Sisyphus Shrugs

November 2, 2010 at 3:59 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

During these past two years, overheatedly indignant Libertarian/Republican wackos (indignant, of course, about the election of black Communist Barack Obama to the presidency) have harkened-back to their college-days’ admiration of flaky author Ayn Rand’s work. Indulging their inner-brat, they fantasize the “truly productive” members of society (that is, the criminal-Capitalists) enacting the scenario from Rand’s homage to greed, “Atlas Shrugged” : The virtuous & brilliant owners of big-business, tired of bearing the weight of the world (like Atlas, get it?) while being unappreciated by the masses, reach the end of their patience & go on strike (shrug, get it?), withdrawing from society & causing the total collapse of the financial & industrial world.

Sales of Rand’s screed have been climbing since the 2008 economic collapse. Apparently, Social-Darwinist dunderheads find solace in its message that ordinary people are robbing the rich of deserved compensation for providing the rest of us with their leadership. All those pesky rules & regulations are dragging-down the supermen & we best be careful or the mighty just may go off someplace & sulk, leaving we lesser-humans to ruin civilization much like “Planet of the Apes.”

What is most laughable about this threat is the threatener’s absolute lack of awareness that the heads of big-business & finance are exactly the ones who repeatedly rape the environment, crash the economy, and continually feed-off the masses while providing very little (if anything) of real value to society. Time after time it is the peons who must pick-up the pieces & clean-up the mess caused by the crony-Capitalists.

If anyone should “shrug” (strike) it should be the masses who toil day after day, year after year, trying to get ahead in a system that swindles them at every turn. After a lifetime of work, most people cannot rely upon having sufficient income, retirement, & health care in a culture that strives mightily every day to knock them back to square one. America’s workers are like Sisyphus, whom the gods punished to toil exhaustingly each day pushing a huge boulder up a mountainside and when reaching the top watched helplessly as the boulder rolled down to its starting point.

All those vultures who style themselves as put-upon Atlases wouldn’t last two weeks without the people who do the real grunt work of this world.


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Corporations & Government Exist for Us!

September 20, 2010 at 5:53 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Surely you noticed how much better the economy has gotten in the last 15 months.

Happy days are here again! Break out the bubbly!

You haven’t?

Well, neither have I. But the National Bureau of Economic Research, the august body charged with officially declaring when recessions start & stop, has officially declared that our latest recession ended in June 2009. An expansion started in July 2009.

Yes, I know, like you my first inclination was to almost fall out of my chair laughing. But in its report the NBER reminds us that they “…did not conclude that economic conditions since that month have been favorable or that the economy has returned to operating at normal capacity. Rather…the recession ended and a recovery began in that month.” Then they caution that business activity sometimes lags well into an economic expansion.

Sure, I think we all understand that the economy doesn’t instantly return to normal after a downturn. But 15 MONTHS should be more than enough time for the ground to stop falling out from under the feet of the bottom 90% of the country! And out here in the real world, that is the world outside D.C. & NYC, the ground is continuing to fall. Businesses are still closing, houses are still foreclosing, & jobs are still evaporating. And yet the NBER declares we are in a 15 month economic expansion & the politicians will happily grab onto that declaration as an excuse to keep ignoring the disaster they have brought upon the nation. After all, why help the jobless & poor when the rising tide is again lifting all boats?

Well, I think it is obvious that if the measurements show this is an economic expansion then THERE IS SOMETHING VERY WRONG WITH THE MEASUREMENTS! I do not pretend to know how the books are being cooked, do you? I suspect that all those bailouts to banksters & Wall Street con-artists & increased profits for offshoring our jobs is now being falsely measured as rising GDP (Gross Domestic Product). When a large portion, perhaps a majority, of a nation’s citizens can be on the financial ropes but the statistics show things getting better & the experts believe it, then the wrong things are being measured & the experts are fools.

