Thursday, October 30, 2008

LITE SIDE - Humor Times 10/30/2008

Sorry, couldn't resiste...

POLITICS - Another Note of Doom For GOP

"Voter Registration Affects Current — and Future — Elections" by Doug Heye, The Hill

Major Garrett highlighted yesterday's much-talked-about Steve Hildebrand memo aimed at increasing Obama voter turnout in Florida.

The memo points out some Florida demographics and notes activities the campaign is engaging in on the grassroots level for the final days — inner-city GOTV, Faith Outreach Programs, attorneys, etc.

That's all fairly standard stuff. What's striking, however, is a sentence tucked in near the end: "There is a lot at stake here — 27 electoral votes, but also the future of building Florida into a majority Democratic state in the years to come." From there, Hildebrand specifically mentions defeating Gov. Charlie Crist (R) and Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) in 2010 and 2012.

Republicans — not just in Florida, but throughout the nation — should take note.

One aspect of the campaign that cannot be overstated is the success the Obama campaign has had in registering new voters. Voter rolls for Democrats have surged, which makes it more difficult for Republicans in tight down-ballot races — and also for GOP candidates in future elections.

An advantage in hard registration numbers raises the bar the opposing party must overcome, especially in congressional races and the state House and state Senate races that will affect the make-up of future congressional districts.

Picking up 20 new voters at a local Wal-Mart, or 15 at the town soccer complex every Saturday, soon adds up to real numbers that can determine important elections. It can also catch the opposing party by surprise.

Regardless of the outcome on Nov. 4, Hildebrand's memo should serve as a reminder of the impact increasing voter registration, one voter at a time, has on current and future elections. It's the very definition of party-building and a concrete example of how local politics, even on the precinct level, can have statewide and national implications.

In the past, the Republican Party did well with voter registration drives. Following the elections, it will need to rededicate itself to that purpose.

...and as the GOP spins in the ol' Porcelain Bowl....

WORLD VIEW - China 10/29/2008

"China's curious hotels" by Tim Johnson, McClatchy News

I travel quite a lot in China, so it doesn’t take much to get me talking about hotels here. There are always curious things.

The last two nights are a case in point. Last night, I stayed at a hotel in Yinchuan, capital of the Ningxia Autonomous Region. It’s a city of about a million people, tiny by Chinese standards.

My assistant made the reservation for the hotel. I didn’t recognize the name, something like Die-suh Business Hotel. To my surprise, it turns out to be a Days Inn Hotel, a well-known brand in the U.S.

Nice hotel. Big flat-screen TV. Free broadband internet. A pot to boil water for a morning coffee. But no heat.

When the plane landed at the airport, the announced temperature was 44 degrees Fahrenheit (8 degrees Celsius).

I got under the covers at that hotel last night, and I didn’t budge till the last possible moment this morning. It was freeezzinng. Brrr.

Presumably, the reason is that the government bars most buildings from turning the heat on until Nov. 15. The receptionist at the hotel said that’s when the hotel would heat its rooms.

Tonight, I am in a little city in Inner Mongolia. The hotel is a simple local hotel. But what happened is rather extraordinary, astounding really, given what would likely happen in my home country. Despite years of experience, I still have occasional glitches in my knowledge of my laptop. For some reason, I couldn’t get it to connect to the internet. Within a few minutes, a woman was up with the correct DNS numbers for the local server. Still no luck.

Within an hour, a crew of technicians was in my room tinkering with the network program on my laptop. They were working in a language foreign to them (English) and doing so with good humor. Soon, they set up a new connection for me.

Can you imagine calling for help with a laptop in most foreign countries? They would scoff. So here I sit, sipping a local Chunshengtai Beer (I kid you not) and surfing the internet from Wuda, Inner Mongolia. And the heat is on!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

ECONOMY - Just When You Think It Can't Get Worst

"Consumers Feel the Next Crisis: It’s Credit Cards" by ERIC DASH, New York Times


After years of flooding Americans with credit card offers and sky-high credit lines, lenders are sharply curtailing both, just as an eroding economy squeezes consumers.

The pullback is affecting even creditworthy consumers and threatens an already beleaguered banking industry with another wave of heavy losses after an era in which it reaped near record gains from the business of easy credit that it helped create.

Lenders wrote off an estimated $21 billion in bad credit card loans in the first half of 2008 as more borrowers defaulted on their payments. With companies laying off tens of thousands of workers, the industry stands to lose at least another $55 billion over the next year and a half, analysts say. Currently, the total losses amount to 5.5 percent of credit card debt outstanding, and could surpass the 7.9 percent level reached after the technology bubble burst in 2001.

“If unemployment continues to increase, credit card net charge-offs could exceed historical norms,” Gary L. Crittenden, Citigroup’s chief financial officer, said.

Faced with sobering conditions, companies that issue MasterCard, Visa and other cards are rushing to stanch the bleeding, even as options once easily tapped by borrowers to pay off credit card obligations, like home equity lines or the ability to transfer balances to a new card, dry up.

Big lenders — like American Express, Bank of America, Citigroup and even the retailer Target — have begun tightening standards for applicants and are culling their portfolios of the riskiest customers. Capital One, another big issuer, for example, has aggressively shut down inactive accounts and reduced customer credit lines by 4.5 percent in the second quarter from the previous period, according to regulatory filings.

Lenders are shunning consumers already in debt and cutting credit limits for existing cardholders, especially those who live in areas ravaged by the housing crisis or who work in troubled industries. In some cases, lenders are even reining in credit lines after monitoring cardholders who shop at the same stores as other risky borrowers or who have mortgages from certain companies.

While such changes protect lenders, some can come back to haunt consumers. The result can be a lower credit score, which forces a borrower to pay higher interest rates and makes it harder to obtain loans. A reduced line of credit can also make it harder for consumers to manage their budgets, because lenders have 30 days to notify their customers, and they often wait to do so after taking action.

More in the full 2-page article


The following article is another example of how the GOP lies. The lie that the GOP is really concerned about small business.

The truth is the GOP only cares about big corporate business (aka Wallstreet, public companies) that can buy GOP loyalty. The GOP does not give a damn about the little guy, a business or individual person.

"Why Do Republicans Hate Small Businesses" PRNewswire-USNewswire 10/28/2008

Republican Anti-Small Business History Revealed

In 1953 Congress passed the Small Business Act out of the realization that most Americans worked for small businesses, and that these firms were the heart and soul of our great nation's economy.

During 1984 and 1985 President Ronald Reagan tried to close the Small Business Administration (SBA) and bring an end to all federal programs designed to assist small businesses, including small firms owned by woman, minorities, and veterans.

Senator Carl Levin (D - MI, and other Democratic members of Congress were all that stopped Ronald Regan from achieving his goal.

Again in 1996, Republican members of Congress proposed legislation to close the SBA and bring an end to the federal programs established by the Small Business Act to assist America's 27 million small businesses.

As soon as George W. Bush was elected, one of his first acts as President of the United States was to remove the Administrator of the SBA from the President's Cabinet. Additionally, he cut the SBA's budget more than any other federal agency. Today, the SBA's budget is less than half of what it was during the Reagan Administration.

Since 2003, more than a dozen federal investigations have found fraud, bad policies and a blatant lack of proper oversight in nearly every federal small business program. Several investigations found Bush officials had diverted billions of dollars in federal small business contracts to a "who's who" of corporate giants in the United States and Europe. Thousands of small businesses were forced to close their doors as they unknowingly tried to compete head-to-head with Fortune 1000 firms for even the smallest orders of goods and services.

Every major newspaper in the country has published stories on the Bush Administration's diversion of billions of dollars in federal small business contracts to large businesses. Major networks such as ABC, CBS and CNN have all aired investigative stories on the diversion of federal small business contracts to corporate giants.

In an attempt to stop further investigative stories on the issue, in 2006 Bush officials removed all data from the government's Central Contractor Registration (CCR) database that could be used by the media, the public and every federal agency to differentiate large businesses from small businesses.

