The United States of Africa

megacities_poverty_mainA few weeks ago I ran into Samuel, a dual citizen of Nigeria and the United States.   A well-educated businessman, his wife is a political consultant whose work takes her to every corner of Africa.  Samuel made his living buying cars in Europe and the USA, and selling them in Nigeria to corporate clients who work for Shell, Coca-Cola, and other well-heeled clients.  But he says it’s getting almost impossible to do business in Nigeria.

I try to keep up on international news, including Africa, and eagerly asked Samuel what’s happening in his home country.  He confirmed and amplified what I already knew: that Nigeria would be one of the wealthiest nations on Earth if it were not for the relentless government corruption.  Muhammadu Buhari was elected president last year, replacing the incumbent Goodluck Jonathan.  Samuel told me Jonathan had risen to the presidency promising to put an end to the rampant cronyism and corruption that has infected the Nigerian government since its independence.  But under Jonathan the corruption only got worse.  And his replacement, Buhari, is no better, having installed his own cronies and schemes.   Samuel described how the government officials and their friends are putting him, and most Nigerian entrepreneurs, out of business.  He now drives Uber full time to put food on the table, and hasn’t been home for six months.

I sympathized with Samuel.  “That’s where my country is headed, too.  I would never have dreamed the United States government could become so corrupt.”

Hollywood could not come up with a plot so thin and unbelievable, and yet it unfolds before our eyes.

The U.S. Secretary of State sells influence to foreign leaders – greasing the skids for defense contracts, granting uranium mining rights on US soil to Russia, steering favorable rulings from international agencies – in exchange for cash contributions to her “foundation”, which is nothing more than a multi-billion dollar slush fund.  The foundation pays no taxes and makes few charitable contributions; even worse, it siphons off legitimate disaster funds for the benefit of the Secretary’s family, friends, and cronies.  American corporate cronies get in on the act, expecting “pay for play” rewards from the Secretary, who is presumed to become president.

The Secretary sets up a secret and illegal communication system to hide her corrupt dealings from public view, and when it is discovered, she has all of the records professionally “bleached” from her servers, laughing at congressional subpoenas demanding their release.

An FBI investigation ensues, but the director of the FBI gives immunity to everybody who could have been indicted for illegal handling of classified government communications and tampering with evidence.  He does not even listen to the damning facts revealed in Congressional hearings or an FBI interview with the Secretary under oath, and hastily proclaims that the Attorney General should not prosecute.  Almost simultaneously, the Attorney General has a clandestine meeting with the Secretary’s husband and former president, the subject of which is clearly either threat or payoff.  The inquiry is dropped.  And the stench of corruption hangs thick all over the nation’s capital.

The most creative fiction writer on planet Earth could not come up with less plausible story.  Or at least this could only happen in a third-world hell-hole in Africa, right?  Certainly not in the United States of America, the world’s champion of fairness, truth and democracy.

But it is happening, here and now.  And our media, plus most of the American public and all of our representatives and senators (except for a few brave Freedom Caucus members) are perfectly happy to look the other way.  No indictments.  No impeachments.  Not even a breath of criticism.  The most corrupt political leader in the history of our nation may very well soon be our president.

This is unprecedented.  It is clear that our government is now irretrievably corrupt.  Citizens can no longer have any confidence in the FBI, the Department of Justice, the Congress, the Administration, or any federal agency. Congress could impeach the director of the FBI, and the Attorney General.  But they won’t.  Laws don’t apply to the politically connected.  There is nobody left to stop the corruption except the citizens.

I don’t want our government to collapse, and I don’t want my grandchildren to live (or die) through a civil war.  Sound extreme?  Look back through history.  Whenever governments become unbearably corrupt and untouchable, change ultimately comes via brute force.  And it’s never pretty.  Ask any African.

Right now American citizens have only one course of action: to elect a president who is not part of the corrupt political machine, and hope for the best.  The corrupt legislative branch and the corrupt judicial branch will take years to turn over, but the corrupt administrative branch can be overthrown in one day.  Failing that, we might as well be the United States of Africa.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

Let’s fight corruption. Let’s fight corruption.
Let’s fight corruption as much as we can.
Let’s fight corruption. Let’s fight corruption.
Let’s fight corruption, together we stand.

The Child Africa Corruption Song

 

 

More Ugly Obama/Clinton Crony Corruption

hillary-and-warren-buffett

Hillary Clinton and billionaire Warren Buffett, who invested $30 billion in taxpayer-subsidized solar and wind energy –  photo by NPR

Robert Murray may be the most frustrated and abused CEO in the USA.

