Archive for November, 2007

Politics, Voting or Not Voting

Friday, November 30th, 2007

With the up and coming election for President of these here United but divided United States of America there is a lack of enthusiasm in some circles to not even care to vote. Part of that lack of interest in the election process is the responsibility of the current occupant of the office to some degree. The Decider in Chief, that ran on the principal of being a uniter and not a divider, became a total isolationist within his political party post 9/11. As long as he was happy the Congress was let loose on the people with full Republican brutality on the middle and lower classes of America.

Prosperity in America is more smoke and mirrors than reality. If the politics of our government is to protect and defend only the interest of the corporations and the top 5% of income earners then we have a bigger problem than we all think. If running for the highest office in the land is sponsored by corporations and industries that expect the return on their investment then we have a much larger problem. Political donations for most industries have a higher return than any other investment opportunity in America if the legislation they want is passed.

If our government leaders think that America should be the world police and intervene in the sovereignty of other nations with military force at the drop of a hat then we have and even bigger and larger problem. If you support all of our sons and daughters in our nations military then our political leaders need to know that use of our military is always a last resort. America is not or was not founded on nation building on foreign soil by force.

When you hear someone tell you that their vote does not count you need to remind them who is in the White House now and why he and his party is counting on them not to vote. When they tell you that they are just one vote you need to let them know that by not voting they are enabling the corporate take over of our society and government because they are counting on them to not vote. When they tell you that their vote is meaningless when the big picture is considered then I dare you to ask them if a child’s life is worthy of their vote? What if that child is only eighteen or nineteen years old and serving in Iraq or Afghanistan in our nations military. When you hear them reply that the government does not care about the poor, make sure you tell them that they are absolutely right because the poorest amongst us do not vote! Being poor does not make you absolved of your government’s actions if you do not vote. When the people fail to vote, then the parties that get the vote will walk all over you unencumbered. Not my cup of tea and thus I vote in every election.

Given all the aspects of each political party you can come to several conclusions but one thing is certain, the Democrat Party was not the one that sold the war in Iraq to the American people under a cloak of shame. Democrat’s didn’t sell out the seniors prescription subsidy program by letting the Pharmaceutical industry write the legislation for the government. Democrat’s didn’t write the No Child Left Behind legislation and then did not fund it. Democrat’s are not the ones that handed Haliburton no bid contracts for the Iraq War and then watched as that same corporation moved its corporate headquarters out of the United States of America. I’m not leaving the Democrat’s out of all blame but the price of gasoline was not $3 a gallon when they had control of the House and Senate.

When you find yourself losing your home you can not lay the blame on the Democrat’s because even today the Bush administration stated that they do not think it is a real crisis as yet. Over at Reuters they have this little hidden nugget on the news wires…

White House: too soon to discuss subprime loan plan
Fri Nov 30, 2007 2:43pm EST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House on Friday said it was “premature” to discuss possible new steps to address the mortgage crisis and declined to comment on reports that officials are working on a deal with lenders to freeze interest rates on some loans.

“It’s premature to talk about those discussions at this point,” White House spokesman Scott Stanzel told reporters, when pressed on whether the administration is working on a new initiative regarding the mortgage market.

Stanzel said that administration officials “certainly have been working in close consultation with the private sector and with the industry to look at ways in which we can help people keep their homes.”

In August, the Bush administration announced a series of initiatives aimed at preventing homeowners from defaulting on risky mortgages. Those included a tax-relief proposal to make it easier for some homeowners to refinance their home loans.

Economists have become increasingly concerned about the impact of the mortgage crisis, centered on subprime loans extended to riskier borrowers, on the broader U.S. economy. - Reuters

They have some band aide programs but if you don’t qualify now because of the credit crunch on the middle and lower class then you better call a mover or some friends with a pick up. The red carpet of the White House and the Republican party does not venture further than the top 5% of income earners. If you are in that club then good for you, if you are not, then you better vote or consider yourself damned, screwed and tattooed by any future Republican lead government in America.

At least there is one thing that both political parties have in common . The top three of each party does not care about the middle and lower class because they can count on the majority of us to simply not vote. Big mistake on their part but then again they have the big bucks to sell the ones that do vote the sound bite that just might get their vote. Shiny object over hear on the boob tube while they throw them and you under the bus over there to corporate America.

I’m dumbfounded that the leaders from each political party are the leaders for the highest office in the land. Republican’s have Giuliani that is a Catholic, divorced several times, cheated on his wife in the lead that knowingly used his NYPD for a taxi service for his mistress.

Followed by a close second former Governor that has a larger collection of Flip Flops than Senator John Kerry. I personally think that Kerry had a yard sale and Mitt Romney bought the entire collection.
Then we have the angry Senator from Arizona. He’s a time bomb of anger issues that the White House is not the place to hand the football to him. Television debates don’t lie and McCain was blood boiling mad at Ron Paul and Mitt Romney over torture and Iraq. He needs therapy.

Democrats are no better…

Hillary Clinton does actually believe that she will be the next President of the United States. I find that arrogant. Number one rule of politics is that you can have a ton of money for your campaign but if the people do not think you are sincere then you lose. Canned speeches based on political polls is where and what she is all about and many people have opinions on many issues that are not popular but are still Democrat at heart. It might have worked for Bill but it isn’t working for her this time around.

