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    • The NYTimes Reveals More Than It Means
      Watch this video. It’s only 39 seconds. It’s worth it. What’s interesting to me about this video is NOT what Bernie says, it’s the reaction. It’s how genuinely uncomfortable the people interviewing him (The NYTimes editors) are. They really think he’s saying something terrible. Something awkward. Something embarrassing. What is he saying? “I ignore the […] […]
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Sunday News And Other Mythologies

Good Day Conflucians!!

The myth that we have two different political parties would be funny to watch if it didn’t have such serious consequences. Whichever party is in charge does the bidding of their corporatist bosses while the out party pretends to be opposed to what they’re doing. They each make lots of noise and get people riled up. One side calls the other heartless crazy right wing nazi’s and the other screams evil big spending communists. They make enough noise and faux opposition speeches that each election cycle people are ready to throw one side out and install the other. And when the next group gets in power, they do the bidding of the very same corporatist bosses. And the cycle continues. The reason people are so confused about political and economic and social labels is because they’re used incorrectly by both sides and the media for their own theatrical purposes.

Our faux two party system benefits the backers and the two parties and the media. It’s a mutually beneficial dance that allows corporatist interests to continue to gain power and money while the country slides further and further down to 3rd world status. You can also see a parallel with many of the wars we enter. They are often mutually beneficial to both sides of the conflicts. Certainly not to the troops involved or the citizens of either side, but for the power leaders and the power institutions (these days mega corporations) behind them it’s a win-win. Will there ever be a breaking point? Will we all be brought down to such a low level there is no more blood to be extracted? The puppet masters certainly hope not. But even if there is a breaking point, they will likely have escape plans and well fortified castles to hid in. Just like the bad guys in all the Bond movies. Unfortunately unlike in the movies, there isn’t a hero what will swoop in and save us.

Even great writers that try to get at the truth of who we are and what society is about, have a hard time following through with the inevitable conclusion. Case in point is “The Lord of the Flies” by William Golding. In the story Golding deals with a lot of issues of how fragile society is and what’s beneath the surface. But he chickens out in the end and has the boys rescued by the big adults. The hero swoops in and rescues them from themselves. Some would say religions themselves have a built in problem like this with a belief that a big man in the sky is going to swoop in and make everything better, or at least resolves the injustices later. And as we saw in the presidential primaries and general election, the backers of one of the candidates were filled with hope for change. The problem with Golding’s story, with religions, and with the followers of Obama is the magic man doesn’t swoop in and save you in real life. Instead you need to understand reality and all the possibilities, and make judgements based on best estimates and practical solutions and reasoning through the problem and possible solutions and based on track records of what people really do not what they say. But that’s not in the interest of either political party or the media. Even if a better and more reasoned approach would not only make life better for most, but even for them, they would still be afraid of not being in control.

So we’re in a world of mythology in the middle east where women have to wear tents and can’t smoke, and we’re in a world of mythology in the US where an incompetent, self absorbed, person who’s never had a job and who’d never accomplished anything is someone to lead us out of our current mess. We’re in a would of mythology where after the current corporatist party, Dems, have let our resources and our very soul be sucked out of us by the likes of Goldman Sachs and BP, we’re supposed to be excited as the other corporatist party, Repubs, will start moving back into power to continue the cycle. Sadly as we fall further into third world status, the likelihood of people seeing through mythologies fades. The tradeoff though is that we’ll enter a period of more volatility and likely revolutionary reactions. History is full of such things. But our faux leaders are prepared for that, because anything that looks like that is terrorism, and we’ve already gotten ride of habeas corpus, and have rendition and torture as routine. They have done their homework well. What will Americans do now? Will they just sit and wait for a hero to rescue them, or a big man in the sky to balance things out? Or will they wake up.

Now that I’ve had a bit of a say, let’s see what’s going on in the news.

Obama is, you guessed it, on vacation:

BAR HARBOR, MAINE — President Obama and his family aren’t just getting outside the Beltway on their brief vacation here — they’re getting outside, period.

Since their arrival Friday afternoon, the Obamas have been biking, hiking and boating their way around Mount Desert Island, the third-largest island on the Eastern Seaboard and home to the 47,000-acre Acadia National Park.

The first stop Friday was a 90-minute bike ride on the lushly wooded trails around Witch Hole Pond at the northern end of the island. Then came a family hike on Cadillac Mountain, at 1,530 feet the highest peak on the East Coast.

And while they’re he’s continuing his tired message that it’s all the Republican’s fault. Funnily enough, it was their fault when Dems had a supermajority, and now with only 59 votes, it’s somehow still their fault:

Moving into campaign mode, President Obama on Saturday cast the Republicans as an obstructionist force bent on impeding the nation’s economic recovery for political purposes.