Bush officials then established a policy, which made it easier for large firms to misrepresent themselves as small businesses by omitting the total number of employees and annual revenue fields from the CCR database.

In 2007, the Bush Administration adopted a policy that will allow Fortune 1000 firms to continue to receive government small business contracts until the year 2012.

In response to hundreds of stories in the media on the diversion of government small business contracts to large businesses, Bush officials launched a public relations campaign to convince the public that the diversion of federal small business contracts to corporate giants was simply a myth. (

President Bush has also refused to implement a federal law, which was passed over seven years ago, establishing a 5 percent set-aside goal for woman-owned firms.

Bush closed the SBA office that was established to assist veteran-owned firms and disabled veteran-owned firms. They even disbanded the Veteran's Advisory Committee.

Recently, the Bush Administration began to dismantle the federal program to help minority-owned firms by suspending applications for the government's Small Disadvantaged Business Contracting Program.

The American Small Business League (ASBL) has won a series of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits against the Bush Administration. Information received as a result of the legal victories has proven that hundreds of Fortune 1000 firms are the actual recipients of most federal small business contracts. The ASBL estimates that by the time President Bush leaves office, small businesses will have lost more than $800 billion in federal small business contracts to large businesses.

If Senator John McCain is elected President, he will continue the long Republican history of trying to close the SBA and bring an end to economic programs that were established by the Small Business Act to assist America's 27 million small businesses.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

ECONOMY - Fox Guarding the Hen House

"But Who Shall Guard The Guardians?" Bill Moyers Journal 10/24/2008

This week on the JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with economist James K. Galbraith about the causes of the economic crisis and how the U.S. might best move forward.

Galbraith advocated expanding government regulation of the economy:

"Here in the United States the capacity to handle the crisis exists. What we need is a government that's willing to use that capacity, that believes in it... Regulation is not a burden on business. When it's done properly, it's a framework which favors the more efficient, the more progressive, the more satisfactory elements of business that are prepared to work within the guidelines set by a larger public purpose."

Nearly two thousand years ago, the Roman satirical poet Juvenal asked “Sed quis custodiet ipsos custodes,” which translates to “But who shall guard the guardians?” Juvenal’s immediate topic was Roman licentiousness, but his famous question has come to stand for a more enduring problem: that those entrusted to enforce moral standards are subject to the same human failings as those they regulate.

Juvenal’s point is echoed by libertarians and others skeptical about the ability of government to enact sensible and fair policies. In a CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR column, economist Steven Horwitz wrote:

“In a free market, firms profit by satisfying their customers, investing wisely, and making prudent loans... To call the housing and credit crisis a failure of the free market or the product of unregulated greed is to overlook the myriad government regulations, policies, and political pronouncements that have both reduced the freedom of this market and led self-interested actors to produce disastrous consequences, often unintentionally... Regulations designed with the best of intentions are likely to lead to more crises if they distort incentives and thereby cause individual "greed" to undermine economic growth and harm millions. History is full of examples of politicians adopting short-run solutions without seeing the harmful long-run consequences.”

POLITICS - GOP "Spins" Out of Control

"Bush campaigns for McCain at RNC HQ" by Joe Sudbay, America Blog


George Bush was out on the campaign trail for John McCain today. The Republicans finally found a place where George Bush could show up -- the headquarters of the RNC. But, it's also a dangerous place these days. There's not a lot of love among the Republicans these days and the daggers are flying. Palin is mad at the RNC. The RNC is mad at McCain and Palin. A McCain aide thinks Palin is a "whack job." And, just about everyone, including Republicans, blame George Bush.

WAAAA.... Ain't that just too bad.

MIDDLE EAST - The Syrian Attack Controversy

"We will defend territory against attack, vows Syria" by Ian Black, Martin Chulov in Hilla, and Julian Borger; Guardian UK

Syria yesterday condemned the US for launching "criminal and terrorist aggression" on its soil, while the Iraqi government defended action against foreign jihadis amid warnings it might complicate plans for a controversial security agreement between Baghdad and Washington.

Walid al-Muallem, Syria's foreign minister, used a visit to London to lambaste the US for its "cowboy politics" and hinted that Sunday's raid was designed to halt Syria's gradually improving relations with the EU and Britain. Iran and Russia also condemned the US for aggravating tensions in the region.

Syria reported that US troops, backed by helicopters, launched the attack five miles into its territory, killing eight people, including four children. But at the funerals of the victims, where angry crowds chanted anti-American slogans, an Associated Press photographer said he saw the bodies of seven men.

The US refused to comment publicly, but an official said the raid's target was Abu Ghadiya, a former aide of the Iraqi insurgent leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Ghadiya was a major smuggler of al-Qaida-linked foreign fighters into Iraq, the official told Reuters. "He [Abu Ghadiya] is believed to be dead. This undoubtedly will have a debilitating effect on this foreign fighter smuggling network."

If confirmed, it would be the first such US strike inside Syria since the 2003 invasion. Muallem, in the first public comments by the Damascus government, warned that an attack recurred, Syria would defend its territory. "The Americans know that we stand against al-Qaida," he said. "They know full well we are trying to tighten our border with Iraq."

Muallem had been due to hold a press conference with David Miliband, the foreign secretary, but the event was canceled by mutual agreement, apparently because Miliband did not want to be questioned about the raid. Miliband said Britain was concerned about the growth of al-Qaida groups and insurgent networks developing along the Syria-Iraq border. British officials claimed Muallem did not deny the seriousness of the problem and the need for better cooperation with Iraq, but gave no firm commitments. In Baghdad, the Iraqi government spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, appeared to support the US by calling the area of the attack "a staging ground for activities by terrorist organizations hostile to Iraq". He added the US operation "was targeting smugglers who transferred people to Iraq".

The US has steadily been ceding control of the Iraqi armed forces to the Maliki government and has transferred security responsibility for 12 of Iraq's 18 provinces. But the US still controls Iraqi air space and runs military operations where and when it chooses. "This is not something we can control or respond to," an Iraqi defense official said. But Brigadier Fadel al-Sultani, now responsible for security in the Hilla region - which takes in part of the restive Anbar province that stretches towards the Syrian border - said the province was no longer a haven for insurgents using the Iraqi border town of Qaim as a staging point.

"We can say with certainty that al-Qaida are 95% defeated," said Sultani. "They have gone. Five percent are out there and are robust. We retain a strong interest in them, and so do the Americans. They were with us this morning discussing an offensive." A convoy of senior US officers left his headquarters compound in Hilla around noon on Sunday.

The attack in Syria also provoked new concerns about the deal extending the legal basis for US forces in Iraq after a UN mandate expires in December, with a prominent Kurdish politician, Mahmoud Othman, saying Iraq's government had no prior knowledge of the raid.


"Syria 'Gave Green Light For Raid'" by Dominic Waghorn, Sky News

Why did America launch a daylight helicopter attack on Syria provoking worldwide outrage? The plot thickens.

Publicly America is still saying nothing but US officials are making intriguing claims off the record.

Now, a respected Israeli intelligence expert says he has been told the operation was carried out with the knowledge and co-operation of Syrian intelligence.

Ronen Bergman, author of The Secret War with Iran, makes the claim in the Yediot Ahronoth newspaper, based on briefings with two senior American officials, one of whom he says until recently "held a very high ranking in the Pentagon".

Mr Bergman told Sky News the raid happened after America had lobbied Syria intensely to deal with an al Qaeda group conducting activity on the border.

The Syrians were unwilling to be seen publicly bowing to US pressure to tackle the group, he says, but in the end gave the Americans the green light to do so themselves.

He claims the Syrian government told the Americans: "If you want to do this, do it. We are going to give you a corridor and carte blanche. We will not harm your troops."

Mr Bergman maintains Syrian intelligence has been co-operating secretly with its US counterpart for some time in its war with al Qaeda.

There are several unanswered questions about the mysterious raid. In particular why it happened with very little apparent resistance by Syrian forces.

Mobile phone video of the attack shows no air-to-air or ground-to-air defense activity.

