Trivia 104

There's a new brand of cigarettes currently being offered throughout the old Soviet Union. This brand is an attempt to take advantage of the backlash against the multi-national tobacco companies' hard sell tactics and virtual take over of the market there. It even has a catchy little motto, "Peter the Great cigarettes - for those who believe in the revival of the traditions and grandeur of the Russian lands". Who makes this ultra-nationalist brand of cancer for the Russian people? Why, that little old capitalist conglomerate, R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.

Speaking of tobacco and its marvelous health benefits, can you guess what will be the leading cause, worldwide, of all preventable diseases by the year 2020? Right again! Tobacco! A recent study by the World Health Organization and the World Bank estimate that 9% of all sicknesses will be directly attributable to the use of tobacco - more than malnutrition or HIV or any other single disease. Any idea that provides nearly every penny these manufacturers of death use to advertise these products around the world? You, the American taxpayer, through the insane subsidies your government provides Corporate America in its quest to kill as many human beings as possible while maintaining the highest possible profit margin. My only question is this - why doesn't this make Americans as angry as helping women and children and the elderly survive did?

That paragon of ultra-conservative intelligence (America's newest oxymoron), Newt Gingrich, is again displaying for all to see just who truly owns him. In his vulgar attempt to destroy Social Security for anyone but the very wealthy, he is demanding that any budget surpluses be diverted into individual retirement accounts through tax breaks and that, once these accounts are set up, those individuals who started them will never have to pay into the Social Security fund again. Obviously, only the wealthy will have enough income to begin the process of selling out Social Security to Wall Street and Corporate America through tax breaks. The poor will have to continue to invest in the fund but, without the deposits of the wealthy, the fund will very quickly become depleted and unable to meet its obligations. Thus, Gingrich has killed the two proverbial birds with one stone. He has given the wealthy another massive tax cut while moving the poor away from any form of government pension plan, which will destroy Social Security, all in one fell swoop! The idea of millions of starving and destitute elderly Americans doesn't seem to bother him much but, then again, he hasn't shown much interest in anyone but his masters since his election, anyway.

One of the basic tenets of the proposed agreement on tobacco was that the industry pays about $500 billion to various government agencies over a 25-year period. While that sounds like a lot of money and a fair form of punishment for the tobacco industry, the small print is where we find the same old lies and love of the wealthy. While the industry is apparently happy to pay this amount in order to achieve a settlement, the reality is that the industry will pay absolutely none of that money, whatsoever. Instead, the agreement provides them the right to simply raise the price of a pack of cigarettes to make up the difference. This way, the world's smokers will pay the industry's costs and, once again, the cost will fall the heaviest on the poor and middle-class. Currently, in fact, those making under $10,000 a year provide 16% of all tobacco taxes while those earning over $100,000 provide less than 1% (according to the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation). Notice, those earning $50,000 - $100,000 pay 19% and you will see the amazing disparity towards the very rich.

Oh, by the way, that $500 billion we spoke of that the tobacco industry is so anxious to pay? Its purpose is to repay the various agencies for the massive health care costs related to smoking and borne by states and the federal government. That $20 billion a year, though, will hardly make a dent in the estimated $100 billion spent yearly by all agencies and insurance companies for smoking related illnesses. Once again, your representative is selling your interests off to their owners and you will continue to pay for the damages caused by the manufacturers of the most deadly product man has ever produced that was intended solely for public consumption. Do you feel that this is what you elected these clowns for?

I find it truly interesting that the Congressional Republicans are so nervous about the soon to be released report by Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr and his reputed findings regarding the President's private sex life and failed real estate ventures. The Republicans rightly fear that, should any evidence be produced which falls in any gray area of the impeachment arena, they will be forced into either going ahead with what even they admit will be the impossible task of actually gaining an impeachment indictment against the President or of just dropping the entire matter and showing the world that the entire process was only one of childish spite and hatred since the beginning. With the polls showing that only the lunatic fringe wants the investigation to even continue, let alone any Congressional action taken, they are finding that they now wish for the entire fiasco to just quietly disappear. With right wing crazies like Rush Limbaugh and Oliver North still loudly beating the drum of accusation, though, that isn't likely.

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