Friday, June 30, 2006

Advice for the New Treasury Secretary

Treasury Secretary John Snow is out and the head of Goldman Sachs, Henry M. Paulson, was confirmed by the Senate and is expected to take over next week.
"I am pleased to be entering the ranks of the unemployed at a time of strong growth made possible by the president's tax cuts,"” said Snow.
Tax cuts that have put our country in danger according to Ben Stein, and his advice to the incoming Treasury Secretary is that it's time to raise taxes.
[...]you have your work cut out for you as Treasury secretary. You are facing what is, in many ways, the most dangerous economic future since the Depression. Danger is coming on many fronts, only dimly seen by the powers that be in Washington, and your insights and eloquence will be urgently necessary.

Just to give you an idea what you are up against, Standard & Poor's issued a warning not long ago. The caution was that if the United States government did not seriously alter fiscal policy, Treasury bonds would be downgraded to BBB, slightly above junk status, by 2020. This is a stunning piece of news for the world's most highly rated security denominated in its primary reserve currency. The S.& P. report said further that if the nation did not make serious changes after that, by 2025 Treasuries would be junk bonds, like the bonds of less successful emerging-markets nations.

These downgrades would occur because the federal budget deficit and the cumulative national debt would be so high relative to the gross domestic product. This debt would presumably come largely from Social Security and Medicare obligations, considered sacred contracts by American taxpayers. (The statement said similar downgrades would also happen to other major countries in the developed world that have large aging populations.)

Just to get an idea of the size of the structural cumulative deficit for Medicare alone, Phil DeMuth, along with others, has calculated that the total Medicare obligations for the balance of this century, if brought down to net present value at the long-term bond rate, would exceed the wealth of the entire nation. This means that if you sold every home, every farm, every factory, every business in America and invested the money in something that returned as much as long-term bonds, there would not be enough to pay for the foreseeable Medicare expenditures of this nation in the 21st century. And that's not counting Social Security or the military or the interest on the debt or the livelihood of 300 million Americans.

Can you imagine, Mr. Paulson, what it will mean to Americans in terms of our currency's value, in terms of the interest we will have to pay to foreign creditors, if our bonds reach junk status? Can you imagine just how crippling a burden this will be on taxpayers?

It gets worse. The annual trade deficit with the rest of the world is approaching $1 trillion. It's not there yet, but we're on our way. This means we have to transfer ownership of roughly $1 trillion of our assets to foreigners every year to cover our excess of international purchases over sales. But the total worth of all the assets in the United States is not greatly more than $50 trillion. To be sure, it rises annually. But even so, we are basically transferring the value of an average of one of our 50 states to foreign investors every year. This trend looks unsustainable to me (unless we are to revert to being a colony - this time, of China).

Again, the downgrades and the deficits in the current account and the federal budget will have major effects on the dollar's value, which will mean major inflationary effects. If experience is any guide, these effects will slow real economic growth.

Right now, inflation is moving out of the Federal Reserve's comfort zone. The Fed chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, is doing the right thing by raising rates and trying to slow the overheated economy, but in a way that does not bring us a recession. To give us a soft landing without recession or stagflation - rising inflation and slow growth, as we had in a good part of the 1970's -— is not an easy or assured task.

To raise rates enough to slow down our economy and thus bring down commodity prices amid skyrocketing demand in developing economies is certainly not easy. To do this correctly, you'd need to be a brain surgeon of monetary policy and a cardiac ace of fiscal policy. In other words, there is a great, great deal to be worried about.

May I respectfully suggest that in this environment, ending the estate tax is not a major sensible priority? May I suggest that having the lowest taxes in 65 years on high-income taxpayers is not really as prudent as it might be if we were not running stupendous deficits, with far worse in the future?

I know you are a Republican, and so am I. Now and then, scornful fellow Republicans ask me what kind of Republican I am, since I'm for higher taxes on the rich. I tell them that I am an Eisenhower Republican, the kind who wants to leave a healthier America to posterity. That includes an economy not headed for the status of a banana republic's economy.

Now, I know that a truly great man, Ronald Wilson Reagan, when asked if he were not worried that his tax cuts would burden posterity with a heavy weight, supposedly asked, "What has posterity ever done for me?" Those of us with teenage children certainly know what he meant. But the problem is no longer quite as funny.

The fiscal house is in severe disorder. ...But someone needs to take a stand, and that person might as well be you.
The ball is in Paulson's corner now. Will our economy end up healthier under his stewardship or will "banana republic" be his - and the Bush administration's - legacy?

[All emphasis added.]

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Bush Hurt Michigan's Chance at Honda Plant

Yesterday, Honda announced that their sixth manufacturing plant would be built near Greensburg, Indiana. Five states had competed for their business, including Michigan, so the news was disappointing, and naturally raised some questions.

Why not a Honda plant in Michigan?, asked the Detroit Free Press.
...if Michigan was never in the running, it is fair to ask why. Image? Message? Union presence? Business climate? Political climate? Climate, period? All those things add up to a huge problem for Michigan. This state is supposed to be the center of the automotive universe. If a global auto manufacturer doesn't have Michigan on its "consider" list, where does the state figure in the plans of non-automotive businesses?
I'd say political climate is the primary reason our state lost out. In fact, Jim Hossack, vice president of AutoPacific, an automotive research and consulting firm, had this to say:
"It follows the pattern of imports to have facilities in many different states because it doesn't hurt to get as many senators, governors, congressmen and mayors on your side as you can, and this is how you do it..."
Of course they wanted Washington on their side, but President Bush didn't help our chances very much in the influence department, and I'm sure Honda took note of this recent announcement in the Detroit News:
President Bush's planned meeting with the Big Three has been postponed a third time -- this time until July -- which may add to the perception Detroit's automakers are struggling to get their message heard by the White House. [...]

An initial meeting with Bush was set on May 18. The meeting was rescheduled for June 2 then postponed. The White House told automakers it was committed to a gathering by the end of June.

That deadline will come and go, and no firm date has been set in July.