The owner of Murray Energy is the last man standing in the fight to save the coal industry from the Obama / Clinton “war on coal”, and his emotional appeals on the news networks reveal that he may be down for the count.

robert-murrayMurray grew up poor, picking up a shovel at age 16 to keep his family afloat after his father was paralysed in a mine accident.  He persevered through good times and bad to become one of the biggest players in the coal business, and now, at age 75, Murray sees all his hard work and investment going up in smoke, along with the livelihoods of his employees.

When President Obama declared in 2008 that he would destroy the coal industry, he wasn’t kidding. “So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can,” he said.  “It’s just that it will bankrupt them, because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.”

Over 400 coal mines have shut down since then, putting 83,000 miners on the street.  As coal companies headed for the exits, Murray bought many of them, unable to accept that the nation would allow such a valuable and strategically critical industry to just die at the whim of an imperious and misguided president.

Eight years later, Obama’s pre-ordained successor, Hillary Clinton, has doubled down, promising to “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”

Obama’s and Clinton’s pretense for eliminating the source of one-third of America’s electricity is their desire to save the planet and its inhabitants from “carbon pollution”.  But Murray isn’t buying it, as he told Fox Business:

“Windmills and solar panels generate 26 cent per kilowatt hour electricity – coal is only 4 cents a kilowatt hour.  The reason why she wants to see coal eliminated is because she’s getting millions of dollars of kickback to the Clinton Foundation and to her campaign from people who she says needs government help. You know who she’s talking about? She’s talking about Warren Buffett, the Pritzkers, Elon Musk, Tom Steyer—all billionaires that are making billions of dollars off of windmills and solar panels that are made in China.”

“She’s getting hundreds of millions of dollars from some of the largest banks in the country, from some of the largest electric utilities, and from these billionaires that I just mentioned.  They need the subsidies – wind and solar are not competitive with coal or other fossil fuels.  So they are making billions of dollars, these billionaires, and they are kicking back millions to the Clinton Foundation and to Hillary Clinton – it’s a story we have been hearing over and over.  The lowest 25 million families on the poverty scale in the country now spend 22 cents of every dollar they earn for energy.  We need to be worrying about the energy poverty in this country, not making more billionaires as Hillary Clinton attempts to eliminate the reliable low-cost electricity and substitute these ‘crony capitalists’.  It’s fraud – it’s absolute fraud!”

Today President Obama announced his “Clean Power Plan”, a new set of standards to limit “carbon pollution” from power plants.  The plan makes the outwardly pure-hearted promise to “decrease the pollutants that contribute to the soot and smog and can lead to more asthma attacks in kids by more than 70 percent.”  We all love kids, and don’t want them breathing soot and smog, right?  But the plan’s main thrust is to control carbon dioxide emissions, which have absolutely nothing to do with “soot and smog”.  Carbon dioxide is clear and odorless, it is necessary for plant life, and it has no impact on global temperatures or pollution of any kind.

coal-fired-power-generation-plantDemocrats sob about “the children” and flaunt blown-up photos of old Chinese factories belching smoke, pretending they are modern American electrical power generation plants and hoping the low-information public will believe the carbon dioxide hoax pumped through their politically-motivated news media.  Meanwhile, they destroy our clean and efficient energy infrastructure for no purpose other than to generate profit for their crony friends and receive kickbacks in return.

I never dreamed my government could become so corrupt, or that so many of our citizens would be unwilling or unable to put up a fight.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

Hanging on every word, believing the things I heard
Being a fool
You’ve taken my life, so take my soul
That’s what you said and I believed it all
Liar!  Liar!

Liar – Three Dog Night

 

 

I’m About To Give You All My Money, Give Me Some R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Government_spending2What does government do?  What CAN government do?

In a nutshell, the only thing government can do is spend our money.  Period.  That’s all, folks.

Our governments – city, county, state, federal – pass bills that spend our money.  Whatever they do, it involves spending our money.  If they are doing more, that means they are spending more money.  The more they do, the more they spend.  If we criticize them for not doing enough, that means we think they are not spending enough of our money.

Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Greenie Meanie Weenie, it doesn’t matter.  The only reason any politician exists is to spend our money.

The longer a politician is in office, the more money he/she has spent.  In fact, those elected officials who rise to the top of the food chain find themselves in position to spend even more money than everybody else. They get re-elected by promising to spend more of our money.  Two of the most powerful people in Congress are the heads of the Appropriations Committees.  In the Senate, that would be Thad Cochran (R-MS) – whose last election is legendary in the annals of dirty and criminal political maneuvers.  In the House, it would be Hal Rogers (R-KY), known as the “Prince of Pork”.

