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August 31, 2007

Five Letters: B.L.A.C.K.

While writing today about what conservatives are saying, I came across this little gem -- The mortgage crisis is because we allowed black people to get mortgages. Townhall.com::The Subprime Mortgage Market In Perspective,

Scarcely a soul will recall that political pressure over red-lining was partially responsible for the subprime failures in the first place.
And while on this subject, in my earlier post about conservative philosophy, I chose not to comment on the blatant racism of the conservative Townhall post but I will point it out now. That post wrote about the "shiftless people" of New Orleans and makes a point of calling the mayor, "Mr. "Chocolate City." And the readers "got it."

I don't usually fault bloggers for the comments they elicit, but this post was very clear in its point, and the number of readers leaving racist comments demonstrated that they got that point. Comment examples,

Yes, Katrina was different. It was different because of the huge fat women sitting on the kerb surrounded by their 12 year old daughters with their babies, chanting WE WANTS HEP! instad of getting up off their fat behinds and looking after themselves.

Two weeks after 9/11 the news cameras had packed up and refused to show us any more video or film; months later in New Orleans we were still being treated to shots of wailing Black women and their fatherless babies sitting on their backsides and screaming for cash.

The difference between Katrina and New York City on 9/11 is five letters long. B L A C K.

Other comment examples:
You're very lucky you don't own a business because a Mr. Jackson and a Mr. Sharpton would be on your doorstep shaking you down for reparations payments.

...Presidents from now on will have to tell all the citizens down there, sitting on their fat, welfare fed butts, that we'll never forget and the checks are coming.

In a nation where many people think that they are entitled to reparations for slavery, it is unlikely we will get over Katrina anytime soon.

Time to get these 'welfare queens' off the government dole.
Has no one noticed that the middle class blacks left New Orleans? It was the ones who were poor that got left behind. And one of the main reasons they are poor are because of liberal policies that hurt family values and promote a general sense of irresponsibility - not just among blacks but among liberals in general.
The fat Blacks in New Orleans should take a note.
...they need a Guliani-esque type mayor to reshape i.e. clean out the inept police force and instill a tough clean up the streets type police chief who will dredge up the thugs that rule New Orleans and deposit them in the can.
Yes, they came here to Houston. Our crime rate is over the top. Between the "victims" and the illegals you can just imagine. ... They are still having regular Americans pay their rent. Of course, ACORN is involved as well as Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee. Go figure.
Before intergration, we dealt with MORE issues than waiting on a governement check
if the pictures from NOLA had shown fat WHITE women sitting on the kerbstone chanting WE WANTS HEP! instead of stirring their stumps on their own behalf, the answer would now be a yawn, just as it was when the Wal-Mart Looter Video showed that even the Black COPS were stealing. And remember how many of these same people said that the reason "Whitey" did not come with sedan chairs to carry them away to a Five Star Life of Ease was RACISM.
The dems have created, coddled and kept down an entire population for the past forty years. The "victims" have become the life blood of your party. The population of NO is a great example of what your party has done. There are people who literally can't do a darn thing for themselves. That's not being compassionate, that's being elitist and superior. Lastly, I find nothing progressive about your party. You have used the same ploys for decades, race baiting and class envy.
It is NOT katrina that wiped-out and ruined NO. It is a large segment of this citizenry that created the nightmare that is NO prior too, during and after. There is no amount of government money that will make these citizens change themselves or their behaviors.
Nagin's "Chocolate City" was a s*** hole before Katrina, and an even worse one now. I lost whatever sympathy I had for the NO "refugees" a few days after the storm, when so many of them wound up here in Houston, and prompty started scamming everyone in sight, from the Feds on down, for money. Never mind how much the crime rate here skyrocketed after they showed up, and even how the local school district was talking about setting up separate schools for the "refugee's" kids, since they could not seem to attend the regular schools without assaulting the locals right and left.
the theme of blacks on Welfare dominates because in New Orleans, blacks dominate. It is, as the Mayor said, a "chocolate city."
Did you forget to mention that blacks represent 13% of the population yet 47% of the welfare recipients are black? ...You're intellect is stellar. So.....what you meant is blacks are approx. 10 times more likely to be on welfare white people, nnless you "forget" to use poulation statistics.
There is a lot more there but it's too sickening to continue...

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:59 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

A Propagandized Military Is A Danger to Democracy

There is an important story out today, Lawmakers Describe 'Being Slimed in the Green Zone', about how troops in Iraq are provided with propaganda denouncing Democratic lawmakers who visit Iraq.

Talking Points Memo Disgusted but really only gets part of what it means

.It's all par for the course for this administration, how they've politicized every branch of the government and every agency, eroding democratic institutions in American while they pretended to build them in Iraq. In fact, from the start the White House tried to stock the Green Zone and the US occupation authority with GOP operatives.
Here is why this is important. Combine this propaganda effort with past practices like Armed Forces Radio pushing Rush Limbaugh while refusing to offer other points of view (this has changed due to pressure from Democratic lawmakers) and the history of government-paid propaganda promoting the Republican Party viewpoint, and this represents a danger to democracy. It is a very bad idea to have a propagandized military supporting one party.

Demonstrating The Party's politicization-of-troops efforts, Bushist Don Surber writes,

Moran and Tauscher are part of a clique of Democratic politicians who want us to lose in Iraq so they can gain on Republicans.
Is this what the troops are being told? Bushist-blog Wizbang shows what the propaganda is intended to make the troops think,
Do these antiwar Congressmen think the troops don't know who supports them and who does not?
To really get the feel of what the right is advocating, read the comments at these sites.

Update - Think Progress is now censored - troops can not visit their website since they allowed Ret. Maj. Gen. John Batiste to guest-blog in opposition to Bush's policies.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:20 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

The Difference Between Conservatives and Progressives

Progressives believe we are a community, all in it together, taking care of each other, helping each other. Conservatives believe we should each be on our own, and responsible only for ourselves ("personal responsibility").

There is a good articulation of conservative philosophy today at the conservative movement's Townhall.com: It's Time To Get Over Katrina Already. Some excerpts:

Two years after Katrina, everywhere you turn, there are people carping, whining, and kvetching. Just why hasn't the pity party for the citizens of New Orleans run out of booze and chips yet?

... we're all supposed to eternally sit around and weep tiny little tears of sadness for the people who really took it on the chin in a hurricane because they chose to live in a city shaped like a soup bowl on the coast. Let me tell all the citizens of New Orleans something that should have been told to them 18 months ago: it's time to stop playing the sympathy card and get over it.

Nobody is owed a living for the rest of his life because he had a bad break two years ago.... How sad and pathetic is it that these shiftless people are still leaching off their fellow citizens?

... Guess what, buddy? You're right; nobody does "give a s*** about New Orleans" any more other than a few saints and a lot of manipulative Democrats looking for a political issue they can exploit. That's the nature of life. [emphasis added]

This pretty clearly shows how conservatives think about the idea that people should take care of each other - no?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:26 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Today's Housing Bubble Post - Bailout With Taxpayer Dollars

Have you been responsibly managing your debt? Have you been sacrificing so you don't get in over your head? Saving instead of borrowing? Accepting lower returns on your money rather than getting greedy and taking on high risk for higher yields?

Sucker.

Bush announced "home loan relief" today. What does this mean?

In short, a huge taxpayer transfer to the rich. Partly by moving more mortgages to federal insurance - meaning the government pays the investors when the mortgage fails. Also getting the housing agencies to raise the limits on "conforming" loans, in other words,a higher threshold before a loan becomes a "jumbo." Which means taxpayer involvement in the higher-priced housing, too.

Bush said the government will work toward, "lowering down payment requirements, by increasing loan limits, and providing more flexibility in pricing." Also to, "change its federal mortgage insurance program in a way that would let an additional 80,000 homeowners with spotty credit records sign up." In other words, MORE bad mortgages.

Jill at Brilliant at Breakfast on the housing bailout,

Don't kid yourself for one minute that this is about helping low-income Americans stay in their homes. If helping low-income Americans stay in their homes were the goal, the 9th Ward of New Orleans wouldn't still be in ruins two years after Hurricane Katrina, its citizens dispersed elsewhere, the better to turn Louisiana into a Republican state and a cash cow for Bush's corporate cronies. This Administration has dragged its heels on helping the most high-profile poor people in the country, but when the wealthy start to feel the effects, suddenly this president rushes into action.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:52 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 30, 2007

Will The Fed Bail Out The Fat Cats Yet Again?

As I observe the professional reaction to the "mortgage crisis" and the credit crunch - coming from the bursting housing bubble - I am struck by the degree to which everyone is looking entirely to the Fed to bail out the big players. It is an expectation. It is the understanding of the financial class that they will be bailed out by the government - at the expense of the taxpayers. Again.

The stock market swings violently up or down depending on what they think the Fed might do. Everything depends entirely, entirely, entirely on the Fed -- and not on the supposedly "free market." Everyone is so used to the government stepping in and bailing out the fat cats. It happened after the S&L crisis. (In fact, it was a feast for the Republican-connected.) It happened when the Long Term Capital Management hedge fund got into trouble. So they are sure it will always happen. And they continue the financialization and securitization foolishness.

For decades massive debt has been building up - both on the government and the consumers' books. In fact, Democrats keep reducing the borrowing when they are in office -- Johnson balanced the budget, Carter submitted balanced budgets and Clinton was actually paying down the debt. But then Republicans get in and cut taxes on the rich, and the borrowing just SOARS! No one denies that we are in an unsustainable situation that has to lead to crisis eventually. But every time a reckoning comes near the Fed bails out the fat cats, and a new and bigger wave of financial foolishness commences.

Imagine if you were sitting at a blackjack table, and every time you ran out of money the manager of the casino said, "It's OK, we'll cover it for you." What kind of blackjack player would you be? Would you be a careful player, managing your money, ready to step away from the table when you lost your limit? Or would you just bet more and more and more, until the casino manager came over against to tell you not to worry, he'll cover it for you? You wold act exactly like the financial professionals are acting.

The Fed will bail out the fat cats again, which means that when the reckoning finally does come it will be a tsunami that realigns the entire world order.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:25 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Republican Corruption 2007 List

Interesting ... Senate 2008 Guru: Following the Races: Republican Culture of Corruption: 2007 So Far

(Took the list of Republican-official pedophiles off until it is fact-checked. It was a looooong list...)

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:40 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

The War On Terror - Perspective

As the country debates the "War on Terror" let me add some perspective and balance.

Tobacco companies kill approx. 400,000 Americans every single year. So far over 100 MILLION people have been killed worldwide by tobacco companies.

I'm not going to list here all the others killed by - and all the societal problems brought by - corporate malfeasance. Global warming and other environmental destruction, lack of health care coverage, stolen pensions, the list would go on for pages.

Therefore, I propose that any effort, any spending, any mobilization that we put out to fight the "War on Terror" -- we do that tenfold working to bring corporations back under the control of the people.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:54 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Don't Be Fooled

A Republican front-group called Freedoms Watch is saturating the TV with ads saying Iraq attacked the United States on 9/11.

Please watch the following response, and send it to friends and others. Take action - start your own"viral e-mail."

The Republican ads repeat the phrase "we're seeing results" and :things are getting better" and ask people to hold out for "victory." This is obvious focus-group-tested wording. The phrases have no meaning, but they sound good. It sounds reasonable to "hold out" when "things are getting better."

But it's just a lie.

What does "victory" mean? Who are we supposed to be fighting? How do we "win"?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:13 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 29, 2007

Please Return the Watch

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:07 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Edwards On Health Care

There is more here.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:04 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Single-Payer vs Medicare For All

I'm hearing proposals for "Single-payer healthcare" again.

Please, please, please don't call it "Single-payer healthcare." Please call it "Medicare for all".

Everyone knows and likes and understands Medicare. It has been around for a while. It has the word "care" in it. Everyone knows it works and helps people.

NO ONE understands what "single-payer" means. It is a complicated word-construct. It contains the word "payer" which works against acceptance. It requires you to start from scratch to sell the idea, and from a marketing background I can tell you that all the money in the world isn't going to sell "single-payer healthcare" to the public.

If you call it Medicare for all, people immediately understand, accept and like the idea.

Please, please banish "single-payer healthcare" from your vocabulary. Please.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:35 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 28, 2007

Today's Housing Bubble Post - The Tip - JUST the Tip of the Iceberg

An "ARM Reset" occurs when an adjustable loan (ARM) changes (resets) from its initial "qualifying" rate, and goes up to its real interest rate. This reset can cause the monthly payments on the mortgage to as much as double.

Much of the trouble we are seeing now in the mortgage markets now is coming from people not being able to meet their payments. But the problem of this rise in payments has only just barely started! Many, many more mortgages reset through the rest of this year -- and then the number really takes off next year.

How many more mortgages reset next year than this year? Go look at the chart of upcoming ARM resets: Calculated Risk: ARM Reset Charts. This is huge. We have only seen the smallest beginning of the problem. This is going to be really, really big next year. A really bad problem.

And the reason there was a "qualifying" rate? The buyer couldn't afford to buy the house and needed something to get around this limit. So they used a "qualifying rate" to accomplish this - to make it look like the buyer could afford the payments. In other words, after an ARM reset, people can't afford to make their monthly payments. Se can talk about the reasons loans were given to people who can't afford to make the payment in another post.

Update - Bonddad shows the same graph with some explanation, in this post.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:22 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Of Course I Support Hillary!

A recent post I wrote with James, defending Hillary from a racist Republican attack, has evoked e-mail and comment "accusations" that I am a "Hillary supporter."

OF COURSE I AM A HILLARY SUPPORTER -- I'M A DEMOCRAT!!

I also support Barack Obama, Chris Dodd and John Edwards! Duh!

I think I prefer Edwards and Dodd right now, because their polices and thinking and approach lines up more with my own. Obama sure is winning me over, too. I am more progressive-oriented than Hillary.

But let me suggest something to you -- If Hillary Clinton becomes President, she will be the most progressive president America has ever had.

So relax. We have a great group of candidates this time.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:16 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Revived Asian-Donations Smear On Clinton

By Dave Johnson and James Boyce

The right is reviving the 90s Asian-donations smear on the Clintons.