Barack Obama is a political star but he does not play well to the moderates of the Democrat party. Rather than being himself where he would excel he is fashioning himself as a me too Democrat. Running in the shadow of Hillary is not him and he either does not get what the people want to hear or his political campaign advisors are leading him down the wrong road. In most of the debates he was upstaged with the right answers to the questions posed to all of the candidates. Personally, I do not think that some of the answers he gave were really from his gut. Given a few more years experience in Washington he would have my vote in a heart beat. You can see that he is over his head in this election.

John Edwards is a great politician that has mastered the double speak of politics. Ask him a direct question and you will always walk away with a dazed and confused look. Nice hair though! Four hundred dollar haircuts does not sell you as a man of the poor and middle class. Two America’s, yup and he proved that fact with his haircut.

That is my round up, one thing that I believe very important to all Americans regardless of political belief, you need to vote! Otherwise the limousines will pass you by and the people living the life of luxury will always benefit when you simply do not care to vote. Rise up and take your government back by voting. No matter what party you believe in you need to look at your lot in life and ask yourself if this person is worthy of your vote? Then look again who isn’t the top three and be amazed at the favors they will not owe to the maxed out donors of the campaigns. It’s your country and it is not sponsored by corporation ABC. VOTE!

Papamoka

Originally posted at Papamoka Straight Talk

Friday Funny - Kids These Days Have It So Easy

Friday, November 30th, 2007

When I was a kid, adults used to bore me to tears with their tedious
diatribes about how hard things were when they were growing up; what
with walking twenty-five miles to school every morning ….
uphill BOTH ways .. through year ’round blizzards. Carrying their
younger siblings on their backs … to their one-room schoolhouse, where
they maintained a Straight-A average, despite their full-time,
after-school job at the local textile mill …. where they worked for 35
cents an hour just to help keep their family from starving to death! And
I remember promising myself that when I grew up, there was no way in
hell I was going to lay a bunch of crap like that on kids about how hard
I had it and how easy they’ve got it!

But now……..

I’m over the ripe old age of thirty, I can’t help but look around and
notice the youth of today. You’ve got it so easy! I mean, compared to my
childhood, you live in a damn Utopia! And I hate to say it but you kids
today you don’t know how good you’ve got it! I mean, when I was a kid we
didn’t have The Internet. If we wanted to know something, we had to go
to the library and look it up ourselves, in the card catalog!

There was no email! We had to actually write somebody a letter … with
a pen! Then you had to walk all the way across the street and put it in
the mailbox and it would take like a week to get there!

There were no MP3’s or Napsters! You wanted to steal music, you had to
hitchhike to the record store and shoplift it yourself! Or you had
to wait around all day to tape it off the radio and the DJ’d usually
talk over the beginning and @#*% it all up!

We didn’t have fancy crap like Call Waiting! If you were on the phone
and somebody else called they got a busy signal, that’s it!
And we didn’t have fancy Caller ID Boxes either! When the phone rang,
you had no idea who it was! It could be your school, your mom, your
boss, your bookie, a collections agent, you just
didn’t know!!! You had to pick it up and take your chances, mister!

We didn’t have any fancy Sony Playstation video games with
high-resolution 3-D graphics! We had the Atari 2600! With games like
“Space Invaders” and “Asteroids” and the graphics really stunk! Your guy
was a little square! You actually had to use your imagination! And there
were no multiple levels or screens, it was just one screen forever! And
you could never win. The game just kept getting harder and harder and
faster and faster until you died! .. Just like LIFE!

When you went to the movie theater there no such thing as stadium
seating! All the seats were the same height! If a tall guy or some old
broad with a hat sat in front of you and you couldn’t see, you were just
screwed!

Sure, we had cable television, but back then that was only like 15
channels and there was no onscreen menu and no remote control!
You had to use a little book called a TV Guide to find out what was on!
You were screwed when it came to channel surfing! You had to get off
your butt and walk over to the TV to change the channel and there was no
Cartoon Network either! You could only get cartoons on Saturday Morning.
Do you hear what I’m saying!?! We had to wait ALL WEEK for cartoons, you
spoiled little brats!

And we didn’t have microwaves, if we wanted to heat something up … we
had to use the stove or go build a frigging fire ..imagine that! If we
wanted popcorn, we had to use that stupid JiffyPop thing and shake it
over the stove forever like an idiot.

That’s exactly what I’m talking about! You kids today have got it too
easy! You’re spoiled!

You guys wouldn’t have lasted five minutes back in 1980!

Shot in the face, questionable sobriety, largely uncooperative

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

No, not another Cheney hunting accident. This time, it is Rodney King — yes THAT Rodney King — who was shot in the face with birdshot from a shotgun. He managed to bicycle 1 1/2 miles from where he was shot to his home so hopefully his injuries are not too serious. I wish him well and a swift recovery.

Come to think of it…does anyone know where Dick Cheney was today?

Watch Out, You Might Be a Homegrown Terrorist!

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

With little to no publicity or debate, the House of Representatives passed a truly scary law on October 23 - H.R. 1955: Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007, sponsored by Representative Jane Harman (D-CA).  Please excuse this if everyone else already knows about it, but I hadn’t heard of this until my wife Jan passed on some scary info she heard on the radio and I did some online research.  This Orwellian expansion of the Homeland Security Act passed on a vote of 404 to 6 – Dennis Kucinich voted against it, sustaining my faith in him, and Ron Paul abstained from voting.