This is strange, Mr Bergman points out, given Syrian paranoia about helicopters being used by Israel for espionage purposes.

"The Syrians have invested so much in aerial defenses, especially against choppers and the Americans go in in daylight and nothing is being done."

The Syrian government has slammed the attack as "criminal and terrorist aggression".

It claims there were no al Qaeda operatives in the area.

Other unnamed American officials claim the attack killed a senior al Qaeda commander responsible for funneling foreign fighters into Iraq from Syria.

Independent journalists who reached the attack site yesterday reported claims by local people that the victims of the raid were all innocent civilians.

"He said, She said" controversy. But invokes the question, "Is this another example of Israeli "overkill?"

Thursday, October 23, 2008

ENVIRONMENT - "Nero" Fiddled While the World Burns

"CLIMATE CHANGE: Window of Opportunity Closing Rapidly" by Stephen Leahy, IPS News

The global financial crisis has pushed climate change off the front pages despite new evidence that it is happening faster and with stronger impacts than previous projections, a new report warns.

Meanwhile, some political leaders in Europe, Canada and elsewhere are saying that now is not the time to make sharp reductions in greenhouse gas emissions because the global economy is heading into a recession.

"It is clear that climate change is already having a greater impact than most scientists had anticipated, so it's vital that international mitigation and adaptation responses become swifter and more ambitious," said Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, professor of Climatology and Environmental Sciences at the Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium.

The new data is so compelling that van Ypersele, the newly elected vice chair of the authoritative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has urged the European Union to aim for a lower temperature target than the 2 degrees C they adopted in 1996.

That will require emission reductions beyond the 20 percent lower than the 1990 baseline by the year 2020 that the EU has as a target but is struggling to meet.

The new climate data since the 2007 IPCC report includes the astonishingly rapid meltdown of the Arctic sea ice over the last two years. Arctic Ocean water temperatures are 5 degrees C warmer than normal this October, ensuring that winter ice will form later and be thinner, setting the stage for more melting next summer.

Experts are now predicting a summer with no permanent ice in the Arctic in as soon as five years -- for the first time in a million years, according to WWF's new report, "Climate change: faster, stronger, sooner". That is 30 to 60 years in advance of the IPCC projections.

"There's no stopping an ice-free Arctic in the summer," said Andrew Weaver, a climatologist at the University of Victoria in Canada.

"We've already passed the tipping point in the Arctic," Weaver, who was not involved in writing the report, told IPS.

The Canadian government, among many others, does not take the risks of climate change seriously, he said. Weaver recently published a book on climate change -- "Keeping Our Cool: Canada in a Warming World" -- to help the public understand the climate crisis and what needs to be done.

While many think the impacts of climate change are far off in the future, the WWF report cites studies reporting that yields of import food crops like wheat, maize and barley have been in decline since 1980, largely due to rising temperatures. That will worsen, especially in South Asia and southern Africa, where there will be sharp declines in yields in local food crops.

Warming oceans have already also increased the number and size of "dead zones" affecting global fisheries. Sea levels are also rising faster as Greenland and Antarctic glaciers melt far faster than predictions, putting coastal communities under greater threat from storm surges and salt-water intrusion into coastal fresh-water aquifers, the report notes.

"It was time to remind policy-makers of the heavy consequences of inaction on climate," said Delia Villagrasa, senior advisor at the WWF European Policy Office in Brussels.

This week's release of the WWF report was also in response to the media's preoccupation with the global financial crisis, Villagrasa told IPS.

The financial crisis is the result of not regulating a risky part of the global marketplace, but climate change is by far the more "risky market", and is in urgent need of regulation she said.

"Shifting to a green economy has many upsides, including economic growth, good jobs and reduced greenhouse gas emissions," she noted.

That view is mirrored by Wednesday's launch of the "Green Economy Initiative" to mobilize the global economy towards investments in clean technologies and "natural" infrastructure, such as forests and soils, as the best bet for real growth.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and leading economists said at the launch in London that there are enormous economic, social and environmental benefits in combating climate change and re-investing in natural infrastructure. These benefits range from new green jobs in clean tech and clean energy businesses up to ones in sustainable agriculture and conservation-based enterprises.

"Transformative ideas need to be discussed and transformative decisions taken," Achim Steiner, UNEP's executive director, said in a statement.

Transformative decisions are particularly needed at the next round of U.N. climate convention negotiations in Poznan, Poland in December, Steiner said.

The climate meetings in Poznan will lay the groundwork for a final global climate deal to be negotiated in Copenhagen in 2009. This new climate treaty will be the successor to the Kyoto Protocol and is likely to be the most important international agreement in human history.

Even though Europe has taken the lead on climate, it is now having trouble reaching agreement amongst its members, largely due to heavy lobbying from the same old suspects -- the oil, coal and heavy industry sectors, said Villagrasa.

"It is astonishing that interests representing one or two percent of the European economy are dictating policy," she said.

Italy, Poland and the Czech Republic, among other coal-powered countries, are fighting European emission reduction targets even though the vast majority of Europe's citizens want strong action on climate, she said.

Without strong European leadership, it is not clear how the global community will reach a new international agreement to reduce emissions at a level and timetable that reflects what the world's best scientists say are needed to stabilize the climate.

Meanwhile, in recent years annual emissions of climate-altering gases have already exceeded the IPCC worst-case scenarios, said Weaver. That means Earth's atmosphere is trapping more of the sun's heat sooner than expected, inevitably accelerating climate impacts.

"Copenhagen is the last chance for humanity to solve this," said Weaver.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

ON THE LITE SIDE - Sort Of, Humor Times

Joke of the Week

A college student wrote home:

Dear Dad,

$chool i$ really great. I am making lot$ of friend$ and $tudying very hard. With all my $tuff, I $imply can`t think of anything I need. $o if you would like, you can ju$t $end me a card, a$ I would love to hear from you.

Your $on

The reply came:

Dear Son,

I kNOw that astroNOmy, ecoNOmics, and oceaNOgraphy are eNOugh to keep even an hoNOr student busy. Do NOt forget that the pursuit of kNOwledge is a NOble task, and you can never study eNOugh.


Monday, October 20, 2008

POLITICS - On Voting, Personal Comment

My personal view on voting is very simple. It is not just a Constitutional Right, but an obligation.

We, as citizens of the United States of America cannot really claim true citizenship if we do not exercise our control of government (at all levels) by voting.

Also, voting IS very important. Especially when you consider that in any election your vote includes local and state issues, as well as federal issues. It's the local/state issues that will have a direct impact on how you live.

Yes, I acknowledge that you also have a Right NOT to vote. The question is, are you a good, true citizen if you do not vote? Do you have the ethical right to complain about government if you do not vote? These are questions each voter needs to ask themselves, and answer.

Please VOTE in every election; local, state, or federal.

Note I have just voted in Election '08 since, in California, I'm registered as a Permanent Absentee Voter.

ELECTION '08 - Barack Obama Endorsements

Chicago "Tribune endorsement: Barack Obama for president" CHICAGO TRIBUNE EDITORIAL BOARD


However this election turns out, it will dramatically advance America's slow progress toward equality and inclusion. It took Abraham Lincoln's extraordinary courage in the Civil War to get us here. It took an epic battle to secure women the right to vote. It took the perseverance of the civil rights movement. Now we have an election in which we will choose the first African-American president . . . or the first female vice president.

In recent weeks it has been easy to lose sight of this history in the making. Americans are focused on the greatest threat to the world economic system in 80 years. They feel a personal vulnerability the likes of which they haven't experienced since Sept. 11, 2001. It's a different kind of vulnerability. Unlike Sept. 11, the economic threat hasn't forged a common bond in this nation. It has fed anger, fear and mistrust.

On Nov. 4 we're going to elect a president to lead us through a perilous time and restore in us a common sense of national purpose.

The strongest candidate to do that is Sen. Barack Obama. The Tribune is proud to endorse him today for president of the United States.

