Congratulations Egypt!

Today, there was something new under the sun. Mubarak is out. The people have spoken. Democracy is emerging in an Arab state.

This is going to be interesting. “This is only the beginning”, stated one of the young people leading this revolt.

Can something like a true democracy be built in Egypt? The young in Egypt will see to it. May they succeed. It will not be easy and it will not be perfect.

A beautiful thing about the movements in the Arab world as with the new governments in South America is that they are genuinely coming from the people and are not being determined by US decision makers.

Hillary Clinton opposes legalizing drugs but why?

Each day I realize more that I live in a world dominated by power and not by truth. I just heard Hillary Clinton opposes legalizing drugs “because there is too much money in it”. And I read that “Hillary Clinton applauds Mexican government’s war on drugs”.

Can someone please tell me if there is another planet nearby where I can escape to?

Too much money in it? The price of legalized drugs would be higher than the price of those same drugs kept illegal? That is prima facie stupid. I guess if the US pharmaceutical industry takes over, that actually is possible. But cocaine and marijuana are very natural substances and are inexpensive to produce. Legalizing them and permitting legal production and distribution would lower the price, not raise it. And legalized drugs would become a large source of tax revenue of money now going to drug lords. And it would put the illegal drug lords out of business.

No, something else is going on here. As with the insane, and at this point stupid, war in Afghanistan, there must be some other explanation for why the world is kept the way it is. That goes for US policy in Egypt as well. And it has to do with preserving power, holding on to it. It does not have to do with democracy or truth or helping people or doing what is right.

There are rational arguments against legalizing drugs (all of which are incorrect). Some parents here in the drug-consuming Empire think that making drugs illegal will keep drugs away from their children. Those parents should talk to their children because their children will use drugs or not use drugs for reasons having nothing to do with the legality of the drugs. And some people think that legalizing drugs will increase the use of drugs. I have noticed that this latter viewpoint is particularly prevalent among ex drug-addicts who used the hell out of drugs in spite of them being illegal and now, after becoming born again drug-free Christians take it upon themselves to tell others how to behave.

And if drug use does increase, what is worse, a few more drug users or the rampant murder being conducted in Mexico due to the puritans and policy pundits in the US maintaining the status quo? For every murder that no longer occurs, I don’t care if that means ten more drug users who use drugs. Why don’t we instead work on figuring out how to make society a place in which people want to be healthy and happy and not resort to drugs. In the meantime, legalize them all, say I.

My poor Juarez Mexico. My heart feels for you. You will have no help from the drug consuming Empire today or tomorrow or ever. They sit in their high chairs pontificating and expounding their power while your children are murdered by drug lords. While your children are murdered by drug lords.

The Arab world is changing, how will the US oligarchy handle it?

Democratic movements are trying to change the power structure and the shape of government in the Arab world.

Will the US do the right thing and support these movements for change or, instead, will the US continue to back the dictatorships as it has in past and continues to do in the present? As in 1953 in Guatemala when the US opposed Arbenz and Iran when the US opposed Mossadeq and supported the Shah’s dictatorship, as in Chile in 1973 when the US opposed Allende and supported the dictator Pinochet, as in Vietnam, as in the 1980s when the US supported the brutal regime in Salvador, as in the past when the US supportedf Suharto in Indonesia against the popular revolution in East Timor and the US support of Marcos or the US support of the Somoza family in Nicaragua?

As illustrated in Oliver Stone’s new film, South of the Border, democratic change is occurring in South America in spite of past US support for dictators. Hugo Chavez, Eban Morales, and many other new leaders are doing the bidding of the people, not of the corporate oligarchy. It’s called socialism or a variant of socialism. And that is a dirty word in the US were democracy equals Capitalism even though Capitalism has nothing to do with democracy per se and, in fact, modern corporations are like little dictatorial fifedoms now backed by the Supreme Court as being citizens where it is one dollar one vote instead of one person one vote.

The tumult in the Arab world is a good thing. The call for change is being made by the educated middle classes not under control of fundamentalists. It will be interesting to watch how the US reacts especially since many calls for change will be by people who are not afraid to be called socialists. Will the US react, as in the past, by supporting the status quo and the dictators in order to protect “our oil” and the interests of our wealthy plutocrats?