Looking at the actual text of this act ( http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=h110-1955 ), it sounds benign at first.  The first problem one notices is that it includes some very vague definitions that just beg for abuse based on goofy interpretations.  That may sound paranoid, but we are dealing with an administration and a Homeland Security department that decided a couple of years ago the Quaker congregation of Lake Worth, Florida, were dangerous subversives that need to be spied upon because they committed the dangerous and despicable act of exercising their Constitutional First Amendment rights by protesting military recruitment at high schools.  Yeah, you can just see a bunch of old Quaker ladies having a suicide vest sewing bee, right?

Specifically, this act says that “`homegrown terrorism’ means the use, planned use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual born, raised, or based and operating primarily within the United States or any possession of the United States to intimidate or coerce the United States government, the civilian population of the United States, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.

It goes on to define “the use, planned use, or threatened use of force or violence by a group or individual to promote the group or individual’s political, religious, or social beliefs” as “ideologically based violence.”

Considering that we’ve already seen the precedent, as in the case of the Florida Quakers, of treating legal dissent as sedition, this looks like a setup to give the feds another way to crack down on any public opposition to whatever the smirking chimp and his shrinking cabal decide to do next (like starting a war with Iran, for instance).  This may also have what the legal types call a chilling effect on people who would otherwise engage in that kind of public opposition.

Where I live, we’ve already seen this kind of thing.  In March of 2003, Albuquerque had its own police riot in response to a peaceful protest march against the Iraq war.  Cops on foot and on horseback blocked the path of marchers and herded them on a route chosen by the police; when the march got back to its starting point near the University of New Mexico, the ACLU’s report found that “As the crowd returned to the original gathering spot and crossed University and Central, officers struck people with batons and used horses to force stragglers to move more quickly. As protestors crossed Harvard Avenue, police launched tear gas canisters into the crowd. The officers eventually maced protestors and shot them with beanbag and pepper rounds, dispersing the crowd. In one incident, a police officer fired 15 pepper-gun rounds at a protestor who lay in a submissive posture in the street. Other protestors reported being hit with tear gas canisters that were fired into the crowd. Several arrests were made.”

There have been enough similar incidents in other places – law enforcement treating people’s physical presence and participation in a protest as what the new law calls “ideologically based violence” – to make it very reasonable to be worried about this.  It’s for damned sure that the next time there was an antiwar protest, people were deciding whether to participate based partly on the risk of having Albuquerque’s finest beat the crap out of them.

Mike German, the ACLU’s policy counsel, called the bill “wrongheaded” – he finds it spooky because it focuses on ideology and not on criminal activity. It calls for heightened scrutiny – read domestic spying - on people who believe, or might come to believe, in a violent ideology.  The ACLU’s view is that the government should focus on people who actually commit crimes, rather than those who merely think about violent ideas, which is legal.  So how does the government decide who “believes, or might come to believe, in a violent ideology”?  Well, what are the best ways to find out who is likely to engage in opposition to whatever the government is doing?   Law enforcement agencies already tend to monitor protest activities and groups who engage in them, and groups (like us) who see patriotism as something other than blind loyalty to the administration in power and tend to say so loudly and repeatedly.  I’d be shocked if they weren’t also looking at lists of subscribers to The Nation, Mother Jones, and similar fora; and for that matter, there’s considerable similar sentiment voiced in a lot of places traditionally considered right wing, like the editorial and letters sections in gun magazines.  There, too, there’s been some lively debate about the current war, and a lot of suspicion about the government’s patterns of bulldozing people’s Constitutional rights.

The law goes on to state some “findings” – a couple of dangerous ones:

The promotion of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence (eek, Quakers with picket signs!) exists in the United States and poses a threat to homeland security.

The Internet has aided in facilitating violent radicalization, ideologically based violence, and the homegrown terrorism process in the United States by providing access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda to United States citizens.  Internet censorship a la China, anyone?

It does go on to state that “Any measure taken to prevent violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence and homegrown terrorism in the United States should not violate the constitutional rights, civil rights, or civil liberties of United States citizens or lawful permanent residents.”  Oops, sorry I said anything – we don’t really have a thing to worry about, because our government would never cheat or violate our rights.  It also says that no one should be targeted for scrutiny based on race, religion, and so on, but makes one of the qualifications for membership on the Commission it creates (see next paragraph) expertise on Islam and other world religions (none but Islam specifically identified, but you know those damn Quakers… gotta watch the Buddhists too.)

The law goes on to order the creation of the National Commission on the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism, basically a combination of (1) a study group to figure out just what’s eating those darn domestic terrorists anyway and what we ought to do about it, and (2) a contracting office to funnel more money to private entities that the administration likes to have them carry out some of the Commission’s functions.  Chip Berlet is a senior policy analyst for Political Research Associates, an independent non-profit research organization that studies political violence, authoritarianism, and homegrown terrorism; he called this part “a slush fund for politically connected people inside the Beltway.”  I’d bet a nickel that Blackwater is getting ready to expand its repertoire of services the same way they did when the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq suddenly created a demand for mercenaries security contractors.  After all, they did jump all over New Orleans after Katrina and pulled down a ton of federal funds for that.

