Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Congress investigates the wrong liar

I think we need to replace everyone in Washington and start over from scratch. We're spending $12.5 billion dollars a month in Iraq, our troops are dying, our country is in a depression and Congress wants to investigate whether Roger Clemens lied to them under oath.

Attention Congress: How about investigating Bush, Cheney and the rest of the administration for those lies they told us about Iraq?

Monday, February 25, 2008

A Question for Sen. McCain

Vote Vets puts our spending in Iraq into proper perspective.

(h/t to Vote No on Joe)

A lot of money for death and destruction

How much have the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cost American taxpayers? Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz coauthored an article in the London Times yesterday that crunched some numbers.
As the fifth year of the war draws to a close, operating costs (spending on the war itself, what you might call “running expenses”) for 2008 are projected to exceed $12.5 billion a month for Iraq alone, up from $4.4 billion in 2003, and with Afghanistan the total is $16 billion a month. Sixteen billion dollars is equal to the annual budget of the United Nations, or of all but 13 of the US states. Even so, it does not include the $500 billion we already spend per year on the regular expenses of the Defence Department. Nor does it include other hidden expenditures, such as intelligence gathering, or funds mixed in with the budgets of other departments. [...]

From the unhealthy brew of emergency funding, multiple sets of books, and chronic underestimates of the resources required to prosecute the war, we have attempted to identify how much we have been spending - and how much we will, in the end, likely have to spend. The figure we arrive at is more than $3 trillion. [emphasis added]
Three trillion dollars for death and destruction, and a majority of it was spent on the Bush administration's lies about Iraq. How different our country and the world would be today if leaders had followed Barack Obama's example and voted against the war. Instead of reading the intelligence for themselves, they took the President at his word. Their intellectual laziness cost thousands of people their lives and put future generations in debt for years to come. History will not only judge Bush harshly, but also our leaders who blindly followed him.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Depression and Bush go hand in hand

If I had to come up with one word to define Bush's legacy, I'd have to go with "depression." I can hardly pick up a newspaper anymore without reading about new levels of this and new levels of that not seen since the Great Depression. Consider this startling statistic in today's NY Times.
Not since the Depression has a larger share of Americans owed more on their homes than they are worth. With the collapse of the housing boom, nearly 8.8 million homeowners, or 10.3 percent of the total, are underwater.
Houses have been more than shelter for many Americans, they've also been piggybanks. People used home equity loans to pay for college tuition, home improvements, etc., and now they're stuck owing more in loans than their houses are worth. They can always turn to their savings to help out though, right? Maybe, but savings are at their lowest rate since the Great Depression.

Well, at least people can still depend on hard work to get ahead - or not. Inequality has risen to heights not seen since before the Great Depression.

Work no longer guarantees financial security. Consider what Rep. Charles Rangel recently said:
"Millions of families are left out because of their stagnant wages and the erosion of their retirement benefits," Rangel said. "The share of pretax income going to the top 1 percent of households is at the highest level since 1929." The stock market crash of 1929 preceded the Great Depression of the 1930s.

"We know what happened in 1929; we don't want to go back there, but there is something wrong with the picture if we find so many people going into poverty," Rangel added.
I've always heard that suicides skyrocketed during the depression, which makes this news all the more disturbing.
An analysis of U.S. death rates by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the suicide rate among 45- to 54-year-olds rose nearly 20 percent from 1999 to 2004, more than all age groups.
This talk of depression isn't all bad though. Eli Lilly & Co recently announced their fourth-quarter profit was up, in part due to revenue from sales of Cymbalta, a drug used to treat depression.

Yep, when history books get written, Bush and depression will definitely be mentioned on the same page.

Update: One more: Ohio Job Losses Worst Since Great Depression

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

No more excuses for Hillary

Clinton suffered another loss last night and it bothers me that she didn't even have the manners or graciousness to thank the voters that turned out for her. And, for the second time, she didn't congratulate Obama on his win. That bothers me. Win or lose, manners still count in my book.

