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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Potential big trouble for Democrats, in threes

First it was Charlie Rangel coming up for ethics charges and that looked problematic enough for him and, of course, for the Democrats. Hey, at least we're doing something about our dirty laundry. He's not likely to get away with this. The bad thing here is not only that he looks pretty dirty, though we're not assuming guilt here yet, but any trial would happen this Fall, just before elections. That's some bad timing, for sure. Then, another shoe droppped this week. California Representative Waters has been accused of some shenanigans that are going to be looked into. More possible ethics violations. And guess when that trial is to come about? You guessed it--this Autumn. All bad stuff for the Democrats. The final "capper" on this, to me, is unrelated to ethics but tells of "The Obama administration, unable to push an immigration overhaul through Congress, is considering ways it could go around lawmakers to let undocumented immigrants stay in the United States, according to an agency memo." I tell you what, if this President does this, and either pushes through--or tries to--ways for undocumented immigrants to stay in this country and going around Congress, I predict holy heck will be raised and will erupt in this country, coast to coast. The Republicans, the Tea Party members and everyone from Florida to Southern California--and a whole lot of others, added in, will go virtually nuclear. If I were advising the President, I'd have to tell him this may be the right thing to do even, but it's wrong for any cohesion, for sure. Have a great weekend, y'all. Link to original stories: http://www.kansascity.com/2010/07/30/2119380/obama-calls-charges-against-rangel.html; http://www.kansascity.com/2010/07/30/2119357/ethics-panel-to-charge-california.html; http://www.kansascity.com/2010/07/30/2118108/agency-weighs-skirting-congress.html

Think the banking crisis was "last year's news"?

I wasn't sure how this was going, the banking industry crisis, but I really did hope the worst was behind us. It turns out, it's not. The FDIC closed banks last night in "Florida, Georgia, Oregon and Washington, lifting to 108 the number of U.S. banks to fail this year as the industry has struggled to cope with mounting loan defaults and recession." And here's the clincher: The number of bank failures is expected to peak this year and be slightly higher than the 140 that fell in 2009. That was the highest annual tally since 1992, at the height of the savings and loan crisis. The 2009 failures cost the insurance fund more than $30 billion. Twenty-five banks failed in 2008, the year the financial crisis struck with force; only three succumbed in 2007. Well, that and this: The growing bank failures have sapped billions of dollars out of the deposit insurance fund. It fell into the red last year, and its deficit stood at $20.7 billion as of March 31. The number of banks on the FDIC's confidential "problem" list jumped to 775 in the first quarter from 702 three months earlier, even as the industry as a whole had its best quarter in two years. A majority of institutions posted profit gains in the January-March quarter. But many small and midsized banks are likely to continue to suffer distress in the coming months and years, especially from soured loans for office buildings and development projects. The FDIC expects the cost of resolving failed banks to total around $60 billion from 2010 through 2014. Additionally, with consumer confidence--and spending--both at deep lows, don't look for this to change or improve any time too soon, either. Here's hoping for the best, eh? Try to have a terrific weekend. Link to original post: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100731/ap_on_bi_ge/us_bank_closures;_ylt=AsObbyWHpmK7E_A1HA9oaoiMwfIE;_ylu=X3oDMTM1bWNjdXQ2BGFzc2V0A2FwLzIwMTAwNzMxL3VzX2JhbmtfY2xvc3VyZXMEY2NvZGUDbW9zdHBvcHVsYXIEY3BvcwM2BHBvcwM2BHNlYwN5bl90b3Bfc3RvcmllcwRzbGsDcmVndWxhdG9yc2Ns

KCMO on good list for young adults

Surprise, campers! Kansas City made it on a current list of "10 Great Cities for Young Adults" just now. Top honors--no surprise--goes to Austin, Texas (man, I love that city) and good old KC comes in at a pretty solid no. 5. Nice. Their take: It may not have the big-city buzz of a Chicago or Houston, but KCMO is on its way up. The "Paris of the Plains" is in the midst of a $9 billion downtown development project, which will create a swath of new condos, apartments, offices, bars and restaurants- many of them targeted to young professionals. Unemployment and cost of living are low here as well, and job prospects are promising. Six Fortune 1000 companies call Kansas City home. PROS: Below-average rents, low cost of living, money and momentum behind future development, innovative jobs in business, research and technology. The average commute is only 21 minutes. CONS: Mediocre nightlife and limited cultural offerings (at least until the downtown development is finished), high crime rate, poor public transportation (though a light rail is under construction). Wait. "A light rail is under construction? Where did they get that? And the "downtown development" is pretty much done, really, we'd have to say. Someone needs to do a bit more homework, for sure. Anyway, it was good to read. For someone who lives on the Plaza and can take in a lot of what the city has to offer--though I don't get around to that much--I have to agree. I think a bunch of people (think Tony at TKC, etc.) will have plenty to say about this list, our ranking and what they wrote about us. Have a great weekend, y'all. Link to original post: http://realestate.yahoo.com/promo/10-great-cities-for-young-adults.html

Friday, July 30, 2010

More hard proof of why we need to get out of Afghanistan

Item 1 today, this first one from The Huffington Post: Pakistan’s U.N. ambassador: Afghan war ‘doesn’t seem winnable.’ Item 2, from our own US Military and the Associated Press: 3 more US troops die in southern Afghanistan By ROBERT H. REID Associated Press Writer 3 more US troops die in southern Afghanistan KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Three more U.S. troops have been killed in Afghanistan, bringing the U.S. death toll for July to at least 66 and making it the deadliest month for American forces in the nearly 9-year-war. What's it going to take, people? How long are we going to put up with this? How many more American soldiers need to die until we get them out of there? What further proof do we need? It's your government. It's your military. What's your opinion? Do your representatives in Washington know what you think and feel? Link to original posts: http://thinkprogress.org/2010/07/30/pakistan-ambassador-war-unwinnable/ http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/A/AS_AFGHANISTAN?SITE=WYCHE&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT

Just who, exactly, does this mayor get along and/or work with?

Remember the funny complaint teachers used to make about kids that we all joked about? The "doesn't get along with others" complaint? Yeah, that one. Doesn't it seem to apply especially well to this current mayor? Who, exactly, does this guy work with? I mean, unless it's some businessman (think Rex Sinquefeld) who throws money at him. Here's the latest: "...the mayor and police chief are butting heads on two major issues that could affect how well the department is funded and how its officers are disciplined. And this clash could threaten the future of the city’s quarter-cent public safety sales tax." So once again, this mayor is going against another authority in town, furthering the notion that he doesn't "work well with others" and jeopardizing the very tax he wants to see passed. The guy's a regular rocket scientist, as we know, right? Have a great weekend, y'all. Link to original post: Read more: http://voices.kansascity.com/entries/corwin-and-funkhouser-break/#ixzz0vBTHtbqP

Humor today---from The Kansas City Star

So I started reading the paper today, as I always do, like most people I suspect, on page A1 and went back from there. Unremarkable, right? Then I get to page A4 and see a prominent column by Mike Hendricks called "Public's Prying Is Out of Line", saying we basically have no right, really, to know what happened to Larry Schnackenberg after first his disappearance and now his reappearance in the area. And I don't disagree, per se, with the exception of the public details, having to do with the police searching for Mr. S., and so on. Let him and his family have their privacy--what do I care? But then---and here comes the humor, for me--you keeping turning the pages and 2 flips of paper later, back on page A8 is a nice, big, again, prominent story 6 COLUMNS WIDE, giving all the details the Star has about Mr. Schnackengerg's dis- and re-appearance. I mean, man, is that good? It cracked me up. Thank you, Kansas City Star. It's great to start the day with a good, hearty laugh. Have a great weekend, y'all. Link to original posts: http://www.kansascity.com/2010/07/29/2117060/we-the-public-arent-owed-all-the.html http://www.kansascity.com/2010/07/29/2115918/missing-mans-family-thrilled-hes.html

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Rand Paul, in his own words

Rand Paul is an uninformed buffoon, let there be no doubt. He is also patently dangerous if he is to be considered a leader in this country, much like Sarah Palin. His take on mountaintop removal: Paul believes mountaintop removal just needs a little rebranding. "I think they should name it something better," he says. "The top ends up flatter, but we're not talking about Mount Everest. We're talking about these little knobby hills that are everywhere out here. And I've seen the reclaimed lands. One of them is 800 acres, with a sports complex on it, elk roaming, covered in grass." Most people, he continues, "would say the land is of enhanced value, because now you can build on it." Go to Google, click "images" and search "mountaintop removal." See for yourself. Link to original post: http://www.details.com/culture-trends/critical-eye/201008/rand-paul-kentucky-senate-republican-campaign?currentPage=1

Quote of the day--on Roy Blunt

“Congressman Blunt’s 14 year Washington record of waste, corruption and sticking it to the middle class has proven he is the very worst of Washington. Why Republicans would want the ultimate Washington insider Congressman Blunt at the top of the ticket is beyond us, but it certainly will make our jobs easier for the November election.” --Ryan Hobart, Missouri Democratic Party Spokesman, in reponse to Michelle Bachmann's visit on behalf of Roy Blunt. ---So true. Thank you, Missouri GOP for this gift that is Roy Blunt

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Seriously, Rep. Rangel, let it go

Everyone knows a few things, at minimum, about House of Representatives Democrat Charlie Rangel, I think. One of those is that he's been in the House for a LONG time. Another is that it's widely assumed that he's "dirty", as in, not clean, as in guilty of ethics violations concerning the performance of his job. And yes, yes, I know we're supposed to presume innocence until guilt is proven otherwise but, hey, it's Charlie Rangel. Both sides of the aisle assume he's had his hands--both of them--in the proverbial cookie jar and more than once, I bet. But here's some things that the average person on the street doesn't know about Rep. Rangel--Charlie has been in the House 40 years. Holy cow. Another is that Charlie is 80 years old. Get that. 80 years old. He's been in the House half his long life. Word came out yesterday that Rep. Rangel is negotiating with the House ethics panel right now so he can leave somewhat gracefully and without such a tarnished record. I think that's too bad. I think we should find out what he's done, if anything, and hold him accountable. It won't happen but I believe that's what should come about. (and this from a Democrat, right?). My conclusion, easy as it is, is that Mr. Rangel needs to go. He has needed to go for some time, actually, and now is a good time for it. In fact, the sooner he goes, the better I think the House of Representatives will be. I just hope we aren't letting a really guilty guy go free with no "example" being set for everyone else in Congress. Here's hoping. Link to original post: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100727/ap_on_go_co/us_rangel_ethics