It goes on to order the permanent establishment of a “university-based Center of Excellence for the Study of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism in the United States.”  This will be a think tank to use psychosocial research methods to figure out strategies to control domestic opposition and “contribute to the establishment of training, written materials, information, analytical assistance and professional resources to aid in combating violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism.”

Finally, the law orders the study of methods used in other countries to control “domestic terrorism” with the aim of recommending adoption of new tactics in the U.S.  Doesn’t that just give you a warm fuzzy feeling?

It really does seem that party affiliation is irrelevant, and despite the fact that the 2006 election put Democratic majorities into both chambers of the Congress with the clearest mandate seen in decades, a mandate to get this maniacal executive branch under control and restore the balance of power among the branches of government, the majority of those Democrats will give the Bushies whatever they demand.  It really does seem that both parties are in favor of more intrusive and controlling government.  Maybe the Dems are already thinking about how they can use the expanded power the Bushies have grabbed for the executive branch if the Democratic candidate wins the White House next year.

Speaking for myself, I believe the only appropriate response is to get louder and encourage people not to be intimidated.  The best way to keep our Constitutional rights strong is to exercise the hell out of them and get as many other people as we can to do the same.

The Three Horsemen of Shame Finally Retired

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

There are no tears in my eyes with the sudden announcement that the last of the three horseman for President Bush is leaving public service. He is following in the well respected footsteps of our first horsemen of shame, Tom Delay who never saw anything illegal and you or any court can not prove it. Then of course Trent Lott is also following in the footsteps of shame of former Speaker of the House Denny Hastert, the second horsemen of shame who pretended that a congressional representative (Mark Foley) affection for boy pages was nothing to really worry about. Trent Lott was nothing more than a yes man for anything that would benefit the rich in this nation at the expense of the masses. That makes him the end of the Three Horsemen of Shame. Over at the New York Times they have this little diamond on Trent Lott’s retirement from the Senate…

Lott to Resign His Senate Seat Before Year’s End By ADAM NOSSITER and DAVID M. HERSZENHORN
Published: November 26, 2007
PASCAGOULA, Miss. Nov. 26 — Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi, who was forced to step down as Republican leader in 2002 after making a remark that seemed to support segregation, announced today that he will resign by the end of the year.

Speaking to a crowd of supporters at a televised news conference in Pascagoula, Miss., Mr. Lott said he and his wife, Trish, had decided that they still had enough “time left to do something else” after his 35 years in the House and Senate.

He said he had “nothing definite at this time,” but suggested he might want to teach. He said he had called President Bush and Vice President Cheney last night to notify them of his decision.

He was re-elected in 2006 to his fourth Senate term and had rebounded to become the No. 2 Republican this year after his party had lost its majority in the Senate. But in recent months, Mr. Lott, 66, has made no secret of his deepening frustration in the Senate, not only because his party is in the minority but also because an increasingly bitter partisan divide this year has left little use for his skills as a deal-maker. - New York Times

Nobody can truly argue that the three horsemen ramrod the agenda for the Republican party and this president without care as to whom they hurt in the process. Even if the majority of the people were opposed to the agenda it did not matter because they were running the show and they were going full speed ahead with a White House that packed up the Veto Pen off to the Smithsonian.

With each one of these so called distinguished leaders of their political party is a scum bag trail of shame. What was once a gentleman with probably the full intention to serve the people evolved into scams and deviation, duck and weave, hide and cover tactics till the game was up. Absolute power corrupts because you think you are the law. That is not the case in this new Kingdom that President Bush and his Three Horsemen thought they built.

It kind of disgusts me that all of the politicians on both sides of the aisle will be slapping him on the back for a job well done over the years. No mention will be made about all the little people he stepped on to get what he wanted. No mention will be made about his special interest friends that benefited year after year with Trent Lott in their pocket because he never failed to cash a campaign donation check.

I will not miss Trent Lott and neither will you. He’s retiring just in time so that he can follow in the footsteps of Delay and Hastert and not be effected by the current rules for becoming a lobbyist in Washington. Now that is where the money is, just ask Jack Abramoff!

Don’t let the door hit you in the back side Trent.

Papamoka

Originally posted at Papamoka Straight Talk 

And Down Will Come The Economy, Tax Cuts & All

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

It’s one thing to talk abstractly about a house of cards; its another thing to be living with an economy built upon that very premise. Throughout the Bush administration, we have been sold on the benefits of tax cuts for the wealthy; with the promise of insuring a healthy economy. All the while, I believe this paper tiger economy was actually built and sustained by the implementation of artificially low interest rates and shoddy mortgage lending practices.

This shortsighted effort was designed to limit the depth of an economic downturn and to spur equity spending on the part of middle income Americans in the absence of the fundamentals necessary to create real economic mojo. At the same time, the tax cut strategy served to bolster the GOP’s alliance with wealthy benefactors. Unfortunately, the winds of a weak financial environment have returned to find an economy which is all the more vulnerable and far more suspect.

At the moment, we are witnessing a conflation of events that at best signals a tumultuous period of tepid GDP growth. A candid reality check likely suggests we are on the leading edge of a recession that may persist well into 2009. Let’s look at the indicators.

From Bloomberg:

Home prices in the U.S. fell in the third quarter by the most in at least two decades as the subprime lending crisis caused sales to slump.

Home values retreated 4.5 percent in the three months through September from the same period a year before, the most since records began in 1988, according to a report today by S&P/Case-Shiller. It followed a 3.3 percent drop in the second quarter.