Letter to Obama concerning taxes

Dear President Obama,

There you go again, compromising.   It seems to be the only thing that you know how to do.  Do you really honestly believe that in another 2 years the wealthy and the Republicans are going to give up their tax breaks.  

You rolled over again.  And the wealthy and the Republicans are laughing with joy.  They are really going to attack now because they know how easy you are. 

I thought George W was the worst president.  I was wrong.  You are.  What a waste.

Please step aside in 2012 so that someone with some cajones can run on the democratic ticket.  We are sick of losers

Yours Truly,

Michael A. Zagone

Paypal, VISA, and Mastercard censor Wikileaks.

I just heard on 1070 KNX News Radio, Los Angeles, that PayPal has cut off Wikileaks. In other words, PayPal no longer allows you to donate to (If you cannot get to the main Wikileaks site, try a mirror site listed at

Wikileaks has not been convicted of anything by any court of law. Yet PayPal (and, as of December 6, 2010, both VISA and Mastercard) are preventing people from making payments to Wikileaks. This is the privatization of state censorship, pure and simple.

Ironically, the New York Times has published numerous articles based on facts revealed by Wikeleaks. Yet PayPal and VISA and Mastercard are not censoring the New York Times.

You may agree or disagree with Wikileaks releasing documents that were provided to them by sources. But the question I am asking you to consider is what gives these organizations the right to censor people who use these tools to make payments?

I have canceled my PayPal account. I will find it more difficult to cancel my VISA card, I must admit.

I encourage all people who support freedom of the press to do likewise and cancel their PayPal accounts.

[Begin Editor’s note:

Although I did cancel my PayPal account, I have not and will not cancel my VISA account nor my Amazon account. I simply depend too much on those mechanisms. Hence, I retract my recommendation that others cancel their accounts. Why?


I wrote my suggestion to cancel PayPal a few minutes after hearing about PayPal’s decision to censor Wikileaks on KNX News radio.

It was not until the next day that VISA and MasterCard did likewise.

I also did not know about Amazon’s decision to cancel hosting of until later.

That being said, although I did cancel my PayPal account, I simply cannot afford to not use VISA (my one and only credit card) nor cancel Amazon, that provides excellent service and is an integral part of my use of the cloud in my professional life.

In other words, I’m stuck.

We’re all stuck.

We now live in a world where private companies engage in censorship based on extra-judicial directives from government administrators.

In the old days, a court order would have been required, I believe.

Those days are a thing of the past, as is some of our liberties.

End Editor’s note]

If you wish to cancel your PayPal account, login to PayPal, go to “My Account”, and click on “Profile”, then click on “Close account”.

Here is a link explaining howto cancel your PayPal account: how to cancel a PayPal account.

To those who are rightfully concerned that Wikileaks documents may lead to harm, I ask them what harm has come not knowing about the hidden lies and backroom hypocrisy of governments and corporations? How many people needlessly died due to wars based on false information or, worse, information that was false and known to be false by our so-called leaders who lied to us about the facts?

Which is worse?

I respect those who argue that Wikileaks should be careful to not reveal names of people who could be endangered by leaks. According to Daniel Ellsberg, there are no documented cases of people who have been harmed as a result of the release of documents by Wikileaks. Daniel Ellsberg is an American hero who, with the help of others, including the New York Times, released The Pentagon Papers in 1971. As states:

A 1996 article in the New York Times said that the Pentagon Papers “demonstrated, among other things, that the Johnson Administration had systematically lied, not only to the public but also to Congress, about a subject of transcendent national interest and significance

May Wikileaks continue to serve free society equally well as did the Pentagon Papers.

Were only we, the citizens of the United States and the World, able to be informed of the secret meetings between Dick Cheney and the oil companies or be informed of the plotting between the Bush Administration and the British to lie to the American public about the reasons for going to war in Iraq, or to be informed about back room deals between the Washington oligarchs and the banks to bail out the banks at the expense of the American public. What happened to the “open and transparent government” promised to the U.S. public by President Obama?