Obama used his weekly radio address to deliver a message that Senate Republicans are also blocking an extension of jobless benefits to millions of unemployed Americans suffering in a tough economy.

And of course, while Obama is vacationing in Maine (nearly as far from the gulf as you can get I might add), the real leader is in Pakistan working:

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, will arrive in Islamabad for a two-day visit that will focus on economic aid and Pakistan’s role in the war in Afghanistan.

Clinton will arrive on Sunday and attend at least one public event in Islamabad. Her talks on Monday will include several senior Pakistani officials, including Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the foreign minister.

The US delegation is expected to press Pakistan to escalate its war against armed groups in the country’s northwest – particularly the so-called “Haqqani network” – supposedly the deadliest group operating in Afghanistan whose fighters often take sanctuary in Pakistan.

Clinton will also likely press Pakistan on its role in “reconciliation” talks between anti-government fighters and the Afghan government. Some US officials suspect that Pakistan will encourage fighters with links to al-Qaeda to join the government.

“For the United States, it is key that the Afghan government, and those Taliban elements who may join it, have no links to al-Qaeda, and that Afghanistan does not again become a base for al-Qaeda,” Teresita Schaffer, an analyst at the US-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said.

And on the war front, we’ve got women being newly targeted by the Taliban:

U.S. intelligence officials say they have intercepted new orders from the Taliban’s spiritual leader that call on insurgents to target women and Afghan civilians helping American-led forces.

One year after issuing a detailed code of conduct that called on Taliban fighters to protect Afghan civilians, NATO officials say, Mullah Omar has issued new directives to his commanders that appear to represent a tougher stance.

Release of the directives comes as Afghan and U.S.-led forces are preparing for a looming new military confrontation with insurgents in the Taliban’s spiritual heartland of Kandahar province.

A Taliban spokesman dismissed the report as American propaganda and some Afghan analysts expressed doubts that the Taliban leader would specifically single out Afghan women as targets.

“This sounds weird, but possible,” said Sami Kovanen, senior Information Analyst for Indicium Consulting, a Kabul-based research analyst firm. “I have not heard anything like this before and have not seen incidents like this.”

And NATO soldiers are killed by homemade bombs in Afghanistan:

Five NATO soldiers were killed in southern and eastern Afghanistan amid reports of new fighting in Nuristan, a remote northeastern province of Afghanistan, officials said Saturday.

Four of the soldiers, including two British servicemen, were killed in southern Afghanistan. The fifth was killed in the eastern part of the country. All of the fatalities were caused by homemade bombs that exploded while the soldiers were on patrol. Bombs and small-arms fire are the main causes of death in Afghanistan. So far this year 57 percent of all deaths have been caused by improvised explosive devices, according to icasualties.org, a Web site that tracks military casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Americans and the British have focused their increased forces on southern Afghanistan this summer in an effort to improve local governments and set the stage for a military campaign in the fall.

Meanwhile Gibbs-gate is still a story, where Gibbs said Repubs would probably win the house:

As White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs utters thousands of words in public every week as he promotes and defends President Obama. But it was just 16 words on a talk show last Sunday that consumed the days that followed — and that by week’s end Republicans were gleefully dubbing “Gibbs-gate.”

What was so scandalous that it would spark a flurry of competing e-mail statements, set the blogosphere ablaze, eat up endless cable and radio airtime and cause heartburn for Democrats around Washington? On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Mr. Gibbs was asked if Democrats could lose the House in the fall mid-term elections. “There’s no doubt there are enough seats in play that could cause Republicans to gain control,” Mr. Gibbs answered.

Goldman Sachs got hit with a fine for destroying the world as we know it, but it was a close vote from the SEC:

The Securities and Exchange Commission split in its decision to settle its landmark lawsuit against Goldman Sachs, The Wall Street Journal has learned, in a dispute over the agency’s move to levy a $550 million fine even after diluting its fraud allegations against the giant bank.

The 3-2 decision on party lines Thursday came after a 30-minute closed-door session where the SEC’s two Republican commissioners voted against settling, said people familiar with the matter. Mary Schapiro, the SEC chairman appointed by President Obama, cast the deciding vote, the people said.

Thursday’s settlement—in which Goldman agreed to pay a $550 million fine, but didn’t have to admit it committed fraud—capped one of the most closely watched cases in the SEC’s 76-year history. The agency had charged Goldman with intentionally duping clients by selling a mortgage-security product that secretly was designed by another Goldman client betting that the housing market would crash.

Next up, the SEC is going to look at more exotic financial products:

The new Securities and Exchange Commission unit that obtained a $550 million settlement from Goldman Sachs in a fraud suit is pressing ahead with investigations into wrongdoing during the financial crisis by big banks, but is also turning its attention to exotic financial products that might be used to harm average investors, officials said.