On Dec. 6, 2006, this page encouraged Obama to join the presidential campaign. We wrote that he would celebrate our common values instead of exaggerate our differences. We said he would raise the tone of the campaign. We said his intellectual depth would sharpen the policy debate. In the ensuing 22 months he has done just that.

Many Americans say they're uneasy about Obama. He's pretty new to them.

We can provide some assurance. We have known Obama since he entered politics a dozen years ago. We have watched him, worked with him, argued with him as he rose from an effective state senator to an inspiring U.S. senator to the Democratic Party's nominee for president.

We have tremendous confidence in his intellectual rigor, his moral compass and his ability to make sound, thoughtful, careful decisions. He is ready.

The change that Obama talks about so much is not simply a change in this policy or that one. It is not fundamentally about lobbyists or Washington insiders. Obama envisions a change in the way we deal with one another in politics and government. His opponents may say this is empty, abstract rhetoric. In fact, it is hard to imagine how we are going to deal with the grave domestic and foreign crises we face without an end to the savagery and a return to civility in politics.

This endorsement makes some history for the Chicago Tribune. This is the first time the newspaper has endorsed the Democratic Party's nominee for president.

The Tribune in its earliest days took up the abolition of slavery and linked itself to a powerful force for that cause--the Republican Party. The Tribune's first great leader, Joseph Medill, was a founder of the GOP. The editorial page has been a proponent of conservative principles. It believes that government has to serve people honestly and efficiently.

The Republican Party, the party of limited government, has lost its way. The government ran a $237 billion surplus in 2000, the year before Bush took office -- and recorded a $455 billion deficit in 2008. The Republicans lost control of the U.S. House and Senate in 2006 because, as we said at the time, they gave the nation rampant spending and Capitol Hill corruption. They abandoned their principles. They paid the price.

Colin Powell Endorses Obama

Thursday, October 16, 2008

POLITICS - GOP's Welfare Queen

"The Welfare Queens of Wall Street" by Kelley Bell-Wenzlaff, Huffington Post

Gather round kiddies, its story time:

Once upon a time, Ronald Reagan rallied Republicans with his tale of the big bad "welfare queen" who cruised around the kingdom in her pumpkin-colored Cadillac stealing all the people's gold. His story was a fabrication of course, but did much to solidify the convictions of the "pull yourself up by your own bootstraps" crowd. Now we have welfare queens on Wall Street begging for a bail out while spending all our money at the spa. Oh how the tables do turn.

The plight of these poor little rich men started when the wicked witch of Deregulation came to town. George Bush was a believer in the fairy tale of the "ownership society." The premise; capitalism is king, free markets are the Holy Grail, and the big bad monster of government must be completely crushed like a little bug under the cowboy boot of consumerism. Wealth and prosperity will trickle down to those who deserve it, and away from those who don't. (Excuse me for saying so, but I am not overly fond of being "trickled on" by a bunch of Monopoly men.)

What we are talking about here is supply side economics. (I know, I know, economics is a tough subject, and not much fun, but bear with me, and I shall try to provide a little stimulus in the package.) Here's a quick background: Reagan believed spending creates wealth. So the idea is, spend more than you have, and riches will abound. It's kind of like saying instead of saving your money in the bank, just max out your credit cards to say, a trillion dollars or so while waving your magic wand saying "there's no place like home."

But to put it in folksy Sarah Palin slang, "By-golly, that sure didn't work worth a diddly now did it?" (Wink.) Bill Clinton did not believe in such magic, and refused to drink the Kool-aid, so when he took office, he created a plan called "Pay as You Go." Bill balanced his budget, and left us with a nice fat national savings account. (Thanks Bill!) But George Bush did not like Bill. He liked Ron's idea better. So George and his pals in the GOP decided to spend every last dime in that ol' savings account, and then spend more and more and more!

The problem is, George and his buddies did not read the entire memo on Keynesian economics, which basically says deficit spending is O.K. in the short term. In other words; be fiscally responsible, but if your car breaks down, go ahead and use the credit card to fix it, cause keeping the ol' engine running in order to get to work is better than losing your job. They just sort of skipped over that "in the short term" part, and ran with the shop till you drop plan like Brittany Spears on a bender.

The politicians of the GOP were living high on the hog in this fairy tale world and bringing home the bacon big time. Yes sir'ee Jim Bob, it was a grand old party. They could campaign to the home crowd on the ever popular "no new taxes" mantra while lining their districts with endless payouts of pork pulled from your pockets. (Just ask The Welfare Queen of Wasilla: Alaska got the biggest helping of all.) But even that was not enough. These supply-siders, or "voo-doo economists" as Bush Senior once called them, wanted to deregulate everything. No Rules! No oversight! No government! Let the free market take care of itself! Which is exactly what they did. The busy little beavers of the GOP worked their noses to the ground making new laws to unmake old laws, and set the wild markets free.

Once the markets were deregulated, lots and lots of bad (subprime) loans were made, with No Bank Left behind. It pretty much burst everybody's bubble.

Now, the GOP will tell you the poor are to blame (because everybody knows they don't know how to handle money). They will say these "irresponsible" borrowers messed up their whole plan and caused the housing bubble to burst. ("Bad poor people! Bad!")

It's convenient for the GOP to blame the poor, because this is the one group that is least able to fight back, and the group least likely to vote for them anyway. But the numbers don't lie, folks. While the poor did in fact get caught in this web, and did default on a number of loans, the total percentage of those loans is nowhere near big enough to cause a world market collapse. Look around. This mortgage crisis is not restricted to urban low income neighborhoods here at home. (If this was just a problem in the projects, I guarantee it would never have made the front page.) No, we are talking about world market collapse. We are talking about the foreclosure of McMansions, ocean front estates, and banking failures on a global scale. (As if the poor could pull that off.) This crisis did not occur because the poor abused the free market principle of deregulation to rip off Wall Street, this crisis occurred because the greedy ghost of Gordon Gecko is the acting grand wizard behind the curtain of deregulation policies.

The time has come where conservatives can no longer laugh at progressives with snide remarks of seething fiscal and moral superiority. Their "guy" was wrong. Their plan did not work, and their addiction to the fear mongering politics of imperialistic saber rattling for oil has torn their precious little family values plank into a million little pieces.

There is a price to pay for this folly, of that you can be sure. Judgment is coming, and it commeth right soon. We are facing job losses, business failures, a freeze up in the financial markets, and a very long, severe recession. Change is on the way my friends. Ya, you betcha.

No matter what Congress does now, it's too late to stop that. The best they can do is minimize the damage, and I would not put too much hope on that because as anyone in Washington will tell you, if you ask two economists their opinion, you will get six different answers. The good news is, in this case, for the first time in world history, all the economists are in agreement on one thing: we are in some really deep doo-doo.

Here is what the American people need to understand, and what they are never, ever going to hear from a politician: You are going to have to pay for this mess, and it is going to cost each and every one of us dearly. We are in a very, very deep debt. We have two wars going on that we can no longer pay for. Our infrastructure is crumbling. Our jobs are going overseas, and our addiction to oil is killing us.

It is time to tighten our belts and circle the wagons. As Nancy Pelosi said in a press conference yesterday, "We have a huge budget deficit which we could get relief from if we end the war in Iraq. We have a huge trade deficit which has an impact on the fiscal budget health of our country which would be greatly relieved if we reduced our dependence on foreign oil and did so soon."

Pelosi took the stage, surrounded by a dozen economists including Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stieglitz, who added, we need a "comprehensive plan, not just based on trickle down economics, not just going to financial markets, but at least some of the money going directly to households and to meet infrastructure needs." He also focused on the development of green technologies as a major component of the solution.

So climb aboard the magic school bus kiddies. We are about to embark on a wild ride, and learn a whole new way of living in the grand ol' U.S. of A.