2012 Republican Presidential race so far

Former Alaska Governor (and permanent quitter) Sarah Palin. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Newt Gingrich. Rick Santorum. And that's just so far. If Democrats have things to be concerned about in the November election, so far it doesn't look like it's about who's in the White House. Links: http://www.draftpalinforpresident.com/ http://president-bobbyjindal.com/ http://www.11alive.com/rss/rss_story.aspx?storyid=146398 http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2010/07/27/santorum-huddles-with-former-aides-to-talk-2012/?fbid=7bEnKXId1hq

Accountability in our election system

Okay so the John Roberts' Supreme Court blew the lid off spending limits and reporting of campaign funding limits with its ruling this year for corporations and, basically, the wealthy of the country. I wrote about it earlier, of course. It was and is, of course, a travesty, when it comes to minimizing our votes--because it does--maximizing the voice and will of the corporations and wealthy and keeping people accountable for what they say in elections. And the Democrats, right now, are trying to fix this but, you guessed it--the Republicans are already threatening to fight this for both themselves and their corporate masters: Democrats need at least one Republican to support the measure in order to get the 60 votes needed to overcome GOP procedural delays, but their chances of doing so are slim. So far, not one Senate Republican has swung behind the measure, which is strongly opposed by the party's leadership. Nor is it clear that all 59 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents will support the bill. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement Monday that the bill is designed to "protect unpopular Democrat politicians by silencing their critics and exempting their campaign supporters from an all out attack on the First Amendment." I don't care if you're a Democrat, a Republican, a Libertarian, an Independent or a Tea Party member--if you're not wealthy, this goes against you, whether you know or believe it or not. Link to original posts: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/22/us/politics/22scotus.html http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/27/disclose-act-faces-gop-fi_n_660461.html

Todd Tiahrt and the Republicans: having it both ways

So Todd Tiahrt and his band of Republicans are supposed to be for "small government" and nearly no government at all, to hear them say it. Heck, the way they talk, you'd think they were all "slash the government" Libertarians. But right now, ol' Todd is running like a banshee for office, so what does he come up with? Check it out: Todd Tiahrt, who is running for U.S. Senate in Kansas, said he will press for a federal law to require cell phone companies to help find missing persons... The issue involving cell phone companies arose in the case of the late Kelsey Smith. She was abducted and killed in 2007... The proposal would require cell phone companies to release records to investigators working on missing persons cases. So, sure, the Republicans are for "small government." Unless they're running for office. Or trying to help their big, corporate friends... Or... Apparently, Republican George W. Bush's intrusive and far-reaching "Patritot Act" just isn't enough for these people. Link to original post: http://www.kmbc.com/news/24408955/detail.html

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Quote of the day--from Dan Schorr on the 2000 election (theft)

The court decision was, he declared, “a judicial coup” carried out by “the Gang of Five, philosophically led by archconservative Antonin Scalia.” We should never forget that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and their Supreme Court got away with this. Further, we should find some way, judicially, to make certain it doesn't happen again. I don't know that that's possible but I certainly hope it is. Link to original story: http://news.yahoo.com/s/thenation/20100726/cm_thenation/37930;_ylt=AjqiR2I2pqPiPJuXnRx3bg79wxIF;_ylu=X3oDMTJoMDBuN2lhBGFzc2V0A3RoZW5hdGlvbi8yMDEwMDcyNi8zNzkzMARjcG9zAzYEcG9zAzMEc2VjA3luX2hlYWRsaW5lX2xpc3QEc2xrA2RhbmllbHNjaG9ycg--

Daniel Schorr: What we need in our press and media

There is a terrific article out right now on Daniel Schorr and his and the press' role in our government and world. I'll put a link to it at the bottom, in case you're interested on the rest of it and quote a bit of it here: Journalists are not supposed to be friends of presidents. Dan Schorr understood that. Schorr was not a pamphleteer. Though he was a crisp and efficient writer, Schorr inclined toward the microphone and camera as a CBS correspondent who got run out of Moscow, as the CNN correspondent who got the cable network going with a typically-pointed interview of then-President Jimmy Carter and as NPR’s resident truth teller until shortly before his death Friday at age 93. The clip that will be repeated for as long as broadcast journalism history classes are taught will be of Schorr, broadcasting live from outside the Senate Watergate hearing room with a copy of Richard Nixon’s White House “enemies list.” The list of Americans who had gotten on the wrong side of the president had just been revealed and Schorr was reading through the first twenty “enemies.” After he finished with California Congressman Ron Dellums, he read the next name—without a dramatic pause or any show of emotion: “Daniel Schorr, a real media enemy.” What was important about Schorr was not that his name was on the enemies list, however. It was what he did to get it there. Schorr’s unofficial beat was always the abuse of power. He challenged Soviet communists and American capitalists (including his bosses at CBS and CNN) with the same relentless questioning. And when he got the story, he got it out—even if his editors refused to let him go with it personally. Famously, in the mid-'70s, when Schorr was leaked a copy of the secret “Pike Report”—named for the chair of an House Intelligence Committee inquiry into Central Intelligence Agency intrigues and illegality—CBS refused to go with it. Schorr promptly leaked the report to the Village Voice, a newspaper he was certain would run it. That was too much for CBS and, despite having won Emmy Awards in three of the four preceding years, Schorr was soon no longer working for CBS. At CNN, he clashed with Ted Turner over the cable executive’s determination to censor films—a serious issue with Schorr, who forged an unlikely partnership with musician Frank Zappa, another free-speech absolutist. In 1985, his CNN contract was not renewed and Schorr moved to NPR, where we got to know one another. My favorite moment came when he was asked his opinion of the decision by a 5-4 Supreme Court majority to stop the Florida recount of 2000 and award the presidency to George W. Bush, who had lost the popular vote by more than 500,000 and who appeared to be on his way to losing Florida and, with it, the Electoral College. The issue had been settled and most journalists were parsing things in a manner that might allow them to get on the good side of the notoriously vengeful Bush-Cheney team. But Schorr minced no words. The court decision was, he declared, “a judicial coup” carried out by “the Gang of Five, philosophically led by archconservative Antonin Scalia.” At the age of 84, Schorr was making himself the enemy of another administration by speaking a truth that most journalists would not. Link to original post: http://news.yahoo.com/s/thenation/20100726/cm_thenation/37930;_ylt=AjqiR2I2pqPiPJuXnRx3bg79wxIF;_ylu=X3oDMTJoMDBuN2lhBGFzc2V0A3RoZW5hdGlvbi8yMDEwMDcyNi8zNzkzMARjcG9zAzYEcG9zAzMEc2VjA3luX2hlYWRsaW5lX2xpc3QEc2xrA2RhbmllbHNjaG9ycg--

Could we put that whole "Obama's a Socialist" thing to rest now?

Obama a Socialist? POTUS Talks Tough But Actions Are "Market Friendly," Dow Says by Keegan Bales One of the principal criticisms of President Obama is that he is anti-capitalism. Opponents even describe his administration's policies as socialist. Mark Dow, portfolio manager at Pharo Management LLC, a global hedge fund, says these accusations are baseless. "It's totally false -- it's a construct," he says. The government has demonstrated they do want to get out of the economy." He points to the General Motors and Wall Street bailouts as evidence of the government's ability to step in and help corporations when necessary...but then allow them to (mostly) operate themselves. People who claimed that once the government muddled in these companies it would never leave have been proven wrong, Dow says. In reality, Dow says Obama's policies have been kind to the private sector. His tough talk is mainly a political strategy. "If you look at the difference between actions and words, you'll see that the actions have been much more market friendly and much more supportive of the private sector," Dow says. Link to original post: http://finance.yahoo.com/tech-ticker/obama-a-socialist-potus-talks-tough-but-actions-are-market-friendly-dow-says-yftt_534780.html;_ylt=AuMs0uNlDtqZHH2zWokr3vLeba9_;_ylu=X3oDMTFnamMxbXFsBHBvcwMzBHNlYwNjb250ZXh0dWFsLXRlY2h0aWNrZXIEc2xrA29iYW1hYXNvY2lhbA--

DUI checkpoints this weekend: there's a shocker, huh?

I see today, at the Kansas City Star website, where the Overland Park police are going to hold a "DUI saturation patrol this weekend" and the "Kansas City police plan to conduct a sobriety checkpoint this weekend." Okay, question: First, could they stop announcing these? Really, anymore, don't we all pretty much assume they're going to do this every weekend anyway, for starters? Then, secondly, the people who are out there drinking and driving, are they really effected, one way or another, by these announcements? Finally, don't we actually want a bit of surprise on this anyway, so more are caught and more people are spared any car wrecks? So when you put these factors together, doesn't it make the weekly release of this information just repetitive and unnecessary on the police department's part and the printing of them, on the Star's part? Isn't it pretty much pointless, shallow and predictable? Links: http://www.kansascity.com/2010/07/27/2110085_dui-checkpoint-planned-for-kc.html?storylink=omni_popular http://www.kansascity.com/2010/07/26/2109451_op-to-conduct-dui-saturation-patrol.html?storylink=omni_popular

Tuesdays stink?

So I wake today to find out that a) the US can't account for nearly 9 billion dollars in funds for Iraq (thank you, Department of Defense) and the Royals got beat up at a nearly historical rate, losing last night to the Minnesota Twins 19-1. Yow. Tuesdays really do stink, don't they? Good luck out there today, y'all.

New York is so cool (like we didn't know)

So I'm reading The New York Times Weekend Arts section this weekend and what do I find out but that there are free--get that, free--salsa lessons in New York called "Sunset Salsa". Now, by itself, that's no big thing but check this out---it's on a traffic island--yes, in the middle of an otherwise busy street--on Ninth Avenue at 14th Street. Now that's cool. Link to original post (including picture): http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/23/arts/dance/23salsa.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=sunset%20salsa&st=cse

Monday, July 26, 2010

The "Pentagon Papers" vs. the "Afghanistan Papers" at Wikileaks

Propublica does a terrific job of showing both the similarities and differences between the "Pentagon Papers" release by Daniel Ellsberg some 40 years ago and the Wikileaks release of 92,000 classified documents this week (see my earlier entry on this, from this weekend): http://www.propublica.org/blog/item/sheehan-interview. According to Wikeleaks' founder, Julian Assange, there are more documents to come out on this, too. Stay tuned, campers.