Prices will probably keep sliding as foreclosures force more properties on to the market and sales weaken as mortgages become harder to get. The slump threatens to slow consumer spending as fewer homeowners will be able to afford vacations, new autos or home improvement projects.

From Reuters:

Lehman Brothers said the decline in home prices is the start of an extended decline in the market.

“We look for home prices to fall well into 2009 as excess inventory is slowly cleared and foreclosed homes return to the market at a discounted price,” the company said in commentary published Tuesday.

This will translate to a 15 percent decline in national home prices from peak to trough, Lehman Brothers said.

From The Wall Street Journal:

The property value of U.S. homes will fall by $1.2 trillion, and “at least” 1.4 million homeowners will lose their properties to foreclosure in 2008, according to a study released Tuesday by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the Council for the New American City.

Global Insight predicted that the economy would grow at a 1.9% rate in 2008, “a full percentage point lower than would have been the case without the mortgage crisis.” It also said U.S. gross domestic product growth would be $166 billion lower next year because of mortgage market problems, and that consumer spending would fall to 2% growth.

If you’ve followed the reports on housing and the subprime lending crisis, the news has gotten progressively worse each time new data is released. Frankly, I see no reason to conclude we won’t see more of the same. Given the fact that so much of our current economic growth has been the result of consumers spending the equity they’ve accumulated from the recent housing bubble, the impact of lower housing prices, foreclosures facilitated by adjustable rate mortgages, generally higher interest rates, and stricter mortgage terms has not yet been fully calculated or understood.

Add in the projections that housing prices will fall at least fifteen percent before the downturn has reached bottom and one begins to see the magnitude of the pending economic slide. While difficult to calculate the amount of spending which results from homeowner’s borrowing against expanding home values, it isn’t difficult to imagine the significance of declining home values…and that ignores the impact of existing inflationary pressures which will no doubt cut into any discretionary spending that remains feasible.

Let’s look more closely at the reports which measure consumer confidence.

From The Associated Press:

With Christmas only a month away, American consumers became more pessimistic about the economy in November, sending a widely watched barometer of confidence to the lowest level in two years amid worries about rising fuel costs and a housing market slump.

The New York-based Conference Board said Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index dropped to 87.3, marking a four-month slide and continuing down almost 8 points from the revised 95.2 in October.

It was the lowest reading since 85.2 in October 2005 when gas and oil prices soared after hurricanes flooded New Orleans and shut down a large chunk of the nation’s oil refineries. It also marked the sharpest drop since September 2005 when the index plummeted 18 points from the previous month.

The big worry is that shoppers will take their time returning to the stores this holiday season amid worries that higher gas, an escalating credit crisis and a slumping housing market could push the economy into a recession.

With consumer spending accounting for two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, any further dropoff of consumer spending increases the risks of a recession.

Pretty simple stuff…if you have less money to spend and lack the equity to borrow it, then the only answer is to spend less money. Once that reality sets in, consumer confidence is apt to fall even further in what becomes nothing short of a cause and effect downward spiral. Once this happens, job losses can’t be far behind as retailers and manufacturers are forced to lay off employees in the absence of stable or expanding sales.

From China View:

The Fed also forecast that the unemployment rate would rise to between 4.8 percent and 4.9 percent next year, compared to the previously estimated 4.75 percent for 2008.

In the past two months, U.S. unemployment rate stood at 4.7 percent, a level still considered low by historical standards. Before September, the jobless rate had remained in a range of 4.4 percent to 4.6 percent since the same month of 2006.

With economic growth slowing, the unemployment rate would increase “modestly” next year, stabilize in 2009 and then decline slightly in 2010, the Fed said.

Yes, this anticipated increase in unemployment is minimal…if only that were the end of the story. Projecting unemployment is not only difficult; it is dependent on all of the factors mentioned above. Should the economy follow a worse case scenario, then one would expect unemployment rates to exceed these preliminary projections. Again, all of these measurements feed off of the others and once recessionary momentum is unleashed, predicting the bottom becomes a crap shoot. In an economic downturn, bad news relating to each individual item exerts a downward ratchet effect upon all of the others.

Further, the one item that must improve in order to help halt the effects of a recession…consumer confidence…is often the most difficult to impact and the slowest to respond to signs of improvement. As such, the fix may well be in place long before one begins to see a shift in momentum.

I would equate the economic process to what one might experience if one were in a line of individuals holding hands and spinning in a circle…those anchored in place at the front of the line start moving first and by the time the person at the end of the line starts moving, the momentum is in full swing and apt to send that person flying at a pace they cannot control or maintain. The process (momentum) continues until the links that keep the line functional and turning begin to break (holding hands in this example). The same is true of the economy.

A view of the economy isn’t complete without looking at the stock market…and the news isn’t any better.

From The Chicago Tribune:

Stocks took it on the chin again late in Monday’s session, as investors dumped shares across a broad range of companies.

The Dow Jones industrial average plummeted 237.44 points, or 1.8 percent, to 12,743.44.

Based on daily closing prices, the Dow and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index reached 10 percent declines from their Oct. 9 highs, a move known on Wall Street as a “correction.” It was the first such correction since the late winter of 2003.

The repetition of headline-grabbing market declines so far this month appears to be having self-fulfilling impact on investor sentiment.