I know The American People are strong enough to overcome this crisis. But I worry the voters will not be smart enough to remember how it all began. I fear, as we experience the hard hitting blows of inflation, voters will retaliate against whoever is in power at the time, which means that even if we vote for Democrats this year, and bring in a fresh new group of leaders, ready and willing to turn this mess around, the Republicans will have a sweeping victory in 2012. They will approach hungry, hurting voters with that tempting poison apple of trickle down policy, dressed up in the costume of tax relief, and rule the kingdom once again.

What! Trickle-down, supply side, economics doesn't work?!!


Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary:
a : to run or fall in drops : flow in a thin gentle stream
b : to drip with some liquid : emit a liquid in fine streams or drops

Ah, the rich get to drink from a clear, unobstructed, stream by the bucket full; while the rest of us drink from a teacup (one that does NOT get refilled).

POLITICS - Conservatism, Kidnapped and Buried Alive

"It's Official - Conservatism is Dead" by Lar, i-Report

I have to say, I have become very disillusioned by some of the events of this past week. Primarily two things - the racists and ignorant fools that have been shouting out things like "Bomb Obama" at McCain/Palin rallies, and the reaction that true Conservatives have received for committing the crime of actually thinking for themselves.

As far as the racists and ignorant fools and their inflammatory statements, that is self-explanatory to anybody with a brain or a shred of dignity. They look like a wild mob ready to lynch somebody. It's so disturbing; this alone should make Republicans red with shame that these people are even a small portion of their "base". That base is one hell of a collection of humanity, don't you think?

All decent people see the trouble with the nuts at the rallies. But what about the crime of thinking for yourself...

First of all, let's differentiate between Conservatives and Republicans. Conservatism is a political philosophy. Republican is a political party. But somehow they have become one and the same, at least in the conventional wisdom. Just like the financially corrupt and religiously rigid have hijacked the Republican Party, the Republican Party has hijacked the term Conservative.

And now Conservatism is dead - the Republicans killed it. At least in the forum of politics.

"Conservatives" call Christopher Buckley a lefty because he thinks Obama is better than McCain. The "base" sends 12,000 hate-filled emails to Kathleen Parker because she dares to point out the fact - and notice I said fact, not opinion, because it is a FACT - that Sarah Palin is dangerously unqualified to be VP, let alone President.

The Republican Party is now apparently nothing more than an angry mob loath to betray their team under any circumstances. They have no tolerance for disagreement or discourse of ANY kind, even amongst their own. They are nothing more than a rabid cult at this point. It's sad. Actually, it's pathetic.

It's all about the team. It's not about actually governing. It's not about ideas or philosophies. It's about picking a team and sticking to it no matter what, consequences be dammed.

True conservatism has as many honorable and productive ideas as Liberalism. There is much from both philosophies that I agree with and admire. But this cult that calls itself "Conservative" is an unrecognizable joke.

Christopher Buckley, the son of William F. Buckley, one of the founders of modern Conservatism, had to resign from the National Review - a publication his father founded and which Christopher himself is a part owner of - all because the ignorant Limbaugh "Dittoheads" can't accept the fact that he might have a different opinion, that he might actually put COUNTRY FIRST, ahead of his party.

Honestly, to all you Conservatives out there, I don't know how on earth you can tolerate what your party has become. It's shameful.

Oh wait, the true Conservatives can't tolerate it anymore. As illustrated by the plethora of THINKING Conservatives jumping ship and endorsing Obama and speaking their mind about the dishonorable McCain campaign, the insult to America that is Sarah Palin, and the abomination of the last eight years known as GW Bush.

Pretty soon the only people left in the Republican Party will be right-wing Christian fundamentalists, scared racists, and corrupt bankers. Maybe once the Republican Party hits that point, the true Conservatives can splinter off into a REAL party once again, and we can get back to the business of governing.

Real, true bi-partisan government.

Wouldn't that be nice?

POLITICS - More GOP Sleaze Stopped

"Judge: GOP's voter purge a 'violation of federal law'" by Stephen C. Webster, Raw Story

The American Civil Liberties Union is trumpeting a judge's decision in Michigan which brings to a halt the practice of eliminating voters from rolls if their mailing address is found to be invalid.

Recently, the GOP chairman in Macomb County, Michigan, detailed a plan to use a list of foreclosed homes to challenge voters. His pronouncement drew an immediate backlash, with predictions that the plan would "backfire."

It has.

The suit, filed by ACLU national and ACLU of Michigan, along with the Advancement Project, aimed to protect voters whose registration cards were returned to government offices by post as 'undeliverable.' Judge Stephen J. Murphy of the U.S. District Court of Michigan's Eastern District concluded that the program of eliminating these voters from rolls is in violation of federal law.

The voter purge program, better known to elections integrity experts as 'voter caging,' is a long-storied GOP tactic employed against minority, student and low-income voters. In September, the Obama campaign filed a lawsuit in Michigan challenging the illegal tactic.

"You essentially send a first-class letter to a hoursehold where you suspect that that person no longer lives there but where they're still registered to vote," explained Allen Raymond, a convicted GOP elections fraudster who spent time in prison after the discovery of a phone-jamming scheme during the 2002 elections. "That letter comes back. ... Somebody [at the local polling place] then challenges that vote if that person comes in to vote."

"This is a very significant ruling for Michigan voters," said Matthew Lund, the ACLU cooperating attorney and a partner at Pepper Hamilton LLP who argued the case, in a release. "The court recognized – and repeated several times – that the state of Michigan is conducting unlawful voter purges that clearly violate the National Voter Registration Act. Michigan voters who were removed from the voting rolls for no reason other than failure to receive their ID card in the mail will now be allowed to vote in November.”

"More than 1,400 voters in that category have been disqualified so far in 2008," reports the Associated Press. "The judge says it's unclear how many cancellations actually are wrong but it's a violation of federal law. Murphy says those people shouldn't be prevented from voting if they can produce more proof of residency at the polls."

"This program has a very detrimental impact in minority, low-income and student communities across Michigan," claims an ACLU advisory. "These communities tend to be more transient and to live in multi-family housing."

“This is a major victory for Michigan voters and the integrity of our democratic process,” said Meredith Bell-Platts, staff counsel with the ACLU Voting Rights Project, in a release. “Today’s decision brings us one step closer to restoring confidence in a electoral system that has been poisoned by illegal disfranchisement policies. As a result of the judge’s decision, fewer Michigan voters will be illegally purged and wrongly disfranchised – and that’s good for everyone.”

ELECTION '08 - And Obama Would.....

"Obama Details Plan to Aid Victims of Fiscal Crisis" by JACKIE CALMES and JEFF ZELENY, New York Times


In an address here (TOLEDO, Ohio), Mr. Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, proposed giving employers a $3,000 tax credit for each new hire to encourage job creation. He said he would seek to allow Americans of all ages to borrow from retirement savings without a tax penalty; to eliminate income taxes on unemployment benefits; and to double, to $50 billion, the government’s loan guarantees for automakers.

Mr. Obama also called on the Treasury and the Federal Reserve to create a mechanism to lend money to cities and states with fiscal problems, and to expand the government guarantees for financial institutions to encourage a return to more normal lending. He also proposed a 90-day moratorium on most home foreclosures; it would require financial institutions that take government help to agree not to act against homeowners who are trying to make payments, even if not the full amounts.

“We need to give people the breathing room they need to get back on their feet,” Mr. Obama told a crowd of more than 3,000 people at the SeaGate Convention Centre in downtown Toledo.

Mr. Obama’s Republican rival, Senator John McCain, will make new proposals for the economy on Tuesday, advisers said. They did not provide any details.

Late Sunday, after Mr. McCain and his team looked at a variety of policy options over the weekend, a campaign spokesman said Mr. McCain, who has been losing ground to Mr. Obama in the polls, would have no new proposals unless events warranted. Mr. McCain has been emphasizing his plan to help people with financial difficulties get more affordable mortgages, with taxpayers picking up the tab.

In his speech on Monday, Mr. Obama said: “I won’t pretend this will be easy. George Bush has dug a deep hole for us. It’s going to take a while for us to dig our way out. We’re going to have to set priorities as never before.”