Here’s the thing. You cannot censor the Internet. We, the people, won’t allow governments or corporations to censor the Internet. Corporations are not democratic institutions, so the only way to influence them is through government regulation and voting with your dollar. That is why I encourage you to cancel your PayPal account today.

There are no rich, there are no middle class, there are no poor — Rand Paul, 2010 Republican Senator elect in Kentucky, Idiot.

And he probably thinks God is on his side.

America, you are pathetic. Well, OK, Kentucky, you are pathetic.

I will accept comments on this post only if they are by Republicans or Libertarian Fundamentalists who can state what their plan is. (Or by thinking people who can explain what the HELL is going on in this country.)

Letter to President Obama

Dear President Obama,
You have insisted that your actions are guided not by ideology but a results-oriented “pragmatism”  But as an unabashed progressive liberal, I don’t buy it.

I do believe that you are intellegent and you think that you have the correct philosophy.  But mainly your administration has been opaque.

You did not stand up for Van Jones, or the agricultural secretary.  You caved in on Afghanistan.  But at least you fired General Mchrystal.  You caved in on Health Care.  You retreated from the Wall Street executives after heavy talk, and then  implemented band aid solutions.  Your support the New York mosque one day and take it all back the next.  You seem to talk out of both sides of your mouth.

I think I have finally figured it out.  You are a smart black man that is always trying to appease the white man.  That must be what you really learned in life.  And you were very successful.

But allow me to set you straight.  You can not appease all of us white people.  At some point you have to take a stand.  Pick a side because like it or not white folks, especially the wealthy ones, can not be appeased.

So I suggest you start standing up for people at the bottom, the elderly, the poor, labor and quit trying to appease wealthy white republicans.

Oh and I am white

Social Security Works

Being a computer nerd, I subscribe to Slash Dot News for Nerds.

Once each morning, I receive a digest of discussions on topics that are of interest to, well, to nerds. This mornings headlines included the topic: “How Bad is the Gulf Coast Oil Spill”. The ensuing overkill exchange of comments somehow managed to morph into a discussion of social security and included this tid bit:

You mention Social Security and health care. If I could, I would opt out of Social Security entirely. I’m in my mid-20s. If I cannot figure out on my own, without assistance, that I will one day grow old and wish to retire, and that the time to start saving up and preparing for that is right now, why should somebody else be forced to pay for my lack of foresight? Morally speaking, I don’t know how to justify that one. Blah blah blah….

Dear young Libertarian Fundamentalist:

You are in your mid-twenties and you have it all figured out.

You think that 200,000,000 workers all making individual investment decisions would result in a retirement system better than social security.

So, you like the crap shoot that the market provides and are OK with a large chunk of those 200,000,000 investors getting screwed every 20 or 30 years?

Social Security is one of the best most successful government programs in U.S. history yet Libertarian Fundamentalists have been complaining about it since I was your age.

My 92 year old mom worked her entire life and saved and the market screwed her. Her social security is the one safety net she has. Her social security makes it less on hard on me to help provide for her, which I do to augment her social security. That is family helping family – the oldest kind of socialism on the planet.

I’ll be curious to see what your opinions are when you are 55. I heard your exact same arguments from the Silicon Valley crowd 30 years ago. I was at Berkeley, they were at Stanford. That’s funny, public vs private. Social Security was supposed to be broke by now. It isn’t. And the only reason it will be is if the illogic of the Libertarian Fundamentalists remain in control and the Goldman Sachs and other (overpaid) investment bankers of the world and the U.S. Oligarchy continues to transfer wealth to themselves as they have so ably done done over the past 30 years.

The facts are that since the mid 1970s, the amount of GDP (income) going to the most wealthy in our society has increased dramatically while the income going to the normal people has stayed flat or nearly flat. Does that mean that the wealthy “earned” all that extra wealth? Should only the most wealthy citizens accrue almost all of the increase in wealth in the country? Is it only the wealthy who “earned” the increase in overall wealth over the past 30 plus years? I think not. I think it is because they are in power and have kept wages low for the normal worker while increasing their own wages and ownership of property and the means of production.