The Structured and New Products Unit, one of several specialty groups in the agency’s enforcement division, filed the landmark suit against Goldman and later negotiated with the powerful Wall Street bank’s lawyers on a settlement. A source familiar with the unit’s work, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that while it is looking at wrongdoing by other big firms, it’s unclear whether the Goldman case will be replicated with other Wall Street firms.

Hope springs eternal. But remember what we said above. How many guesses that there will be fall guys and way to small punishments while the real powers behind the scenes either get to keep doing what they’ve been doing, or get to move on to another interesting way to screw everyone.

In other upbeat news, the housing market is worse than we thought:

The housing market took another step back in June as construction and purchases dropped, and a gauge of the outlook for growth signaled the expansion will lose steam, economists said before reports this week.

Builders began work on 580,000 houses last month at an annual rate, down 2.2 percent from May and the slowest pace this year, according to the median estimate of 61 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News before Commerce Department data due July 20. Other reports may show sales of existing homes decreased for a second month and the index of leading indicators declined for the first time in more than a year.

The expiration of a buyer tax credit has caused housing to retreat, showing the industry that precipitated the recession cannot sustain a recovery absent job growth. The financial turmoil caused by the European debt crisis has shaken confidence in the world’s largest economy, raising the risk that spending and employment will cool.

“At a minimum, we’re headed for a soft patch and possibly an extended period of slow growth,” said Julia Coronado, a senior economist at BNP Paribas in New York. “There is a lot of uncertainty about where housing goes from here. Now that we’re in the world ex-tax credits, it’s not clear how deep the pool of demand is for housing.”

VP, scary big teeth, Biden apparently owes some money from his ill gotten campaigning:

The Biden for President campaign committee owes the Treasury more than $219,000 because it accepted excessive campaign contributions and understated the value of a trip taken on a private plane in the 2008 campaign, the Federal Election Commission said in a new report.

Auditors from the agency found numerous violations of campaign finance rules by the committee that Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. used in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Mr. Biden’s press secretary, Elizabeth Alexander, said Saturday that he would pay the amount owed.

The report paints a picture of sloppy bookkeeping by Mr. Biden’s campaign. But aides to the vice president said the errors were relatively minor. The excess contributions were less than 1 percent of the total raised by the campaign, they said.

I seem to remember someone saying if you can’t keep your own house in order, how can you govern…

So on the opposing pretend political party, Sarah Palin is out ahead in the polls:

It’s more than two years away and we’re all enjoying summer – even the Obamas up in Maine – so what better time to talk about the Republican nominee for President in 2012?

Are you crazy??” we hear you asking. But here at The Vote, we look for any excuse to riff on campaign politics, especially when it involves Republicans acting like Democrats – taking shots at one another and jostling for position.

The Gallup polling organization has just released its latest on likely presidential candidates’ popularity within the GOP. Not surprisingly, Sarah Palin leads all the guys with presidential aspirations (Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Bobby Jindal) … not counting everybody in the US Senate, all of whom believe themselves to be presidential timber.

Palin’s at 76 percent “favorable” among Republicans – at least 10 percentage points higher than any of the guys.

And here’s a really good one to show you how politics and money and power rots everything. Even among marijuana growers. As pot growing and selling (for medical purposes of course) is becoming a big business, things are getting nasty:

A proposal to create four large-scale marijuana factories in Oakland has touched off a turf war in the lucrative market for medicinal marijuana. Established local merchants are trying to hold their ground against entrepreneurs who are seeking to gain a foothold in the rapidly evolving industry.

Under the proposal, which will be debated by the City Council on Tuesday, Oakland would issue four permits to operate the factories, which are currently not limited in size or scale. One would-be applicant is planning a 7.4-acre complex that could produce over 21,000 pounds of marijuana a year.

Based on current prices, such a factory would generate about $60 million in annual revenue, more than twice the gross receipts for Oakland’s four medical marijuana dispensaries last year.

Taxes on cannabis cultivation and sales could generate millions of dollars for Oakland, once the program is up and running, and create hundreds of jobs, according to supporters. The ordinance — written by Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan, who is also a mayoral candidate, and Councilman Larry Reid — would also require the factories to pay a $211,000 “regulatory fee.”

The proposal is creating discord between businesses seeking to preserve the status quo and others who are trying to carve out new businesses in advance of Proposition 19, a November ballot measure that would legalize marijuana for adult recreational use in California.

“It’s big business; you’re talking about manufacturing gold,” said Jeff Jones, a longtime marijuana activist working with the legalization effort. “There’s going to be stakeholders, different opinions and different approaches, which lead to bickering like in any other marketplace.”

That’s a bit of a rant, and a bit of what’s happening. Chime in with your thoughts and mythologies and other news.