Headlined at the Drudge Report, the Wall Street Journal has Big Source of Clinton's Cash Is an Unlikely Address,

It isn't obvious how the Paw family is able to afford such political largess. ...
Did you ask them? Is it your business? Actually they did ask them,
But he added: "I have been fortunate in my investments and all of my contributions have been my money."
But they have a Chinese name, so let's do a big story on it.
The Paws' political donations closely track donations made by Norman Hsu, a wealthy New York businessman in the apparel industry who once listed the Paw home as his address, according to public records. Mr. Hsu is one of the top fund-raisers for Mrs. Clinton's presidential campaign.
And now we get to the root of the big scandal - (queue horror-movie music) Someone is CHINESE-American!
William and Alice Paw are of Chinese descent..
That's the whole story. There are no accusations of any wrongdoing. Just that a family with a Chinese name gave a lot of money to the Clintons.

In the 1990s the Republicans ran a smear campaign for years, accusing the Clintons of passing nuclear-weapons secrets to China in exchange for campaign donations. There was never anything to back it up, of course, but the racial hatred aspect got them votes. It plays big in the South, I guess.

In case people don't get it, the right's echo chamber cranks up the noise. No subtle implications need apply: Laundering for Hillary?

The little green house at 41 Shelbourne Ave. in Daly City, Calif., (shown right) may spell big trouble for Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York as she pursues the presidency.

And there they go again. The Republicans are gearing up the smear and race-hatred campaign early this time.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:54 AM | Comments (4) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Today's Housing Bubble Post - Record Price Drop

Home prices fall record 3.2% nationally, Case-Shiller says,

U.S. home prices fell 3.2% in the second quarter compared with a year earlier, Standard & Poor's reported Tuesday.

It's the largest decline ever in the 20-year history of the Case-Shiller home price index.

A year ago, home prices were rising at a 7.5% pace nationally.

... Meanwhile, prices fell 3.5% in the past year in 20 major cities and 4.1% in 10 major cities.

It's only the beginning. The psychology hasn't set in yet. What happens next is sellers hear this news and start to realize that the game is up. So they'll start to accept that they have to lower prices if they are going to sell. And this doesn't even take into account that foreclosures are going to start serious price drops soon.

I'mnot trying to be doom and gloom here, I'm just describing what has to happen when we have seen the kind of price bubble we have seen. Prices have to revert to the mean.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:43 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 27, 2007

Today's Housing Bubble Post - Credit Cards Now

Credit-card defaults on rise in US

US consumers are defaulting on credit-card payments at a significantly higher rate than last year, raising the prospect of problems in the stricken US subprime mortgage market spreading to other types of consumer debt.

Credit-card companies were forced to write off 4.58 per cent of payments as uncollectable in the first half of 2007, almost 30 per cent higher year-on-year. Late payments also rose, and the quarterly payment rate – a measure of cardholders’ willingness and ability to repay their debt – fell for the first time in more than four years.

Ripples.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:14 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Today's Republican Arrested For Sex Crime Post - Senator Craig of Idaho

ANOTHER Republican official arrested... BREAKING NEWS: Senator arrested in airport restroom

According to the police report obtained by Roll Call, Sgt. Dave Karsnia of the airport police was investigating a men's room where frequent arrests have been made for sexual activity. Soon after the plainclothes officer took a seat in a stall, he noticed "an older white male with gray hair standing outside my stall." He peered through a crack in the door for two minutes before entering the adjacent stall.

The officer reported that Craig tapped his right foot, "a common signal used by persons wishing to engage in lewd conduct." Craig allegedly moved his right foot so that it touched the officer's left foot. When the officer flashed his badge beneath the stall wall, Craig reportedly exclaimed, "No!" The officer informed him he was under arrest and took him for 45 minutes of interrogation and photographing.

and Sen. Craig arrested in airport men's room; admits to disorderly conduct - On Deadline,
Roll Call is reporting that Sen. Larry Craig, an Idaho Republican, was arrested earlier this summer in a men's room at the Minneapolis airport by an undercover officer investigating complaints about sexual activity. The Capitol Hill newspaper says it obtained the arrest report.

So far, CNN and several blogs are reporting the news.

On Aug. 8 Craig pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct. A 10-day sentence was stayed, but he received a year probation and paid more than $500 in fines and fees, Roll Call writes.

A spokesman for Craig described the June 11 incident as a “he said/he said misunderstanding,” and said the senator's office would release a fuller statement later today.


How many is this now? Hookers, soliciting blow jobs in mens' rooms...

Update - To be clear, I don't care if someone wants to see a hooker or get a blowjob in a mens' room - that is their business. But the Republican Party stands for putting people in jail for things like this. They think it is their business to tell everyone else what to do and how to live their lives. And the fact is that most of them don't care either - they do it themselves. But they use that kind of stuff to trick good people into voting for them so they can then loot the treasury and launch wars. I am sick of it, and I hope a lot of other people are as well.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:43 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Today's Housing Bubble Post - Existing Sales Fall Again

Home sales hit slowest pace in 5 years,

Sales of existing homes dropped for a fifth straight month in July, falling to the slowest pace in nearly five years, while home prices fell for a record 12th consecutive month.
Listen, people, this is only just starting. Where I live in California it hasn't even started - owners don't understand yet that the "price" of their house isn't what they think. And MOST of the adjustable loan payments haven't even started ratcheting up yet.

Oh no, this is barely just starting. Prices have to fall a tirid to a half of where they are to get back to normal, and to where regular people can afford to buy a regular house again.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:36 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 26, 2007

The War On Terror

The country is at war on terror. Why? Because terrorists can kill us.

Cigarettes kill about 400,000 Americans a year. Cars kill about 44,000 Americans each year. Guns kill about 30,000 Americans each year. And then there are the deaths from diseases related to obesity caused by processed and fat-laden foods, deaths from various causes stemming from lack of health insurance... Do I need to go on? These are all examples of Americans killed while big corporations keep us from bringing them under control.

I think the war on terror might just be about distracting us from the things that really CAN kill us.

Who is our economy FOR, anyway?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:26 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Today's Housing Bubble Post - Spreads to Jumbo Loans

The effect of the "credit crunch" are starting to ripple out.

You've probably been reading the houses "at the top" are still selling. Expensive houses require big mortgages - called "Jumbo" loans. And getting a jumbo loan has gotten much harder, which means there will be fewer buyers for the houses at the top, which means they are going to sell fewer of them, which means prices there will also have to start dropping. Growing mortgage crisis spreads to jumbo loans,

The evening before their home purchase was to close, Gary Becker and his wife, Amy Dacus, learned their mortgage to buy a Woodinville home had evaporated.

Unlike subprime borrowers defaulting on loans, the couple had a stellar credit score, a 20 percent down payment, strong employment history and had effortlessly purchased three prior homes.

But their new home's $670,000 sales price was large enough to require a "jumbo" loan, so named because it was for more than $417,000, the limit the nation's largest mortgage backers will fund.

Why is this happening?
The credit crunch isn't universal.

Borrowers with good credit scores, good jobs and a down payment still have ready access to 30-year "conforming" loans — those funded through banks and mortgage brokerages by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the giant federally chartered companies that fund the bulk of the nation's mortgages.

But Fannie and Freddie cap their loans at $417,000, which means that banks and mortgage companies must tap other sources, such as mortgage-backed securities, for jumbo funds.

In recent weeks a skittish Wall Street has loudly signaled its unwillingness to invest in these securities.

Update - I just have to add this. Maybe we need a version of the Darwin Awards for people who just refuse to keep up with the news and try to buy a house in this market. The people who are not getting the jumbo loans are dodging a huge bullet. What kind of idiot is trying to buy an expensive house in a market where every single news story talks about how no one can sell a house, no one can make their payments, and prices are going to drop dramatically in the next few years?


I mean, if you can get a seller to accept an offer for 1/3 less than they want for the house - well maybe then, but you still might lose your shirt of prices fall to where they should be, which is about half where they are.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:58 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Tough Republican Choices in California Budget

Shorter Daily Kos: Californication: Yachts safe, homeless not so much.: The new California budget removes $45 million from spending to help the homeless mentally ill, in order to add a $45 million tax break for yacht owners.

California came out of the "conservative revolution" with a requirement that 2/3 of the legislators approve any budget. So a few Republican Senators were able to block passage of the most recent budget until they got everything they wanted. Among other Republican priorities this included a rule preventing California Attorney General Jerry Brown from enforcing global warming rules, and big cuts in health care spending.

How long will the public continue to let this radical minority treat us this way?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:45 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Who Is Our Economy FOR, Anyway?

THIS looks interesting!

THE "WHAT'S THE ECONOMY FOR, ANYWAY? CONFERENCE!!!

What’s the economy for, anyway? Is it just about having the biggest GDP or the highest Dow Jones Average? Or is it about providing for a healthy, happy, fair and sustainable society? If you think quality of life matters, and wonder how the United States compares to other countries when it comes to providing for its people, then the WHAT’S THE ECONOMY FOR, ANYWAY? conference is for you!

Dozens of prominent experts and activists will offers parts of the answer to the big question and offer out-of-the-box ideas about what we can do to make our economy serve us instead of vice-versa. Three tracks include FINDING HAPPINESS, SEEKING JUSTICE and SECURING SUSTAINABILITY.


SOMEONE has been reading Seeing the Forest, no?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:25 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 25, 2007

Bloggers Suck Up To Dems - Trying To Destroy Dems

Booman is giggling over this, and it is pretty funny.

There is something strange going on in the progressive blogosphere these days: instead of uniting against Republicans, progressive bloggers like Matt Stoller have decided to declare war on every Democrat who they consider not to be progressive (read anti-war) enough. Seemingly frustrated that there are actually Democratic Congressmen that do not necessarily always vote along party lines - but make up their own minds - they have decided to ask their readers to make profiles of so-called “Bush Dogs” (Blue Dogs and New Democrats) as to be able to target them in the coming years, and to replace them with progressive, left-wing Republicans.

... Once one pays attention to what is happening, one also sees that they are targeting Hillary Clinton. Obviously not to replace her, but instead to make sure that she does not win the nomination. Besides attacking Hillary straight on, the left-wingers of the Daily Kos, Open Left and MyDD, also seem to have declared Bill Clinton their enemy. Their new best buddy? Al Franken.

[. . .] Make no mistake about it however: once these people get their way regarding Iraq, they will target politicians who they deem not progressive enough on other issues.

And so, slowly but surely, these people are destroying the Democratic Party. The average American does not favor truly progressive policies nor does the average American think highly of the anti-war crowd (led by Kos and Stoller). They might have their fair share of groupies, but so did other totalitarians in the past. These people are totalitarians because they do not accept any dissent.

etc. etc.

Except usually I hear complaints that the progressive bloggers have sold out to "The Democrats" whatever that means.

MoveOn and many of the leading left-wing blogs have become nothing but appendages of the Democratic party

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:18 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 24, 2007

War For Profit

Wanna get angry? I mean really, really angry? I just finished reading The Great Iraq Swindle: : Rolling Stone and I am really, REALLY angry now.

Iraq was the big test of the Republican vision of a privatized, outsourced government. But what it really was, was billions and billions of taxpayer dollars just handed to Republican-crony contractors - to do nothing or worse.

George W. Bush's war in the Mesopotamian desert was an experiment of sorts, a crude first take at his vision of a fully privatized American government. In Iraq the lines between essential government services and for-profit enterprises have been blurred to the point of absurdity -- to the point where wounded soldiers have to pay retail prices for fresh underwear, where modern-day chattel are imported from the Third World at slave wages to peel the potatoes we once assigned to grunts in KP, where private companies are guaranteed huge profits no matter how badly they fuck things up.

... What the Bush administration has created in Iraq is a sort of paradise of perverted capitalism, where revenues are forcibly extracted from the customer by the state, and obscene profits are handed out not by the market but by an unaccountable government bureauc­racy. This is the triumphant culmination of two centuries of flawed white-people thinking, a preposterous mix of authoritarian socialism and laissez-faire profit­eering, with all the worst aspects of both ideologies rolled up into one pointless, supremely idiotic military adventure -- American men and women dying by the thousands, so that Karl Marx and Adam Smith can blow each other in a Middle Eastern glory hole.

Read this story. It talks about the environment in which everyone understood that the gates to the US Treasury were open, and the party was on, and the best part was the government expected you to steal, wanted you to steal, encouraged you to steal - because that was what the war was for.

The Bush administration's lack of interest in recovering stolen funds is one of the great scandals of the war. The White House has failed to litigate a single case against a contractor under the False Claims Act and has not sued anybody for breach of contract. It even declined to join in a lawsuit filed by whistle-blowers who are accusing KBR of improper invoicing in Fallujah.

And then anyone who tries to do anything about it is fired and blacklisted - or worse. Worse, as in forced out of the protected, guarded areas and on your own among the insurgents.


What's more, when anyone in the government tried to question what contractors were up to with taxpayer money, they were immediately blackballed and treated like an enemy.

[. . .] And how did her superiors in the Pentagon respond to the wrongdoing highlighted by their own chief procurement officer? First they gave KBR a waiver for the overbilling, blaming the problem on an Iraqi subcontractor. Then they dealt with Greenhouse by demoting her and cutting her salary, citing a negative performance review. The retaliation sent a clear message to any would-be whistle-blowers. "It puts a chill on you," Greenhouse says. "People are scared stiff."

They were scared stiff in Iraq, too, and for good reason. When civilian employees complained about looting or other improprieties, contractors sometimes threatened to throw them outside the gates of their bases -- a life-threatening situation for any American.

Go read it.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:41 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 23, 2007

Iraq Rumor

Informed Comment: Military Coup Planned for Iraq?

And interesting analysis,

There is one thing about Iraq that nearly everyone can agree on it's that the Iraqi government under Nouri al-Maliki is dis-functional. Now Democracy was never what the Bush administration had in mind for Iraq. They were forced into elections by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. What they had in mind was a friendly tyrant, specifically Ahmad Chalabi. You remember him - the guy that turned out to be an Iranian spy. Now the neocons and the Bush administration would love to be rid of al-Maliki. There are two reports today that indicate that things may be about to change.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:13 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Another Smear/Lie On Bill Clinton Is Circulating

In 1998 President Clinton launched a major attack on al Queda and tried to kill Osama bin Laden:

The United States launched cruise missile strikes in Afghanistan and Sudan yesterday against centres allegedly linked with the terrorist bombings of two American embassies.
At the time the right mocked him for it, claiming he was"wagging the dog" and "bombing an asprin factory" - a chemical plant that belonged to Osama bin Laden.