The package of new proposals was the most detailed and ambitious offered by Mr. Obama since the financial crisis became acute last month, clouding the economic outlook and transforming the presidential campaign.

Despite criticism from the McCain camp that increasing taxes would further endanger the economy, Mr. Obama has “no plans to change” his longstanding proposal to repeal the Bush tax cuts next year for households with an annual income of more than $250,000, said Jason Furman, Mr. Obama’s economic adviser. Under Mr. Obama’s plan, most individuals and families would get a tax cut, and in terms of total dollars, he would cut taxes on lower- and middle-income people more than he would raise them on upper-income people.

McCain advisers on Monday reiterated their argument that the higher taxes, together with Mr. Obama’s plan for expanded health care, would hit small businesses with costs they could ill afford. Many small businesses pay taxes as individuals. But the Obama campaign and independent fact-checking groups argue that relatively few would be affected by the tax increase on upper-income levels.

The most costly of Mr. Obama’s new proposals is the one giving businesses a $3,000 income tax credit for each new full-time employee they hire above their current work force. The proposal, which would be effective for the next two years and is based on a concept that has been used in past downturns, would account for about $40 billion of the new package’s $60 billion price tag.

About $10 billion of the $60 billion would go to eliminating income taxes on unemployment benefits and extending aid to the long-term unemployed by 13 weeks, on top of the existing 26 weeks.

Mr. Obama’s proposal from last week to allow struggling small businesses to apply for loans from the Small Business Administration’s disaster funds would cost more than $5 billion. The expense of covering additional loan guarantees for the auto industry would mean more than $4 billion more.

While not costly to the Treasury, perhaps more controversial is Mr. Obama’s proposal to allow Americans to withdraw without tax penalty 15 percent of their retirement savings, up to $10,000, from their tax-favored Individual Retirement Accounts and 401(k)s. They would still have to pay income taxes on the withdrawal. Current law requires savers younger than 59 ½ to pay taxes and a 10 percent penalty.

ELECTION '08 - More "Good" News

"Democrats Aim for Super Majority in Congress as Economic Crisis Hits Home" by ALEX GREEN and RICK KLEIN, ABC News


Republicans Fight for Political Survival; North Carolina Could Change Fate of GOP

An increasingly hostile national climate for Republicans has shaken up Senate races across the nation, giving Democrats a plausible shot at achieving 60 seats -- a filibuster-proof majority that would embolden policy ambitions in Congress.

The shifting landscape -- driven in large part by economic unease -- leaves Democrats almost certain to dramatically expand their 51-49 majority in the Senate, according to independent analysts and political strategists in both parties.

But whether Democrats can reach the 60-vote threshold depends on the outcome of races like the one in North Carolina, where Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole is seeking a second term in a race that was never supposed to be close.

GOP's Dole Fights for Political Survival

Dole is a party stalwart who represents a historically "red" state.

She served in Ronald Reagan's Cabinet, led the GOP's Senate campaign efforts in 2006, and is married to the longtime Senate Republican leader, former Kansas senator Bob Dole, the GOP's 1996 presidential nominee.

Yet Dole is caught in dangerous political crosscurrents this year. An unpopular war, a battered economy, and a tattered Republican brand leaves North Carolina voters -- like those in states across the nation -- particularly hostile to Republicans this year.

Sen. Barack Obama's campaign is pumping get-out-the-vote resources into the Tar Heel State, in its efforts to expand the presidential map. And Democrats are engaging in an aggressive effort to paint Dole as a political insider who has lost touch with her constituents.

"She is going against a headwind," said ABC News political analyst Cokie Roberts.

The case against Dole is similar to that used against many incumbents: That she has let her ties to her home state atrophy.

Dole's Democratic opponent, state Sen. Kay Hagan, has pounced on a recent media report that found Dole having spent as few as 13 days in North Carolina in all of 2006.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is running a provocative series of ads against Dole, meant to portray her as ineffective and out-of-touch. In one, two elderly men sit on a porch, commenting on Dole's "40 years in Washington" and arguing over whether Dole is 93 or 92.

Much more in full 4pg article

Sunday, October 12, 2008

ELECTION '08 - General Sounds Notes That Harmonize With WHO!

"Petraeus Talk Bolsters Obama" by Spencer Ackerman, Washington Independent

While McCain Backs Petraeus, General Sounds Notes That Harmonize With Democratic Nominee.

Throughout Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign, the Republican nominee has wrapped himself in the mantle of U.S. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, proclaiming himself the leading advocate of the former commanding general in Iraq who devised last year’s controversial troop surge. Yet during a talk Wednesday about Iraq at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington policy organization, Petraeus repeatedly made statements that bolstered the foreign-policy proposals of Sen. Barack Obama, McCain’s Democratic rival, or cut against McCain’s own lines.

Petraeus relinquished command in Iraq last month. He assumes responsibility for U.S. Central Command later this month, putting him in charge of U.S. forces in the Middle East and South Asia.

As a serving military officer, Petraeus attempted to avoid any explicit political discussion. “I’m not walking into minefields now,” Petraeus said, to laughter, when asked a question that referred to Tuesday night’s presidential debate. In fact, the general averred that he didn’t watch the debate.

Yet Petraeus, whether intentionally or not, often waded into areas of dispute between Obama and McCain involving Afghanistan, negotiating with adversaries and other recent campaign controversies. Each time, the general either lent tacit support to Obama or denied tacit support to McCain.

Unbidden, Petraeus discussed whether his strategy in Iraq — protecting the population while cleaving apart the insurgency through reconciliation efforts to crush the remaining hard-core enemies — could also work in Afghanistan. The question has particular salience as Petraeus takes over U.S. Central Command, which will put him at the helm of all U.S. troops in the Middle East and South Asia, thereby giving him a large role in the Afghanistan war.

“Some of the concepts used in Iraq are transplantable [to Afghanistan] while others perhaps are not,” he said. “Every situation is unique.”

Petraeus pointed to efforts by Hamid Karzai’s government to negotiate a deal with the Taliban that would potentially bring some Taliban members back to power, saying that if they are “willing to reconcile,” it would be “a positive step.”

In saying that, Petraeus implicitly allied with U.S. Army Gen. David McKiernan, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan. Last week, McKiernan rejected the idea of replicating the blend of counterinsurgency strategy employed in Iraq. “The word that I don’t use in Afghanistan is the word ’surge,’” McKiernan said, opting against recruiting Pashtun tribal fighters to supplement Afghan security forces against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. “There are countless other differences between Iraq and Afghanistan,” he added.

McCain, however, has argued that the Afghanistan war is ripe for a direct replication of Petraeus’ Iraq strategy of population-centric counterinsurgency. “Sen. Obama calls for more troops,” McCain said in the Sept. 26 debate, “but what he doesn’t understand, it’s got to be a new strategy, the same strategy that he condemned in Iraq. It’s going to have to be employed in Afghanistan.”

McCain qualified that statement in Tuesday’s debate, but clung to it while discussing Afghanistan and Pakistan. “Gen. Petraeus had a strategy,” McCain said, “the same strategy — very, very different, because of the conditions and the situation — but the same fundamental strategy that succeeded in Iraq. And that is to get the support of the people.”

Petraeus also came out unambiguously in his talk at Heritage for opening communications with America’s adversaries, a position McCain is attacking Obama for endorsing. Citing his Iraq experience, Petraeus said, “You have to talk to enemies.” He added that it was necessary to have a particular goal for discussion and to perform advance work to understand the motivations of his interlocutors.

All that was the subject of one of the most contentious tussles between McCain and Obama in the first presidential debate, with Obama contending that his intent to negotiate with foreign adversaries without “precondition” did not mean that he would neglect diplomatic “preparation.”

McCain, apparently perceiving an opportunity for attack, Tuesday again used Obama’s comments to attack his judgment. “Sen. Obama, without precondition, wants to sit down and negotiate with them, without preconditions,” McCain said, referring to Iran.

