.5%

These numbers, proof of the obscenely high profit margins of private insurers, should help you in your argument against this atrociously bad legislation. It may help stiffen your resolve to remember that these profits are made on the suffering of your constituents.

In the legal world there is a phrase used to affix responsibility for actions or failure to act, it is: “Knew or should have known”.

Now that you have the above information, you can no longer claim ignorance, you are responsible.

Please know, also, that we will hold you accountable. This is a defining moment for you as my Representative or Senator. No previous good works will sway me if you fail to represent my interest in this matter – unless you vote against this preternaturally bad legislation, I will vote against you in your next election. Furthermore, I will make every effort to see that you are defeated and turned out of office.

Very truly yours,

(your name)

Go here to find your Representative's contact information.

Go here to find your Senator's contact information.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Days of Our Lives

These are the days we have, the ones we number, the ones we’ll always remember, the ones we want to forget, the ones we’ll never forget. There are some we don’t talk about – ever. Some are painful, some are hilarious, some hurt, some make us cry- every time we think of them. They come as a shock, as a stunning relief, as a whisper, as a long soft memory, as a growing realization, some of them have names…

These are some of my Days, not necessarily in chronological order, so far.
What are yours?

The Day You Wake Up
I was just a Malibu kid (whenever possible) diving into the waves and kelp and wrangling stinkbugs in the Hollywood Hills. Then at age six or seven - I woke up. I don’t remember the exact day but I remember looking into the mirror and knowing who I was, knowing that I was different from any other person in the world. It was amazing… and in the next split second I knew I would die one day and sadness, not fear, ran all the way through me…welcome to the human race, I thought.

The Day You Notice Girls
You’ve been a wild thing in a pre-Pandoran paradise. Well, that’s over. Welcome to Hormone World. From now on – for the next ten years or so you will officially be a walking sack of shit and hormones (use that metaphor any way you want to, everything applies). The only good thing is that you are not really responsible for anything that happens during this time.
Note: This release is only for internal bookkeeping, the outside world will pound you over the head for every action you take – whether it was well-intentioned or not.
In other words: you’re screwed.

The Day You Are King of the Jungle
OK, guys, admit it: sometime around age 13, 14, 15 you went to your ‘secret’ place by the river, in the forest, down by the railroad tracks – the place where you could be really, really alone… and you stood there and pounded your chest and practiced your Tarzan roar… it’s OK, we all did it. Usually we hacked and coughed a lot afterwards. For a short time, after we discovered we have muscles, this is irresistible. Don’t be ashamed, it’s kinda a rite of passage… [snicker]… No! I didn’t mean that…

The Day the Music Mattered
I grew up in the ‘60s, yeah I was at Woodstock (eat yer hearts out yuppie poseurs!), when music mattered. This of course has not happened to any other generation… the Beatles were OK but not really cool until they dropped acid and went crazy, the Stones were never satisfied, Cream were gods, Dylan was our poet laureate, Jefferson Airplane wrote the manifesto, The Who were right (they still are), the Dead were always making trouble somewhere, Janis made you want to go all apeman and tear everybody’s clothes off and then there was Jimi… words need not apply.
But, there were rumors in the fall of 1968 that a new supergroup of english blues-rock musicians was forming. Jimmy Page had left the Yardbirds as that legendary group was breaking up. We'd heard that he and Jeff Beck (co-lead guitar with the Yardbirds) might be forming the group, Keith Moon and John Entwistle from The Who were said to be interested. Other rumors said that Page was the only member with a rockstar reputation since Beck and Chris Dreja had dropped out.
No one knew who the other members of the group were, there was just a name: Led Zeppelin (Lead Balloon in American).
An American tour was scheduled for January 1969 - but no one had heard any of their music - anticipation was running high.

One day on a cold November morning in New York I was walking down Washington Place from the Sheridan Square station towards Avenue of the Americas. On the left side of the street there was a great record shop down 4-5 steps into a half basement. They played music through loudspeakers stuffed into the windows and pointed towards the street. They were known to have the very latest imports and the very earliest cuts from across the Atlantic, sometimes including pre-release reviewer copies of extremely hard to get records.
Sometimes they would even sell them to you.

I remember walking towards 6th Avenue and suddenly being frozen in my tracks as the sound came on: the thundering drums, the intimidating, gut-wrenching, shuddering bass, the shrieking, snapping, howling lead guitar… and all of it recorded and played way too loud.
I'd never heard anything like it - no one had.
I hated the annoying singer but it didn't matter, that sound was fearless, uncompromising, an irresistible force in a universe that had never existed before.
It was Led Zeppelin, it was a revolution.

The Day You Fall in Love (for the first time)
The first time I saw her, she was crying. Some handsome, thoughtless cad had broken her heart and she was crying it out. I held her for as long as it took for the sobs to choke to a halt, she looked up and I was lost. The rest is what happens when you are, ‘a friend’. I was all of eighteen and knew less than nothing - but that moment was real. [cue “North Dakota” by Lyle Lovett]

The Day It No Longer Does
Somewhere down the line, the musicianship flagged, the music got bad, then boring and I went back to music of my youth: Bach, Brahms, Chopin, Rachmaninov, Prokofiev. Sometime later I awoke to find that music had moved on or I had gotten older, I’m not sure which. In any event, music wasn’t important anymore, that is, it wasn’t integral to my life any longer. It didn’t matter to me if so-and-so had the cred to say thus-and such… really I didn’t even know who half the groups were anymore… or care. The generations move on and on, an ineluctable wave on the time current… and so it goes….

The Day You Realize that You Are Really Smart
A day comes when you are in the middle of a conversation or a game or a meeting at work… and you suddenly realize that the other party or parties in the meeting/conversation/competition have no clue to what you are doing or talking about. This is not arrogance or ego, it is a flash of understanding that there are a host of people out there who will never, ever, get what you are saying or doing. It’s a lonely moment because the world now contains far fewer people you can really talk to, for the rest you will have to find a way to get them the information in a form they can deal with. This sounds cruel and people will usually resent it when they are apprised of it, but it’s real on many levels – I talk to specialists in many fields but especially in mathematics and I feel like a low grade moron when I see them struggling to reduce their brilliance to a level that an idiot like me can understand.

