December 31, 2007
"The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power."
- - Franklin D.Roosevelt
"Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power."
- - Benito Mussolini
Chris at Open Left talks about the "need" for a "middle" party of Unity"
. . . over the last five years, Democrats in Congress have only blocked the following pieces of legislation:Go read.
* Three conservative judges (out of several dozen)
* Privatization of Social Security
* Retroactive immunity for telecom companies in the warrantless spying program.
* Legislation to deport millions of illegal aliens
Given that these are the only conservative pieces of legislation that Democrats in Congress have blocked in the past five years, one must assume that a "government of national unity" means a government that will confirmation 100% of all conservative judges, the destruction of social security, retroactive immunity of telecom companies, and the mass deportation of twelve million people. If this third-party did not favor these things, then there would be absolutely no need to form "a government of national unity." Those four things are the sum total of what Democrats in Congress have prevented Republicans from passing, and thus are the entirety of what Democrats have contributed to "gridlock in Washington." Every other reform has been blocked by Republicans.
[. . .] The insider political media is now embedded with, and morphed into, the insider political classes to the point where they part of the same beast. The insider political reporters have moved beyond the courtiers that Stephen Colbert so brilliantly satired two White House correspondents dinners ago; and have fully joined the home team of the insider Washington establishment.Go read - it's great.
This class decided a year ago which candidate was inevitable, and which candidates were exiled into the insider media gulag, destined to disappear as though they never existed.
By any standard, Joe Biden, Bill Richardson and Chris Dodd stand at the top of the list in presidential qualification, stature, substance and a lifetime of depth and achievement. A reasonable person might conclude that each of these three, has equal or greater qualification to be president as any of the three leading Democrats.
[. . .] Who do these people think they are, that during most of the presidential debates, the three candidates with such vast experience had to virtually ask permission, to sandwich a few seconds of their views, into the most boring, shallow, vapid, pointless debates that any serious democracy could possibly conduct at such a momentous time in our history?
Regarding the last Iowa Democratic debate, who do these sainted Iowa debate organizers think they are, that Alan Keyes gets prime participation in the Republican debate while Dennis Kucinich is banned from the Democratic debate?
I cannot even show minimal professional respect; only an idiot would give Keyes prime exposure while treating Kucinich like a Guantanamo detainee; and the idiots that made this decision have far too much power, in Iowa and nationally, for the health of our democracy.
December 30, 2007
So far we have been hearing about a "problem" with "subprime" mortgages that went to people with bad credit. Then we heard about problems with "adjustable" mortgages where the payments go up after a period of time and mortgages with no down payments and mortgages where the borrower didn't have to verify how much income they really had. You can readily see where there could be problems with all of those.
My prediction for next year is that the problem will spread to regular mortgages given to regular people with good credit. The reason I think this will happen is that I think housing prices are going to fall quite a bit. If prices go to where they should be according to historical norms, or according to the historic ratio between rents and prices,or according to what always happens when bubbles pop, then they are going to fall as much as 40-50%. Maybe even more. (And never mind that the "boomers" are starting to retire and will not need the houses many of them have further increasing inventory and decreasing demand...)
So next year we're going to see a LOT of regular people with regular mortgages go "underwater" -- meaning they will owe a lot more than the current market price of their houses. In many states the regulations allow people to get out of their mortgages by giving the house to the lender and not have to make up the difference if the mortgage is for more than the house can sell for. And many will do exactly that. (Which will even further increase inventory and put pressure on prices.)
So next year I predict the credit crisis is going to get a LOT worse.
December 29, 2007
After a traumatic event people are in shock. And that is when the capitalists push through a series of radical changes to the system, all in their favor, before citizens get a chance to catch their breath, understand what is happening to them, and fight back. For example, since 9/11 how many things have changed here in favor of the big corporations and against the citizens? (The Department of Homeland Security prohibited unions and outsourced all those government workers. The war in Iraq. The Constitution no longer means anything. Oil company profits are beyond belief, etc...)
Watch this short film about Naomi Klein's book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism:
This short film concludes that the best defense is to arm yourself with information. To that end I strongly, strongly recommend that you watch the four-part series The Century of the Self.
Here is episode one, but it is so much better to go to the Google Video site and see it in higher resolution.
December 28, 2007
A bulletin arrived in my e-mail this morning with the headline, "U.S. new-home sales fall more significantly than forecast in November" All I could think to say was "NOT"
No, everyone who actually learns about what is going on with housing is surprised that ANY new homes were sold, and that ANYone is stupid enough to buy ANY house until the price reverts to the mean. This is a popping bubble, people. If you buy a house now it will be worth a third less in two years. ANY house! Remember how many stocks went to zero after being "golden" for so long? This is what HAPPENS when bubbles pop. DUH!
Sales of new U.S. homes fell by a more-than-expected 9% in November to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 647,000, the Commerce Department reported Friday. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch were expecting new home sales to drop to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 710,000 in November. Meanwhile, October's sales rate was revised downward, to rise by 711,000, or 1.7%. They were previously estimated to have risen to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 728,000. In the past year, sales of new U.S. homes are down 34.4% nationwide.
Republicans are making their point more clear -- and the point is that hatred and bigotry will be their 2008 campaign theme: Chase "the Muslims" "back to their caves."
John Deady, Co-Chair for New Hampshire’s Veterans for Rudy:Go read more and see the video clip.…(Rudy Giuliani has) the knowledge and judgment to attack one of the most difficult problems in current history. And that is the rise of the Muslims. And make no mistake about it, this hasn’t happened for a thousand years. These people are very, very dedicated. They’re also very smart, in their own way. And we need to keep the feet to the fire and keep pressing these people ‘til we defeat them or chase them back to their caves, or in other words, get rid of them.
December 27, 2007
From Mike Gravel
It turns out that I co-wrote the one I submitted to Jon, The Boy Who Cried Terror, with James Boyce. Oops.
So here is a collection of the Seeing the Forest Best of 2007, not in any order:
All of the Housing Bubble Post archives are here.
And of course everything I wrote with James Boyce, which is archived at Smoking Politics.
I missed putting this up the other day, but it's still good. It's all good.
Robert Earl Keen- Merry Christmas From The Family
And, the Dixie Chicks:
Jon Swift has a roundup of best blog posts of 2007. I recommend taking a look: Jon Swift: Best Blog Posts of 2007 (Chosen by the Bloggers Themselves).
Submitting something prompted me to look at the last year's blog posts, and I'll put up my own Best Of Seeing the Forest 2007 soon.
Go read the whole thing: DownWithTyranny!: Update to Howie's post from Myanmar: NO MORE POSTS FROM MYANMAR,
Let's suppose you're a functionary working for a tinpot dictatorship, and you hear tell of a website called "DownWithTyranny." Do you:
(a) E-mail your friends saying, "Hmm, this sounds way cool"?
(b) Read some back posts, adding snarky comments reflecting the pro-tyrannical point of view?
(c) Block the shit out of the damn thing?
The most likely culprit is the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda. But it's not exactly an event met with tears by the Pakistani military, which thoroughly controls the government and the economy.London Times has a roundup of "blog reaction" but I don't know many of the blogs
. . . U.S. strategy didn't exactly find that so offensive. "The idea was to consolidate the alliance of the so-called moderate forces in the Pakistani military through this election that the military was going to rig but we were going to certify anyway," Rubin observes. That is, as long as Bhutto was in the picture -- since the U.S. had reduced the democratic opposition to the figure of Benazir Bhutto, although her corruption as PM was manifest. Without Bhutto, it is unclear what the U.S. will do.
Bhutto's assassination presents an opportunity for Musharraf. "It's very possible Musharraf will declare [another] state of emergency and postpone the elections," Rubin continues. "That will confirm in many people's minds the idea that the military is behind" the assassination. For it's part, the U.S. will likely "be scrambling to say the election either needs to be held as planned or postponed rather than canceled, but Musharraf is in a position to preempt that."
As a result, Rubin says, U.S. strategy is "in tatters."
."I hope that the killing of Benazir Bhutto will open the eyes of US and UK adminsitration and will allow political forces to grow rather Pakistan Army. I hope that the people of Pakistan would come to roads and will throw away Pakistan Army and its dirty establishment and ISI."Raw Story has AP,
While awaiting formal confirmation of Bhutto's death in an attack on an election rally, U.S. officials — who had labored to promote stability in the nuclear-armed country that has been an anti-terrorism ally — huddled to assess the impact of Bhutto's passing just two weeks before legislative elections in the turbulent nation in which her party was expected to do well."CNN has Arnaud de Borchgrave on the air, calling him an "analyst: That's further right than even Fox.
If you see stories like this, firedoglake: Bill Shaheen’s Obama Attack Hurts Wife’s Senate Campaign Against Sununu,
It appears Bill Shaheen's attack on Barack Obama is hurting his wife's Jeanne's Senate chances. From the latest ARG poll: . . .then you should go support Jay Buckey, who is running as a PROGRESSIVE DEMOCRACT in the New Hampshire Senate primary race.
. . . Jeanne Shaheen is Chuck Schumer's hand-picked candidate, and she certainly has name recognition in the state, but she's hardly the most progressive candidate (the advantage on that front would definitely go to Jay Buckey).
It may be as Bennett says a temporary aberration, but if the moral factors of the situation weren't enough, I think the political lesson here is also clear -- some campaign tactics are simply best left to Republicans.
Jay's an astronaut, by the way, and you can get a signed space shuttle hand-squeeze stress reliever if you go to his website and donate. (I just donated.)
December 26, 2007
This time it's the elderly that get screwed. You see, actually providing promised health care might mean a CEO has to get a smaller second jet.
,The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Wednesday that employers could reduce or eliminate health benefits for retirees when they turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare.Don't you just LOVE that? I mean, how smooth is that? "will help employers continue to VOLUNTARILY provide" ... which of course means get rid of.
The policy, set forth in a new regulation, allows employers to establish two classes of retirees, with more comprehensive benefits for those under 65 and more limited benefits — or none at all — for those older.
More than 10 million retirees rely on employer-sponsored health plans as a primary source of coverage or as a supplement to Medicare, and Naomi C. Earp, the commission’s chairwoman, said, “This rule will help employers continue to voluntarily provide and maintain these critically important health benefits.”
The new policy creates an explicit exemption from age-discrimination laws for employers that scale back benefits of retirees 65 and over. Mr. Mackaronis asserted that the exemption was “in direct conflict” with the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.
I usually work at the polls on election day. When voters ask me why we don't require ID to vote I tell them that Americans are not required to "carry papers." We, the People are in charge here and we do not have to prove to anyone that we are citizens.
Home prices in 20 major U.S. cities were down 6.1% on average in the past year as of October, according to the Case-Shiller price index released Wednesday by Standard & Poor's.This is only the beginning.
Since October 2006, prices in 10 cities fell 6.7% -- a record drop. The prior largest decline was 6.3% in April 1991.
. . . Miami sustained the largest drop over the past year, with a decline of 12.4%. Next came: Tampa, with a drop of 11.8%, Detroit with a drop of 11.2%, and San Diego with a drop of 11.1%.
