Warning: include(/home/annezook/public_html/sidebar.php) [function.include]: failed to open stream: Permission denied in /home/annezook/public_html/archives/week_2005_07_10.php on line 23

Warning: include() [function.include]: Failed opening '/home/annezook/public_html/sidebar.php' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/lib/php:/usr/local/lib/php') in /home/annezook/public_html/archives/week_2005_07_10.php on line 23
July 15, 2005

It's a war, you see. On terror. This is no time to be tying people's hands with silly things like investigating crimes. (Love the bit about how other foreign investors won't be as excited about working in Iraq if they know they might, themselves, face charges over any misdeeds they commit, don't you?)

That Abramoff lobby scandal isn't going to reach as high as anyone in office.

McCain went further than merely ignoring the role of sitting lawmakers in the saga; he neglected in the end to require that high-level GOP operatives Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist, both of whom had been subpoenaed by the committee, actually appear and give testimony at the hearing.

And California's Randy Cunningham, currently embroiled in a defense contractor investigation, has announce that he won't run again.

Apparently no one explained to the Chinese that the USofA's "free market" policy means USofA companies are free to buy anyone and anything. It certainly doesn't mean we're going to let China buy a US oil company. (Hey, Chinese guys, wake up. We're free. You're the market.) Coded accusations of "Un-Americanism around the topic.

A handy-dandy reference to the FBI's investigation of torture. (And the dismissal of that lawsuit over those publicly available photographs.)

And a "surprise insurgency" is "rising from the rubble" in Falluja? Well, duh. What part of "holy martyrdom" are we failing to understand? (As far as that goes, what part of "yankee go home" is failing to penetrate our consciousness?)

I've been checking WatchingAmerica.com for a couple of months now. It's an interesting site. My pick for today, America: An 'Extraordinarily Voracious Country', originally from a Tunisian publication, but there are a number of excellent articles available. (Don't miss the one where North Korea's Kim Jong Il* pats himself on the back for his principles, independence, and tireless work to keep the Korean Peninsula free of nukes.)

The internet is ours, dammit, and we're not giving it up to anyone, no matter what we promised. (After my knee-jerk snarkiness, I've realized I'm not sure what I think of this.)

The always-readable James Wolcott kicks Mr. Media in the teeth. They're desperately tired of covering Iraq (hence the proliferation of Missing White Woman stories) and not doing it well when they are covering it. I have a suggestion. If the media needs a new "angle" on the story, how about 128,000 dead Iraqi citizens? (Both via Cursor.)

Thousands Displaced After Attack, Toll Reaches 76. Sounds like Iraq, but it's Kenya.

At least 76 people were killed and 6,000 displaced following attacks by armed raiders that started Tuesday on villages in the northern Kenyan district of Marsabit. Cattle raiding and fierce competition for water and pasture land on the Kenya-Ethiopia border escalated into a series of reprisal killings this spring.

I love the subversive graphic even more than the take-down of the bogus "survey."

(* Thanks to Jonathan for correcting me on the name.)

Posted by AnneZook at 07:42 AM | Comments (4)
July 14, 2005

London pays tribute.

London Stands

Posted by AnneZook at 10:09 AM | Comments (0)
What else is happening?

127 Killed As Trains Collide in Pakistan

Three trains collided in a deadly chain reaction in southern Pakistan after a train driver misread a signal early Wednesday, killing at least 127 people and injuring hundreds in the country's worst crash in more than a decade, police and railway officials said.

Children die in Baghdad car bomb

At least 26 Iraqis, almost all of them children, have been killed by a suicide car bombing in south-eastern Baghdad.

Hunt for child killers in Kenya

President Mwai Kibaki has appealed for calm as he vowed that police would hunt down the perpetrators of a massacre in a north-east Kenyan village.

Hundreds of armed men surrounded a primary school and nearby houses and opened fire as children were making their way to school early on Tuesday.

Some days, the international news just breaks my heart.

Domestically, campaign finance reform is in danger.

Montana's National Guardsmen are fighting 'terrorists' in Iraq, which means they're not helping fight fires at home.

(The sign on our office door says, "no soliciting." Why does every salesperson who gets off the elevator assume we don't mean it? Another one of life's little mysteries.)