"This is the most important industry in Michigan and, for that matter, the country, and the CEOs can't get a meeting with the president of the United States. That should speak volumes to voters in Michigan as to how the Republicans feel," said Gov. Jennifer Granholm's campaign spokesman Chris DeWitt.
Oh, it speaks volumes. I think Bush's snubs were intentionally designed to send a message to Honda. One of the concerns the automakers wanted to discuss was currency manipulation by the Chinese and Japanese central banks. By refusing to address this issue, Bush essentially said to Honda put your plant in red state Indiana - and not in blue state Michigan - and I'll work with you.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Good News - If You're a CEO

I'm reminded of Charles Dickens' quote, "It was the best of times and it was the worst of times," as I read the news today.

From the Economic Policy Institute comes this:
In 2005, an average Chief Executive Officer (CEO) was paid 821 times as much as a minimum wage earner, who earns just $5.15 per hour. An average CEO earns more before lunchtime on the very first day of work in the year than a minimum wage worker earns all year.

This extreme compensation ratio reflects both the extraordinary growth of CEO pay and also the diminishing value of the federal minimum wage that has not been raised since 1997: adjusting for inflation, the purchasing power of the minimum wage is now at its lowest since 1955.
Efforts to raise the minimum wage continue to get shot down by our Republican-controlled Congress, but that may soon change according to this Carpetbagger Report: Dems vow to block pay raises until minimum wage increased.

In the meantime, Washington will stick to their plan.

What plan is that you ask? Well, according to The Colbert Report, whose host is very understanding when it comes to the minimum wage, this is the plan: Class Warfare: Keep the poor...poor.

UPDATE: Here's a fact from Abi that I thought was important for everyone to see:
The chief executives of the 11 largest companies in the United States earned a combined $865 million over the past two years at the same time as their shareholders lost $640 million.
That's money your retirement account will never see.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

No Respect

Money can't always buy good press or respect. After months of an advertising campaign designed to introduce himself to Michigan voters (at a cost of nearly $6 million), Dick DeVos finally got down to business and unveiled a 65-page plan outlining how he would rejuvenate the state's lagging economy and create jobs.

So what was the media's response in a nutshell - underwhelmed.

"DeVos' plan falls short on specifics" is the way the Detroit Free Press described it.

The Oakland Press said, "DeVos made a lot of suggestions - a wish list full - but was short on some key specifics. ...To his credit, DeVos seems very in tune with the minutiae of the challenges facing businesses and a firm grasp of our state's peculiar economy the last few years. But blaming Granholm for the auto industry's restructuring shows a clear misunderstanding of that industry or is a blatant political snipe."

Even worse, Mako Yamakura, a blogger for the DetNews, had this to say [emphasis added]:
I'm worried about him.

After reading the The rhetoric-filled Michigan TurnAround Plan (version 2.0), you've got to wonder if he just plagiarized the good stuff from Governor Granholm's Jobs Plan, and stuck the standard "American Dream" inside of it.

[...] the benefits that DeVos claims credit for... were all achieved under Governor Jennifer Granholm's watch.

[...] I would be a Christmas Ham if DeVos' ideas made Michigan #1 in everything. He sure makes it look like we have a chance. But reality is, decades of business practice condoned by both GOP and Democrat Governors has led to this stagnation, and not a Granholm issue.
DeVos is also becoming material for cartoonists and satirists. Check out Mike Thompson's cartoon about Dick DeVos on the run. It's pretty funny, although I doubt DeVos is laughing.

The absolutely best column satirizing DeVos' lack of credibility comes from Brian Dickerson though. DeVos unveils his plan for Lions' turnaround.
I told Dick DeVos right up front I was skeptical about his bid to become the Detroit Lions' next head coach.

"What do you know," I asked him, "about professional football?"

"I've been a part of winning teams all my life," the multilevel marketing magnate answered confidently. "I think I've got what it takes to turn this one around."

"But where would you start?" I asked him. "The Lions have so many problems."
Read the rest of the column and you'll quickly see that DeVos sounds like George Bush - lots of promises but no real plans.

Related Links:
Jobs Today, Jobs Tomorrow, Governor Granholm's plan to transform Michigan's economy.
Granholm Working for Michigan
Michigan's Changing Economy
Granholm-Cherry 2006 Campaign Blog

A Little TLC for a Friend

I have a blogging friend who lost someone dear to her and could use a little TLC from everyone. Libby is a prolific and passionate writer who maintains two blogs, The Impolitic and Last One Speaks, and also blogs about politics for the Detroit News, which is no easy feat because she also works full-time.

Anyway, Libby's been battling some health issues lately and the news that her friend suddenly died came as a shock. If you have a couple of extra minutes to spare, please drop in on Libby and give her some words of encouragement.


Monday, June 26, 2006

The DeVos Name Pops Up in Utah

Although DeVos is busy spending his fortune in Michigan to get himself elected governor (more than $5 million so far), his influence doesn't end there. The DeVos name popped up in the Salt Lake Tribune today in an article about private school vouchers:
Organized 5 years ago, Parents for Choice in Education has a grass-roots image and a name ready-made for focus groups. But it turns out most of the cash the advocacy group for private-school vouchers and tuition tax credits spreads around Utah in elections comes from big-business donors outside the state - including the Wal-Mart heirs and founders of multilevel marketing giant Amway.

In 2002, with just $10,000, the PAC gave modest donations to a dozen conservative lawmakers and candidates. The next year was even leaner. Only six candidates received cash. But in 2004, all that changed with $255,000 in seed money from Michigan-based All Children Matter.
All Children Matter is a PAC that evolved from the Great Lakes Education Project, which Betsy and Dick DeVos organized in 2000 in order to push for private-school vouchers in Michigan, an initiative that voters soundly defeated. According to the Tribune, the DeVos family has spent a good chunk of their fortune on the PAC.

Curiously, Parents for Choice in Education refuses to comment about the organization's financing until September - a federal tax deadline that coincides with a state deadline for political action committee disclosure forms.
"Nobody's going to comment," communications director Nancy Pomeroy said. When pressed about the sources of Parents for Choice's money, specifically All Children Matter, Pomeroy said: "I don't know what you're talking about."
Why the secrecy? It's well-known that in addition to Utah several other states, including Florida, Louisiana, Ohio, Missouri, Virginia and Wisconsin, already receive a share of the PAC's funding. All Children Matter Director Greg Brock wasn't willing to provide answers either. He declined to talk about how much money the Michigan PAC is sending west this election year until September, for "strategic reasons." The strategy is clear according to the Tribune:
So far, tax-credit advocates have targeted moderate, public-education friendly legislators, many of them schoolteachers. And the tactic already has worked: Lehi Rep. David Cox, a fifth-grade teacher, lost his bid for re-election at the Utah County Republican convention in April. His opponent, Ken Sumsion, got $3,545 from Parents for Choice and Utah Working Moms and Dads.

