Why Not Here??

I’ve been a Saab fan for the longest time. When I graduated from Emerson College in 1991, my parents gave me their 1980 Saab GLi as a present, and I enjoyed it for quite a while until it became too expensive to maintain in the metro NY area. Brake caliper? $290. Battery and alternator? $800. Steering rack? Priceless.

So fast forward a decade or so later, when Saab introduces its AWD 9-2x, which is basically a Subaru Impreza wagon with tuned suspension and Saab-ified body styling. A Subaru-built Saab was just too much to resist, so I picked one up, and have been having loads of fun with it for a little over a year now. What I am really waiting for though, is the 9-3 SportCombi, which I hope to get when my lease is up on the 9-2x. Saab finally returns to form with a killer sportwagon.

So why am I telling you all this? Well, last night I saw Saab USA’s new television advertisement based on its new “Born From Jets” campaign, and was wondering if there were any posters available on the net of the type I saw in the dealership on Monday when I had my car inspected. I also wanted to see when the SportCombi was supposed to arrive, as it was scheduled for a US debut in September, but my dealer still had not received any. Searching around the ‘net for info on these subjects, I found The Trollhatten, which is a blog all about Saab. In the archives, I noticed this article which talks about how well Saab’s ethanol-powered cars are selling in Sweden. The engine management system in the new Saabs allows for use of gasoline or ethanol in these cars. So my question is, with the ability of this nation to produce almost as much corn as desired, and with increased performance due to higher octane and the possibility of greatly reducing our dependence on foreign oil, why not here??? An ethanol-powered Saab 9-3 gains 20% more horsepower and 14% more torque over gasoline. Imagine if we started using ethanol in our cars. Leave the oil to the trucks running diesel, and the other more industrialized uses. How much foreign oil could we eliminate?

I remember a big issue in the ’70s was clogging of fuel lines with “gas-a-hol,” but people were trying to run these fuels in their automobiles without any modifications. Saab has shown that it’s possible to build automobiles that can run interchangably on either. So why not here?? With a phased-in government mandate, gas stations would be required to phase in ethanol pumps. We could do it, if we really wanted to.

I guess that’s the key phrase… If we really wanted to…

Rampant Hypocrisy

Yep, I’m going to use the “H” word again, that word that all the right-wingers hate so much because it applies so perfectly to so many of them. Remember back on April 5, 1999 when Sean Hannity on FOX News said about the war in Kosovo, “No goal, no objective, not until we have those things and a compelling case is made, then I say, back out of it, because innocent people are going to die for nothing. That’s why I’m against it.” That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about.

The latest comes from Republican Texas Senator, Kay Bailey Hutchinson. Check out this post on the Daily Kos, which quotes Hutchinson’s thoughts from this week’s Meet The Press about how she doesn’t think it would be really good to indict someone based upon a “perjury technicality.” Gotta love that one. Here’s her entire quote:

Ms. Hutchison said she hoped ?that if there is going to be an indictment that says something happened, that it is an indictment on a crime and not some perjury technicality where they couldn?t indict on the crime and so they go to something just to show that their two years of investigation was not a waste of time and taxpayer dollars.?

If you follow the link above to KOS, you’ll see all the legions of Republicans who felt that, at least for Bill Clinton, spending $50 million on an investigation, and only coming up with perjury was just fine with them and was also a serious, serious crime that did severe damage to the country. So what did Hutchinson herself say back then? Surely she had similar thoughts about Bill Clinton’s perjury? That maybe Ken Starr couldn’t indict any crime, so he just went with a perjury technicality just to show that his years of investigation wasn’t a waste of time and taxpayer dollars? Well, let’s just take a look, shall we? Here’s what she said, from Think Progress:

[S]omething needs to be said that is a clear message that our rule of law is intact and the standards for perjury and obstruction of justice are not gray. And I think it is most important that we make that statement and that it be on the record for history.

I very much worry that with the evidence that we have seen that grand juries across America are going to start asking questions about what is obstruction of justice, what is perjury. And I don?t want there to be any lessening of the standard. Because our system of criminal justice depends on people telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. That is the lynch pin of our criminal justice system and I don?t want it to be faded in any way.

Wow! At the time, she was concerned about all the grey areas, and didn’t want any lessening of a standard because our criminal justice system depends on people telling the truth!