Good news and bad about the KC Star and their website

First, the good news. I've been meaning to write about this since the weekend. The good news is that the Star has taken to advertising and pushing for their website (www.kansascity.com). I saw it for the first time in a half-page ad they ran Saturday at the back of the "Saturday Homes" (E) section. It may have been run before but it's the first I'd seen of it. So good for them. They need to support and push it, for sure. Now the bad news, of course. The bad news is that a) the site hasn't changed, b) it's still difficult, at best, to find stories on the site that are in the paper (though for the first time the other day I was able to type in 2 keywords from the article in the paper and not only get the article online I wanted but to get it on the first try. Needless to say, I was stunned, thrilled and happy for them), c) the online "paper" still doesn't look like the traditional thrown paper (heads up, guys--check out the NY Times--they "get it") and finally, d) unfortunately we Americans--and maybe the world--still expect to get virtually everything on the internet free so they still haven't figured out how to make money off the internet version yet, very, highly likely. This last one I don't blame them for, of course. I will tell you, if you know how they can turn that online site into a profit-making "cash cow", you should run, not walk to their offices and let them know. I'm sure it would pay you big dividends in the meantime. To close, I would give this advice to any and all on the staff of The Kansas City Star: I would do what my friend at Blockbuster Video did a year or two ago and get out now, while you can, before newspapers go the way they did--that of the 8-track tape. Keep cool, everyone.

Daniel Ellsberg's "Pentagon Papers"?

Not only is the US, in my opinion--and a lot of other people's, too--in a quagmire ala' Vietnam, but we're in two, I think--Iraq and Afghanistan, obviously. But now, with the release on Wikileaks of the approximate 92,000 papers of classified documents on this Afghanistan debacle--I mean war--we get another, new comparison of this conflict with the loss for us that was Vietnam. This leak, I believe, will be compared at least loosely, if not directly, to Daniel Ellsberg's "Pentagon Papers" because they tell us more of what the actual situation is over in Afghanistan, instead of the glossed-over version we've gotten for the last decade from first one presidential administration and now this one. To wit: A six-year archive of classified military documents made public on Sunday offers an unvarnished, ground-level picture of the war in Afghanistan that is in many respects more grim than the official portrayal. The secret documents, released on the Internet by an organization called WikiLeaks, are a daily diary of an American-led force often starved for resources and attention as it struggled against an insurgency that grew larger, better coordinated and more deadly each year. The New York Times, the British newspaper The Guardian and the German magazine Der Spiegel were given access to the voluminous records several weeks ago on the condition that they not report on the material before Sunday. The documents — some 92,000 reports spanning parts of two administrations from January 2004 through December 2009 — illustrate in mosaic detail why, after the United States has spent almost $300 billion on the war in Afghanistan, the Taliban are stronger than at any time since 2001. This will, at minimum, make it much more difficult for this administration to do as it pleases in that country and likely make it more likely attacks on our progress and lack of it to come from both the Republicans and the President's own party, let alone the Libertarians and "Tea Party" members. In warning to President Obama, I think I'd quote Margo Channing from "All About Eve" to say "Fasten your seatbelts—it's gonna be a bumpy night!" Link to original story: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/26/world/asia/26warlogs.html?no_interstitial

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The US Middle Class is "radically shrinking"---and here are statistics to prove it

* 83 percent of all U.S. stocks are in the hands of 1 percent of the people. • 61 percent of Americans "always or usually" live paycheck to paycheck, which was up from 49 percent in 2008 and 43 percent in 2007. • 66 percent of the income growth between 2001 and 2007 went to the top 1% of all Americans. • 36 percent of Americans say that they don't contribute anything to retirement savings. • A staggering 43 percent of Americans have less than $10,000 saved up for retirement. • 24 percent of American workers say that they have postponed their planned retirement age in the past year. • Over 1.4 million Americans filed for personal bankruptcy in 2009, which represented a 32 percent increase over 2008. • Only the top 5 percent of U.S. households have earned enough additional income to match the rise in housing costs since 1975. • For the first time in U.S. history, banks own a greater share of residential housing net worth in the United States than all individual Americans put together. • In 1950, the ratio of the average executive's paycheck to the average worker's paycheck was about 30 to 1. Since the year 2000, that ratio has exploded to between 300 to 500 to one. • As of 2007, the bottom 80 percent of American households held about 7% of the liquid financial assets. • The bottom 50 percent of income earners in the United States now collectively own less than 1 percent of the nation’s wealth. • Average Wall Street bonuses for 2009 were up 17 percent when compared with 2008. • In the United States, the average federal worker now earns 60% MORE than the average worker in the private sector. • The top 1 percent of U.S. households own nearly twice as much of America's corporate wealth as they did just 15 years ago. • In America today, the average time needed to find a job has risen to a record 35.2 weeks. • More than 40 percent of Americans who actually are employed are now working in service jobs, which are often very low paying. • or the first time in U.S. history, more than 40 million Americans are on food stamps, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that number will go up to 43 million Americans in 2011. • This is what American workers now must compete against: in China a garment worker makes approximately 86 cents an hour and in Cambodia a garment worker makes approximately 22 cents an hour. • Approximately 21 percent of all children in the United States are living below the poverty line in 2010 - the highest rate in 20 years. • Despite the financial crisis, the number of millionaires in the United States rose a whopping 16 percent to 7.8 million in 2009. • The top 10 percent of Americans now earn around 50 percent of our national income. Link to original post: http://finance.yahoo.com/tech-ticker/the-u.s.-middle-class-is-being-wiped-out-here's-the-stats-to-prove-it-520657.html?tickers=^DJI,^GSPC,SPY,MCD,WMT,XRT,DIA

You gotta' be kidding me

Well, the US is going forward with our plans to hold "war games" with South Korea off the Korean peninsula, even though North Korea has threatened to literally go nuclear if we do and now this: Ex-CIA chief: Strike on Iran seems more likely now Sun Jul 25, 12:31 pm ET WASHINGTON – A former CIA director says military action against Iran now seems more likely because no matter what the U.S. does diplomatically, Tehran keeps pushing ahead with its suspected nuclear program. Michael Hayden, a CIA chief under President George W. Bush, says that during his tenure a strike was "way down the list" of options. But he tells CNN's "State of the Union" that such action now "seems inexorable." He predicts Iran will build its program to the point where it's just below having an actual weapon. Hayden says that would be as destabilizing to the region as the real thing. U.S. officials have said military action remains an option if sanctions fail to deter Iran Here's hoping we can all just "climb down".

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Kris Kobach is proving himself tiresome and irrelevant

In The Kansas City Star this morning, it quotes demagogue and Secretary of State candidate Kris Kobach as saying "...I think it is a fair question: Why not just produce the long-form birth certificate?" And of course, he's speaking of the birth certificate of President Obama. In another part of the article, it says "Koback spokesman Ben Davis denied that Kobach was a 'birther', as those who doubt Obama's U.S. citizenship are commonly called." Okay, let's get two things clear here: 1) No matter who says or denies it, Kris Kobach is a "birther", period, as long as he gives voice to these supposed "doubts". The facts of the matter are: the President presented his birth certificate, it's an official Hawaii birth certificate, the state of Hawaii presented his official birth certificate and, finally, if all that isn't/wasn't enough (and sadly it's not for these people), Barack Obama's birth was clearly, it has been shown and proven, announced in the local newspaper at the time; 2) Kobach--and people like him--need to stress and emphasize what they would do, should they be elected to the position for which they are running, to improve our states (and cities and nation), rather than throwing up this kind of nonsense which does nothing to improve our country but, instead, confuses the electorate and takes time and energy away from solving our very serious local, state and national issues. Anything else is blatantly irresponsible. Link to original post: http://www.kansascity.com/2010/07/23/2103585/questions-about-obamas-us-citizenship.html

North Korea going nuclear?

I wrote about this earlier this week and there's a bit more information so I want to follow up. It turns out that evidence is beginning to show that North Korea may well not have sunk the South Korean warship that we--the US--has been raising heck about internationally, with the North Koreans. South Koreans themselves are coming up with "dossiers of their own scientific studies" at least showing why it's doubtful the North Koreans sank this ship. Check this out: The critics, mostly but not all from the opposition, say it is unlikely that the impoverished North Korean regime could have pulled off a perfectly executed hit against a superior military power, sneaking a submarine into the area and slipping away without detection. They also wonder whether the evidence of a torpedo attack was misinterpreted, or even fabricated. "I couldn't find the slightest sign of an explosion," said Shin Sang-chul, a former shipbuilding executive-turned-investigative journalist. "The sailors drowned to death. Their bodies were clean. We didn't even find dead fish in the sea." Shin, who was appointed to the joint investigative panel by the opposition Democratic Party, inspected the damaged ship with other experts April 30. He was removed from the panel shortly afterward, he says, because he had voiced a contrary opinion: that the Cheonan hit ground in the shallow water off the Korean peninsula and then damaged its hull trying to get off a reef. It seems there is a politician, of all people, running for office in South Korea, who started this idea. Imagine that--a politician inciting the public with possibly untrue ideas and thoughts, in order to get elected. And this wouldn't matter a fig but for the US running with it and now preparing to have a huge naval exercise off the coast of North Korea which, in turn, is getting that same North Korea to propose that, if said exercise goes forward, as planned, that they may well "go nuclear" on somebody. In the meantime, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton keeps rattling her saber, so to speak, since we're so "in the right" on this whole thing. Could calmer heads please prevail? Link to original post: http://articles.latimes.com/2010/jul/23/world/la-fg-korea-torpedo-20100724

Friday, July 23, 2010

Causes of the "Great Recession"

...let's be clear, it was not Obama that caused this recession, This recession-- if we are to place blame, it should be placed on the Reagan Republicans who kept demanding radical deregulation of the financial industry and that was implemented by Bill Clinton who collaborated with them and pushed the reversal that controlled the greed of the banking industry. Obama inherited the problem, it broke under Bush, his response was to throw money at Wall Street. Obama has tried to do a little bit better, but in the main, he's playing out of the same playbook that Bush had in the crisis. Unless the policies are reversed, that means worrying about foreclosures, people losing their homes, if we can't bring back housing, we're not going to have the turnaround we need for the work force. we have to bring back construction of the streets. Have to be more in tune with helping people buy homes, in the same aggressive way that was done to make Wall Street whole. If Obama does not do that, we're in for a long haul. --Robert Scheer, Journalist, Truthdig