And just how many cruise missiles were launched at bin Laden in Afghanistan?

About 75 cruise missiles landed in Afghanistan at Bin Laden's camps around Khost and Jalalabad. The Khost camp, Zawhar Kili, was the scene of a meeting of "senior leaders of Islamic militant and terrorist groups linked to bin Laden," and was regarded by Pakistani intelligence as a "summit" convened by bin Laden.
75 cruise missiles launched directly at al Queda camps in Afghanistan. 75 cruise missiles!

Today Newsweek has a craftily-worded story that the right is using to smear former President Bill Clinton, saying he lied about trying to get bin Laden. The Newsweek story, The Report the CIA Didn't Want You to See, contains the following passages,

... The report also seemed to raise new questions about former President Clinton’s angry claim to Fox News anchor Chris Wallace last year that he had authorized the CIA to “kill” Osama bin Laden—a directive that the report suggested was more ambiguous and limited than Clinton asserted.

[. . .] Clinton appeared to have been referring to a December 1999 Memorandum of Notification (MON) he signed that authorized the CIA to use lethal force to capture, not kill, bin Laden. But the inspector general’s report made it clear that the agency never viewed the order as a license to “kill” bin Laden—one reason it never mounted more effective operations against him. “The restrictions in the authorities given the CIA with respect to bin Laden, while arguably, although ambiguously, relaxed for a period of time in late 1998 and early 1999, limited the range of permissible operations,” the report stated.

So let's look at what the right is spreading today.

Don Surber: Clinton lied, people died,

Michael Isikoff, the reporter who broke the Monica Lewinsky story only to have his editors at Newsweek spike the story, has caught Bill Clinton in another lie: He never authorized the killing of Osama bin Laden.
Surber clearly doesn't understand what a cruise missile is - or what 75 of them can do.

Captain's Quarters, Did Clinton Lie About Targeting Bin Laden?,

It appears that Bill Clinton may have exaggerated his record when it came to strategizing against Osama bin Laden. Newsweek's Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball take a look at the Inspector General's report of the pre-9/11 intelligence failures at the CIA and find an interesting nugget. Despite Clinton's angry assertion to Chris Wallace in last year's controversial Fox interview, he never gave the CIA an assassination order regarding bin Laden.
Morrissey apparently also doesn't understand what a cruise missile is capable of.

Macsmind, To Slick Willie it depends on what you mean by “Kill”,

Capt Ed notes that Newsweek (ugh) has apparently caught Slick in another (I’ve lost count) lie.

[. . .] the fact remains that Clinton didn’t do squat because they didn’t see Bin Laden as important as keeping his ass from being removed from office - it’s that simple.

Liberty Pundit, Did Clinton Lie? Is The Pope Catholic?,
How do you know if Bill Clinton is lying? His lips are moving...

[. . .] So Bill Clinton, adamantly saying that he “tried to kill him” was a complete lie. And I’m not surprised one bit that it was.

... He did nothing.

We were attacked at least three times on his watch, and he did nothing (first WTC attack, the African embassies, and the USS Cole…I might be leaving one out).

More examples:

Hang Right Politics, CIA Report Unmasks Another Clinton Lie

Billy Boy Caught In A Lie, Again…


Wake Up America
,

There is plenty of blame to go around for 9/11 and Clinton is going to have to start accepting his fair share of it.

Clinton Caught In Yet Another Lie

The Strate-Sphere
,

The conservative bloggers have had Clinton on tape himself commenting on how he talked himself into impotence on Bin Laden. Clinton was not a lame duck in his second term - he was a hamstrung duck. He could not dare to make any bold moves because of his personal/professional issues. So while he was being serviced by an intern in the Oval Office he let Bin Laden run free to finish his work on 9-11. They ultimate screwing of the American people - and he did not even offer us a drink.

Q and O, Clinton caught in another fabrication,
That he lied about his order concerning bin Laden should come as no surprise.

Gateway Pundit, Newsweek Reporters Catch Slick Willy in Another Lie?

Ace of Spades,

Didn't we already know Clinton had refused to actually give a kill order on bin Ladin? We know this, it's proven by documentation, but the media won't report it. I'd say it's possible the media will be shamed into finally reporting it by this new report, but that's simply absurd.

And it goes on and on. That's a whole lot of so-called "conservatives" who don't even know what a cruise missile is.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:16 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 22, 2007

Health Care -- Public Or Private Best?

I would like to comment of this letter to the editor that appeared in the San Jose Mercury News this morning, Let market rule in health care:

...Under a single-payer system, the government has sole control over health care coverage, so it controls how and when money can be allocated to health care expenses. With this system, government bureaucrats will be charged with saving money for the government - not patients' lives. The current health care system is in need of reform, but a single-payer system is not the cure for universal access to proper coverage. We need to seek alternative solutions, such as free-market competition, and not assume government-run care is in our best interest.
This is an example of the thinking that sets in after years of anti-government propaganda.

So how does this letter read if you think of government as citizens banding together to take care of each other and get things done?

...Under a single-payer system, the people have control over their health care coverage, so they control how and when money can be allocated to health care expenses to best benefit the public. Compare this to the current system, in which corporate accountant bureaucrats are charged with saving money for the company - not patients' lives. ... We need to corporate-run health care, and should not assume publicly-run care is in the public's best interest.
Huh. Interesting.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:21 PM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Behind The Front: The Pro-War "Freedom's Watch"

By Dave Johnson and James Boyce

In the early 1970s, the Nixon Administration took a page out of the tobacco industry's playbook and actively organized front groups to counter the anti-war efforts of Vietnam veterans like John Kerry and Bobby Muller. Men like John O'Neill - later to re-appear as one of the Swift Boat Veterans - were hired to create what Watergate felon Charles Colson called "counter-foils."

Today with the launch of "Freedoms Watch" our politics are further poisoned by the appearance of another mutant variation of this front-group tactic. Freedoms Watch is a shadowy 501c4 organization created to try to keep Republicans from abandoning the White House on Iraq. Ironically, on the very day the President invoked the legacy of Vietnam, his administration has created this Nixonian front-group counter-foil.

First of all, what is a Front Group? Front Groups have been used by the tobacco industry and the oil and energy companies to create the illusion of independence. "Freedoms Watch" can't just come out and call themselves "former White House aides and Republican fundraisers" so they create a supposedly independent group and fund it heavily. Everyone pretends it is an independent organization that sprang up from grassroots supporters of the war.

So who is behind this front group? While there is some public disclosure of who is involved, there is none on their own web site.

On www.freedomwatch.org, there is no listing of people involved, no names and no contact address. Not ONE SINGLE PERSON is listed as being affiliated with the group. According to the press, "President Bush's first White House press secretary, Ari Fleischer, is the group's spokesman."

What is interesting to note about this site is how similar it is to one of the largest front groups created last cycle, Economic Freedom Fund. This group which was funded by five million dollars from Karl Rove confidante, Bob Perry, attacked Democrats throughout the cycle.

Like Freedoms Watch, their site has no name of an actual person associated with them.

Of course, this is not surprising. We also tracked back where their website is located (they made a little mistake which we caught.)

The company, Democracy Data and Communications is a leader in the "astroturf" industry. Their clients include primarily Republican-associated big businesses associations. They actually built a site called www.voteforgeorgebush.com last cycle.

Give them a cause, and a percentage of the $15 million, they'll build you a site and ads.

When "Freedoms Watch" releases their records, we will have a clearer vision into who is giving them money - $15,000,000 is a lot of money to raise - and how they are spending their money.

For now, we know they have a lot of money, and they intend to spend it.

And, there is one more funny thing that our good friend Taylor Marsh pointed out. (She also has the first tv spots in her post.) If you call the 1-800 Number that "Freedom's Watch" offers you for contacting your representative, they only actually connect you, if you agree with their policies.

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Today's Housing Bubble Post - Another Another Another One

Bloomberg.com: U.S.,Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., the biggest underwriter of U.S. bonds backed by mortgages, became the first firm on Wall Street to close its subprime-lending unit and said 1,200 employees will lose their jobs.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:55 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Today's Housing Bubble Post - Foreclosures Rise 58%

U.S. foreclosures rise 58 percent in first half of 2007,

The number of U.S. homes facing foreclosure surged 58 percent in the first six months of the year, the latest sign of mounting problems in the mortgage industry, a data firm said Monday.

... "We could easily surpass 2 million foreclosure filings by the end of the year, which would represent a year-over-year increase of over 65 percent," said RealtyTrac CEO James J. Saccacio.

California, Florida, Texas and Ohio were among the states with the highest number of homes receiving foreclosure-related notices, the firm said.


Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:53 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Powerful Iraq Veterans Against the War Video

This is a powerful short video from the Iraq Veterans Against the War "Coffee with the troops" event at YearlyKos.

There is a longer post about the event and the organization at PR Watch: Iraq: The "Gift" That Keeps On Bleeding,

IVAW was founded in 2004 and today it is a rapidly growing, grassroots, independent anti-war group with members active in 43 states and deployed on bases in Iraq. These rank and file soldiers are not partisans; they are Americans who have seen first hand the greatest political betrayal of our lifetime, the US attack on Iraq and the long occupation.

Iraq Veterans Against the War are not the concoction of a liberal think tank or PR firm; they have very little funding; they are not avoiding criticism of Democrats; and they are not playing political games trying to bank-shot Democratic candidates into the White House and Congress in 2008. They are in open non-violent revolt against US foreign policy, criticizing politicians of all stripes who would exploit the war for political gain.

Many IVAW soldiers are on active duty opposing the war openly and at personal risk; such is their conviction. On Saturday August 18, 90 IVAW soldiers demonstrated in St. Louis against a recruiting exhibit at a business expo, conducting the largest single action yet organized by anti-war veterans of Iraq. IVAW is stepping up its “truth in recruitment” efforts this September.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:24 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

California Needs Higher Standards for the Use of “Snitch” Testimony

This is a guest post by John F. Terzano of The Justice Project

Harold Hall was only 18 years old when he was sent to prison. He spent nearly two decades of his life in a California prison for crimes he did not commit.

Hall was wrongfully convicted of double murder in 1985 based in part on evidence provided by a jailhouse informant who fabricated a confession Hall allegedly made to him.

Jailhouse informant testimony is widely regarded as the least reliable form of testimony in the criminal justice system, but unfortunately in Mr. Hall’s case and numerous others, uncorroborated testimony from unscrupulous jailhouse informants, or “snitches,” is still used by prosecutors to obtain convictions.

According to a San Francisco Magazine study, unreliable testimony of informants was a factor in approximately 20% of all wrongful convictions in California. This problem extends nationwide as shown in a study by The Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law, which identifies snitch testimony as the leading cause of wrongful convictions in U.S. capital cases.

Higher standards for admitting snitch testimony at trial must be put in place to protect innocent people like Mr. Hall from the consequences of unreliable, incentive-driven testimony. Best practices to safeguard against perjured testimony include:

  • Mandatory, automatic pretrial disclosures of information related to jailhouse informant testimony
  • Corroboration of the facts to which an informant testifies, special jury instructions
  • Higher standards for the admissibility of snitch testimony at trial.
(Please visit The Justice Project’s website for more details on snitch testimony reforms. http://www.thejusticeproject.org/solution/accomplice-testimony.html. Also the ACLU of Northern California has an effort underway to help end wrongful convictions.)

A vital piece of legislation for raising the standards of use for jailhouse informant testimony, is California Senate Bill 609, sponsored by Senator Majority Leader Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), which requires corroboration for jailhouse informants.

The bill has passed the State Senate and Assembly Public Safety Committee, and will soon be heading to the Assembly Floor for a final vote. The Los Angeles District Attorney’s office has endorsed the bill and they are already applying informant corroboration as a rule. But if the bill passes the Assembly, Governor Schwarzenegger will have an opportunity to implement this important reform statewide.

In addition to corroborating jailhouse informant testimony, improving eyewitness identification and videotaping custodial interrogations have been shown to prevent wrongful convictions. Senate Bill 756, sponsored by Senator Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles, Culver City), addresses the development of new guidelines for eyewitness identification procedures, and Senate Bill 511, sponsored by Senator Elaine K. Alquist (D-Santa Clara), would require full electronic recording of interrogations in both juvenile and adult cases.

Wrongful convictions such as Mr. Hall’s plague our criminal justice system and can no longer be ignored. We hope that the legislature will support these three critical bills and that the Governor will ultimately sign them into law. California law enforcement, prosecutors, and the community will all benefit from more reliable outcomes in criminal cases.

John F. Terzano is the President of The Justice Project, a nonpartisan organization that works to address unfairness and inaccuracy in the criminal justice system, with a focus on the capital punishment system.

Click here to help The Justice Project.

Posted by Guest at 10:37 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Today's Housing Bubble Post - Another Another One

Accredited Home Fires 1,600, Shuts Most Operations,

Accredited Home Lenders Holding Co., reeling from the collapse of its planned sale to Lone Star Funds, will shut more than half of its mortgage operations and fire about 1,600 people.

The subprime lender expects to close its 60 retail branches and five support centers within two weeks and halted for now U.S. wholesale mortgage applications from brokers, San Diego-based Accredited said in a statement today. The cuts will shrink Accredited's workforce to 1,000 from 2,600.

And another Capital One to shutter mortgage-banking unit, cut 1,900 jobs,
The battered residential mortgage market and slumping housing sector are claiming victims left and right these days, and the Washington area is feeling some of that pain.

The latest news comes from McLean-based Capital One Financial Corp., which is ceasing operations at its wholesale mortgage-banking unit, GreenPoint Mortgage Funding Inc., resulting in the elimination of 1,900 positions.

Capital One will close GreenPoint's Novato, Calif., headquarters along with 31 locations across 19 states.

Update -- Sorry - I had Capital One yesterday. Substitute this: HSBC to close Indiana mortgage office,
The U.S. mortgage unit of HSBC Holdings PLC said on Wednesday it will close an office in Indiana, a move that will affect about 600 workers, amid a severe downturn in U.S. credit and housing markets.
And this: Ariz.-based finance firm to lay off 541, shut mortgage unit,
The widening mortgage slump hit the Valley again Tuesday as one of Arizona's largest financial firms announced the layoffs of 541 people.