Hillary also didn't make excuses to explain away Obama's win last night. That's because there are no more excuses according to Ezra Klein:
With a population that is more than 91 percent white, Wisconsin isn't African American enough for Bill Clinton to hint that it didn't count. As one of the 20 most populous states in the union, it's not small enough for Clinton's chief strategist, Mark Penn, to suggest it didn't rate. Because Wisconsin uses a primary, the Clinton campaign can't pretend it was noncompetitive because of a mysterious allergy to caucuses.
The campaign can't use the excuse that Obama's lack of experience matters either:
[...] it's growing increasingly hard for Clinton to argue that her experience and electoral discipline set her apart when the largest organization she's ever run—this campaign—is listing so badly and exhibiting a reality so far from the rhetoric.
All those facts aside, Clinton is still in the race and could pull off an upset (or convince the superdelegates to do something undemocratic and throw the race her way). However, if she should lose, I hope Hillary takes the loss with dignity and bows out gracefully. Nobody likes a sore loser.

Monday, February 18, 2008

"Don't worry, be happy" is a bunch of bunk

This isn't news to most middle-class Americans.
Even when experts were declaring the economy healthy, many Americans voiced a vague, but persistent dissatisfaction. ...But to many people, something didn't feel right, even if they couldn't quite explain why. [...]

A year ago — months before economic alarms went off — nearly two of three Americans polled by The Rockefeller Foundation said that they felt somewhat or a lot less economically secure then they did a decade ago. Half said they expected their children to face an economy even more shaky.

Other polls have registered similar unease in the past few years, showing large numbers of Americans dissatisfied with the economy, and worried about retirement security, health care costs, and a declining standard of living.
This unease reflects a disconnect between the "our economy is strong" rhetoric coming from Republicans and the reality we're living. Why are Americans feeling so insecure?
Except for the late 1990s, pay has been stagnant for more than a generation, barely keeping pace with inflation. In 1973, the median male worker earned $16.88 an hour, adjusted for inflation. In 2007, he earned $16.85.

For many families, the stagnation has been moderated by the addition of a second paycheck as more women went to work, and their pay rose over the same period.

But the largest gains went to workers at the top of the pay scale. Now, economic worries are rising fastest in households with smaller paychecks, and that chasm is widening.

"Over the past decades, whether inflation was much higher or lower, or incomes grew faster or more slowly, there has never been such a wide divergence in the experiences" separating richer households from poorer ones, Richard Curtin, the director of the University of Michigan's consumer survey said in summing up the most recent figures.
Workers also feel anxious because new jobs being created in this economy come with few assurances:
Rennie Sawade, the son of a Michigan auto worker, majored in computer science because he saw no future on the assembly line. He was rewarded with a job at Oracle Corp., but lost it in late 2005 when the company shifted his department's work to India. Sawade, who lives in Woodinville, Wash. near Seattle, has been unable to find a full-time replacement, instead jumping from contract job to contract job.

The contractor offers a 401(k), but contributions are entirely up to workers. When Sawade's wife was diagnosed with thyroid cancer last year he missed the equivalent of two weeks work — and pay — to take care of her. The job has health insurance but still left the family with a bill for more than $2,000. Contractors call to offer other jobs, but the pay is frequently disappointing, he says.

"It was pretty well known when I was working on my bachelor's degree that the auto industry was going to move overseas," he says. "Everybody said get into technology because you'll have a career. Now it looks like the same thing is happening to technology."
Workers have a choice. They can keep voting against their own self interests (translation, voting for Republicans) or they can vote for leaders who support living wages, unions, fair trade, universal health care, retirement security and a progressive income tax (translation, vote for non-corporate owned Democrats).

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Just say NO to wingnut welfare

Get a load of this wingnut welfare being proposed by the banking industry in today's WSJ:
The banking industry, struggling to contain the fallout from the mortgage debacle, is urgently shopping proposals to Congress and the Bush administration that could shift some of the risk for troubled loans to the federal government.