By the way, does this price drop take into account 4% inflation? If not the real decline was quite a bit greater.
As you recall, a federal jury recently acquitted Matt McCoy after deliberating for less than two hours--an embarrassing outcome for the prosecution.Go read the rest
Marc Hansen, who for my money is the best columnist at the Des Moines Register, wrote a good column about speculation that politics influenced McCoy's prosecution. Key passage:Most Democrats you talk to around here say politics was behind the prosecution of state Sen. Matt McCoy.
They have their reasons. Some even sound legitimate, especially in light of a recent University of Minnesota study that brings hard numbers to the discussion.
For every elected Republican the Justice Department has investigated during the George W. Bush years, seven elected Democrats have been investigated, the research says.
Can that be right? Are there really that many more bad-apple Democrats?
The jury took about an hour and a half last week to decide that McCoy wasn't guilty of attempted extortion. And that includes lunch.
I think we are going to see LOTS of news stories about Democratis "investgated" by the Justice Department before the 2008 elections. Those prosecutors are still there - the ones who wouldn't play ball and investigate Democrats are drop investigations of Republicans have been sacked.
And the Senate has issued strongly-worded statements - but done little else.
December 24, 2007
I missed this in April ... Romney Favors Hubbard Novel,
When asked his favorite novel in an interview shown yesterday on the Fox News Channel, Mitt Romney pointed to “Battlefield Earth,” a novel by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. That book was turned into a film by John Travolta, a Scientologist.I ask this in all seriousness, is it possible to even know about this novel if you are not involved in Scientology - much less say it is your favorite novel? OK, it's possible, but is it possible for an educated person who does know about the novel to not know that it is Scientology? (Never mind that it is a candidate for worst movie ever made.)
A spokesman said later it was one of Mr. Romney’s favorite novels.
“I’m not in favor of his religion by any means,” Mr. Romney, a Mormon, said. “But he wrote a book called ‘Battlefield Earth’ that was a very fun science-fiction book.” Asked about his favorite book, Mr. Romney cited the Bible.
What is Mitt Romney doing mixed up in Scientology? It's possible that he has had the kind of life that makes a person vulnerable to their recruitment - as well as a target.
Let me say this about that.
Health care doesn't work unless everyone has insurance. Otherwise you are only insuring the sick, which is expensive. And the sick who aren't uninsured aren't insured so what is the point?
Hillary and Edwards are for it, Obama says he is against it. Which means, of course, his plan can't work.
The reason this is discussed as an option at all is that everyone is afraid of the big insurance companies. The feel that if they don't offer a plan that keeps the big insurance companies in the deal those companies will campaign against them,like they did against Bill Clinton after Hillary offered her plan in the early 90's. So they come up with plans that depend on pumping money to private insurance companies.
Of course, the big insurance companies are going to work to undermine a Democratic President no matter what, but the candidates have to pretend this won't happen... otherwise they would have to offer the dreaded Medicare-For-All plan that every other country in the world has, and works, and covers everyone, and costs so much less...
Mandates require us to give large amounts of our money to corporations. Cool! My wife and I currently pay about $1200 a month for health care for two people. Imagine thinking you can get elected by offering a plan that requires everyone to give $1200 a month to corporations!
This all shows that the candidates are far more afraid of offending the big corporations than of offending the People.
December 23, 2007
Espresso left us this year, but now she has all the muffins she could want.
Buddy still has to suffer indignities...
Happy Holidays from the Johnsons!
December 22, 2007
Mitt Romney's father George was solid on civil rights, and probably did walk with Martin Luther King - at least would have if he had the opportunity. I saw something that indicated this yesterday, but not enough to post. But this has more: Talking Points Memo | Witnesses Back Up Mitt Romney On MLK,
It's looking like Mitt Romney might have been judged too quickly on the Martin Luther King business. Two witnesses have now come forward to The Politico, insisting that they saw the late Gov. George Romney (R-MI) make a surprise appearance alongside King in 1963.Fair is fair. This certainly is not an endorsement of Mitt Romney.
The campaign has also posted a collection of citations — including a contemporary account from the Detroit Free Press — attesting that it happened.
John Edwards tonight cited the case of a 17-year-old California girl who died after her insurance company refused coverage on a liver transplant to save her life as a call to action to change the current system of healthcare in America.
Nataline Sarkysian died last night at UCLA Medical Center after complications arose from a bone marrow transplant to treat her leukemia. Her insurance provider, CIGNA Healthcare, first denied the potentially lifesaving transplant, but relented after a loud public protest and outrage. By that time, though, Sarkysian passed away before the procedure could be performed.
"Are you telling me that we're gonna sit at a table and negotiate with those people?" asked a visibly angered Edwards, challenging the health care companies. "We're gonna take their power away and we're not gonna have this kind of problem again."
December 21, 2007
I think I understand the appeal of Ron Paul a little better now. This post at an economics blog makes the case:
. . . Bush would rather waste $70 billion and another 10,000 lives than admit his programs are a complete failures.People want the war stopped, they don't see the Democrats doing that. Therefore...
"With great fanfare" the Pentagon adopted a reduction in overseas force plan in 2004. The only thing that has changed since then is more lives have been lost, more money has been wasted, and the economy has soured. There are no jobs here so Bush will do whatever he can, including the deliberate sacrificing the lives of US soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the deliberate waste of $billions elsewhere, just to prevent unemployment numbers from rising headed into an election year.
What's even sadder is that spineless Democrats are going along with his strategy. If you want to stop this madness, there is only one choice: Vote for Ron Paul.
Update - I am in no way endorsing Ron Paul here, I am saying I understand the appeal -- to the "low information voters" who don't understand what many of his other policies mean in the real world Some are good ideas, others are proven to not work. nd then there's this "NAFTA Highway" conspiracy stuff... Wow.
I came across this gem:
Earl Scruggs & The Byrds playing You Ain't Going Nowhere, from 1971
And while we're at it:
Leo Kottke - I Yell at Traffic & Don't Call Me Ray
Oh, OK, Julie's House:
Here's what's going on in the financial markets:
Part 1: Mortgages
After the 2001 stock market crash the Federal Reserve dramatically lowered interest rates. This made the monthly payment on mortgages very low, so more people could afford to pay more for houses, or could refinance their house. This increased the demand for houses, making housing prices rise. Because housing prices were rising people started speculating, "flipping" and a number of other things that made prices rise into a bubble - with people buying houses solely because of the price increases.
So the price increases caused prices to increase, which cause an exponential price rise curve to develop.
Because of this, builders started flooding the market with housing developments and condos, greatly increasing the inventory of houses.
While all this was going on people with poor credit histories were able to get mortgages without any down payments, at a very low interest rate that would "reset" after 2 or 3 years, and without even having to show how much money they made.
Then came the day when prices stopped rising. Which caused all of those people who buy-because-prices-are-rising to stop buying. But many of them were "leveraged" -- they had huge loans that depended on rising prices for them to be able to sell to pay off the loans.
Then for some reason more and more of the poor-credit-history people who had no down payments and never proved how much they made started to not pay their monthly payments. Go figure.
And a lot of other things happened that caused people to stop being able to pay their mortgages. So more houses came on the market at the same times as fewer buyers wanted to buy and prices started to drop. As prices dropped people who had bought or refinanced their houses started finding that they owed more than the house is worth.
So lots of people will be foreclosed on and lose their houses, etc. and the lenders who loaned out those mortgages will eat the losses. Except,
Part 2: Credit markets
The lenders borrowed the money to make those loans. Or they "sold" the loans to "investors" looking for monthly payments at a higher interest rate than banks pay. And those investors borrowed the money to buy the loans. And because many people are defaulting on their mortgages, the people who made or bought them aren't getting paid, so they soon won't be able to make their payments.
So the companies that loaned the money to them won't be paid. And they borrowed the money to make those loans, and because they might not be paid back, they might not be able to pay the companies that loaned THEM the money.
To understand where this vicious cycle ends go to the beginning of the previous paragraph and read it again. Each time you finish, go back and start again. Keep doing that until you get the point. In other words, anyone who has made any loans is - or at least should be - wondering if they will be paid back.
(By the way, deposits in a bank, brokerage, etc. are part of that loop. Make sure that your money is moved to federally insured banks. If you have money in a money market fund you are somewhere in that loop and your money has been loaned out and you are not insured. That money has been loaned out to someone who doesn't know if they can pay it back. That's what a money market fund is. That's why it pays higher interest -- because risk = return.)
So that in a nutshell is what is going on. Until everyone "comes clean" and lets everyone else know how much "exposure" they have to bad loans, there is no reason to trust that they will be able to keep making their own payments on their own debt. And coming clean, or "unwinding" this might involve playing things out until everyone who is going to go bankrupt actually does so until we see who is still standing. Anyone who made loans or borrowed money is facing some level of risk right now. Anyone.
Every Democrat should read this: Daily Kos: This is it. This is the way to change our party,
As we've learned this year, Democrats in DC are more afraid of David Broder, Joe Klein, and Mr. 24%, than they are of their constituents. They are more concerned with Beltway opinion than they are with the national consensus. They are happier dealing with lobbyists than they are dealing with real people. They are more concerned with avoiding criticism than they are of delivering campaign promises.There are two specific primaries that we - the progressive movement - have candidates running in right now. Go read the post and learn what you can do.
So what can we do about it?
[. . .] Well, we have one tool at our disposal, our only way to influence the behavior of our elected officials:
We can primary them.
December 20, 2007
Go watch The Story of Stuff. I'm not asking, I'm telling.
What is the Story of Stuff?
From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It'll teach you something, it'll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.
Here we go again. The wingnuts will believe anything. It's sort of fun to watch, except that they have guns and power.
See Redstate | Okie Attorney General Bans Christmas. Seriously. Except if you read the story they point to the Oklahoma Atty General didn't "ban Chrsitmas" -- a wingnut group says he did with no evidence. Turns out from the story that some obscure HR person at a university may have done it - not the state Atty General as claimed. And the news source for this? "a visiting journalism fellow at The Heritage Foundation. " Heh.
And of course, other extremely gullible wingnuts jump on board to catapult the propaganda, as they say... Unfortunately they are giving out the Atty General's phone number, so readers can harass and intimidate him.
The whole point being, of course, to rile up the "wackos" (as the conservative leaders refer to the Christians). But this year it might backfire on them. The "conservative movement" is extremely threatened by candidate Mike Huckabee - but he is the primary beneficiary of their efforts to stir up religious strife.
Update - To his credit Captain's Quarters actually checked out the story - after posting - learned it isn't true, and posted an update. Others, however, join in echoing the lie - even adding more phone numbers and e-mail addresses to harass.
The Republican 2008 plan is revealed. In this case it plays out with the FEC, but next year the same strategy will play out over the whole government. The Republicans are demanding that the Democrats approve an unacceptable candidate for the FEC or they will shut it down and blame the Democrats for the shutdown. They don't want FEC oversight of this election, and if they must have it they want it run by Republican election-fixers.
