November 30, 2007
The corrupt government in Burma is still there, still imprisoning monks, still reppressing its people.
Bangkok - Two months after Myanmar's brutal crackdown on peaceful protests in Yangon led by Buddhist monks, the former capital is noticeably short of monks, a senior US diplomat said Friday.Don't forget about Burma.
'Prior to September, almost any place you looked in Rangoon (Yangon) there were 25 to 50 monks, they were everywhere, but now you only see one or two,' said Shari Villarosa, charge d'affaires of the US embassy in Myanmar, also known as Burma.
November 29, 2007
Peter Garrett - the towering, baldheaded former singer of the disbanded Australian rock group Midnight Oil - continued his long, strange tour from pop star to politician Thursday when he was named Australia's environment minister.
With his wild dancing and strident voice, Garrett was one of Australia's most recognizable singers until his band broke up in 2002, after belting out politically charged hits for more than 25 years.
Garrett founded Midnight Oil when he was a law student in 1973, but the semi-punk rock group did not achieve global fame until its 1987 track "Beds are Burning" - a protest song about Aboriginal land rights in Australia.
And another great one:
Fed vice-chairman says
that the Fed "will act as needed" to address the volatility of the current economic situation.So the stock market goes up over 300 points.
Right. As Kevin said,
"Uncertainties about the economic outlook are unusually high right now," he said. "In my view, these uncertainties require flexible and pragmatic policy making."Now see, if it were me I'd be running for the hills at this news.
November 28, 2007
I'm watching the
authoritarian Republican debate. Giuliani just accused Romney of not only having "Sanctuary Cities" in Massachusetts, but of having a "Sanctuary Mansion" by hiring undocumented workers himself.
And Ron Paul, wow - black helicopters started flying out of his ears, talking about a conspiracy highway between Mexico and Canada...
Question - Spending is out of control. NAME the top three programs you would cut. Will we hear an actual answer?
Thompson - "Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid," then, "No I didn't say that."
Ron Paul - Education, Energy and Homeland Security. And Defense.
Huckabee - Get rid of the IRS, bring in the "Fair Tax". Homeland Security.
None of the others were asked to answer.
A bunch of white guys talking about black crime - and the answer is that those people need more moms and dads. I'm so tough on crime...
Romney mentions "I didn't have a police commissioner." I wonder what he meant by that?
It is really irritating how only one or two of the candidates are asked to answer any question.
Huckabee came across as the honest candidate. I really don't understand the Republican base but I suspect he'll be way ahead after tonite. But the Ron Paul appeal could well have been enhanced.
Sales of existing homes fell further in October even as more homes came on the market, driving the supply of homes to the highest level in 22 years, the National Association of Realtors reported Wednesday. Sales dropped 1.2% to a 4.97 million seasonally adjusted annualized pace in October, the real estate advocacy group said. The sales pace is the lowest since 1999. The inventory of unsold homes rose by 1.9% to 4.45 million, representing a 10.8 month supply, the highest since 1999. For single-family homes alone, the inventory of 10.5 months is the highest since July 1985.
November 27, 2007
In the Democratic CNN/YouTube Presidential primary debate CNN included questions like,
"I'd like to know, if the Democrats come into office, are my taxes going to rise like usually they do when a Democrat gets into office?"This question reinforced the Republican-spread conventional wisdom about "tax and spend" Democrats.
But CNN promises not to do any such thing for the upcoming Republican debate.
If SoCal prices fall 25%, then prices in other areas - like Miami and Las Vegas - will probably decline a similar amount.Keep in mind my own observation that houses near here are not selling even after a price cut of almost a third.
OTHER bubbles, like the "dot com" bubble, have seen prices fall right back to where they would have been without the bubble. In fact, haven't ALL other bubble fallen like that? Why will this one be different? And that means you're looking at 50% or more.
November 26, 2007
Are you still thinking Dems are shoo-ins for 2008?
Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton trails five top Republican presidential contenders in general election match-ups, a drop in support from this summer, according to a poll released on Monday.Don't try to take good news from the next part:
Clinton's top Democratic rivals, Barack Obama and John Edwards, still lead Republicans in hypothetical match-ups ahead of the November 4, 2008, presidential election, the survey by Zogby Interactive showed.the Republicans just haven't cranked up their machine on the other candidates yet.
Update - Why do Democrats think anything is changed? Conservatives and Republicans talk to the general public, and use a megaphone. Fox News is still there, just like they have been for a while. Rush Limbaugh is still there, spreading his lies, and his audience is still huge. Same for the rest of their machine - newspapers, other talk radio... And then there is their online effort, including the viral e-mails.
Sure, the public is dismayed about Iraq and the economy. But the Republicans have the megaphone and will blame Democrats. And they'll go along with it.
The solution is to develop a progressive infrastructure that reaches the general public and explains the benefits of and creates demand for progressive values, policies and candidates.
A question - do any readers have experience with a GPS unit? I'm thinking of buying one. I have received many recommendations for a Garmin, but Costco has a good deal on a Magellan 4250 which has AAA Tour Guidebooks in it as well as lots of points of interest.
Do any readers have any suggestions?
Update - I bought a Magellan 4250 at Costco. I used it for an hour and it froze four times and wouldn't turn on one time until I pushed a pin into the reset hole (like on a PalmPilot), so I returned it. I think I'll order a Garmin Nuvi 360 from Amazon, going for the smaller screen so it is easy to carry when walking in a city... Any comments?
Senator Chris Dodd submits a YouTube question for the upcoming Republican YouTube Presidential Candidate Debate:
November 24, 2007
A for-sale house around the corner from us (SF Bay peninsula) has gone through all the stages, and now even the "price reduced" sign is gone. The house is empty. The flyers are still there, however. Walking the dog the other day I picked one up to see what they're offering.
The house, a modest three-bedroom in a modest neighborhood, was originally listed at $725,000. Now that is crossed off by hand on every flyer and $495,000 is written in.
So, marked down from $725,000 to $495,000 it still isn't selling. No one is looking at it. It is still priced higher than the average person can or will pay for a house like this to live in this neighborhood. House prices around here still have a long way to fall, but you can't expect other houses around here to sell for a lot more than $495,000 now - not with that one sitting there. But most of them are still priced in the $600-700,000 range.
That leaves a long way left to fall.
November 23, 2007
This is brutal but I suspect you'll be hearing about it.
Three suspected al Qaeda militants, including two sisters, beheaded their uncle and his wife, forcing the couple's children to watch, Iraqi police said on Friday.
The militants considered that school guard Youssef al-Hayali was an infidel because he did not pray and wore western-style trousers, they told police interrogators after being arrested in Diyala province northwest of Baghdad.
A list of all the way s the Republicans are keeping the public from knowing what their own government is doing:
Last year, we launched the insanely ambitious project of recording every significant instance of this administration stifling government information. As we said then, "they've discontinued annual reports, classified normally public data, de-funded studies, quieted underlings, and generally done whatever was necessary to keep bad information under wraps." To be sure, the list will continue to grow through January, 2008.
My wife likes to say, whenever I point out the things the Republicans are doing - So what? Who is going to do anything about it?
November 22, 2007
Where do you have to be in your head to be able to say that the New York Times is the "far left?"
The New York Times, which helped start the Iraq war... The New York Times, which sits on stories about things like wiretapping Americans without warrants at the request of the Bush administration.
Maybe it goes back to when the right called it the "Jew York Times." How else can you explain it?
Is J-Lo pregnant?
And, if you had five minutes to find out - and the clock was ticking - wouldn't you want to know that your government was free to use torture to find out?