Speaking of judicial "activism," exactly what kind of political bias makes a judge decide that other members of the judiciary aren't fit to hear a case? If I were a judge, regardless of my political affiliation, I'd be totally outraged by this slur on my professional ethics.

(I can never remember...which is libel and which is slander? Libel is when you put it in writing, I think.)

Your spiritual beliefs are your personal business and I do think you should have the freedom to believe as you will. On the other hand, as I've said before, I really don't believe you're entitled to tax breaks. I think it's past time that "religions" starting paying their fair share of the cost of running this country, the way other businesses do.

Remember Abramoff? Jack's one of the guys being investigated for criminal wrongdoing around some very unsavory-sounding lobbying deals, remember? I think he's one of Tom's friends? Anyhow, looks like a couple of Jack's people just heard the call to relocate in a different country. How con-ven-ient.

I'd say the Right is losing control of the mess they've made and they know it. I can tell because they're doing more and more name-calling. They're like a bunch of spoilt little brats, aren't they? I mean, they all act like they're about nine. Maybe it's time we gave the neo-con rightwing a time-out?


Posted by AnneZook at 07:46 AM | Comments (0)
July 13, 2005

Zach's father is proud enough of having sent his son off to a fundamentalist re-programming cult to have given an interview about it.

Note how the article entirely disregards the world-wide coverage of Zach's story and makes the protestors sound like a small group of 'local' homosexuals.

The article is fairly even-handed in quoting both supporters and detractors of the program, but cites the ban on "secular" music without mentioning that some of the world's most famous composers are banned, and fails to mention that "suggestive" clothing isn't all that's banned. Any clothing from a company that the LIA/R* organizers don't approve of is also banned.

And those aren't the weirdest rules, by any means.

My heart goes out to Zach. I also hope his parents wise up and see that their son is more important than their prejudices, before they lose him.

(* Always visit Terrance, and not just for the latest on Zach's story.)

Posted by AnneZook at 04:07 PM | Comments (0)

Guantanamo head 'faced reprimand'

(Don't worry. He wasn't in any real danger of being scolded.)

US military investigators tried in vain to get a former Guantanamo Bay prison commander reprimanded over the abuse of detainees, a report says.

I see. The military's own investigators thought the man had failed to do his duty, which is a pretty serious charge in the military, but higher-ups decided otherwise.

Military Gives Details on Guantanamo Abuse

Interrogators subjected a suspected terrorist to abusive and degrading treatment, forcing him to wear a bra, dance with another man and behave like a dog, military investigators reported Wednesday, saying that justified their call for disciplinary action.

They said they recommended that Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller be reprimanded for failing to oversee his interrogation of the 9/11 suspect at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Okay, that's enough. This may not technically be "torture" but degrading and humiliating a helpless captive is just so entirely un-American that I'm at a loss to understand how this could continue to take place.

This kind of behavior has absolutely nothing to do with interrogation techniques. No one in their right mind could pretend with a straight face that this is the way to win someone's cooperation. It's purely and simply sadism. Degrading someone for the pleasure of degrading them.

I'm so entirely disgusted and outraged, I can't find any words for it.

Posted by AnneZook at 12:49 PM | Comments (0)
The Plame Blame Game

I think Woodward is wrong, not that I'm any expert on this whole situation.

This isn't protection of a whistle-blower. I would approve if that was what was the principle at stake, but revealing the name of an undercover CIA operative for political 'revenge' on her husband is not "whistle-blowing" by any stretch of the imagination.

Also? Miller didn't write a story. She's not a journalist in jail to protect Freedom of the Press. She's in jail because reportedly someone revealed information to her illegally and she's refusing to say who. She's an accessory to a crime.

Steve Chapman argues a similar point, but he almost makes me change my mind because it's easy for me to imagine the Bush Administration (or a subsequent, similar one) getting a court order or claiming "the law" (Patriot Act, anyone?) protects some information that actually should be public. I continue to think the whole "protecting my source" thing should hinge on whistle-blowing. Trying to broaden the protection doesn't really work for me.

Speaking of neocon idiocies, read MoJo Blog for reconsideration of that whole "yellow-cake" thing that led to the Plame problem in the first place.