The larger plan is the same: force unacceptable choices on the Democrats, giving them only options of approving the unacceptable choice or shutting down the government. They don't want the government functioning, and if they must have it they want it doing their bidding - funneling cash to their cronies and protecting the corporations from the citizenry. The Republicans will not offer acceptable options. The options they offer will be worse and worse until Democrats have no choice but to refuse to go along. Yes, worse than voting this week to fund the war.
From (Drudge lite) Politico: FEC heads toward shutdown,
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) just announced that the Senate will not clear four new appointees for the Federal Election Commission, meaning the panel that acts as a watchdog on political campaigns cannot function during the critical election-year period.Shutting down the government has been the 2008 plan of the Republicans for some time. They plan to blame the Democrats. They are currently preparing the ground by obstructing everything in the Senate and then going out with a narrative that the Democrats can't get anything done. They are telling the public that the Democrats are piling pork into the bills and massively increasing spending, etc.
[. . .] Reid said he will not relent on von Spakovsky, who has come under heavy criticism from civil-rights groups, and he blamed the White House and Republicans for the stalemate.
. . . Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters today that Democrats are unfairly trying to block a GOP nominee to the FEC, which is overseen by a panel of three Democrats and three Republicans.
This is coming, you'd better believe it.
December 19, 2007
Things are a bit better in Iraq because of a strategy shift. Note that better means not worse - which is good but still is not sustainable. Better doesn't mean that we are on a road to resolving this, just on a road to going on forever and going broke and degrading our military. We still have to get out. We can't have a huge "surge"of troops there forever, and things are not getting better enough. I acknowledge the reality that things stopped getting worse. Now the Republicans need to recognize the reality that there is no military solution.
Anyway, the story of how the strategy shift occurred is interesting.
But a USA TODAY investigation shows that the strategy now used to defeat the bombmaking networks and stabilize Iraq was ignored or rejected for years by key decision-makers. As early as 2004, when roadside bombs already were killing scores of troops, a top military consultant invited to address two dozen generals offered a "strategic alternative" for beating the insurgency and IEDs.
That plan and others mirroring the counterinsurgency blueprint that the Pentagon now hails as a success were pitched repeatedly in memos and presentations during the following two years, at meetings that included then-Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
The core of the strategy: Clear insurgents from key areas and provide security to win over Iraqis, who would respond by helping U.S. forces break IED networks and defeat the insurgency.
Bush administration officials, however, remained wedded to the idea that training the Iraqi army and leaving the country would suffice. Officials, including Cheney, insisted the insurgency was dying. Those pronouncements delayed the Pentagon from embracing new plans to stop IEDs and investing in better armored vehicles that allow troops to patrol more freely, documents and interviews show.
Do you see the connection?
Some of our candidates say they will keep combat troops in Iraq until 2013. The actions of the Congress since the 2006 election proves that we need to pin them down now, before the election. No more benefit of the doubt. We need a clear, indisputable mandate to end the Iraq war in this election. It is costing us too much. It is killing and injuring people, creating a massive number of refugees, forcing people to turn against America, and destroying our financial underpinnings.
Originally for Speak Out California
Our ongoing Speak Out California series on the California budget is interrupted by an "emergency." With California state budget deficit projections rising from $10 billion to $14 billion the Governor plans to declare a budget "emergency," saying he might propose "slashing" the state's budget by 10% "across the board."
But doesn't a budget involve spending and revenues? Why is the Governor tying one hand behind our backs? Why is the Governor only proposing that the people who are in a position to really need our government's help be the ones who must sacrifice in this "emergency?"
I'll begin with some background for those readers who don't spend their days scouring California budget news. According to Saturday's San Jose Mercury News story, Fiscal emergency for California,
Facing a projected $14 billion budget deficit, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Friday said he will declare a fiscal emergency, which will allow the governor and lawmakers to cut spending more quickly and also sets the stage for slashing state services and programs - perhaps by as much as 10 percent.
Who will be most affected by these cuts? The rich? The powerful? What do you think the odds of that are? According to the San Jose Mercury News story,
Much of California's general fund budget, which totals $102 billion for the 2007-08 fiscal year that began July 1, is designated for education, transportation and other uses. Therefore, cuts often fall disproportionately on social services and the poor, elderly and disabled residents who rely on them.
But in an "emergency" why would the Governor make a pre-emptive announcement that takes half of the state's budget options off the table? A budget consists of spending and revenues. Yet the Governor proposes to solve the problem entirely by cutting government services like education, social services and law enforcement, and is not even discussing raising taxes. Shouldn't half of the solutions toolkit warrant half of the discussion?
This one-sided debate on budget priorities is gaining attention. A Dec. 9 Los Angeles Times op-ed, Why won't The Times talk tax hikes?, by Robert Cruickshank, a political science teacher, addressed this unbalanced approach, writing, "There are ways for the governor to balance the budget without cutting spending." Questioning a one-sided approach to solving budget problems, he continued,
Here's the problem. The politics of the budget crisis are in large part shaped by media coverage. When the state's largest and most influential paper focuses on spending -- while largely ignoring the revenue side -- in budget articles, it implies that the solution to the budget crisis is slashing spending rather than raising taxes. That's not balanced journalism.
Citing several pieces that discussed cutting spending but not raising taxes, Cruickshank wrote,
To its credit, The Times, in a Nov. 9 editorial titled "Red-ink realism," correctly noted that Schwarzenegger is partly to blame for the budget mess by lowering the vehicle-license fee. But rather than call for tax increases -- or even just a study of possible new sources of revenue -- to pay for locked-in or new spending, the editorial offered up the bromide that California needs bold, courageous leadership to solve the budget problem.
This debate is not just happening in California. A recent New York Times op-ed by Robert Frank, Reshaping the Debate on Raising Taxes, addressed how a reluctance to discuss taxes affects the country. Frank wrote,
POWERFUL anti-tax rhetoric has made legislators at every level of government afraid to talk publicly about a need to raise taxes. The constituents of the few who dare speak are typically bombarded with attack ads that go something like this: "It's your money, but your esteemed senator thinks the bureaucrats in Washington know how to spend it more wisely than you do."
Because of our inability to talk sensibly about taxes, the United States has been sliding toward second-class status in the world economy. ...
And California is well along the path to second-class status as well. All we need to do is visit our schools or drive on our roads to see what the drumbeat of anti-tax, budget-cutting propaganda brings us.
It is tricks like declaring an "emergency" while taking half of the possible solution off the table, while at the same time our newspapers and other information sources refuse to inform the public of all of the ways that budget problems can be addressed, that got us where they are. This is not a sustainable path. The day must come when the budget just breaks down: when there is nothing left to cut, the interest paid on all the bonds catches up to us, and we wake up to see that our California Dream was sold off to the lowest bidder. It is better that we wake up now and reclaim the dream, asking those who have benefited most from the state we built to contribute their share.
They aren't "about" governing, they're about getting their way. They're about handing over the people's funds and resources to a few rich corporate paymasters.
Unprecedented. Without precedent. Never before. All records broken. Every.Single. Piece. Of. Legislation. Blocked. Obstructed. No cooperation. Party-line votes. Record-breaking use of the filibuster for every bill.
Go read about it at Campaign for America's Future :: RECORD-BREAKING: SENATE CONSERVATIVES,
The Republican Senate minority today filibustered an omnibus budget bill, setting a modern-day record for blocking the most legislation during a congressional session. A new report released today by the Campaign for America's Future details the 62 times conservatives have used the filibuster to block legislation (or force modification of bills) in the first session of the 110th Congress. In just the first year of this two-year Congress, their use of the filibuster in the Senate topped the previous record, reached during the entire 107th Congress.And just WHAT is being obstructed?
The new report outlines every bill filibustered, vetoed or threatened to be vetoed by President Bush. Conservatives filibustered bills to end the occupation of Iraq, provide soldiers in Iraq rest time equal to their deployments, support renewable energy and grant residents of the District of Columbia representation in Congress. Today's record-breaker involved a $516 billion budget package passed by the House to fund the federal government in 2008. The conservative minority demanded $20 billion additional funding for the war and opposed House language to bring troops home, and threatened a filibuster to prevent the bill from getting an up or down vote.
What have conservatives obstructed this year? Here's just a partial list:
-- Ending the disastrous occupation of Iraq.
-- Providing health insurance to millions more kids.
-- Empowering Medicare to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices.
-- Taking away handouts to Big Oil so we can invest in renewable energy.
-- Repealing the effective ban on embryonic stem cell research.
-- Investing more in health research.
-- Making it easier for workers to join unions.
-- Investing more in fighting poverty and training workers.
You need to go read this. Firedoglake: Disappeared Into Secret Pakistani and US Prisons,
US reporting on General Musharraf's suspension of Pakistan's Constitution and displacement of its Supreme Court focused on Musharraf's desire to remain in office. Musharraf also claimed the Court had undermined his fight against terrorism. But today's New York Times reveals that Musharraf also had the same motives the Bush Administration has in preventing their respective illegal detention programs from seeing the light of day or facing judicial scrutiny.Go read.
Today's article by reporter Carlotta Gall reveals that in apparent cooperation with US CIA and other officials, Musharraf had, long before his recent emergency actions, arrested hundreds, perhaps thousands of Pakistanis and detained them in secret prisons without charges. Some of the detainees were then rendered by US agents into Afghanistan, other countries, or Guantanamo, where some still languish without charges.
So was Musharraf shipping his rivals into the US secret detention system? Did Musharraf disband Pakistan's Supreme Court because they were ordering these political prisoners released?
December 18, 2007
Dear New York Times,
For those among you who don't like the progressive blogosphere, take a look at an example of how the right-wing blogosphere feels about you. And be sure to read the comments, particularly the one about how they should have shot your publisher instead.
The New York Times alleges that Blackwater, note the headline blaming Blackwater and not Blackwater employees, killed its dog.FYI - Redstate is one of the most prominent right-wing blogs.
I thought this was a joke at first, but the New York Times had a dog that attacked a bomb sniffing dog helping Blackwater and the Blackwater team shot the liberal's dog.
Now, isn't that typical. It's not just the New York Times that undermines the war and security efforts. It's their damn dog too.
I bet it was a female dog. That'd make it more ironic.
Good for Blackwater and I sincerely hope that the New York Times is actually telling the truth this time and isn't fabricating details. But I wouldn't be surprised by a fabrication on their part.
Another here - see the comments as well.
For those of you concerned about the state of US security--levees that don't collapse, for example, or bridges that don't fall into the Mississippi river, sit down before you see these numbers.Do you think all that FEAR that is being pumped into the public might have an agenda? Follow the money.
Last week, both houses of Congress approved the conference report on the Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Authorization bill, H.R. 1585. The bill includes $506.9 billion for the Department of Defense and the nuclear weapons activities of the Department of Energy. The bill also authorizes $189.4 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. This funding is NOT counted as part of the $506.9 billion.
. . . Keep in mind, today's defense spending is 14% above the height of the Korean War, 33% above the height of the Vietnam War, 25% above the height of the "Reagan Era" buildup and is 76% above the Cold War average.
. . .
Do you think the media is corporate-controlled, and offers only one viewpoint? Well, you ain't seen nothing yet.