There has been a redistribution of wealth by the private sector. The private sector has redistributed the new wealth of the overall economy upwards and left little of that increase in overall wealth for the hard working middle class. This has made the wealthy even more wealthy and has let the middle class stagnate and in some cases, drop in net income level. This in spite of the fact that most of the work that actually creates the wealth to start out with is done by the middle class and lower classes. This has been going on for over thirty years.

Things have gotten out of whack. Social Security is a system that allows normal working people to be assured that the upper strata of our society cannot take an undo proportion of the wealth and assures that the overall welfare of the society has a level of protection for the elderly. We, as a democratic society, should remove the cap on income level contributing to social security. That alone would more than fix the system and take back a small part of the wealth that the wealthy have accrued to themselves from via the private system of capitalism they have commandeered.

I imagine the Kings and princesses during the days of feudalism believed that they too deserved all their wealth. Marie Antionette, when informed that the peasants did not have enough bread to eat, responded: “Then let them eat cake”. She ended up having her head chopped off during the French Revolution.

This transfer of more wealth to the wealthy is well documented in Les Leopold’s well written and entertaining book:

“The Looting of America, How Wall Street’s Game of Fantasy Finance Destroyed Our Jobs, Pensions, and Prosperity and What We Can Do About It”


Dennis Allard

Obama and the Far-out Left

The Far Left is pissed at Obama. And with good reason, they declare. He has forsaken his campaign promises. They apparently forgot his message: ‘Yes, we can.’ Note the plural pronoun. Like the dreamers and sophomoric thinkers they are, most of the Left imagined all they had to do was elect the guy and voila!, reality would be transformed.

“Damn,” they moaned. “What happenend? Where’s the paradigm shift?” 

Welcome to realpolitik, comrades. Don’t mean to be too harsh but, please grow up. Really. Stop acting like little children who cry over a spilt ice cream cone. Shit, sometimes I have to agree with Republicans: the Left acts like a bunch of narcissistic, hedonistic prima donnas

Tell me more how you are shocked that Obama has not changed the world in the year he has been in office. Amazingly, the so called Far Left agrees with the Far Right on this matter. They both see Obama as a total failure and even a fraud. When, we might ask, will the Left ever wake up, grow up and get real?

Let me be the one to inform all these crybabies that change does not come easy. Let me be the one to inform the Left (MIchael Moore included….and I love the guy) that whatever they learned in school about the American political system is a fantasy. Let me be the one to inform them that it’s the system, stupid! 

Maybe, just maybe, they haven’t read their Howard Zinn (may his spirit live on). These folks just don’t get it because they actually are naive enough to believe that if they elect a mulatto President, everything will change, like likety-split. Their thinking is like, well, dullsville, man.

Do you really still believe that by voting you can change things? Please! You mean to tell me that you are so untutored that you don’t understand how the system works? I can excuse members of the younger generation and hope that they someday discover the hoax, the fraud, the absurdity that our faux democracy is. But for the older crowd, those between 40 and 80, it is inexcusable that they continue to believe things can be substantively affected by merely exercising the voting right. 

Let me create the scene for you once President Obama took office. He sat in the oval office, admiring the view (and wondering how the hell he did it!) and suddenly the Powers-That-Be strolled in, uninvited mind you, and essentially told him who ran things. They were the representatives from the titans of finance, of banking, of oil, of insurance, of exports, of pharmaceuticals, etc. There and then, they informed the President what he could and could not do. Then they asked him if what they said was clear? And without waiting for an answer, they sat down and ordered drinks. 

Dear reader, do you get it yet? Of course, the above is just an allegory. But there are mountains of truth in it. The system is controlled by plutocrats and, as any astute high school student knows, they finance political campaigns and the careers of politicians. For these bribes, they obtain access to our esteemed legislatures and influence or stymie bills in Congress in direct proportion to the influence each has bought and promised. They buy our Senators and Congressmen. That’s the way it works most of the time.