Josh Marshall suggests we save a few thoughts for Bolton. The Rove-Plame Affair may scoop in Bush's failing U.N. nominee. That's be cool, wouldn't it? A two-fer! (Steve Clemons seems to be on the same trail.)

Posted by AnneZook at 08:03 AM | Comments (0)

In Africa, it's all about the oil and other resources. On the resource-rich continent, the division of revenue is a vital and somewhat divisive question.

As a matter of fact, it's all about the oil in a lot of places these days.

And, talking about oil, what about Iraq?

As always, Democracy Arsenal made me think. I'm probably arguing out of my depth on such a brainy site, but I'm willing to risk looking stupid in order to maybe learn something.

They're arguing that there's some kind of parallel between the Bush Administration's invasion of Iraq and the Clinton Administration's intervention in Bosnia, but I don't see it. (Of course, if you look at the results of our Iraqi invasion, considering just civilian casualties, there's a sad sort of death of a lot of innocent civilians comparison possible.)

Neocons = terrorists is an interesting idea to consider.

Things don't look good in Afghanistan.

Concentration of power in too few hands is almost never a good idea. And, as Enron showed us, it can be especially damaging in the power industry. This is such a bad bill.

Would you support an oil company boycott? (Isn't Exxon-Mobile a Halliburton subsidy? That might be reason enough to boycott them, right there.) I've been scoping out the Citgo stations around Denver. I'm putting my (gas) money where my principles are. (And checking out public transportation in the hopes I can find a way to work that doesn’t stretch my one-way commute from 30 minutes to 90 minutes.)

Posted by AnneZook at 07:51 AM | Comments (0)
July 12, 2005

Okay, I thought I'd get away with a no-blogging day, but it's not working out.

First, I read this and made the mistake of posting a comment reminding everyone that in this country it's theoretically still "innocent until proven guilty" and that while I think the investigation of this matter should continue, it's premature to call for resignation (or, as some commenters were, prison) for Rove at this point.

I got sneered at in the comments section, but I can live with that. (But I made a mental note that Americablog isn't the place I'm looking for to find reasoned discussion of anything.)

Then I read this, which led me to this and yet more demands for Rove's resignation.

I muttered, "innocent until proven guilty, dammit!" three times and thought with despair of our legal system and the damage that this idiotic urge for revenge is doing. (Yes, Congress went nuclear on Clinton and it was irrational, and an idiotic waste of time and money. Get over it. They're supposed to be the wingnuts, not us.)

Anyhow. I moved on, and I read this and there it is...another example of "guilty until proven innocent...if you can."

Am I the only one who sees these things as related?

Rove seems guilty. From what we've heard, he is guilty, but we have laws to handle these things and someone has to start insisting that we use them again.

And we have to do something about the irrationality of the No-Fly list. We don't know how they compiled this list, we don't know who's on it, and we don't know what else they're doing with whatever information it is they may or may not have collected about these people. Isn't anyone else worried about this?

While we're at it, we really need to stop the so-called "Patriot" act from being renewed, this time without the automatic sunset provisions. (Those things we can and should be doing to make our country safer, can and should be done without the problems created by the creeping fascism of that legislation.) Unless we're happy about taking another step toward a permanent police state, we need to let the hastily passed and ill-considered "Patriot" act lapse. Then we can put together some kind of sensible legislation that addresses actual problems or the places that we all know security is lax. (Which doesn't mean targeting environmental groups, no matter how much the "tree-huggers" get up Bush's nose. But does mean worrying about home-grown, Oklahoma City-style rightwing terrorists.)

Posted by AnneZook at 01:02 PM | Comments (1)

As I walked over to get coffee this morning, I saw today's smile. A tee-shirt with, "Braising Is Amazing" on the back.

Other than that, I'm not really feeling bloggy today. I think I'll spend my non-working moments reading other people's opinions.

Posted by AnneZook at 09:54 AM | Comments (0)

I like pr0n. (I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this before.) We all have our own k*nks in life and my current obsession probably isn't everyone's cup of tea.

Because I have my own Sekrit Lusts, I should probably be more tolerant, but I have to admit that I find commando porn pretty unsavory.