Despite intense political pressure, the Federal Communications Commission is expected to approve a proposal Tuesday that will allow broadcasters in the nation's 20 largest media markets to also own a newspaper — overturning a 32-year-old ban.Hmm ... this would be in place just in time for the next election. I wonder which party these corporate-controlled news outlets will be pushing? Hmm...
Republican Chairman Kevin Martin says his plan is a "relatively minor loosening" of the rule, but it has received a considerable amount of opposition.
On Monday, 25 senators, including four Republicans, sent him a letter threatening that if he goes ahead with the vote, they will move legislation to revoke the rule and nullify the commission's action.
Update - It's done. FCC Votes To Relax Cross-Media Ownership Rule,
The Federal Communications Commission voted on Tuesday to loosen media ownership restrictions in the 20 biggest U.S. cities, despite objections from consumer groups and a threat by some U.S. senators to revoke the action.
December 17, 2007
Governor Richardson said Friday if elected he will investigate and prosecute the torturers - all the way to the top. And Senator Dodd is filibustering right now against retroactive immunity for crimes committed at Bush administration request. Now we should ask the rest of the candidates if, once elected, they will also hold Bush administration officials accountable for crimes they committed in office.
We learned this week that the CIA destroyed tapes of American officials committing torture. The American people deserve to know whether laws were violated and whether the President was directly involved in illegal activities. Torture is a black and white moral issue. A failure to act decisively in this case will be an unacceptable failure of leadership.
Torture is un-American, it violates international law, and it is wrong. And when I am President, I will make sure that those who are responsible for torture are held accountable for their actions.
And yet, in the thirteen months since winning back the House and Senate, Democrats in Congress have done too little to force this administration to stop torturing.Go read the rest.
Perhaps one reason that Bush and Cheney have been so comfortable with torture is that they feel they will never be held accountable for their actions.
Indeed, despite consistently stating that they can't accomplish anything because they lack a filibuster-proof majority, Senate Democrats failed even to block an Attorney General who equivocated on torture.
They have taken no action on the International Criminal Court.
They have failed to appoint a Special Prosecutor to provide for high-level accountability.
They failed to restore habeas corpus.
They have done nothing to enforce the Constitution or any of our laws against torture.
This must change. If Congress won't act, then our next President must.
The next President must be clearly and unequivocally committed to changing our country's stand on torture, and that is exactly what I pledge to do. Strong leaders are not afraid to be held accountable, nor are they afraid to hold others accountable for acts that we all know are wrong.
As soon I am inaugurated, I will order investigations to find out who is responsible for torture -- those who allowed it, those who sanctioned it, and those who carried it out. We can and will find out who is responsible.
And, once we've completed those investigations -- and if we find cause for prosecution -- I will insist on criminal prosecutions of anyone we find responsible for torture in this current administration. No one will be given a pass. NO ONE is above the law.
Full disclosure - I have been doing some consulting with the Richardson campaign.
Yesterday, The New York Times (Sunday edition) devoted almost a full page of its Op-Ed section to a number of short essays written by economists, Wall Street analysts, scholars and fellows at various "think tanks" (both liberal and conservative) government advisers (past or present) and prominent business people (many of these folks fit into more than one category, by the way). The question they were all asked to address: Are We in a Recession?Go read.
[. . .] Oddly enough (well, not really, I just like to use the word odd in all its varieties when discussing serious purveyors of news and public opinion such as, for example, The New York Times) there was one significant group of individuals who apparently were not asked to contribute to this discussion by answering the question posed by the Times' editors, as to whether "we" are in a recession (and I'm using we here in the same sense as that term is used in the phrase "We the People" in the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America, rather than limiting it to any "subset" of said "we" such as financial institutions, economists, investors, fellows at well known non-profit educational and policy foundations or highly compensated, highly educated, and highly intelligent people offered the chance to present their opinions on the Op-Ed pages of The New York Times). Can you guess who those people might be, the ones whose opinions were deemed unsuitable for inclusion alongside all of these well spoken and well informed worthies the Times chose to answer this question of serious concern to all Americans?
And what do you think, are "we" in a recession now? Leave a comment.
Regular people's wages are stagnant and falling behind. On top of that there are debates over whether inflation is back, or maybe we're heading into a period of deflation.
Here's what I know. I work free-lance so my pay varies. But my wife works in a 9-to-five job and gets a raise every year. And every year the amount taken out of her paycheck to cover her health insurance co-pay goes up more than her raise. The result is that every year my wife's take-home is lower.
And this cut in take-home pay happens before we pay for the medicine co-pay increases, the rent increases, car insurance increases, food price increases, gas price increases, home electric and heating increases, cable TV increases, etc. Whether there is "core inflation" or not this is what is happening in OUR house. And I am sure this is what is happening in a lot of other people's family budget as well.
December 16, 2007
What Democrat Taylor Marsh says.
Rising gas, food,health care and other prices, falling housing prices and savings rates, stagnant wages and all the rest are taking their toll: Retailers Face an Ominous Holiday Sign - New York Times,
Sales of women’s clothing, a traditional pillar of the holiday shopping season, are unusually weak so far this year, according to a major credit card company, an ominous sign for the retail industry.But all is not yet lost, SOME are doing just fine, thank you,
From high-end dresses to bargain coats, spending on women’s apparel dropped nearly 6 percent during the first half of the Christmas season, compared with the same period last year, according to MasterCard Advisors, a division of the credit card company.
Spending on luxury items is up 10.8 percent, “which isn’t bad at all,” Mr. McNamara said.Yes, at the top things are great.
A certain commenter might want to leave a message about heads on pikes, torches and pitchforks right about now...
December 14, 2007
skippy writes about tons of blood in sweeny todd and about kate blanchette in i'm not there. See skippy the bush kangaroo: saw - the musical!
In for a Surprise... Go read it, but I just had to reproduce the chart here:
In August, 2006, I wrote a post Today's Housing Bubble Post - How Far Can Prices Fall?
Suppose rents are $2000 a month for a 3-bedroom house. Subtract from that repairs, maintenance, etc., and let's say you are clearing $1800. Instead of trying to calculate property taxes let's just say $400 per month - which is lower than what they would be ($650) if purchased now but you'll get my point in a minute.That's SF Bay Area pricing, by the way. And prices tripled here in the bubble, so that sounds about right.
So you're clearing about $16,800 a year from your investment. Let's say you are shooting for a 7% return. That means the house SHOULD be priced at about $240K, approx 1/3 of current pricing.
But I'm not going that far in my prediction. You have to account for ten years of inflation - which is higher than reported. Also the dollar drop means people from other countries will find higher prices cheap and the Bay Area is a premium place to live. And other demographic factors. But I don't rule out a 50% drop. Prices here really shouldn't be much higher than maybe $400K
December 13, 2007
The U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation to bar CIA agents from using waterboarding during the questioning of suspected terrorists, drawing a veto threat from President George W. Bush.Also US House votes to outlaw CIA waterboarding,
. . . The legislation approved by the House today would require that all U.S. spy agencies follow the Army Field Manual's interrogation standard, which doesn't authorize waterboarding or other harsh techniques.
To become law, the legislation approved today would have to be approved by the Senate, which hasn't scheduled a vote, and be signed by Bush, who has stated his opposition.
Defying a White House veto threat, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on Thursday to outlaw harsh interrogation methods, such as simulated drowning, that the CIA has used against suspected terrorists.Meanwhile, FOX News: Waterboarding: It's a Good Thing,
On a largely party line vote of 222-199, the Democratic-led House approved a measure to require intelligence agents to comply with the Army Field Manual, which bans torture in compliance with the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war.
We've heard a lot about waterboarding lately — but only from people who never have anything nice to say about our country anyway.Etc...
I have a question. If I go to the store and spend $10, and the next month the same thing costs $11, is that a 10% jump in retail sales?
Wholesale prices and retail sales jumped in November and jobless claims fell last week.
Wholesale prices shot up 3.2 percent, the biggest jump in 34 years, propelled by a record rise in gasoline prices. Meanwhile, consumers put aside worries about the weak economy in November to storm into the shopping malls, pushing up retail sales by the largest amount in six months.
December 12, 2007
Originally posted at Speak Out California.
Two previous posts explored the outline of the California state budget, and the process by which the budget is developed and passed into law. But these overviews don't directly touch most Californians in their daily lives. To begin to connect the budget and the budget process with the concerns of regular Californians let's look at one department that almost every adult in California encounters regularly: the dreaded Department of Motor Vehicles, commonly known as the DMV.
According to the DMV website, the department:
...registers vehicles in California and licenses their drivers. This amounts to about 33 million vehicles registered and approximately 23 million licensed drivers.That's a lot. To accomplish this for the state's population of 36,457,549 (2006 census bureau estimate), with 23,270,087 licensed drivers and 4,248,807 ID cardholders (2006) The total budget is $903 MILLION (proposed, 2007-2008) with 8,280 employees.
Other major DMV functions include:
- Recording ownership (certificate of title) of the vehicles DMV registers
- Maintaining driving records (accidents and convictions) of licensed drivers
- Issuing identification cards for individuals
- Registering and recording ownership of vessels
- Licensing and regulating driving and traffic violator schools and their instructors
- Licensing and regulating vehicle manufacturers, transporters, dealers, distributors, vehicle salespeople, and dismantlers
- Administering the Financial Responsibility Law
- Investigating consumer complaints
- Maintaining records in accordance with the law
- Collects approximately $6.5 billion in revenues annually
While this sounds like a lot of money and people, this amounts to only approx. $33 and only .0003 employees per license/ ID card. How much service can you expect from three ten-thousandths of an employee?
The DMV is a symbol of state government to most people -- and not often a positive one. Few people have good things to say about the DMV, and by and large this boils down to the need to show up at the office and stand in a line, fill out forms, and regularly pay fees.
Few people understand that one of the reasons for the lines is that the DMV just doesn't have enough people working there - just three ten-thousandths of a person for each license or ID cardholder. When 27.5 million people are demanding services from 8,280 employees, lines can indeed get long.
But even under these constraints, they find ways to manage as well as they have. In fact, according to the Governor's Budget Document, "Over the past two years, the DMV has reduced field office wait times in the largest offices from nearly one hour to 20 minutes and reduced customer telephone wait times by more than 50 percent." These lines were decreased because the Governor committed to additional funding (demonstrating the direct relationship between funding and good service to the public.)
We frequently hear that government spending must be cut, but few places bring home the impact of government spending cuts as directly as the experience of a visit to the DMV. In our example the DMV is a symbol of the state government, and the experience of the DMV is the experience of underfunded schools, roads that need maintenance and services that are approaching a breaking point. Spending can only be cut so far.
December 11, 2007
I came across this hate-piece yesterday, and it is still bothering me, so I am bringing it up here. It's a right-wing anti-immigrant piece, going after the Republican candidates who participated in the Spanish-language debate. It becomes clear early on that it is direct hatred toward Hispanics in general - but then starts going after all non-whites, complaining about "politically correct" pandering to get votes from people who are not "us.".