Elections, 2012

Republicans aren’t trying to rescue George W. Bush’s reputation for sentimental reasons; they’re trying to clear the way for a return to Bush policies. And this carries a message for anyone hoping that the next time Republicans are in power, they’ll behave differently. If you believe that they’ve learned something — say, about fiscal prudence or the importance of effective regulation — you’re kidding yourself. You might as well face it: they’re addicted to Bush. --Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize-winning Economist, Columnist, from his article in The New York Times, "Addicted to Bush" Link to original article here (and it's a good and important read): http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/23/opinion/23krugman.html?hp

Great NYT article on "The Enron of Kansas" or "The Fleecing of Westar, 1, 2, 3"

Just what it says--there is a terrific article at the NY Times site right now on Westar and the scandal that it became when David Wittig and Douglas Lake fleeced that company, right close by in our own Topeka, Kansas. Some of what these two thieving clowns did and a bit of the article: “During Wittig’s brief tenure with the company he managed to extract more than $25,000,000 in compensation and benefits,” the indictment read. “During Lake’s brief tenure with the Company he managed to extract more than $7,000,000 in compensation and benefits. During this same tenure Wittig and Lake presided over a company whose stock prices went from $44.00 per share to less than $9.00 per share, whose [energy] rates soared, whose debt increased to more than $3,000,000,000, and whose future was poised on the brink of bankruptcy.” It hints at the question I'd like to ask: Whatever happened to justice and "right and wrong" in this country? We know the answer, of course. They are whatever money says they are. We've created "the best Justice system money can buy." Have a great weekend, y'all. Link to original article: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/07/22/what-happened-at-the-enron-of-kansas/?hp

Airlines making profits--and how that effects you and me

Have you seen, this week, how airlines are finally making profits? Wow. How long has that been? I don't know when the last time was I saw where an airline--other than Southwest--made money. Check it out: Delta, United and US Airways all reported profits. American Airlines, sadly, missed out on the little party--can you imagine the heck that's being raised over there, in their boardrooms? I love this quote from Deseret News: "American parent AMR Corp. lost $10.7 million in the second quarter, a huge improvement over the loss of $390 million in the same period last year. Still, the loss stuck out compared with the combined $1 billion in profits reported by US Airways, Delta Air Lines Inc. and United parent UAL Corp." Ouch. Anyway, the way this effects you and me back down here on Main Street is that this came about in two ways: the airlines have cut capacity so there are fewer seats up there, meaning we'll be more crowded on the planes--and those charges for your bags are definitely not going away. Links to associated posts: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-07-14/delta-may-lead-airlines-profit-with-more-fliers-fewer-seats.html http://www.deseretnews.com/mobile/article/700049978/Airline-profits-up-except-for-American.html

Maybe they'll keep Claycomo open after all

Latest report on Ford from The NY Times this morning: Ford Reports Another Profit, and Sees More Gains Ahead By NICK BUNKLEY DEARBORN, Mich. — The Ford Motor Company on Friday said it earned $2.6 billion in the second quarter and expected to have more cash than debt by the end of 2011. It was the fifth consecutive quarterly profit and best earnings report in more than six years for Ford, whose turnaround has been picking up steam, increasing sales and market share in the United States, even as the market remains sluggish. God forbid they have to close Claycomo. 4000+ jobs lost would hit this area rather hard. Think happy thoughts and have a great weekend, y'all. Link to original post: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/24/business/24ford.html?hp=&pagewanted=print

“A billion here and a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money."

For all the focus on the historic federal rescue of the banking industry, it is the government’s decision to seize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in September 2008 that is likely to cost taxpayers the most money. So far the tab stands at $145.9 billion, and it grows with every foreclosure of a three-bedroom home with a two-car garage one hour from Phoenix. The Congressional Budget Office predicts that the final bill could reach $389 billion. --Binyamin Applebaum, The New York Times, "Cost of Seizing Fannie and Freddie Surges for Taxpayers" Link to original post: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/20/business/20foreclose.html?_r=1 Have a great weekend, y'all.

Quote of the day--"Other than the ones that want to kill us, Tea Party members are just 'average...Americans'"

Rep. John Boehner: I’ve been to my share of tea party events. … Let me tell you about these events. Yeah, there’s some disaffected Republicans there. There are always some Democrats there. Always a couple of anarchists who want to kill all of us in public office. But I’ll tell you this: 75 percent of the people who show up at these events are the most average, everyday Americans you’ve ever met. … As I said earlier this year, we should listen to them, we should work with them, and we should walk amongst them. Link to original post: http://thinkprogress.org/2010/07/22/boehner-tea-party-violent-anarchist/

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Men: On shifting sand, Part II

Man has been the dominant sex since, well, the dawn of mankind. But for the first time in human history, that is changing—and with shocking speed. Cultural and economic changes always reinforce each other. And the global economy is evolving in a way that is eroding the historical preference for male children, worldwide... What if the modern, postindustrial economy is simply more congenial to women than to men? The postindustrial economy is indifferent to men’s size and strength. The attributes that are most valuable today—social intelligence, open communication, the ability to sit still and focus—are, at a minimum, not predominantly male. In fact, the opposite may be true. Women in poor parts of India are learning English faster than men to meet the demands of new global call centers. Women own more than 40 percent of private businesses in China, where a red Ferrari is the new status symbol for female entrepreneurs. Last year, Iceland elected Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir, the world’s first openly lesbian head of state, who campaigned explicitly against the male elite she claimed had destroyed the nation’s banking system, and who vowed to end the “age of testosterone.” Food for thought, gentlemen. Link to original post: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/07/the-end-of-men/8135

Toxic Roy Blunt, Jr.

Straight from Alternet.org just now--I can't say it any better myself: Since 2005, the Watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has highlighted the most egregious violators of the public trust in its annual Most Corrupt Members of Congress report. Now, CREW has begun a list of Crooked Candidates to shine the spotlight on some of the lousy politicians vying for federal office in 2010. Here's their collection of non-incumbent candidates so far: CREW's Crooked Candidates 2010 Roy Blunt -- Running for U.S. Senate, Missouri Roy Blunt is a candidate in the Republican primary for the United States Senate in Missouri. For the last 14 years, Rep. Blunt has served in the U.S. House of Representatives in the state’s 7th congressional district. As a member of Congress, Rep. Blunt came under fire for a variety of issues including employing the same corrupt tactics that forced his mentor, former Texas Rep. Tom DeLay, to resign. Rep. Blunt’s ethical issues were documented in CREW’s 2006 report on the most corrupt members of Congress. In 2003, Rep. Blunt divorced his wife of 31 years to marry Philip Morris (now Altria) lobbyist Abigail Perlman. Before it was known publicly that Rep. Blunt and Ms. Perlman were dating – and only hours after Rep. Blunt assumed the role of Majority Whip – he tried to secretly insert a provision into Homeland Security legislation that would have benefitted Philip Morris, at the expense of competitors. Notably, Philip Morris/Altria and its subsidiaries contributed at least $217,000 to campaign committees connected to Rep. Blunt from 1996 to 2006. Also in 2003, Rep. Blunt helped his son, Andrew Blunt, by inserting a provision into the $79 billion emergency appropriation for the war in Iraq to benefit U.S. shippers like United Parcel Service, Inc. and FedEx Corp. Andrew Blunt lobbied on behalf of UPS in Missouri, and UPS and FedEx contributed at least $58,000 to Rep. Blunt from 2001 to 2006. Family connections have also helped another of Rep. Blunt’s sons, former Missouri Governor Matt Blunt. Gov. Blunt received campaign contributions from nearly three dozen influential Missouri lobbyists and lawyers when he ran for governor of Missouri in 2004, half of whom had provided financial support to his father. Earlier in 2000, when Matt Blunt was running for Secretary of State, Rep. Blunt was involved in an apparent scheme, along with Rep. DeLay, to funnel money through a local party committee into Matt Blunt’s campaign committee. Rep. Blunt and his staff had close connections to convicted former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. In June 2003, Mr. Abramoff persuaded then-Majority Leader DeLay to organize a letter, co-signed by then-Speaker Dennis Hastert, then-Whip Blunt, and then-Deputy Whip Eric Cantor, which endorsed a view of gambling law benefitting Mr. Abramoff’s client, the Louisiana Coushatta, by blocking gambling competition by another tribe. Mr. Abramoff had donated $8,500 to Rep. Blunt’s leadership PAC, Rely on Your Beliefs. Link to original post: http://www.alternet.org/news/147608/10_of_the_most_crooked_candidates_of_2010/

Men: On shifting sand?

"The yang of America’s labor force is this: over a 40-year career, a man earns $431,000 more than a woman on average, according to the Center for American Progress. The yin of America’s labor force is this: in this decade, for the first time in American history, men no longer inevitably dominate the labor force. Women were actually the majority of payroll employees for the five months that ended in March, according to one measure from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s mostly because about three-quarters of Americans who lost their jobs in the Great Recession were men." --Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times (see link below) When you add this kind of data to the fact that the former minorities are becoming the majority and that we have our first Black president, etc., etc., it's not a complete surprise that white, conservative, reactionary men resort to at least confusion, if not insecurity and, unfortunately, some ugliness (e.g., racism, etc.). That doesn't make it okay but it certainly helps explain a lot of their actions and reactions to our world of late. And I have news for ya'll on it---it's not going to get better. We're not going back to the way things were--or the way we think they were. Link to original post: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/22/opinion/22kristof.html?_r=1&hp

One year to go for the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts

I just got an email in my personal inbox from the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts that "Aretha Franklin, the world-renowned Queen of Soul, is performing at the 1Year2Go Countdown Celebration in KC Live! at the Power & Light District on September 26th, 2010". Yowza. The coolness is already starting. Link here: http://kauffmancenter.org/NewsAndEvents/news/detail.aspx?id=1390

Is this when the city finally gives a damn about killings?

Sure, we can have over 60 minority people killed in the first half of the year and no reaction from the Mayor, their office (lol), the City Council or community or church leaders. Sure. Everyone has written about that, including me, here. But now, here's a young white woman--a new mother--who gets gunned down at a friend's house over the weekend while in the friend's very private home. Is this the event that finally wakes the city up to the fact that we need to do something about the shootings and killings and "drive-bys" in the city? Part of me hopes it is and the other part is so disgusted that nothing, to date has been said or done about it, it's hard not to be a bit jaded by the silence and acceptance of the area's "leaders" of the whole murder and murder rate situation.