I'm just saying. The kind of people who get over-excited about war really worry me.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:24 AM | Comments (0)
July 11, 2005
Surf City

First, I should mention that Jonathan Dresner rightly takes me to task for a too-superficial post title. My penance will be looking up information on each of the major terrorist attacks (outside of Iraq) over the past few years. These aren't the sorts of events I should be forgetting so easily.

Pandemic of Brainlessness, from Jim Kunstler Globalism is yesterday's tomorrow.

Ohio's "Coingate" Scandal: How It Exposes the Flaws of Our Campaign Finance System , from Findlaw's Daniel Tokaji. Campaign finance reform. Government transparency. Do you get the need? (Via Majikthise)

Homeland security: By whatever means necessary, from Prometheus 6. By selling secondhand pocketknives and manicure scissors on the Internet, government agencies are turning a post-Sept. 11 security measure into a moneymaker.

Thoughts while listening to Benny Goodman, from Avedon Carol. She's all riled up about our governments killing us through negligence and arrogance.

Boy President in a Failed World?, from TomDispatch's Tom Englehardt. The place -- despite having its own Starbucks for the Americans -- struck her as a giant dystopian experiment in mind manipulation. (1984 A lot of us are entitled to say, "I told you so" at this point.)

Scotty gets ripped a new one, from SGO, at The Liberal Avenger. You're not saying anything. (Do you think McClellan ever listens to himself and wishes they'd just hire a parrot?) It's all about Rove and this isn't the first time he's been found leaking. (Maybe that's his superpower? He's LeakBoy! Fighting the evil forces of...no, it doesn't work, does it?)

(P.S. I'm reading all about the crime and the cover-up and watching with astonishment the leaks in the previously impervious White House. When a house of cards starts to go...it really goes, doesn't it?)

(P.P.S. What do you do when you get an e-mail from someone whose e-mail address looks legit but whom you don't know? Do you assume some sekrit spamming operation is going on, or do you respond civilly to what appears to be a polite e-mail from a total stranger?)

Posted by AnneZook at 04:08 PM | Comments (4)
I Found These Interesting - Domestically

Election fraud - not a dead issue.

Sometimes, instead of writing rants about what I think "we" should do, I need to just surf around and find someone saying it better.

D.C. and politics are hard to avoid, even on a holiday weekend.

People speak out about the no-fly "watch list" and boy, are they mad.

A religious enclave where those who don't want to be part of the real world can hide from it. I continue to be amazed by people who can't get away from "television smut." There's never any "smut" on my television. Unlike the televisions of so-called 'religious conservatives', my television has both multiple channels and an off button.

I find Greg Gutfield's writing entertaining most of the time, but I'm not sure about this piece. (On the other hand, I admire his taste. He's chosen a great body.) (Confession: I don't understand the publication but maybe that's because "celebrity" gossip leaves me napping.)

Aarrgghh. There's never enough time to read all the books, is there?

(Ooops. Looks like I've filled my quota for today.)

Posted by AnneZook at 01:20 PM | Comments (0)
Welcome Back, Boys!

We're a nation of second chances. That means even if you admitted to participating in an attempt to cover up a crime, you can still wind up in a cushy government job.

WASHINGTON — In 1987, Robert L. Earl told a grand jury that he had destroyed and stolen national security documents while working for Lt. Col. Oliver L. North during the Iran-Contra scandal.

Now, he sits in one of the most coveted offices in the Pentagon as chief of staff to Gordon R. England, acting deputy secretary of Defense. Earl has clearance to review the kinds of classified documents he once destroyed.

Of course, it helps to be on the Rightwing.

Elliott Abrams, who pleaded guilty to withholding information from Congress about the illegal funding of the Nicaraguan Contras during the Reagan administration, serves on Bush's National Security Council as head of the Mideast bureau.

Retired Adm. John M. Poindexter, who as national security advisor under Reagan also was implicated in the scandal, has periodically served as a consultant to the Pentagon.

Of course, as always, there are those quick to point out that the Clinton Administration had its share of problem appointees.

Common Cause spokeswoman Mary Boyle noted that some of President Clinton's nominees got into trouble for hiring illegal immigrants for domestic work.

Yeah. Hiring an illegal immigrant is certainly on a par with aiding and abetting a White House cover-up of illegal weapons sales to terrorists.