Scottsdale-based 1st National Bank Holding Co. said it will discontinue its national wholesale-mortgage unit and close mortgage centers in Virginia, North Carolina and Nevada, keeping open just one operations facility, in Tempe.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:31 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 21, 2007

Today's Housing Bubble Post - Companies Folding, Workers Laid Off

We're seeing the tip of the tip of the iceberg of the debt bomb. The "subprimes" were the first to surface, and we're seeing the ripples of that spreading.

Mortgage Mess Toll Rises,

First National Bank of Arizona has become the latest casualty in the mortgage collapse that is gripping U.S. lenders.

The privately held bank has shuttered its wholesale mortgage lending division, according to mortgage brokers who have spoken with the lender.

And more, More Mortgage Firms Fire Workers,
Trouble in the mortgage market spread Monday as Capital One cof said it will shut its GreenPoint Mortgage unit and fire 1,900 employees because it expects tighter credit to squeeze both lenders and home buyers out of the market.

SunTrust Banks sti also said Monday it expects to lay off about 7% of its workforce to cut costs...

The news follows an announcement Friday that First Magnus Financial was closing down and had let go its nearly 6,000 employees. And Countrywide Financial, cfc the nation's largest mortgage lender, told employees it would cut an unspecified number of jobs in its unit that specializes in loans for those with good credit but often undocumented income or assets, The Wall Street Journal reported.

More and more bad news as the ripples spread, Thornburg Loses $930M Selling Mostly AAA Mortgage Securities,
Thornburg Mortgage Inc. said on Monday that it lost roughly $930 million selling billions of dollars worth of AAA rated mortgage securities, while reducing borrowing and unwinding interest-rate hedges.
Later this year and throughout next year many, many adjustable mortgages reset to current rates from their initial "qualifying" rates, and many mortgage-holders will find themselves with whopping payment increases. And even THAT is only the first wave of the debt bomb.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:18 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Bush Says Vote Democratic

Really. Go see the 4-second video for yourself, at Oliver Willis' site: President Bush Explains Why Americans Should Vote Democratic In 2008 [Oliver Willis: Like Kryptonite To Stupid]

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:48 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Bush Blocking Efforts To Crack Down On Lead In Paint

Another example of what Republican crony government means to your life.

Efforts to crack down on lead paint thwarted by China, Bush Administration,

The Bush administration and China have both undermined efforts to tighten rules designed to ensure that lead paint isn't used in toys, bibs, jewelry and other children’s products.

Both have fought efforts to better police imported toys from China.

... Lead paint is toxic when ingested by children and can cause brain damage or death. It’s been mostly banned in the United States since the late 1970s, but is permitted in the coating of toys, providing it amounts to less than six parts per million.

The Bush administration has hindered regulation on two fronts, consumer advocates say. It stalled efforts to press for greater inspections of imported children’s products, and it altered the focus of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), moving it from aggressive protection of consumers to a more manufacturer-friendly approach.

“The overall philosophy is regulations are bad and they are too large a cost for industry, and the market will take care of it,” said Rick Melberth, director of regulatory policy at OMBWatch, a government watchdog group formed in 1983. “That’s been the philosophy of the Bush administration.”

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:46 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Bush Orders States To Reduce Health Care Coverage For Children

The public wants health care. Democrats are trying to bring health care coverage to more people. Republicans understand this will cause more people to appreciate the value of government, so they are trying to block efforts to bring health care coverage to more children. Also, government health care is much more efficient than corporate insurance programs. Which means cronies don't make big profits.

This is what Republicans in government means to your lives.

White House moves to limit health coverage for children,

The Bush administration, continuing its fight to stop states from expanding the popular Children's Health Insurance Program, has adopted new standards that would make it much more difficult for California, New York and other states to extend coverage to children in middle-income families.

... After learning of the new policy, some state officials said Monday that it could cripple their efforts to cover more children and would impose standards that could not be met.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:44 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 20, 2007

California Needs Interrogation Reform to Prevent False Confessions

This is a guest post by John F. Terzano of The Justice Project

David Allen Jones spent 12 agonizing years in a California prison for a crime he did not commit. Then DNA exonerated him.

Mr. Jones was convicted of three murders he falsely confessed to after being interrogated by a team of detectives and taken to each of the crime scenes. During the intense interrogation, Jones was prodded by detectives and corrected when he gave statements that contradicted the evidence.

Jones was a mentally retarded, part-time janitor with an IQ in the low 60’s. There was no physical evidence or witnesses linking Jones to any of the killings and he was convicted almost entirely as a result of his false confession.

Unfortunately, Mr. Jones story is not unique. False confessions have played a role in wrongful convictions in California, and in approximately 20% of wrongful convictions nationwide. (Please visit The Justice Project’s website for information on reforms that will help prevent false confessions): http://www.thejusticeproject.org/solution/interrogations.html. Also the ACLU of Northern California has an effort underway to help end wrongful convictions.)

Confessions are often viewed as the most powerful evidence at trial, and can even overcome other types of evidence that points to the defendant’s innocence. For this reason, it is essential that reforms be put in place to ensure that confessions are reliable.

Decades of psychological research have demonstrated how some traditional and aggressive interrogation techniques can lead to false confessions. These include the use of false information, lengthy interrogation sessions. When paired with certain personality characteristics, these techniques can cause a person to falsely confess.

Reforms are needed to help judges and juries accurately assess the circumstances surrounding a confession. To this end, California must mandate the full electronic recording of custodial interrogations – from the Miranda warning until the end of the interview. These reforms will also help protect police officers from false claims of coercion or abuse by providing an objective record of the facts.

It is especially important to record interrogations involving juvenile suspects and those whom authorities have reason to believe are mentally retarded or mentally ill. As demonstrated in Mr. Jones’ case, these populations are particularly vulnerable to interrogation tactics and significantly more likely to falsely confess.

The California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice has taken a major step in the prevention of wrongful convictions by sponsoring Senate Bill 511, authored by Senator Elaine K. Alquist (D-Santa Clara). This bill addresses the problem of false confessions by requiring full electronic recording of interrogations in both juvenile and adult cases.

The bill has already passed the State Senate and Assembly Public Safety Committee, and it will soon be heading to the Assembly Floor for a final vote. Last year, in a major setback in the prevention of wrongful convictions in the state, Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed an earlier version of this bill. If the new interrogation reform bill passes the Assembly, the Governor will have an opportunity to sign into law this important reform that protects suspects and protects police officers.

Along with electronic recording of interrogations, improving eyewitness identification and raising standards for the use of jailhouse informant testimony has been shown to prevent wrongful convictions. Senate Bill 756, sponsored by Senator Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles, Culver City), addresses the development of new guidelines for eyewitness identification procedures and Senate Bill 609, sponsored by Senator Majority Leader Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), would require corroboration for jailhouse informants.

Cases of injustice in California, such as David Allen Jones, illustrate the need for improvements within the criminal justice system. But the mistakes leading to wrongful convictions can be prevented—we hope that Legislators will support these three essential bills, and that the Governor will ultimately sign them into law.

John F. Terzano is the President of The Justice Project, a nonpartisan organization that works to address unfairness and inaccuracy in the criminal justice system, with a focus on the capital punishment system.

Click here to help The Justice Project.

Posted by Guest at 9:28 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Today's Housing Bubble Post - The Wall Street Debt Mess

I strongly recommend reading The Rise and Collapse of Wall Street's House of Debt | The Agonist,

To understand the accelerating financial crisis that is afflicting various global markets you have to realize there are two credit creation processes at work in the world today. The first is the traditional one run by the central banks through the commercial banking system. This process has increasingly been shunt aside in the past ten years by a new credit creation mechanism run by the Wall Street investment banks. It is this new lending machine which is now imploding, and which threatens to impose severe economic pain.

The unwinding of the housing bubble takes us way beyond mortgages and into the financial markets of Wall Street. That's why I titled this Today's Housing Bubble Post. (By the way, it's a generic title. We can have several Today's Housing Bubble Posts on a given day.)

Reading this, iIt strikes me that it is describing a situation in which investors are borrowing to purchase these instruments, and to some extent the instruments are a repackaging of the loans that went to the investors tp purchase them.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:12 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

You Can Lose Money From A Money-Market Fund

Money-market funds pay higher interest rates than bank savings accounts pay. Why is that? Have you ever heard that risk equals return? This means that the higher the risk, the higher the return. Money markets pay a higher return than banks. Yes, money-market funds are a riskier investment than a bank or a treasury bill.

If you have never thought about that, then this might come as a shock to you: You can lose principal in a money-market fund.

What does this mean? If you put $1000 into a money-market fund, and that fund is holding onto mortgage-backed securities, and those securities turn out to be worth less or worthless, you will not be able to get your $1000 back out of that fund. You might get less back, or you might get nothing.

This is a good time to have your money in places that are not very risky.

Update And speaking of risk, here is an article about money-market funds investing in the riskiest of all: subprime loans: Subprime Infects $300 Billion of Money Market Funds, Hikes Risk

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:55 AM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

It's OK If You Are Republican

Remember the Iran/Contra affair? Gross violations of the Constitution and the law, but everyone involved got off easy - many ended up with lucrative think tank positions and several of the law-violators now have great jobs in the Bush administration...

Remember what happened to Clinton? Groundless accusation after accusation and investigation after investigation. All finding nothing wrong. People bankrupted by legal bills. No evidence of any wrongdoing ever presented was seen as proof of a massive coverup. People sent to jail because they couldn't come up with anything bad to say about the Clintons...

And then there is the Bush administration... WAY beyond gross violations of law and Constitution, but they just refuse to testify... No accountability. Nothing happens to anyone and they all get really rich.

Why the big difference? Simple answer: It's OK If You Are Republican

(Through Avedon at Eschaton.)

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:34 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 19, 2007

Anti-Gay Republicans Crash Worship Services

The Columbus Dispatch : Anti-gay activists crash worship services,

A conservative Christian values group has been interrupting services at two central Ohio churches to protest their support for homosexuality.

Minutemen United vowed to attend services every Sunday.

The group started its crusade when First Baptist Church in Granville hosted "Love Makes a Family," a traveling exhibit by the Family Diversity Project showing photos of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families.

[. . .] "They rebuked me as a pastor for preaching that God's love is for everyone," Keeny said.

The Bilerico Project writes,
...this comes down to respect for people's religions, and the Religious Right always declares themselves on the side of religious freedom promulgating paranoid fantasies of police rounding up pastors after hate crimes legislations gets passed or school teachers locking away students with Bibles or whatever. But then when it comes to anyone who disagrees with them, suddenly the word "freedom" gets exposed for the window dressing that it is.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:07 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 18, 2007

Why Don't Democrats Have "Courage?"

Why does it seem that so many Democrats are "spineless" and rarely have the courage to "do the right thing?" Why does it seem they always "cave" to the right?

When I hear people talking about "the Democrats" and "the Republicans" I think what they really are seeing is the political effect of a supporting movement-oriented infrastructure that the right has and we do not. The right has a well-funded infrastructure and ecosystem that sets up a supportive public environment, rewarding their politicians for staying in line with the right's agenda, and punishing the ones who do not. Progressives just don't have that.

Face it, it is very easy for Republicans to be wingnuts. It doesn't take brains or courage or commitment - they just ride a wave that their movement apparatus sets up. Their candidates ride that wave into office and their policies ride that wave into law.

But it is incredibly hard and courageous for Democrats to "do the right thing." And it can cost them dearly. Just look at the difference between what happens to Republican and Democratic officeholders when they take strong positions that line up with the core values of their "base."

Republicans who toe the right wing corporate line know they have the whole "conservative movement" infrastructure and political system watching their backs, sticking up for them and going after their opponents. Even if they get tossed out of office they can expect serious rewards. They get appointed to a nice agency position, or a think tank job, or a lobbying job - something will be there for them and they know it. The right takes care of their own. (And we all know this system extends through their whole infrastructure, right down to speaking fees and book advances for lowly RW bloggers.)

But it is not easy for Democrats to do the right thing. Not at all. It takes incredible courage and commitment, because they are on their own when going against the system and the right's apparatus. For politicians who might support progressive values and policies there just is not much of a system beyond the blogosphere to encourage and support them to do the right thing. So they can expect no support - only punishment and pain. Dem politicians largely still do not support and stick up for each other and there is very little organized support from . There isn't a reward/job/payment system at all - candidates and their staff in fact have to worry that they are harming their future political and business careers by sticking up for progressive values.

To add to this our few think tanks are very, very, very poorly funded so they won't be hiring elected officials or staff if they lose an election, and progressives across the board pretty much do not receive anything but minimal book advances or speaking fees. (The one or two examples you can think of like former President Clinton actually just show how it could be; it is the norm on the right.)

Why should we expect our politicians to do what's right when all that happens when they do is they get beat up (first by other Dems), lied about, smeared, humiliated, destroyed, go broke, etc...

WE here in the blogosphere are incredibly dedicated and we "do the right thing." But look at us - many of us work for free, many more don't have health insurance. Many of us have given up good jobs to try to help the country through this emergency. I could go on and on about how hard it is. And we certainly can't expect to be rewarded with good jobs for our efforts. My point is that we should not think that because we put up with this lack of support, therefore everyone who shares our values will. I mean, on our side it really is often a choice between helping the movement and having a car or a family or health insurance or even health.

WHY don't we have a movement infrastructure? First, we don't have an understanding of the need. People seem to think it is someone else's job to take care of things. It's still "the Democrats aren't..." instead of WE aren't making the Democrats do it. So we don't have widespread understanding that it takes a political movement to change a party.

And then there is the funding problem. We don't have the huge funding the right has because we don't have a movement-orientation among most of our individual and corporate/institutional/foundation donors, and most important we do not have the willingness of individual progressives to dig deep enough and donate to progressive infrastructure organizations. We should be getting millions from the grassroots and we are only getting hundreds.

