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"Two Americas" update

John Edwards, as we know, is a tireless crusader for justice. By all accounts he's pretty successful at it, too. After his years as a high-dollar trial lawyer, he amassed enough "justice" to build a 28,000 square foot home. Then, of course, he decided the most efficient path to pursue justice for the downtrodden was to go work for a Cayman Islands-based hedge fund. I'm not sure exactly how much justice he received from the fund while there, but I'll bet it was enough to pay for 2 or 3 haircuts, at least.

So why would Edwards, the Tom Joad of our time, go to work for a hedge fund as opposed to, say, Habitat for Humanity? It's not like he needed the bucks. Well this AP Story has the answer:

[Edwards] has said his work for a fund that generally caters to the wealthiest of investors was designed to educate him about the relationship between poverty and wealth and should not overshadow his work for the poor.

Okay, truth or dare time here. Can anybody read that with a straight face and not feel embarrassed for the guy? Is there anyone in the Edwards campaign or anywhere else who didn't groan when reading that explanation? At least when Pete Townshend came up with the howler that he was just downloading child porn for "research" purposes, he was trying to keep his ass out of jail, and was desperate enough to say anything.

If it sounds like I'm unfairly ragging on my former senator, it's because I am. There's nothing wrong with working for a hedge fund or having a big house or getting expensive haircuts, but there is something incongruous about the man's lifestyle and the image he'd like to project. Edwards is vulnerable on this issue in the same way that religious conservatives are uniquely vulnerable to charges of sexual impropriety.

Republicans, for whatever reason, don't seem to get many $400 haircuts. But if they did, there'd be nothing particularly interesting or ironic about it, because Republicans aren't always nattering on and on ad nauseum about social justice this and two Americas that. They'd be like, "Screw you, I'm dropping four Franklins on a buzzcut," and that would be it.

And here's what really gripes me. Edwards is so ardently committed to fighting poverty that he's willing to raise our taxes to do it. Not "asking," for sacrifice, mind you, but demanding it. That means that in his view the social inequalities are so vast that he feels justified to confiscate, under pain of imprisonment, the private wealth of individual citizens who are worth a lot less than he is to finance his redistributionist goals.

That's fine and all, but if you really believe that's the situation we're in, then by what moral calculus can you possibly justify a $400 haircut? If social inequality is so bad that you're willing to take food from our tables to make it better, then don't you think it would be appropriate to at least consider whether you could dispose of that money in a better way? I'll bet that for a single c-note you could still get a bang-up trim (I spend sixteen) and you'd still have $300 left over to donate to the charity of your choice, help out a local family, contribute to your own campaign, or, hell, even give to a bum on the street. Can't you find some better use for that money? When you were allocating untold millions to construct a house that takes up the better part of an acre, did it even once occur to you that by scaling back to, say, 10,000 square feet, you could still have a frakkin' ginormous mansion, and simultaneously help deserving people who perhaps have no home at all? And lessen your carbon footprint to boot? Seems like a win/win to me.

Sorry I woke up in a "rag on John Edwards" mood, but he's fresh on my mind since I got a letter from his campaign yesterday asking me for my generous contribution to help end poverty. (God only knows how I get on these mailing lists.) And again, I don't have a problem with people building big houses or living lavish lifestyles. But if you're going to paint yourself as a tireless crusader for the downtrodden, flying around like a rock star lecturing people about how bad everything is, but you're still living in a house the size of Rhode Island and spending more on hair care than I spent on my first car, well... you're as big a lousy hypocrite as Al Gore on the environment. Lousy hypocrites, of course, are a dime or dozen, and I generally just ignore them. What's so pernicious about the Gore/Edwards variety, however, is their willingness, even eagerness, to compel us to live a lifestyle that they themselves decline to follow. People like that piss me off.


Yeah, what a hypocritical fa.., er, douchebag.

Oh, if his house was 10,000 feet, you would still be whining, bitching, and moaning. The bottom line is that you want Democrats who talk about the poor to actually be poor so they will have no power to actually help the poor.

The nation's first environmentalists were rich people and they enlisted the help of governments to help them in their cause. Similarly, those speaking on behalf of raped women or poor people are not actually people who have been raped or are poor.