Several members of the Senate Armed Services Committee were unaware of Earl's tie to the Iran-Contra scandal, congressional aides said.

Just exactly how stupid are these people, anyhow?

On Capitol Hill and in the Pentagon, the few who were aware of Earl's past expressed little concern about his fitness for his current job.

"This was nearly two decades ago," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said. "And he has served ably for many years in the department and in industry."

Ohhhh, I see. The industry. He was "rehabilitated" by the defense industry.

Well, that makes it all okay, doesn't it?

I'm sure it's not the same "defense industry" that was working with the warmongers he committed the crime to protect.

Posted by AnneZook at 11:05 AM | Comments (2)
How Odd

Proposal would restrict talk on court cases

Really annoying registration process, so here are some relevant bits:

PROVIDENCE -- A proposal by the federal court in Providence would prevent parties to court cases, their lawyers and court employees from disclosing any information about any pending case unless that information is "part of the public record" or a judge says it's OK.

Advocates for free speech and a free press last week sharply criticized the proposal, which is part of a 141-page draft of amended local rules for Rhode Island's U.S. District Court.
"This would be a blanket gag order on First Amendment rights of anyone involved in litigation," said Lucy A. Dalglish, executive director of The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, a nonprofit group based in Arlington, Va. "That's insane and clearly unconstitutional."

"I can't believe someone proposed something like that," said George Washington University Law School Prof. C. Thomas Dienes, who specializes in communications law and constitutional law. "I think it's facially unconstitutional."

I'm just saying. Journalists and Judith Miller* aren't the only ones who need to be protecting the First Amendment.

Torres said federal judges are proposing amendments to local rules to try to head off potential problems, and he offered some examples of problems this proposal could address: If a search warrant is requested, the court wouldn't want people calling the media or, worse yet, contacting the object of the search warrant before the warrant is executed. And if a grand jury indicts someone who's at large, the court wouldn't want that person to know about the indictment, lest that person flee.

Okay, so does Rhode Island have some huge problem with this that we're not aware of? Do people involved with the routine of granting search warrants habitually call the suspected criminals and warn them?

"It seems to me to state the obvious," Torres said of the proposed rule. "If you have a document that's sealed or not part of the public record, you don't want its contents revealed before the document is unsealed."

Torres said the purpose of the proposal is to prevent the release of confidential information that would unfairly prejudice a case.

BUT STEVEN BROWN, executive director of the Rhode Island Affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, noted that the proposed rule does not include the word "confidential." And he said it draws no distinction between information that's deemed "confidential" and the much broader category of information that's not "part of the public record."

"It's clearly limiting the free speech of lawyers and parties," Brown said. "And the impact would be felt by the public that may not hear information they have a right to hear."

The proposal, which would be Local Rule of General Application 110, is entitled Disclosure of Non-Public Information and it states: "Unless authorized to do so by the court, no counsel, party, court employee, intern, court security officer, U.S. Marshal or Deputy U.S. Marshal shall disclose or disseminate to any unauthorized person information relating to any pending case that is not a part of the public record."

That's frighteningly broad, isn't it? I hope one of the Legal Blogs takes this up and discusses it. (Let me know if you see any of them talking about it.)


* Although I don't know what to think about this. Forgive me if I say that the involvement of Judith Miller in this matter colors my judgement. She's been such a Bush Administration hack that it's hard to view her as a legitimate journalist.

On the other hand, she is apparently in jail for not having written a story that revealed confidential information about an undercover CIA operative, and that's wrong on a lot of levels.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:40 AM | Comments (0)
July 10, 2005
It's Good To Be Rich

Sept, 2004

The Forbes 400, Top Ten:

1. $48 billion Gates, William Henry III
2. $41.0 Buffett, Warren Edward
3. $20.0 Allen, Paul Gardner
4. $18.0 Walton, Alice L
4. $18.0 Walton, Helen R
4. $18.0 Walton, Jim C
4. $18.0 Walton, John T
4. $18.0 Walton, S Robson
9. $14.2 Dell, Michael
10. $13.7 Ellison, Lawrence Joseph

The Walton name appears five times in the list of the ten wealthiest. That's ninety-billion dollars.

And yet the company insists it can't stay in business if it pays its employees a living wage, or provides healthcare benefits.

