The Gypsy's Caravan

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Major General John R.S. Batiste

It's 10 Minutes, but it's worth it. If you haven't seen it yet - make the time.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Must Read Interview!

BuzzFlash interview: Thom Hartmann
Coming to the defense of the embattled, and shrinking, middle class

"Middle Class" was, until recently, a description that most Americans felt described them. We all felt we were middle class if we had a steady income, a decent home, and a shot at an even better life. But today, as Thom Hartmann helps us understand, the middle class reality is slipping away. As author Paul Loeb has written, Hartmann's new book, Screwed, "explores why, showing how this is no accidental process, but rather the product of conscious political choices, choices we can change with enough courage and commitment. Like all of Thom's great work it helps show us the way forward." BuzzFlash and Thom Hartmann talk here about the myth of a free market economy and government's role as the arbiter of trade and wealth.

* * *

BuzzFlash: Your new book is "Screwed, The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class and What We Can Do About It". First of all, what is your rough sketch definition of the middle class?

Thom Hartmann: I would use the definition that Teddy Roosevelt came up with when he defined a living wage as being pretty much the same thing. Somebody who’s earning a living wage is probably in the middle class. Working a normal work week, one person is able to support a family in a way that they can put their children through school, including college, they can pay for all of their medical and health expenses, they can have enough set aside for a safe retirement, they can have enough to take and enjoy a vacation every year, they can live comfortably and meet the needs of their family -- I guess that’s pretty much it. I can’t remember his words, but I think that that’s pretty much it. I play that sound clip of him from 1912 all the time on the radio program.

BuzzFlash: A lot of your writing is concerned about American politics and the Revolutionary and Constitutional heritage of the United States. How does that point in our history relate to the issue of the American middle class?

Thom Hartmann: Well, we’ve had two periods in the United States when there was a substantial middle class. The first was from the time that the country was founded up to about ten-fifteen years before the Civil War. That middle class was established by virtue of cheap land -- cheap resources, basically. The person-to-resource ratio was such that there was a lot of wealth. Granted, many of those resources came from stealing land from Native Americans and enslaving Africans. But nonetheless, setting aside the obvious moral issues of that, that middle class came about as a result of basically cheap land and cheap labor.

The second middle class came about starting in the late 1930s as a result of Franklin Roosevelt intentionally interfering in the marketplace. The passage of the Wagner Act in 1935 and a series of specific interventions in the marketplace said to business essentially: if you want to play the game of business in the United States, you’re going to play by federal rules that are going to establish a middle class, and not just make a profit. What’s significant about these two periods is that, in both cases, the middle class emerged as a consequence of something that violated the normal rules of laissez-faire free market capitalist economy. The first was that cheap land and labor, which was, in a way, similar to the original Renaissance, because after the black death in Europe where there were so few people, labor was in such demand, and the wealth-to-person ratio dramatically increased because of the death of a third of the population of Europe.

Whenever you see a normal functioning economy without intervention, without government regulation and without participation of either workers through unions or the people through government, what you’ll find is the normal outcome of laissez-faire economics -- which is no middle class, or a very, very small mercantile middle class. In Europe for a couple of thousand years, you had a small class of wealthy ruling elites, and a very, very large class of working poor, and then a very small class of people in the middle who were able to carve out a middle for themselves, usually by virtue of expertise. They are the expert jewelers or the expert watchmakers, the stonecutters, and also the small shopkeepers -- the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker. But not their employees.

The lesson of this is that a middle class is not a normal phenomenon. A middle class has to be created. It will either be created by external circumstances, as in the case of Europe after the black death, or the United States in the colonial times, or it’ll be created by internal circumstances -- the people through their elected representatives saying we’re going to modify the rules of the economy to intentionally create a middle class. That’s what Europe has done largely since the 1940s, although you could argue that that movement started in the 19th Century. And that’s what the United States did, starting with Franklin Roosevelt, and intentionally stopped doing, or began the radical slowdown of, starting with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1981.

BuzzFlash: Many people think of the post-World War II era as the golden era of the middle class. Is that a correct assumption or stereotype?

Thom Hartmann: Yes, it truly was. We saw real wages rise, and rise substantially, from the 1930s right up through the late seventies, early eighties, depending on which numbers you're looking at. We’ve seen the wages of the middle class basically erode since that time, although the wealthiest among us have seen an explosion in their wealth since Reagan began changing the economic direction of the ship of state.