That’s the nature of American Democracy! (Cue the national anthem in the background). You see, and here is the big secret, it isn’t  a democracy. It’s a plutocracy, rule by the rich for the rich, Thomas Jefferson be damned and all public school indoctrination to the contrary.

And if you don’t understand how the system works yet, you probably are barely aware of the decision recently made by the Supreme Court. Oh yeah, they ruled that corporations (confirmed as individuals with rights of their own over 100 years ago by that same august body), now have the right to donate to campaigns in the manner of advertising. The Supreme Court calls this free speech. Ouch! As George Orwell would say, we all have free speech, it’s just that some have more!

And if you were thinking that the legislative branch reflected the voice of the people, you again haven’t done your homework. It’s mostly a matter of paying attention, maybe educating oneself a bit. 

Our bicameral legislature ensures that all business is conducted very agonizingly slowly  and agreement is challenging at best. Typically, the work week is from Tuesday through Thursday (yes, that’s right) if at all, and can be hindered by any number of methods, the most controversial one being the invocation of a filibuster in the senate which can forestall a vote on any bill. That means 60 votes are required to invoke the so-called cloture rule and limit debate. In other words, a minority can hold all business hostage to their whims. And the Republicans are very good at this.

Can you ever imagine 60 Democratic Senators getting together to invoke cloture. Really? Gawd, I have some bundled securities you may want to buy. In general, most Democrats do not have strong convictions about many things (money and sex being the two exceptions), and invoking cloture would mean they would risk the extreme displeasure and contempt of their Republican colleagues. That’s just too scary for this group! Imagine, they may have to stand up to the bullies on the block. Yikes!

Folks, get real. Our system is antiquated and totally dysfunctional which means the peoples’ business is impossible. In reality, the corporations run the show. Democracy? Please! The Senate is the least Democratic institution we have. Give me a break! California with a population quickly approaching 40 million has only two senators. Meanwhile, Wyoming with a population of a little over 500,000 gets two also! Guess what? They are both Republicans!  And in many of these less populated states, the senators tend to be more conservative, regardless of their nominal party label.

The Democratic party is nothing like the Republican Party. There is no marching in unison amongst Democrats. In fact, so many of the Democratic Senators are conservatives, that one could conclude that they are Democrats in name only. Think Joe Liebermann, now an ardent Independent, who supported McCain and partied with ‘Polar Bear Sarah’, in the last election. You may actually recall that he was on the ticket as the VP Democractic candidate in 2000. Was that all a hallucination? Hard to believe, huh?

Obama has little history in the Senate (two years) and has little pull with its members or those in the House where he also served a mere two years. He is too young, too inexperienced, too idealistic, and way too naive. And, (now don’t get mad), the rumor is that he is already getting frustrated and bored. As an African-American, his meteoric rise through the House, Senate, and now the Presidency, has been remarkable and I know lots of people had visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads. But the word on the street is that Obama is already suffering from existential ennui.

If the Left were really serious, they would formulate a plan of action which would require lots of work, much of it tedious, building a movement over a period of ten years. But let’s get real here. Lots of tedious work? Ten years? Ohmigod! Can you imagine you and your leftist friends being that motivated? You might have to give up your weekly kayaking or sadhana!

The formula for change is, simply put, lots of hard work and some ideas that resonate. The spoiled Left brats suffer from a depletion of both of these especially since they exerted themselves so strenuously by getting Obama elected. Most of these folks are into prosperity consciousness, creative visualization, yoga and meditation, if not their ritual of getting stoned nightly while they sip Chablis while listening to worldbeat music or attending their drumming group.

So, if you are too lazy to build a real Movement (and I argue that you are), stop attacking Obama. In fact, it is probably best if you get out there and support the Congressional Democrats in the midterm elections, with the realization that this is the very least you can do to help him. It’s not much but it’s a lot easier and less stressful than actually building a mass movement. No duh!

Glenn Beck as Everyman?