The economy's recovery may be a little shaky, but you wouldn't know it from looking at this year's Forbes 400. In this, Forbes' 23rd annual ranking of the 400 richest people in America, the combined net worth of the nation's wealthiest climbed to $1 trillion, up $45 billion in 12 months.

$45 billion. In one year. Coincidentally, $45 billion is only $9 billion less than what it costs us to wage war in Iraq for a year, isn't it?

We'll assume coincidence.

But what about the Bush Administration? How has their war, and the above-mentioned economic slow-down, affected richest of the rich?

If you're familiar with America's 15 richest people, it's probably because most of them have been rich for a long time. All appeared on The Forbes Four Hundred Richest in America list ten years ago, although it took some of them a few years to move to the highest plateau. (Michael Dell dropped out of the 400s altogether after his company's stock plunged in 1993. He was back the following year.) But all of them eventually saw their fortunes explode: This year's top 15 had a total net worth of $211.5 billion, compared with their combined $28 billion in 2001.

Reviewing how many of those fortunes are tied to Microsoft, it's impressive that the dot-com bust didn't have a bigger impact at the top, isn't it?

(If you're in the mood, that first link, to the Forbes 400 Top Ten, will take you to some interesting information on the right-wingnuttery of some of the country's wealthier citizens. Check the "energy tycoons" and click some of the links.)

Also, this brief article on "the dynamic nature of American capitalism" is interesting. (The rich-rich-rich have bailed out of energy? Or just out of oil?)

Posted by AnneZook at 12:06 PM | Comments (2)
Aggravated (and on a Sunday!)

I like to spend my Sundays casually. A bit of writing, a bit of reading, a bit of cooking, a bit of cleaning. I generally prefer not to get myself in a tizzy over something. (I should stay away from the news and my blogroll, shouldn't I?)

Still. Here I am. Ranting. Common Ills started it.

I'll wait while you go read their post, and the original article....*

Okay? I sent Common Ills an e-mail, but I decided to copy my response here with a few additional thoughts:

1) The article quoted refers repeatedly to "wealthy farmers." This creates a false picture. It ignores the farmers who aren't wealthy. Nor does it offer us any statistics on the percentage of farmers who are considered "wealthy." How many farmers are "wealthy"? How do they define "wealthy" for a farmer? How many farmers didn't qualify as "wealthy"? What about those farmers not "wealthy" enough to be able to afford large life insurance policies to handle their "liquidity" problems?

2) In order to provide a decent context for the impact of estate taxes on family farms, we should also have been given numbers on the families who have sold all or a controlling interest in their farms to corporate farmers in order to stay in business. (I don't know if there are any, you understand, but the picture of them having to is a common tool used by the Right to point out how we're 'killing' family farms.) What percentage of our food supply is still in the hands of "family" farmers and what percentage has been taken over by "corporate" farmers (and is thus not an issue in the estate tax debate)?

3) An exemption of $2 million isn't that unreasonable these days. When you consider the value of the land itself (which is where a lot of the "wealth" comes in), a farm can easily get close to that $2 million threshold while the family itself is living a very modest lifestyle.

4) Yes, non-farm families would also be able to avoid taxes on $2 million of their wealth, but two million dollars isn't what it used to be. I think many of us are allowing ourselves to be distracted by what seems to us to be a lot of money. When is comes to the really wealthy these days, $2 million is pocket change.

If we're talking about progressive taxation, let's look at the really rich. Those whose wealth is measured in the tens or hundreds of millions, or even in the billions. Those are the people with the sophisticated lawyers and the tax shelters in the Bahamas and the numbered accounts in Switzerland and the corporations "headquartered" off of USofA soil to avoid taxation and all of the other gimmicks available to the truly wealthy.

5) The Left, and other supporters of the estate tax aren't ever going to get anywhere with this as long as they keep allowing themselves to be painted by the Right as wanted to bankrupt family farms. Stop targeting the family farmers and target the super-rich. Stop making it possible for the Right to point to the Left as people who want to starve the farmers who feed us.

6) Yes, increasing the estate tax exemption will cut down on revenues for the government, but those funds could be easily made up by closing some of the unfair and undemocratic loopholes available only to the truly wealthy. Consider, instead, adopting those with "estates" of $2 million, or even $5 million, as part of the "middle class." As part of the constituency of the Left.