The Day You Stop Leaving Jagged Holes in the Concrete When You Walk
Neal Stephenson said this very well in his novel “Snow Crash” (I’m paraphrasing here) Until a certain point, a man can say to himself: If I dropped everything and went to a Shao-Lin temple in China and studied hard for ten years, I could still be the biggest badass on the planet (trust me ladies, ALL guys have this fantasy – it’s harmless, just ignore it and it will go away). Then something happens that just snaps you into focus and: it’s over. You get on with your life and don’t worry about this particular male pinnacle anymore – the position is taken.

The Day You Become Invisible to Teenage Girls
You’re walking down the street, mid to late twenties. Maybe you’re still ‘buff’ but maybe your hair is starting to thin, in any event, something is giving you away… some teen hotties are coming towards you… and you suddenly realize that you better jump out of their way or you’ll get trampled. Welcome to reality: you are now officially “Old, ewww!”
If you’re like me, you immediately start to think of Catherine Deneuve (the French think a woman isn’t really interesting until she’s in her mid-30s) or at the very least you can tell yourself that fairytale.
The only saving grace here is that you may think, for just a second, “I wouldn’t be seventeen again for all the tea in China.” Good luck.

The Day Your Heart Breaks
The real one, you know it when it happens. ‘Nuff said.

The Day You Grow Up
Can be many things for many people. My feeling is: it’s the day you stop blaming your parents for your problems. If you’re lucky, it happens early, for some poor bastards it never does.

The Halfway Day
Credit to my friend Thun Han for this one. Remember how old your grandparents were when they died (and your parents if they have gone as well). Take the average, divide by two. If you’re older than that number, you’re probably on the downward side of life… better get busy.

The Day You Think You Understand Women
Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!... snort!... [wipes nose]…Ha! Ha!... mumble, mumble… [has another drink]…

The Day You Acknowledge that There Might Be, maybe… somewhere… someone who might possibly be… just barely… smarter than you…
Yeah, well I haven’t met the guy yet and besides, I don’t want to talk about it.

The Day You Realize that the World Really Is Divided into…
For me it’s a matrix: one set of dividers is what I call the “Gazelle People” [gorgeous, thin, tanned, obviously having no cares in the world because they will always get whatever they may desire just because they are beautiful] vs the rest of us Ugli’s: balding, gravity challenged, aging…Feh!
The other divide is between the Smart Folks and the Stupid People. This is a big divide, I don’t care what the Bell curve says, there are very, very few Smart Folks and we don’t breed a lot. Stupid People, on the other hand, apparently have little else they know how to do well. I have nothing against them but the numbers mean that, in a democracy, they get to run things – with results for all to see. This isn’t working for me, I want a change. Now if I were a ‘Gazelle-Smart’ I wouldn’t give a damn…

The Day Your Best Friend Dies
My best friend, Geoff Latta, died late last year. I’m still getting over it… actually I’m still in the process of understanding what his death means for me. He was a complex man, as many are. He loved Liszt and Judas Priest, he loved Harleys and he was a gifted artist. He was an expert in color publishing, he was one of the greatest sleight-of-hand, close up magicians who ever lived. He loved/hated women and they loved/hated him right back. One of the most talented/tormented men I ever met. He was an alcoholic and it killed him. He was my friend and I miss him, but that’s not all… I realize that the person I was in this friendship is also gone, in fact there is a door in the universe that is now closed, things I think that we talked about which are opaque to anyone else. “No man is an island…”, indeed…

The Day You Realize that Times Marches On
…and you’re along for the ride whether you like it or not. Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May, and all that. Seriously, this is the day you realize you don’t have a minute to waste - really.

The Day You Realize that You Will Probably Not Be Leaving Your Footprints on the Sands of Time
Let’s see: Rockstar? Nope. Great American Novel? Nope. Magnificent Scientific Discovery? Nope. Nobel Peace Prize? Nope. *Sigh*…

The Day You Are Free
This used to mean, for me, how much “fuck you” money I had. It was how much money do I need to be “free”? It started out at about $2 million, then $5M, now it’s probably up to about $10M. But along the way I discovered that the “fuck you” part wasn’t as important anymore. The “free” part is a lot more important now. I don’t have the answer to the equation yet… but I’m working on it…

There are more Days to come for me and, I trust, for you. Some will, I hope, be delightful. Many, I know, will now have shadows. As time goes on I will savor my Days for I think we carry them too lightly, too much of the time.
Tread carefully, stride bravely, consider wisely.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Healthcare Followup

My Congressman held two teleconference townhall meetings this week and I got to listen in but wasn’t able to get to ask a question. That was probably better in the end because I would likely have used bad language and offended a lot of the little old ladies who were also listening.

The meeting was edifying in a couple of ways: I was struck by the trust and goodwill of the people calling in. They were concerned about their relatives or their friends and sometimes themselves. They wanted to know if thus and such would be changed for the better (or for the worse). They were worried that they or someone they loved would be left out or denied something by the new regime. And the Congressman was empathic and did his best to allay their concerns. He was also well-versed in the details of the plan, such as it is. I don’t know if I would have had the heart to confront him in front of constituents in that kind of need.

However, I will be writing him about this disastrous bill and letting him know that there are those of us who will not let this stand. The Congressman is on the Ways and Means committee and obviously has invested his time and effort to make the best of this bad legislation. He has, of course, lost his view of the forest in concentrating on the trees. The more this goes on the more it becomes clear that this is the bastard child of Tom Daschle and Rahm Emmanuel, combining the worst features of each political hacks wet dreams. And the very worst thing about this is that, if it is passed, it will vitiate any energy for true change for at least a generation, maybe two. There’s still time before the recess ends to make it clear to all the politicians out there that this is unacceptable and if they vote for it, they can expect consequences at the ballot box next time.

In the comments on my last post, someone asked where I was getting my figures from, a legitimate question given all the folderol going around. So I went to EdgarOnline go here the free service which provides SEC required documents that are filed by all publically held companies. The following are excerpts from the top four healthcare insurers in the US. The 10-K form is the annual report, the Operating Revenues and Expenses information is usually found in the Selected Financial Data, Item 6 of the form. These are the results for 2008. I did not include Cigna because they found another way to hide their profits by only presenting expenses as a combination of ‘benefits paid on policies’ and ‘general company expenses’.