Yet Petraeus emphasized throughout his lecture that reaching out to insurgent groups — some “with our blood on their hands,” he said — was necessary to the ultimate goal of turning them against irreconcilable enemies like Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Petraeus favorably cited the example of one of his British deputies, who in a previous assignment had to negotiate with Martin McGuiness of the Irish Republican Army, responsible for killing some of the British commander’s troops. The British officer, Petraeus said, occasionally wanted to “reach across the table” and choke his former adversary but understood that such negotiations were key to ending a war.

Petraeus reflected at length on the need to “take away and hold the strongholds and safe havens” possessed by Al Qaeda in Iraq during 2007 and 2008, saying that without doing so, the rest of the counterinsurgency strategy “won’t work.” While he did not initially make reference to Al Qaeda’s much greater presence in the Federal Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan, it was hard not to hear the overtones of the current argument over Pakistan policy between Obama and McCain.

McCain has attacked Obama for explicitly stating conditions under which he would order U.S. military action against the senior leadership of Al Qaeda in Pakistan, deriding that by saying Obama is “going to attack Pakistan,” while advocating that the Pakistanis perform the task instead of U.S. troops.

Barbara Starr of CNN attempted to draw Petraeus out further, asking him about the importance of capturing or killing Osama bin Laden, believed to be in the tribal areas of Pakistan. Petraeus did not tip his hand on advocating anything, saying merely, “clearly, Osama bin Laden remains very important, if for no other reason than sheer symbolic importance,” and warning that “decapitating” Al Qaeda would not end the threat from a jihadist entity that he compared to a “syndicate.”

He did, however, say that he was encouraged by what he called signs that the Pakistanis “increasingly see an existential threat to their country being in FATA,” referring to the tribal areas — something that might gel with McCain’s stated preference.

Naturally, since Petraeus centered his hour-plus talk on progress in Iraq, McCain could fairly claim to be closer to the general than Obama — who opposed the surge — on the subject. But, particularly given the Republican-friendly audience, it was remarkable as well what Petraeus did not say.

Unlike his three recent rounds of congressional testimony, Petraeus did not discuss withdrawal from Iraq. He did not issue warnings that withdrawal — which Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki support, while McCain instead calls for “victory” — would lead to a downward spiral of violence.

While the general warned that there were several “potential storm clouds” threatening to undermine progress, he said that Iraq was on a more stable footing since his last appearance on Capitol Hill in April. He never said terms like “victory” or “success” that McCain uses, and which the GOP nominee frequently chides Obama for avoiding.

The Heritage Foundation crowd clearly loved hearing from Petraeus. The think tank’s executive vice president, Philip Truluck, referred to Petraeus’ “history-making service in Iraq” before the audience greeted the general with the first of two prolonged standing ovations. A questioner proclaimed himself “honored and proud to be in the same room with you.”

Petraeus has repeatedly averred that he has no interest in running for president. “I think that Gen. Sherman had it right,” he told Fox News’s Chris Wallace in December, when asked if he’d run, referring to Sherman’s famous declaration that if nominated he would not run, and if elected, he would not serve.

But given McCain’s recent lagging poll numbers, perhaps many at Heritage hope Petraeus will change his mind before 2012.

POLITICS - Clear and Present Danger

"George W. Bush Has Hurt the United States More Than Bin Laden Ever Could Have." by by David Zephyr, Democratic Underground

The most devastating weapon of mass destruction ever employed against the people of the United States of America has been George W. Bush. No enemy, foreign or domestic, has ever hurt our fair country more than this single man. None. Not ever.

1.) Our once powerful military is now just a ruined and broken shadow of what it once was. Our soldiers and Marines are worn out and have been abused. Our military hardware and weapons have been depleted and we are vulnerable now as never before in over 200 years. Osama bin Laden didn't do that to America. George W. Bush did!

2.) Our banking system, once the underpinning of the entire world, is about to possibly be nationalized as it collapses before our very eyes. Osama bin Laden didn't do that to America. George W. Bush did!

3.) Our collective business community, large and small, is in peril from coast to coast as credit is unavailable and as they have been forced to compete against 23 cent/hour slave labor in China. Osama bin Laden didn't do that to America. George W. Bush did!

4.) Our equity markets are in a free fall of panic with no bottom in sight. Osama bin Laden only took out two towers on Wall Street while George W. Bush has just about taken down all of Wall Street.

5.) We lost the City of New Orleans and watched our fellow citizens drowning, dying of thirst and starving to death in front of our eyes. We watched them being prohibited from leaving by force. And he grinned, partied and ate cake with John McCain and played air guitar in San Diego as our fellow Americans perished. Osama bin Laden did not do that to the people of New Orleans. George W. Bush did.

6.) Our national integrity is gone and the trust America had once around the world for centuries is gone. Our national government is a joke. Osama bin Laden did not do that to America. George W. Bush did.

7.) Our personal savings and retirement investments are nearly gone now leaving tens of millions of older Americans in dire straights and in fear for their very futures. Osama bin Laden didn't do that to America. George W. Bush did!

8.) Our manufacturing base, the bedrock of our nation, is 1/10th of what it once was. Osama bin Laden didn't do that to America. George W. Bush did!

9.) There are now millions of Americans being evicted from their homes. Millions of children are watching mommy and daddy being forced to live in their cars, tent cities and homeless shelters. Osama bin Laden didn't do that to America. George W. Bush did!

10.) The first biological attack on American soil against our own people did not come from Osama bin Laden, but from the government run by George W. Bush.

11.) Our constitutional form of government, our very civil liberties, our habeas corpus rights, our right to privacy have been assaulted and undermined and stripped away from us. Osama bin Laden didn't do that to America. George W. Bush did!

12.) Our precious, but fragile democracy, our right to free elections, our right to count the votes and to verify the outcome of elections is a joke now. Osama bin Laden didn't do that to America. George W. Bush did!

George W. Bush has been a greater enemy to the American people than anyone in modern times and no single individual has ever hurt our beloved country more than this man.


Thursday, October 09, 2008

AMERICA - A Common Set of Values?

"Small-Town Values Same as Big-City Values" by Craig Newmark, Hill's Pundits Blog

My day job is online customer service, part of a team that supports tens of millions of people across America. I've worked directly with thousands of people over the years from small towns to big cities, and everyone in between.

From my personal experience, I can tell you that pretty much all Americans have a common set of values, mostly derived from the same shared value. It's the notion that you should treat other people like you want to be treated. If you feel that, you feel that people should treat others fairly. We should all compete on a level playing field, and play by the same rule; that's how to get ahead.

Beyond that, people generally feel that once they've provided for themselves, they should give someone else a break. That's the basis for all philanthropy.

Sure, people make other decisions about values for lots of other reasons. However, our shared values unite us; we have more in common than that which separates us.

I've found this to be true of people across America, whether they live in rural areas, small towns or the biggest cities. It's been my everyday experience for over 13 years on the job.

There are exceptions to this, like people who feel that it's OK to prey on other people. The predators are a very small portion of any population. I'm guessing it's less than 1 percent. We sometimes feel that there're a lot more of them than there are. My guess is that humans are hard-wired to perceive dangers at a higher level than everything else around us. Exaggeration of danger is a good way to get attention.

People who play by the rules know that there are predators around, and often they watch out for each other. However, there are lots of smart predators that specialize in gaining the confidence of good people, and the predators are REALLY good at deception.

Con-men hardly ever work alone — they usually enlist a whole contingent of other people who help them perpetuate a scam. Their goal is to help the con-men scare people into reacting out of emotions rather than responding out of reason.

One technique favored by con-men is to emphasize the apparent differences in values between people. Their M.O. is to find some issue that people disagree on, then exaggerate it to create a sense of "us versus them" and then get people angry.

Con-men often insist that they’re on the side of “safety,” and that anyone who doesn’t participate in their scam is reckless, dangerous, or doesn’t value security. It’s easy for people to get caught up in a scam when they feel threatened.

The con-men create wedge issues to get attention, perhaps to sell books, enhance TV ratings, or to steal elections. What normally tips you off about those kinds of con-men is the attempt to divide Americans, talking about "small-town values" versus big-city or even Hollywood values. And again, from my experience, we have more in common that unites us than that separates us.