One last thing. I keep hearing the “leaders” & “experts” telling us that we are in a long-term “jobless recovery.” They better keep in mind that for 300 or so million Americans it doesn’t matter how great corporate profits are or how high the Dow average or even how much the GDP grows. If all those things don’t translate into prosperity & a good quality of life for the citizens, then to Hell with the corporations, the government, & the few people who are doing great for themselves. That is why the corporations & government exist in the first place… to bring a good life to our communities!

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Blessed are the Crooked?

September 19, 2010 at 2:29 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

By Reverend Hothoneywater, Special Correspondent

Let me cut straight to the point:  Does God actually favor the bullying, bigoted, piggish, selfish, and hateful who have ruined our world throughout its history… and now seem ready to take the world down completely?

There are times lately when I wonder. I admit the question makes me feel a good bit guilty, yet I think it really needs to be asked. Is it just me who looks around at humanity needlessly suffering all over the globe, including here within the borders of the “last superpower, and demands to know of God: “Just whose side are you on, anyway!?”

I’ve never been a traditionally “religious” person, that is one obsessed with church rules and regulations. But, since childhood, I’ve been “spiritually-minded,” seeking knowledge and experience of higher power. I believed and asked others to believe that God was benevolent and cared for the underdog, the peacemaker, the struggling poor. After all, scriptural passages from diverse faiths tell us that the Supreme Being helps and rewards the downtrodden who try to do the right thing. Now, more and more, I look upon those scriptural promises the same as I look upon political campaign promises:  As a con-job meant to keep the rubes quiet while their happiness and very lives are stolen by sociopaths. Is God a cosmic Barack Obama, offering inspiring words of comfort to the needy while throwing His support to the greedy? Like W. Bush, is God a “compassionate conservative?”

Like all turning-points in a person’s life, this one had been approaching for a long time. And finally there was that one last thing… which the cliche calls “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

So, what broke my back? In June, Congress toyed with the lives of the jobless, unable to muster enough brain or heart-power to extend unemployment payments and instead painting the jobless as bloodsucking leeches on the body of America. One of the Republican Neanderthals leading the attack was New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg, son of a former New Hampshire governor, 11th generation aristocrat, born with silver-spoon firmly set in his mouth, net worth estimated at $10 million. This complete A-hole was one of the chief writers of the 2008 TARP bill (better known as the bankster bailout) while he had oodles of Bank of America stock. Also, the man withdrew his name from contention to be Obama’s Secretary of Commerce after the press learned Gregg had benefited from government money he had steered to his state. (Hey, before I forget let me also mention that Obama recently appointed the Social Security-hating Gregg to the Deficit Commission that is expected to soon propose to throw Social Security under the bus.) Gregg is one mean old Grinch. And, guess what?  Back in 2005 the well-heeled old devil bet $20 on a Powerball lottery ticket and won over $850,000 !!! Yep, that’s right, God gave the winning lottery ticket to a flinty-hearted plutocrat who already had millions and collects a yearly salary of $180,000 + perks! Take that, all you losers who can’t afford school lunches for your kids!

2 of God's homeboys: Judd Gregg & George Bush

This little nugget of trivia has “blown my mind” (as the hippies used to say)!!! After discovering it, I have not been the same. Its effects continue to ripple through my consciousness. It would not have such an impact if Judd Gregg’s good fortune was an isolated example of Divine Providence smiling so fondly upon someone so reprehensible. And so each day, as I work to help the rapidly increasing number in our community who suffer without sufficient food, healthcare, shelter, and so much more, I think of the Judd Greggs of this world and ask God:  “Just whose side are you on, anyway!?”

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Aristocrat Vs. the Unemployed

June 6, 2010 at 3:03 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

On the heels of May’s job-market news, comes another attack on the unemployed by a member of the aristocracy. In a CNBC interview, New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg said the time to cut-off unemployment extensions is “right now” because helping the jobless only “encourages people to, rather than go out and look for work, to stay on unemployment.”