Would-be stock market investors these days are like people prone to panic attacks, said Jack Tilton, technical analyst at Channel Trend. “When in the middle of the night with the wind howling do you decide to open that closet door?” he said.

Of all the economic indicators, the stock market is likely the least predictive of recessions. While corrections happen far more often than recessions, the recent weakness doesn’t help consumer confidence. In essence, if the economy is teetering on the edge, a stock market correction may simply provide the final psychological nudge.

I want to close by returning to the politics of economics. The GOP, under the guidance of George Bush, has argued that the tax cuts enacted shortly after the President took office served to move the economy out of recession. If one accepts that premise, then a new recession would seem to suggest two things. One, the tax cuts may not have been responsible for bringing us out of the prior recession…especially since they don’t appear to be capable of keeping us out of a new recession. Two, if we are entering another recession, then perhaps the tax cuts were little more than a political calculation.

If, as I’ve argued, the economy was actually propped up through other means (low interest rates and lenient mortgage terms), then one would hope the GOP would now focus on measures that would actually benefit and buttress the economy. Unfortunately, just today we find Larry Kudlow arguing that the GOP should not only embrace the past tax cuts; they should put forth the argument that they are once again essential to jump start our sluggish economy.

The Wall Street Journal’s Gerald Seib has an excellent column this morning on the threat of an economic downturn and the relevance of tax cuts to reignite the economy. He notes that Republicans have an important opportunity to push tax cuts as a spur to the slumping economy, whereas Democrats are still stuck with a tired tax-hike message and an obsessive desire to undo the Bush tax cuts.

Seib does not go into the incentive effects of lower marginal tax rates versus the one-shot demand-side effects of temporary tax cuts.

Former Clinton Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers is now predicting a 2008 recession. But he’s calling for temporary tax cuts for low and middle-class families. Unfortunately, history clearly shows this approach will not work.

Democrats also will try and make the case that taxes should be cut for the so-called middle class, and raised on upper-income earners. This is futile. It’s also bad politics. Taxing successful earners is a tax on capital and investment, which has recently become scarce during the housing crisis.

Republicans should take care to propose lower tax rates on middle-income earners, as well as successful investors. The real supply-side “bang for the buck” comes at the top-end, but across-the-board rate reductions do have positive economic and political benefits. Collapsing the middle-income brackets — 15 percent, 25 percent, and 28 percent — would make a lot of sense.

Given the economic and credit-market concerns sweeping down Wall Street and Main Street these days, it’s time to talk tax cuts. But the right kind of tax-rate reduction must be part of the new-tax-cut riff.

Now you have to admire Kudlow’s moxie…but little else. Try as I might, his argument seems to be akin to suggesting we embrace more of the same despite lacking the evidence needed to substantiate doing so. Truth be told, when the average American looks back on the Bush years…and compares where he or she now stands financially…there should be little doubt that the bubble has burst and the bank account is bleak.

I suspect most Americans will be hard pressed to get on board with a “new-tax-cut riff” when they come to the realization that its being brazenly advanced by those individuals who were fortunate enough to actually benefit measurably from the last round of the Bush administration’s “conning-me-economy”.

As I recall, the average family received approximately $650 in tax savings. The relevant question is whether one believes the resulting economy continued to enrich the average American or merely those wealthy individuals who received the lion’s share of the savings.

Think about it…don’t those individuals promoting another round of “trickle-down” tax cuts have to be better off now than they were seven years ago? If they are, then why should the average American (who isn’t better off) be in favor of rewarding the very people who told us the last tax cuts were an insurance policy against recession as well as a guarantee of a robust economy? How many tax cuts followed by recession do we have to have before we say never again?

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Cheney’s Ticker Behaving Badly

Monday, November 26th, 2007

joker.jpg

Well, these things are bound to happen when you dance with the Devil in the pale moonlight.

Although, he really IS more The Penguin type.

penguin.jpg

Hunting Whales for Research is Bull!

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

Off the coast of New England is one of the greatest adventures that you could ever believe possible. Twenty or more miles off shore in the words of Scotty from Star Trek fame, “There be whales here.” I’ve only had the pleasure to have seen them once in my life and it was something to see that changes you for life. To see such a large creature up close and they are as much curious about us as we are of them was simply mind blowing. To see an animal bigger than a Greyhound bus that comes alongside the tourist boat and turns over so its eye can see all the folks on the boat simply takes your breath away. When the little whales act up and show off it makes you think that God is amazing to create such a wonderful thing. I watched as the little ones breached time and time again or faced head down and slapped their tail in the water at the surface so close that I got wet with the ocean water.

No disrespect to my friends in Japan but there is a game of cards here in America that we call Bull$hit. It’s a game where you have to catch your opponent in a lie and scream out that you know that they are bluffing. For Japan to claim that they need kill whales for the sake of scientific research is simply Bovine By Product. Pick up the cards Japan because you are busted!

Two of the worlds largest producers of man made chemicals that resemble substances found in nature are the United States and Japan. Same thing goes for medical research from products found in nature that are synthesized into pharmaceutical products. Any real scientist worth their weight in the journal producing high fives of the Japanese chemist world are not the reason this hunt for whales is going on.