"That money made the biggest difference," Cox said. "They were researching my record a year ago to find any bills they could twist to make me look bad. I couldn't compete with the level of sophistication and expertise that was brought in."
Questions about the PAC's funding extend to Texas too.
[In March,] Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller... asked state election officials to investigate whether two political action committees funded by the state’s biggest private school voucher pusher have complied with campaign finance laws.

One complaint Miller filed with the Texas Ethics Commission asks whether the Texas Republican Legislative Campaign Committee (TRLCC) –- funded almost entirely by San Antonio businessman Dr. James Leininger –- has met legal requirements before making campaign expenditures. The other notes that All Children Matter PAC –- a beneficiary of large Leininger contributions over the years –- may not have reported all of its contributions. [...]

All Children Matter PAC reported a December 2005 in-kind contribution of $54,360 for polling services to The Future of Texas Alliance PAC. (The Leininger-funded Future of Texas Alliance has so far backed pro-voucher candidates in the Republican primary.) Yet All Children Matter PAC reported a cash-on-hand balance of just $2,168.95 in July and has reported no income since. In fact, the PAC even failed to make monthly reports for August and September 2005. As a result, voters have no way of knowing how the PAC is accounting for the more than $52,000 difference in income and expenditures.
According to the Center for Public Integrity, the All Children Matter PAC has not filed any reports of financial activity this year.

It appears that DeVos is cut from the same cloth as George Bush, Tom DeLay and the rest of the corrupt Republican establishment who wheel and deal behind the scenes, swift-boat their opponents and fail to be totally transparent. It also appears that DeVos hopes to become governor so he can use the position - and his wealth - not to promote the common good, but to further influence his extreme conservative economic and social agendas.

Update: Here's a related link: Michigan Campaign Finance Network - DeVos Dollars and "Education Choice"

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Mongo Gets Answered

Adolph Mongo (political consultant in Detroit) wrote an opinion piece in the Detroit News last week claiming Michigan Democrats don't practice equal rights.
The Democratic Party is probably the biggest hypocrite when it comes to giving African-Americans opportunities to develop politically. How many African-Americans and other people of color hold positions of power in the Michigan Democratic Party?
Well, Mongo, you asked, and you've been answered:
As to his question, "how many people of color hold positions of power in the Michigan Democratic Party?," Mongo ignores that both the first and second vice chairs of the party are minorities, as are 50 percent of the party officers. The political director for the past five years was African-American. In recent years, there were two African-American Democratic caucus leaders in the Michigan House of Representatives. Chong-Anna Canfora, Lansing

How many African Americans hold power in Michigan's Democratic Party? Let's start with my former boss Congressman John Conyers. His wife, Monica, happens to be president pro tem of the City Council of Detroit. The mayor of Detroit happens to be African-American as well. And there is the woman who started my political career, Rosa Thomas, who is the recording secretary of the Michigan Democratic Party. Jared Hautamaki, Rochester Hills
Speaking of U.S. Rep. John Conyers, he also had some answers for Mongo (emphasis added):
As I read Adolph Mongo's rant against Michigan Democrats ("Michigan Democrats don't practice equal rights," June 14), I could not help thinking about poll taxes, Detroit-bashing and race-baiting. I have personally battled them for more than four decades. They are also the platform of the Michigan Republican Party in 2006.

Do not let anyone sell you the twisted logic that Democrats are against equal opportunity and civil rights and Republicans are for it. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In Michigan today, Republicans are pushing a radical, anti-civil rights and anti-urban agenda. Recently, the Republican-controlled Legislature passed a bill to finance mass transit throughout the state that specifically excluded Detroit -- a blatant slap in the face to Detroiters. Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm vetoed that divisive legislation.

At the same time, quietly, Republicans are pushing legislation that would disenfranchise thousands of minority voters by requiring a photo ID to vote at the polls.

Yes, this is the same party that shut down Detroit's mental health facilities, eliminated the efficient Recorder's Court and led the takeover of Detroit's public schools.

It is easy to throw around anecdotal hearsay to insinuate the leadership of the Michigan Democratic Party is not committed to diversity. But we should focus instead on the reality that no one can dispute: There are more women and minorities serving as department directors and in leadership positions in the Granholm administration than virtually any other state in America.

As a percentage, the governor has appointed twice as many African Americans to state government boards, commissions and councils than former Republican Gov. John Engler. I commend the governor that 24 percent of her judicial appointments are persons of color.

The simple fact is that the Democratic Party and its leaders are the ones committed to opportunity for all our citizens and promoting diversity in government.
And just in case Mongo had a lapse in memory: Blacks should look to Hurricane Katrina to see how much the Republicans love them. I am a Democrat who hopes no one gets fooled at election time. Gary Bergman, Midland

UPDATE: Some links showing just how much Republican's care about minorities:

Jim Crow GOP
Southern lawmakers delay voting rights bill

Automotive Tidbits

Here are a few tidbits of information from the automotive world:

First, kudos to GM employees! For the second straight year, General Motors scored the most wins on Strategic Vision's Total Quality Index (TQI), leading in five segments out of the eight won by domestics. GM led five of the survey's 20 vehicle categories, beating out Toyota, Honda and Nissan.

Taking the award for the growing small multi-function segment was the Chevrolet HHR (cool car), while the Saturn VUE received the top spot in the small SUV segment, edging out last year's winner, the Hyundai Tucson. The Chevrolet Corvette Coupe was No. 1 for the third year in a row among the luxury small specialty cars and the Chevrolet Corvette Convertible took top honors in the luxury convertible segment. In the class of really tough trucks, the Chevrolet Silverado HD (2500/3500) pulled ahead of the competition, beating out the Dodge Ram 2500/3500 and Ford F-250/350.

Finally, from Cool Hunter, here's the Kenguru, a car designed in Hungary specifically for wheelchair users:

"The car's interior space has no front seat - just a space built to house the driver's own wheelchair so all he/she has to do is simply roll in through the extra large car doors and into position. The wheelchair locks into place, within easy reach of the car's controls which are centred around a joystick. It's light years away from the current options for disabled drivers, which involve having to hoist themselves into the driver's seat of standard cars."