You don't have to walk barefoot to heed the teachings of Jesus.

I don't think Edwards needs to wear sandles and eat locusts, but consulting for the very kind of tax-dodging business entities he pretends to hate represents the other extreme to me. Isn't there some middle ground that would be more appropriate?

Perhaps there is a middle ground. I'm not sure where there that line falls, however, as nearly every elected official who supports any kind of change, whether it be social or environmental, usually engages in some hypocrisy on that issue.

I also find it to be a one-note criticism that is used by Hannity and others. Just keep repeating hypocrite and hypocrisy and one doesn't have to address the merits of the case.

Even Edwards hasn't (probably can't as well?) make the case for "two Americas," nor has anyone, I know of, made the case that a more regulated, highly taxed and redistributionist economy COULD work, let alone work better, PE.

In fact, I've seen the case made that our current economy is too regulated, too highly taxed and over-regulated.

Economic liberty is the engine of prosperity.

The argument that non-entrepreneurs, especially low skilled workers DON'T benefir much from that is specious, as they benefit in jobs...and they can always become entrepreneurs down the road.

Milton Friedman, Walter E Williams, James Buchanan and others eloquently make the case for more economic liberty.

Who makes an eloquent case for a more equitable distribution of the overall prosperity via taxation and more regulation?

I don't think there's anyone.

And I think that's because there isn't one to be made.

Actually, there are two Americas. There is the urban coastline filled with minorities, urbanites, and elites, and flyover country, filled with white middle class Christians. The divide isn't sharp, of course, although a look at the famous red county/ blue county voting map paints the picture pretty clearly.
As far as research into lifestyles of the rich and famous goes, I'm willing to volunteer to go deep cover if it will help. Oh- and PE, does this mean we won't hear any more talk about "chickenhawks"?

Paul, Bush's problems started with getting involved with in an unwise war (Iraq) after achieving popularity through his success in a necessary war (Afghanistan.)

Both sides accuse each other of hypocrisy, but in the end it is the wisdom of the actions that matter.

If Iraq, which was invaded becasue of Saddam's calculated strategy of "Detterence by Doubt" (leading virtually every Intelligence Agency in the world...and even Saddam's own Generals to believe that Iraq had stockpiles of WMDs) was "unwise," then what was "more wise" about invading Afghanistan for "harboring al Qaida."

To date, we've toppled the Taliban and fought the Taliban and its supporters, but found found few, if any al Qaida members there ("Since 2001, al-Qaida largely has been driven out of its former base of operations in Afghanistan..." fromhttp://www.pbs.org/newshour/indepth_coverage/asia/afghanistan/alqaida.html) and none of the 9/11 hijackers were harbored there (they were all dead). If al Qaida had been driven out in 2001, wasn't our mission in Afghanistan "accomplished" in that year, suggesting that we should be out of there as well?

I reject the notion that America's WoT's main target is al Qaida, because accepting that thesis gives credence to the inane view that this should not be a military war, but a criminal justice effort.

James Fox (then Director of the FBI's New York office) said that "The American criminal justice system is inadequate to the task of dealing with international terrorism," in the wake of the 1993 WTC bombing.

I believe Director Fox was right then...and that view remains just as correct today.

I also believe that our primary enemy in the WoT are the adherants of straict Sharia-based Islam, what we euphemistically call "radicalized," or "fundamentalist" Muslims, NOT al Qaida.

"Republicans, for whatever reason, don't seem to get many $400 haircuts."

Of course not. They don't have time for haircuts. They're too busy raping little children. Gotta love those wonderful Republicans with their cheap haircuts and their child molestation. But by all means, make yourself deeply relevant to the issues with numerous remarks about how much Edwards pays for haircuts. That's some solid political dialogue you got going on there, baby.

Bush has raised "taxes" though Big Oil Rape more than any president in history. Right now your Bush Tax is over $2.00 a gallon, all it going directly into the pockets of Bush's Big Oil buddies and countries who fund terrorism, like Saudi Arabia.

We elect an Oilman president and vice president, and now the oil companies are raping us for mega-billions in record profits.