Then there is a second side of politicians doing the right thing. They are politicians, and the job of a politician is to represent the public, not shape the public. They respond to demand. Good politicians have very good noses for demand. So let's look at the demand-creation capabilities of progressives vs those of the right. The right has developed communication channels like Rush, Fox, the Washington Times and continues massive, well-funded efforts to reach the public through every possible information channel to every possible group. They have infiltrated churches, sports (NASCAR), interest groups (NRA), organizations like the American Legion, and I could just go on and on.

We have the blogosphere and ... well, we do have the blogosphere.

In a YearlyKos blogger meeting with Senator Dodd he said something that has shaped my thoughts on impeachment. It distilled down to the public not understanding how impeaching Bush will make a difference in their lives - especially when the right will be pounding the message that the Dems are doing nothing that helps them in their lives.

Let's not get caught up in whether the Dems are working for regular people or are not - we know they are - or whether impeaching does or does not - we know it does. The significance is what the PUBLIC thinks.

And here is a huge difference between the right and us -- they are reaching the public-at-large with their message and we are not.

So, in summary:

1) The right has an infrastructure that rewards and punishes their politicians and progressives do not.
2) The right's infrastructure has developed communication channels that reach out to the general public with demand-creation efforts and progressives have not.
3) The right has a movement-oriented funding system that stretches from top to bottom and progressives do not.


Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:44 PM | Comments (14) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Dave on TV

During YearlyKos I did a local interview for a Chicago ABC station.

Go read and see the video.

P.S. Actually, it was ME who said YearlyKos is the largest gathering of people who know each other but have never seen each other. I said that to the reporter about last year's YearlyKos.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:16 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 17, 2007

Why so many Friedman Units?

The Friedman unit is a running joke at Atrios and elsewhere. Every few months Tom Friedman proclaims that things in Iraq will have to get better in a few months, or..... something. When the months have passed, he says it again:

Things in Iraq will have to get better in a few months, or..... something
Friedman has been producing overlapping Friedman units for three or four years so far, and there's no end in sight. He's not the only one cranking out the FU's, either: almost everyone is adamant that things will have to get better in a few months, or......something.

This is "jam yesterday, and jam tomorrow, but never jam today". This is like a little kid saying "in a minute, Mom" over and over again. Why are these people making fools of themselves?

My guess is that they keep retreating because they don't want to face the fact that no one in the government cares what they think. They supported the Iraq War under the impression that their opinions were regarded as valuable and that they were part of the team, but by now they've all found out that Bush is going to do whatever he wants for the remainder of his term -- with no regard for legality, public opinion, Congress, the courts, or the Thomas Friedmans of the world. (Bush's snarky comment about the Iraq Study group -- "They can return to their day jobs" -- should have told them this months ago). By now Friedman knows that if he ever calls in his chips and says "No more Friedman units; get out of Iraq" he will find that he is completely irrelevant to the American political process. Pundit Friedman will no longer have any reason to exist.

It gets worse: Congress's feeble responses to the administration's provocations may be motivated by the same fear. Gonzalez's testimony was made up entirely of lies and evasions, and the administration has made no secret of its contempt for the whole idea of oversight, but so far Congress has hardly responded. Shortly after Gonzalez's lying testimony, Bush bullied Congress into rushing the passage of a FICA revision which will put even more power into Gonzalez's hands, and this very effective "fuck you" from Bush nullified any effect that the hearings might have had. Congress is now back to zero and could very well stay there, and Bush is still firmly in the driver's seat.

All of the institutions of the Roman Republic continued into the Roman Empire as empty forms, and Congress and the free press seem to be on the verge of definitively making that transition. (Chomsky, Nader, et. al. have been talking about this for decades, of course.) We have sixteen months of the unitary presidency still to go, and all the evidence is that Bush will continue to use his unprecedented new powers as aggressively as he can. The media and both parties in Congress are heavily infiltrated with Bush loyalists and enablers, and effective resistance from that direction seems unlikely. The 2006 election seemed as though it might be a turning point, but at this point it seems that nothing much happened. Perhaps the 2008 election will be more meaningful, but in times like these a year is a long time. No one has any idea what kind of world we'll be seeing in January 2009.

Posted by John Emerson at 4:41 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 16, 2007

Cancer Panel Blasts Government Food Policies

About time and a big deal! The panel says we don't have the political will to protect the public health. The government lets tobacco and processed food companies off the hook for the harm they cause - because they make big profits - while persuing policies that make healthy foods more expensive.

Story one: U.S. panel calls for political will in dealing with tobacco, unhealthy foods, excerpts:

To aid the fight against cancer, the U.S. government should increase taxes on tobacco products and strictly regulate the sales and marketing of tobacco, says an advisory panel to the president.

Both recommendations, part of a report released Thursday, place the panel at odds with President George W. Bush.

... The panel said efforts to reduce cancer are often compromised by government policies that decrease the availability of healthy foods and limit physical education.

To reverse those trends, schools should reinstate physical education at meaningful levels from kindergarten through a student's last year in secondary school, the panel said, saying that schools should also replace unhealthy foods in cafeterias and vending machines.

... From January 2001 through August 2006, tobacco-affiliated political action committee contributions were accepted by 321 of the 533 politicians serving in Congress at this time last year, according to a report by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a Washington-based advocacy group. There were 93 Democrats and 228 Republicans.

Story two:Cancer panel attacks U.S. food subsidies. Excerpts from the story:

A new presidential report on cancer takes on not only tobacco companies but the food industry while calling on the federal government to "cease being a purveyor of unhealthy foods" and switch to policies that encourage Americans to eat vegetables and exercise.

... "Ineffective policies, in conjunction with limited regulation of sales and marketing in the food and beverage industry, have spawned a culture that struggles to make healthy choices -- a culture in dire need of change," said the report, available on the Internet at http://pcp.cancer.gov.

Margaret Kripke of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson cancer center, a member of the President's Cancer Panel, said in a telephone interview, "What became clear to me is that we simply don't have the political will to protect the public health."

Several reports have shown that a third of all cancers are caused by tobacco use, and another one-third by obesity and inactivity.

... The federal government also should "require the elimination of unhealthy foods from school breakfast and lunch programs" and "must cease being a purveyor of unhealthy foods that lead to disease and increased health care costs," the report said.

This includes regulation of food advertising and changing agricultural support policies, it said.

"We heavily subsidize the growth of foods (e.g., corn, soy) that in their processed forms (e.g., high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated corn and soybean oils, grain-fed cattle) are known contributors to obesity and associated chronic diseases, including cancer," the report reads.

Story three tells us where the problem really lies:Advisory Panel Calls for Tobacco Regulation, Higher Taxes, excerpt:

In addition, the House and Senate have each passed bills that would raise tobacco taxes to finance an expansion of children’s health insurance. The House bill (HR 3162) would raise the federal tax on a pack of cigarettes by 45 cents, to 84 cents, while the Senate’s version (HR 976) would raise the tax by 61 cents, to $1 per pack.

... While the Senate version of the children’s health insurance bill enjoys bipartisan support, the House version was opposed by nearly all Republicans in that chamber.

... Bush has threatened to veto both children’s health insurance bills, saying tobacco taxes are regressive and should not be raised to finance spending increases.

The government subsidizes foods that harm our health because the big corporations that profit from it run the show. The "deregulation" of industry - pushed by industry - has harmed all of us.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:48 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Dan Rather Reports on Voting Machines

''DAN RATHER REPORTS''Presents Conclusive Evidence of Voting Machine Failures

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:55 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Redemption

Redemption has a different meaning to stock traders. Redemption is when people ask for their money out of a mutual or money-market fund. The fund managers have to pay with cash.

So the question is, do they have the cash to pay the people who are asking for their money?

If they do not have enough cash on hand, and the "credit crunch" makes it difficult to borrow to pay off redemption requests, they need to get the cash by selling something. Today they are selling stocks, gold, any asset they can. This causes prices to drop.

Suddenly everyone wants their money. People are taking their money out of mutual funds. Stockbrokers are issuing margin calls. Lenders of all types are worried and are starting to take a close look at the ability of their borrowers to make their payments. And few are willing to make new loans, because the value of the assets that are used as collateral is suddenly not what everyone thought it was.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:42 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Is Your Money Market Fund Safe?

On CNBC right now, a discussion of this question: Is your money market fund safe?

Who knows? No one knows who is holding on to bad loans.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:49 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Stock Market

The market is tanking again today. What we are experiencing is just a taste of the long-expected debt explosion. Just a little taste.

Today investors are being forced to sell what they have to meet margin calls because they had borrowed so much and the losses are adding up. They have to raise cash. And now everyone understands that everything is dropping, so they want to get out while they can.

But here's the thing - yes, "sub-prime" loans are going bad. But it isn't just the sub-primes that are a problem. Regular people with good credit borrowed too much as well. They bought houses that cost too much, based on low initial "qualifying" rates. Others refinanced so they could buy SUVs. And most of those loans will be resetting in the next couple of years, forcing payments to rise as much as 50-100%. Meanwhile the price they can get for their houses is dropping.

So this isn't the debt bomb going off, this is the fuse being lit.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:14 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 15, 2007

BlogPac Grassroots Progressive Infrastructure Project Grants

Chris Bowers announces the first of the BlogPac grants for "grassroots progressive infrastructure projects."

I can not stress enough how important this is! Please go read the post and learn who the first grant-winners are.

But there is a problem -- BlogPac is very low on funds. There were over 100 applicants for these grants and barely funds for these first five to get even small grants. Chris writes,

... today I am asking you to become a stakeholder in the effort to help seed the progressive grassroots. Let's make this contest a regular event held at least every other month, and keep building progressive, grassroots infrastructure. By contributing to BlogPac, you ensure that the infrastructure all activists in the progressive movement need to be more effective is being built. By becoming a regular contributor of $10 a month or more to BlogPac, you guarantee yourself a regular vote on how we will distribute these grants in the future. In every subsequent contest, as netroots stakeholders regular BlogPac donors will have a vote to decide which projects receive half of the grant money in these contests.

Once again, if you want to build a new progressive movement that helps our candidates win and our ideas to become policy, please help this cause!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:09 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

California Needs Eyewitness Identification Reform

This is a guest post by John F. Terzano of The Justice Project

Herman Atkins suffered for 12 years in a California prison – for crimes he did not commit. Then DNA exonerated him. Mr. Atkins was a victim of faulty eyewitness identification.

Mr. Atkins’ wrongful conviction for rape and robbery began when the victim and a witness identified him as the perpetrator after seeing his picture on a wanted poster for an unrelated crime. Then, the photo array used later by police also contained the wanted poster photo, which had already been viewed by the witnesses.

Watch three minutes of Herman’s story on YouTube:

What happened to Mr. Atkins is not as uncommon as it should be. Eyewitness identification is notably unreliable. According to a detailed 2004 analysis of California wrongful convictions by San Francisco Magazine, faulty eyewitness identification was a factor in 60% of the 200 cases of people proven to have been wrongly convicted in the state since 1989.

Indeed, study after study has shown that faulty eyewitness identification is one of the most common causes of wrongful convictions. Faulty eyewitness identification played a pivotal role in 75% of the cases nationwide where DNA later exonerated the person convicted.

We now know through decades of empirical research that practical changes to identification procedures such as

  • cautionary instructions to witnesses,
  • effective use of fillers,
  • full documentation of the lineup procedures and a witness’s statement of certainty,
  • and double-blind administration
can significantly improve the accuracy of eyewitness identifications. (Please visit The Justice Project’s web site: http://www.thejusticeproject.org/solution/eyewitness-id.html for more details of eyewitness identification reforms.)

In California, however, only the Santa Clara Sheriff and Police departments have voluntarily adopted these best practices.

The good news is that Senate Bill 756, sponsored by Senator Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles, Culver City), addresses the development of new guidelines for statewide eyewitness identification procedures.

The bill has already passed the State Senate and Assembly Public Safety Committee, and it will soon be heading to the Assembly Floor for a final vote. An earlier version of an eyewitness reform bill was taken up in the legislature last year, but it was vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger. If this new eyewitness reform bill passes the Assembly, the Governor will soon have an opportunity to sign into law this important reform.

It is also important to note that in addition to improving eyewitness identification, videotaping custodial interrogations and corroborating jailhouse informant testimony have been shown to help prevent wrongful convictions. Senate Bill 511, sponsored by Senator Elaine K. Alquist (D-Santa Clara), would require full electronic recording of interrogations in both juvenile and adult cases and Senate Bill 609, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), would require corroboration for jailhouse informants.

Given the documented cases of miscarriages of justice in California – and the research indicating that many of the errors leading to wrongful convictions can be prevented - we hope that Legislators will support these three essential bills, and that the Governor will ultimately sign them into law. Lawmakers have a duty, not only to the public safety, but also to the wrongly convicted like Herman Atkins, to take the necessary steps to ensure that the state’s criminal justice system is as fair and accurate as possible.

John F. Terzano is the President of The Justice Project, a nonpartisan organization that works to address unfairness and inaccuracy in the criminal justice system, with a focus on the capital punishment system.

Click here to help The Justice Project.

Posted by Guest at 12:11 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 14, 2007

Today's Housing Bubble Post - Another One

More and more...

Trading Is Halted in Shares of Mortgage Lender,

Trading was halted yesterday in shares of the lender Thornburg Mortgage Asset after they plunged 47 percent, the most since their 1993 initial public offering. Earlier, five brokerage firms downgraded the stock and Moody’s Investors Service cut its debt rating amid turmoil in the home loan market.

The company announced later that it would delay payment of its quarterly dividend, 68 cents a share.

Brokerage firms cited concerns that Thornburg, which specializes in high-quality, prime jumbo mortgages, might need to sell assets or reduce its dividend because of a liquidity squeeze.

... The nation’s biggest lenders face a worsening cash shortage because investors who buy their loans are not bidding, and bankers have cut off credit lines. The fallout has toppled at least 70 mortgage companies.

Not just sub-primes...

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:29 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

What If The Surge Is Working?

What if "The Surge" IS making things a bit better for Iraqis? What if by finally, finally bringing a larger force in, allowing the military to apply forces effectively and working with Iraqis instead of against them, things are getting a bit better for the people there? What if this is delaying the civil war that Republican incompetence caused - and is bringing Iraq some breathing room to look for a diplomatic solution?

Let's step back and take a look at this possibility.

Here is a lesson we should all learn from watching how the conservatives operate: don't do what they do. We should always, always look at things the way they are, and not be blinded by ideology and preconceptions.