Caveat: almost all these companies are holding companies for yet other companies – Wellpoint has three different companies, Aetna at least one other and it looks like United Health Group has five alter egos. Each of these entities provides a menu of different ways to hide profits. I also note that these companies seems to have remarkably similar after-tax profits year on year – a very modest 3-5% (nothing to see here, go on about your business) while they continue to raise rates (according to them) about 7-10% each year.

>Wellpoint, for example claims a profit before taxes of 5.1% - $3,135,649,200.00 and an after tax profit of 4.1% - $2,467,168,000.00. Leaving aside the fact that they’re only paying a 1% tax rate, according to their own figures (can I have that rate, please?). Where did the other $10,801,150,800.00 go? If that truly represents what is cost to administer their plan then the CEO is easily the worst administrator since Hammurabi and should be kicked to the curb instantly.
My original statement was that private insurance companies reap 20-30% profits from the suffering of others. I’m certainly in the ballpark and I’m willing to argue the point with anyone. Another statement I made was that any profit made from the suffering of others was obscene. These figures only make that point more poignant.

United Health Group
United Health Group 2008 Results of Operations SEC filing 10-K
Revenues $81,186,000,000.00
Medical Costs $60,359,000,000.00
Remainder $20,827,000,000.00
Remainder as percentage of Revenue: 25.6%

Wellpoint 2008 Results of Operations SEC filing 10-K
Premiums $61,679,200,000.00
Benefit expense $47,742,400,000.00
Remainder ; $13,936,800,000.00
Remainder as percentage of Premiums: 22.6%

Aetna PA
Aetna Inc PA 2008 Results of Operations SEC filing 10-K
Revenues $28,775,000,000.00
Medical Costs $20,785,000,000.00
Remainder $7,990,000,000.00
Remainder as percentage of Revenue: 27.7%

Humana 2008 Results of Operations SEC filing 10-K Item 6
Revenues $28,064,844,000.00
Benefit Expenses $23,708,233,000.00
Remainder $4,356,611,000.00
Remainder as percentage of Revenue: 15.5%

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The Penny Drops

“The Health Insurers Have Already Won” reads the Business Week title go here for article .
“Is Obama Punking Us?” reads the title of Frank Rich’s column in the NYT go here for article

Rich actually has an epiphany:
“The larger fear is that Obama might be just another corporatist, punking voters much as the Republicans do when they claim to be all for the common guy.”

All I can say, Frank is “Well… Duh!” it only took you 545 days to figure out what we knew and told you way back in February 2008. No grass grows under your toes, boy.

These are the latest in a growing stream of pundits experiencing the OMO (‘Oh, My Obama’ – formerly ‘Omigod’) syndrome, they’re waking up and saying ”Wha.. wha happened?”. The answer, of course, is: “Well, while you were stoned on your acid-infused Kool-Aid, somebody stole your country, guess who?”
So, here’s the skinny on the healthcare reform ‘debate’, as I see it.

First: it’s over, you won’t be getting any health care help.

There, you can stop reading now and get on with your life – in fact, don’t lose a minute because it looks very much like you’ll have to make some extra money to pay for the publically mandated payments to private companies for insurance that won’t insure you. Let me rephrase that: the likelihood is very high that by the end of the year Team Obama will have instituted a national government program that will require you to pay a private company for medical insurance (or pay a fine roughly equivalent to the insurance payments you would have made). Let’s repeat that: the US government is going to force you to pay insurance premiums to a private business. Think about that, is this what you meant when you asked for healthcare reform?

Ostensibly, there will be safeguards in place so that, 1.) You will not be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition. And, 2.) You will actually be covered in case you come down with something.
…and if you believe that, I’ve got a friend in New Orleans with some great property deals… I can guarantee you that, by the time the bill goes to Obama’s desk for signing, there will be enough loopholes you could drive a truck through to ensure that no insurer is ever vexed with the problem of actually having to pay for anyone’s medical expenses.

Second: The debate is no longer about health care reform, it is about health insurance reform. This happened almost instantly – remember Max Baccus face turning purple as he shrieked “Single payer is off the table! Single payer is off the table!”. There is no health care reform in the offing. Obama has never had any intention whatsoever of providing universal health care. Yes, I know he said as much during the campaign – sit down and have a drink, take a deep breath – are you ready?


But anyone who was interested could have easily found out where Obama’s heart (or pocketbook) was.
From a Boston Globe article in 2007 go here for article:

“The bill originally called for a "Bipartisan Health Care Reform Commission" to implement a program reaching all 12.4 million Illinois residents. The legislation would have made it official state policy to ensure that all residents could access "quality healthcare at costs that are reasonable." Insurers feared that language would result in a government takeover of healthcare, even though the bill did not explicitly say that.

By the time the legislation passed the Senate, in May 2004, Obama had written three successful amendments, at least one of which made key changes favorable to insurers.
Most significant, universal healthcare became merely a policy goal instead of state policy - the proposed commission, renamed the Adequate Health Care Task Force, was charged only with studying how to expand healthcare access. In the same amendment, Obama also sought to give insurers a voice in how the task force developed its plan.

Lobbyists praised Obama for taking the insurance industry's concerns into consideration.
"Barack is a very reasonable person who clearly recognized the various roles involved in the healthcare system," said Phil Lackman, a lobbyist for insurance agents and brokers. Obama "understood our concern that we didn't want a predetermined outcome."

There is no reason for anyone to have had any illusions about who Obama was or what he was going to do.

There will be a lot of kabuki theatre going on over the next few months but it is just that – theatre.

The Bottom Line

For the insurance industry it’s all about the bottom line and I don’t blame them for that, it’s foolish in the extreme for us to assume that a profit-making business would do anything other than attempt to make a profit. What it comes down to is that we can’t have decent healthcare in the context of a profit-making model – it just doesn’t work and it never will.

The numbers themselves tell the tale: after you sweep away the bandit bookkeeping the insurance industry uses to hide their profits (very much like the bandit bookkeeping movie studios and record companies use to avoid paying artists any royalties) you find that the ‘overhead’ (read: actual profits) for private health insurance runs about 20-30%. The overhead (in this case actual administration costs) for Medicare runs at 2-3%. 20-30% vs 2-3%. Are there any questions?