Wow, what a coincidence!

>Right now your Bush Tax is over $2.00 a gallon

How do you calculate that, if I may ask?

Clinton, gas $1.25 - $1.50

Chimp, gas $2.50 - $3.50

Was Bush the direct cause of the rise? Hell yes!

Bush has had nothing to do with the rising price of oil and unleaded gasoline.

Commodities traders certainly have been.

Oil is a commodity and is sold on the commidities market.

The commodities market sets the world price for oil and they rely on OPEC and non-OPEC production output, refinery capacity, domestic reserve capacity (related to refinery output).

There is no way (absolutely no way) for ANY politician to raise or lower the price of oil by fiat.

Sure, I suppose one COULD strong-arm OPEC to maintain unreasonably high production quotas, BUT I doubt even that would over-ride human nature - OPEC knows that cutting output (reducing supply) increases the price.


Even those "dumb, cave-dwelling Third Worlders" you always excoritate, know more about how the market works than you do!

Come on, use that hat rack on your shoulders a little bit.

"Clinton, gas $1.25 - $1.50

Chimp, gas $2.50 - $3.50" (BH)

OK, who was the guy in between those two who presided over the $1.50 to $2.50 rise at the pump?

You do see that gap don't you???

Sure JMK, keep trying the Karl Rove "smoke and mirrors" approach to the simple truth.

As the Romans used to say: "Who profits?"

Sure JMK, keep trying the Karl Rove "smoke and mirrors" approach to the simple truth.

As the Romans used to say: "Who profits?"

It's a fair...and fairly straightforward question Barely;

"Clinton, gas $1.25 - $1.50

Chimp, gas $2.50 - $3.50" (BH)

"OK, who was the guy in between those two who presided over the $1.50 to $2.50 rise at the pump?

"You do see that gap don't you???"


Big-Mouth Bush Told Clinton How To Handle OPEC

By Evelyn Pringle

28 April, 2006

While on the campaign trail in 2000, Bush told President Bill Clinton how to handle OPEC, in public no less. “What I think the president ought to do," he said, "is he ought to get on the phone with the OPEC cartel and say we expect you to open your spigots."

And in a brilliant, highly educational follow-up comment, Bush informed the audience: "One reason why the price is so high is because the price of crude oil has been driven up."

"OPEC has gotten its supply act together," Bush advised listeners, "and it's driving the price, like it did in the past."

"And," he said in direct advice to Clinton, "the president of the United States must jawbone OPEC members to lower the prices."

Apparently, Bush has lost the phone numbers for OPEC members, or they are refusing to take his calls, because I think its safe to assume that he did not "jawbone" members of the OPEC cartel.

That said, if Bush is not in the mood for "jawboning," he could at least use a little pillow talk with his buddies in Saudi Arabia and get them to open the spigots.

During campaign 2000, Bush told Americans that he had an energy plan that would reduce gas prices at the pumps and here we sit 5 years later, with the highest prices in history.

The high energy costs are affecting everyone, from commuters and consumers, to public and private programs. The damage is devastating everywhere.

Since Bush took office, gas prices have increased 62.5% from $1.44 per gallon in January 2001 to $2.34 in March 2006. The average household with children will spend about $3,343 on transportation fuel costs this year, an increase of 75% since 2001, according to the Energy Information Administration, Retail Gasoline Prices, and Household Vehicle Energy Use: Latest Data and Trends, November 2005.

And gas prices are still rising. As of April 24, 2006, the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge report said, nationally, the average price for a gallon of regular gas was $2.90, or a 15.5% hike over the $2.51 price per gallon a month ago.

So where is all the money going? One need not look far. In 2005, the world's largest oil company, Exxonmoblile, reported the most profitable year in US corporate history, earning more than $36 billion.

Economists say oil producers and refiners, not gas stations, are making a killing. The five largest refineries, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Shell, Valero, and British Petroleum (BP) have recorded $228 billion in profits since 2001, according to testimony at a congressional hearing last November.

In 1999, refiners made 23 cents for each gallon processed and in 2004, they made 41 cents a gallon, according to Department of Energy data.