November 21, 2007
A flotilla of U.S. warships carrying as many as 8,000 American sailors heading for a four-day Thanksgiving holiday visit to China's port of Hong Kong has been refused entry, the U.S. Navy said Thursday.U.S. aircraft carrier denied access to Hong Kong
The Kitty Hawk group and its crew of 8,000 U.S. airmen and sailors had been expected in Hong Kong on Wednesday, but will now spend the holiday on the South China Sea.
Hundred of relatives of crew members of the USS Kitty Hawk had flown to Hong Kong to celebrate Thanksgiving with their loved ones. Hong Kong has been a regular port of call for U.S. sailors on "R & R" (rest and recuperation) since the Vietnam War.
[. . .] The move by Beijing coincides with "airspace controls" on Wednesday which Xinhua news agency said affected the air travel plans of 7,000 people in south and east China.
The controls were introduced for "unspecified reasons."
Retired Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top commander in Iraq shortly after the fall of Baghdad, said this week he supports Democratic legislation that calls for most troops to come home within a year.It's time.
The Bushites say the surge has been a success -so it is time to bring them home.
At the weblog Angry Bear last week, they presented some graphs in a post titled, Tax Rates and Growth Rates, Some Graphs. Go take a look.
The first graphs shows marginal income tax rates over time, and the third shows real GDP per capita, both starting in the 1950s.
As you look at these graphs, it seems that the periods of higher real per-capita growth coincide with the higher tax rates. Both graphs appear to have higher numbers on the left side, and the numbers drop as you move over to the right side. In other words, as the tax rates dropped since the 50's, so did economic growth.
This is the opposite of the "conventional wisdom" that people have come to believe. But it's just plain what happened - no way around it. And, to top it off, remember that FDR raised taxes on the rich, and then we started coming out of the depression. You can look those charts up as well.
For some recent validation of this observation -- that higher taxes coincide with higher economic growth -- remember what happened after the notorious 1993 tax increases on the very rich. After those tax increases we all shared an incredible decade of economic growth and shared prosperity. (Even the rich who paid more taxes.) The national budget was balanced and we reven started paying off the huge debt that had accumulated. Then, following the 2001 tax cuts which primarily went to the very rich growth rates have not been so hot, and regular people actually feel more pinched, not less. And the country has had to borrow an incredible amount of money - which will have serious consequences in the future.
So what could be happening here? Conservatives like to say that taxes hurt the economy. That they "take money out of the economy." But is this really what happens?
If the money is "taken out"of the economy, where does it go? Isn't this a perverse view of what government is, to think it is so separate from the people that it isn't even part of the economy? Perhaps this is wishful thinking on the part of anti-government conservatives, but in reality the government puts the tax money back into the economy by paying teachers, building roads, etc.
Conservatives say that taxes are a "cost" to businesses, forcing them to raise prices. But taxes are on profits, which are calculated after costs. And if a company is doing well enough to be profitable enough to be paying taxes, why would they want to raise prices and discourage customers?
Ive been waiting for something to happen
For a week or a month or a year
With the blood in the ink of the headlines
And the sound of the crowd in my ear
You might ask what it takes to remember
When you know that youve seen it before
Where a government lies to a people
And a country is drifting to war
And theres a shadow on the faces
Of the men who send the guns
To the wars that are fought in places
Where their business interest runs
On the radio talk shows and the t.v.
You hear one thing again and again
How the u.s.a. stands for freedom
And we come to the aid of a friend
But who are the ones that we call our friends--
These governments killing their own?
Or the people who finally cant take any more
And they pick up a gun or a brick or a stone
There are lives in the balance
There are people under fire
There are children at the cannons
And there is blood on the wire
Theres a shadow on the faces
Of the men who fan the flames
Of the wars that are fought in places
Where we cant even say the names
They sell us the president the same way
They sell us our clothes and our cars
They sell us every thing from youth to religion
The same time they sell us our wars
I want to know who the men in the shadows are
I want to hear somebody asking them why
They can be counted on to tell us who our enemies are
But theyre never the ones to fight or to die
And there are lives in the balance
There are people under fire
There are children at the cannons
And there is blood on the wire
There is lead in the toys our kids play with. What is the Republican government doing about it?
Accepting expensive trips, etc. from the toy industry, refusing to inspect toys. What else did you expect?
And who's gonna do anything about it, punk. Democrats in Congress? Not on your life. (Or your kids' lives.)
Campaign for america's Future has a petition. Go sign it, and send others to see the video.
Here's a big surprise - focus groups are being conducted on how to get people to support bombing Iran:
You all remember Ari Fleischer’s “Freedom’s Watch” astroturfing outfit? We’ve discussed this before, in the context of Ari’s trying to bolster support for staying in the Iraq quagmire; now (per Mother Jones via PR Watch) we get to see Fleischer’s Flyers and his ideological fellow travelers pimp the marketing concept of war with Iran:Click through to follow links...
“The basis of the whole thing was, ‘we’re going to go into Iran and what do we have to do to get you guys to go along with it,’” said Laura Sonnenmark, a participant in a recent focus group apparently funded by the Republican-associated lobbying group Freedom’s Watch. Sonnenmark, a “focus group regular,” said the moderator “used lots of catch phrases, like ‘victory’ and ‘failure is not an option.’” She added, “I’ve never seen a moderator who was so persistent in manipulating and leading the participants.” The final questions of the session were: “How would you feel if Hillary [Clinton] bombed Iran? How would you feel if George Bush bombed Iran? And how would you feel if Israel bombed Iran?” Neither the firm involved, Martin Focus Groups, nor Freedom’s Watch would confirm that the organization funded the focus group. But focus group participants were handed a flier with a Freedom’s Watch logo, and the group has advocated for confronting Iran, organizing forums on the “threat” posed by the country, and running ads calling the Iranian president a “terrorist.”
November 20, 2007
Chris Dodd today released the following statement in response to the claims of former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan that he "unknowingly passed along false information" to the American public and that "the highest-ranking officials in the administration were involved in [his] doing so," including the Vice-President and the President:
"Today's revelations by Mr. McClellan are very disturbing and raise several important questions that need to be answered. If in fact the President of the United of States knowingly instructed his chief spokesman to mislead the American people, there can be no more fundamental betrayal of the public trust.
"During his confirmation process, Attorney General Mukasey said he would act independently. Accordingly, today, I call on the Attorney General to live up to his word and launch an immediate investigation to determine the facts of this case, the extent of any cover up and determine what the President knew and when he knew it."
November 19, 2007
It is a violation of international law to "disappear" prisoners, and refuse even to let the Red Cross see them. But who cares, so what, and who's gonna do anything about it?
Not the Red Cross, apparently.
Simon Schorno, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said the organization was aware that it was not seeing all Guantánamo detainees from 2002, when the detention camp was opened, to 2004. He said the policies outlined in the manual “run counter to the manner in which the I.C.R.C. conducts its detention visits at Guantánamo Bay and around the world.”The Red Cross KEPT THE VIOLATION OF INTERNATIONAL LAW SECRET!
He added that Red Cross officials worked with American officials “to resolve this issue confidentially, since gaining access to all detainees in full accordance with its standard practice was paramount.”
Sorry for shouting - I got a bit upset. The story continues,
The Red Cross has been critical of Guantánamo, saying publicly in 2003 that keeping detainees indefinitely without allowing them to know their fate was unacceptable and, in confidential reports, that the physical and psychological treatment of detainees amounted to torture.So the Red Cross was complicit in these violations of international law.
The Red Cross has been looking worse and worse.