The healthcare debate is over in terms of anything actually happening which might benefit Americans but it does serve a larger purpose: like pus coming out of a wound, it shows us the utter corruption that has enveloped our government. Even setting aside Obama as the sockpuppet-in-chief of the insurance industry, there was as much support for real healthcare reform in the Congress as there has ever been i.e., none. Let’s remember who torched HRC’s healthcare reform in the ‘90’s: Democrats.

For the record: it is not possible to have universal healthcare using the for-profit model; Not Possible. Universal healthcare will only and can only exist when it is a public service. Those are the facts, anyone who tells you anything else is lying to you.

The astonishing thing about this is that we already have a fully functioning, tried and tested universal healthcare system up and running: Medicare. And, like icing on the cake, Medicare actually serves the part of the populace most likely to need medical : those pesky oldsters. No less personage than Paul Krugman said recently that private insurance couldn’t even exist if Medicare weren’t there to skim off all the people with actual medical needs. All we have to do to provide basic healthcare to every American is to remove the age limit on Medicare. Does it have problems? Yes. Are they fixable? Again yes. But, out of the box, Medicare provides universal healthcare for all Americans and that’s exactly what we want, no more, no less.

But, apparently, we will do absolutely anything to avoid facing that fact. In itself, that is a pathetic commentary on our civic life.

We are seeing some signs of revolt: loudmouths at town meetings all over the country who are incensed at the monumental ripoff that is being perpetrated on us. I don’t even mind that they are incensed for all the wrong reasons as long as they, and we, can make this atrocious bill go down in flames.
I notice that many members of Congress are trying to find excuses to stay in Washington over the August break, not surprising as they are going to face a shitstorm of protest if and when they do go home. My congressman has made the mistake of scheduling a teleconference ‘townhall meeting’, heh, heh, heh! I can’t wait…

I urge everyone to write to their Senators and Representatives to let them know that this is a watershed issue. Let them know that single payer is the only acceptable path for healthcare reform. Not insurance reform, not ‘public’ option, only single payer. Suggest taking the age limit off Medicare as a starting point and fixing what needs fixing in five years or so. But please make sure they know that this one matters, let them know that if they do not come through with single payer healthcare reform you will not vote for them in the next election. Make it clear that, whatever other good works they may have done, whatever respect you hold for them; this is a deal breaker for you. Either come through for me on this one or expect me to vote for someone else next time.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Changing the Paradigm

Note: this is the first of what I expect to be a series of rather longish articles presenting my analysis of the current state of things, how we got here and what we can do about it.
A valid question is: Who the hell are you and why should we listen to you? My answer is: I’m a critical thinker who has spent most of his life in the technology field where there is a premium on the ability to sift through vast amounts of data, extract the salient information, create an actionable plan and see the plan through to a successful resolution. In these articles I am using a set of tools, developed and honed over a lifetime, and training them on issues I think are crucial to the continued development of the human race. That may sound grandiose but we humans are much too powerful now – what we do in the next few years really can affect how and even whether, we survive.
My position is that we have the intelligence and we have the tools (technology) to fix our problems. We need to identify and analyze those problems and then go out and fix them – we have to be smart and organized now, we can’t afford to be stupid and chaotic any longer.

This is going to be a long one folks: there's going to be some venting and there's going to be some name calling and some general pissoffedness. There's going to be some reddirt analysis and, at the end, there are going to be a few suggestions. To quote Bette Davis “fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy ride!”

First, I've held off writing about President-for-life Obama in a genuine attempt to give him a chance to prove me wrong. I figured that he should have the opportunity to change his spots and become the inspirational figure he claimed to be during the campaign... perhaps I was wrong in my assessment, perhaps he really was that noble, original, transcendent political miracle he stated, over and over and over again, that he was – you may detect a hint of sarcasm here (there may be more sarcasm later on, be prepared) – apparently, he is not.

In fact, in just over six months on the job, he has already had three vacations, four pointless campaigning sprints, several overseas ‘foreign policy’ junkets and an untold number of photo ops, press ‘conferences’, PR disasters and ongoing political gaffes that rival Joe Biden for sententiousness and utter senselessness, as well as, I understand, parties every weekend at Camp David. He has sucker-punched the US taxpayers (TARP II) and dumped on us the astonishing Bush III budget, replete with pork rinds for everyone. He has thrown at least three major supporters/cabinet members under the bus (Kerry, Richardson and Dean – there may be more now) and produced an economic policy and a so-called middle class mortgage salvage proposal so utterly chaotic that no one, not even the thieves on Wall Street, can figure it out.

My, my – what will he do next month? Oh, apparently, he will do his damndest to steamroller through the Congress the most gawdawful piece of crap ‘healthcare’ legislation that has ever existed. No one knows just how bad it is because no one has actually read it.

This is an idiot-in-action who needs three teleprompters so he can swivel left-center-right whilst delivering his canned platitudes and a computer monitor sunk into his lectern so he can get his “off-the-cuff” answers to questions he should know cold but hasn't a clue how to answer. Nevertheless, he has managed to give away another $900 Billion dollars, plans to disburse yet another $250 Billion and passed a budget of $3.5 Trillion all while reducing the deficit by half... as Bullwinkle used to say ”Hey Rocky! Want to see me pull a rabbit out of my hat?”… I think BO(zo) is pulling something, all right, but it's not a rabbit and it isn't coming out of his hat.

In contrast, we have HRC running around the world as the US Foreign Policy President with clear statements, crisp decision making and nobullshit policy positions. What a difference! I can't imagine that the clown in the White House will let that continue much longer – he just looks weak and stupid by comparison. Oh wait, he is weak and stupid by comparison!
And it looks like BO(zo)'s long expected attack on HRC has begun. Just after her speech supporting women's rights in Afghanistan, President Karzai folded like a cheap suit in a confrontation with tribal and religious conservatives and signed a bill that, essentially, stripped women in Afghanistan of all their rights. Karzai's not much of a leader but the speed and alacrity with which he signed this law can only mean that he was denied any kind of support from the US for resisting it. This is a win-win-win for Obama: he gets to indulge his native hatred for women, kiss ass with religious conservatives both at home and in the Hindu Kush (lovely name, means “Killer of Hindus” – ya just gotta love those Muslims) and cut off HRC at the knees – all at the same time and with perfect “plausible deniability”. You have to hand it BO(zo): he's very, very good with a knife to someone's back.
I also notice that the North Koreans wanted to talk to the president of the US about the reporters they were holding hostage… so they asked for Bill Clinton.