Alas, neither the empty suit in the White House nor anyone in Congress nor any mainstream media pundits are inclined to take the Senator to task. His nitwit statements would be easy to refute except that most everyone in American public life is so completely bought. Letting him go unchallenged plays right into the natural American inclination to hate the poor & powerless. And, since the unemployed are very often poor & powerless or on their way to becoming so, we Americans must be encouraged to hate them too. That is vital to the fat-cats’ plan to keep the lower 95% of the population fighting each other so they can continue to grab the loot. So it is up to you and me to counteract Senator Gregg and his loathsome ideas.

Gregg is determined to ignore the jobs crisis that he and his associates in Congress had a very large part in causing. If they had done their job properly and kept the economy on the rails, then there would not now be such a need for keeping afloat such a massive number of unemployed. Official unemployment is 9.7% with actual involuntary joblessness about double that figure. The Senator would rather focus upon the superficially encouraging news that in May the U.S. economy created 431,000 jobs. Far be it for him to bother looking beneath the surface to learn that 411,000 of those jobs were temporary positions taking the U.S. Census. So the economy added just 20,000 permanent jobs when there are at least 15,000,000 jobless. And a few moments’ reflection would lead to the sensible realization that those Census jobs will be gone as soon as the Census-taking is completed. In a few months, the majority of those Census workers will be needing unemployment benefits again.

It is easy for a disengaged, pampered numbskull like Judd Gregg to effectively say – “To Hell With the Unemployed!” He was not born in a log cabin, his father was Governor of New Hampshire in the early 1950’s & Gregg eventually held that job himself. In fact, the 63 year-old crook has been occupying some public office for 32 years.

“But, Colonel,” I can hear you saying, “just because he’s been in political office most of his life doesn’t mean he’s corrupt.” And you are right. I am sure there are honest lifetime politicians. But Gregg is not one of them. Here are 2 quick facts:
1) Gregg was the Republican’s leading author of the TARP program (also known as the bank bailout) while he had a multimillion dollar investment in Bank of America stock. Gregg finds time to multi-task as both a criminal and a hypocrite when he hand-wrings about how “we’re creating these massive debts which we’re passing on to our children…” He apparently had no worry about that when he negotiated giving nearly a trillion dollars to the banksters, but sees money for the unemployed is a danger to future generations.
2) At the beginning of his administration, Obama nominated multi-millionaire Gregg as Secretary of Commerce (doesn’t that figure?) but Gregg withdrew his name after it was learned that the Senator had financially benefited from government money he had steered to his state.

Now that we have revealed a bit of the man (professional politician, multimillionaire, crook, & hypocrite). Let us further examine his heartless & brainless ideas:

Senator Gregg appears to have lost sight of the truth that the unemployed are not simply lazy layabouts who love getting a free ride. The unemployed are people who worked and lost their jobs through no fault of their own. It is insulting to say that they would rather collect an almost unlivable pittance from the government instead of working for more money and, hopefully, fringe benefits such as health insurance.

The rich Senator fears that continuing support for the unemployed is “undermining the cyclical event.” This is his indirect way of lamenting that unemployment insurance keeps millions of potential serfs from fighting over the ever-lower-paying jobs. Big-business would benefit from having that bigger pool of near-slave labor to drive down wages & benefits. He appears to be an unknowing follower of plutocrat Andrew Mellon, who served as President Hoover’s Treasury Secretary. Mellon advised Hoover not to stem the spreading Great Depression because in his philosophy helping the jobless only undermined their morals and keeping the economy from hitting bottom stopped the natural cycle where the rich (he & his friends) could scoop-up assets cheaply.

The unemployed need their benefit payments to pay their bills. And when they pay their bills, that helps keep the economy from sinking further. If you think the economy is bad now, just try to imagine the downturn that would follow if the 15,000,000 unemployed defaulted on their bills. Then give another thought to the chaos & crime that would result. Unemployment insurance was invented to help support individuals who were put out of work and to support the entire economy!