Bush and the Republicans have created a terrible, terrible mess in the Middle East. But we have to look at where things are today, and figure out how to make the world better starting today.

We want to avoid bringing about another Darfur in Iraq, so we have to look at where things are today, what might work to make things better, and go from there. What if the surge is working?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:10 AM | Comments (3) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Sirota: Dems Beware

WorkingForChange: Democrats Beware: An Economic Populist Is Rising In the GOP's Presidential Primary,

I'm not saying Huckabee isn't funny, but I am saying that he also has an extraordinarily different message than any of the other Republican presidential contenders - a populist economic message that may be shunned by conservative operatives and K Street lobbyists in the GOP-dominated Money Party in Washington, but likely has an appeal among rank-and-file working-class Republican voters.

... Here is Huckabee quoted on the AFL-CIO's webpage from the recent Republican presidential debate:

"The most important thing a president needs to do is to make it clear that we’re not going to continue to see jobs shipped overseas, jobs that are lost by American workers, many in their 50s who for 20 and 30 years have worked to make a company rich, and then watch as a CEO takes a $100 million bonus to jettison those American jobs somewhere else. And the worker not only loses his job, but he loses his pension. That’s criminal. It’s wrong."

Huckabee followed this up by telling The Politico: “I am not interested in being the candidate of Wall Street but of Main Street. Wealthy CEOs get paid 500 times what the average worker does, but they are not necessarily 500 times smarter or harder working and that is wrong.”

This is the message the public wants to hear. Coming from a conservative this could be devastating.

Please read the whole post.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:32 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Today's Housing Bubble Post - Is Your Money Safe?

Do you have money in "money-market funds?" If so, you need to read this.

You have been hearing about a "mortgage meltdown" and a "credit crunch." You might have been wondering how this could affect you. Well, the mortgage and credit markets are part of what is sometimes broadly referred to as the "money market." Your money-market funds buy various types of "instruments" that generally offer higher yields than bank savings accounts. These instruments can include mortgage-backed securities.

Well, one money-market fund just asked for permission to stop redemptions. This means that the people who have money in that money-market fund will not be able to get their money out - at least for a while. From this news report, Sentinel management seeks to halt redemptions: report,

Sentinel, a money market mutual fund firm for commodities, has asked the U.S. Commodities Futures Trading Commission to allow it to halt client redemptions until it can conduct them in an orderly fashion, CNBC television reported on Tuesday.

"We had previously thought the market would return to some semblance of order and that our clients would not join in the panic," Sentinel wrote in a letter to clients CNBC said it had obtained. "Unfortunately this has not been the case."


Until things sort themselves out I suggest that you get at least a portion of your money into a safe, FDIC-backed account. If things melt down further you won't be able to get at it for a while, but eventually the government insurance will cover it. If it is not government insured you might just lose it -- because the insurance companies also have their money in these instruments.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:11 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 13, 2007

Sen. Dodd Speaking at a House Party

And the Q&A session:

From the Chris Dodd for President blog.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:53 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Hillary's New Ad

This is Hillary's new ad. What do you think? I think it is brilliant.


And here is Elizabeth Edwards - not an ad -- watch, it's short:

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:39 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Comments At YearlyKos Session: Connecting Major Donors to the Netroots

Following are my opening remarks from the Thursday, August 2,2007 YearlyKos session titled, Connecting Major Donors to the Netroots:

Welcome to the opening of the 2007 YearlyKos. And welcome to this early morning session titled Connecting Major Donors to the Netroots.

I am Dave Johnson. I blog at Seeing the Forest and a few other places, and I am a Fellow at the Commonweal Institute.

Let me briefly introduce our topic this morning before we let loose and turn it over to our speakers.

We are all in this together. We all want to fix this country.

Progressive donors want to support political change and they have and have done it well. But in the last several years they have been frustrated to find themselves supporting an increasingly ineffective establishment of well-intentioned organizations eating up gobs of money while getting less and less done. And to make matters worse there is the dysfunctional political campaign system – with hundreds of millions of dollars literally going up in the air for commercials…

Meanwhile there is the emerging new progressive movement, the netroots, regular people, grassroots connected and informed by the internet’s power to move information and connect people. The netroots saw the need for change – and went ahead and got it started.

YearlyKos itself is one example – a bunch of volunteers went ahead and did it. The blogs are another example. Regular people across the country from all walks of life who just went ahead and did it. Without pay. With very few resources. And look what they - we accomplished.

It’s the beauty of democracy in action!

But people can only get so much done when they have to choose between helping solve the important problems we face today – and having a car or a family or health insurance -- or even health.

Imagine what could be accomplished if the efforts of these hard-working grassroots activists and their emerging organizations and communications channels were fortified with actual resources to reach out past the hyper-informed readers of insider political blogs and out broadly to the general public, backed by market research, media training, media channels and a thriving progressive ecosystem providing advances for writing books, connections, speaking venues with speaking fees, research assistance, and some of the other things our opponents on the right take for granted.

There is a gap between the emerging, effective approaches offered by netroots activists and the donors’ desire to bring about effective political change – leading to a sustainable progressive majority in America.

We’re here today to see what we can do about it.


I’d like to introduce today’s first speaker, Chris Bowers:

Many of you know Chris Bowers from his work at MyDD where he focused on electoral analysis and political infrastructure. Chris currently blogs at OpenLeft. Like me, Chris is a Fellow at the Commonweal Institute.

Rob Stein is one of my personal heroes,
Rob Stein came out of the world of private equity investment. He was senior strategist to Ron Brown, Chairman of the DNC, from 1989 to1992 and Chief of Staff for the Washington Office of the Clinton-Gore Transition. Between 1993 and 95, Rob acted as Chief of Staff, U.S. Department of Commerce. In recent years Rob went around the country giving a presentation on the right’s infrastructure and funding, leading to the founding of the Democracy Alliance.

Lisa Seitz-Gruwell is the Chief Operating Officer at Skyline Public Works, which blends venture capital with political philanthropy by investing in emerging political entrepreneurs who are re-inventing the progressive movement in the United States. She helps Andy and Deborah Rappaport set Skyline’s strategic direction and serves as their political advisor.

Mike Lux is a co-founder with Chris and Matt Stoller of the website OpenLeft. Mike is the co-founder and CEO of Progressive Strategies, L.L.C., a political consulting that is focused on strategic political consulting for non-profits, labor unions, PACs and progressive donors. He is also President of American Family Voices and a Director of Women's Voices. Women Vote. Before that Mike was Senior Vice President for Political Action at People For the American Way.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:20 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Today's Housing Bubble Post - 'Downward Spiral'

Mortgage problems are causing a tightening of credit, which means fewer people can purchase houses, even as inventories are already at an all-time high. In other words, no one can sell their houses, which causes more foreclosures which means more credit tightening and higher interest rates which means prices drop which means buyers stop buying which means no one can sell their houses which means more foreclosures which means...

U.S. mortgage, housing markets seen caught in 'vicious cycle',

Problems in the nation's mortgage and housing markets are feeding off each other and creating a "vicious cycle," analysts at Stifel Nicolaus & Co. said Monday.

"The rapidly increasing scope and depth of the problems in the mortgage market suggest that the entire sector has plunged into a downward spiral similar to the subprime woes whereby each negative development feeds further deterioration," wrote analysts Chris Brendler and Michael Widner in a research note.

[. . .] Underscoring the shaky conditions in housing, Stifel Nicolaus said its earlier forecast calling for home-price deprecation between 10% and 15% may prove optimistic.

The analysts see a worsening tailspin as housing prices fall harder, leading to more credit deterioration.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:43 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Ohio Ballots Destroyed Against Federal Law and Judge's Order

For the historical record: 2004 ballots not preserved,

Despite a federal judge's order to preserve all ballots from the 2004 presidential election - in which Ohio provided President Bush's margin of victory - boards of elections in 56 of Ohio's 88 counties lost, shredded or dumped nearly 1.6 million ballots and election records.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:47 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Rove Resigning - Updated

Karl "Party over Country" Rove is resigning "to spend more time with his family."

Karl Rove did more to divide America than anyone since Newt Gingrich. (See Language: A Key Mechanism of Control)

Just one example, after 9/11 Rove engineered the creation of the Homeland Security Department, which was entirely a "wedge" device for use in the 2002 elections. The core of the concept was to get rid of government employee unions. The idea was to force the Democrats to either vote against unions or pound them as "unpatriotic." And then, to pound them as unpatriotic anyway.

Updates:

Simon Rosenberg, How Rove will be remembered,

Karl Rove was the "architect" of one of the worst governments in American history, and the one who engineered the end of modern conservatism, one of the most successful ideological movements of recent times.

Brilliant yes. Bold, without a doubt. A compete and utter failure who left his country and his movement weaker than the found it? Yep.

Eventually, perhaps, disgraced.

Shakesville,
How typical of him to slink off out of the bunker and leave the mess for someone else to clean up.
FDL,
All Karl ever wanted was to be left alone to work in secret to destroy America’s political landscape, and not be held accountable.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:37 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 12, 2007

Good Animation Explaining Single-Payer Health Care

What Is Single-Payer? | Animated | Single-Payer: Answers and Facts about Health Care for All

It's good, but I think just saying "Medicare For All" is a much better way to explain to the public what we need. Just say "Medicare For All" and there's nothing else that you need to say.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:54 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 10, 2007

Columnist Begs For Another 9/11 - Drudge Headlines It

Located from a headline at The Drudge Report: To save America, we need another 9/11

Is there any doubt they are planning to hit us again?

If it is to be, then let it be. It will take another attack on the homeland to quell the chattering of chipmunks and to restore America's righteous rage and singular purpose to prevail.


Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:02 AM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 9, 2007

Today's Housing Bubble Post - For Sale Signs Everywhere

I am on vacation, driving around Michigan. There are For Sale signs everywhere. Three per block in many areas. It is very unusual to pass two blocks without seeing a For Sale sign. And the real problem hasn't even started to hit yet. The "resetting" of adjustable mortgages has only just started, and the credit crunch - making it harder to get a mortgage - is only a few weeks old. And, of course, prices have not even barely started to fall to where the average person can afford to buy an average house. They will, because they have to. The next couple of years will be very hard for many people.

Some of the stories in the news: Slowdown Restricts Access to Home Loans,

The dream of owning a home is fading away for many Americans with less than stellar credit.
Mortgage seekers caught in squeeze,
A growing credit crisis is prompting lenders across Massachusetts to cut back suddenly on new loans, making it difficult for even creditworthy borrowers to get mortgages and causing some home sales to fall through at a time when the housing market is already slumping.
Major bank stops approving home equity loans, credit lines
Ripples from the subprime mortgage meltdown are spreading, affecting even borrowers with stellar credit and making popular home equity loans tougher to find.

The latest example: A major national lender stopped approving new home equity loans Monday.

More and more lenders are yanking away loan programs and changing borrowing guidelines as they struggle to please bond market investors, who indirectly provide financing for the nation's mortgages.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:25 AM | Comments (5) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 6, 2007

Proven Innocent After Spending 8 years, 11 Months, and 19 Days

This is a guest post by Kirk Bloodsworth of The Justice Project

My name is Kirk Bloodsworth, and my case was the first capital conviction case in the United States to be overturned through DNA testing. I was exonerated in 1993 after spending almost nine years in prison, including two on death row, for a crime I did not commit.

Eyewitness misidentification played a pivotal role in my conviction and is now a major issue in the case of Georgia death row inmate, Troy Davis . In Davis’ case, seven of the nine eyewitnesses have recanted or contradicted their original testimony. The Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles will review his case on August 9 but he faces execution.

My life changed dramatically when I was arrested for the rape and murder of 9-year-old Dawn Hamilton in August, 1984. I was arrested after an anonymous caller told police that I was seen with the victim the day of the crime and an identification made by a witness from a police sketch that was based on the recollections of five eyewitnesses.

Two little boys described the suspect as six feet five inches tall with a slim build and dirty blond hair – but at the time of my arrest, I was six feet tall, with a thick waist, fiery red hair, and long sideburns. Even so, I was identified in a line-up as the last man seen with the victim.

My family and friends swore that I was with them at the time of the murder, but the jury convicted me in less than three hours and I was sentenced to death for the crime.

I spent 8 years, 11 months, and 19 days behind bars before DNA testing proved my innocence. After years of urging, officials in Maryland finally ran the biological evidence that exonerated me through the state’s database, and it matched the DNA of the person who had committed the horrific crime.

In my case, five separate eyewitnesses who testified at trial were later shown to be mistaken. Although two of the witnesses were children, and the identification procedures proved to be highly suggestive, the eyewitness evidence carried immense weight with the jury and led to my conviction.

Eyewitness misidentification is widely recognized as one of the leading causes of wrongful convictions in the United States. Since 1989, DNA evidence has been used to exonerate over 200 individuals who were wrongly convicted and of those, approximately 75 percent were convicted on evidence that included inaccurate and faulty eyewitness identifications.

Had DNA testing not been available, I would still be in prison today. In Troy Davis’ case, along with the vast majority of criminal cases in this country, DNA or other biological evidence is not available; hence eyewitness testimony holds tremendous importance in establishing guilt or innocence. Unfortunately, eyewitness testimony is highly subjective and susceptible to numerous forms of contamination from poorly conducted police lineups, to the lack of careful documentation of the identification, which increases possible manipulation of witness certainty.

While Troy Davis awaits execution mounting evidence casts a large shadow of doubt his conviction. The flaws of our broken criminal justice system in Georgia now threaten to take the life of a man based solely on highly suggestive, unreliable evidence.

I was a former United States Marine with no criminal record, who was never at the scene of the crime, but I was still convicted and sentenced to death for a crime I did not commit. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody. Until changes are made in Georgia and elsewhere to ensure that eyewitness identification procedures are accurate and reliable, great caution must be taken in using eyewitness testimony and evidence as the sole means in ascertaining guilt.

The Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles should grant Troy Davis clemency to ensure that the horrific mistakes made in his case, my case, and numerous others are not repeated.

Kirk Bloodsworth is the program officer of The Justice Project, a nonpartisan organization that works to address unfairness and inaccuracy in the criminal justice system, with a focus on the capital punishment system.