Japan Hunts the Humpback. Now Comes the Backlash. By ANDREW C. REVKIN
Published: November 25, 2007
Vessels from the groups Sea Shepherd and Greenpeace tail and harass the whaling fleet, while strong protests are lodged by environmental groups, many marine biologists, and officials from the United States, Australia and other countries. But this year those complaints have intensified, largely because Japan has added a new animal to its planned harvest of more than 1,400 whales from seven species — the humpback, Megaptera novaeangliae.Japan hopes to kill 50 of these endangered whales, which have long held a place in the public’s imagination with their other-worldly songs, habit of rocketing their 30-plus tons out of the sea and migrations of up to 10,000 miles a year. Melville once described the humpback as “the most gamesome and lighthearted of all the whales.”

Whaling nearly wiped it out, reducing the humpback’s numbers to perhaps a 1,000 by the mid-1960s. Today, estimates put the total at roughly 30,000. They are considered at high risk of extinction by the World Conservation Union.

“Humpbacks are some of the most wonderful and mysterious creatures in the ocean, with the longest vocalization produced by any animal, including humans, with their bouts of song that last up to 23 hours,” said David Rothenberg, a professor of philosophy and music at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and author of a forthcoming book on whale songs and science.

“We still do not know why they need to sing so extensively, and we ought to leave these whales alone for enough years to find out,” he said.

Once a top target of whalers because they swim close to shore, the humpback is now the centerpiece of another enterprise, whale watching, which by some measures is a billion-dollar-a-year business, making it larger in inflation-adjusted dollars than commercial whaling was even at its peak. - New York Times

If you think that just 50 Humpback Whales are going to be hunted then think again. This is one nations sanctioned open season hunting of an entire species including Humpback’s that will reap ten or twenty or one thousand times the “Scientific” (Bull $hit) research harvesting. There is no chemical product or scientific product that this hunt is undertaking other than the fact that some people in Japan and Asia are willing to forsake a species existence to simply eat whale meat.

This is an old link but if they are offering it to school kids for lunch what does that tell you about the “Research” (Bull $hit) behind the expansion of whale hunting Japan…

REUTERS
7:53 a.m. February 14, 2006

TOKYO – Whale meat is back on the menu in a growing number of Japanese elementary and junior high schools, Kyodo news service reported on Tuesday.

The board of education in Wakayama prefecture in western Japan, an area known as the birthplace of organised whaling in the country, is promoting the drive to put whale on school menus.

Advertisement The board provided some 1,657 kilograms of whale meat for more than 100 elementary and junior high schools in Kyoto, Osaka and Nara prefectures and Tokyo in January of this year alone, Kyodo said, citing local officials.

The amount for January was about double the amount for all of 2005.

‘We want (schoolchildren) to know Japan’s traditional dietary culture through whale meat which was popular in the past,’ it quoted a board of education official as saying.

Japan abandoned commercial whaling in 1986, in line with an international moratorium, but began catching whales again the following year for what it calls scientific research. - Reuters

I’m thinking that George, I’m busy with Iraq, to much on my plate, screw you Whale Watching Liberal nut jobs, does not think this is important. Whereas this just might come under diplomacy and the State Department you can pretty much chalk whale hunting up to persona non grata status. Diplomacy and Bush even with nations we consider a close friend is the ultimate in oxymoron definitions. Especially, since the whale oil market died off a hundred years ago!

If he is to busy then I think our nations Senators and Congressional Representatives should care. If you live in the Pacific Northwest then you should care about whale hunting. If you live in New England and the Atlantic coastline then you should care about whale hunting. If you live along the coast of California down into the south of Mexico then you should care about whale hunting.

All of the whales killed by the fleets from Japan at one time or another were off the shores of your neighborhood. These are animals that travel ten thousand miles in migratory patterns every single year. This is wrong on so many levels that it is not even funny. Whale watching is a billion dollar American industry and we like our worlds whales! Peaceful creatures with elevated intelligence should not be hunted or killed for any scientific research (Bull $hit) purposes.

Get involved and get with it to stop the hunt before it expands to open season by Japan for all whales. You can Google search Green Peace and offer what help you think you can.

No offense to my many Japanese readers but have your whaling industry buy a couple hundred thousand acres of land in Wyoming or North Dakota or Texas and start a damn cattle ranch. Leave all of the Whales alone!

Save the Whales!

Get angry, get mad, get involved and save the peaceful creatures that just happen to live in the ocean. Get your kids involved and write or email your representatives in Congress. In doing so you are saving an industry that has adapted over the centuries from hunting the graceful giant to praising them and earning a living by offering whale watching tours.

Papamoka

Originally posted at Papamoka Straight Talk…

Bush Burns the Constitution

Friday, November 23rd, 2007

If you think that you are safer today than you were eight years ago then you are a fool. Only a fool would believe that our government is looking out for our best interests and personal security. When you here someone tell you that if you have nothing to hide when losing any right guaranteed to you under the Constitution is nothing to worry about. That is someone to be very afraid of. That person is the same kind of person they had in Germany in the 30’s and 40’s that thought the greater good meant some sacrificed lives were for the best. The greater good outweighed the individuals right to exist. Given that fact some six plus million people had nothing to worry about but disappeared off the face of the Earth.