Thank Heavens that Judd Gregg has already declined to run for reelection this fall. Good riddance to him!

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Making Use of Idle Time

March 28, 2010 at 11:22 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I’m not sure what to make of the “tea party” movement. Much of it is rantings by reptilian-brained, hate-filled dupes who are being used as cover by the nation’s hidden plutocracy. And in our country’s dire situation it often seem to fit into the category of comic-relief, like the goofy, hapless character inserted into an intense action movie to relieve some of the tension. However, I think most tea party participants are attracted into the fold by the populist ideas that are sprinkled throughout the rhetoric. So the sensible, beneficial, and humane ideas act like a “gateway drug” that leads to acceptance of the accompanying dangerous, spiteful, and down-right crazy ideas. For instance, in this New York Times article, frustrated unemployed citizens are taking their tea with a mix of sane & insane beliefs. I think there is a very good chance that, at some future point, the populist-leaning, sensible tea-partiers will take a good look, see they are elbow-to-elbow with many who are Krazy with a capital K and they will go start their own real grassroots movement. Then, I suppose, the racist, Social Darwinist tea-partiers will go ahead and merge back into the Republican party.

Like those unemployed tea-partiers above, Myrtle & I are trying to put our time to good use. We have a non-profit charity which collects & distributes food, clothing, furniture, & information to needy members of our local community. We have done this for a number of years with a loose-knit group of like-minded friends, coordinated by Myrtle who is a dynamo. We always paid the expenses out of our own pocket because we had a comfortable income and we deeply believe in this effort. And at one time (before the presidencies of George Bush II & III), the number of people needing help was small and decreasing.

But each year of this past decade has found us steadily financially worse-off. The forces of downsizing, various bubble-bursts & market crashes, inflation/deflation, credit-crunches, and white-collar flim-flammery have taken their toll and left us nearly as destitute as those we help. But in the midst of job-searching (which will likely be the subject of a future posting), we set-up as a formal non-profit organization, called “A Voice for the Commonwealth” and have been working to expand our efforts.

All the above was a long-winded introduction to explain why Myrtle & I, last week, attended a seminar on procedures for non-profit organizations to apply for grants. And during the lunchtime break, we hobnobbed at a large table filled with volunteers and staff from those other associations- mental health advocacies, food pantries, and the like. It was uplifting to be among people who passionately devote themselves to improving the world. And although everyone in attendance readily agreed that our society’s problems are snowballing at an alarming rate, they all exuded optimism that we can make a positive difference. What I find most inspiring about this group is that, in spite of their own problems, they find time & energy to give to the community. What I find most disconcerting is something commented upon more than once during the seminar: there wasn’t one person there under 50 years of age.

Time and again I have found: Ordinary Americans from all walks of life carry the burden of this ruined economy on their shoulders. They stoically keep slogging through their problems. The churches, the media, and the companies they work for all teach them to blame themselves rather than the larger forces that exploit them. And when they look around them they think they cannot believe their own eyes. They personally know many people who are getting the life squeezed-out of them by insurance, their employers, and their mortgage company (likely all at the same time). But, on the other hand, the media shows a faux America where very few struggle, most everyone drives a brand-new car, and no one is stressed-out about paying bills. When they meet someone who breaks the silence by openly talking about what is really going on they react first with shock, then relief when they realize they aren’t alone. Then they start talking.

For instance, at our lunch each of the dozen people told about their organization and how they had gotten involved. At my turn, I started by prefacing with a very short version of the business ruin I have recently experienced thanks in-part to our nation’s beloved banksters (see my December post, “Then the Financial Tsunami Hit” for that story). I segued into mine & Myrtle’s conclusion that our hearts had always really lay in our charity work and the needs have increased enormously in the past few years. Myrtle interjected that we are now helping many of the formerly well-off who used to be giving charity not receiving it. And, she added, many of the struggling former middle-class are ashamed to ask for help. But there is no shame. They are victims who have been robbed of their jobs, their retirements, their homes, and their peace of mind.