Click here to help The Justice Project.

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Senator Chris Dodd

I am on vacation, so posting will be light. (We have found our way to Saugatuck/Douglas on Lake Michigan so far... heading toward Ann Arbor.) I'll try to catch up on some YearlyKos posts, too.

But I want to break into vacation to talk about Senator Chris Dodd a bit. A few bloggers had a meeting with Senator Dodd on Saturday. This is a serious candidate for President who should be receiving much more attention. We had a great, honest and open conversation. Unlike some of the conversations I have had with candidates he listens and hears and responds. This is a thinking man, with a great deal of experience and a lot to offer this country. (Note this on his website: "Support the Netroots")

One subject we talked extensively about was impeachment. He said something that will shape my views and helped me understand how a politician at his level has to think about serving the public. I'll characterize it here. He said that when he considers how he should be spending his time a key question that he has to ask is how is the average person understanding this. The average person might not be paying very much attention to the news, might not consider him or herself to be "on the" left or right. That person is trying to get by and deal with life's problems, like paying the mortgage, getting health care, etc. So when THAT person looks at what the Congress and Senate are doing, the question is, "How does this help ME?"

And if the Democrats spend time on impeachment they are open to the Republican lie and spin machine telling the public they are not serving THEM.

So Dodd says that unless the average person understands what HE OR SHE GETS out of Congress spending time on impeachment instead of all the other important things, he doesn't think we should aim for that. (Yes, I know that the other important things can't happen with Bush in office but the public does not)

If we want to do something about the crimes of Bush and the Republicans YOU HAVE TO LET THE PUBLIC KNOW HOW IT WILL HELP THEM DIRECTLY. This is directly in line with my own writings about how we need to start to reach out to the general public with our message, to help them understand the benefits of progressive values and a progressive approach to issues.

I'm not endorsing anyone for a while. But now my top four are now Hillary, Edwards, Onama and Dodd.

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August 5, 2007

YearlyKos

At the YearlyKos Blogger Brunch someone in the audience said something worth quoting:

This is a place where you meet your best friends for the first time.
Another quote, about the politicians,
This year they're treating us like we thought of ourselves last year.

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August 4, 2007

Ran Out of Power

My computer ran out of power so I couldn't blog from Barack Obama's breakout session. I have to say this guy has an amazing, comfortable style. He is at ease with himself and with a crowd. I am more and more impressed by Obama lately.

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YearlyKos - Liveblogging Presidential Leadership Forum

This is in the large ballroom. There are Draft Gore 2008 brochure cards on every chair.

Gina Cooper just came to the podium to announce the Presidential Leadership Forum. Introducing NY Times Magazine'sMatt Bai.

Matt - Not used to so much appreciation from blogs. This forum today reflects Gina's singular vision. This is an historic event - first time netroots together in a room with the candidates from a political party for President. Also the first time blogosphere joining with traditional media, honored to be here today to represent that.

Introduces candidates as they come on the stage. Big cheering. Huge cheer for Barack Obama.

Now introducing moderators. Joan Carter, McJoan of DailyKos, Dr.Jeffrey Feldman of FrameShop. Also will be questions from audience.

Bai: Acknowledge it is Obama's birthday, crowd is singing "Happy Birthday"

Three segments, Domestic Policy, Foreign Policy, Philosophy.

Joan - To Richardson. In previous debate you said your model Supreme COurt would be White - who was anti-abortion. Have you given any more thought to that answers, what would you like the Supreme Court to look like.

Richardson: I screwed up. I believe that the legacy of any Pres, most iprotant is Supreme Court. My court would have diversity, legal scholars, interpret the Constitution, go one step further, I would ask do you believe it is settled law in civil rights, privacy, Roe vs Wade? If they don't, they're out.

I admit that mistake. We have to recover tfrom the things this court is doing, make sure future court reflects values of the people and president.

Joan - to Dodd: Will you tell us what circumstances would be extreme enough circumstances to accept another Bush court nominee.

Dodd: Bush is trampling the Constitution. Would be a mistake to accept any more Supreme Court nominations before the next election. I believed Roberts when he said he would not make big canges. My mistake.

Joan - for Sen. Clinton - Battle scars from previous attempt at health care. What are those scars, what are you going to do differently.

H: I am proud of the effort I led in 93, 94. Disgrace that we have so many uninsured, underinsured. We up here are all in favor of universal health care. We need more than a plan, we need a strategy that health care is an American value worth fighting for, need to put together a coalition of affected groups, willing and able to withstand the incredible blowback that we will get. My highest domestinc priority.

Matt: Sen Obama, budget deficits. Wold it be a top priority for you? Even if you have to trim your proposals.

Obama: We are coming out of the most irresponsible admin. We have to stop digging the hole. #1stop spending billions on Iraq. Not renew Bush tax cuts. Institute Paygo - no new spending/tax cuts without paying for it.

We have to make investments in the American people at the same time as we dig out of this deficit. I am not going to short change children, health care. We have to make siome investments because over long term will generate tax revenue. Medicare and Medcate biggest budget issue - universal health care saves tremendous amount for fed government.

Are we making investments that pay off for our long-term growth...

Bai to Sen Edwards - once you open the floodgates and allow certain deficits how do you stop Congress from spending more and more and more.

Edwards: I think big changes are needed, not small changes. I believe this room is filled with people who are about change. Basic question has to be answered. Who will be about change? Who is candidate for change. I don't think insurance oil other cmpanies are going to voluntarily give away power. I think this is a very fundamental question - if you want change and serious change, who will be best candidate to do that. Someone who has fought these people their entire lives. We have to take their pwer from them with your help.

Big cheers, people standing.

Richards - these are fine speeches, but I have balanced budgets. Iraq money to health care. Const. Amendment to balance budget (crowd booing and hissing), get rid of corporate welfare (crowd cheers). Bai stops him - out of time.

Audience qs - For Dodd - handful of companies own all the news companies, media consolidation threatens democracy.

Dodd - Asked Justice Dept to look into Murdoch buying Dow Jones. Stand up when things get tough - stand up to Bill O'Reilly (crowd cheers) Can't tolerate this kind of behavior. Denying us free access to information. Thank the Lord for DailyKos. Sources of information consolidated and controlled by too few entities. He will do what he can to break this up.

Cointon - need more media competition, make sure architecture of internet stays open (cheers) if we need new laws I hope wel will be able to take a look at those, this admin won't afford laws already on books. Need to do more.

Q from Bai for Kucinich - is there a govt program that you feel has outlived its usefulness.

Kucinich - programs that perpetuate the nuclear power industry. There is a candidate who believes in universal single payer not for profit health care. Am people already paying for universal standard of care but not getting it. Use the money we are spending to give us all heath care by taking profit out of it.

Audience Q for Edwards - current admin has consolidated powers of exec branch. What will you do to restore balance, and faith in our system of government,

Edwards - I will close Guantanamo first day. WIll not engage in or condone torture, no secret prisons, this is not who we are. We need a transparent government., This govt belongs to you. We can start reforming Washington and Dem Party today. I don't, Obama doesn't take money from lobbyists, why don't we all swear to take no more money from Washington lobbyists. End this system.

(Crowd on feet cheering)

Matt Q for Gravel - Your campaign supports fair tax, eliminate IRS and income tax, replace with 23% sales tax. (boos and hisses)

Gravel - you have been cheering all these statements about what they're going to do, but you heard it before and will hear it again. They tell you the problem in a dramatic way so you think they know the answers. They are good people but they exist in a system that doesn't work. Don't worry about fair tax, it won't pass. Elected officials think about how does this affect my election, and the people with money.

The only answer is for you to realize that the answer is with you to acquire lawmaking powers.

Foreign policy - Joan - everyone wants us out of Iraq. Kucinich says we have the power now.

Hillary - voted against last funding. We have to keep the pressure on. 3-point plan, I will get us out. Do it in a careful responsible way. Making current Pentagon come before congress and tell us the plans they are making to move the troops out. We must engage in more intense diplomatic effort.

Kucinich -Chney should be imeached for lying. (Crowd cheers) It is a fact that we gave Bush 97 million seven weeks ago. He can use that to bring the troops home. Dems in Congress have not kept faith with people who voted to end war.

Bai - feasability of immediate withdrawal - to Dodd

Dodd - important that Dems stand up. Policy has been a failure. (Didn't answer question)

Richardson - get out, leave no residual forces. Need an all-Muslim force to keep peace.

Bai - if you take them ot how do you protect against same kind of genocide in Darfur.

Richardson -we need to deauthorize this war.

Gravel - they do have the votes, just keep having cloture votes, all times of day. They don't want to do it. Bring them all home, we are not an imperialist power.

Bai - terrorism, Sen Obama, Do you believe we bear any measure of responsibility for anti-Americanism that led to 9/11.

Obama - no excuse for 9/11. They weren't from Iraq. We absolutely have acted in a way that has inflamed anti-American sentiment. We invaded, unleashed chaos.

End out occupation and focus on the terrorists who killed 3000 Americana. We have not finished the job in Afghanistan. It makes no sense for President to talk tough and wiretap while he doesn't deal with the serious problem.

Bai - did American foreign policy contributed.

Obama - no excuse for 9/11 but we have had a pattern in the past for acting in ways, oil, etc. If we had donated schools, engage our opponents as well as our friends, we will ahve a change in the way America is perceived. If we lead with our values or ideas.

Edwards - George Bush has not made us safer. Used a bumper-sticker phrase to justify every bad thing he has done. We shouldnot accept Bush's way of framing the discussion.

Bai to Clinton - what is right construct, what is your construct more accurate than war on terror -

Hillary - There is a lot of anti-Bush feeling, not as much anti-Bush. We have made some progress in becomming safer, our first responders. But Bush policies have unleashed so much alienation and andger that we are facing more terrorists. It is a global war against terrorists, not terror. We need to use every tool at our disposal, military force last not first resort.

be as analytical about it as possible. Complicated long-term struggle where we protect and promote American values.

Kucinich - country better served if before we got into Iraq more analysis,neocon mindset of peace through strength, unilaterism... I am talking about a new doctrine, strength through peace, diplomacy,international law. Shift your thinking away fromthis neocon doctrine.

Audience - Obama, Americans worried about China. Next superpower. How do we reconcile China as a menace and trade partner.

Obama - China a competitor does not have to be an enemy unless we make it an enemy. Get our own house in order, if they are our banker and we are the borrower... we must put pressure on them human rights, trade - China is manipulating their currency. We believe in fair trade, that goes both ways, not getting it out of China. Most important thing is to engage in the world. Africa - saying Chinese presence is as great as the US absence, building hospitals, railways... We are neglecting opportunities around the world that China is taking advantage of.

Q to Dodd - Aericans travel abroad

Dodd - tragedy of ads in DC after 9/11 looking for people who speak Arabic. I was in peace corps. Nedd that. Others can get to know who we are. Triple peace corps. Missing shared experience as Americans.

Joan asks Edwards about Pakistan - Musharref - what happens if he is overthrown. Are we trading communism for terrorism. If these folks are going to be our partners in the war on terror, are we doing the same thing?

Edwards - Pakistan somewhat unstable. We do need to put pressure on Musharraf - he said to me our children are educated in Maddrassas taught to hate America - it would make all the diffrerence if they could get a public school education. America is spending so much in Iraq, why not lead an effort to make education available to children around the world, that will hep. Soft power matters. Create an undercurrent that drives people toward us instead of away fromus.

Economic leverage over Musharref. Diplomatic, ratchet up, shouldbe done. Be careful, Saudi arms deal, another perfect example of a foreign policy of convenience, they are not helping in Iraq or helping stop terrorism, and could create an arms race in Middle East.

Richardson - Was sent to region to talk to Taliban. Problem is Bush policy to Musharraf is appeasement, we are not going to push you because it will hurt you domestically. We have to push him. He is not a democract, want to stay in power, abuses human rights. American policy should stand for democracy and human rights. You go after those safe havens or we will.

Q from Pontificator - will you hire an official White House blogger?

Hands - All raise hands. Edwards says it will be Elizabeth Edwards. Gravel says it cold be a toolof the president him or her self.

Joan - for Gravel - are all elected officials in Alaska corrupt?

Gravel - no their not and it is a source of great embarrassment for the state. Politicians walk in the mud because of the way the system is structured because you have to raise money. Money is the corrupting agent of politics. Media controlled by 5 corporations telling us the ones who raised the most - the most corrupt - are the ones who should be elected.

Bai - would candidates commit to visit all 50 states?

Obama - the only way change can hapen is if you make it. Must have a 50 percent plus one strategy, eke out a victory even if the Supreme Court overturns it. If we are going to pass health care, etc. we have got to expand the voter base.

Kucinich says not much difference between two parties. Americans ready for new approach in world community.

Hillary - 50-state strategy is exactly right. We will go in to as many places as possible building on the work Howard has done, and try to have a conversation with everyone.

Richardson - Gov Dean's strategy has been increasingly important in Dems winning. Making a diff in Governors. Need verifiable paper ballots. Need same day registration. Stop the abuse of Rep party to suppress minority voters from going to polls. Need nominee who talks about bringing country together.

Edwards- everywhere in Ameiica eople believe system is rigged against them, know who has the power and know it is not them. Need to quit worrying about political strategy and be the party that stands for real change, real reform. Never take a dime from a DC lobbyist. Need grassroots movement for reform.

Hillary asked about not taking lobbyist money - she says that is certainly a position that John as taken. I don't let it influence me. (Crowd boos) I have been on the front lines of the change we need. I wish it were as simple as saying this. It is going to take a grassroots movement. That is why I am here today. Thank the blogosphere, wish you were here in 93 and 94 when we tried to get health care. Look at my record, core principles have not changed.

Dodd - Need public financing (crowd is on feet)

Hilalry - we're all for public financing

Obama - I am happy that Dodd is on board for pub financing

Dodd - I;ve been for it for 15 years

Obama - Insurance and drug companies have spent a billion dollars, they are not spending htat just because it is in the public interest. They are spending that because they have an agenda. (-I- stood up to cheer, stopped typing, missed some of what he said next)

We can take concrete steps right now, long term goal pub financing but there are things we can do right now.

Edwards - how many people in this room have a lobbyist working for you. You are NOT represented by lobbyist money.