I guess it’s just because this whole thing revolves around merely the leaking of a covert CIA operative’s name to the press — you know, something as insignificant as that — that she’s changed her tune so drastically. Do these people think there’s no record of their inconsistencies?

It is the very nature of a cover-up that indictments made will be of the nature of obstruction of justice, perjury, etc.

It is almost a complete certainty that the leaking of Valerie Plame’s name to the press was in retaliation to Joseph Wilson’s article in the NY Times that claimed Saddam never tried to purchase “yellow cake” from Niger. And just to show that the GOP has not yet learned its lesson from this whole situation, its plans in the wake of the upcoming indictments is to smear, smear, smear and smear some more. The prosecutor is a Democratic hack. Democrats want to criminalize those who do not agree with their ideology. When you hear these talking points over the next few weeks, just remember that only a few weeks ago, George Bush said that the prosecutor was handling things “in a very dignified way.”

This NY Times piece ties the leak to Cheney, but the article also claims that, “Disclosing a covert agent?s identity can be a crime, but only if the person who discloses it knows the agent?s undercover status.

It would not be illegal for either Mr. Cheney or Mr. Libby, both of whom are presumably cleared to know the government?s deepest secrets, to discuss a C.I.A. officer or her link to a critic of the administration.” This is contrary to the statement of confidentiality that all government officials must sign in regard to security of classified information. If a government official is not sure whether or not someone is working in a covert role, they are supposed to verify this information before disclosing it. Claiming they “didn’t know” isn’t good enough. It’s an ethical breach, one of the type for which this administration is well known.

Bush Panel Recommends More Taxes on Earned Income

The Bush administration continues to try to find ways to reduce taxes on investment income at the expense of earned income and the working class. On Tuesday — and I have no idea why this isn’t getting more ink in the press — Bush’s tax advisory commission recommended several sweeping changes to the tax code which they claimed would equalize the tax burden among all members of society. They play a nice game, don’t they? “We just all want to be equal — everyone pays an equal share in taxes.” They talk about simplifying the tax code, and being “fair.” So how do they hope to accomplish this fairness? Well, the biggest change would be to limit tax breaks for homeowners. The panel recommended lowering the maximum amount of mortgage interest deductable from $1 million to the maximum the FHA will insure (from about $250,000 to $311,000). That might help some people, but here in NY where housing is particularly expensive, it is bound to hurt the working class who are already suffering under this administration’s tax policies. Add to that the second recommendation to eliminate deductions of state and local income taxes, and you have a situation that will hit a lot of working families very hard. The panel also recommended removing deductions on interest for home equity loans and mortgages for second homes.

I just think it’s odd that this administration has been virtually good for absolutely nothing, and they now want to go after the one area of the economy that kept everything afloat for several years now — the housing market. This administration promised us — PROMISED US — that if we enacted its tax cuts early in Bush’s first term, that we’d see millions of new jobs. It still hasn’t happened. This administration hasn’t been able to keep us safe, it hasn’t been able to act promptly in response to the needs of its citizens during natural disasters, it hasn’t helped us gain a decent prescription drug program for our seniors, it hasn’t protected our interests by formulating a proper national energy policy. It seems in every case where this administration has had a decision to make, it has made the wrong decision. And now, in its zeal for the implementation of a national flat tax, it plans to get its fingers in another area that should be left alone. But I digress…

Another part of this brilliant plan calls for employer-paid health care premiums over $11,500 for a family policy to be treated as INCOME and to be therefore TAXED as income! Also, of course, there would be a further reduction in the number of tax brackets, and a large percentage of wealthy Americans would see their tax rate further reduced from 35 percent to 33 percent. If those Americans are also receiving dividends from company investments, they would no longer be taxed on that income. Also, the top capital gains tax rate would also be reduced, so if guys like Bill Frist decide to sell off their stock in their own companies, they won’t have to pay as much tax on the sale.

Also, the maximum tax rate paid by corporations would be further reduced, of course.

What the hell is wrong with these people? And why aren’t people paying attention?

Some will answer back that the restructuring of the tax system for corporations would more equally tax different types of companies. My response to that is I know nothing about corporate taxes, but if this “improved fairness” to different levels of corporations is similar to the “improved fairness” to families as stated above, there is no intent here to be fair at all. Once again, it’s a smokescreen to benefit those who are friends of the White House and major contributors to the GOP.