Kansas City in Atlantic Monthly article: The End of Men

A great and important read (see link below): None of the 30 or so men sitting in a classroom at a downtown Kansas City school have come for voluntary adult enrichment. Having failed to pay their child support, they were given the choice by a judge to go to jail or attend a weekly class on fathering, which to them seemed the better deal. This week’s lesson, from a workbook called Quenching the Father Thirst, was supposed to involve writing a letter to a hypothetical estranged 14-year-old daughter named Crystal, whose father left her when she was a baby. But El-Scari has his own idea about how to get through to this barely awake, skeptical crew, and letters to Crystal have nothing to do with it. Like them, he explains, he grew up watching Bill Cosby living behind his metaphorical “white picket fence”—one man, one woman, and a bunch of happy kids. “Well, that check bounced a long time ago,” he says. “Let’s see,” he continues, reading from a worksheet. What are the four kinds of paternal authority? Moral, emotional, social, and physical. “But you ain’t none of those in that house. All you are is a paycheck, and now you ain’t even that. And if you try to exercise your authority, she’ll call 911. How does that make you feel? You’re supposed to be the authority, and she says, ‘Get out of the house, bitch.’ She’s calling you ‘bitch’!” The men are black and white, their ages ranging from about 20 to 40. A couple look like they might have spent a night or two on the streets, but the rest look like they work, or used to. Now they have put down their sodas, and El-Scari has their attention, so he gets a little more philosophical. “Who’s doing what?” he asks them. “What is our role? Everyone’s telling us we’re supposed to be the head of a nuclear family, so you feel like you got robbed. It’s toxic, and poisonous, and it’s setting us up for failure.” He writes on the board: $85,000. “This is her salary.” Then: $12,000. “This is your salary. Who’s the damn man? Who’s the man now?” A murmur rises. “That’s right. She’s the man.” Judging by the men I spoke with afterward, El-Scari seemed to have pegged his audience perfectly. Darren Henderson was making $33 an hour laying sheet metal, until the real-estate crisis hit and he lost his job. Then he lost his duplex—“there’s my little piece of the American dream”—then his car. And then he fell behind on his child-support payments. “They make it like I’m just sitting around,” he said, “but I’m not.” As proof of his efforts, he took out a new commercial driver’s permit and a bartending license, and then threw them down on the ground like jokers, for all the use they’d been. His daughter’s mother had a $50,000-a-year job and was getting her master’s degree in social work. He’d just signed up for food stamps, which is just about the only social-welfare program a man can easily access. Recently she’d seen him waiting at the bus stop. “Looked me in the eye,” he recalled, “and just drove on by.” The men in that room, almost without exception, were casualties of the end of the manufacturing era. Most of them had continued to work with their hands even as demand for manual labor was declining. Since 2000, manufacturing has lost almost 6 million jobs, more than a third of its total workforce, and has taken in few young workers. The housing bubble masked this new reality for a while, creating work in construction and related industries. Many of the men I spoke with had worked as electricians or builders; one had been a successful real-estate agent. Now those jobs are gone too. Henderson spent his days shuttling between unemployment offices and job interviews, wondering what his daughter might be doing at any given moment. In 1950, roughly one in 20 men of prime working age, like Henderson, was not working; today that ratio is about one in five, the highest ever recorded. More later today. Link to original post: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/07/the-end-of-men/8135

Angelina, give us a break

Okay, Angelina Jolie proved she was cool a long time ago. She proved she was smart. She proved she could make a lot of money--AND get a hot, intelligent guy to marry her so they could raise their adopted babies. Great. All cool. But now, a request of Angelina. Angelina, honey, COULD YOU PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD, GET INTO A DIFFERENT ROLE AND DO SOME ACTING? This new movie of yours, "Salt", is just so much more of what you've already done for like the--what?--100th time? (It's worth the exaggeration). Sure, John Wayne only played, basically, one role in his entire life but that was then, Angelina, and that was the Duke. You've made the money, honey. Now, could you/would you select a role that isn't more of the same old "bad ass, beautiful woman whoops men's asses" and show us what that would look like? PLEASE?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Watch out for Kim Jong Il

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced further sanctions against North Korea, to punish them "to halt North Korea’s proliferation of weapons of mass destruction along with other 'illicit activities that helped fund their weapons programs.'” This on top of the fact that, next week, "The United States and South Korea announced Tuesday that the first in a series of large-scale naval exercises off Japan and the Korean Peninsula would begin next week, despite objections from China." Watch for it: Kim Jong Il is going to "go off" and start saber-rattling, at minimum. Let's hope that's as bad as it's going to get. Links to associated posts: http://www.truth-out.org/clinton-announces-north-korea-sanctions-as-part-a-diplomatic-dance-south-korea61582 http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/21/world/asia/21military.html?_r=1&pagewanted=print And now, today, an update: NKorea warns US exercises threaten region By JIM GOMEZ, Associated Press Writer Thu Jul 22, 7:56 am ET HANOI, Vietnam – North Korea warned the United States and South Korea on Thursday to call off military exercises scheduled for this weekend and to back off any new sanctions against the communist country or risk placing the entire region in danger. Link here: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/as_asean

Quote of the day II--Republican cooperation?

Can you imagine how high the stock market would soar and how easy a compromise with Democrats would become if Republicans offered an energy policy consistent with their values and our interests? What if the G.O.P. said: We will support a carbon tax provided one-third of the revenue goes toward cutting corporate taxes, one-third toward cutting payroll taxes for every working American and one-third toward paying down the deficit. The G.O.P. would actually help us get a better energy policy. Surely there are seven Republican senators who can see this. Aren’t there? Link to original post: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/21/opinion/21friedman.html?_r=2&hp

Quote of the day--on our mistaken direction

When a dictatorial president takes us to ill-begotten wars, the solution becomes simply to find a better president -- as if the problem were one of leadership rather than an underlying structural impetus to make war. When those wars go badly, both in fact and perception, we announce a “surge” that will escalate an already-lost conflict in an attempt to somehow “win” it. Better technology is the answer to too much technology. A new pill can cure the ailments produced by the pills we’ve been taking. Weeds and pests become resistant to our biocides, so let’s make them even stronger -- and the same logic goes for our antibiotics. The economy crashes and consumes vast resources, so we’ll prop it up with an infusion of even more resources. And on and on. Link to original post: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/07/20-1

The "National Standards" debate in our schools

With the KCMO School District getting on a "national standards" program, thanks to our new Superintendent, it's worth pointing out that, right now, there is an excellent evaluation of this idea and program at The New York Times, "pro" and "con". You can find it here: http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2010/07/21/who-will-benefit-from-national-education-standards?hp

Skelton and Moran---two "top travelers" in Washington

There is a study out right now from the "Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit that uses technology to try to make government more transparent. In early June the organization released its latest massive data dump on the expenditures that House representatives make from their Members Representational Allowances, or MRAs." They "show what the House spent on itself in the last six months of 2009 and first three months of 2010." Frequent fliers: The top two travelers in the House? Democrats Chellie Pingree of Maine, who has 197 travel expenditures, and Ike Skelton of Missouri, who had 163 expenditures. Neither was close to being the top spender, however. One high-spending traveler was Republican Jerry Moran of Kansas, who had 145 expenditures and an $82,000 taxpayer bill. Not good, Jerry. It's not good if you want to get elected to the Senate. And not good if you don't want Todd "I'm more Conservative than you" Tiahrt attacking you. Link to original post: http://www.aolnews.com/house-money/article/the-other-congressional-spending-how-the-house-spent-1-billion-on-itself/19522761

On Moran and Tiahrt right now

Two recent news events occurred having to do with this senate race in Kansas that need to be noted. First, In their Republican primary campaigns for the U.S. Senate in Kansas, Jerry Moran raised nearly $90,000 more than Todd Tiahrt during the second quarter, according to a report filed this week with the Federal Election Commission. Moran also had nearly $1 million more in cash on hand than his congressional colleague at the end of the second quarter on June 30. So Jerry's kicking Todd's butt, money-wise. Secondly, Jerry Moran is still 14 points ahead of Todd T. in a very recent poll by SurveyUSA conducted for KWCH-TV in Wichita. Sure, Tiahrt gained a bit of ground but he's still pretty far back in popularity if we can trust this poll--and there's no reason to think otherwise. So, now, prediction: watch for the Tiahrt campaign to come out very ugly, very soon, and start attacking Jerry Moran even more, for not being "Conservative", Right wing and "Republican" enough. This political party has long been "eating its own young" and it will now continue here, more locally. Links to original posts: http://blogs.kansas.com/gov/2010/07/14/moran-raises-90000-more-than-tiahrt-in-second-quarter/ http://www.kansascity.com/2010/07/20/2095460/poll-shows-moran-leads-in-gop.html

Quote of the day--on fear and anger

"The older I get, the more it seems to me that fear is at the root of so many of our reactions to these events. But because we do not respect fear, we turn to anger as its less useful proxy... It seems strange to me that the richest and most powerful country on Earth, with a free-flowing access to information, many avenues to disseminate it, continues to be ruled in some important aspects by fear of the unknown, especially at a time when it is possible to know a very great deal. I wonder what kind of leadership it would require to allow us to experience this world as the wonderfully surprising place that it is, as my neighbor put it, instead of lurching from panic to panic." --Michel Martin, Commentator, Writer, Journalist for NPR, National Public Radio Link to original post: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128622297

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

You think it's good news... and then, wham

First you see the headline: Unemployment rate falls in 39 states in June Then you read the first line in the article: The unemployment rate fell in most states in June, mainly because more people gave up searching for work and were no longer counted. Dang. There went that hope thing. Link to original post: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100720/ap_on_bi_go_ec_fi/us_state_unemployment

More proof of why we need government, regulation and corporate oversight

In Monday's hearing before a joint panel from the Coast Guard and the Bureau of Ocean Energy (formerly the Minerals Management Service), Richard Godfrey, a lawyer for BP, testified that a September 2009 audit showed there was “overdue planned maintenance considered excessive—390 jobs amounting to 3,545 man hours.” Link to original post: http://www.propublica.org/blog/item/bp-attorney-rig-had-390-overdue-maintenance-items

This is why scientists think there is global climate change--and why we need to be concerned