Kucinish - Headge funds & Edwards

Edwards - I will have never take a dime from a lobbyist need to raise money from nurses ... (missed)

Audience Q - after 9/11 changed structure of our government, Dept of Homeland Security. DOn't believe we are safer. Steps have been taken,lots left to be done. Bush lost war in Iraq, perception in world that America is abully, selfish, took rights from people, spying on Americans, made a terrible example to world. Don't promote American values, undermine heart and soul of what America is supposed to be about.

Richards - yes, restructure homeland security, appoint people who know what they are doing, put FEMA under president, review 9/11 overreactions. Return habaes corpus, get rid of torutre, respect Geneva Convenstions.

Dodd - I will use executive orders to do away with all the damage that has been done to the Constitution. More dangerous than what was done with Homeland Security.

Obama- what are we going to do with Exec branch, not just Homeland Security. I will appoint an Atty Gen who doesn't just assume the Constitution is a convenience. Aggressive ethics bill, no lobbying after serving in White House. Revolving door has to stop.

Hillary - We (Edwards) have a vigorous agreement - at home we are safer because of first responders... missed part of it. Talking about signing statements, incompetence, got to clean that up. Duty of President is to be prepared to keep America safe.

Says no company that employs a lobbyist - no execs etc. can give us money. Constitutional Amendment.

Kucinish - are we safe is key issue in this election. Missile strikes in OPakistan killing civilians makes us not safer - strength through peace.

Richardson - My Vice President will be a member of the Exec Branch.

Bai - appreciate your coming here.. crowdon feet.

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Liveblogging Hillary Breakout Session

I am at the Hillary breakout session, which is occurring before the general session with all the candidates. The rest of the candidates will have their breakout session s following the general session.

This is a medium-sized room - the same room where I just completed my Smoking Politics panel. There are more people here now.

Peter Daou and Hillary have come out now. Peter says when Senator found out about the scheduling mixup she immediately told her staff to find a way that she could do a session with the attendees.

Senator will make opening remarks. You want to meet her, but she wants to eet you so when you have a question please tell us a little about yourself.

Hillary now: Thank you for understanding about working out the time. Thank Peter for terrific job he does.

Her microphone went out, she says "vast right-wing consipiracy"

Thank you for helping us create a new progressive movement in America. Thank you for helping me stand up against the rw noise machine, and giving support to the progressive agenda of the Dem party. I only wish we had this active a blogosphere 15 years ago. We have suffered from the imbalance in the country. Now we are better prepared and more focused on getting our ideas out. Progressive infrastructure. We are beginning to match what I have said for years was the advantage of the other side. When I made that comment about the vast rw conspiracy I wasn't kidding - except it was right out there in the open.

I really appreciate the individual and collective effor tbeing the front line of the progressive movement.

Second thing - it makes those of us who run for office a little sharper, more on our toes.

Hillary still: I read blogs and it helps me make my arguments.

...What you help to do is make a space where in that 24/7 world we can be heard. Having people who understand our overall goals, share an understanding of where we are trying to take our country... I think about what if we had the blogosphere in 92 or 94 when we were working on health case. We made our own mistakes but constantly hammered when we were trying to bring health care...

Bill O'reilly was trying to intimidate people into not coming to Chicago (YearlyKos). I was very proud of my campaign standing up and calling Bill O'Reilly out. For Bill O'Reilly accusing people of going over the line...

With that let me throw it open. Please introduce yourselves, where you are from, a little about you.

(Missed name) with National Ed. Assn. No Child Left Behind is a top priority for us. What will you do with the growing public backlash about NCLB.

H: Education got one Q in the CNN debate and doesn't get the emphasis it deserves. We have to admit NCLB became n unfunded mandate imposing rules and mandates without the promised resources. Breached the bargain we thought we were entering into. Bush has been incompetent in enforcing NCLB, even parts of the law that made sense have been rendered impotent.

I have been working on education reform since 1983 in Arkansas.

We should be tracking the progress of the individual children - so kids who move, we know where they are, if they are behind we can help, let's figure out how to marry technology to this so we can track, each year how well a child is growing and learning.

Need to track groups, but emphasis should be on individuals.

Lets move toward national accountability standards. Also reading and match are important but so is science, etc. Kids are being deprived of a broad curriculum. Phys ed gone, now obeisity a problem, for example.

We have to get back to a diverse broad curriculum.

Best thing we can do is pre-kindergarten, to close achievement gap for kids with disadvantaged backgrounds.

Pat , scientist from Northwest U - military commissions act - when can we expect that to be rescinded, Guantanamo closed

H: I agree with both those goals. I voted against Military Commissions act. Unconstitutional denial of habeas corpus. We will try to reinstate habeas corpus and reform military tribunals procedures in next few months.

If you can't get 60 votes, you can't get it through the Senate. Big problem right now, need Republican support. We must close Guantanamo. Increase political pressure.When I am President I will close Guantanamo and restore habeas corpus.

Jeralyn from Talkleft: If you are elected President what kinds of wiretapping will you permit, and how will your Atty Gen. be different from Gonzales.

H: It would be a breath of fresh air to have an Atty Gen who actually believed in the rule of law. It has been a mystery why Pres doesn't pick qualified attys as judges, instead goes with cronies and movement conservatives. We have a dangerous extremism in this country, turned away from sep of powers, checks and balances. White House has contempt for rule of law.

Talked bout wiretapping, we need to be able to track people threatening the country, but warrants, law, etc.

Two more Qs
Will you repeal Dont Ask Don't Tell. Defense of Marriage Act, Telecommunications Act, NAFTA and Welfare Reform

H I am on record against Don't Ask since 1999. Not implemented appropriately. Cost to military readiness from purging military of these people, linguists, etc. I will lead effort to repeal it.

Don't have to be straight to shoot straight.

DOMA served a purpose. Strategy, gave us a bright line to be able to hold back the votes that were building up to amend the constitution to enshrine discrimination. I believe marriage should be left to the states, support civil unions. DOMA put responsibility in the states and you are seeing states take action. But part 3 of DOMA should be repealed because it stands in the way of benefits.

Telecommunications act - ask Al Gore, he is the expert, he pushed it through, I like what the FCC is doing by maintaining more competition, need to look at this more closely becaue I am not an expert.

NAFTA is not living up to what we hoped. Problems, we need smarter trade agreements with labor and environmental, and we need an evaluation of the impact of trade agreements. We need an analysis of what has happened as opposed to what was promised.

Welfare reform - positive consequences far outweigh the negative. But the education program was a key part of original legislation and Bush cut it back.

CHIP - health care for kids - we need universal health care so we don't have these battles.

Kim from NJ, researcher, love your hair. Grandaughter of bus driver. I see how good the transit system is in Europe - we're going to be a 3rd world country compared to them, can we update infrastructure of transit system.

H: Timely, bridge collapse was infrastructure failure. I have been advocating long-term funding to begin to repair and maintain and build new infrastructure. We are living off the investments our parents and grandparents made. We're taking advantage of what our parents etc were willing to pay for. Much more on bridges and roads and airports, etc. We have a trillion dollars of unmet needs. We need to focus on physical infrastructure AND we need universal high-speed broadband internet access.

Bush admin doesn't believe in ANY kind of infrastructure investment. Got to do this in a hurry.

Mass transit must become a priority of our country. We cannot continue to have the congestion and lost productivity time. We are losing money, and time. And we are wasting oil, contributing to global warming. Now we have to fight just to keep Amtrack.

Also need incentives to get people to use it.

Let me end with every election is about the future. It is about what kind of change we want for our country. I have been fighting for change my entire life often against pretty tough odds. What is going to matter in this election is how much power and energy we have from citizens across America. We have to join together to election a president. we cannot afford to use. We cannot continue to ignore the constitution, tax cuts for wealthiest, war that we can't pay for. I am optimistic but appropriately realistic about the challenges we face. Univ Health Care, fight global warming, energy agenda, ending the cronyism, appoint people who are qualified for positions they hold, can't do any of that without your help. I love a vigorous debate and exchange of ideas. That is what the primary is for and certainly what the blogosphere is for. It can play a major role in electing me president. I appreciate everything you're doing - well not everything. Let us have your ideas. We have to learn how to break down the barriers in reaching out to people who may not agree with us.

We have to reach out to people who never read a blog, may not agree with us but who know in their core that we need a new direction.

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August 2, 2007

James' Day at YearlyKos

This is hilarious: Daily Kos: My Day At YearlyKos With Radical Hate Mongers.

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YearlyKos- Dean Announces Election Protection Project

At the YearlyKos Convention tonite Howard Dean announced a national Election Protection Project, working with every single county in the country to get ahead of election problems NOW, rather than just before and after the 2008 election. They will identify problems like providing too few voting machines in precincts as a way to keep the vote count down, etc. From a press release e-mailed to me about the project,

Through its 50 State Strategy, Voting Rights Institute and National Lawyers Council, the DNC is conducting an in-depth nationwide survey to collect critical data on voting practices and procedures at the local level. The goal of the project is to map the often confusing and complex sets of administrative practices and decisions governing election administration in every state. Working with local election boards, the DNC is examining the election mechanics in each state, flagging potential problems and election administration issues that threaten to deprive citizens of their right to register, vote and have their vote counted. Once these issues are identified, the DNC will work to resolve potential problems well in advance of the 2008 election. Election laws, while written on the federal and state level, are often subject to interpretation at the local level. This decentralized process results in varied administration and supervision of the elections themselves, which can be potentially problematic considering that in 2008, there will be at least 13,000 elections run by localities.

[. . .]The goal of this unprecedented project is to protect and ensure our voting rights, by working now to identify and attempt to resolve election administration issues that threaten to deprive citizens of the right to register, vote and have their vote counted."

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YearlyKos Day 1

I woke up about 6 local time (4 my time) so I could get registered and scope out the convention center and the room for my first panel, titled Connecting Major Donors to the Netroots. Right away it's clear that this pace is vast. YealryKos is in a new convention center attached to a Hyatt hotel, part of the McCormick covention center complex. (The cab driver told me that driving around the perimeter of the whole complex is seven miles. Is this true?)

The registration was set up, but my first panel was upstairs somewhere, and no one I talked to knew how to get there. Eventually I found it, and it really was about a quarter mile from registration. The air condition was not on yet, and it was HOT, even at 7am. But the projector was set up and the room was laid out.

Having a panel at 8am on the first day of a conference is not a recipe for high attendance, so I had located and raised money to hire a camera and operator so we can get this onto the web later. He showed up at 7:30, and got set up, but we could not locate a way to plug into the sound system and the AV person we called never showed up The operator had to use the camera's microphone so the sound probably won't be great when you hear it.

The panel started relatively on time and went very well. I will put my opening remarks in a separate post. I found out last night that Joe Trippi could not make it to my second panel, Creating a Culture of Grassroots Giving, and asked Patrick O'Heffernan, Commonweal Institute Senior Fellow, to fill in. He did a great job. Colin Bishop, a fundraiser, also joined at the last minute and did well. That panel went really well.

Walking around YearlyKos this year is very different from last year. Last year it was a mass of faces that few recognized - I described it as the largest gathering of people who knew each other but had never seen each other. This year is was lots and lots of familiar faces. Lots of people saying hi.

Today was really "workshop" day. The real opening of YearlyKos was tonite, with Howard Dean gicing the opening keynote. He was, of course, great. He announced a new voting iitiative by the Democratic Party, working with every single county in America, down the the precinct level, to identify voting problems NOW, for the 2008 election, and starting to solve them now. Right down to which precincts do not get enough voting machines.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:27 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Made It to Chicago

Posting to let you know that I made it to Chicago, my first two panels went well this morning and the wireless at YearlyKos works.

YearlyKos is sharing the hotel convention facilities with a Shriner convention!!! Yee-HAAA!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 1:28 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

August 1, 2007

The American Aviation System No Longer Functions

After sitting in San Jose for a few hours, then missing my connection in Las Vegas while the plane sat out on the tarmac... I am stuck in Las Vegas. maybe I'll get out in a few hours and arrive for YearlyKos in the middle of the night.

Sheesh. Las Vegas has free wireless, so I might rant more later...

Oh yeah, corporate jets don't have to pay to use the air traffic control system, but commercial jet passengers DO.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:24 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Typical

Flight problems... takeoff delayed over an hour. Might (probably will) miss my connection. Etc.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:31 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

Travel Day

OK, I am off to Chicago. Here is what I will be doing.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:50 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

BAD News From Iraq

Sunni Arab bloc quits Iraqi government,

Iraq's largest Sunni Arab political bloc announced its withdrawal from the government Wednesday, undermining Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's efforts to seek reconciliation among the country's rival factions.

Violence continued unabated, with 50 people killed and 60 wounded when a suicide attacker exploded a fuel truck near a gas station in western Baghdad. Another 17 died in a separate car bomb attack in a central region of the capital. The U.S. military announced the deaths of three American soldiers killed by a sophisticated, armor-piercing bomb.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:21 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack

US Attorney Put On Firing List For Refusing To Aid Corruption

Apparently the US Attorney firings were not JUST about political prosecutions. At least one was fired because he wouldn't play ball with the corruption machine.

Talking Points Memo | Rotten to the Core has this from the Washington Post,

The night before the government secured a guilty plea from the manufacturer of the addictive painkiller OxyContin, a senior Justice Department official called the U.S. attorney handling the case and, at the behest of an executive for the drugmaker, urged him to slow down, the prosecutor told the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday.

John L. Brownlee, the U.S. attorney in Roanoke, testified that he was at home the evening of Oct. 24 when he received the call on his cellphone from Michael J. Elston, then chief of staff to the deputy attorney general and one of the Justice aides involved in the removal of nine U.S. attorneys last year.

Brownlee settled the case anyway. Eight days later, his name appeared on a list compiled by Elston of prosecutors that officials had suggested be fired.

With this in mind, look back at a few other examples of the Justice Department's handling of big-money corporate cases. Remember when the Bush Justice Department let Microsoft off the hook after the Clinton Justice Department had already won the case? And how about when the Bush Justice Department let the tobacco companies off the hook on payment for killing millions?

How many similar cases can you recall? These cases were worth billions of dollars to the companies involved. How much money changed hands? There are some nice, fat Swiss bank accounts out there.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:37 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos | TrackBack