How cool! It's pretty small, and I wouldn't feel too safe zooming down I-75 in one of these cars with a semi-truck on my tail, but it looks like just the thing to use on secondary roads. I bet it gets good gas mileage too, and it's probably more economical to buy than those huge conversion vans so many wheelchair users drive.

UPDATE: The Kenguru fascinated me so I did a little more research. It turns out the Kenguru is an electric car. It has a limited range, roughly 35 miles, and travels at speeds limited to surface streets or roughly 25 miles per hour. The Kenguru is available for $12,500 in Hungary (which is cheaper than many high-end electric wheelchairs) and free with healthcare if an individual qualifies (I assume they mean Hungarian healthcare).

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Republicans Favor the Rich

The Republican-controlled Senate showed America who they favor more when they refused to raise the minimum wage today - the wealthy.
The federal minimum wage has been $5.15 an hour for almost 10 years, and is worth less now that at almost anytime in the last 50 years. Adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage in 1968 would be worth $9.09 today, 75% more than the current wage.
Additionally, minimum wage buying power is the lowest it's been since 1955, but the Republicans just don't care about the more than 8 million workers who would benefit from the raise, including an estimated 760,000 single mothers and 1.8 million parents with children under 18.

The Republicans apparently care about millionaires though. How else to explain their efforts to reach a compromise estate tax cut with a higher exemption level? The Senate already voted against eliminating the death tax earlier this year, but now Republicans are looking for a so-called compromise to take care of those super-wealthy families bankrolling the campaign to end the estate tax, including the DeVos, Walton and Gallo families.

Why is it a "no" vote is sufficient to stop the minimum wage issue, but not the death tax? Because, as Republican Sen. Johnny Isaakson said, ". . . this is a classic debate between two different philosophies." I can't disagree with him there:

On the right, we have a Republican-controlled Congress that hasn't raised the minimum wage since 1997, yet over that time they've given themselves eight pay raises totaling more than 23 percent and passed tax cuts that only served to widen the gap between the hyper-rich and the rest of America.

On the left, we have the Democratic Party that also gained from those eight pay raises while fighting for average "working" Americans.

As Lou Dobbs says, "Raising the minimum wage isn't simply about the price of labor. It's also about our respect for labor."

It's pretty obvious that Republicans don't respect working Americans, so to vote for them is to vote against our own self-interests.

Related Links:
Raising the Minimum Wage or Lowering Estate Taxes - Guess What Republicans Picked?
Minimum Wage Frequently Asked Questions
Congress Stiffs Working Americans
House GOP Settles for Less Than Full Repeal of Estate Tax
Paris Hilton Still in Peril

Is DeVos Ready for the Hot Seat?

Michigan is making history. According to The Jackson Citizen Patriot, "DeVos has already bought more television advertising than any gubernatorial campaign in history. The figure, collected by MCFN from 28 commercial broadcasters in Michigan and Comcast's cable sales office, totaled $5.4 million through June 1. That does not include production costs."

That's a pretty impressive figure, but what exactly has all that money accomplished? Has DeVos managed to define himself? The Jackson Citizen Patriot doesn't think so.
DeVos is spending like a man with national-level political aspirations -- well above what one would have thought possible in a state governor's race. Yet for all that spending, what do we know of Dick DeVos? That his sales pitch boils down to "I can do better than her."

Others may have a philosophical objection to wealthy people buying their way into office. We are more pragmatic.

Who is Dick DeVos, and where does he want to lead this state? What can he do about the wrenching Michigan economic woes that have defied solution by both Republican and Democratic governors in the past? Such questions are not answered in the cushy pastures of campaign advertising, but in the sweaty forums of political debate, news interviews and editorial board meetings.

It's time for Dick DeVos to move his campaign to the hot seat.
The hot seat - that's where the boys get separated from the men (or women as the case may be).

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

It's Time to Lower Nation's Flags in Honor of Fallen Soldiers

The families of Pfc. Kristian Menchaca, 23, of Houston, and Pfc. Thomas L. Tucker, 25, of Madras, Oregon, wait while the military confirms whether the bodies of two U.S. soldiers reported captured last week are those of their sons. I can't begin to imagine the pain and sorrow they must feel, which must be compounded by the news from an Iraqi defense ministry official who said the men were "killed in a barbaric way." The horror of those young men's deaths will forever haunt their families.

None of us can ease their pain, but I'd like to see our country do more to honor their children - our fallen soldiers. Here in Michigan, Gov. Granholm orders our flags lowered to half-staff when one of our own dies, which is also carried out in a dozen other states. I think it's time to lower our nation's flag to half-staff whenever a soldier dies too.

This tribute brought great comfort to one Michigan mother who lost her son in Afghanistan. These are her heartfelt thoughts:
Op/Ed: Half-staff flag is fitting tribute
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
By: Dawn Peterson, The Detroit News

I will always be grateful to Gov. Granholm for her order to lower the flag to remember my son. It was a powerful gesture of solidarity with the loss my family suffered. I hope it was also a reminder to our citizens of the price of war and those who must pay that price -- our men and women in uniform and their families...

As the mother of the first Michigan soldier to give his life in the war on terror, I have closely followed the debate in the media over Gov. Jennifer Granholm's policy of lowering the flag to honor those who have fallen. On Flag Day, a day to celebrate the symbol of our nation and to remind our citizens of proper flag etiquette, I want to lend my voice to this debate.

When you drive past a business, government building or a neighborhood of homes and you see the flag at half-staff, you may not know who is being memorialized, but you know that whoever it is must have served our country with great honor and with great heroism. President George W. Bush has lowered the flag for former President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II. These are two great men, and there is no question that they deserved this high honor. But there are thousands of other men and women who may have lived more ordinary lives but whose actions and sacrifice were just as extraordinary.

My son, Senior Airman Jason T. Plite, was one of those men. Jason enlisted in the Air Force after high school and quickly distinguished himself. He served as a member of an elite unit of the Special Forces. As a pararescueman, his missions involved helping others in need and rescuing those in life-threatening situations. On March 23, 2003, he and five of his fellow crewmen gave their lives while trying to save two young Afghan children.