Photos show dramatic shrinking of Mount Everest glaciers Glaciers on Mount Everest are shrinking, according to startling new photographs. The two pictures show an "alarming" retreat in ice over more than 80 years. The first was taken in 1921 by British mountaineer George Mallory, who later died trying to conquer Everest. The Asia Society commissioned the same picture to be taken of the main Rongbuk glacier on the northern slope of Mount Everest in Tibet in 2007. The new picture by mountaineer David Breashears show that the glacier is shrunk and withered. A spokesman for the Asia Society said the picture was proof the ice is melting because of climate change, threatening water sources in highly populated areas of India and China. "The photographs reveal a startling truth: the ice of the Himalaya is disappearing," he said. "They reveal an alarming loss in ice mass." It's not because Al Gore wants to benefit commercially from global warming or whatever we call it (though he may, I'm not disputing that---nor do I care). It's because the 2 ice caps and, to my knowledge, all the glaciers on the planet are melting and shrinking at alarming, heretofore unseen rates, folks. And that's hard scientific data--not opinion. Link to original post: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/7895611/Photos-show-dramatic-shrinking-of-Mount-Everest-glaciers.html

Two headlines just now on Afghanistan

First this, from Hamid: Karzai calls for Nato troop withdrawal by 2014 And then this: Rogue Afghan soldier shoots dead two US weapons trainers Let's hope Hamid knows what he's talking about. Links: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/7899795/Hamid-Karzai-calls-for-Nato-troop-withdrawal-by-2014.html http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/7900826/Rogue-Afghan-soldier-shoots-dead-two-US-weapons-trainers.html

Quote of the day--guns vs. butter

"Why is nobody talking about the Afghanistan adventure as a cause of our plunging recession? Or at least citing the 30-year-old endless war as a major contributory factor in wasting our money to "nation-build" in the Hindu Kush while our own country falls to pieces on food stamps, foreclosures and child poverty – one in five kids – that would put the world's poorest nations to shame?" --Clancy Sigal, from The Guardian, "America: Hooked on War and Getting Poorer" Link here: http://www.alternet.org/economy/147567/america:_hooked_on_war_and_getting_poorer/

Monday, July 19, 2010

Quote of the day

The rightwing in today's economic story is like the child who killed both his parents and then pleaded for mercy because he was an orphan. The rightwing is to politics what the Menendez brothers were to family life. --Paul Abrams, Entrepreneur, professional iconoclast, co-founder BreakUptheBigBanks.com Link to original post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-abrams/mano-a-mano-obamas-job-re_b_650660.html

Want unique? Creative? Intelligent? Compelling? Challenging? Suspenseful? Unpredictable? Fun?

Go see the movie "Inception" out right now. It's all that and a bag of chips, for sure. It is, without doubt, THE movie of this year. It should win that, hands down, next March at the Academy Awards. If you go to Cinemark on the Plaza for the matinee', it will also only cost you $4.00 (if you don't get any treats). It will be the best value and exchange for your money, possibly ever. I won't go on and on about it but I can't say enough good things about it. Do not miss this film. Link here: http://inceptionmovie.warnerbros.com/

Alonzo Washington: possible "gang wars and killings in area--and it could get worse"

If you haven't yet read this entry from and by Alonzo Washington, go read it. He says the word in the Black community is that the gangs are out on a bit of a "war" already and that the drive-bys and shootings and killings are expected to continue and only increase soon. And yes, it's the hottest part of the Summer and we expect that to happen but I have questions, we have questions, I think: a) If this is the case, what are the area police supposed to do about this? How can they prevent this senseless violence from happening and, heavens forbid, from increasing? b) b) What can the Mayor and his office do about this, if anything? d) What can community and church leaders do about this ignorance, if anything? e) What can you, Alonzo, do about this, if anything? f) Area City Councils? g) What about us, the citizens of the area? Because I have to say, I know there is a pretty deeply and widely felt opinion in this town that there's nothing we can do but stand back, stay away and let them kill each other. A lot of us out here would like to see that not happen. Answers? Alonzo? Dr. Evans? Tony? Anyone? It's the most important conversation this city can have and we need to have it now, before this gets any worse.

Unsolicited advice for this President

The editors of The New York Times this weekend invited a number of people who have worked in politics to offer Obama suggestions as to how to turn things around. You always read a lot of ingenious offerings in these symposiums, but the true answer is not ingenious at all. Deliver prosperity, create jobs, and raise incomes; avoid wars, but when you fight them, win them; respond effectively to national disasters; keep clear of scandals. In short, do everything George W. Bush did not, could not or would not do. Link to original post: http://www.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/07/19/frum.obama.troubles/index.html?eref=rss_topstories&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+rss/cnn_topstories+(RSS:+Top+Stories)

Two new ranking lists--and the US is on neither

I'll keep this brief. We're not on this one: World's 10 Best Places to Live And we're sure not on this one: In Depth: The World's Happiest Countries When you're as good at war and pushing for corporations as we are, you can't also be good about that "happiness" and "good lifestyle" crap, you know? Keep cool, y'all.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Things to notice about this President and his vacations

I think it needs to be pointed out that this President--in sharp contrast to several of the last Presidents, most particularly the last occupant of the White House AND Ronald the Ray-gun--is not taking and does not take the entire month of August off his job so he can vacation. Anyone in the Republican or Tea Parties want to notice that? No, I thought not. And check this out, on several of the First Family's vacations, the President has had his very brief getaways interrupted so he can take care of national business: "Their Memorial Day weekend in Chicago was overtaken by the Gulf oil spill. After the Obamas slept at their Chicago home for the first time in a year, the president got up and left for a daylong Gulf inspection tour. That followed the Obamas' Christmas trip to Hawaii, interrupted repeatedly for briefings and comment on the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound jet. And it followed last summer's Martha's Vineyard stay, marred by the death of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, whose Boston funeral Obama and his wife, Michelle, attended. Then there was the planned visit to Indonesia, where Obama spent part of his youth. He'd hoped to show his daughters his old haunts. But the trip was scrubbed twice, first in March as health care neared its climax in Congress, then again in June because of the oil spill. It's now expected late this year. So besides passing the first health care reform in this country in about 100 years and putting back in place good financial reform measures to protect the country and lowering taxes on the Middle Class and all the other good things this President has done, accomplished and is doing, could we please give him and the First Family credit for working hard and not slacking? It won't happen but I thought someone should mention it. Have a great weekend, y'all. Link to original post: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100716/ap_on_go_pr_wh/us_obama

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Quote of the day--Ladies and Gentlemen, the Republican Party

"When virtually all the gains from economic growth go to a small minority at the top -- and the broad middle class can no longer pretend it's richer than it is through debt -- the result is deep-seated anxiety and frustration." --Robert Reich, Former Secretary of Labor, Professor at Berkeley Link to original post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-reich/the-root-of-economic-frag_b_644465.html

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Can anyone really, factually deny this?

GOP PLATFORM TOP TEN (from "Fred" at Alternet, see below): --Phase out Social Security --Deny Unemployment benefits --Oppose Wall Street reform --De-regulate Oil drilling --Tell rape victims to make lemonade --Play on peoples’ fears --Count on Peoples’ hatred --Alienate Minorities --Demonize homosexuals --“Liberals are coming for your guns!” Link to original post: http://blogs.alternet.org/fr41trek/2010/07/13/gop-platform-top-ten/

Something we'd love to hear David Glass say

Winning is the most important thing in my life, after breathing. Breathing first, winning next. --George Steinbrenner RIP George. Love you or hate you, you were a winner and definitely one of a kind.

What news report is going to change the "anti-global climate change" group's mind?

Breaking news report: NASA: First half of 2010 breaks the thermometer — despite “recent minimum of solar irradiance” July 10, 2010 Following fast on the heels of the hottest Jan-May — and spring — in the temperature record, it’s also the hottest Jan-June on record in the NASA dataset. It’s all the more powerful evidence of human-caused warming “because it occurs when the recent minimum of solar irradiance is having its maximum cooling effect,” as a recent must-read NASA paper notes. What further, additional science--hard data--will it take until we all agree on the science that something is afoot here and that there is at least some global climate change we need to take into consideration for our safety and our future existence? Fortunately for us, our military already believes it's something we need to believe in as a possibility and analyze, if for no other reason but possible national security. Link to original post: http://climateprogress.org/2010/07/10/nasa-hottest-year-solar-minimum/

Now if we could just have revenue sharing in MLB

Yankees owner George Steinbrenner dies at 80 By RONALD BLUM, AP Sports Writer NEW YORK (AP)—George Steinbrenner, who rebuilt the New York Yankees into a sports empire with a mix of bluster and big bucks that polarized fans all across America, died Tuesday. He had just celebrated his 80th birthday July 4. Link to original post: http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/news?slug=ap-obit-steinbrenner

Quote of the day--The Tea Party

"You have to understand the" Tea Party "mindset. They have this nostalgia for the America that they think was stolen from them, the used to be, that was better. It's really the 1950's, okay? That's what they think was 'Shangri-La' and you know what they never get is that it's kind of insulting to a lot of Americans to pine for this era because it wasn't that good for a lot of people. It was good for you if you were a white man. It wasn't that good if you were a Mexican. Or Black. Or Jewish. Or Disabled. Or Gay. Or a woman." --Bill Maher, from his latest HBO special "But I'm Not Wrong"

Monday, July 12, 2010

Movie prediction for next weekend

Check it: Next weekend, the new movie coming out Friday, "Inception" by and from Christopher Nolan (of "Memento" fame) and starring, among others, Leonardo DiCaprio, will be the number one box office film come Monday morning. You heard it here first. Link to movie site: http://inceptionmovie.warnerbros.com/

More weak media coverage on the BP Gulf spill

The big story this Monday morning from "big media" that all the outlets seem to be repeating.. uh, covering...is that BP says their "Oil cap will be attached today." Okay, fine. But what they DON'T tell us is that it's been DISCONNECTED SINCE SATURDAY SO GUESS WHERE THE OIL IS GOING, FOLKS. Right, straight into the Gulf. LOTS more oil. LOTS more tar balls. Lots more oil slicks. Then, that's not enough, there's also this: "The BP executive was careful to keep expectations grounded, stressing that once the cap is in place, it will take days to know whether it can withstand the pressure of the erupting oil and feed it through pipes to surface ships." Then they add this: "The testing should last about 48 hours..." Right. Two days of testing. Again, keep in mind, in the meantime, GUESS WHERE THE OIL IS GOING? Lest we get overly optimistic, they add the following capper in the article: "Even if the tests show the cap is successfully holding in the oil, it will not be the final fix for the blown well. That will have to wait until one of two relief wells reaches the leaking well from underground and can inject heavy drilling mud and cement to form a permanent plug. BP expects one relief well will do the job, but it's drilling a second as a backup. Officials have offered varying estimates for when that work will be done, but mid-August is the most common timeframe. Just to be a total party-pooper and put the ultimate damper on your Monday, starting your workweek, scientists are postulating that BP's little mess down there in the Gulf may be cataclysmic for life--and humankind--in general: "...the BP oil spill could release massive amounts of methane gas and, as an end result, blow out the entire seabed, leading to “massive venting” and large fissures in the sea bottom. This, in turn, would kill us all just as other mass extinctions wiped out life on earth during similar ruptures 251 million years ago and 55 million years ago. The bottom line: BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling operation may have triggered an irreversible, cascading geological Apocalypse that will culminate with the first mass extinction of life on Earth in many millions of years. You should go to this second link, below, and read about this as it documents that some of the events are already beginning, they believe. Here's hoping the scientists are wrong. Happy Monday, folks. Link to original posts: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100712/ap_on_bi_ge/us_gulf_oil_spill http://www.helium.com/items/1882339-doomsday-how-bp-gulf-disaster-may-have-triggered-a-world-killing-event