BuzzFlash: The title of your book is certainly provocative -- Screwed -- The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class -- but who’s conducting this war?

Thom Hartmann: There are two groups of people participating in the destruction of the American middle class. The first is those who benefit directly from it economically -- basically the "pure capitalists," or people who derive most or all of their income from their investments, and simply want to maximize return on investment. Some very wealthy families have been working in this direction -- for example, the Walton family, who helped fund the ten-plus-year effort to change the use of the term estate tax to "death tax."

Then the second group is the ideologues, the true believers -- the libertarians and objectivists who read Ayn Rand and truly believe that pure unrestrained laissez-faire capitalism is not only a good economic system, but is also a good political system. They’re perhaps the most dangerous and destructive. Those are the Grover Norquists of the world. And they get it that there’s something in it for them.
~ snip ~

BuzzFlash: Let me close with one recollection, which certainly is a telling moment that speaks to your book. Bush had one of his many staged townhall meetings. There was a woman on stage with him and he was asking her what her family life was like, and did she work? And yes, she worked three jobs. She needed to work three jobs. And he said, “That’s fantastic. That’s so American,” or something to that effect. Here is a woman working three jobs just to get by, and Bush praises her for being such a good American. It used to be the dream of the middle class that if you worked one solid job, you had the night with your family. You had weekends off. You could afford your kid’s college tuition. You could save for retirement. Bush's new role model is a woman with a family who works three jobs. What does that say to you?

Thom Hartmann: It perfectly crystallizes the entire thing. George W. Bush was born a multi-millionaire and feels the entitlements of being a member of the ruling class economically and politically. He apparently was not raised with the sense of noblesse oblige that, at least, Joe Kennedy was good enough to impart to his children -- that if you’re wealthy, you have some obligation to society. And so you’re just seeing it in a very raw form -- the belief that there are rulers and there are the ruled. There is the overclass and there is the underclass. And there’s really no need for a middle class in Bush’s world, in the conservative world.

BuzzFlash: And the role of the underclass is to work three jobs.

Thom Hartmann: That’s right. Because if you’re working three jobs, you’re not going to be politically active. You’re not going to be a pain in the butt. You’re not going to be uppity. You’re not going to be problematic for the political and economic forces that are running the country. You’re not going to be in anybody’s way because you’re out there working. So let’s just pat them on the head and say, yeah, keep it up. That is the conservative role model.

This is a great interview, defining how a middle class comes about, and how we can work to save ours. Please, if you have the time, go read the whole thing.

hattip to Working For Change Buzz Flash

FILLIBUSTER: email Senator Harry Reid NOW!

Dear Senator Reid,

Torture is not "according to the Constitution"
Torture is beyond the pale.
Torture is just plain WRONG.

Who would Jesus Torture?


I expect a fillibuster, and if one is not forthcoming, I'll know where you and the rest of the senate Democtrats stand on this issue.

Find your spine!


Before we no longer have a country worthy of defending.


Much simpler than leaving it up to the Supremes, who appointed Bush in the first place, and that was before Roberts and Alito!


Or we are lost before we have the chance to throw the bums out.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Dead Eye Dick: "Imagine Where We'd Be..."

A few weeks ago, Dick Cheney actually said in a speech... "Imagine where we'd be".. if we hadn't gone in and taken out Saddam Hussain.

Well, I don't know about him, but there's nothing wrong with my imagination.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Think of it - if we had stayed put in Afghanistan, we'd have maybe a third the boots on the ground in the middle east, our military would not be exhausted and short of materiels. The world would be applauding the fine democratic infrastructure and rule of law in that small country, and an influx of capitol and prosperity would be flooding the region. Women would find it safe to go out of their homes, girls would be in school and learning to read and write.

Osama Bin Laden would have been found and brought to justice.

The moderates in Iran, without the complete and utter murderous mess that is Iraq, would have elected a moderate president instead of Ahmadinejad, who could have stood up to the mullahs.

We would have had alot more of the wherewithal to have helped the victims of disasters in the world and here at home.

We would have nearly 318 billion dollars to spend for new energy initiatives, global warming, medical coverage, education, and other needed infrastructure.