One proposal, advanced by officials at Credit Suisse Group, would expand the scope of loans guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration. The proposal would let the FHA guarantee mortgage refinancings by some delinquent borrowers.

Credit Suisse officials have met with senior officials from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which runs the FHA, and other policy makers to discuss the proposal.

The risk: If delinquent borrowers default on their refinanced loans, the federal government would have to absorb the loss. [emphasis mine]
Dean Baker put this nonsense into perspective when he said: "...the WSJ did not include the views of a single person who thought this was a bad idea. Isn't there anyone in the WSJ's Rolodex who thinks that raising taxes on nurses and firefighters to give money to millionaire and billionaire bankers is not a good idea?"

I think it's time the financial industry experiences a little tough love. We're at war. We don't have money to waste on foolishness like health care for children or extended unemployment benefits for workers (says the Bush administration), so why should taxpayers bail them out? After all, as Bonddad points out, they're the actors who created this mess:
Mortgage brokers: Because the person brokering the loan knew the loan would be sold to a third party the broker has no obligation to make sure the borrower would actually repay the loan over an extended period of time. In addition, some brokers were given higher commissions for selling riskier loans.

Investment Banks: These organizations were hungry for collateral and pressured brokers and originators for more loans to pool and sell. This is the type of pressure that led the mortgage bankers to stop looking at things like "credit history." In addition, investment banks were lax in their due diligence to deeply inspect collateral.

Ratings agencies: who actually said most of this paper was AAA and therefore could be purchased by practically anybody.
Our government isn't off the hook either. They saw what was happening and failed to impose any kind of oversight on the industry. Instead, they talked about all that "free market" mumbo-jumbo.

Well, now the industry is in trouble and wants the government (taxpayers) to help. I say it's time for them to suffer some consequences. They lived by the free market sword, let them die by the free market sword.

UPDATE: Gov. Eliot Sptizer has a good read related to this in today's WaPo: Predatory Lenders' Partner in Crime

His conclusion:
When history tells the story of the subprime lending crisis and recounts its devastating effects on the lives of so many innocent homeowners, the Bush administration will not be judged favorably. The tale is still unfolding, but when the dust settles, it will be judged as a willing accomplice to the lenders who went to any lengths in their quest for profits. So willing, in fact, that it used the power of the federal government in an unprecedented assault on state legislatures, as well as on state attorneys general and anyone else on the side of consumers.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Turning America Around for Working People

Union leadership is fired up about working conditions in this country - rightfully so. UAW President Ron Gettelfinger gave a speech in Cleveland last week and stressed that public policy must change to support manufacturing. These are the key areas he touched on:
National health care -- "What's needed, as our union has long advocated, is a single-payer, universal, comprehensive, national health insurance program that covers every man, woman and child in America. Because we believe health care should be a right, not a privilege for those who can afford it."

Fair trade -- "Let's just a write the trade agreement on a postcard -- human rights, workers rights, environmental protections, protection from import surges, no currency manipulation and an enforcement mechanism. ... Our trade deficit is $2 billion a day."

Industrial policy -- "In this country, we have the most open market in the world, and we have stood idly by while entire industries have disappeared -- toys, textiles, televisions, computers and the list goes on. Unless we take action, we are going to see a continued decline in manufacturing industries."
America is not working for working people. Union busting tactics are on the increase, good jobs are disappearing, health care costs are soaring, and retirement security is being threatened. Here in Michigan workers are living with the ramifications of decisions made by politicians, corporate America and bean counters.
Michigan fell 10 places among the states in per capita income to 26th between 2000 and 2006 - the latest available year - as it shed thousands of manufacturing jobs, according to the Michigan Future study.