Thinking Americans have come to realize that more government, bigger government, more spending has not solved our problems as a nation.  Big government has only funneled money from some of us to others of us, but has not improved the standard of living for all of us.  Those with government connections continue to thrive while the middle class has all but disappeared and the growing underclass has become hopelessly dependent on government programs.

It took a few hundred years, but today’s politicians have figured it out – election and re-election can be easily won by buying votes with somebody else’s money.

If this sounds cynical, I’m sorry.  Tell me where I’m wrong.

But there is good news.  We can get out of this mess, and it’s an easy fix.  All we have to do is ask every candidate for public office one simple question:  Will you reduce the size and cost of government?

If the answer is yes, give that person money and vote for him or her.  If the answer is no, run like hell.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

I’m about to give you all of my money
And all I’m askin’ is for a little respect
When I come home.
Hey, hey, hey!

Respect – Otis Redding

 

You thought I was giving you a song by ARETHA didn’t ya!  Otis Redding wrote and recorded Respect in 1965.  Aretha Franklin covered it two years later, and it became a classic – one of the rare instances where the cover beats the original.  I do this song every weekend with my family band Caution! Blind Driver, and our audiences are always surprised when I sing it instead of our female vocalist, my daughter Jenny.  Here is a video of Otis singing this R&B standard on Dec. 9, 1967.  Sadly, he was killed the next day in a plane crash.

FTC Endorses Hacking Private Data

Hacker_DetectedSo there you are, minding your own business, running a company that provides a much-needed medical service – lab analysis of specimens to help doctors diagnose and treat cancers and other dread diseases.  And out of the blue you find you are under attack by your own government.

Michael Daugherty, founder and CEO of LabMD, has been through hell, at the hands of the “Devil Inside the Beltway”.

His story defies logic and reason.  Why would the federal government – specifically the FTC – join forces with a for-profit extortionist hacker to wreak havoc on a private company?   And how could our court system not recognize theft of personal data as a crime?

Here’s the story, in a nutshell:  In 2008 a LabMD employee, against company policy, installed a peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing application called LimeWire to her computer so she could share music files with other subscribers.   She just wanted to listen to music.  Unfortunately, this opened a port which made other data on her computer accessible to outsiders.  And an opened port is all the Devil needs to do his evil work.

In this case, the Devil is a company named Tiversa, Inc. – the self-proclaimed “World Leader in P2P Cyberintelligence”.  Tiversa developed a program which scours the internet, looking for open P2P ports and any tasty files that might be exposed, in the hope that a particularly delectable file might be useful for the purpose of extortion.

During the very short time that the LabMD employee’s computer was vulnerable, Tiversa grabbed a file that included patient data including social security numbers, medical codes, etc. – information that could be used by a bad actor for identity theft, blackmail, or other nefarious purposes.  And what did Tiversa do with their ill-gotten booty?  First they attempted to extort LabMD with an expensive, open-ended and loosely-defined service contract.  When LabMD CEO Daugherty logically told them to take a hike, they turned the file over to the FTC as an indictment of LabMD’s failure to protect their clients’ data.

This is where it gets crazy.

The federal government is there to protect and serve its constituents, right?  You would think that if somebody hacks into your computer system, and steals your sensitive information and then blackmails you with the release of it, the feds will help you nail them.  Right?

Instead, the FTC, typical of today’s over-reaching federal bureaucracy, decided to join forces with the bad guys to beat up on one of those despicable, “for-profit” private businesses.  “You didn’t build that!”  , they declare.  “And we will punish you for your success!”

Instead of pursuing the people who aggressively sought to steal sensitive data  (they claim their program performs exponentially more searches than Google) the FTC went after the victims of the theft.  Most of their victims acquiesced to the relentless FTC pressure and accepted  demands for consent decrees (guilty without proof).  LabMD and Michael Daugherty took a courageous stand against this extortion, and continue their brave battle today.

The obvious questions beckon:  what is the relationship between the top brass of the FTC and for-profit hackers like Tiversa?  Will the federal courts recognize data as property, and accept theft of data as theft of property?  And most importantly – when a federal agency like the FTC (or the IRS or EPA) lines up its infinite roster of taxpayer-funded lawyers against an individual or private company with limited resources in a ideological battle, is there any hope that justice will prevail?

Cyber-security is the 600 pound gorilla in the room.  Our government admits that China, North Korea, and Russia routinely hack our government databases.  It’s bad enough that foreign bad guys feverishly work at worming their way into our national databases.  How can we tolerate our own government cooperating with extortionist hackers who attack our private data?