Jason was not a president or dignitary. But he was extraordinary.

Some have argued that U.S. law states that only high-ranking elected officials and dignitaries should be recognized with this tribute. Comments to this effect by Dick DeVos' gubernatorial campaign have prompted many letters to papers around the state. In response, I ask the following question: Is the person who sits behind a desk and makes the decision to send our loved ones to war any more important than the men and women who fight for their country overseas?

Anyone who knew my son or any of the Michigan soldiers who have died in Afghanistan and Iraq knows that their bravery and patriotism alone warrant a display of thanks in the form of a lowered flag. This is the least we can do to remember those who are gone and to show our support of their loved ones.

The United States flag not only represents our country. To me it has become a symbol that represents my son -- his willingness to give his life not only for two Afghan children, but for our country and its right to fly that flag (at half-staff if people so choose).

My son came home to me draped in an American flag. That flag was ever so carefully folded and given to me to remember his (our) sacrifice. I was comforted and touched by the show of support in our community -- and beyond -- by those who chose to fly their flags at half-staff in my son's honor. It was a simple way in which they were able to say "thank you" and "we care." I have since felt and shared in the pain of each additional fallen soldier and their families, and I know how much this meaningful gesture has also meant to them.

I will always be grateful to Gov. Granholm for her order to lower the flag to remember my son. It was a powerful gesture of solidarity with the loss my family suffered. I hope it was also a reminder to our citizens of the price of war and those who must pay that price -- our men and women in uniform and their families.

No one deserves to be honored more by the simple gesture of a flag at half-staff than those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, as my son did, to protect and serve their country. The governor is right to continue her policy.

And if this policy is not in compliance with the rules of flag etiquette, then it is time to rewrite those rules.
Jason was not a president or dignitary. But he was extraordinary. Kristian Menchaca and Thomas L. Tucker were also extraordinary. All of our soldiers are extraordinary, and they all deserve to be honored in the highest possible way. Lowering our nation's flags is the least our country can do for them and their families.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Homeless Struggle to Comply With Patriot Act

Call it a pain in the neck or a necessary inconvenience, but we've all had to adapt to the Patriot Act since 9/11. I know I've voiced my concerns and done my share of complaining, however, I never dreamed how difficult it would make life for one group of people - the homeless.

The following article was written by Pastor Ken Locke of Downtown Presbyterian Church, Nashville: [h/t The Homeless Guy]
James Rychednick is not a terrorist. He may be any number of things, but he is certainly not a terrorist.

James is about 35, not mentally retarded but clearly "slow." He also hears voices, voices telling him to leave, leave, leave. I met James when he came seeking help to get a state Identification Card. State ID cards are one step down from a drivers' license. They are a legal proof of identity but are generally only used by those who cannot or are not allowed to drive. They are the most common form of ID among the homeless and urban poor.

James lost his ID card in Minneapolis where he was working a string of dead-end jobs and living in a shelter. Don't ask me how he lost his card. He probably doesn't know himself. But when he lost his card he listened to the voices and left. He took the bus to Atlanta and from there to Nashville. Last week he rolled into our fair city, homeless and broke.

It's surprising how many of the homeless and urban poor don't have any form of state issued ID. Not having one complicates your life – a lot. Ever since the Patriot Act you can't (legally) get a job scrubbing floors at Wal-Mart without a state ID card. You can't get into a drug or alcohol rehab program. You can't apply for housing or cash a social security check without a state ID card. In short, it's hard to (legally) better yourself without a state ID.

People show up asking for help with ID cards for a variety of reasons. Some have simply lost them. Some were stolen. Crack addicts have a hard time hanging onto their important papers. Women fleeing abusive husbands rarely pack all their necessary documents before leaving. (And often times the abusive husband will keep the woman’s ID card as a means of control.) People getting out of prison lose their ID card in the incarceration process. They have a prison ID card but that doesn't help a lot when you're looking for a job.

We know a lot about ID cards here at DPC. It's one of our missions. Last year we helped purchase 130 state ID cards. So far this year we’ve purchased 79. Not a positive trend.

So in the normal course of my day I found myself talking to James. Someone had told him maybe we could help.

But James has a problem. He's never had Tennessee ID card and he was born in Illinois. That means he needs his IL birth certificate. But the state of IL will only release a birth certificate to someone with a state ID card. Need a state ID card? Show us your birth certificate. Need a birth certificate? Show us your state ID card. Can you say Catch-22?

James came to me and I called the Office of Vital Records in Chicago. The nice lady told me that if someone from an agency would send them a copy of their own ID, they would release James' birth certificate to that agency. (They won't release ID cards to a church, but will release them to a non-profit agency. Go figure.)

A case worker at the Campus for Human development kindly made a copy of her drivers license. DPC wrote a check for $15.00 for the certificate and now it is in the mail. The birth certificate will be here in three to four weeks. Meanwhile, James is in Nashville - broke, staying at the Mission or on the streets, legally disqualified from getting a job. But James is a gentle person and will be easy to manipulate. It won't be long before some of our rougher elements take advantage of him. My guess is he'll be in jail before the certificate arrives.

Tramp, wanderer, no-good, Forrest Gump, lost soul: call him what you will, James Rychednick is not a terrorist. He's many things but not a terrorist.

But legislation aimed at protecting us from terrorists is keeping him from being a legally employed member of society. It’s increasing the likelihood he will be a drain on the taxpayer. But at least we know he won’t be building bombs.

OK, politicians. You want a mandate from the people? Here it is. Protect us from the terrorists. That's important. But help people like James be in a position to seek work before they become one of the permanent 'left behind' of our society. That's important too.
Amen. I couldn't agree more.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Tony Snow Has Union Pension

The Bush administration really needs to run background checks on people before they put them in front of cameras. This had to embarrass the anti-union administration just a bit: [h/t AFL-CIO Weblog]
Seems when the new White House mouthpiece was asked about his retirement savings, Snow replied:
As a matter of fact, I was even too dopey to get in on a 401(k). So there is actually no Fox pension. The only media pension I have is through AFTRA.
AFTRA, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, represents workers like Snow who, until he changed jobs, was employed in the broadcast media (Fox News, in his case).

So, thanks, Tony, for giving us an opportunity to point out how 85 percent of union members have a pension, compared with 46 percent of nonunion members. Not to mention that 83 percent of union members have health care, compared with 49 percent of nonunion members.