A lady in her mid-50’s was sitting across from us. I will call her Stella. Stella admitted she had a business experience similar to ours. She and her late husband had owned an art framing & art sales business. Late in 2008, just after the economic melt-down, her husband suddenly died. Being unable to run the business by herself, sought to sell it. A number of people attempted to buy her business but could not because the banks would not loan money for the purchase. So her friends helped move-out the store’s inventory one carload at a time. Stella is now has her inventory stored in her garage in hopes of eventually selling it. She is in a deep financial hole because of the amount owed on the remainder of the store’s lease and other debts. She said her late husband observed business had never recovered since the September 11, 2001 drop-off (I agreed. Things have been getting worse for most Americans for many years). Since her husband’s death, Stella has volunteered at the local mental health agency.

Beside Stella sat Barb. Barb is Executive Director of a group that helps troubled youth by teaching them to care for and ride horses. She is of retirement age and supplements her small pay from the non-profit with investment income. Stella’s tale of vacating her store reminded Barb that she (Barb) owns a number of commercial properties in the city’s business district, all of which sit empty as a result of the economic collapse. She commented that she gets no income from them yet still must pay real estate taxes, which is becoming increasingly difficult.

If you are having financial troubles, remember you are far from alone.

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The Big Banks Want You Back – Don’t Go!

March 16, 2010 at 6:15 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The big, “too big to fail” banks are getting worried. There is a movement afoot to convince depositors to switch their accounts to smaller, neighborhood banks or credit unions. In this way, we can hit back at the banksters whose greed & incompetence ran our economy into the ditch and keeps it there. And we can back local financial institutions that refused to join the flim-flammery.

The movement is having an effect or at least the banksters are afraid it will. How do we know? Because they are fighting back the only way they can without really changing their ways. Recent commercials are portraying the behemoth banks as friendly, community banks that you can love. These advertisements play to our American gullibility that still doesn’t mentally grasp commercials as a load of bovine excrement.

Nearly twenty years ago I chuckled in agreement as I read the humor-book, “Dave Barry Does Japan.” The famous satirist said something much like that, in contrast to Japan, the only thing big American companies are still particularly good at is making commercials about how great their products or services are. I had long noticed the disconnect between our real world versus commercials with smiling, dancing fast-food cashiers, helpful pharmacists who come out from behind the counter to offer advice, folksy appliance repairmen, or seasoned, insightful stock brokers all embraced by a company that supports its workers in their dedication to the customer. Does any of that sound like a big-business you’ve dealt with lately? I didn’t think so.

The mega-corporations long ago sped past the point of providing consumers with helpful information to make informed choices. For a long, long time they have used commercials as “bait-and-switch.” They use the screen to show you high-quality products, easy use, and concerned, human customer-service. What they give you is flimsy crap, confusing & complex instructions, and impersonal, off-shored, aggravating service departments.

After 100+ years of exposure to advertising, why do most Americans still fall for it? Every time you see an advertisement of any kind:

Look for the fine print so you know what you are getting. There is usually a “catch.” And remember that in automobile ads and the like, when an announcer comes on to speed-read you the “disclaimer” what it really means is that most everything in the preceding ad was a lie! (Note- the definition of “disclaimer” is “a repudiation of responsibility or connection.” That means everything they just told you was a lie!)


Tired of being lied to? Move your money to a local bank or credit union.

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Dear Banker, I Never Meant to Hurt You.

February 13, 2010 at 1:50 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , )

When, as a child, I was difficult to deal with, my mum used to tell me, “you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.”

I was reminded of her wise words when, this morning, I saw this excellent essay by Numerian on the agonist website. Apparently, the bankers feel hurt by the public’s nasty attitude toward them and they are now in a huff, so they are striking back in their pain the only way they know how: by refusing to lend the money that keeps our economy going.