The state's per capita income was 8 percent below the national average in 2006, the worst performance since the Great Depression year of 1933, according to figures for the study prepared by University of Michigan economist Don Grimes.
Something needs to be done, but what? AFL-CIO President John Sweeney has some ideas he'll be outlining via live webcast tonight. "Turn Around America" is being sponsored by the John F. Kennedy School of Government and the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School.
In the first-ever address by an AFL-CIO president to the influential Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum, Sweeney will describe why America is not working for working people and what the AFL-CIO will do to create an America that works for all, including increasing member mobilization this election year and working to reform U.S. labor law to give workers a free chance to form unions. Says Sweeney:
We have an opportunity not only to restore the voice and vitality of the union movement, but to change the direction of our economy and our country. We’re faced with a fundamental choice: continue down the low road we’ve been taking and end up in a swamp of inequality where corporations and the wealthy always get more, or turn around America and head back up to higher ground where working people get a fair share of the wealth they help create.
After his address, Sweeney will take part in an interview and a question and answer session with the audience. You can see the live webcast of the forum on Feb. 12 at 6 p.m. at

(Cross-posted at Blogging for Michigan - A blog so good Republicons had us censored!)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Elite Evangelicals Members Only Club

The evangelical rich are different from the rest of their peers in how and where they worship according to this sociology professor.
President Bush is Public Evangelical No. 1. His presidency is the capstone of evangelicals' 30-year rise from the margins of society to the halls of power. But while the president has gone to great lengths to testify publicly to his faith, he often doesn't do the one thing that defines most evangelicals — go to church. He attends chapel at Camp David and other special services, but the president rarely can be found in a congregation on Sunday morning. (In contrast, Presidents Carter and Clinton both attended services in Washington during their tenures.)

Surprised? When most of us think of devout evangelicals, we think of people who attend church regularly and are active in their local congregations. Yet many of the most prominent evangelicals do neither. They regularly attend Bible studies and religious gatherings, including last week's National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, but many can't be found in the pews on Sunday. [...]

I spent the past five years interviewing some of the country's top leaders — two U.S. presidents (George H.W. Bush and Carter), 100 CEOs and senior business executives, Hollywood icons, celebrated artists and world-class athletes. All were chosen because of their widely known faith. Yet I was shocked to find that more than half — 60% — had low levels of commitment to their denominations and congregations. Some were members in name only; others had actively disengaged from church life.
Why the disconnect? Many of them said they couldn't stand the way churches are run - inefficient, unproductive and focused on the wrong things - so this led many evangelical leaders into fellowship groups that exist outside the church called "parachurch" organizations (like the Billy Graham Association). They feel these groups have a broader reach and more impact.

I can understand some of their criticism. Churches are run by people with various ideas and levels of commitment and the results are often dysfunctional, but ALL members of the congregation are encouraged to participate in the church community regardless of gender, race, income, etc. No one is left behind. That's not the case with these elite evangelicals.
In an effort to evangelize among the nation's elite, evangelicals have launched hundreds of invitation-only programs and organizations. Business leaders in Manhattan conduct Bible studies that meet in private clubs. Fellowship groups in Washington are reserved for diplomats and members of Congress. The CEO Forum, an invitation-only group for CEOs of large corporations, has been extremely important to the religious formation of many business executives. And, ironically, meetings designed to spur Christian philanthropy are held at fancy hotels and resorts. Indeed, the evangelical advance into the nation's higher circles has entailed an extension of, instead of a departure from, the privileged and powerful worlds these leaders regularly inhabit. Yet how does an exclusive religious fellowship square with Christian teaching? [Emphasis added]
How indeed. Jesus hung out among the poor, homeless and sick, and He often scolded the rich for throwing fancy banquets that excluded the poor. In fact, He told them to invite them in and seat them at the best tables and give them the best food. I'm pretty sure Jesus wouldn't approve of "invitation-only" worship and fellowship. I'm not the only one appalled. Their actions aren't going over too well with church leaders either.
Pastors and religious leaders — not just among evangelicals, but also among liberal and mainline Protestants, Catholics and Jews — are concerned about these developments. Churches lose out on talented, bright volunteer leaders. Wealthy believers lose out on spiritual fellowship. And most important, the people in the pews lose out because, while evangelicals have political power as never before, those who wield it have lost touch with the kind of people they used to see every Sunday.
They've also lost touch with the lessons they learned in church - or maybe they weren't really important to them in the first place.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Craig Ferguson on Fox News

"Late, Late Show" host Craig Ferguson was chosen to entertain at the annual White House correspondents' dinner in Washington this year. That's the same dinner where President Bush joked about WMDs hiding under furniture in the Oval Office in 2004. It'll be interesting to see how his routine goes over, especially with the Fox News reporters.