Shareholders in the securities industry are having their worst year since 2002, losing $74 billion of their equity. That won't prevent Wall Street from paying record bonuses, totaling almost $38 billion.
That money, split among about 186,000 workers at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch & Co., Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Bear Stearns Cos., equates to an average of $201,500 per person, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The five biggest U.S. securities firms paid $36 billion to employees last year.
November 18, 2007
David from the Art of Mental Warfare teamed up with Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails to present "Warning." The project takes on the covert interests behind the war and our media saturated society. From war crimes to the destruction of the environment and a celebrity-obsessed culture, "The Warning" is a clarion call to action for an apathetic nation."
Some say it was a warning
Some say it was a sign
I was standing right there
When it came down from the sky
The way it spoke to us
You felt it from inside
Said it was up to us
Up to us to decide
You've become a virus
killing off his host
We've been watching you with all of our eyes
And what you seem to value most
So much potential
Or so we used to say
Your greed, self importance, and your arrogance
You piss it all away
We heard her cry
We've come to intervene
You will change your ways and you will make amends
Or we will wipe this place clean
Your time is tick-tick-ticking away
November 16, 2007
November 15, 2007
Tonite's debate -- I have to say I am agreeing with everything Kucinich has said so far in this debate.
Dodd is standing up for the Constitution. Richardson is saying great things on foreign policy.
All three "front-runners" are great. Edwards is standing up for working people. Obama is better and better. Hillary is experienced but does appear to be stuck in the old-style please-the-polls cautious front-runner strategy. But then, she's the front-runner so that's really what she should do. Don't mess with success.
I like them all. Even Biden.
I'm watching the debate. The "drivers license" question is a trick. It is a "gotcha" attempts to get the candidates to answer a complex question entirely in a right-wing frame.
Hooray for Obama for his courageous answer. Shame on Hillary.
Richardson answered exactly right.
And how did you like the right-wing anti-union teachers union question? Wow, like, "Unions are bad, what are you going to do about them. One-word answers, please."
Here is the Dood Debate Talk Clock:
BBC NEWS | Saudi gang-rape victim is jailed, and her sentence more than doubled from 90 lashes to 200 for daring to appeal:
An appeal court in Saudi Arabia has doubled the number of lashes and added a jail sentence as punishment for a woman who was gang-raped.But Iraq is the bad guy and the A\Saudis are our "friends." We invaded Iraq - a secular, non-Islamic country. Right.
. . . According to the Arab News newspaper, the 19-year-old woman, who is from Saudi Arabia's Shia minority, was gang-raped 14 times in an attack in the eastern province a year-and-a-half ago.
Seven men from the majority Sunni community were found guilty of the rape and sentenced to prison terms ranging from just under a year to five years.
But the victim was also punished for violating Saudi Arabia's laws on segregation that forbid unrelated men and women from associating with each other. She was initially sentenced to 90 lashes for being in the car of a strange man.
On appeal, the Arab News reported that the punishment was not reduced but increased to 200 lashes and a six-month prison sentence.
. . . The victim's lawyer was suspended from the case, has had his licence to work confiscated, and faces a disciplinary session.
I won't hold my breath waiting for Bush and the Republicans to denounce the Saudis.
On this issue Obama stands for principle, Hillary follows polls: Obama Stands By Support For Spitzer Plan,
Sen. Barack Obama, D-Il, is standing by his support for granting driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants, even after Gov. Eliot Spitzer, D-NY, abandoned the proposal amidst rising political opposition.
"Obama said in the debate he supported it and he's standing by it," an aide to the Senator told the Huffington Post. "He supported a similar bill in the state senate as a law enforcement measure."
Obama's backing stands in stark contrast to the position taken by Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, whose campaign now cites the issue as a basic policy difference between the two Democratic frontrunners.
I've had a paranoid thought. Unfortunately, since Bush took office these seem to come true.
In 1968 the Nixon campaign sabotaged the Vietnam war peace talks, to give Nixon an advantage in the election, because people hated the war and and end to the war would help Humphrey win. Then the Nixon administration kept the war going - many say for the purpose of using it in the 1972 elections. Remember, Kissinger announced "Peace is at hand" immediately before the 72 elections. Robert Parry writes,
According to now overwhelming evidence, the Nixon campaign dispatched Anna Chenault, an anti-communist Chinese leader, to carry messages to the South Vietnamese government of Nguyen van Thieu. The messages advised Thieu that a Nixon presidency would give him a more favorable result.
Journalist Seymour Hersh described the initiative sketchily in his biography of Henry Kissinger, The Price of Power. Hersh reported that U.S. intelligence “agencies had caught on that Chennault was the go-between between Nixon and his people and President Thieu in Saigon. … The idea was to bring things to a stop in Paris and prevent any show of progress.”
In her own autobiography, The Education of Anna, Chennault acknowledged that she was the courier. She quoted Nixon aide John Mitchell as calling her a few days before the 1968 election and telling her: “I’m speaking on behalf of Mr. Nixon. It’s very important that our Vietnamese friends understand our Republican position and I hope you made that clear to them.”
Reporter Daniel Schorr added fresh details in The Washington Post’s Outlook section [May 28, 1995]. Schorr cited decoded cables that U.S. intelligence had intercepted from the South Vietnamese embassy in Washington.
On Oct. 23, 1968, Ambassador Bui Dhien cabled Saigon with the message that “many Republican friends have contacted me and encouraged me to stand firm.” On Oct. 27, he wrote, “The longer the present situation continues, the more favorable for us. … I am regularly in touch with the Nixon entourage.”
On Nov. 2, Thieu withdrew from his tentative agreement to sit down with the Viet Cong at the Paris peace talks, destroying Johnson’s last hope for a settlement. Though Johnson and his top advisers knew of Nixon’s gambit, they kept Nixon’s secret.
So ... could the Republicans again be playing out a similar scenario again - keeping the war going now, so they can pretend to end it just in time to get credit before next year's elections?
November 14, 2007
I guess I'm just ahead of my time... I've been warning about money market funds, and now it's really hitting the news:
Millions of U.S. investors with cash in these mainstream vehicles are asking that question as some leading banks, investment managers and mutual-fund companies take steps to shield money funds from potential losses on troubled debt in their portfolios.Do you want your money in a place where managers are "taking steps"?
So what can you do?
... if you are concerned about your money fund, experts say there are some ways to investigate.No shit.
The first -- calling the company to ask about the fund's holdings -- might seem daunting given the complexities of many of these portfolios. But in fact the request can test a company's responsiveness to its customers, observes Bruce Bent, who created the money fund 37 years ago.
"A number of funds will say 'we don't give that out,'" said Bent, whose New York-based firm, The Reserve, has about $80 billion in money-fund assets, none of which, he adds, is exposed to subprime loans or SIVs.
If the fund company isn't forthcoming, he says, "take your money out and say goodbye."
And there's always what I have been recommending:
The ultimate safe move would be to put your cash in a bank money-market or savings account - they're insured up to $100,000 and sport comparable yields to money funds, which recently averaged about 4.6% for taxable investors.Meanwhile,
,With money-market mutual funds scrambling to cover their costs as credit meltdowns spread, some advisers say they're seeing more interest from high net-worth clients in short-term, bond exchange-traded funds.Not just yet?
One of those is Jerry Slusiewicz. But the president of Pacific Financial Planners in Newport Beach, Calif., doesn't recommend investors pull out of their money-market funds just yet.