And just to drive the point home,
I hate even having to write about this disgrace: the Spanish-language 'debate' for the Spanish-language, pro-illegal immigration TV channel, Univision.
... They are legitimizing the idea that people can come here, refuse to learn our language, and expect to participate in our political system while being part of a non-English speaking, culturally isolated enclave.
. . . So here they are, truckling to Hispanics, leavening their tough talk about illegal immigration with fawning praise and flattery to Hispanics.
. . . how about some compassion and love for your American constituents, who are tired of violence on the border, bankrupt hospitals, overcrowded schools, crime waves, neighborhoods destroyed, and exotic diseases being introduced into our country -- all of which require taxpayers' money to deal with, or even American lives lost? Where is your love and compassion for your own?
. . . Well, Hispanic citizens -- if indeed they are citizens, and most it seems are not -- supposedly have the same interests and concerns as the rest of us Americans. At least that is what the politically correct party line holds. ... And why should politicians court only certain races and ethnicities? We already had, historically, a special group of people that demands coddling and catering 24/7, and now you politicians have made sure that we have an even larger group of overgrown children who will demand special treatment and coddling and concessions.
[. . .] And I'm really tired of this liberal twaddle about how everybody deserves 'dignity.' Who dictated that? Sneak thieves, liars, and frauds don't deserve dignity. Dignity, like respect, has to be earned and deserved.
Well, good luck, guys; we will see if your mostly white conservative base is fooled by your contortions and your doubletalk. I am sad to say, I fear they may be taken in.This stuff is just pure KKK-style racial hatred. This is what the Republican Party has become.
. . . And if there is any justice, these pandering sell-out politicians will all be out of a job, replaced by people like Villaraigosa, Bill 'Richardson' Lopez (who will by then have dropped the superflous 'Richardson' from his name) and Melquiades Martinez. These presidential wannabees are fools if they think they can join up with what they perceive as the winning side; they are hoping they can maintain their place in a Spanish-speaking America. Well, buena suerte with that, guys.
Is iraq fading as an issue? Why is that?
I tried again... Because of problems with the authentication system I changed the commenting system to make it easier to just leave a comment. And WHAM, this morning I had to clear out almost 275 junk comments, mostly for pharmaceuticals and porn.
So the authentication system is back. Sorry. Blame the spammers.
December 10, 2007
Approved H-1B applications: 110 Total jobs: 168So you know, these jobs usually pay much better. Except that lots of American's are having more and more trouble finding them. ESPECIALLY when they pass age 40 or so. But companies are complaining that they can't fill these jobs as an excuse to bring in more and more low-paid workers from other countries on "H1-B" visas.
Principal's H-1b usage includes many software development positions paying between $43k - $50k.
Read the whole story for the details of how it works.
SPEECH BY AL GORE ON THE ACCEPTANCE
OF THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE
DECEMBER 10, 2007
Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Honorable members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen.
I have a purpose here today. It is a purpose I have tried to serve for many years. I have prayed that God would show me a way to accomplish it.
Sometimes, without warning, the future knocks on our door with a precious and painful vision of what might be. One hundred and nineteen years ago, a wealthy inventor read his own obituary, mistakenly published years before his death. Wrongly believing the inventor had just died, a newspaper printed a harsh judgment of his life’s work, unfairly labeling him “The Merchant of Death” because of his invention — dynamite. Shaken by this condemnation, the inventor made a fateful choice to serve the cause of peace.
Seven years later, Alfred Nobel created this prize and the others that bear his name.
Seven years ago tomorrow, I read my own political obituary in a judgment that seemed to me harsh and mistaken — if not premature. But that unwelcome verdict also brought a precious if painful gift: an opportunity to search for fresh new ways to serve my purpose.
Unexpectedly, that quest has brought me here. Even though I fear my words cannot match this moment, I pray what I am feeling in my heart will be communicated clearly enough that those who hear me will say, “We must act.”
The distinguished scientists with whom it is the greatest honor of my life to share this award have laid before us a choice between two different futures — a choice that to my ears echoes the words of an ancient prophet: “Life or death, blessings or curses. Therefore, choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.”
We, the human species, are confronting a planetary emergency — a threat to the survival of our civilization that is gathering ominous and destructive potential even as we gather here. But there is hopeful news as well: we have the ability to solve this crisis and avoid the worst — though not all — of its consequences, if we act boldly, decisively and quickly.
However, despite a growing number of honorable exceptions, too many of the world’s leaders are still best described in the words Winston Churchill applied to those who ignored Adolf Hitler’s threat: “They go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all powerful to be impotent.”
So today, we dumped another 70 million tons of global-warming pollution into the thin shell of atmosphere surrounding our planet, as if it were an open sewer. And tomorrow, we will dump a slightly larger amount, with the cumulative concentrations now trapping more and more heat from the sun.
As a result, the earth has a fever. And the fever is rising. The experts have told us it is not a passing affliction that will heal by itself. We asked for a second opinion. And a third. And a fourth. And the consistent conclusion, restated with increasing alarm, is that something basic is wrong.
We are what is wrong, and we must make it right.
Last September 21, as the Northern Hemisphere tilted away from the sun, scientists reported with unprecedented distress that the North Polar ice cap is “falling off a cliff.” One study estimated that it could be completely gone during summer in less than 22 years. Another new study, to be presented by U.S. Navy researchers later this week, warns it could happen in as little as 7 years.
Seven years from now.
In the last few months, it has been harder and harder to misinterpret the signs that our world is spinning out of kilter. Major cities in North and South America, Asia and Australia are nearly out of water due to massive droughts and melting glaciers. Desperate farmers are losing their livelihoods. Peoples in the frozen Arctic and on low-lying Pacific islands are planning evacuations of places they have long called home. Unprecedented wildfires have forced a half million people from their homes in one country and caused a national emergency that almost brought down the government in another. Climate refugees have migrated into areas already inhabited by people with different cultures, religions, and traditions, increasing the potential for conflict. Stronger storms in the Pacific and Atlantic have threatened whole cities. Millions have been displaced by massive flooding in South Asia, Mexico, and 18 countries in Africa. As temperature extremes have increased, tens of thousands have lost their lives. We are recklessly burning and clearing our forests and driving more and more species into extinction. The very web of life on which we depend is being ripped and frayed.
We never intended to cause all this destruction, just as Alfred Nobel never intended that dynamite be used for waging war. He had hoped his invention would promote human progress. We shared that same worthy goal when we began burning massive quantities of coal, then oil and methane.
Even in Nobel’s time, there were a few warnings of the likely consequences. One of the very first winners of the Prize in chemistry worried that, “We are evaporating our coal mines into the air.” After performing 10,000 equations by hand, Svante Arrhenius calculated that the earth’s average temperature would increase by many degrees if we doubled the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.
Seventy years later, my teacher, Roger Revelle, and his colleague, Dave Keeling, began to precisely document the increasing CO2 levels day by day.
But unlike most other forms of pollution, CO2 is invisible, tasteless, and odorless — which has helped keep the truth about what it is doing to our climate out of sight and out of mind. Moreover, the catastrophe now threatening us is unprecedented — and we often confuse the unprecedented with the improbable.
We also find it hard to imagine making the massive changes that are now necessary to solve the crisis. And when large truths are genuinely inconvenient, whole societies can, at least for a time, ignore them. Yet as George Orwell reminds us: “Sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.”
In the years since this prize was first awarded, the entire relationship between humankind and the earth has been radically transformed. And still, we have remained largely oblivious to the impact of our cumulative actions.
Indeed, without realizing it, we have begun to wage war on the earth itself. Now, we and the earth’s climate are locked in a relationship familiar to war planners: “Mutually assured destruction.”
More than two decades ago, scientists calculated that nuclear war could throw so much debris and smoke into the air that it would block life-giving sunlight from our atmosphere, causing a “nuclear winter.” Their eloquent warnings here in Oslo helped galvanize the world’s resolve to halt the nuclear arms race.
Now science is warning us that if we do not quickly reduce the global warming pollution that is trapping so much of the heat our planet normally radiates back out of the atmosphere, we are in danger of creating a permanent “carbon summer.”
As the American poet Robert Frost wrote, “Some say the world will end in fire; some say in ice.” Either, he notes, “would suffice.”
But neither need be our fate. It is time to make peace with the planet.
We must quickly mobilize our civilization with the urgency and resolve that has previously been seen only when nations mobilized for war. These prior struggles for survival were won when leaders found words at the 11th hour that released a mighty surge of courage, hope and readiness to sacrifice for a protracted and mortal challenge.
These were not comforting and misleading assurances that the threat was not real or imminent; that it would affect others but not ourselves; that ordinary life might be lived even in the presence of extraordinary threat; that Providence could be trusted to do for us what we would not do for ourselves.
No, these were calls to come to the defense of the common future. They were calls upon the courage, generosity and strength of entire peoples, citizens of every class and condition who were ready to stand against the threat once asked to do so. Our enemies in those times calculated that free people would not rise to the challenge; they were, of course, catastrophically wrong.
Now comes the threat of climate crisis — a threat that is real, rising, imminent, and universal. Once again, it is the 11th hour. The penalties for ignoring this challenge are immense and growing, and at some near point would be unsustainable and unrecoverable. For now we still have the power to choose our fate, and the remaining question is only this: Have we the will to act vigorously and in time, or will we remain imprisoned by a dangerous illusion?
Mahatma Gandhi awakened the largest democracy on earth and forged a shared resolve with what he called “Satyagraha” — or “truth force.”
In every land, the truth — once known — has the power to set us free.
Truth also has the power to unite us and bridge the distance between “me” and “we,” creating the basis for common effort and shared responsibility.
There is an African proverb that says, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” We need to go far, quickly.
We must abandon the conceit that individual, isolated, private actions are the answer. They can and do help. But they will not take us far enough without collective action. At the same time, we must ensure that in mobilizing globally, we do not invite the establishment of ideological conformity and a new lock-step “ism.”
That means adopting principles, values, laws, and treaties that release creativity and initiative at every level of society in multifold responses originating concurrently and spontaneously.
This new consciousness requires expanding the possibilities inherent in all humanity. The innovators who will devise a new way to harness the sun’s energy for pennies or invent an engine that’s carbon negative may live in Lagos or Mumbai or Montevideo. We must ensure that entrepreneurs and inventors everywhere on the globe have the chance to change the world.
When we unite for a moral purpose that is manifestly good and true, the spiritual energy unleashed can transform us. The generation that defeated fascism throughout the world in the 1940s found, in rising to meet their awesome challenge, that they had gained the moral authority and long-term vision to launch the Marshall Plan, the United Nations, and a new level of global cooperation and foresight that unified Europe and facilitated the emergence of democracy and prosperity in Germany, Japan, Italy and much of the world. One of their visionary leaders said, “It is time we steered by the stars and not by the lights of every passing ship.”
In the last year of that war, you gave the Peace Prize to a man from my hometown of 2000 people, Carthage, Tennessee. Cordell Hull was described by Franklin Roosevelt as the “Father of the United Nations.” He was an inspiration and hero to my own father, who followed Hull in the Congress and the U.S. Senate and in his commitment to world peace and global cooperation.