See, without your union, Tony, when you retire, you would have been like nearly two-thirds of retirees who count on Social Security for most of their retirement incomes.

Oh, sorry. Forgot. As the Bush spokesman, you'll likely be helping to kill even that last shred of retirement security the nation's low-income elderly depend on.

Bush already tried to kill Social Security once and plans to go after if again, if Republicans retain control of Congress after this fall's elections.

If Bush had his way, Social Security would be a high-stakes gamble for working Americans, who also would be prevented from joining unions and gaining the retirement, health care and wage security we all deserve.
Thanks, Tony, for giving us a lesson we won't soon forget. The vision of an "ownership society" espoused by Bush is simply not plausible. If it were, his new press secretary would not be describing himself as "dopey."

Thursday, June 15, 2006

What Happened to Our Good Paying Jobs?

"Ain't it the truth," says Christine Barry:
Joe Smith started the day early having set his alarm clock (MADE IN JAPAN) for 6am. While his coffeepot (MADE IN CHINA) was perking, he shaved with his electric razor (MADE IN HONG KONG). He put on a dress shirt (MADE IN SRI LANKA), designer jeans (MADE IN SINGAPORE) and tennis shoes (MADE IN KOREA). After cooking his breakfast in his new electric skillet (MADE IN INDIA ) he sat down with his calculator (MADE IN MEXICO) to see how much he could spend today. After setting his watch (MADE IN TAIWAN) to the radio (MADE IN INDIA) he got in his car (MADE IN GERMANY) filled it with GAS from Saudi Arabia and continued his search for a good paying AMERICAN JOB. At the end of yet another discouraging and fruitless day checking his Computer (MADE IN MALAYSIA), Joe decided to relax for a while. He put on his sandals (MADE IN BRAZIL) poured himself a glass of wine (MADE IN FRANCE) and turned on his TV (MADE IN INDONESIA), and then wondered why he can’t find a good paying job in AMERICA…
Joe should consider running for office. House lawmakers just gave themselves a $3,300 pay raise that will increase their salaries to $168,500.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

About Those Missing Iraq Funds

Tricky George Bush is giving Nixon a run for the money in the "tricks" department. In an effort to figure out how to clean up his mess in Iraq, Bush held a two day summit at Camp David where he suggested the following:
"Iraq's neighbors ought to do more to help," the president said after a day of discussion with his top national security advisers on Iraq's future.

Bush said that nations around the world - many of them outside the Middle East - have pledged $13 billion for Iraq and "we expect our friends ... to honor those commitments."
That's an excellent suggestion, and I think it's important for people to honor their commitments, but shouldn't Bush also honor his commitment to find the more than $9 billion that went missing without a trace in Iraq - as well as the $12 billion in cash that the Pentagon flew into Iraq straight from Federal Reserve vaults via military transports?

What's that you say? Congress authorized an investigation, created the office of Inspector General, and Bush named an old friend and supporter, Stuart Bowen, to get to the bottom of the matter. All very true, and I assumed Bowen was still searching, until I came across this little nugget posted by The Impolitic: Bush attached a signing statement to that bill that prevented the investigation from being undertaken.

Here are some more details from Dave Lindorff, "The Case of the Missing $21 Billion: Who's Following the Iraq Money?"
[...] President Bush has been quietly setting aside over 750 acts passed by Congress, claiming he has the authority as "unitary executive" and as commander in chief to ignore such laws, it turned out that one of the laws the president chose to ignore was the one establishing the inspector general post for Iraq. What the president did was write a so-called signing statement on the side (unpublicized of course -- though it was quietly posted on the White House website), saying that the new inspector general would have no authority to investigate any contracts or corruption issues involving the Pentagon.

As the signing statement puts it:
Title III of the Act creates an Inspector General (IG) of the CPA. Title III shall be construed in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authorities to conduct the Nation's foreign affairs, to supervise the unitary executive branch, and as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. The CPA IG shall refrain from initiating, carrying out, or completing an audit or investigation, or from issuing a subpoena, which requires access to sensitive operation plans, intelligence matters, counterintelligence matters, ongoing criminal investigations by other administrative units of the Department of Defense related to national security, or other matters the disclosure of which would constitute a serious threat to national security.
Well, since most of the missing money has been going to or through the military in Iraq, and since the president can define just about anything having to do with Iraq as "national security," that pretty much meant nothing of consequence would be discovered by the inspector general in Iraq.

You might think that the inspector general himself would have complained about such a restriction on his authority to do the job that Congress had intended, but this is a man who has a long history of working as a loyal manservant to the president. Bowen was a deputy general counsel for Governor Bush (meaning he was an assistant to the ever solicitous solicitor Alberto Gonzales). He did yeoman service to Bush as a member of the team that handled the famous vote count atrocity in Florida in the November 2000 election, making sure every vote wasn't counted, and then worked under Gonzales again in the White House during Bush's first term, before returning briefly to private practice.

Bowen simply never mentioned to anyone that, courtesy of an unconstitutional order from the president, he was not doing the job that Congress had intended.
I think the American public deserves an explanation. Why didn't Bush honor his commitment to get to the bottom of these missing funds? I think Lindorff is on the right track: "My guess is that a fair piece of those many billions of dollars is sloshing around back in the U.S. paying for things like Republican Party electoral dirty tricks, vote theft, bribing of Democratic members of Congress, and god knows what else."

So how do we find that money? Lindorff has that covered too: "What better way to follow that money than an old-fashioned impeachment hearing into why the president unconstitutionally subverted the intent of Congress in establishing an office of special inspector general for corruption in Iraq?"

That sounds like a plan to me.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

What Could Iraq War Money Buy?

Did you ever ask yourself what our country could do with the $300 billion being spent on the Iraq war? Well, a Minneapolis/St. Paul television reporter did and he sought the help of local college professor, David Larson, to come up with some suggestions.
[...]with $300 billion the government could simply hand out $1,000 to every American or about $47 to every person on the planet. We could buy a computer for every American child or for fun, the government could send every man, woman and child in the U.S. a brand new iPod.

"We talk about elementary school teachers and the fact that they aren't paid enough," said Larson.

With 94,000 K-12 schools in the U.S., $300 billion would give each school $3 million or provide a $100,000 bonus for every teacher in the country.