It has come to my attention that O’Reilly on Fox News (or Fixed News as Oberman has designated it) has declared Glenn Beck to be  “Everyman,” as if to say each person (or woman for that matter) can relate. Beck’s success and following is rather astonishing one might conclude, given the show’s supposedly high ratings.  The show (and Beck himself) is a pastiche of comedy, shlock, and an attempt at a serious analysis of reality, politics in particular.

Sociologically, the Beck phenom is somewhat curious, even at times mesmerizing. It reminds one a lot of the movie Network, in which a news commentator revives his life by becoming a focus of every citizen’s complaints and angst with the world. Yeah, you remember, this is the movie that made famous the line, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

Watching Glenn Beck wade his way through political analysis is a weird experience akin to being stoned on good Jamaican ganja. At times, his emotionality bespeaks someone who is just barely holding it together. It can even be a religious experience I suppose for his followers. He mixes his rants with appeals to getting America back on the right track and references to our Founding Fathers. His cant resembles a sermon by Jimmy Swaggert, tears and all.

What interests me as a social observer is what Beck communicates that resounds so much with his following. His shtick seems to be a conduit for all the rage and frustration that so many Americans feel about their political system, and, even more so, their lives. 

I mean let’s face it, Beck has tapped into what others (like Limbaugh and O’Reilly) have as well.That is to say,  a general anger, disappointment and cynicism about politicians and the political system. It’s primary target is Liberalism in general and Obama in particular. And, occasionally, one will hear Beck castigate a Republican or even the Bush administration as if just to make sure you don’t see him as partisan so he can claim, like Fox News, that he is ‘fair and balanced.’

Who writes his stuff, I sometimes wonder? I mean does he have a staff like John Stewart with whom he prepares his shows and do they write most of his monologues for him? He now uses props including a chalk board, accompanying graphics, and videos as if he were in a classroom. Like many of his ilk, he constructs his argument to fit the conclusion he wants to reach. Yes, he marshals his ‘facts’ to fit his predetermined position. 

It is a sad state of affairs when someone like Beck garners a listening audience as large as he does. It tells us something about the sociological state of America. It is somewhat reminiscent of Germany in the 1920s and that’s not much of an exaggeration. Try this experiment on for size to get a sense of what I mean. The next time you listen to Beck, Hannity or Limbaugh, substitute the word Jew for the word Liberal and you get a sense of where they are coming from. 

Beck voices great fear and disillusionment that many feel in these uncertain times. He even sounds paranoid about the future, as if to say Armageddon is just around the corner. And yes, he is making millions and going on speaking tours across the country, writing books, and flattering his other cohorts on Fox News. Who knows, maybe with his millions he is preparing to flee to some South Sea island where he can wait out the massive calamities to come.

His is a hope, a dream, a vision that America can return to its supposed greatness and virtue which I wish he would pinpoint with exactitude. Just when was everything so fantastic in America and where? Maybe it was in Monterey in 1951, Sioux City in 1910, or perhaps Concord in 1779. Who knows?  To make matters worse, there is an undercurrent of racism, sexism, and rampant xenophobia in his diatribes.

The frightening thing is the mix of madness that such rabid right spokespersons like Beck drift into, maybe even accidentally, only to discover they have struck a nerve with the populace, or at least his viewers. To follow a Beck analysis is like being treated to a lecture on String Theory: It sounds interesting and provocative but can you explain that one more time? In reality, it’s like listening to a Palin speech. Everything is puerile emotion: “Gosh, golly, gee whilikers, don’t you get it, you elite….ah, ah, people who think.”

That people can find Beck’s spiel attractive and even incisive is a pretty fascinating study in human behavior. His daily soliloquy drips with emotion and hope. His pleas for sanity recall the comment by the character played by Jonathan Winters in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World: “Why can’t we all just get along?”

What I am struck with most by watching Beck is the reality that he is not a clown but is making lots of money being something of a huckster. He has a product and it has appeal. Much like Rush Limbaugh, he has found a willing audience for his proselytizing. It is an audience that is nurtured by his homey and oblique critiques of the American political and economic landscape contrasted with a romantic notion of how wonderful everything use to be.  It is massive group therapy. And it reminds me a lot of Big Brother in George Orwell’s 1984. And that is scary.