OK, I got that off my chest... what I really want to talk about here is the domestic politico/economic mess we're in. This is a multi-layered mess, like quicksand – just when you think you've hit the bottom, it sucks you down into a whole new layer of crud. There are three descending crud layers I want to explore: the surface layer, where we see what we're meant to see and react the way we're instructed to react; the middle layer of financial fallacy and folly which is intimately connected to the peculiar political kabuki show we are now seeing; and the lower layer of economic unraveling and global responsibility upon which the American Empire uneasily rests. At another time (hopefully soon) I will have some specific proposals to make, proposals which would, if adopted, truly change the world. We have a unique confluence of technological capability, financial upheaval and political opportunity which would make it possible to achieve really radical change if we had a leader with the vision and will to do it – unfortunately all we have is Obama. Nevertheless, I think the ideas should be put out there in case he gets tired of the job and resigns (hope springs eternal…).

There are several reference items you should take a look at to get the full flavor of what we're experiencing here in Year One of the Reign of the Lightbringer.

First, go to Bill Moyers and watch the interview he had with Simon Johnson about what happened in Sept 15, 2008.

Next, you should watch the Frontline program “Inside the Meltdown” about the slow moving train wreck of our economy in 2008 (air date: Feb 17, 2009)

...and don't miss Rep. Kanjorski's tale of what happened on Sept 18, 2008 (about 2 minutes in)

Last, you should watch the Charlie Rose show from Feb 16th, 2009 – the first part is an extremely informative piece on what's really going on in Afghanistan, but the second part is an interview with Michael Kirk, the writer/director of the Frontline piece mentioned above.

The articles/interviews mentioned above are all background for the fascinating story of what looks very much like The Decline and Fall of the American Empire (apologies to Gibbon) with helping hands from Bush/Cheney all in the interest of prolonging the financial debacle into and through the next administration. I should also mention that I think this was done with the collusion of and in the interest of the Obama campaign (I think we should dispense with the fairytale notion that this was a Democratic Party campaign at this point, don't you?)

Let's take a closer look at these interlocking perspectives and try to establish some sort of rough timeline, shall we?

Crud Layer 1

The Fairytale Analysis.

First let's use the Frontline piece to examine the pattern. We start with the accelerating overgrowth of the housing market in the past eight years – yes, you may try to lay some of the blame at Clinton's doorstep – and I'll come right back and trace the whole thing back to Ronald Reagan so let's agree to leave the history alone at this point. It is inarguable that Bush/Cheney had eight years to figure the housing bubble out and didn't lift a finger to stop it, in fact it appears that they willfully eviscerated any meaningful regulation and/or oversight and signaled full-speed ahead to the Wall Street Guild of Thieves.
This had the altogether predictable result that the housing market bubble collapsed. There were early signs of the collapse starting in 2005, and even some brave souls who yelled themselves hoarse (Peter Schiff, for example) saying that there was a bear in the woods. They were, quite literally, laughed off the floor.

So, what is it that 'they' want you to believe?

They want you to believe that, basically, things are OK. We had a bad scare but the swift action of the bright, shiny Team Obama has started to turn things around. They want you to go back to the things you know because that’s what they’re going to do: try to go back to the financial world they just blew up. They want you to forget that you just mortgaged your grandchildren’s future to pay for their theft (did you know that you are still paying for Ronald Reagan’s deficit spending? The bonds they issued are still commanding interest payments 20 years later).
They want you to forget that you are living in a country with a real unemployment rate (“official” unemployment + part-time + those who have stopped looking) of over 16.8% as of June 2, 2009. (see for confirmation). They want you to believe that the housing crisis is over – it’s not, housing prices will decline another 10-20% before the curve flattens. They want you to forget that there’s a credit crisis right behind the housing crisis, only ten times larger.
But most of all they want you to forget that the current bunch of money-crazed madmen who ran this country into the ground in order steal more money than dreams of avarice could provide – are still not in jail and still in charge. No, they don’t want you to remember that at all. You might wake up. You might get angry. You might do something about it…

Crud Layer 2

The intention of it all.
What a catastrophe, they cried. What a horrific financial debacle, the sky is truly falling and we must have all your money right this instant lest even more dire events come to pass… how could this have happened? Who could have foreseen this… Whoa!, wait just a minute, it kinda looks like some folks did see it coming:

Simon Johnson was the former chief economist for the IMF, presumably he knows what he's talking about and knows whom he is talking about as well. He makes a statement part way through his interview with Bill Moyers that is absolutely staggering, in reference to a statement by one of Morgan Stanley's top officials, Johnson says:

“What he's basically saying is business as usual. Go about your daily lives. Get the bonuses. Re-brand them as awards. But it really shows you the arrogance, and I think these people think that they've won. They think it's over. They think it's won. They think that we're going to pay out ten or 20 percent of GDP to basically make them whole. It's astonishing.”

Mr. Johnson goes on to describe the coup de main that occurred last fall as eerily familiar to him. It’s the exact scenario the IMF and the World Bank have used for decades to destroy the economies of Third World countries, except this time it was used on the US – deliberately.

Another part of the puzzle is revealed almost by accident by Representative Paul Kanjorski (D-PA). In a C-SPAN interview on his opinions about the financial crisis, Rep. Kanjorski makes the following statement:

“On Thursday (Sept 18, 2008), at 11am the Federal Reserve noticed a tremendous draw-down of money market accounts in the U.S., to the tune of $550 billion was being drawn out in the matter of an hour or two. The Treasury opened up its window to help and pumped a $105 billion in the system and quickly realized that they could not stem the tide. We were having an electronic run on the banks. They decided to close the operation, close down the money accounts and announce a guarantee of $250,000 per account so there wouldn't be further panic out there.