The average college tuition is $5,100 in the U.S. With 14 million students enrolled, just $285 billion would buy them all a four-year degree.

We could pay for all the losses from Hurricane Katrina and still have at least $100 billion left over. We could also pay all the out-of-pocket health care costs for every American for a year or fill all of our tanks for 12 months.

There are about 800 million hungry people in the developing world. It costs about $43 to feed each person for a year. With $300 billion the U.S. could end world hunger for about eight years.
We could do so much good for so many people with that kind of money, and this is based just on the current figure of $300 billion. Experts predict the cost of the war could approach $1 trillion before all is said and done.

Of course, money is not the only cost of war, and no dollar amount can ever account for the loss of so many lives - on both sides.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The GOP Hates the American Dream

Blognonymous makes the argument that the GOP hates the American Dream:
...from attacking the people pursuing it [American Dream] to clamping down on socio-economic mobility, the GOP demonstrates their hatred of the American Dream.

Look at the GOP's "hot issues": Gay marriage and immigration. Now I submit to you that no one is pursuing the American Dream with more gusto than homosexuals and immigrants. The latter is obvious and has always been the case. Immigrants from Mexico, India, the Middle-east, and Oceania are getting jobs, buying houses, and raising up "a mess 'o kids" with a zeal that crusty mainline anglos can't touch. And when it comes to socio-economic mobility, nobody is more mobile than your average gay couple. They practically keep Home Depot, Pottery Barn, and a half-a-dozen other retailers in business...single handedly!

But where are the economic clamps on mobility applied? Smack against middle and lower-middle class immigrants. Where is discrimination in marriage, employment, inheritence, etc... applied? Smack against homosexuals.
Good argument, but I might also add that this hatred and discrimination applies to social class. According to The Economist.
A growing body of evidence suggests that the meritocratic ideal is in trouble in America. Income inequality is growing to levels not seen since the Gilded Age, around the 1880s. But social mobility is not increasing at anything like the same pace: would-be Horatio Algers are finding it no easier to climb from rags to riches, while the children of the privileged have a greater chance of staying at the top of the social heap. The United States risks calcifying into a European-style class-based society. [...]

Everywhere you look in modern America - in the Hollywood Hills or the canyons of Wall Street, in the Nashville recording studios or the clapboard houses of Cambridge, Massachusetts -— you see elites mastering the art of perpetuating themselves. America is increasingly looking like imperial Britain, with dynastic ties proliferating, social circles interlocking, mechanisms of social exclusion strengthening and a gap widening between the people who make the decisions and shape the culture and the vast majority of ordinary working stiffs.
Jim Hightower calls it "the betrayal of the middle class" by elites (substitute GOP/Bush) who are so smugly dismissive of middle-class wages and benefits as "excessive" that they will not be able to build walls and gates high enough to stem the tide of anger coming at them.

Finally, this is how Abi @ Update America 604 summarizes it:
The class war is one of America's dirty little secrets. You're not supposed to know it exists because you just might fight back. And if that happens, we might just be able to take America back from those who have hijacked it.
Immigrants, gays, poor people and the middle-class - the GOP is an equal opportunity American Dream killer.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Wealthy Lose Fight to Eliminate Death Tax - This Time

The 18 wealthy families that hid behind trade associations and lobbyists to make their pitch to eliminate the estate tax lost today in the Senate. The stealthy group included Michigan's own DeVos and Van Andel families who lobbied on the estate tax 8 times since 1998. [.pdf file, page 19]

Collectively, according to Public Citizen and United for a Fair Economy, the 18 families spent more than $500 million in lobbying expenses and advertising.

Thankfully, common sense and decency prevailed today. Sixty votes were required to end debate on the bill and prevent a filibuster, but the measure got only 57. Wealthy Americans already received massive tax cuts under Bush, and our deficit is huge, so slashing the estate tax would have been irresponsible.

William H. Gates Sr. has been an outspoken critic of efforts to eliminate the estate tax, which he believes works in a modest way to keep the wealth gap from growing even wider. More importantly, Gates points out this simple fact - wealth is power - and "Democracy is at risk when the rich can basically buy public policy."

It was a narrow victory, but Democracy prevailed today when the Senate voted in the interests of the majority of people in this country (for a change) and NOT the 18 super-wealthy families with deep pockets. However, don't expect the super-rich to put away their checkbooks just yet. Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist indicated he plans to try again later this year, showing once again that issues important to the wealthy take priorty over everything and everyone else in our country.

Wealthy Families’ Campaign to Repeal Estate Tax is Big Con Job
Estate-tax repeal: a morality play
Spending Millions to Save Billions [.pdf file]
Estate Tax Pyramid Scheme
Awwww, Poor Millionaires. No Estate Tax Repeal This Time

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Senate Defeats Gay Marriage Ban

Jeffrey Hadden is an editorial writer, blogger and self-described cranky conservative at the Detroit News that I surprisingly often find myself agreeing with. The man has common sense. This is one of those times:
The U.S. Senate has defeated a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. That's fine. The U.S. Constitution shouldn't be cluttered up with social issues that should be defined by the states.

Enshrining a social decision in the Constitution makes it a legal, not a political issue, and that should be done sparingly. We are still paying the price, in rancor and sometimes even violence, of the Supreme Court's arrogance in doing the same thing with abortion. Left to the states, most abortions would be legal, because that's where the weight of public opinion falls. And since it would be subject to democratic debate, it would cease to be such a galvanizing issue.

The same is true of gay marriage. If people don't want it, it shouldn't be force-fed to them by arrogant judges, as it was in Massachusetts. If public opinion evolves, the political system should be given room to reflect that fact. The point of democracy, after all, is to let the people govern themselves. [Emphasis added.]
Absolutely, and the people have spoken on this matter. According to results of last month's Washington Post-ABC News poll, when voters were asked about the most important issue in November's election, they chose the economy, Iraq, immigration, gas prices, terrorism and health care. Same-sex marriage merited only an asterisk, meaning it rated below 0.5 percent of responses.

Would someone please point that out to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) who said this following defeat in the Senate: "I do not believe the sponsors are going to fall back and cry about it. I think they are going to keep bringing it up."