This nation was not built on the principals of a police state to protect its people. It was built on fundamental freedoms. It was founded on an individuals rights. That is something that President Bush and his boys that know what is best for all of us have gambled on to make you forget what true freedom is. For the sake of safety your rights are being stripped away and when it happens from within the government then there is a problem. HUGE PROBLEM! Telling you what to be afraid of and why you need to forsake your individual rights is easy, fighting for your rights is what our cemeteries across this nation is filled with. They died defending the nation they loved and for those of us left to live the American dream it is a shame on our society as a whole to let this continue.

Over at the Washington Post they have the latest intrusion of rights based on drop a dime theories from Mine Fuhrer Bush…

Cellphone Tracking Powers on Request
Secret Warrants Granted Without Probable Cause
By Ellen Nakashima
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 23, 2007; Page A01

Federal officials are routinely asking courts to order cellphone companies to furnish real-time tracking data so they can pinpoint the whereabouts of drug traffickers, fugitives and other criminal suspects, according to judges and industry lawyers.

In some cases, judges have granted the requests without requiring the government to demonstrate that there is probable cause to believe that a crime is taking place or that the inquiry will yield evidence of a crime. Privacy advocates fear such a practice may expose average Americans to a new level of government scrutiny of their daily lives.

Such requests run counter to the Justice Department’s internal recommendation that federal prosecutors seek warrants based on probable cause to obtain precise location data in private areas. The requests and orders are sealed at the government’s request, so it is difficult to know how often the orders are issued or denied. - Washington Post

I’m of the belief that the F.B.I. has worked for generations under the laws of the land and they had no problem snaring mob gangsters and secretive crime families without breaking the law. How is changing or corrupting our laws going to keep us safer from supposed terrorists? Unless of course our F.B.I. is totally incompetent and if that is the case then it should be shut down. That is common sense for law abiding elected leaders of our nation or is it not?

If this scenario as written by the WA PO is true then you need to get yourself an egg timer so you can judge how long it will take this to trickle down to the local level. Too late, it’s happening in Boston with the introduction of a plan to ask people to allow police to search your homes without a warrant because your son or daughter may have a gun or weapon. That would be search and seizure. Granted, crime in Boston by gangs is at an all time high but this opens up Pandora’s Box when it comes to your individual rights. Who is to say the neighbor you pissed off does not drop the dime on you? You stole his parking space on the street, just for giggles he or she calls the police and makes up a sham.

Boston police launch program to search homes for guns
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

BOSTON — The Boston police will ask parents in high-crime areas to allow detectives to search their children’s bedrooms for guns without a warrant as part of a new anti-crime program.

During the next two weeks, Boston police officers assigned to schools will go in plainclothes in groups of three to houses where they believe teens have guns, and ask their parents or legal guardians for permission to search. - Herald Tribune

Getting back to the reason for this post. My good friend over at the Gun Toting Liberal touched a nerve with his latest post and I understand his outrage over the Washington Post article.

There were once THREE “Separate But Equal” branches of government — the Judicial Branch, the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch, where there were two houses of Congress — the House of Representatives and the Senate. One house would propose legislation to the other and the result would be either a new LAW or a STALEMATE. It wasn’t perfect, but it was the proposed Democratic Republic of our Founding Fathers and it actually WORKED for awhile.

But then — somewhere along the way — the Legislative Branch gave some of it’s “Separate But Equal” powers to the Executive Branch. They allowed a president “KING” by the name of “Forty-Three” to negate their hard-fought bills, after being ping-ponged back and forth for days, weeks and months, by signing them into laws with HUGE ASTERIXES known as “signing statements” - Gun Toting Liberal

Both GTL and I do not trust the latest stunt by our government to protect us because we both know that the precedents to expand the powers is far greater an intrusion on individual rights. That is what this is all about. Freedom of our people should not be based on the whole. Each individual has the right to define freedom as it should be. Many a soldier, sailor and veteran fought and died for that belief.

One of the things I find ridiculous in a political argument is the fact that the Democrat’s were in charge of two houses of our government for forty or so years and no rights were lost to our citizens to protect us. Wars were fought, civil rights were created and our society grew because our minds were free to explore new possibilities. Pro or con against our government. Twelve years of Republican rule and we are tossing our rights out the window like the bath water for the baby. Baby included! There is a reason why FDR, Truman, Ike, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush Senior, and Clinton did not bust the Constitution, they swore an oath to uphold it. That is not the case with George W. Bush.

Fight for your rights. Vote for your rights and vote the people that are corrupting your Constitutional rights out of office! Then tell the rest of the clan in corporate America to get the hell out of Dodge or Washington D.C. as the rest of us know it. Take back America!

Papamoka

Originally posted at Papamoka Straight Talk

Hells Angels: Getting To Be A Holiday Tradition

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

I did my usual homeless census on my AM run as is my habit it seems on T-Day. My route was shorter than usual as I’m nursing a calf injury, which is much better after taking the better part of a month and a half off from running completely. Even so, the tally is 26 Homeless, and a dozen Hells Angels lined up along the sidewalk at the same cafe they were at last year.

For a while, I was thinking the Mayor’s programs to clean up the homeless issue was working, but really, they are just dislocated. There were not the same congregations of homeless in the places they were last year. This year, they were spread out, outside of the park on city streets. It’s astonishing.

Homelessness has been a problem for a great long while. Why is it that people can figure out how to provide free search engines and email accounts, but can’t fix the homeless problem? No wait, I know. It’s because there’s no money in it, unlike some unpopular wars in foreign lands I know.


Fish.Travel