If they had not done that, their estimation is that by 2pm that afternoon, $5.5 trillion would have been drawn out of the money market system of the U.S., would have collapsed the entire economy of the U.S., and within 24 hours the world economy would have collapsed. It would have been the end of our economic system and our political system as we know it.”

Another piece drops into place courtesy of Matt Taibbi who writes an article in Rolling Stone, titled:
“Inside The Great American Bubble Machine”
Where he shows that Goldman Sachs has been involved in the engineering and manipulation of every market financial crisis of the 20th – and now the 21st – centuries. It is interesting to note that no other company has GS’s history of placing (one might almost say: infiltrating) so many, many partners in positions of authority in the US government (and other influential positions) :
• Henry H. Fowler - 58th United States Secretary of the Treasury (1965-1969)
• Robert Rubin - Former United States Treasury Secretary, ex-Chairman of Citigroup.
• Henry Paulson - Former United States Treasury Secretary.
• Joshua Bolten - former White House Chief of Staff
• Jon Corzine - Governor of the State of New Jersey.
• Michael Cohrs - Head of Global Banking at Deutsche Bank
• Jim Cramer - founder of, best selling author, and host of Mad Money on CNBC
• Ashwin Navin - President and co-founder of BitTorrent, Inc.
• George Herbert Walker IV - member of the Bush family and current managing director at Neuberger Berman
• Robert Zoellick - United States Trade Representative (2001-2005), Deputy Secretary of State (2005-2006), World Bank President.
• Mark Carney - Current Governor of the Bank of Canada [89][90]
• Neel Kashkari - former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Financial Stability
• Malcolm Turnbull - Australian politician, currently the federal leader of the Liberal Party of Australia.
• John Thain - former Chairman and CEO, Merrill Lynch, and former chairman of the NYSE.
• Robert Steel - Chairman and President, Wachovia.
• Reuben Jeffery III, Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs (2007-)
• Romano Prodi, Prime Minister of Italy twice (1996-1998 and 2006-2008) and President of the European Commission (1999-2004)[91]
• Mario Draghi, governor of the Bank of Italy (2006- )[91]
• Massimo Tononi, Italian deputy treasury chief (2006-2008)[91]

Way too cozy for effective regulation of the financial industry, note discussion below of how GS alumni Henry Paulson torpedoed a GS rival to trigger the Obama Election Financial Crisis.

Last, let’s go to Professor James Galbraith (yes, son of…) on the causes of the financial crisis (From the Texas Observer):

Causes of the Crisis
James K. Galbraith
May 01, 2009

...This is a panel on the crisis. Mr. Moderator, you ask what is the root cause? My reply is in three parts.

First, an idea. The idea that capitalism, for all its considerable virtues, is inherently self-stabilizing, that government and private business are adversaries rather than partners...; the idea that regulation, in financial matters especially, can be dispensed with. We tried it, and we see the result.

Second, a person. It would not be right to blame any single person for these events, but if I had to choose one to name it would be... former Senator Phil Gramm. I’d cite specifically the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act—the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act—in 1999, after which it took less than a decade to reproduce all the pathologies that Glass-Steagall had been enacted to deal with in 1933.

I’d also cite the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, slipped into an 11,000-page appropriations bill in December 2000 as Congress was adjourning following Bush v. Gore. This measure deregulated energy futures trading, enabling Enron and legitimating credit-default swaps, and creating a massive vector for the transmission of financial risk throughout the global system. ...

Third, a policy. This was the abandonment of state responsibility for financial regulation... This abandonment was not subtle: The first head of the Office of Thrift Supervision in the George W. Bush administration came to a press conference on one occasion with a stack of copies of the Federal Register and a chainsaw. A chainsaw. The message was clear. And it led to the explosion of liars’ loans, neutron loans (which destroy people but leave buildings intact), and toxic waste. That these were terms of art in finance tells you what you need to know. ...

The consequence ... is a collapse of trust, a collapse of asset values, and a collapse of the financial system. That is what has happened, and what we have to deal with now.

Can “stimulus” get us out?

As a matter of economics, public spending substitutes for private spending. ... But it is not self-sustaining in the absence of a viable private credit system. The idea that we will be on the road to full recovery and returning to high employment in a year or so therefore seems to me to be an illusion.

And for this reason, the emphasis on short-term, “shovel-ready” projects in the expansion package, while understandable, was a mistake. As in the New Deal, we need both the Works Progress Administration ... to provide employment, and the Public Works Administration ... to rebuild the country. ...

The risk we run, in public policy, is not inflation. It is lack of persistence, a premature reversal of direction, and of course the fear of large numbers. If deficits in the trillions and public debt in the tens of trillions scare you, this is not a line of work you should be in.

The ultimate goals of policy are not measured by deficits or debt. They are measured by the performance of the economy itself. Here Leader Armey and I agree. He spoke with approval, in his remarks, of the goals of 3 percent unemployment and 4 percent inflation embodied in the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act of 1978. Which, as a 24-year-old member of the staff of the House Banking Committee in 1976, I drafted.

Professor Galbraith leaves out some key components in my opinion, such as Alan Greenspan, the Ayn Randite Chairman of the Fed who blithely ignored his duties to regulate the Federal Reserve, choosing instead to allow classic laissez faire capitalism to pillage the economy unchecked until, at last, there was just nothing left to steal. And the original cardboard cutout president: Ronald Reagan – this dumb cluck bought into every idiot notion of trans-national capitalism extant and held the door open for every lowlife scumbag thief in the entire political/financial spectrum. Yes, I’m talking about Gingrich and Gramm and Norquist and all the rest of the neo-con bastards who have tried to take this country apart brick by brick for almost 30 years.

And last, but certainly not least, there is our Glorious Leader…

Crud Layer 3

The Zen of the Con
…How did BO(zo) get elected anyway? All the hype aside let’s look at what happened in the last six weeks of the general election campaign (and let’s leave the primaries alone, I’m still burning about them but that’s a story for another day).