Several major financial services firms have moved to protect money-market assets in recent months. The latest is Bank of America Corp., which on Tuesday said that it plans to use a $600 million reserve to shore up a group of its money-market funds. Another big financial-services firm, Legg Mason Inc. has made public plans to establish credit lines of roughly $238 million to keep intact credit ratings of two money-market funds.Did I read that right? They're putting hundreds of millions in to cover their money market funds so people don't lose money? So if you have money in one of those funds the only reason you aren't losing money is because the fund managers are pumping their own money in to shore it up? So what happens if the parent companies are in trouble - which they certainly will be if they'reputting in hundreds of millions to cover the money market funds!
Remember, the money you have in a money-market fund can drop - you can lose principal.
And Atrios has found a General Electric managed fund that is already in such trouble it is paying its depositors only 96 cents on the dollar.
Ypu'll be seeing this headline every month for a while, I expect: Foreclosures nearly double from year ago: report,
Cities in California, Florida and Ohio dominated the 25 U.S. metro areas with the highest home foreclosure rates, though rates jumped in most of the top regions during the third quarter, RealtyTrac said on Wednesday.HOW many foreclosures?
. . . A broad credit and liquidity crisis during the third quarter exacerbated U.S. housing industry troubles, pushing sales sharply lower and unsold inventory to record highs.
Overall, residential foreclosure filings nearly doubled in the third quarter from a year earlier, RealtyTrac reported earlier this month.
Stockton's rate of one foreclosure filing for every 31 households, the highest of the metro areas, was a surge of more than 30 percent from the prior quarter. A total of 7,116 filings on 4,409 properties were reported in the metro area during the quarter.
In Detroit, the foreclosure rate of one filing for every 33 households ranked second and was more than double the number of filings reported in the previous quarter, RealtyTrac said. A total of 25,708 filings on 16,079 properties were reported.
November 13, 2007
I have a new post up at the Speak Out California weblog:
Why is it so hard to get things done for the people of California? The front page of Friday's San Jose Mercury News has a story that points out one of the problems: the "insurmountable" influence of big, moneyed interests.
From the story, Analysis: Tobacco tax could doom plan for health overhaul:
... A new cigarette tax would be tantamount to a declaration of war on Big Tobacco, which last year spent more than $65 million to defeat a $2.60-a-pack tax on the California ballot and just this week easily turned back an attempt in Oregon to raise tobacco taxes.This analysis is saying what we all know to be true: an industry group is able to mount "insurmountable opposition" to "meaningful reform" because they are able to use large amounts of money to influence the public's understanding of issues, and regular citizens just are not able to do the same.
... Any attempt to overhaul health care is bound to invite opposition, given the huge financial stakes in the system. The tobacco tax idea is an example of the difficult balance that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democrats are struggling to strike at the negotiating table: achieving meaningful reform without triggering insurmountable opposition.
The challenge is amplified by the fact that any health care proposal is certain to end up on the ballot, where interest groups can spend tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars to defeat it.
For one thing, industry front-groups are able to pay people to gather signatures to get ballot initiatives qualified. Regular people ha ve to get up early on weekend to go to farmers' markets, stay up late to stand in front of theaters, and connect with similarly-motivated, like-minded people across the state to coordinate the effort. This is a very difficult thing to do. But with enough money, just outsource the effort to a signature-gathering firm. (And paying on a per-signature basis encourages fraud.)
After the initiative qualifies for the ballot the industry groups can afford to endlessly repeat advertisements that say whatever is needed -- true or false -- to sway public opinion. This takes really big money -- amounts that regular people have great difficulty raising. And making matters worse, more and more it seems that concentrated corporate ownership of media outlets causes only a corporate-favoring viewpoint to be presented to the public. So regular people can't count on the news media to fairly inform the public of both sides of an issue. (If you think the corporate side of the issue is not dominant, ask yourself when was the last time you heard about the benefits of union membership from a TV or radio broadcast or in a newspaper.)
The other day in What I Expect In 2008 I wrote that, with Iraq out of the news, one of the things the Republicans are going to do in 2008 is make the public think that Democrats are big spenders, and are even worse than Republicans on wasting money through earmarks and pork. (click through to read why Iraq will be out of the news)
This cost the Republicans in the last election and they learned from that. What did they learn? That the public votes against politicians who are accused of spending and pork. What are they doing about it? Accusing the Dems of spending and pork, of course!The public lives in a controlled "information environment." Conservatives begin working well in advance of elections to exert pressure on that environment and prime the public to be receptive later to their issues and candidates. Democrats and progressives, for some reason, do not.
So what is happening in that information environment? Here is just a smattering of what the public was presented with just in the last few days. Never mind the facts, this is what the pubic is hearing. And this is a year before the election. The drumbeat is only going to grow, and grow, and grow, until there is no other story. Good LORD, Democrats, why don't you see what is coming? Why aren't Democrats and progressives out there NOW with a counter-narrative, explaining to the public why conservatives and their ideology are bad for America?
... a spending bill so stuffed with pork as to make a Polish sausage look like a Slim Jim ...
...U.S. senators, primarily Democrats, once again reveal their ravenous appetite for unadulterated pork.
The Club for Growth's latest "rePORK Card" reveals Senate Democrats on average this year scored a dismal 12 percent out of a possible 100 percent in voting down 15 pork-busting amendments.
Despite the Democrats' pledge to get control of their addiction to wasteful spending, their mountain of pork-barrel provisions has prevented Congress from passing its appropriations bills for fiscal year 2008.
. . . All told, this spending package contained at least 2,200 earmarks worth more than $1 billion. Among them, a $1 million earmark for the Thomas Daschle Center for Public Service and Representative Democracy at South Dakota State University, named for the former Senate Democratic leader.
In vetoing the bill, President Bush noted that House and Senate negotiators had ballooned the price tag of the legislation by $9 billion.
. . . Bush has vetoed another spending bill, a $150-billion health, education and labor bill which the White House faults for $10 billion in excessive spending and too much "pork.''
. . . calling it bloated and filled with special projects. It was about $10 billion more than what Bush requested.
"We call on Congress to take out the pork and reduce the overall spending levels and return it to the president," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino as Bush traveled to Indiana for a budget speech.
"Their majority was elected on a pledge of fiscal responsibility, but so far it is acting like a teenager with a new credit card," Bush plans to say in a speech here, according to excerpts provided by the White House. "This year alone, leaders in Congress are proposing to spend $22 billion more than my budget provides. Some of them claim this is not really much of a difference -- and the scary part is that they seem to mean it."
Bush vetoed the measure because of its Bizarro World price tag, which split the difference between a $14 billion House version and a $15 billion Senate version with a $23 billion consensus bill.
. . . And this latest pork platter approves $4 billion worth of work for the Everglades and coastal Louisiana, so even environmentalists who usually despise the corps joined special-interest porkers in attacking Bush's veto.
The White House said the $606 billion education and health was loaded with 2,000 earmarks — lawmaker-sponsored projects that critics call pork-barrel spending — which Bush wants stripped from the bill.
. . .In excerpts of his remarks released in advance by the White House, Bush hammered Democrats for what he called a tax-and-spend philosophy:
Etc. Etc. on and on for the next year...
November 12, 2007
The right is runnig with a smear that John Edwards was boo'ed at a John Mellencamp concert.
Really? See MyDD :: Edwards cheered with Mellencamp in Iowa
November 11, 2007
Barack Obama is echoing the right's destructive narrative about Social Security being in crisis. The crisis is that Reagan and then Bush took all the money from the Social Security Trust Fund to use for tax cuts for the rich. (Clinton's surpluses were paying it back, Bush reversed that.) And now the Trust Fund is going to need some of that money back
The right's line is that this means Social Security is in crisis, is "not going to be there" for the next generation, and "tough choices" are required. The audacity -- they took the money, and now they say this is Social Security's problem, and that we have to fix Social Security! They say this to distract the public from asking for the money back, and to get them to support efforts to privatize the program.