Our concern is, or should be, the rapidly vanishing middle class in this country. Our concern is, or should be, the accumulation of a disproportionate amount of our wealth in the hands of the super-rich. There is where our focus should be. A wealthy middle-class, even a wealthy upper-middle-class, is not unhealthy for our economy. Quadrupling the number of "estates" worth $2 million would be good for us. It's the concentration of wealth (and the consequent concentration of power) in a handful of families that's dangerous.

7) One family only needs so many yachts. Only a limited number of Rolls Royce's. Once they have a mansion with twenty bedrooms, it's ridiculous to pretend they worry about housing.

They can only eat so many meals, no matter how gourmet. Only wear so many pairs of shoes or buy so many ties. They can only take so many trips in so many private jets.

There comes a point at which more money is simply accumulated. There's no rational way to claim it's needed for survival. Any point beyond that and the money simply becomes a means to power. That's the point at which wealth accumulation becomes dangerous.

I don't advocate preventing wealth accumulation. I just warn that by allowing ourselves to be distracted by a fight over the $2 million family farm, we're in danger of losing a battle over how much money, and power the truly wealthy are able to pass along.

8) The Left is letting the Right set the terms of the debate again. We have to stop doing that. What's really at stake isn't the tax burden on a family farm. None of us want to run family farms out of business (except corporate farm conglomerates, but that's a different rant). We're letting the Right define who is "wealthy" in this debate, and that's just wrong.

While we fight bad PR over running Farmer Fred off of his family's long-held land, the Waltons and Cheneys and Bushes are sitting in the shadows, licking their lips over the proposed estate tax repeal.

This whole "family farmer" charade is the only thing the Right has left, don't you see? It's the only "real American" constituency they still pretend to represent. Outside of this, all of their efforts go to service multi-national corporations and that tiny group of super-rich individuals, whose fates are inextricably entwined with that of the mega-conglomerates. If we remove the Right's ability to pretend to represent the "family farmer" then we've removed one of their most valuable PR tools.

9) Leave small family businesses alone. Enlist the family farms in your ranks. That's where they belong, not on the Right, the side of corporate conglomerates.

Go after the places where wealth has accumulated to the point of danger. Close up the loopholes. Tighten up the tax code. Let the super-rich, those with real wealth and assets, not those whose assets are largely tied up in land their family has farmed for generations or business owners whose life-time of work has created a comparatively modest legacy to pass on to the next generation, pay their proportionate share.

10) The super-rich have certainly benefited from our government's services. They've had special legislation, special protection, and special attention for decades. They've gotten tax shelters and subsidies and loopholes written to their personal specs.

For a few modest (compared to their resources) donations to individual politicians' campaigns, they've reaped the benefits of tens of millions of dollars worth of tax breaks and subsidies.

These donations benefit no one but the people running the campaigns. The money pays staff salaries and pays for ads. That's about it. The government, the country, gets nothing but another bought-and-paid-for politician. (At the very least, that same amount of money, paid in taxes, would have provided us something besides a lot of really stupid and annoying ads.)

The super-rich, and their corporate conglomerates, get a lot of special attention from the government, and they only "pay" for it by "paying" individual politicians. (Call it campaign donations if you want to, but that doesn't change the facts. They give a politician $100,000, even through a 527, and they get a few million dollars in tax breaks. It's a pay-off, no matter how you spin it.) The government spends a lot of time and effort (which translates into our tax dollars) pampering the super-rich, people with six on-staff manicures to attend to their every hangnail. We are subsidizing their lifestsyles.

Government has to be paid for. It's time for this bunch to pay their share of the bill.

* Update: I should have read and included Kevin.


Necessary disclaimers:

#1 - Short of my elderly mother winning a big lottery jackpot, there's no way the estate tax question is going to impact me personally.

#2 - I am related to someone who works in the beef industry. This has had no impact on my belief that targeting family farms or "estates" worth $2 million, a battle we can't win, is a smokescreen on the part of the Right. They're servicing their ultra-rich constituency by pretending to care about "the little people."

Posted by AnneZook at 11:07 AM | Comments (0)