In the middle of September it was looking bad for BO(zo). His numbers weren’t going anywhere and McCain was trending up. It was looking increasingly like McCain had the momentum and could win by 1 or 2 points in November.
Then several very important things happened in quick succession:

1. Financial crises were triggered on several fronts simultaneously (see above). I say ‘triggered’ because these crises did not happen sui generis they were very deliberately set off to gain a desired effect.

2. Major financial backers moved en mass to back the Obama campaign.

3. Ad buys by the Obama campaign increased to a ratio of 3-4 to 1 and in some cases 10 to 1 over the McCain campaign.

4. The Obama campaign collected almost $200 million in September.

Do you really think that Obama got $200 million in September 2008 because Grandma emptied the cookie jar and little Suzie gave up her lunch money? …really?

The financial ‘crisis’ that had everyone running around in the middle of the night doing their Chicken Little imitations was, first – very real but, second – artificially initiated. The fact is that this crisis could have occurred at any time over the last 2-3 years, the entire thing was being held together by spit, baling wire …and mutual terror, the Wall Street Guild of Thieves knew that the jig was nearly up, they just didn’t want it to go Postal while their hands were in the till.
The most likely tipping point was in the spring of 2008 when Bear Stearns collapsed but that was papered over by a shotgun marriage to JPMorgan/Chase (do some research on those names and your head will explode), why? Because a financial collapse at that time served no useful purpose, the Bush administration had one foot out the door, there wasn’t going to be an impeachment or even an investigation and it was way too far from the election to make any difference – people who can’t find Iraq on a map simply can’t be expected to remember a financial crisis that happened six whole months ago, jeez!
Ah, but there was a convenient fall guy close at hand for Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson (ex-CEO of, wait for it… Goldman Sachs) in the form of Lehman Bros a fierce competitor of GS and run by Richard Fuld, a personal enemy of Hank Paulson who thought he was truly pond scum (it’s all relative in the financial services world). So, in early September, as things were beginning to sour for BO(zo), some calls were made, some rumors launched, some flags went up in the air and, lo and behold, Lehman Bros is denied the help that was given to Bear Stearns just six months earlier although both firms were in strikingly similar situations – and Wall Street went down in flames.

Think I’m a garden variety conspiracy nut? Read on…

Bush/Cheney knew in 2006 that there weren’t going to be any repercussions for any of their crimes (remember Nancy “Impeachment is off the table.” Pelosi?) so they forged on with their plans to control the agenda of the four years 2008-2012.
Foreign policy was already charted so far as they were able, the Iraq war was winding down and the Bush/Cheney policy of having a standing US army in Iraq borders for decades to come was as safe as possible. Think I’m wrong? Take a look at Bush’s pronouncements on the size and length of stay for US forces and then compare them to what BO(zo) is actually doing there, identical aren’t they?
But foreign policy is Republican meat & potatoes, the real problem was how to:

1. Continue to suck the blood out of the US economy, while

2. Laying the groundwork for a Republican victory in 2012

The economy is usually a solid Democratic issue, when it’s bad the people vote in the Dems to fix is (so they can then vote in the Repubs to steal it all again, there now, isn’t that all clear?). But no one gets out alive if they’ve got a financial disaster on their hands, yes, I know FDR was the exception but he was exceptional – do you think BO(zo) has those kinds of chops?
So, how to create a continuing financial train wreck that will devastate the country long enough to guarantee a Republican White House in 2012?

First, you have to have a ‘useful fool’ to front for you – this is why BO(zo) won the nomination, his Astroturf campaign was actually supported again and again by generous donations from the corporate elite, not the netroots support you heard so much about (I can show you exactly how this was done: it’s fun, foolproof and completely untraceable).

Next, you need to manufacture a compelling financial narrative that does three things:

1. Shuts down real consideration of issues in the election in favor of knee jerk responses to perceived impending disaster.

2. Mandates predetermined actions for at least a year, probably two - guts the opposition in the 2010 elections and guarantees no meaningful action until 2012.

3. Remains so radioactive it drowns the ‘useful fool’ as it becomes impossible to blame the previous administration for the continuing debacle.

Hmmm… sounds very familiar, doesn’t it?

Last, there is the Law of Maximum Inertia of Stupidity. Ever hear of Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus? No? Well, he was the unfortunate guy the Roman Senate put in charge of defeating Hannibal in the Second Punic War. Hannibal was a military genius who had brought his army from Carthage in North Africa (about where Tunis is today) and was merrily romping about northern Italy pillaging and burning anything in his path with gay abandon. The Senate had sent several other generals to get rid of this pest but they kept being massacred (along with several tens of thousands of troops) as Hannibal thought up new and clever ways of running circles around them.
Fabius (for short) knew he was no match for Hannibal in the field but he also knew that Hannibal was vulnerable because his supply lines were very, very long. Fabius harried Hannibal’s foraging parties, never engaged in a pitched battle, kept his own lines internal so Hannibal had no chance to march directly on Rome. In short, Fabius waged a war of attrition, wearing down Hannibal’s resources until he had to abandon the campaign. He did it so well that it’s now called the Fabian Strategy.

What the heck does this have to do with the here and now?
Well, over the past eight years the Bushies have been assiduous in placing and replacing mid and senior-level posts in government with dyed-in-the-wool neocon soldiers. In the last two years of the Bush/Cheney administration there was a concerted effort to get these parasites ensconced in the civil service where they can never be dislodged. Remember the fanatics they got into the Justice Department? Well, it looks like they were doing the same thing in every other government department.

The feckless Democrats have either completely ignored this maneuver or are just too damn dumb to think of it, I‘m not sure which. So they are now confronted with a solid wall of bureaucracy that is fundamentally opposed to everything they are supposed to stand for. Good luck to Team Obama in getting any results through this Fabian crew.

Not that they need help in screwing up their follow through. Huge numbers of political positions remain unfilled six months into the Obama administration’s first year – the kinds of positions that do the grunt work on getting legislation passed and programs funded and implemented. No one seems to care about the actual workings of government. Important positions at crucial agencies, Treasury for instance, remain unfilled – now because no one wants the jobs. Anyone with a brain can see the train wreck coming and no one wants to be on board when it happens. To top it all off, the cabinet departments themselves are in disarray, since Obama has appointed a Czar for almost every cabinet post no one knows where the actual governing power lies: Who gives the orders? Who has the imprimatur to carry them out? And most important: to whom does Obama listen?
We don’t have a government, we have a Persian court.