Now, we’ve got 78 million baby boomers that are going to be retiring, and every expert that looks at this problem says “There’s going to be a gap, and we’re going to have more money going out than we have coming in unless we make some adjustments now.” ... I want to make sure that it’s there not just for this generation, but for next generations. So that means that we’re going to have to make some decisions...
Paul Krugman pleads with him to stop. A few years ago the right tried to go after Social Security and there was
... a determined defense by progressives in the media, on the blogs, and in Congress beat back one spurious argument after another, while the American people made it clear that they really want a program that guarantees a basic retirement income that doesn't depend on the Dow. And Social Security survived.Barack Obama, please realize that you are assisting the right's efforts to get rid of Social Security. Their strategy is to make the public think that the program is in trouble and then sweep in with their "solution." (This is called "disaster capitalism.") The other day I wrote,
All of which makes it just incredible that Barack Obama would make obeisance to fashionable but misguided Social Security crisis-mongering a centerpiece of his campaign.
I know that Senator Obama's heart is in the right place and he has no intention of harming Social Security. But this ad is a mistake that could backfire. Please stop running this ad and please change the language. Instead of reinforcing the right's lie that Social Security has a problem, let people know that the conservatives took their money from Social Security and gave it out as tax cuts to the rich and THAT is the problem!IS your heart in the right place? Social Security is not in trouble. Stop saying it is.
Here's another possible reason TV networks won't put progressives on the air - the big media carriers will drop them. In Portland Oregon Comcast Decreases Customers' Access to MSNBC - the week they announce they might start adding progressives, due to the ratings sucess of Olbermann.
Remember, Clear Channel refuses to allow their stations to play Dixie Chicks or Springsteen.
These are not business/profit-based decisions - unless you realize that the huge corporations that are doing this make more money from right-wing government decisions than from the business activities. So the "business" decision here is to work to get right-wing government in office.
November 9, 2007
See the update below.
The Senate confirmed Mukasey as Attorney General last night. There was no filibuster. None of the President candidates who are Senators even showed up for the vote. It could have been stopped if even one Democrat had the courage to fight.
This was entirely about principles Mukasey himself would have been an acceptable candidate, even though a right-winger. But then, during the hearings, he hedged on torture.
You've heard it said over and over that it takes 60 votes to pass anything in the Senate. That is because the Repubicans have filibustered almost every single Democratic bill.
But not this time. There was no "60 votes are required to pass anything in the Senate" this time. Why not?
Every time Congressional Democrats failed this year to stop the Bush administration (i.e., every time they "tried"), the excuse they gave was that they "need 60 votes in the Senate" in order to get anything done. Each time Senate Republicans blocked Democratic legislation, the media helpfully explained not that Republicans were obstructing via filibuster, but rather that, in the Senate, there is a general "60-vote requirement" for everything.My buddy James Boyce atDaily Kos. (and click to recommend this diary),Hey Chickensh**s, Stand Up And Vote.,
The problem with Mukasey, in a nut shell, is that he is going to be the top law enforcement officer in the United States, and he is unwilling to commit that waterboarding, clearly illegal and clearly torture, is something that he will stand up against and persecute those guilty of doing it.UPDATE - OK, they were not given a change to GET back to vote. Part of the reason was because of fears that at least Dodd and maybe others would filibuster. Please read these two posts: post one and post two.
. . . Well, it's hard to stand up as a country to have a moment like that when your United States Senators can't stand up.
Not Voting - 7
Alexander (R-TN) Biden (D-DE) Clinton (D-NY)
Cornyn (R-TX) Dodd (D-CT)
McCain (R-AZ) Obama (D-IL)
Hmm, I notice a pattern here. Anyone else?
You're going to be President of the United States? You're going to answer the call of duty and make the tough decisions?
You can see what stories are interesting or important to lots of people, and click through the headlines to the sites. Once you have signed up you can submit headlines and recommend the stories that you see there. The stories that more people click through or recommend rise up the ladder.
Under "tools" you can get a "LaderUp" tool that lets you just click to submit a post you are looking at on any blog or news site.
If you are a blogger submit your best posts so others will see them, and increase your own traffic.
The election is a year away and the Republicans are working hard to set the stage and prime the public for their campaign themes. Here are my predictions for the 2008 election environment the Republicans will try to set up.
1) Iraq will not be in the news, and the Dems will be blamed for any failures. If there is failure the "stabbed in the back" narrative will be perfected. If things are calm, the Democrats will be blamed for trying to get us out prematurely.
And, above all, even if nothing changes, never forget that on Oct. 26, just before the 1972 election, all the headlines read "Peace is at hand!"
2) Immigration: Republicans assuredly have polling and testing that show this as a strong issue. This week's elections saw them testing messages to find out what works. Don't think this was beaten back, it was only field-tested. They're going to use this to divide us and drive wedges between us and split groups apart -- it's what they do.
3) Accusations that we have a Do-Nothing Ineffective Congress -- Republicans are filibustering everything, and Bush is vetoing the rest. Every single bill. The media is already running with a "Dems won't compromise' and "Dems can't get anything done" narrative and Congress is at a record low approval. You bet we'll be hearing this - they are hard at work developing it. Unless the Democrats start making a lot of noise about this and sustain it -and get the media to report the facts - the Republicans will get away with it.
4) Pork and spending - This cost the Republicans in the last election and they learned from that. What did they learn? That the public votes against politicians who are accused of spending and pork. What are they doing about it? Accusing the Dems of spending and pork, of course! Do you remember how they started the first day of the new Congress accusing the Democrats of what they had just been doing - even though the Democrats were cleaning it up? Why do you think that is? And it has continued - until the public has largely forgotten that it was Republicans they were mad at. Republicans are priming the public now to believe that the Democrats are even worse than the Republicans were. and if you talk to anyone who gets regular news they already think the Democrats are even worse now than the Republicans were.
Meanwhile Bush is going to veto EVERY spending bill, no matter what, and say it spends too much of the people's money. Meanwhile the right's machine will be drumbeating on this and on how Dems will make taxes go up.
5) Dems will face a hostile media that favors Republicans. It will be nothing like previous elections. The large media corporations aren't even pretending anymore that their news organizations are about profits. It is entirely about persuading the public to support candidates who get elected and then hand them more money than any little news organization could ever make for them.
And finally, 6) I expect there will be hugely-publicized indictments of Democrats (innocent) for corruption by the Republican Justice Department. Realize that the Justice Department probe is largely over now, and the prosecutors who "played ball" are still there, the ones who wouldn't are gone, and no one faced any consequences. The Republicans have successfully stymied the corruption investigations we had been reading about before the last election -- and they are going to make sure the public is reading corruption headlines about Democrats, not Republicans for the next one. Also, see New polls expose a corruption time bomb for Democrats,
According to CBS News exit polls 74% of all voters identified corruption as either extremely important or very important as they went to the polls.
... In one year we have lost a +13 point advantage on the issue. 13 POINTS!
Karl Rove outlines here that many of these points will be the centerpieces of the Republican campaign strategy:
Failing to pass a budget, proposing a huge spike in federal spending and offering the biggest tax increase in history are not the only hallmarks of this Democratic Congress.So this is what I see coming, and the Republicans are laying the messaging groundwork today. Do you see Democrats understanding any of this, or doing anything to lay down a messaging foundation to counter it and prime voters for their own campaign?