Those big weapons piles that we ignored when we "conquered Iraq" would still be locked down, and not being used to kill and maim our soldiers.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I find it hard to believe that anyone could BE that incompetent, but the idea that they did it on purpose in order to satisfy their dreams of world domination ~ well that's another kind of incompetence altogether.

Prez Cherrypicking Again

Bush to release part of intel assessment

By BARRY SCHWEID, AP Diplomatic Writer

President Bush on Tuesday said it is naive and a mistake to think that the war with Iraq has worsened terrorism, disputing a national intelligence assessment by his own administration. He said he was declassifying part of the report.

"Some people have guessed what's in the report and concluded that going in to Iraq was a mistake. I strongly disagree," Bush said.

He asserted that portions of the classified report that had been leaked were done so for political purposes, referring to the Nov. 7 midterm elections.

Bush announced that he was ordering parts of the report declassified during a White House news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Portions of the document that have been leaked suggest that the threat of terrorism has grown worse since the Sept. 11 terror attacks and the war in Afghanistan, due in part to the war in Iraq.

Democrats have used the report to bolster their criticism of Bush's Iraq policy. The administration has claimed only part of the report was leaked and does not tell the full story.

Both the chairman and the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee have urged the White House to release the material.

Using a portion of the report to attack his Iraq policy and suggest it has fanned more terrorism is "naive," Bush said.

"I think it's a mistake for people to believe that going on the offense against people that want to do harm to the American people makes us less safe," he said.
*bolds mine*

Sorry 'W, but the whole thing should be declassified, and printed on the first page of every newspaper in the land. We should have the opportunity, as your boss, to review this report, and pass our own judgement. That you are only giving us bits and pieces proves that you've been lying to us all this time. Your word is worth less than nothing, I just assume you're lying, based on past experience. If you were to assert that the sky is clear and it's a sunny day I would check outside myself to verify it.

A yogi once told me that your word is more priceless than anything, because if you are perfect in your truthfulness, then whatever you say WILL come to manifest here and now. Well, I'm not perfect, but I'm a damn sight better than that two faced rotter that lives in our White House.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Resistance, Gov Ann Richards Style!

This is a very funny exerpt from a speech by former Texas Gov Ann Richards (may she rest in peace)

hattip/ Left and Right Fight thru Firedoglake

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Better Way...

Check out this post at Firedog Lake

It's time to reframe all the issues!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Talk like a Pirate Day

Arrrh, me hearties, this day be "Talk like a Pirate Day"

And this be the greatest, grandest pirate of all!

hattip to: Firedog Lake

Wonderful Weather for a change!

This weekend we went apple picking, and was the day beautiful! It was 78 degrees, sunny, dry(for a change!), breezy. Perfect. We went to our regular place, but each year it's been getting more and more commercial. They are finally treating us like a heard of cows. Get on the wagon, go here, don't go there, stay where I can see you, no sitting on rocks, get away from the stream. No picking raspberries - only on weekdays.

We took my neice, she insisted it was "tradition"! Well, I have to say, we've been taking her every year, for half her life. (She's 8)

I think we'll be going elsewhere next year. We stopped at a place just down the road, and was it ever different! They had a fish pond(!!!!), raspberries, apples, and potties. Much less pressure, and no heard mentality.

On monday, when I got to work, the dew was on my garden, and there were spider webs all over the place. This one was a perfect spiral, and it's spinner was sitting there with good mornings for all. If you have time to only click on one pic, this is the one - enlarge it to see the drops of dew...

The last precious roses are blooming, with deeper color. They tend to open faster and last no more than a day.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


Go watch it - it's your vote!

hattip: Shakespere's Sister

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Republicans Speak

"I am a conservative Republican, but I believe in democracy and the separation of church and state. The conservative movement is founded on the simple tenet that people have the right to live life as they please as long as they don't hurt anyone else in the process."

~ Barry Goldwater, the father of the modern conservative movement

Former Republicans Speak

This is my own little crusade. We have a free local weekly that has local news, local bands and something they call "Speak Out". People can call email or write in their opinions, bumper stickers, replies to last weeks opinions, or quotes. I've noticed a very rightwing slant, with letters pleading for support of bushco, and recently a string of REAGAN quotes. Icky Icky Reagan quotes.