While watching oil company profits skyrocket, the average American household spent about $107 more for heating this past winter compared to the year before. In 2005-06, households heating with natural gas paid $402, or 86% more than they paid in 2001-2002. Consumers of heating oil paid $759, or 121% more this winter than they paid in 2001-2002, according to the Energy Information Administration, Short Term Energy Outlook, April 2006.

Family budgets, already strained by the rising cost of health care and health insurance, including higher co-payments and deductibles, as well as prescription drugs, college tuition, and other everyday expenses, are being stretched to the limit.

Energy costs are largely responsible for the declining real wages of working people. With the ever-rising cost of gasoline, employees are seeing their paychecks dwindle by the simple fact that they have to drive back and forth to work.

For many low-income families, gas now burns through 10% of household income. In Wisconsin, according to Consumer News, pawn shops are reporting brisk business as people hock their belongings to raise money for gas.

But it is not only the poor who are affected, a majority of the population is taking a hit. Students cannot afford to drive to school. Owners of recreational vehicles, faced with paying more than $200 to fill up the gas tank, are rethinking vacation trips.

"It's taking food off my table," James of Alexandria, VA told Consumer News. "I am having trouble and I'm late paying my daughter's tuition. No vacation this year. I'm charging gas on my credit card because I don't have $50 to put 20 gallons of gas in my car," he said.

Local governments, already struggling to pay for essential services due to continuous cuts in Federal funding, are overwhelmed in trying to keep school buses, police cars, fire trucks, and other public vehicles on the road.

Senior citizens are already strapped by the extra costs of trying to keep their homes heated, and now the Meals on Wheels program is having trouble delivering food to their homes due to high gas prices.

Rising fuel costs are forcing city and county officials all across the country to boost budgets, cut back on social programs that rely on transportation and scrutinize vehicle use.

For 2005, the Appleton, Wisconsin city budget estimated fuel costs for gasoline and diesel would be $595,000. In October 2005, Appleton Mayor, Tim Hanna, projected actual costs to be $936,000.

The rise in the cost of fuel in the past year forced the city of Charleston, SC to spend $150,000 more than planned just to keep its public vehicles running.

In Winnebago County, Wisconsin, County Executive Mark Harris recently noted the need for more than 100 layoffs, threatening positions once thought indispensable. The county’s combined cost for all types of fuel, budgeted at an estimated $1.6 million in 2005, is predicted to rise to nearly $2.2 million in 2006, according to Harris.

Back on August 26, 2005, the Deseret Morning News reported that Arizona was bracing for the financial impact from gas prices. "Already," Deseret reported, "state officials are looking at boosting the state budget next year by nearly $685,000 to make up for the increase in gas costs."

According to the Arizona Republic on October 6, 2005, the Arizona Department of Public Safety will cut the number of miles police will patrol on the highway due to skyrocketing gas prices that could cost the agency an extra $2 million in 2006.

"Officers have been ordered to cut their driving by 10 percent a month and conduct stationary enforcements using radar guns on freeway ramps, medians or overpasses instead of patrolling," the Republic said.

In Calumet County, Wisconsin, finance director, Dan De Bonis, informed county supervisors that motor fuel will cost the county about $91,000 more in 2006, a 62% hike, and that heating costs will increase as much as 44%.

The Bush administration has failed to take any action to deal with the crisis. Every day, American workers, consumers, and small businesses suffer with no solutions in sight. The response from the White House has been to claim that Americans are addicted to oil.

The tax breaks, if any, that average families received under Bush's tax cut program, have long ago been siphoned away at the pump. Yet, while traveling in California last weekend, Bush warned of even higher prices with vacation time approaching.

In a feeble attempt to appease the public this week, Bush said he will temporarily divert oil used to fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve into the market to drive prices down.

Apparently acknowledging the act as a do-nothing remedy, Bush made the comment, "Every little bit counts."

I doubt that many people appreciated a snide remark like this coming from a guy who has never had to balance a checkbook, never had to worry about paying a heating bill or filling up the gas tank, but who now through some perverse twist of fate, maintains a stranglehold on the nation's purse strings.


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