A Different Reality

January 28, 2003

A quick analysis of the State of the Union speech, which was filled with carefully worded passages designed to deceive without lying.

More Encouraging News
January 28, 2003

Those who bang the drums for war should take note: Norman Schwarzkopf, the general who commanded US forces in the first Gulf War, is not convinced that the case has been made for an attack on Iraq. According to the Washington Post (via Reuters), Schwarzkopf thinks it should be the weapons inspectors who dictate the timetable. He also doesn't have very kind words for Donald Rumsfeld: "When he makes his comments, it appears that he disregards the Army, ... He gives the perception when he's on TV that he is the guy driving the train and everybody else better fall in line behind him -- or else." Read the story.

A Really Bad Movie
January 24, 2003

This is like a re-run of a bad movie, and I'm not interested in watching.
-- George W. Bush

The bad movie is playing on our TV screens, and it's coming from the White House and the Pentagon. The cast of characters is getting bad reviews from France, Germany, and all over America, including this commentary from A Different Reality.

Crosswalks revisited
January 24, 2003

It took three tries over the space of a month, but the letter on crosswalks finally found its way to the newspaper where it was published last Wednesday (scroll down). Since then compliments and agreement have been pouring in from co-workers and comrades, including this email from a fellow activist (who is usually much more articulate than this, but we assume this was composed in a hurry):

I very much appreciated your excellent letter in the Tribune calling attention to the aggressive, get-out-of-my-way behavior of most motorists disregard for pedestrians.

One of the thoughts I had about your article is that the situation is something of a microcosm of the Bush Administration (and other administrations, historically) attitude toward Iraq. The cars, the oil, the lifestyle all somehow seem to justify a preemptive, threaten to run down and over the relatively defenseless, and with little regard to the cost in humans and resources.

La Crosse People in Washington
January 24, 2003

Two buses from La Crosse went to the peace rally in Washington DC last weekend. Many of our friends and fellow activists were among them. Sherry Poler posted this in-depth and often humorous account of her experiences - as well as some photos - to her site, redhouse.us.

January 18, 2003

They must've forgotten to put the decimal point in the right place. Today there was a massive anti-war rally in Washington, and as usual, press reports are grossly under-estimating the turnout. A similar rally in October drew 200,000, and by all accounts today's rally was much bigger. People on the stage could not see the back of the crowd on the National Mall. (For anyone who's never been there, this is a patch of grass that's HUGE. It's over half-a-mile long, and you could easily lay football fields across it.) All accessible patches of that grass were occupied. This is all in spite of a day in DC that was more like a day in Wisconsin... about 20 degrees F... colder than what most East Coast people are used to. But they came anyway, and they came from all over the country. At least 17 buses came from Wisconsin alone.

Car Wars
January 18, 2003

Yet another great comment piece from The Guardian, on the Great National Oil Addiction. Ian Roberts makes the case that the threat of war with Iraq is the result of policies going back as far as the 1920's... policies that have made us increasingly car dependent. He links this dependency to urban sprawl, obesity, and 3,000 traffic deaths daily world-wide. So many great tidbits to quote, so you'll just have to read it yourself.

New Beverly Hillbillies
January 17, 2003

We first heard about this on IndyMedia, but we can't find that link right now (though there's comment about it all over the place): CBS is planning to produce a "reality" show called "The New Beverly Hillbillies," in which they plan to find a poorly-educated, little-travelled family from the hills of Appalachia who will be transplanted to a Beverly Hills mansion for a year while the cameras roll and the rest of us laugh at their 'antics.'

This is a grotesque exploitation of not only the "lucky" family, but of the entire class and culture they represent. This proposed program's only purpose is to ridicule these people. While discussing this with a co-worker after work today, he came up with a great idea: reverse the role-play. Take a rich family - preferably headed by silver-spoon babies who've never worked a day in their lives - take away their money, SUV, cell-phones, etc., transplant them to the "hillbilly" world of poverty and low wages, and let rest of the world watch them try to survive while the cameras roll.

Such a show would probably be a MUCH bigger hit.

The Secret Government
January 15, 2003

Just in case you are having too good of a day, or if you are feeling overly patriotic, here is an episode (RealAudio required) of the radio program This American Life that should bring you back to reality. We were taught since junior high that America was built on sacred principles of justice and due process, but this program will make you wonder whether these were all empty words.

In-your-face Appointments
January 9, 2003

Let's see if we can get this straight: Ken Pickering, before he was to hand down sentence on a convicted cross-burner (who had also been in on firing bullets into the target house), called the prosecutors into the back room, and urged them to argue for leniency in his sentencing. If they did not so argue, he would dismiss the charges. Not only is this illegal, but only a white sheet would be more revealing of his attitude toward the non-white races.

In spite of all this, he was nominated for promotion to a higher court, and was shot down by a Senate committee several months ago. But in spite of all the controversy and bad press this incident brought on to our un-elected administration, the entire slate of defeated judicial nominees has been trotted out AGAIN. This looks like little more than a blatant power-grab by the right-wing, as well as a favor to Pickering's disgraced buddy, Trent Lott.

A Goose for the Economy?
January 9, 2003

More like a goose for rich folks, and pigeon feathers for everyone else. That's what's in Prince George's new "economic stimulus" package.

As we all know by now, the most widely talked-about proposal in this package is the repeal of the dividend tax. The Bushies are all trotting out to complain that dividends are "double taxed".... once to the corporations as profits, and once again to their stockholders as dividends. If this is a problem to be remedied, perhaps the Bushies are coming at it the wrong way. If we drop the tax on dividends, trust-fund slackers living off the dividends on their ancestors' stocks get to live tax-free on money they did NOTHING to earn, while geezers seeing some dividend money trickling in don't get that much of a break.

A better way might be to restructure the corporate tax code instead: any profits the corporations return to their stockholders as dividends is not taxed. For individuals, dividends continue to be taxed as regular income, at whatever the rate is for that individual's tax bracket. This way, corporations will be encouraged to share more of their profits with their stockholders, those of us with 401-k's, etc. will see MORE MONEY (still sheltered from taxes as they are now), low-income seniors who depend on dividends will see MORE MONEY without having to pay more than their low-income rate in taxes, and the silver-spoon crowd will see MORE MONEY while paying their high-income tax rate in taxes.

This brings up the other problem: the high-income tax rate keeps coming down, while taxes paid by low-income people (payroll and sales taxes) rise or stay the same. The working poor keep getting hit for 7.5% on EVERY PENNY they make in payroll taxes (self-employed people pay double that). After one makes $88,000 (or something like that), no more payroll taxes are due. So Bill Gates pays this tax on only 88 grand, and no more. This ceiling needs to be raised a lot higher, and then a floor needs to be put in (somewhere between $10-20K) to protect the poverty-stricken from this huge tax hit. But the Repugnantans refuse to put this tax "on the table."

As for sales taxes, the rich have a lot more ways to circumvent sales taxes than the poor. And while the feds quit spending money on vital services in order to pass the money on to rich people, states and localities are forced to provide the services instead, and then we all end up paying more in sales and property taxes.

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