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

Listen, Do you want to know a secret?
Do you promise not to tell?
Closer, Let me whisper in your ear,
Say the words you long to hear,
I’m in love with you!
No live video, just a good old Beatles song here:

No Earmarks! Never Going Back There Again!

“As long as I’m the Speaker, there will be no earmarks.” – Speaker of the House John Boehner – July 2014

Boehner is still Speaker, having been re-elected to the post for the third time by his members last week.

Believe it or not, many members of Congress, including Republicans, have been pushing for some time to end the ban on earmarks which was put in place in March of 2010.  Senator Harry Reid pressed for reinstatement of the earmark privilege last summer, saying, ” I am proud of all the earmarks I have gotten for the state of Nevada. They’ll come back — it’s only a question of time because that’s our constitutional obligation.”

An amendment to roll back the moratorium on earmarks, led by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), was brought to a House vote last Friday, and failed by a 2.5 to 1 margin.

Good.  Apparently they get it.

Earmarks represent everything that is ugly about DC politics.  “Bringing Home the Bacon” is largely responsible for our $17 trillion debt.  Control over earmark awards has been a weapon used by house leadership in the past to bludgeon members into line.  One of the more infamous recent earmarks was the $223 million “Bridge to Nowhere,” which cost Alaska congressman Ted Stevens his political career.  “Material Girl” Nancy Pelosi steered hundreds of millions of dollars to her home district via earmarks.

Senator Tom Coburn has been a long-time opponent of pork-barrel spending and especially the use of earmarks, calling it the “gateway drug to Washington’s spending addiction.”

The “wave” election of 2014 places a heavy responsibility on Republicans to restore fiscal sanity to our federal government.  That even a few Republicans considered eliminating the ban on earmark spending is disappointing.  Let’s not go there again.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right SideYou don’t know what it means to win
Come down and see me again
Been down one time
Been down two times
I’m never going back again

Never Going Back Again – Lyndsey Buckingham

Cool live version of a Fleetwood Mac classic!

 

There Must Be One Honest Democrat Out There

honestySeveral years ago, while on a long drive, I tuned in to National Public Radio’s afternoon talk show featuring Diane Rehm.  I nearly wrecked my truck as several Democrats fervently defended government officials and scientists who were caught fabricating weather data and computer models to make it appear that man-caused global warming was real.  They forthrightly stated that lying was the right thing to do if it achieved the results they sought.

Democrats routinely approve of dishonesty.  There is no longer any question that many Democrats will say anything, do anything that will keep them in power.  Part of the vaunted Cloward-Piven strategy, and the teachings of Saul Alinsky in “Rules for Radicals“, the playbook used so effectively by the Obama administration, is this tenet:  “The end justifies the means”.  They believe it.  Honesty and playing by the rules does not matter, as long as you win.

Conservatives like me can’t understand it.  We value honesty.  It is the bedrock on which civilization is built.  Relationships, societies, commerce and governments can not function without trust based on honesty.

But liberal Democrats don’t see it that way.  It shocked the conservative world when our president looked squarely into a television camera and said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky,” and then later admitted that he did.  As stunning as his lapse of morality was, what really blew us away was the unanimous dismissal of his dishonesty by Democrats.   They justified their support of a proven liar on the grounds that they generally agreed with his politics, and found him to be “cool”.  Conservatives asked, “if he would lie to his wife and family, and openly lie to the American public, how dangerous is it to believe anything he says as the leader of the free world?”

When a Republican is caught in an outright lie or an illegal or immoral act, he or she is removed.  When a Democrat is caught in an outright lie or an illegal or immoral act, his party and the complicit media circle the wagons and often will tell more lies aimed at baffling the dumbed-down, undiscerning populace – case in point, the Obama Administration’s ham-handed Benghazi Lie.

In an attempt to justify dishonesty, Democrats frequently turn to the only example they can think of by a conservative: the claim that President Bush lied when he said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.  They stop short of admitting that he based his concern on intelligence that was acknowledged by every official in the U.S. government, including their own Democrat leaders.  And Bush may yet be proven right – just this week our state department reported terrorists gained control of one of Hussein’s poison gas factories.

The level of dishonesty and immorality in American government during the Obama era has reached epic proportions.  When Nixon was found to have lied about a rather minor, but nonetheless illegal and immoral campaign activity, and then tried to cover it up by erasing taped evidence, he was unceremoniously thrown out of office by officials and supporters of both parties.