So, I look up good republican quotes (and there are quite a few of them) and send them in to the Speak Out editor. I will be cross posting them here, and if you have a local rag that publishes letters or quotes, feel free to cut and paste!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

ABC News interviews BushCo

The pResident Speaks

Mr Bush, you are no Truman.

Just sayin'...

Sunday Dragon Blogging

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Sept Gardens

This pond is on my way home. It's such a peaceful spot, and the owners are good enough not to wall it away from public eyes. I get to see it right after I walk thru my garden at work, which is full of weeds and yet still blooming.

Next year I'm planning on doing the cardboard trick. When the perennials are up, you fertilize them all, then after a good rain, you carpet the ground around the plants with cardboard(or multiple layers of newsprint-not colored or slick). Wet it all to soak the cardboard, then top dress the whole thing with about 2-3" of mulch. It eradicates the weeds, while keeping in moisture and slowly feeding the plants.

The white allium was given to me by our neighbors. She gave me two plants, and when they flowered, I was so enchanted by the ball of little perfect stars that I spread the seed all along the paths. The pink sedum was given to me by one of my co-workers just before he retired.

This Dahlia blossom was the sanctuary of some kind of bug. I have no idea what the name of this bug is, but we have lots of them. It looks so perfect in it's dusty yellow suit.

*click on the pics to open them

Bush's EPA is at it Again!

EPA Proposes Easing Pollution Rules

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration proposed easing environmental rules Friday to allow oil refineries and other industries to change how they calculate whether they need pollution control equipment.

The oil refinery industry says the eased regulation would open the way for production of more oil and other products. But environmental groups say the proposed rules are gimmicks and loopholes allowing industry to emit more pollution, evade pollution controls and save money.

"This is a big gift to the refinery industry," said Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, an environmental watchdog group. "They are saying let's close our eyes and pretend pollution is not happening."
John Walke, Natural Resources Defense Council's clean air director, said EPA is doing little more than proposing accounting gimmicks that allow industry to evade installing pollution controls by considering smaller pollution amounts, rather than pollution from an entire plant.

"It's a way to allow industry to pollute more without cleaning up," Walke said.

EPA must allow 60 days for public comment on its proposed rules before making the rules permanent.

I was watching a science program on tv the other night, and there were some young people showcased in their grassroots effort to document the pollution in the surf and on the beach, I think it was at Malibu. The reason they were going to all the trouble was that the surfers are getting sick. Young healthy people at the prime of their lives, getting sick from swimming in our waters.

My son surfed malibu regularly in the 80's, and he didn't get sick all the time!

And now they want to drill offshore in California waters, and in the parts of the Gulf that have always been protected. These criminals who are running our country into the ground have no shame, and no desire to protect what's really vital to our prosperity and even our survival.

A POX on them, I say!

Friday, September 08, 2006

9/11 : The Truth?

Monday, September 04, 2006

Republicans Speak

Theodore Roosevelt, Republican and 26th president of the United States:

"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."


We have a free local weekly that has local news, local bands and something they call "Speak Out". People can call email or write in their opinions, bumper stickers, replies to last weeks opinions, or quotes. I've noticed a very rightwing slant, with letters pleading for support of bushco, and recently a string of REAGAN quotes. Icky Icky Reagan quotes.

Following the principle that Coulter was NOT dropped by newspapers because the liberals are calling, writing and emailing the editor to say how nasty she is, but rather it was the conservatives who called wrote and emailed to say that they didn't like her views, and didn't want her representing them, that made the editors pull her column - I have started a stealth campaign. I look up good republican quotes (and there are quite a few of them) and send them in to the Speak Out editor. I will be cross posting them here, and if you have a local rag that publishes letters or quotes, feel free to cut and paste!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Pushing up Mushrooms

*as usual, click on the pics for a larger size.

*I pass this fallen tree every day, and lately I noticed these giant mushrooms growing on it.

So creamy white and brown. Amazing perfect shapes. And yep, that's poison ivy there next to the log.

Even the slugs like a little mushroom, in season!

Update: I just dropped by the Dharma Bums, for their weekend posting of pics that commentors have sent them. Guess what was the first photo? ha ha: Mushrooms!

And what a great set of pics there are! Our world, from Tibet to the toad's view of a forest. Enjoy!

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