How long can this go on? How many times does the flat tax have to be discussed before people realize that there is no fairness at all in a flat tax? Why can’t we give the working class a break to help them move up the chain? We all know that it takes money to make money. All the breaks are given to you once you have money — once you own a house, once you have established a credit history. This requires people to be given a fair chance to obtain these things.

It’s not until you making a decent income that you start getting those 0% interest credit card offers. It’s not until you own a home that you start getting major deductions on your income tax. It’s not until you invest money that you can start making money and start planning for retirement and get help from a financial advisor. It’s not until you do all these things that people start crawling out of the woodwork with help and services to benefit you. It’s not until you can stop living hand to mouth that you can really use your money in ways that help you and your family. So why does this administration keep trying to put more burdens on the poor and working class? Why can’t we give them a break?

No one who is rich is entirely self-made. It’s an impossibility these days. Somewhere along the line they got a break, an opportunity. Somewhere along the line they benefited from being in America, or from someone who helped them out. No one starts things in a vacuum.

When I earned $12,000 a year starting out, I did not have the ability to contribute much for the services I used from this country and my town — roads, schools, etc. Now that I earn a decent wage, I do not mind paying my share for these things because I am a fortunate American who had the opportunity to do whatever I wanted with my life. It is my duty to pay my taxes. It is not something that I look upon the government and say, “what did you do for me? I need to do nothing for you.” When Dick Cheney told John Edwards during the debate that the government had nothing to do with his becoming rich, the audience may have laughed and cheered, but Cheney was lying. Do we need to bring up Halliburton? The government had NOTHING to do with Halliburton getting where it is today? Or getting where it was at the time of the debates? Sure.

The point is, a graduated tax system proposes that those of us who benefit most from this country have an obligation to give back a greater share. If I make minimum wage, I’m earning let’s say $250 a week. Out of that, local and federal taxes, plus Social Security and Medicare might take 40%. That leaves me with $150 a week. $600 a month. If I make $3500 a week, after 40% being taken out, I’m left with $2100 a week, or $8400 a month. I think we can all agree that $100 out of a $250 paycheck hurts a hell of a lot more than $1400 out of a $3500 paycheck. Increase the higher tax to 50% (which is actually closer to what a lot of what the middle class pays) and you end up with $1750 a week, or $7000 a month.

The Republicans are all crying and moaning about “the Democrats want to redistribute my wealth! They want to take money out of my pocket and give it to the poor!!!” That is pure bullshit. Let me ask you this — to whom did this supposed national “surplus” go? Did it go to the poor? It certainly did not. If you made $14,000 a year, and suddenly you paid ZERO federal income tax due to the new tax rules, is that a huge amount of money the the government is missing? As of May 2005, there are 7.5 million millionaires in the country today. That’s 7.5 million people right there that used to be taxed at almost 40% during Clinton’s tenure. In fact, just about everyone making around $300,000 or more was taxed at that rate. The maximum rate they pay today is 35%. So I ask you, what was far more likely to cause the tremendous deficits we see today? A few hundred dollars to the poorest Americans (millions of them though there may be), or the massive amounts of reduction in taxes for the millions of people in the highest income brackets?

And lest you think that the richest Americans were suffering tremendously under the Clinton tax brackets, the Congressional Budget office reported in 1994 (using the latest Census figures at the time) that the top one percent of families experienced an average gain of 72 percent in ther after-tax income from 1977 to 1994 compared to other groups. Also, the average after-tax income of the top fifth of families as a percentage of total national after-tax income rose 25 percent during the same time period. Yeah, our richest in this country were really hurting, and in need of a tax cut. That highest fifth averaged $80,417 in after tax income, while the top one percent averaged $374,131.

Any way you look at it, this administration continues to try to redistribute wealth to the richest of Americans. It’s nothing new. They’re just looking at new ways to do it. Whether you call it a “flat tax,” or “tax fairness” or whatever, it’s still the same thing — class warfare against the poor and working middle-class. It’s hurting our citizens and it’s hurting our economy, and it’s time we all started paying attention to the finer details instead of just listening to rhetoric.

And here’s a thought — if you really want to talk about equality and fairness, why not look at ways to tax earned income and investment income in a similar manner instead of making working Americans who are just trying to get a leg up shoulder a disproportionate amount of the load?