Overland Park: No. 7 of top 100 towns to live in in US

Okay, another national ranking story we're on: Yahoo! News reports on CNN Money's ranking of the top 100 small towns to live in in the US right now and get this--Overland Park comes in at number 7. Good for them. Good for us. Some of the highlights: Population: 175,000 Unemployment: 5.3% Pluses: Good schools, low cost of living Minuses: Some job losses, not much excitement Ask residents why they chose this Kansas City suburb and you hear one thing over and over: the schools. Other draws include a 300-acre arboretum and botanical garden, a biweekly farmers' market, and a brand-new 12-field soccer complex, which hosts local and national tournaments. Overland Park's biggest challenge in recent years has been from its largest employer, Sprint. The company laid off more than 3,000 people here from 2007 to 2009. But the town has had enough success attracting new employers that its jobless rate is still well below the national average. What's more, a division of J.P. Morgan plans to move 800 positions here early next year. Drawbacks for me? It's the suburbs, folks. It's way out and you have to drive everywhere to get anywhere or anything. Also, it's too bleached for my tastes but again, that's me. Finally, at least here, the traffic totally stinks. It used to be there wasn't much of anything or anyone out there, the traffic was light and you could get around. No more. Even coming in from farther out in Miami County, the traffic stacks up coming back into the city. It's crazy. Very unpleasant. But hey, what do I know? It's just not for me. Link to original story: http://realestate.yahoo.com/promo/100-best-places-to-live-in-america-2010-edition

Saturday, July 10, 2010

My own "Solar Power Day", Part II

There is an article out today, just now, on Germany's mastery of clean, "green" solar power and the fact that they both get "percent of the country’s power from renewable sources like solar panels and wind turbines" already AND they're challenging themselves, as a country to "reduce national greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent between 1990 and 2020, and by 80-85 percent by 2050." I'm telling you, folks, not only do we need this and need it badly, but the country or countries that dominate clean energy, particularly solar power, are the ones that will dominate the planet for at least decades to come, if not the next century. We need to be on this. Have a great weekend, y'all. Link to original post: http://www.causecast.org/news_items/9862-germany-plans-to-switch-to-renewable-sources-for-all-electricity-by-2050?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+causecast%2Flatest_news+%28Causecast+-+Latest+News%29

We need clean, green, renewable energy, folks--and here's why

We need clean, green, renewable energy--and as soon as possible, badly, for the following reasons: --First, the country who masters this (particularly--almost solely--photovoltaic cells) will rule the next several decades, if not the next century; --Second, because we're throwing away a TON of money and giving it mostly to the Middle East AND IT'S BANKRUPTING US; --Third, because we have a lot of enemies in the Middle East; --Fourth, we need it so we can have much cleaner air, water and soil; --We need it so we get out of burning fossil fuels and fowling our air, water and soil; --We need it so we get out of coal mining which is so bad for the miners, even when they aren't killed; --We need it so we stop--and as soon as possible--"mountaintop removal", particularly in West Virginia but all over Appalachia; --We need it so we gain more independence from power companies; --We need it so we more our citizens into more, better, cleaner and smarter employment; --We need it so we also have clean, "green" electic transportation that is also run on solar power so it is also far less polluting; --It really would create a great deal of new work for the country and they really would be much cleaner, smarter jobs for a lot of us. Those are the bare minimums. The benefits of this one move, for the country, would be so vast it's almost dazzling that we don't all realize them and why we need to make this happen. It would be far more beneficial than, by comparison, President Kennedy's challenge to get us to the moon within a decade, as he challenged us so many years ago. We need to do this. Have a great weekend, y'all.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Why America won't get out of the "war business" (guest post), Pt. I

Hope and Change Fade, but War Endures: Seven Reasons Why We Can't Stop Making War by William J. Astore Retired lieutenant colonel (USAF) If one quality characterizes our wars today, it’s their endurance. They never seem to end. Though war itself may not be an American inevitability, these days many factors combine to make constant war an American near certainty. Put metaphorically, our nation’s pursuit of war taps so many wellsprings of our behavior that a concerted effort to cap it would dwarf BP’s efforts in the Gulf of Mexico. Our political leaders, the media, and the military interpret enduring war as a measure of our national fitness, our global power, our grit in the face of eternal danger, and our seriousness. A desire to de-escalate and withdraw, on the other hand, is invariably seen as cut-and-run appeasement and discounted as weakness. Withdrawal options are, in a pet phrase of Washington elites, invariably “off the table” when global policy is at stake, as was true during the Obama administration’s full-scale reconsideration of the Afghan war in the fall of 2009. Viewed in this light, the president’s ultimate decision to surge in Afghanistan was not only predictable, but the only course considered suitable for an American war leader. Rather than the tough choice, it was the path of least resistance. Why do our elites so readily and regularly give war, not peace, a chance? What exactly are the wellsprings of Washington’s (and America’s) behavior when it comes to war and preparations for more of the same? Consider these seven: 1. We wage war because we think we’re good at it -- and because, at a gut level, we’ve come to believe that American wars can bring good to others (hence our feel-good names for them, like Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom). Most Americans are not only convinced we have the best troops, the best training, and the most advanced weapons, but also the purest motives. Unlike the bad guys and the barbarians out there in the global marketplace of death, our warriors and warfighters are seen as gift-givers and freedom-bringers, not as death-dealers and resource-exploiters. Our illusions about the military we “support” serve as catalyst for, and apology for, the persistent war-making we condone. 2. We wage war because we’ve already devoted so many of our resources to it. It’s what we’re most prepared to do. More than half of discretionary federal spending goes to fund our military and its war making or war preparations. The military-industrial complex is a well-oiled, extremely profitable machine and the armed forces, our favorite child, the one we’ve lavished the most resources and praise upon. It’s natural to give your favorite child free rein. 3. We’ve managed to isolate war’s physical and emotional costs, leaving them on the shoulders of a tiny minority of Americans. By eliminating the draft and relying ever more on for-profit private military contractors, we’ve made war a distant abstraction for most Americans, who can choose to consume it as spectacle or simply tune it out as so much background noise. 4. While war and its costs have, to date, been kept at arm’s length, American society has been militarizing fast. Our media outlets, intelligence agencies, politicians, foreign policy establishment, and “homeland security” bureaucracy are so intertwined with military priorities and agendas as to be inseparable from them. In militarized America, griping about soft-hearted tactics or the outspokenness of a certain general may be tolerated, but forceful criticism of our military or our wars is still treated as deviant and “un-American.” 5. Our profligate, high-tech approach to war, including those Predator and Reaper drones armed with Hellfire missiles, has served to limit American casualties-- and so has limited the anger over, and harsh questioning of, our wars that might go with them. While the U.S. has had more than 1,000 troops killed in Afghanistan, over a similar period in Vietnam we lost more than 58,000 troops. Improved medical evacuation and trauma care, greater reliance on standoff precision weaponry and similar “force multipliers,” stronger emphasis on “force protection” within American military units: all these and more have helped tamp down concern about the immeasurable and soaring costs of our wars. 6. As we incessantly develop those force-multiplying weapons to give us our “edge” (though never an edge that leads to victory), it’s hardly surprising that the U.S. has come to dominate, if not quite monopolize, the global arms trade. In these years, as American jobs were outsourced or simply disappeared in the Great Recession, armaments have been one of our few growth industries. Endless war has proven endlessly profitable -- not perhaps for all of us, but certainly for those in the business of war. 7. And don’t forget the seductive power of beyond-worse-case, doomsday scenarios, of the prophecies of pundits and so-called experts, who regularly tell us that, bad as our wars may be, doing anything to end them would be far worse. A typical scenario goes like this: If we withdraw from Afghanistan, the government of Hamid Karzai will collapse, the Taliban will surge to victory, al-Qaeda will pour into Afghan safe havens, and Pakistan will be further destabilized, its atomic bombs falling into the hands of terrorists out to destroy Peoria and Orlando. Such fevered nightmares, impossible to disprove, may be conjured at any moment to scare critics into silence. They are a convenient bogeyman, leaving us cowering as we send our superman military out to save us (and the world as well), while preserving our right to visit the mall and travel to Disney World without being nuked. The truth is that no one really knows what would happen if the U.S. disengaged from Afghanistan. But we do know what’s happening now, with us fully engaged: we’re pursuing a war that’s costing us nearly $7 billion a month that we’re not winning (and that’s arguably unwinnable), a war that may be increasing the chances of another 9/11, rather than decreasing them. Later today--what we can do about this, from the same author. Link to original post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/william-j-astore/hope-and-change-fade-but_b_640026.html