DeVos Flip-Flops on Flag Lowering

Under orders from Gov. Granholm, we honor our fallen soldiers here in Michigan by lowering the flag to half mast (similar orders have been issued in a dozen other states). The U.S. Flag Code provides the governor with that option and she has ordered it lowered 67 times since December 2003.

This action caused a bit of controversy recently among critics who said it was intended to honor only high-ranking government and elected officials, not soldiers or National Guard members. I disagree and side with Granholm's spokeswoman who said, "Where is the controversy in honoring brave men and women who are fighting for our freedoms in Iraq and Afghanistan? The controversy is lost on me."

Dick DeVos didn't think our soldiers or National guard merited that type of respect.
"Dick would take a more literal approach," DeVos campaign spokesman John Truscott said. "While he certainly believes that honoring veterans who have given their lives is extremely important, lowering the flag has typically been reserved for heads of state."
As you might imagine, this didn't sit well with people, and numerous editorials and letters to the editor started popping up in papers accusing DeVos of not caring about our soldiers. I'd also add that he came off as an elitist in my opinion. Why should heads of state deserve more honor and respect than a soldier who dies for his country?

Anyway, DeVos took lots of heat after that remark and his campaign manager must have decided he needed to do a little damage control. That took the form of a letter from DeVos in today's Free Press:
In recent weeks, my position on displaying flags at half-staff has been misrepresented. Let me set the record straight: I support Michigan's military men and women for the sacrifices they make and believe that displaying the flag at half-staff is a fitting honor for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Michigan is very much indebted to the soldiers committed to defending its freedom. It is my belief that we must honor these brave men and women, as well as their families, with the recognition they deserve. We can never do enough to pay tribute to those who have died serving our country.

While the protocol for lowering the flag in the past may have been strictly interpreted to be reserved only for high-ranking officials, I believe that this action is the least we can do to honor those who have given their lives for the sake of our freedom.
DeVos flip-flopped on this issue, pure and simple. There was no misrepresentation.

UPDATE: Sorry, I forgot to tip my hat to Michigan Liberal for pointing me to DeVos' letter.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Celebrate 6/6/06 in Hell

If you're a hexakosioihexekontahexaphobe and avoid all things related to the number 666, I suggest you click over to another blog. Today doesn't scare me though. In fact, I might party it up in Hell today - Hell, Michigan that is.

In recognition of the date, the Hell website reports they're having a party that will last till midnight. T-shirts with "666" have been printed and Screamin Ice Cream is available for 66 cents, along with other souvenirs priced at - you guessed it - $6.66.

Michigan is the only state in the country to have a town named Hell. How did it get it's name? There are two theories:
The first holds that a pair of German travelers stepped out of a stagecoach one sunny afternoon in the 1830s, and one said to the other, "So schön und hell!" - roughly translated as, "So bright and beautiful." Their comments were overheard by some locals and the name stuck.

The second holds that George Reeves [a local businessman] was asked after Michigan gained statehood what he thought the town he helped settle should be called, and reportedly replied, "I don't care, you can name it Hell if you want to."
Personally, I think the second theory sounds more plausible. I've been to Hell. Trust me, it's not very "bright and beautiful." You have to go to Paradise for that.

UPDATE: In keeping with the 666 theme, follow this link from Great White Snark to find the "Queen" of evil.

Finally, in case you'd like to see what Hell is like, Detroit News blogger, Bonnie Bucqueroux, made a videoblog of her visit there yesterday. Check it out - if you dare!

Friday, June 02, 2006

Gore Is Leader On Climate Change

An op-ed piece in one of our local papers discussed Gore's new film, "An Inconvenient Truth," and nailed the reasons why it had to be made.
Science over the last decade - particularly the last six years - has been increasing politicized by the social conservatives and corporate interests that today find their home in the Republican Party. These folks have muddled science and created controversy where none really exists on a whole host of issues - from wildlife management to birth control to evolution. [...]

The tactics have created a public perception that facts are a matter of interpretation, and that expertise is less important than immovable belief. The purpose depends on the issue. In the case of evolution, the point was to break apart the concept of natural sciences and align it with Christianity. On climate change, the purpose has been to sow enough confusion to prevent action. [...]

Government has had help from conservative pundits, none of whom ever appear to have acquainted themselves with the science. Mostly, they complain about the costs to the economy, dismiss the "unsettled science" and wave off the whole thing as an issue serious adults don't worry themselves over.

Because of that, there's been no action taken for a problem that will only get worse, could ultimately cost millions of lives and billions of dollars and is the greatest long-term threat currently facing this nation.
How ironic that Al Gore is leading this discussion instead of the the president. Bush had the chance to act like a leader, but he refused to sign the Kyoto treaty in 2001, which would have required the U.S. to sharply reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2010. His reasoning was that it would have damaged the U.S. economy. Yet, the leaders of major U.S. corporations such as General Electric and DuPont say addressing climate change offers the technology-rich USA a chance to make — not lose — big money, and forty companies — including Boeing, IBM, John Hancock and Whirlpool — have publicly endorsed the notion that climate change is real by joining a business council organized by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

Corporate America is starting to take this issue seriously, so why isn't the Bush administration? As Peter Darbee, CEO of PG&E said, "One can always say, 'We won't do it until everybody does it.' But leadership isn't about waiting for everybody to agree. ... Leadership is about doing the right thing and doing it early."

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Do Politicians Make it to Heaven?

This is an interesting perspective of heaven and hell. [h/t: SOMA]
Our cat was raptured up to heaven. He’d never liked heights, so he tried to sink his claws into whatever invisible snake, giant hand, or eagle was causing him to rise in this manner, but he had no luck.

When he got to heaven, it was a large field. There were a lot of little pink things running around that he thought at first were mice. Then he saw God sitting in a tree. Angels were flying here and there with their fluttering white wings; they were making sounds like doves. Every once in a while God would reach out with its large furry paw and snatch one of them out of the air and crunch it up. The ground under the tree was littered with bitten-off angel wings.

Our cat went politely over to the tree.

Meow, said our cat.

Meow, said God. Actually it was more like a roar.

I always thought you were a cat, said our cat, but I wasn’t sure.

In heaven all things are revealed, said God. This is the form in which I choose to appear to you.
You'll have to click the link to read the rest because I don't want to commit the sin of copyright infringement, but tell me, how do you think politicians are revealed in heaven?