Cheney Lawyers Up

Well, well, well… Guess who else has hired a lawyer in response to questions about his involvement in the Valerie Plame case? None other than Dick Cheney! And there’s also news that the senior administration flipper in the case might be none other than Cheney aide, John Hannah! Things are getting extremely close to George Bush now, aren’t they?

In other good news, I heard on the radio on the way into work this morning that gasoline demand fell by the largest margin in ten years last month, most likely due to the high prices. Oil and gas reserves are filling back up. That’s good news. The saner among us might view this as a tremendous opportunity to catch our breath and start looking for ways to lessen our dependence on these fossil fuels. My guess though, is that as soon as prices begin to fall again, people will forget all about the future.

A Few Questions

I recently heard the following riddle: “Q: What’s the difference between a Republican President and a Democratic President? A: About $1.50 a gallon.”

OK, that’s funny, right? But then when I tell my friends that, they ask, “well, how would a Democratic President have controlled the price of gasoline?” My answer is that a Democratic President would not be able to control the price of gasoline of course, but that the fact that we are now approximately six years out with a guy in the White House who does not have an energy policy other than to remain the top bully in controlling petroleum reserves, and to consume as much as you really want.

Consider what the alternative might have been? Al Gore has been concerned about the environment since he was a Senator (and probably before). Remember when he was given so much heat about his thoughts on the last days of the internal combustion engine? People accused him of wanting to take away the current automobile as we now know it. While he certainly could not have made that happen single-handedly (any more than he could’ve “invented the internet”), a Gore administration would’ve provided incentives for people to switch to more fuel-efficient vehicles. I remember reading about the plans on his website during the 2000 campaign. They were detailed in the extensive Gore/Lieberman plan for America. The point is, this administration consists of a bunch of old oil guys. They have NO INCENTIVE for getting the private sector to research alternative fuels. It will take government incentives and a major government investment to get the ball rolling in this direction. Unless companies see some incentive to support alternative fuel use, they won’t do it. They have shareholders to answer to, and anything that cuts into the bottom line won’t fly. Of course, a certain amount of “good will” is good for PR, but there has to be some government subsidy into this to get the ball rolling.

Now let me put it this way. $300 BILLION spent on the war in Iraq so far. Almost 2000 American soldiers lost. According to Johns Hopkins, tens of thousands mentally or physically wounded and out of the war. How much alternative energy development would that have netted us as a country? How much national security? How much elimination of foreign oil?

Even without that kind of investment, with a Democratic administration we’d at least be on the PATH, you know? Would gasoline still be $3 a gallon? Possibly. The point is, we’d be that much closer to doing something about it, and 2000 families would have their relatives home for Thanksgiving next month. Oh yeah, and the rest of the world wouldn’t hate us right now either.

I don’t know what it will take at this point for the world to come back into balance. It just seems like everyone’s waiting for this administration to leave. They’re just holding on until then. Finally, 58% of American disapprove of the job that Bush is doing according to a USA Today Poll taken about this time last month. And that’s before this whole Harriet Miers business that has now even alienated his base. How sad that it has taken so long for the general public to wake up?

Even those on the fence will be waking up when the Federal Prosecutor gets done with Plamegate later this week. I’m hoping that Bush himself is implicated in Plamegate, as suggested on ABC News’ This Week the Sunday before last. Impeach the guy. In fact, we’re at war, are we not? Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush once said that outing a CIA operative was tantamount to treason. If Bush is even partially guilty (he did, in fact, consult a lawyer last year on the matter), that would make him guilty of treason. Certainly, a traitor cannot be president? What do they do to traitors during wartime anyway? Much like Judith Miller, “I forget…”

Interesting… I was just looking for some backup on this, and I found this article in the NY Times about how Patrick Fitzgerald isn’t planning on offering a final report into Plamegate! That apparently means that there is some “there there.” How fascinating! There has been speculation that someone testifying before the grand jury has “flipped” and has started talking. I guess we’ll have to wait a little longer to see. Hmmm… Bush and Cheney as unindicted co-conspirators? Has a nice ring! And just look at this! Dick Cheney resignation rumors flying? It’s going to be an interesting couple months. I am so going to love seeing this corrupt administration fall, and take the GOP with it for the next 30 years.

Sorry this post is all over the place… I’m starting to get giddy.