What’s it all mean

The truth will set your fee…

Well, you’re not paranoid if they really are after you. In 2008 David Rothkopf published a book called “Superclass” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) wherein he discusses the 6,000 or so people who run the world, how they got to be there and what they intend to do. Highly recommended, very scary.
These folks pretty much have all the useful power and money they need to make things work just the way they want it – then again, so did the Tsars.

The preferred method of control used by the Superclass is the Transnational corporation. These entities have managed, over the last couple of hundred years, to get themselves legal status as ‘persons’, thereby gaining rights of privacy, property and legal recognition that were more properly reserved for individuals. This means they can represent themselves in court on an equal(?) basis as individuals. This seems innocuous until you understand that they now have the ability sue and be sued by other person/entities and that means they have the ability to shield every individual in that corporation from culpability for any actions the corporation might undertake. Most of the tort actions taken by the infamous ‘trial lawyers’ (btw, which lawyers aren’t ‘trial lawyers’?) over the last 123 years are attempts to pierce that veil of protection (see for more information) In addition, these quasi-legal maneuvers have allowed the transnationals to abstract themselves from the suzerainty of any particular nation-state. They are extra-legal insofar as any effective means of control is concerned and pretty much untaxable as well.

Sort of a conspiracy nut’s wet dream, eh? A bunch of freaky rich people with control of vastly powerful mercenary corporations. No rights, no recourse and not conscience in sight…

If you’re looking for information that would confirm this, you need look no further than NAFTA and CAFTA and GATT (oh my!). NAFTA was the trade agreement that would supposedly open up North America as a ‘free trade’ zone with benefits for all. I was originally in favor of this (hey, we all make mistakes) and didn’t believe H. Ross Perot when he described the “loud sucking sound” as the jobs disappeared in a southerly direction – well ‘doom on me’ as they say, south they all went with CAFTA not far behind. The mother of all these agreements is GATT, the Global Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (see for more information). This document is so evil it should drip blood, signatory countries essentially give up their sovereignty where transnational corporations are concerned, no rights, no recourse, etc.

The information is out there (apologies to Fox Mulder) we just have to believe… that we can find it and act on it.

Sounds like it’s time for torches and pitchforks to me.

OK, smartass, so what do we do about it?

I will be writing more about this and related subjects as time goes on but this piece is overlong already, so…

Let’s start with something simple: how do we clean up financial mess we’re in?

Craig’s Twelve Step Recovery Program to Clean up the Mess

1. Bring back Glass-Steagall. Let banks be banks, not financial supermarkets.

2. Clean up the derivatives market, derivatives should be tightly defined and closely controlled.

3. Enforce all extant anti-trust laws, enact new anti-trust laws to deal with the legal end runs developed since Teddy Roosevelt's day - break up the media and banking conglomerates.

4. Mandate position limits in all commodities markets and force immediate disclosure of all positions over 5% in any market.

5. Put into immediate effect strict restrictions on naked short selling and price manipulation.

6. Institute reinstatement of the 'uptick rule'. This rule requires that every short sale transaction be entered at a price that is higher than the price of the previous trade.

7. Prohibit regulated banks from engaging in any speculative markets either for themselves or as agents.

8. Reinstate usury laws and set up oversight and strict regulation of all interstate financial transactions at the national level.

9. Make the bad paper good: go back two years and guarantee all home loans.

10. Eliminate ARMs. All banks must hold all loans they make (ten years or longer) for at least ten years.

11. Reinstate 1932 tax rates, eliminate loopholes.

12. Corporations with headquarters outside the US cannot get US government contracts.

The first eight are pretty much the steps you take if you actually want to get the markets under control again.

Nine and ten are simple ways to redress the balance in the home loan arena and at a far less cost than TARPs I & II. And please don’t talk to me about those evil people who ‘forced’ the poor lenders into giving them loans when they had no ability to pay – I’ll listen to those expressions of outrage when the Guild of Thieves has given back all the obscene profits they made off those loans.

Eleven deals with the ‘redistribution of the wealth’ issue. The tax rate on incomes of $1 million or more in 1932 was: 63%. Y’know how the right wingnuts always get hysterical about this? They keep saying “Soak the rich and they’ll stop producing jobs!”. What a crock! Let me tell you something about rich people: they’re like gerbils in a running wheel - you take away their money, they’ll just go out and make more, it’s what they love, it’s what they do. You couldn’t stop them with a herd of bulldozers. Go look up what percentage of US wealth is held by the richest 5% of US citizens, then go look up those statistics for 1980 when Ronald Reagan started taking care of his friends. If you still want to talk about this, I’ll be here.

Twelve addresses (in a very minor way) the responsibility I feel that corporations owe to the country that made them possible. Halliburton – want to move your HQ to Dubai to avoid paying US corporate taxes? No problem: no more US government contracts for you – have a nice life!

To wrap this up: there are a lot of bad people out there doing a lot of bad things. We just saw them install a sock puppet as president and go merrily on their way looting and pillaging our country.

You don’t have to be a conspiracy nut to see the writing on this wall, at this point they’re so confident that they’re barely bothering to conceal their tracks.

The question for us becomes: what do we get out of all of this? How do we find our way through this bog of liars, thieves and con men?

What we get is the opportunity to be clear eyed and perceptive, to refuse to be steamrollered by a truly shitty healthcare plan because Max Baucus’ face turns purple when he shrieks “Single payer is off the table, single payer is off the table!”

We get to insist that, while not all questions have simple answers, some do. We can have instant, universal, single payer healthcare – tomorrow. Just take the age limit off Medicare, sure there are and will be problems – these can be fixed. What we will have is a framework that works, we know this because it’s already there and it already works. So, what’s the problem?

We get to insist that acting is important, that actually reading a bill you are voting on is a necessary precursor to that vote. We get to insist that every representative and Senator be held personally responsible by his/her constituents for their votes – we get to let them know that we will absolutely vote them out of office if they fail us on crucial issues.

We get to subvert this corrupt and evil paradigm with our intelligence and with our commitment and with our action. We have the tools, we know what needs to be done, all that is left is to act.