Ater I read it, I broke-down sobbing. Yes! Yes, I have been a cad! I thought only of myself, and the millions of unemployed, and those who lost their homes, and people who lost their retirement funds, and the record number of victims bankrupted, but I never considered the pain the bankers are going through. They feel neglected and unloved; that’s why they have turned-away from us. Well, I for one, am turning-over a new leaf. No more calling them ‘banksters,” no more making obscene gestures when I pass a bank, and most importantly- absolutely no more angry demands for more banking regulation. Perhaps, as Numerian advises, I shall send my beloved banker a Valentine card.

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Then the Financial Tsunami Hit

December 17, 2009 at 10:23 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

For three years I owned and operated a mini-market/gas station in a Cincinnati, Ohio suburb. I bought an already existing store using all the assets I had, including my 401K funds, after being down-sized from my middle-management career of 22 years (in one of the many industries which the U.S. can no longer keep onshore). Things went along fairly well and the business grew as I acquired a large clientele  of regular customers from the local construction companies,  other business owners, and the Ford plant. My girlfriend and I worked 90+ hour workweeks and, along with help from a few part-time employees, we operated 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. In other words, I was a real practitioner of the kind of free-enterprise capitalism that our windbag politicians and business leaders praise to the heavens while making sure it doesn’t apply to them.

In the spring of 2008, I went to the county “economic development board” asking for advice about expanding my business. And because his office is in the same shopping center as my store, I walked over to Representative John Boehner’s (remember him? the Republican House Majority, now Minority, Leader) office to ask for help. I asked the bureaucrats whether grants or tax breaks were available to help me hire employees, buy equipment, etc. No, no such thing available. Their only advice was to go to the Small Business Administration.

So I called the SBA. I won’t go into details other than that they sent-out someone to take a look at my store and see if he had any words of wisdom. He was the former head of Ford’s truck and ambulance division and knew nothing I could discern about small businesses in general nor especially the retail store business. So back I went to the county development board. After a few lengthy consultations, I was steered to a Vice President of Lending at a local branch of one of our nations larger banks (I won’t tell you which one, but their initials are PNC). In cooperation with that very nice VP, my girlfriend and I hashed-out a business plan and jumped through a multitude of hoops necessary to secure a relatively paltry SBA loan of $75,000.

Meanwhile, I realize now that throughout the spring & summer business had started to go sour. We were close-enough to our customers that many of them confided their troubles: they were losing their jobs, they were losing their homes, their own small businesses were taking on water like Katrina. We finished-up our paperwork with the bank and awaited an answer.The V.P. anticipated no problem as I had A-1 credit, very little debt, and a good plan for growing the business.

Then the financial tsunami hit. Suddenly, Americans were informed the banks were bust and Wall Street toppled! Fed chief Ben Bernanke and his bankster buddies told us it was our money or our lives: we could either pony-up nearly a trillion dollars or our economy would eat lead. My business flow slowed to a trickle, people who are terrified don’t go out shopping. In the midst of all this it was announced that the bank I had asked for money was using its government bailout to buy the bank where I had my business accounts (National City). I didn’t think badly about that arrangement, until during that same time my business loan was turned-down. The nice V.P. confided that “we just aren’t loaning to anyone right now. Come back in the spring and you can probably get it then.”

We hung-on for five months after that. The store died a slow death. People without jobs to go to don’t buy near as much gasoline and candy. I let the employees go after the New Year holiday. In late February, I contacted the bank V.P. but was turned-down again. I heard on the news that the credit markets were still frozen. A few weeks later, I put up the sign that said “Out of Business.” I didn’t get much out of the used equipment because so many businesses have gone belly-up that there’s a glut on the market (part of that real free-enterprise again). I’m not embarrassed about my story because now most everyone is either financially ruined or close to it. And our so-called “leaders” don’t really seem to know or care about fixing it because the Dow Jones Average is going up again. I’m unemployed, broke, and waiting/praying/working for the revolution that seems inevitable.

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