. . . Beholden to MoveOn.org and other left-wing groups, Democratic leaders have ignored the progress made in Iraq by the surge, diminished the efforts of our military, and wasted precious time with failed attempts to force an immediate withdrawal from Iraq.
. . . Democrats promised "civility and bipartisanship." Instead, they stiff-armed their Republican colleagues, refused to include them in budget negotiations between the two houses, and have launched more than 400 investigations and made more than 675 requests for documents, interviews or testimony.
. . . The list of Congress's failures grows each month. No energy bill. No action on health care. No action on the mortgage crisis. No immigration reform. No progress on renewing No Child Left Behind. Precious little action on judges and not enough on reducing trade barriers. Congress has not done its work. And these failures will have consequences.
I say "Democrats" here, even though that's not really a party's job. On the right there is a coordinated message machine, or echo chamber, consisting of dozens of well-funded advocacy and communications organizations like Heritage Foundation. These organizations pump out a core, coordinated ideological message, creating demand for conservative policies and candidates.
Progressives lack a coordinated, outside-the-party infrastructure to take care of this function. Organizations with a mission of reaching out to the general public to promote the benefits of progressive values, and create demand for progressive policies and candidates just aren't getting funding because the big political money on the left seems entirely focused on short-term election results. There is no view that we are in a long-term war, so we're always stuck fighting the next battle from scratch, during the election cycle. That is an expensive, inefficient and shortsighted way to fight a war.
November 8, 2007
Jon Swift readers - I didn't see that I wrote this with James Boyce when I submitted it. Go see Seeing the Forest's Best of 2007...
Message to Congress: No one believes Bush and this is dangerous to the country!
There is an urgent warning today from the FBI, that Al-Qaeda might attack shopping malls over the holiday season. See Exclusive: FBI: Al Qaeda May Strike U.S. Shopping Malls in LA, Chicago,
The FBI is warning that al Qaeda may be preparing a series of holiday attacks on U.S. shopping malls in Los Angeles and Chicago, according to an intelligence bulletin distributed to law enforcement authorities across the country this morning.Is there a single person in this country who doesn't wonder if this is another Bush trick? Be honest, it crossed your mind, didn't it?
But what if it's true?
Meanwhile, hardly a day goes by without another dramatic statement from Bush or Cheney claiming that Iran poses a grave threat to the world. But few bother to listen anymore. People just roll their eyes. Bush cried wolf over Iraq. Bush raised the terror threat level and announced arrests or warnings for political purposes. Bush pumped fear into the country to win elections.
And now another warning.
But what if it's true?
Listen up, people! The FBI is warning about an al Queda attack on shopping malls this Christmas and almost no one will pay attention because no one believes this government anymore. Everyone has seen them manipulate terror threats, pump the fear for elections -- or just to get another capital gains tax cut passed.
Bush has lost credibility, but the world remains dangerous. Congress must act! Congress must remove Bush and Cheney for lying to the country to start a war. Congress must restore the public's trust in our country's leadership. The current situation is dangerous. If the government says we are about to be attacked we need to be able to believe them and act on it, instead of rolling our eyes and wondering how these clowns think they can get away with more of this fear-pumping. Because there just might BE a time when we ARE about to be attacked.
One more time: Congress, stop posturing. Stop worrying about the political fallout. Start doing what is right for the country. Bush and Cheney have to be removed from office because they lied to us to get us to support war in Iraq, and now no one believes the government, and this is dangerous.
I've long noticed that Fox's MySpace is a soft-porn enterprise. Now Brave New Films is taking on Fox News for the same.
Watch the video:
Go here for a petition :FOX Attacks Decency with Bill O'Reilly Leading the Way
Demand "a la carte" cable television.
Under current law, you cannot opt-out of FOX. You are forced to put money in FOX's pockets every time you pay your cable bill.
The best way to keep FOX out of your home is to force cable companies to offer "a la carte" cable, where you only pay for the channels you want. A la carte will lower your cable bill, prevent inappropriate programming from entering your home, and will keep your money out of FOX's pockets.
I'm not going to tell you again. (Maybe I will...) Get your money out of money market funds(and brokerages) and into federally insured accounts at banks.
Fast summary – as far as I can figure out what is going on: mortgages (and other debts) were grouped together and sold as investment “instruments.” These instruments were called “collateralized debt obligations” (CDOs) – or collections of obligations to pay back loans, backed by collateral. The grouping contained levels of good, medium and subprime mortgages and other debt. These levels of quality in each of the instruments are called “tranches.” So there is a good tranche, a medium tranche, etc. (Lots of tranches in a CDO)
The instruments were very complicated so buyers depended on rating agencies instead of looking into each loan (and the documentation backing up the loan) that was in them. The rating agencies rated them as high-grade. (Rating agencies made their money from the companies who were selling the instruments, and possibly rated them up for that reason.)
The investment value came from the idea that these CDOs would provide a regular cash income for a certain number of years as the debtors made their payments.
There were well over a trillion dollars worth of these sold. Maybe a few trillion. But they are very thinly “traded” so one knows what they are worth now. (Something that is traded can be “marked to market,” meaning you can find a mark or price by looking at what the last one sold for.) No one is sure what is in these, they are not sold after the initial sale, and as foreclosures rise they are looking worse and worse. But no one knows. And of course no one will buy one now. So no one knows, and no one is going to know until every single loan in each of these instruments is evaluated. (Does Tom Whitmore really make $90,000 a year? And was the appraiser accurate when he said the 2br 1ba was worth $860,000?)
So now the bigger problem is that with so many companies, etc. owning these CDOs, no one knows who will be able to pay their bills, and they certainly can’t use the CDOs as collateral now, so no one is willing to extend credit. Hence, the “credit crunch.” And hence all the uncertainty about who is solvent or not.
Finally, go read this entire post: The Agonist: The Wile E. Coyote Economy.
It all started coming apart with the subprime mortgage crisis. It should be emphasized that problems extend far, far beyond subprime, but it's there that they first showed up, where they first became undeniable. It's then that Wile, scanning the horizon, though to himself, “Gee, I don't see any ground. Maybe I should look down.” As people realized there was no "there," there; that many of these mortgage backed securities were worth cents on the dollar, they stopped being willing to buy them. The defaults started occurring and as people kept looking more and more they began to be forced to actually consider “How much is this worth?” And they didn't stop at subprime mortgages.
Now the reason this mattered is that most Wall Street firms (and many banks) have a ton of this paper, and they are also heavily leveraged with loans. Those loans are loaned against the value of their portfolios. So when other firms and various banks started realizing the paper was worthless they stopped wanting to continue to extend loans. When the loans came due (and most loans these days are short term, from days to months) they didn't just roll them over.
Without the loans firms began to face the possibility that to meet their obligations, to pay back the non-rolled-over loans, they might have to actually come up with cash. Which means they might actually have to sell some of this paper. And if they sold it, they'd know what it was worth. And if they knew what it was worth, they'd have to mark down all of it in their portfolio And if it's really worth cents on the dollar, well that could wipe out billions. In fact, it could wipe out the entire capital of firms.
This post is a must-read: "THANK GOD FOR TALK RADIO!"
So: Politics 101. Stake out an ultra-extreme position so that when the rest of your party endorses a merely extreme position it looks like it's a moderate compromise.Yes, progressives need to develop an infrastructure to get their message out to the public. The progressive movement needs infrastructure organizations to research and develop ideas and articulate these ideas in ways that resonate with the public- thereby creating demand for progressive policies and candidates.