I feel that we should all hang together, and not fall, once again, for that scam!

Could be true, but how about those who want their personal Christian values shoved down their neighbor's throats by law?

ELECTION '08 - McBush, Manipulative Opportunist

"It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad Country We Live In" by Daniel DiRito, Brint It ON!

There are times when I’m sure the United States won’t survive the remaining days until we elect our next president…let alone the day after. As I watch the McCain campaign succumb to increasingly divisive acts of desperation…fomenting fear and animosity by directing innuendo at ignorance…I can’t help but question the recklessness of his ambition.

If the role of leadership is to advance our society, then political appeals predicated upon a least common denominator equation are an affront to that objective. Frankly, it’s difficult to blame those voters who are vulnerable to gutter politics as a result of generational prejudices, isolation from mitigating influences, and limited educational opportunities. Notwithstanding, there is great danger in inciting those who lack the tools to make objective conclusions.

Those who willfully engage in this kind of misdirection are little more than manipulative opportunists who must be exposed and rejected. Dividing this nation to advance one’s ego is an admission that the advancement of the ego supersedes the enlightenment of the electorate.

Hay, what can you expect from vampires, McBush et al?

IRAQ - More From An Insider

"An Air of Freedom... " by Layla Anwar, Arab Woman Blues

Something very strange happened last night, late into the night...

I am an owl, I can't sleep before 3-4 am. And as I was preparing myself to go to bed, I drew the shutters down, as a final goodbye...It was cold last night, and as I was about to shut the window as well, I heard a familiar air...

Some neighbor, and he did pique my curiosity, was playing Vivaldi's Four Seasons, in the loudest possible manner at 3.30 am. I, who has very sensitive ears to noise, found myself surprisingly pleased.

Despite the cold breeze, I kept the window open, open enough to hear Vivaldi's Summer movement, followed by Fall. I feared that I might not hear it well whilst I was lying in my bed, so I pulled the shutters up, just a little, enough to let the violins penetrate the darkness of my bedroom...

Before doing all of the above, curiosity took the best of me, and I stood by the window trying to catch where the sound was coming from...

I spotted a small room in not such a far distance, with full bright lights, just like in the Summer. And this is where one of my favorite classical pieces was emanating from.

I am not sure why I assumed it was a man who inhabited this room. I saw no nothing from afar except this bright light. But I had a feeling it was a man. The man after darkness. The man after darkness had settled in like some old familiar blanket, enveloping all of us...

As the Fall movement approached, the "man" switched off the lights, obscuring my vision...but I could still hear the violins playing the Autumn season.

Is it a good omen - I thought to myself ?

After Bach's Double Violin Concerto, Vivaldi is my second favorite.

I was trying to read the signs given to me like some witch staring into empty sea shells...

Questions I asked myself, asked that tired head of mine. Why did the lights go off during the Autumn movement and not during the Summer one ? We are in full Autumn after all. Could it be that the Summer light is making itself so small so it can cocoon itself for a better brighter Spring ? The Lucia of a new era ?

Of course my cynical part led me to also think that the Autumn movement and the switching off of the lights from the only room that was illuminating this night, was due to some heavy hanky panky going on in the obscurity...and that Summer was nothing but the preliminaries (before the "fruit" ripens and falls)...the foreplay, if you wish. Mind you not every one is that "lucky" on this particular front.

After much self debating, I gave up...and just surrendered to the movements coming my way, as an offering, as a present from a terribly cold and silent night.

I occasionally resort to ear plugs specially designed in Germany. A good friend ships them my way, knowing how sensitive my ears are. Yesterday night, I did not need them. Plugging them into my ears was akin to blaspheming God.

I lied down on the crispy, white sheets and felt the cool breeze penetrate my room, accompanied by a hundred violins, carrying an air...An air of Freedom.

This is one of her milder posts, and I'm happy for her. Now if it will only last.

ELECTION '08 - Look at the Tear in My Eye

"For Republicans, Another Blood Bath Looms on Horizon" by Stuart Rothenberg, Rothenberg Political Report


I’ve seen this movie before, and I know how it ends. Republican candidates from presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) down to Congressional hopefuls have less than four weeks to figure out how to avert a repeat of 2006. Increasingly, it appears unlikely that they will.

It’s obvious to all that the national landscape — and the presidential map — shifted dramatically in the Democrats’ favor during the financial crisis. Americans are more dissatisfied with the present and worried about the future, all of which helps Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) and Democratic Congressional candidates.

Obama may not be comfortably over the crucial 50 percent mark in polls, but states that McCain hoped to compete in are moving out of reach, while more traditionally Republican states have come into play for Obama. McCain needs to change that dynamic quickly to have any chance of winning.

McCain still has a month to change the focus of the race, and Obama may have peaked too soon. But public concern about the economy isn’t likely to disappear over the next month no matter how much Republicans wish it would.

So far, there is no evidence that Democratic candidates are paying a price for the public’s sour mood, or that the election will be “anti-incumbent.” It is Republican candidates who are feeling the political pain.

The outlook in Senate races continues to deteriorate for Republicans, with Democratic gains at least in the high single digits increasingly likely. Where I once wrote in this space that Democrats had a chance of reaching 60 seats in 2010 (“For Democrats, Time to Pad Senate Majority and Think 60 Seats,” Feb. 12, 2007), I now can’t rule out 60 seats for this November.

Virginia and New Mexico are already gone, and Colorado, Alaska, New Hampshire and Oregon aren’t far behind. Add in North Carolina, and Democrats are plus-seven (and at 58 seats) without Minnesota or Mississippi, which are up for grabs.

Republicans can no longer count Kentucky as a lock, and if the Democrats spend significant sums of money against Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) in Georgia, they might even have a chance to swipe that unlikely seat.

Aaaaah. Ain't that too bad.

What does the GOP expect after their policies and mindset have totally trashed our economy.

Add Emperor Bush deciding that he can ignore all other parts of our Constitution except his power as Commander and Chief.

ECONOMY - More On the Bailout

"U.S. May Take Ownership Stake in Banks" by EDMUND L. ANDREWS and MARK LANDLER, New York Times


Having tried without success to unlock frozen credit markets, the Treasury Department is considering taking ownership stakes in many United States banks to try to restore confidence in the financial system, according to government officials.

Treasury officials say the just-passed $700 billion bailout bill gives them the authority to inject cash directly into banks that request it. Such a move would quickly strengthen banks’ balance sheets and, officials hope, persuade them to resume lending. In return, the law gives the Treasury the right to take ownership positions in banks, including healthy ones.

The Treasury plan was still preliminary and it was unclear how the process would work, but it appeared that it would be voluntary for banks.

The proposal resembles one announced on Wednesday in Britain. Under that plan, the British government would offer banks like the Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays and HSBC Holdings up to $87 billion to shore up their capital in exchange for preference shares. It also would provide a guarantee of about $430 billion to help banks refinance debt.

The American recapitalization plan, officials say, has emerged as one of the most favored new options being discussed in Washington and on Wall Street. The appeal is that it would directly address the worries that banks have about lending to one another and to other customers.

This new interest in direct investment in banks comes after yet another tumultuous day in which the Federal Reserve and five other central banks marshaled their combined firepower to cut interest rates but failed to stanch the global financial panic.

In a coordinated action, the central banks reduced their benchmark interest rates by one-half percentage point. On top of that, the Bank of England announced its plan to nationalize part of the British banking system and devote almost $500 billion to guarantee financial transactions between banks.

The coordinated rate cut was unprecedented and surprising. Never before has the Fed issued an announcement on interest rates jointly with another central bank, let alone five other central banks, including the People’s Bank of China.

Of course, the People’s Bank of China is a major owner of the United States of America.

What I find it hard to believe is that ANY voter would want another Republican in the Whitehouse. It is Bush Administration policies and the GOP mindset that got us in this mess. McBush in the Whitehouse would be more of the same.