My parents spoke often of Hull, always in tones of reverence and admiration. Eight weeks ago, when you announced this prize, the deepest emotion I felt was when I saw the headline in my hometown paper that simply noted I had won the same prize that Cordell Hull had won. In that moment, I knew what my father and mother would have felt were they alive.
Just as Hull’s generation found moral authority in rising to solve the world crisis caused by fascism, so too can we find our greatest opportunity in rising to solve the climate crisis. In the Kanji characters used in both Chinese and Japanese, “crisis” is written with two symbols, the first meaning “danger,” the second “opportunity.” By facing and removing the danger of the climate crisis, we have the opportunity to gain the moral authority and vision to vastly increase our own capacity to solve other crises that have been too long ignored.
We must understand the connections between the climate crisis and the afflictions of poverty, hunger, HIV-Aids and other pandemics. As these problems are linked, so too must be their solutions. We must begin by making the common rescue of the global environment the central organizing principle of the world community.
Fifteen years ago, I made that case at the “Earth Summit” in Rio de Janeiro. Ten years ago, I presented it in Kyoto. This week, I will urge the delegates in Bali to adopt a bold mandate for a treaty that establishes a universal global cap on emissions and uses the market in emissions trading to efficiently allocate resources to the most effective opportunities for speedy reductions.
This treaty should be ratified and brought into effect everywhere in the world by the beginning of 2010 — two years sooner than presently contemplated. The pace of our response must be accelerated to match the accelerating pace of the crisis itself.
Heads of state should meet early next year to review what was accomplished in Bali and take personal responsibility for addressing this crisis. It is not unreasonable to ask, given the gravity of our circumstances, that these heads of state meet every three months until the treaty is completed.
We also need a moratorium on the construction of any new generating facility that burns coal without the capacity to safely trap and store carbon dioxide.
And most important of all, we need to put a price on carbon — with a CO2 tax that is then rebated back to the people, progressively, according to the laws of each nation, in ways that shift the burden of taxation from employment to pollution. This is by far the most effective and simplest way to accelerate solutions to this crisis.
The world needs an alliance — especially of those nations that weigh heaviest in the scales where earth is in the balance. I salute Europe and Japan for the steps they’ve taken in recent years to meet the challenge, and the new government in Australia, which has made solving the climate crisis its first priority.
But the outcome will be decisively influenced by two nations that are now failing to do enough: the United States and China. While India is also growing fast in importance, it should be absolutely clear that it is the two largest CO2 emitters — most of all, my own country —- that will need to make the boldest moves, or stand accountable before history for their failure to act.
Both countries should stop using the other’s behavior as an excuse for stalemate and instead develop an agenda for mutual survival in a shared global environment.
These are the last few years of decision, but they can be the first years of a bright and hopeful future if we do what we must. No one should believe a solution will be found without effort, without cost, without change. Let us acknowledge that if we wish to redeem squandered time and speak again with moral authority, then these are the hard truths:
The way ahead is difficult. The outer boundary of what we currently believe is feasible is still far short of what we actually must do. Moreover, between here and there, across the unknown, falls the shadow.
That is just another way of saying that we have to expand the boundaries of what is possible. In the words of the Spanish poet, Antonio Machado, “Pathwalker, there is no path. You must make the path as you walk.”
We are standing at the most fateful fork in that path. So I want to end as I began, with a vision of two futures — each a palpable possibility — and with a prayer that we will see with vivid clarity the necessity of choosing between those two futures, and the urgency of making the right choice now.
The great Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen, wrote, “One of these days, the younger generation will come knocking at my door.”
The future is knocking at our door right now. Make no mistake, the next generation will ask us one of two questions. Either they will ask: “What were you thinking; why didn’t you act?”
Or they will ask instead: “How did you find the moral courage to rise and successfully resolve a crisis that so many said was impossible to solve?”
We have everything we need to get started, save perhaps political will, but political will is a renewable resource.
So let us renew it, and say together: “We have a purpose. We are many. For this purpose we will rise, and we will act.”
AmericaBlog asks Did Bush approve CIA leak to embarrass Pelosi?
Sure looks that way. Today's Washington Post reports that Pelosi was briefed about the CIA's waterboarding in 2002 and raised no objections. A few responses:Go read...
It's pretty clear that either one of the Republican members of Congress at the meeting, or the CIA, decided to leak what happened at a super-classified post-9/11 briefing in order to embarrass Pelosi and the Democrats. And I don't doubt for a minute that Bush approved the leak, as he always does.
It's also clear that had Pelosi raised any private objections during the meeting - remember, it took place in the first year after September 11 - Bush and the Republicans would have leaked that fact to the public (like they just did) and destroyed her career and marked her publicly as a traitor. No member of Congress, no American, could have spoken up about anything in the months after September 11 and survived. It's patently unfair to suggest that somehow because Pelosi didn't object then that she doesn't have the right to object now.
One final point. I hope this teaches Pelosi and Reid and all the Democrats that no matter what you do, this administration will mark you as a traitor and try to do destroy you. You might as well fight back and try to win, because if you don't, you'll sit back and lose.
December 9, 2007
It sounds good: For five years, mortgage lenders will freeze interest rates on a limited number of "teaser" subprime loans. Other homeowners facing foreclosure will be offered assistance from the Federal Housing Administration.It's widespread:
But unfortunately, the "freeze" is just another fraud - and like the other bailout proposals, it has nothing to do with U.S. house prices, with "working families," keeping people in their homes or any of that nonsense.
The sole goal of the freeze is to prevent owners of mortgage-backed securities, many of them foreigners, from suing U.S. banks and forcing them to buy back worthless mortgage securities at face value - right now almost 10 times their market worth.
The ticking time bomb in the U.S. banking system is not resetting subprime mortgage rates. The real problem is the contractual ability of investors in mortgage bonds to require banks to buy back the loans at face value if there was fraud in the origination process.
The catastrophic consequences of bond investors forcing originators to buy back loans at face value are beyond the current media discussion. The loans at issue dwarf the capital available at the largest U.S. banks combined, and investor lawsuits would raise stunning liability sufficient to cause even the largest U.S. banks to fail, resulting in massive taxpayer-funded bailouts of Fannie and Freddie, and even FDIC.So why the "freeze?" What does that really accomplish?
The goal of the freeze may be to delay bond investors from suing by putting off the big foreclosure wave for several years. But it may also be to stop bond investors from suing. If the investors agreed to loan modifications with the "real" wage and asset information from refinancing borrowers, mortgage originators and bundlers would have an excuse once the foreclosure occurred. They could say, "Fraud? What fraud?! You knew the borrower's real income and asset information later when he refinanced!"Cuomo in New York is going after some of the fraud - the inflated appraisals, for example. If I had money in these mortgage-backed investments rated AAA I would be demanding MY money back - and if you are in a money-market fund, you just might be who I am talking about.
But you wouldn't have any money in a money-market fund NOW, would you? You're smarter than that.
Update - Mish's Global Economic Trend Analysis says the fraud / lawsuit avoidance theory from the above article is "preposterous."
The goal of the freeze is not to "stop bond investors from suing". The goal of the freeze is to Peddle a Sucker Trap Disguised as Hope.Go read.
However, so few people will qualify for the program (see Little Hope For Hope Now Alliance) that no one can possibly claim it will stop much of anything, including lawsuits or foreclosures.
December 8, 2007
As I write this, the US national debt is about $9.17 TRILLION dollars. This debt is the amount we have borrowed to pay for our government since the Reagan tax cuts - compounded by the Bush tax cuts. This is because of a choice we made - yes I say WE, because this government is US - to borrow and pay later instead of pay now.
Don't for a minute think that you do not owe that money. It comes to about $30,000 for each American, including infants. If you are a family of four you now owe about $120,000 thanks to those tax cuts. YOU owe this money, even though the tax cuts have primarily gone to the very rich. You WILL be paying it, one way or another. Don't think that debt like that just goes away.
PLUS now each year we pay about $433 billion for interest on that debt. That amount, of course, rises every year. So in addition to owing all that money we have to service the debt by paying $433 billion every year. That amount is larger than the current federal deficit - which means if we had not cut those taxes and borrowed all that money in the past we would have $433 billion more each year to spend or save AND we would not owe $9 trillion.
I do not understand how we tolerate this situation. Yes, it happened because we listened to lies, but how many of our candidates are seriously talking about the changes that need to be made to fix this?
|The Gross National Debt|
December 7, 2007
Go see the Pays Less In Taxes Than His Maid post and the video there. There is one PROVEN way to fight back and get something for working people and that is to join up with the people who brought you the weekend: a union.
Don't complain about how good union people have it: vacations, health care, overtime, etc... JOIN A UNION! Duh!
More bad news: Burma's Generals Flaunt Laws, Recruit Child Soldiers,
Prominent human rights groups are urging the UN Security Council to impose an arms embargo on Burma in response to its military government's continuing recruitment of child soldiers.
"Burma's army has recruited thousands of children to fill its ranks," said Jo Becker of the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) group. "The Security Council needs to show Burma's generals that they cannot get away with such horrendous practices."
The call for sanctions came as members of the Council's working group on children and armed conflict met in New York Thursday to consider a new report accusing the Burmese regime of "grave violations" against children, including patterns of underage military recruitment.
An interesting story about problems at Wikipedia says ""Obviously, there's something seriously wrong with the way Wikipedia is being managed and administered...."
Lost jobs, destruction of communities, loss of pensions, falling wages -- where does the money go? Watch this video and see for yourself.
It could be titled" "Why we don't have health insurance and where out pensions went."
And he pays less in taxes than his maid.
It's Pearl Harbor Day.
See FDR's original typed speech at Pearl Harbor - FDR's "Day of Infamy" Speech. You can also listen to it there. Imagine having heard the news, and everyone crowded around the radio ...
December 6, 2007
Through the LinkTV One Nation Many Voices contest. Go see. And if you make a film you can win a bunch of money.
The Newsladders are a project to help the progressive blog community reach a wider audience. The Newsladders give readers a quick look at the top things being discussed on the progressive blogs at any given moment.
I have some Newsladder widgets over in the right column. Click the title at the top to go to the Newsladder, or the headline to go straight to the story.
Here is how the Newsladders work:
The Newsladders give you a quick look at what is going on in the progressive blogging community. Each Newsladder is an aggregator of current blog headlines on a given topic. Users, bloggers and editors add stories, and also recommend them. Stories rise up in rank based on recommendations and click-throughs. Daily top-ten lists will be mailed to relevant editors and other opinion/policy leaders after the Newsladders develop. This helps us with blog outreach, bringing in new readers. And progressive bloggers get new traffic as people discover this resource and click through to read the stories. (For example, the Burma Newsladder is already able to generate new traffic of up to hundreds of click-throughs per day.)
Take a look at California Newsladder, Iraq Newsladder, Our Troops Newsladder, and, of course, never forget that there is a Burma Newsladder. And while you are there, sign up and then recommend posts that you think should rise up in the rankings. You can also submit posts.