This is how Ferguson views the station:

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

I'll take a scoop of Chunky Monkey without hormones, please

Ben & Jerry's is in the midst of a showdown with Monsanto.
Ben & Jerry's Homemade, one of the first companies to label its ice cream as free of a synthetic hormone, is protesting a move by some states, including Ohio, to restrict such labeling.

The ice cream maker has joined a national campaign to block what critics say is an effort driven by Monsanto (MON), which markets recombinant bovine somatotropin, or rBST, also known as recombinant bovine growth hormone, or rBGH.
Monsanto claims the labeling implies that growth hormones are harmful, yet there's no scientific evidence to support that claim since the FDA approves it for use in diary cows. Yeah, the FDA approving it makes me feel safe. (sarcasm) It's so safe that it's banned in Canada, Japan, parts of the European Union, Australia and New Zealand.

Don't you just love the way these huge companies work? They favor the "free market" as long as they keep making money, but let something come along that might lead people to ask questions - like why is there hormone free ice cream? - and they start lobbying state legislators to change the rules.
Monsanto says the issue centers on accuracy in labeling, while critics say consumers have a right to know what is and isn't in their food.
Monsanto should check Ben & Jerry's labeling again. It appears on their new organic line of ice cream and states it's made from certified organic ingredients without the use of conventional pesticides or growth hormones, and in parentheses they include the term "Whew!" What's inaccurate about that? It's exactly the information healthy eating gurus look for when shopping.

As for me, I love ice cream of all kinds (with or without hormones), but if you prefer ice cream made with hormone-free milk, then you should have that choice and labels should be marked accordingly.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Bush's Legacy: Debt

I read this, The Dubious Priorities Of The President’s FY 2009 Budget, and this...
The President’s budget would provide more tax cuts heavily skewed to the most well-off while cutting vital services for low- and moderate-income Americans, generating large deficits, and increasing the strain on states already confronting budget problems as a result of the economic downturn. The budget reflects misguided priorities that would leave the American people more vulnerable in a number of ways.
And I thought, "thank heaven Bush's term is almost over and the next president can start fixing the damage he's done." Then I read Robert Reich's column, Financing the Common Good, and found myself getting nervous.
A new Democratic president will face many of the same challenges Bill Clinton faced at the start of his administration -- but all made worse by George W. Bush. Clinton, recall, inherited a fiscal straightjacket. At the start of 1993, the federal budget deficit was running $300 billion a year as far as the eye could see. Prior Republican administrations had sought to "starve the beast," going deep into the red by spending heavily on defense while at the same time cutting taxes.
Yes, I remember those years, and I see the similarities between the economy then versus today, but it can be fixed. Right?
A new Democratic president coming into office in 2009 will face a national debt much larger than it was in 1993. Despite the $5 trillion 10-year budget surplus that ended the Clinton years, the federal debt at the end of the Bush years will be almost $4 trillion larger than it was then. It will have grown about 70 percent during Bush's reign. If you assume 5 percent interest, the Bush debt burden will require the government to pay its creditors -- prominent among them, the Japanese and Chinese -- $200 billion a year, forever. That will use up a lot of tax revenue even before any of the nation's problems are addressed. In this way, George W. and company have done Reagan one better. They've not only starved the beast through tax cuts for the rich and increased defense spending; they've just about dismembered it. [emphasis mine]
To all the people who voted for Bush, I hope you're happy. You got your short-term monetary gain at the expense of my grandchildren and their grandchildren into perpetuity.