This week we are told that Lois Lerner, the head of the IRS, directly after being questioned about illegal targeting of conservatives during a campaign, had a computer malfunction that caused the loss of smoking-gun e-mail evidence from her and six other officials, and that in spite of legal requirements, department policy, and common practice, no backups exist.  Just “Oops, you’ll have to trust us.”

And NOT ONE DEMOCRAT will question her honesty.  Not one is bothered by the stench of corruption.

It is hard for me to accept that there aren’t still a few honest Democrats out there.  There must be.  Believing that every single Democrat accepts dishonesty is like believing that every single voter in 59 Philadelphia precincts pulled the lever for Barack Obama.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

Honesty is such a lonely word.
Everyone is so untrue.
Honesty is hardly ever heard.
And mostly what I need from you.

 

 

 

Is the “Money Game” Dying in DC?

ChangeCongress-FollowTheMoney696In my last post I decried the incessant corruption in Washington, DC.  I recently read Peter Schweitzer’s amazing book “Extortion” and suddenly I see the baffling events inside the Beltway with new clarity.

Yesterday Speaker of the House John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor got 26 other Republican congressmen to join 200 Democrats and pass a “clean” bill to extend the debt limit until after the election.  All the other Republican congressmen sensibly voted against passage.

Today the Senate, with Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republican Whip John Cornyn voting along with the Democrats, passed the bill for President Obama’s signature.  As a result the national debt will rise to at least $18.2 trillion while our government does nothing but accelerate the calamitous decline in our economy.

Until I read Schweitzer’s book I could not fathom how the Republican leadership of both houses of Congress could vote not only against the wishes and interests of their constituents, but also in defiance of their own body of legislators.  The Republican majority-holding members in the House could have stopped this travesty in a heartbeat, and would have, were it not for John Boehner and the other Republican leaders.   What kind of evil pathology is this?  How can we face our children?

It just didn’t make any sense to me.  Until I learned about “the money”. 

I learned from Schweitzer and subsequent research that the game of government in DC is all about “the money”.  A congressman cannot get elected without “the money”.  Once a candidate is anointed by his party (both teams play by the same rules) and then elected, he is immediately indebted.  He is required to not only raise enough funds to win his own re-election, he also must also raise funds to sustain the party.  And let me tell you, these are some high stakes.

Committee assignments and leaderships are granted to legislators based on the funds they raise.  Votes are bought and sold.   Party leaders can financially make or break any member in a heartbeat.   None of the attributes a congressman brings to his position – knowledge, experience, skill, hard work – matters at all.  One’s status and hope for re-election is solely the result of how much dough he raises for the party.  The vast majority of a legislator’s time is spent chasing “the money”.

While you never hear about this “Lord of the Flies” culture in the press, it is no secret inside the Beltway.  It has been in place for a long, long time.

But a change took root in recent years.  Conservative voters, seeing that the entrenched political class in Washington, DC no longer took any interest in limiting government, supporting constitutional rights, and passing reasonable budgets, began sending principled men and women to the nation’s capital.  These newcomers were less engaged in “the money” and more driven by practical economics and common sense.  As the Tea Party influence became more pronounced, and fewer members feared the leadership’s “protection racket”, the DC money machine started to break down.  The Republican war chest was depleting.  And the central control of the Republican leadership started to crack.

For a candidate, the worst thing about the Tea Party is that they will work hard for you, but they won’t bring you a lot of money.  The best thing is that you won’t have to sell your soul to pay them back.

Boehner and friends have thrown in the towel. From the Huffington Post:

Speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he “hoped to find 18 of them to join 200 Democrats to get the job done.”

“The fact is, we’ll let the Democrats put the votes up,” Boehner said. “We’ll put a minimum amount of votes up to get it passed.”

The new conservatives don’t care that much about raising money and are not indebted to the leadership.  They voted a resounding NO, and led most of the Republican membership into the light with them.  The old guard Republican leadership hunkered down in their central command, clinging to the hope that they could keep hold of their power and positions, and “the money”, by caving in, again, to their Democrat opponents.  In his final hurrah, Boehner bought just enough votes to do the deal and now he is broken and broke, along with Cantor, McConnell and the others.  “The money”, and the power structure it bought, may soon be extinct.

I hope we will look back at this day as a pivot point.  It was a battle lost, but one that could light the path to winning the war, where true conservatives stand on principle and vote for the people, not “the money”.

(To my Montana friends – The “Responsible Republicans” in the Big Sky State should take note.  Their future may look a lot like that of Boehner and friends.)

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right SideYou never give me your money
You only give me your funny paper
And in the middle of negotiations
You break down!

You Never Give Me Your Money – the Beatles
covered by the Ed Turner Band