Bloggers - you can add Newsladder widgets to your own blogs now. They list the top stories at a given Newsladder. To get the code for a given Newsladder's widget, go to the bottom of that Newsladder page and click the Tools link. (You can also get the LadderUp tool there to make it easy to add posts to that Newsladder.)
When are progressives going to stop being all shocked and surprised that the corporate media are working hand-in-hand with conservatives to further the conservative/corporate agenda? Face it, people, it's just the way it is. Times have changed. Stop being so chocked and awed by it.
A record number of U.S. mortgages were somewhere in the foreclosure process in the third quarter, with 1.69% of all residential borrowers facing the loss of a home, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Thursday. The percentage of homes that entered foreclosure in the third quarter also hit a record at 0.78%, the trade group said. Mortgage delinquencies, those loans with payments that were more than 30 days past due, shot up to a 21-year high at 5.59%, MBA's quarterly survey showed. Although all types of loans showed an increase in foreclosure starts in the third quarter, subprime adjustable-rate loans remained the biggest problem, accounting for 43% of all new foreclosures, even though they comprise just 6.8% of all loans outstanding, the MBA said.And the REAL wave of foreclosures is expected next year...
Everything is always the fault of Liberals and Democrats and their policies. And as the election - and economic hard times - approaches Republicans are working to tie the Democrats to the growing economic mess that the Republicans have created.
And what are progressives / Democrats doing today to create a narrative about Republicans and conservative policies?
House Republicans released a report Wednesday that claims the policies of congressional Democrats pose a “rising threat” to millions of jobs and families.As usual it is Republicans out there putting Democrats on the defensive, and Democrats wondering what is happening to them...
“Congressional Democrats are waging an undeclared but aggressive policy war on American jobs and economic prosperity,” said House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio).
Democrats are trying to push through an agenda that is “necessitated by the Democratic Party’s ideological quest for increased spending and bigger government, and its reluctance to finance its ambitions by cutting spending and reducing existing waste, fraud and abuse,” according to the report.
. . .The report accuses Democrats of using “weapons of economic havoc,” such as tax increases, new regulations and a larger bureaucracy, recklessly and to the detriment of the U.S. economy.
. . . According to the GOP document, House Democrats have voted to increase taxes by $200 billion over the next 10 years. In addition, Democrats have tried to open the door to “job-killing lawsuits and litigation.”
December 5, 2007
This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
Our budget reflects our values. So where do we spend our money? How many Californians even know? I didn't know so I decided to find out.
That post outlined this year's budget, with an overview of the departments and amounts.
This week I take a look at how we in California put together our budget. By understanding the process more of us can begin to get involved and work to ensure that the budget really does reflect our values.
As you consider the budget process and its limitations and constraints, compare it to how your own home budget operates. What do you do if you need a new car, or need to fix up your house -- or just repair the roof -- or provide a good education for your kids, put healthy foods on the table, and things like that. The state isn't really different, just bigger.
The first thing to understand about the state's budget is that there are constraints placed on the ability to easily alter the budget to reflect the wishes of the public. In some ways this may be wise, like requiring that the budget be balanced -- just look at the massive federal borrowing ($9 trillion so far) that has resulted from politicians pandering to a public desire to avoid paying taxes. But in other ways these constraints limit the public from truly putting their money where their values are. A League of Women Voters (LWV) document (PDF) on the budget process describes some of these constraints:
Proposition 13 limits the amount of property tax that can be levied; Proposition 4 of 1979 limits the amount of money that the state can appropriate.This returns us to our comparison with your own home budget. How would you proceed if you had a fixed amount you could spend, with an ever increasing amount of it already committed to "non-discretionary services and payments" -- like rent or a mortgage and rising credit card interest? And what if asking for a raise is pretty much ruled out, no matter how bad you might need it?
Proposition 98 requires that a minimum percentage of the total state budget be spent on K-14 education. At the same time that limits have been placed on revenue, the state’s shifting demographics have increased demand for public services.
Additionally, by the way:
The law does not permit the committee or individual legislators to use public funds to keep constituents updated on items of interest unless specifically requested to do so.
So to learn how our money is being used you have to be proactive, make contact and ask questions.
There is a summary of the budget process available on the Department of Finance website. To summarize the summary:
California’s Constitution requires the Governor to submit a budget by January 10 each year. If the spending in that budget exceeds estimated revenues the Governor has to recommend sources of additional funding.
The preparation of this budget is directed by the Governor’s Director of Finance, issuing guidelines to the agencies and departments. Current department funding is used as a base. Then a Budget Change Proposal is developed by each department to the Department of Finance for review and analysis.
As each department puts together its budget they try to work out all of the issues, with Department of Finance participation. Issues that are unresolved or are discussed at hearings and ultimately unresolved issues are presented to the Governor for a decision.
Then the Department of Finance puts together four documents, available at their website:
Governor's Budget Summary -- A summary volume which includes the Governor's goals and objectives for the forthcoming year, and the policy perspectives and highlights of changes in the Governor's Budget.
Governor's Budget -- A detailed presentation for each department for the past, current, and budget years.
Governor's Budget Highlights -- A pocket size highlights book of narrative, charts and graphs issued on the Press Conference day.
Salaries and Wages Supplement -- A detailed presentation of authorized staffing and related salaries.
Next, a Budget Bill is introduced in each house of the Legislature. The Legislature then does everything they can to prevent passing any budget. (Not really, even if it seems that way. Just seeing if you’re reading.)
These Budget Bills go before the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee and the Assembly Budget Committee. The items in the bill are assigned to subcommittees, which hold hearings, usually beginning in late February.
The Legislature appoints a Legislative Analyst who presents a nonpartisan "Analysis of the Budget Bill" and recommendations for changes to the Governor's budget plan, and testifies at the hearings. Staff from the Department of Finance also testify at the hearings. Also at these hearings partisan consultants, lobbyists and the public may provide testimony.
By Spring the Department of Finance develops "Finance Letters" proposing adjustments to the Governor's budget. Then, the subcommittees report their recommendations to the Senate and Assembly committees, which vote to adopt the budget, and send them to the full Senate and Assembly. Each are required to pass the budget by a 2/3 vote. Should this somehow ever happen, there is a Budget Conference Committee that works out any differences between the Senate and Assembly versions, also requiring a 2/3 vote. The final bill is sent to both houses for passage, again requiring a 2/3 vote.
The resulting bill is sent to the Governor, who can then reduce or eliminate any item. Both houses must again vote 2/3 on that specific item to restore it to the budget.
Finally the Department of Finance publishes three documents:
California State Budget Highlights -- A pocket size highlight book of narrative, charts and graphs.
Final Budget Summary -- This document is an annotated version of the Budget Act which includes summary tables, technical corrections to the Budget Act, and the effect of vetoes on the items and sections of the Budget Act.
Final Change Book -- This document provides the detail of changes between the January 10 budget and the enacted budget.
Often there items in the budget are that require changes to existing laws. When this happens, separate "trailer bills" bills are introduced and are heard concurrently with the Budget Bill.
The Department of Finance provides a flowchart of this process, in PDF form, here.
This process allows everyone the opportunity to know what is going on, and input on changes they want. However, in a state as large as California there are complexities that make it difficult to track everything.
How can you keep track of items that interest you?
From Veterans for America:
Introducing The American Veterans And Servicemembers Survival Guide
We are very pleased to announce the release of our new book, “The American Veterans and Servicemembers Survival Guide.” This new book, released twenty-two years after the breakthrough “The Viet Vet Survival Guide.”
Like the original book, this new publication will be instrumental in helping getting our veterans, especially those young veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, the help they so very much need and deserve. Unlike the original, this new survival guide will also assist current servicemembers with some of the problems they face getting the care they need.
There are a couple of tremendous advantages to publishing this book online. The first is that you can literally just click here and download the entire book in PDF format for free. We hope you will read it, use it and forward it to anyone who needs it.
The second is that as we improve the book, add chapters, make revisions and change any information as we need to, we will do so in real time and make all the updates available instantly.
We will be publicizing and making this book free to all. If you can contribute to our efforts to make this guide known and available to all veterans and current servicemembers, we would very much appreciate your help.
This is the story of part of my life:
h/t Big Picture
There's more ...
So the song got me thinking, and I found this. I never knew that the words in the song were also in chronological order!
Here is the video from that page:
And lots of people have made their own videos. There is a great full-screen one here.
Here is one:
I'm in it in a few places, including in the BlogTalkRadio booth as well as interviewing Markos on the show (I'm asking the questions, he's wearing the earphones), the Smelling the Coffee blog screen, and talking.
And I'm not wearing any pants.
The Bush Justice Department has filed a brief in favor of massive damages awards - as long as the huge awards flow from single mothers to large corporations. The brief was filed in a case where a woman was found to have downloaded 25 songs with an economic value of $175, and the record companies were awarded damages of $222,000.
This is in marked contrast to the usual conservative talk of "out-of-control" "costs" of jury awards, a "tort tax," "greedy trial lawyers," "Jackpot Justice," etc. We now learn that what they really mean is that regular people should not be able to sue for justice when harmed by big corporations - but not the other way around.
:"Statutory damages compensate those wronged in areas in which actual damages are hard to quantify in addition to providing deterrence to those inclined to commit a public wrong," argues the DoJ.
[. . .] "[G]iven the findings of copyright infringement in this case, the damages awarded under the Copyright Act’s statutory damages provision did not violate the Due Process Clause; they were not 'so severe and oppressive as to be wholly disproportioned to the offense or obviously unreasonable,'" concludes the DoJ.
The other day I asked if the Hillary statement about Obama wanting to be President since Kindergarten was a joke.
I suspect / hope that the Clinton campaign is making fun of the attacks on her from the right. Remember that book that "accused" her of having wanted to be President for a long time?Well, it turns out that it really was a joke. Election Central | Talking Points Memo | Hillary Pollster: "Kindergarten Attack" On Obama Was Just A Gag!
And I do understand that jokes can fall flat. I was speaking to a group of progressives Monday evening, and used a line about the colonists fighting the British army, saying, "They issued strongly-worded statements." The joke fell absolutely flat - no one understood this common blogger criticism of the Senate's refusal to fight back against Bush...
Later - a bit more on this. I can understand how this can happen. The people in a campaign LIVE the campaign. So they are very aware of things the rest of us probably have never heard about. The book, Her Way: The Hopes and Ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton, by two New York Times reporters, was supposed to shake up the campaign.
This NY Times review shows how "the Village" - the collection of NY and DC insiders, pundits, etc. - saw it:
The book is almost uniformly negative and overly focused on what they consider the Clintons’ scandalous past and the darker aspects of Mrs. Clinton’s personality. Her ambition, for example, is seen as an unattractive compulsion that, at times, has led her into untoward behavior. They assert that the Clintons had a longstanding deal to win the presidency, first for Bill and then for Hillary, a secret pact of ambition.A SECRET PACT! AMBITION! OH DEAR!
So inside the campaign this is a big deal. And you can see how making a joke about Obama writing a kindergarten essay "Why I want to be President" is funny. EVERY kindergartener writes something like this. And, seeing it now, it IS funny.