"We told you so" comes quickly to mind

A Damning New Report on George W. Bush by CommonDreams.org by César Chelala George W. Bush is among the five least accomplished U.S. presidents, according to a new survey by the U.S.’s top 238 leading presidential scholars. They have been polled by the Siena College Research Institute’s (SRI) annually for the last 28 years. While president Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who led the country from 1933 until his death in 1945, ranked first in overall accomplishments, former President Bush ranked worst among modern presidents –and the fifth worst in history. According to the Survey of U.S. Presidents the top five, including Franklin D. Roosevelt, are Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. The presidential scholars ranked the U.S. Presidents on six personal attributes (background, imagination, integrity, intelligence, luck and willingness to take risks); five forms of ability (compromising, executive, leadership, communication and overall abilities); and eight areas of accomplishment including domestic affairs, economic, working with Congress and their party, appointing supreme court justices and members of the executive branch, avoiding mistakes and foreign policy. If one analyzes just the Bush administration approach to foreign policy, health care and human rights one may consider among the biggest foreign policy blunders the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The Bush administration blatantly ignored the advice from Gen. Eric Shinseki, who had estimated that several hundred thousand troops would be required to secure Iraq. Even more seriously, the war against Iraq was based, from the beginning, on false premises. Vice President Dick Cheney repeatedly stated that Iraq was “the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault for many years, but most especially on 9/11,” in spite of the fact that there was no evidence for such assertion. The bipartisan 9/11 Commission itself found that Iraq had no involvement in the 9/11 attacks and no collaborative operational relationship with Al Qaeda. Compounding the wrongness of the approach towards Iraq is the right to initiate a preemptive war, flaunting international law. The 2006 updated National Security Strategy of the United States had established that, “….The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction –and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack. There are few greater threats than a terrorist attack with WMD.” As was clearly demonstrated not only did the government of Iraq not have any WMD, but at no point it could have been considered a threat to the United States, given the obvious difference in military capability between both countries. This was no impediment for former President Bush and his closest associates to continue using that rationale for the war against that country. That war and the justification for engaging in preemptive wars are among the most serious and damaging foreign policy decisions of the Bush administration. If one analyzes the Bush presidency regarding its approach to health care one can find a policy of disregard for people’s health and support for corporate interests, which is, after all, only a reflection of the Bush administration decisions on almost all economic matters. The Bush administration blocked efforts to allow Medicare to negotiate cheaper prescription drugs for seniors thus negatively affecting their health and quality of life, while simultaneously depriving American taxpayers of savings from the very marketplace competition touted by White House economists. The administration also went to court to block lawsuits by patients who had been injured by defective prescription drugs and medical devices. In addition, the General Accounting Office conducted a study that concluded that the Bush administration created illegal, covert propaganda to promote its industry-supported Medicare bill. The Bush administration record on human rights is dismal. Who can forget the photos of prisoners’ abuse in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq carried out by the U.S. Army and other U.S. governmental agencies and that have tainted forever the image of the U.S. as a defender of human rights? To compound the magnitude of the abuse, Janis Karpinsky, a commander at Abu Ghraib estimated later that 90% of the detainees in the prison were innocent. Recently Physicians for Human Rights has uncovered evidence that indicates the Bush administration conducted illegal and unethical human experiments and carried out research on detainees in CIA custody. In addition, medical personnel engaged not only in torture of prisoners but also in the crime of illegal experimentation, activities in clear violation of the Nuremberg Code. It would be naïve to think that all negative aspects of the Bush administration are the responsibility of former President Bush himself. He obviously is the face for members of his administration and others who were influencing policy decisions. But the ultimate responsibility falls on him. And he is the one that will have to respond to history for his actions. --César Chelala, MD, PhD, is a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award. He is also the foreign correspondent for Middle East Times International (Australia). --Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org --URL to article: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/07/06-0

Republicans, Libertarians and now Tea Party members

Seven demographic characteristics of Tea Party supporters: --78% are Republicans or independents who lean Republican; --77% are non-Hispanic whites; --69% are conservatives; --62% are married; --56% are men; --47% are 55 or older; --23% are under 35; What they believe Seven defining attitudes of Tea Party supporters: --92% believe the federal government debt is a very serious/extremely serious threat to the nation’s future well-being; --90% believe terrorism is a very/extremely serious threat to the nation’s future well-being; --90% are dissatisfied with the way things are going in this country; --87% disapprove of the job congressional Democrats are doing; --85% believe the size and power of the federal government are a very/extremely serious threat to the nation’s future well-being; --83% say most members of Congress don’t deserve re-election; --83% say President Obama doesn’t deserve re-election; Source: USA TODAY/Gallup Polls taken May 24-25 and June 11-13 of 697 Tea Party supporters. Margin of error +/–5 percentage points. Analysis by Jim Norman. Link to original post: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ynews_spec/20100701/pl_ynews_spec/ynews_spec_pl3006;_ylt=AuTyFFo0tMwX7xWzJOYkgDayFz4D;_ylu=X3oDMTJvZmwxdWY5BGFzc2V0A3luZXdzX3NwZWMvMjAxMDA3MDEveW5ld3Nfc3BlY19wbDMwMDYEY3BvcwMyBHBvcwM1BHNlYwN5bl90b3Bfc3RvcnkEc2xrA3dob3RoZXlhcmU-

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Word to Lt. Gov. Kinder on health care

The word? Don't do us any favors, Lt. Governor. You have a lot of nerve, pal, suing in federal court to keep health care reform, even this watered-down version, from taking place. We need health care reform. We needed more than this--far more. We need a "public option" so health insurance companies could and would be more competitive and fair and decent, instead of fleecing us the way they have been since the 1950's. Give us a break, sir. Withdraw your lawsuit. Sure, I know you won't but a) you should never have filed it and b) you really should withdraw it now. Government makes us get car insurance, right? Would you dare suggest the government can't require us to get health insurance? Would you dare suggest that the current health care system works? Because if you do or are, I'd be happy to show you statistics that prove you wrong. You're an obstacle to solutions here, Lt. Governor. Please get out of the way. Link to original story: http://www.kansascity.com/2010/07/07/2069501/missouri-lieutenant-governor-sues.html

Want better government? Get behind the "Fair Elections Now Act"

Everyone complains about government. Sure. We always have and always will. But doesn't it seem as though it's gotten far worse? Doesn't it seem as though the big corporate money and lobbyists and problems have pretty much taken over? Would you want to take our government back? I know I would. This is a big part of how we could do it: In a push to implement a publicly-financed election system and curb moneyed interests in politics, a pair of good-government groups is launching a television ad campaign with a noteworthy price tag. Common Cause and Public Campaign, two organizations known for exposing the murkier influences on legislative and electoral processes, are staking $8 million to try and burnish Congress with the willpower to pass the Fair Elections Now Act. And they're willing to spend as much as $15 million on their campaign-season gambit. We need to get campaign finance reform, shorten our elections as the British have done (this isn't pushing for that, unfortunately), and get big money, the corporations and their lobbyists out of our government. We need to take our government back and this is how to do it. You need to be aware of this and we all--Right, Left, Center, Republicans, Libertarians, Democrats, everyone--need to get behind this. It's not about taking a voice away from any one of these groups (except maybe fatcat, corporate Republicans). It's about giving a voice BACK to the American people. Let's do this. Link to original post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/07/good-government-ad-campaign_n_638887.html

How--and why--America COULD get out of the "war business" (guest post), pt. 2

Capping the Wellsprings of War Each one of these seven wellsprings feeding our enduring wars must be capped. So here are seven suggestions for the sort of “caps” -- hopefully more effective than BP’s flailing improvisations -- we need to install: 1. Let’s reject the idea that war is either admirable or good -- and in the process, remind ourselves that others often see us as “the foreign fighters” and profligate war consumers who kill innocents (despite our efforts to apply deadly force in surgically precise ways reflecting “courageous restraint”). 2. Let’s cut defense spending now, and reduce the global “mission” that goes with it. Set a reasonable goal -- a 6-8% reduction annually for the next 10 years, until levels of defense spending are at least back to where they were before 9/11 -- and then stick to it. 3. Let’s stop privatizing war. Creating ever more profitable incentives for war was always a ludicrous idea. It’s time to make war a non-profit, last-resort activity. And let’s revive national service (including elective military service) for all young adults. What we need is a revived civilian conservation corps, not a new civilian “expeditionary” force. 4. Let’s reverse the militarization of so many dimensions of our society. To cite one example, it’s time to empower truly independent (non-embedded) journalists to cover our wars, and stop relying on retired generals and admirals who led our previous wars to be our media guides. Men who are beholden to their former service branch or the current defense contractor who employs them can hardly be trusted to be critical and unbiased guides to future conflicts. 5. Let’s recognize that expensive high-tech weapons systems are not war-winners. They’ve kept us in the game without yielding decisive results -- unless you measure “results” in terms of cost overruns and burgeoning federal budget deficits. 6. Let’s retool our economy and reinvest our money, moving it out of the military-industrial complex and into strengthening our anemic system of mass transit, our crumbling infrastructure, and alternative energy technology. We need high-speed rail, safer roads and bridges, and more wind turbines, not more overpriced jet fighters. 7. Finally, let’s banish nightmare scenarios from our minds. The world is scary enough without forever imagining smoking guns morphing into mushroom clouds. There you have it: my seven “caps” to contain our gushing support for permanent war. No one said it would be easy. Just ask BP how easy it is to cap one out-of-control gusher. Nonetheless, if we as a society aren’t willing to work hard for actual change -- indeed, to demand it -- we’ll be on that military escalatory curve until we implode. And that way madness lies. ______________________________________ William J. Astore is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF) and TomDispatch regular. He has taught at the Air Force Academy and the Naval Postgraduate School and currently teaches History at the Pennsylvania College of Technology. He may be reached at wjastore@gmail.com. Copyright 2010 William J. Astore Link to original post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/william-j-astore/hope-and-change-fade-but_b_640026.html

Republicans: Wanting America to fail?

There are two fascinating articles out right now, simultaneously, both either asking or proving the same thing basically and that is that the Republicans want this President--and so, the country, of course--to be really hurting or worse, so they can take the country back. I've written on it before. This is just more proof. The first one may be my favorite, if only because it isn't from an American or an American source, for that matter, but a very British one: The Guardian. Hey, if they say it, it must be true, right? Herewith: From now until 2 November, the Republican party will be the party of unemployment. The logic is straightforward: the more people who are unemployed on election day, the better the prospects for Republicans in the fall election. They expect, with good cause, that voters will hold the Democrats responsible for the state of the economy. Therefore, anything that the Republicans can do to make the economy worse between now and then will help their election prospects. It sure seems true from where I sit. And again, I wrote this last year, that they are heavily, heavily committed and invested in seeing to it that this President fails, America be damned (nearly literally) so they don't lose power to him and the Democrats for another 40 years, as happened with and after FDR. The second reference is from The New York Times and renowned economist Paul Krugman: GOP Economic Plan: Punish the Jobless to Screw Over Obama There are five unemployed workers for every job opening. That does not seem to concern the GOP lawmakers opposed to extending unemployment benefits. So there you are, Republicans--a challenge to you. Prove these people wrong. Prove us wrong, those of us who see what you are doing are believe that you're sabotaging the country. Show us you can work together with the Democrats and all other Americans so we can do what's right for America and solve our problems. Prove to us you aren't the "Party of 'No'". Until you do, you have earned this label. Don't take America down a road of failure. Please. We're begging you. Links to original posts: --http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2010/jul/06/republicans-party-of-unemployment --http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/05/opinion/05krugman.html?_r=1&ref=paulkrugman