Question: why don't liberals do this? The stock answer is that we're wimps, but I don't think that's it. At least, not always. I think the answer is talk radio. Our extremists don't succeed in redefining the playing field because there's no institutional infrastructure behind them that converts lunacy into political pressure.
November 7, 2007
Federal money funneled to the President's BROTHER! D'ya think may THAT has an appearance of impropriety?
Well do ya, punk?
The Education Department's inspector general says he will review whether federal money is inappropriately being spent on programs by a company founded by Neil Bush, the president's brother.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a Washington-based watchdog group, called for the inquiry and released a letter this week from the department's inspector general, John Higgins Jr.
. . . The group contends school districts inappropriately are using federal dollars for Ignite! Learning Inc. programs. It says there is no proof the company's products are effective and claims the schools are using the products due to political considerations.
The phrase debt slavery has been coming up more and more often in articles, posts and other things I have been reading.
I wonder why?
Also check daily Burma updates at burma.newsladder.net
On CNN, on the air, CNN Headline News host Glenn Beck called for genocide against Muslims. Crooks & Liars has the video
But right now, I want to focus on one important one, and that is “You can’t make deals with Islamic extremists.” Pakistan has tried everything so far to stomp out the Islamicist threat. They’ve tried bringing them into the fold. They’ve tried to negotiate with them. They’ve even tried to co-exist with them by creating “no-go” zones. But despite all of that, along with all of the billions in aid, and all the intel that we’ve given them, everything they’ve tried has failed. There’s one thing in my book they haven’t tried yet and that is: Killing. Every. Single. One. Of the radicals.Talk about eliminationist rhetoric!
November 6, 2007
You'd think if offense (rather than defense) ever entered Pelosi and Hoyer's heads, they'd want to put an hour of Cheney-bashing debate on TV. But they want at all costs to avoid impeachment, and you can't debate the substance of the charges against Cheney without making an obvious case for impeachment.You know what? Let me repeat it, bolded this time: You don't mind if I do that, do you?
You'd think if offense (rather than defense) ever entered Pelosi and Hoyer's heads, they'd want to put an hour of Cheney-bashing debate on TV. But they want at all costs to avoid impeachment, and you can't debate the substance of the charges against Cheney without making an obvious case for impeachment.
Dennis Kucinich read a resolution to impeach Cheney on the floor of the House today. Watch the video. Send the link to friends - you can send e-mails of this post by clicking the "E-mail this" at the end of the post, or by going to the comments, and scrolling down: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJYbgouqlMw
Spread the word, people! Make this the most-watched video on YouTube. Send a message! Ask them to call their Representative asking them to vote for Kucinish's resolution. Make this a WAVE.
This is democracy, people. Get out in the streets and demand Dems support this!
Tim "Pumpkin Head" Russert said this Monday on the Hardball show:
"Everyone knows Social Security as it's constructed is not going to be in the same place it's gonna be for the next generation."He means that Social Security will have to be somehow restructured. Chris "Tweety" Matthews piped in to say:
"It's a bad Ponzi scheme at this point, yeah."They went on to talk about politicians needing to make "tough choices." "Tough choices" in this context usually means cutting promised retirement benefits instead of restoring the money that was taken from the Social Security Trust Fund and used for tax cuts. Never mind that Social Security has sufficient funds invested in its Trust Fund to cover almost any projected shortfall -- tax cuts and corporate welfare mean government is going to have trouble finding the money it owes to its citizens. So to head off the idea of getting the money from where the money went, the moneyed interests have launched a campaign to make people think this is somehow Social Security's problem -- the ones owed the money -- instead of the problem of the ones who got the money.
Why does "everyone know" that Social Security will need to be restructured? Because it has been repeated so often that people believe it is true. Something that "everyone knows" is also called "conventional wisdom." Once something becomes "conventional wisdom" it is extraordinarily difficult to shake people from believing it, true or not.
This is done because on Election Day it doesn't matter if something is actually true, it only matters what people think is true. This is the basis of the divide between the "reality-based community" and those who believe "we can create our own reality." (It is instructive to follow the link and learn where those terms originated. )
Such is the power of propaganda.
November 5, 2007
This is actually a very big story. The world's richest model (earned $30 million in 6 months this year) is now refusing to take her pay in dollars. She is insisting on Euros. This is huge because it will penetrate past the financial pages and cause people to start understanding what is going on - possibly starting a stampede from the dollar.
The world's richest model has reportedly reacted in her own way to the sliding value of the US dollar - by refusing to be paid in the currency.
Gisele Bündchen is said to be keen to avoid the US currency because of uncertainty over its strength.
The Brazilian, thought to have earned about $30m in the year to June, prefers to be paid in euros, her sister and manager told the Bloomberg news agency.
Smrat people got 7% fixed-rate loans because ARMs were obviously trouble. Their defaulting neighbors had 1% "teaser" rates and now get 5% loans as a bailout. The smart ones lose out all the way around.
Right, because in a free market, capitalist economy it would be wrong for home prices to drop and for me to have to spend less on the condo I'm looking to buy. Since when was it anybody's job to artificially drive up the prices of homes in my or any other neighborhood? Since when is it wrong for someone else to have their home value decrease because of a market adjustment, but it's right for me to have my future home cost increase because of an artificial intervention? They lose money, it's wrong - I lose money, it's right. Uh huh. I am just increasingly sick and tired of every bail out of the rich and the poor, from the right and the left, coming at the expense of those of us in the middle who never seem to get anything, except an increasingly large bill for helping everyone else at our own expense. I'm not opposed to helping others. I am opposed to never being on the receiving end of such help. The Republicans help one side, the Dems the other, and no one thinks of the middle.People who did the RIGHT thing is losing out now. On Wall Street people who took depositor and stockholder money, gambled it away, and got rich in the process are getting sweet bailout deals. Fairness should become an issue in this.
The number of deaths from bird flu in Indonesia reached 90 after a woman in Tangerang, West Java, was confirmed to have died of the virus on Saturday.90 deaths out of 112 infected is 80%.
"Until now a total of 112 have been infected with the virus and 90 of them have died," Tontro, a staffer at the Health Ministry`s bird flu control center, said here on Monday.
Why does Fox News put Moonies on as authorities?
Why don't other "competing" networks call them on things like this?
In the continuing story of the bursting of the housing bubble, this weekend at an emergency Board meeting Citigroup President Charles Prince "resigned" and the company announced it will write down up to $11 billion more for mortgage losses. But guess what? Citigroup problems grow,
Citigroup Inc's (C.N) problems deepened on Monday as it was unable to assure investors a potential $11 billion write-down for subprime mortgages won't grow, and its nearly pristine credit rating was downgraded.Also, Citigroup is sitting on $134.8 billion in questionable assets. A lot of that could go, too.
The largest U.S. bank also reduced previously reported third-quarter profit because of credit market problems that it said could reduce future cash flow.
In my opinion it is urgent that everyone understand how FDIC limits work. This is a time when you need to know that your own money is safe. The limit is $100,000 per bank, $200,000 per couple, and $250,000 for retirement accounts. If you are lucky enough to have more than that in one bank, split it up. Ad I did say bank - not brokerage. And tell your friends and relatives to do the same.
November 3, 2007
What the world thinks of America.
There is good news. Let's hope it lasts: Powerful roadside blasts decline in Iraq - Los Angeles Times,U.S.
Defense officials said Thursday that Iraqi insurgents have sharply curtailed the use of their most powerful roadside bombs, weapons American officials have repeatedly charged are being smuggled into the war zone from Iran.Thousands Return to Safer Iraqi Capital,
. . . The decline in such attacks, Odierno said, coincided with a drop in the number of U.S. military casualties, civilian killings and overall deaths.