My own talk Monday night, where I used the "strongly-worded statement" joke is another example of this. I often say that those of us in the blogging world - writers and readers - are what I call "hyper-informed." But this can cause us to forget that almost everyone else is poorly informed. We should not assume that others understand what WE understand. For example, almost no one knows that there has been massive corruption and profiteering in Iraq. You and I know about that $9 billion in cash that just disappeared - but no one else does, so it doesn't figure into their thinking. We take it for granted and can't understand how others could think the way they do. They think we're crazy and partisan and making things up just for telling them what is going on in the country.
And I always conclude that bloggers need an outreach program so that what we offer extends beyond the universe of blog-readers. That universe has not been expanding lately.
See it at Firedoglake: Walter Cronkite: Our Troops Must Leave Iraq,
Yesterday, Mr. Cronkite and David Krieger, President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, published a joint statement at CommonDreams.org, calling for the removal of US troops and bases, turning over all responsibilities to the Iraqi people, and agreeing to help rebuild a ravaged Iraq. An excerpt from their statement:Go readThe invasion of Iraq was illegal from the start. Not only was Congress lied to in order to secure its support for the invasion of Iraq, but the war lacked the support of the United Nations Security Council and thus was an aggressive war initiated on the false pretenses of weapons of mass destruction.
Murray Waas at Huffington Post has an exclusive: Documents Expose Huckabee's Role In Serial Rapist's Release,
Little Rock, Ark -- As governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee aggressively pushed for the early release of a convicted rapist despite being warned by numerous women that the convict had sexually assaulted them or their family members, and would likely strike again. The convict went on to rape and murder at least one other woman.Huckabee bought into a Clinton-hater conspiracy theory and released the guy. After his release:
Confidential Arkansas state government records, including letters from these women, obtained by the Huffington Post and revealed publicly for the first time, directly contradict the version of events now being put forward by Huckabee.
After Dumond's release from prison in September 1999, he moved to Smithville, Missouri, where he raped and suffocated to death a 39-year-old woman named Carol Sue Shields. Dumond was subsequently convicted and sentenced to life in prison for that rape and murder.Go read the rest.
December 3, 2007
It's like Bush is so much expected to lie that it's just acceptable, passes under the radar, even when it's in an attempt to incite a WAR! Is there anything more serious? "So what? Yawn. Who's gonna do anything about it?"
Remember Bush's October statement,
So I’ve told people that if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon. I take the threat of Iran with a nuclear weapon very seriously.This statement was made after Bush is now documented to have learned from the most recent National Intelligence Estimate that Iran had abandoned any nuclear weapon development in 2003.
As Think Progress documents: Hadley: Bush Learned Of NIE’s Findings ‘In The Last Few Months,’ But Continued To Ratchet Up Rhetoric,
The central question in today’s briefing for Hadley was whether White House officials intentionally disregarded the intelligence community’s findings in order to bang the war drums against Iran. Reporters repeatedly pressed Hadley on the specific date when the White House learned about the NIE’s findings. Yet incredibly, he refused to give a “precise answer,” instead stating that it was within the “last few months.”But, of course, impeachment is "off the table."
. . . The issue is whether the President himself lied to the public about Iran’s intentions, despite knowing that Iran was even “less determined to develop nuclear weapons.” In October, Bush told a reporter that Iran was trying to “build a nuclear weapon“:Q But you definitively believe Iran wants to build a nuclear weapon?
THE PRESIDENT: I think so long — until they suspend and/or make it clear that they — that their statements aren’t real, yeah, I believe they want to have the capacity, the knowledge, in order to make a nuclear weapon. […]
So I’ve told people that if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon. I take the threat of Iran with a nuclear weapon very seriously.
So to recap: Sometime in the “last few months,” Bush learned that Iran is “less determined to develop nuclear weapons.” Yet as late as October, Bush was still claiming that Iran “wants to build a nuclear weapon.” What did Bush know and when did he know it?
I suspect / hope that the Clinton campaign is making fun of the attacks on her from the right. Remember that book that "accused" her of having wanted to be President for a long time?
If it is not that ... I don't even know what to say.
... In third grade, Senator Obama wrote an essay titled ‘I Want To Be a President.’ His third grade teacher: Fermina Katarina Sinaga “asked her class to write an essay titled ‘My dream: What I want to be in the future.’ Senator Obama wrote ‘I want to be a President,’ she said.” [The Los Angeles Times, 3/15/07]It's a spoof, right? An inside joke?
In kindergarten, Senator Obama wrote an essay titled ‘I Want to Become President.’ “Iis Darmawan, 63, Senator Obama’s kindergarten teacher, remembers him as an exceptionally tall and curly haired child who quickly picked up the local language and had sharp math skills. He wrote an essay titled, ‘I Want To Become President,’ the teacher said.” [AP, 1/25/07 ]
Some people think oil is expensive. Think about this. Companies pump water (pump energy usually comes from burning oil) out of the ground and put it into plastic bottles (made from oil) and truck it (trucks burn refined oil) to a port where they ship it (ships burn refined oil) across oceans to stores that people drive to (cars use refined oil). The cost of this water product is low enough that people drink it instead of tap water. (In fact, some of the companies actually put tap water into the plastic bottles, truck it and ship it, and sell that and people buy it instead of using their own tap water.)
Think about all the other uses of energy that we take for granted. That tap water is piped to your house, using huge pumps. Your hot water is heated with energy...
So think it through before you say that oil is expensive. It is extremely expensive to the environment (and foreign policy) but it is not expensive economically, or none of the above would be occurring.
The financial crisis that began late last summer, then took a brief vacation in September and October, is back with a vengeance.Don't feel too badif the underpinnings of this crisis are more complex than you have time to grasp. Partly it is happening because things became so complex.
How bad is it? Well, I’ve never seen financial insiders this spooked — not even during the Asian crisis of 1997-98, when economic dominoes seemed to be falling all around the world.
This time, market players seem truly horrified — because they’ve suddenly realized that they don’t understand the complex financial system they created.
For just one illustration of the complexity, here is what happens when a "CDO' is "unwound." A CDO is a big batch of mortgages and other debt, backed by collateral. That's the C in CDO: Collatoralized Debt Obligation. To find out what is really in your CDO you should examine each one of the mortgages (car loans, etc.) to see if the mortgage-holder really does have all the income that is on the application, and whether the house was appraised properly or is really worth less than what is still owed on the mortgage, etc. And that is just one level of the complexity.
You might ask, why didn't the buyers of these CDOs check these things before they bought them?
Do you read Democrat Taylor Marsh often enough?
December 1, 2007
Fallout from the bursting of the housing bubble is rippling further and further out. In the last few days three state government funds have realized they are in big trouble and are experiencing "runs." And as a result, in the next few days we are likely to hear about the same thing happening in many other states. These are funds that cities put their cash into until it is needed to pay city employees, teachers, etc. The cities have people who understand finance watching the money, and they understood this so they started getting their money out. And because the fund had lost some of the money in mortgage-backed securities, it couldn't give money back to all of the cities, and had to say "no more withdrawals until this gets sorted out." The ones who asked for their cash first are OK, the ones who didn't will lose out.
This is exactly what could happen to money markets and banks as people realize this is their money everyone is talking about in the news. YOUR money. Find out where your money is, your parents' money, etc..
The crisis underscores how the upheaval in credit markets could spread to affect mainstream investors, institutions and their employees. In recent weeks, local authorities in regions as disparate as Australia and Norway have reported similar problems.and Florida freezes $15 billion fund as subprime crisis hits,
[. . .] Most of the securities were short-term debt backed by mortgages and other assets, and issued by off-balance sheet investment vehicles, many of which have run aground in the credit squeeze. Lehman Brothers sold most of the distressed assets to the Florida fund, people familiar with the sales said.
Florida halted withdrawals from a $15 billion local-government fund Thursday after concerns over losses related to subprime mortgages prompted investors to pull roughly $10 billion out of the fund in recent weeks.
. . . The decision shows how far this year's subprime-fueled credit crisis has spread. Florida's Local Government Investment Pool, which had more than $27 billion in assets at the end of September, is like a money-market fund that's supposed to invest in ultrasafe assets to provide participants with a secure place to stash spare cash. But even these types of funds have been hit by the widening crunch.
"It's spreading into areas that people didn't expect and this is a good example," Richard Larkin, a municipal bond expert at JB Hanauer & Co., said.
Controversy is heating up in the state over who is at fault for having put $20 million, about 3 percent, of the state's roughly $725 million cash pool this summer into an investment fund called Mainsail II -- two weeks before its sterling ratings crumbled to junk.And Run on Montana Fund,
The investment met all of the state's investment criteria, but exposed the state to the mortgage market-related losses that have roiled credit markets for a few months.
Montana school districts, cities and counties withdrew $247 million from the state’s $2.4 billion investment fund over the past three days after officials said the rating on one of the pool’s holdings was lowered to default.But don't think for even a minute this is limited to state government funds. It's just that the municipalities that had cash in those funds understood what was happening. MANY holders of money, especially money-market funds are in exactly the same situation, except the depositors in money-market funds are not necessarily as sophisticated as municipal finance officers, and don't yet realize what all of this means.
But it is starting to hit the news.
The billions of dollars in subprime losses are now tainting a mainstay investment vehicle whose safety consumers take for granted: the money market mutual fund. Bank of America, SunTrust, Wachovia and Legg Mason are among the institutions reportedly taking steps to prop up money market funds that contained worrisome securities. . . .Is your money market fund safe?,
[. . .] Many money market funds have sought higher-yielding investments such as subprime mortgage-backed securities. High-yield funds don't get those yields by investing in government securities. For instance, according to Money Fund Intelligence, the average yield for the top-yielding prime individual money market funds is 5 percent, while the average yield for the top-yielding Treasury individual money funds is 4.39 percent.
. . . if you have money in a fund that's exposed to subprime mortgages, consider finding one that has no commercial paper and shift your money to that.In search of a security blanket,
Meet money manager Axel Merk... Recently, Merk took more than $100,000 of his personal savings out of money market funds. These funds take your cash and put it into highly rated -- and therefore, supposedly safe -- investments, giving you a set interest rate.That's right, this is a time to know where your money is. If you are not sophisticated enough to be reading a money-market prospectus - and you aren't - put your money in a bank up to the limits of FDIC insurance, or into treasury bills. Period. When everyone else is worried it will be too late to get your own money out. What do you have to lose by doing that? Why keep it where it is instead of getting it into a FEDERALLY insured back account, until all of this gets sorted out?
Problem is, some of them got entangled in the subprime mess. That's why Merk dumped his money market funds.
[. . .] You can't assume that all money market funds are safe. Remember, they're not insured by the FDIC. Now, banks do offer something called money market accounts. Just like savings accounts, they are protected by the FDIC, but they have a lower return.
The question is, when do people realize that their own money might be at risk, and start asking for it? That is when it hits the fan, like it has with the Florida and Montana state funds. No one knows where all this mortgage risk is right now, and you don't want to be the one who asks for your cash just after the cash runs out.
Is the bogeyman of "sexual addiction" scaring people out of having sex?No.
This has been another episode of simple answers to simple questions.