In a dramatic turnaround, more than 3,000 Iraqi families driven out of their Baghdad neighborhoods have returned to their homes in the past three months as sectarian violence has dropped, the government said Saturday.
. . . "In the past three months, the ministry did not register any forced displacement in the whole of Iraq," said Nawrous, who is a Kurd.
The claim could not be independently verified, but, if true, it would represent a dramatic end to the sectarian cleansing that has shredded the fabric of Baghdad's once mixed society.
Pakistani President Musharraf has imposed martial law on the country, as their Supreme Court was just about to rule on the legitimacy of his October election. The best news source I have been able to find is BBC: Musharraf imposes emergency rule,
Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf has declared emergency rule and suspended the country's constitution.Pakistan is under pressure from al Queda/Taliban types. The country has nuclear weapons. Watch this one closely - it affects us all.
Troops have been deployed inside state-run TV and radio stations, while independent channels have gone off air.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, who condemned the moves, has reportedly been sacked and is being confined to the Supreme Court with 10 other judges.
The New York Times has a write-up here: Musharraf Declares State of Emergency,
The declaration came the day after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the senior American military commander in the Middle East, Admiral William J. Fallon, both warned General Musharraf not to impose emergency rule. Admiral Fallon, meeting here with General Musharraf and his top generals, said such a move would jeopardize the extensive American financial support for the Pakistani military.
November 2, 2007
Shaking off fears about weakness in housing and credit, the U.S. economy created 166,000 net jobs in October, the best job growth since May, the Labor Department reported Friday.We have to wait a month to know more... But the last two month's reports were revised down:
... However, a separate survey of 60,000 households showed a loss of 250,000 workers, the third decline in the past four months. Economists say the payroll survey is more accurate, while acknowledging that it may not work as well when the economy is at a turning point.
Payroll growth in August and September was revised down by a total of 10,000. The economy created 96,000 jobs in September.
November 1, 2007
This piece originally appeared at Speak Out California
As an experiment, try substituting the words, "We, the People" every time you read or use the word "government." Or use the word "our" instead of "the" when you say "the government." Our government, us, we, the people. This really does change the way we understand the relationship between our government and ourselves, doesn't it?
The other day I brought up the example of Ronald Reagan's famous saying, "Government is the problem." When you look at that saying in this new way, he is saying "We, The People are the problem." Doesn't that sound like he is expressing a profoundly anti-democratic sentiment? Is that really what we want our leaders to be promoting?
How many other places do we discover similar anti-democratic sentiments? How about when we hear about "limited government?" Are conservatives saying that they want to limit the power of the people? What about when they talk about getting rid of government regulations? Do conservatives want to stop the people from regulating what corporations do? When you think about what their words really mean, it sure starts to sound that way.
Conservatives have worked hard to make "government" a bad word. They complain about "big government." They complain about "government schools." But what happens when we substitute a form of "We, the People" into their slogans? The whole meaning seems to change.
Behind-the-scenes conservative leader Grover Norquist is known (to some of us) for having said, "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub." Think about what he is saying about democracy there. He wants to drown it!
Besides fewer decisions made by "the government," another thing conservatives say they want is more decisions made by the "private sector." Let's examine what these words really mean. Business.com offers this definition of "private sector": "Part of national economy made up of, and resources owned by, private enterprises." Wikipedia offers, "In economics, the private sector is that part of the economy which is both run for profit and is not controlled by the state."
So when conservatives say more decisions should be made by the private sector than by the government, aren't they saying that instead of We, The People making decisions we should hand the decision-making power over to the corporations? Is this really what we want?
Sure, the words about "smaller government" and "deregulation" sound good, but when you really think about what they are saying, maybe it isn't such a good idea after all. At least, if we think democracy is a good idea, that is.
President Bush today called for gas rationing, a draft and tax increases to fight the greatest threat the country has ever faced.
President Bush compared Congress' Democratic leaders Thursday with people who ignored the rise of Lenin and Hitler early in the last century, saying "the world paid a terrible price" then and risks similar consequences for inaction today.What? I'm sorry? You're saying he was asking for the right to wiretap without warrants, and nothing else?
... "Unfortunately, on too many issues, some in Congress are behaving as if America is not at war," Bush said during a speech at the Heritage Foundation.
... Bush said denial that "we are at war" is dangerous. "History teaches us that underestimating the words of evil, ambitious men is a terrible mistake," Bush said. "Bin Laden and his terrorist allies have made their intentions as clear as Lenin and Hitler before them. And the question is, will we listen?"
Oh ... never mind.
We are at a crossroads. Do we have rule of law or not?
The problem with Attorney General nominee Mukasey and waterboarding is that if he acknowledges that waterboarding is torture he will be confirmed as Attorney General - and will be forced to prosecute the waterboarders and the people who ordered it. So what is going to happen is that he won't be confirmed and we'll be left with no Attorney General until Bush leaves, or some Democrats will cave and he will be confirmed anyway. Being confirmed and then prosecuting for torture won't happen.
But one way or another the pressure is on now for prosecution. The only way our country can get past the stain of torture is to prosecute the people who did it. All of them - from top to bottom - in front of the world. You can't sweep this under the rug and you can't let "I was only following orders" hang there, waiting for the next opportunity.
This is the same problem as telecom immunity. Just after taking office the bush administration went to the phone companies and got htem to start wiretapping us. (Forget all this crap that it happened because of 9/11, it happened just after Bush took office.) And now they're trying to get out of being held accountable for breaking the law.
We either have law or we don't. This is a crossroads moment. I am not optimistic that this country is capable of going the right way.
U.S. residential foreclosure filings nearly doubled last quarter from a year earlier, and appear set to increase into 2008, a report said on Thursday.One results: soon there will be many more homes on the market. And remember, MOST of the "ARM resets" - loans with low "teaser" or "qualifying" initial rates that reset to high interest rates - happen into next year. So expect the foreclosures to continue to increase for at least a year. The housing market is nowhere near a "bottom."
Foreclosure filings for July-September rose to 635,159, representing one in every 196 households and a 30 percent jump from the second quarter, according to RealtyTrac, a marketer of foreclosure properties based in Irvine, California.
Just so you know what's circulating: Hillary's Lesbian Affair with Muslim Aide
How many TV shows in the last few years have been about pedophiles killing kids? Have you noticed the huge increase?
Sex offenders locked down, in the dark for Halloween,Scores of sex offenders in Anderson, South Carolina, will be corralled for Halloween tonight in a move authorities say is needed to keep kids safe as they trick or treat.
. . . Authorities in Roanoke, Virginia, will do the same.
. . . While there's a debate about the need for restrictions and authorities aren't imposing such stringent restrictions everywhere, special limits on sex offenders for the evening are widespread.
. . . Paroled offenders in California have a 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, cannot leave any outside lights on and may not answer their doors except for law enforcement. Illinois offenders face similar restrictions, including a ban on dressing in a costume.
. . . Sheriff's deputies in Harris County, Texas, have been checking homes of sex offenders for Halloween decorations and are ready to arrest violators.Even though:
"There has not been a single case of any child being molested by a convicted sex offender while trick-or-treating," writes columnist Benjamin Radford on LiveScience.com.Pump up the fear.
Rebecca Brunger, an Alaska probation officer, told the Anchorage Daily News her state doesn't put any extra restrictions on sex offenders on Halloween as there's never been a case there of a trick-or-treater being molested by a registered offender.
. . . He said in 20 years he'd never run across a case of a sex offender attacking a child on Halloween.