Saturday, February 28, 2009

Republicans, Conservatives Counting on Obama, America Failing

The Republicans are hoping that Obama fails so that they can get into power again. You don't have to believe me. The words speak for themselves (video included):

Just before President Obama was inaugurated, hate radio host Rush Limbaugh declared, “I hope he fails.” Though some Republicans have distanced themselves from Limbaugh’s sentiment, conservatives at CPAC have fully embraced it.

In an interview with ThinkProgress today, radio host Mark Levin and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) added their voices to the chorus of conservatives hoping for Obama’s failure:

TP: What do you think about what Rush said about, I mean, do you hope, should we hope that President Obama fails?


TP: Yes?

SANTORUM: If…absolutely we hope that his policies fail.

“I believe his policies will fail, I don’t know, but I hope they fail,” added Santorum. Watch it:

On his radio show yesterday, Limbaugh announced that its is a “dirty little secret” that “every Republican in this country wants Obama to fail, but none of them have the guts to say so.” “I am willing to say it,” added Limbaugh.

At CPAC at least, more and more conservatives are “willing to say it.” Appropriately, Limbaugh will be the closing speaker at the conference tonight.


THINK PROGRESS: What do you think about what Rush said about, I mean, do you hope? Should we hope that President Obama fails?


TP: Yes?

SANTORUM: If…absolutely we hope that his policies fail.

TP: Ok.

SANTORUM: Because, well, we, I believe his policies will fail, I don’t know, but I hope they fail, I don’t know. But I believe they will fail.

In the interest of fairness here is the full Limbaugh transcript in where he calls for Obama's failure:
HANNITY: I spoke exclusively with the one and only Rush Limbaugh.


HANNITY: So we have a new president now. Abraham Lincoln or FDR or Barack Obama, obviously. First of all, what are your general thoughts about him as a person?
RUSH: Well, I.... (sigh) This is really tough, you know, because I've never met him. I don't know him, except how and what I've seen on television. And I'm suspicious. When I see the media and the entire establishment on the left lay down and become cult-like and not examine who he is, what he's done; and not really examine what he says, but just praise him because of how he says it; my antenna go up. I'll tell you, a lot of people right now, they're just absorbed in the historical nature of this: "first black president" and so forth. Well, that is wonderful. That's great. But I got over that months ago after he won the election.
I mean, Sean, he is our president now, and he's not black. He's not from Mars. He's our president. He's a human being. We're a country comprised of human beings that the Democrat Party and the left have attempted to arrange into groups of victims, and that's who he appeals to, and the victims are the people waiting around for some grievance to be resolved. They're waiting around for something to happen for them, and he is parlaying that. So I think the fact that he's African-American -- his father was black -- to me, it's irrelevant. This is the greatest country on earth. We want to keep it that way. It is that way for specific reasons. Now I look at the things that he has said, and I'm very much concerned that our greatness is going to be redefined in such a way that it won't be great, that we're just going to become average.

We cannot have this large a government role in the private sector with so many people thinking that just because they're Americans they're entitled to things, that this guy is going to be passing them out, and keep this country great and innovative, full of entrepreneurs. These things concern me. Now my critics, and yours, when they hear me say things like this, they have knee-jerk reactions. They're not listening or parsing my words, either. They're just, "Well, Limbaugh is not with the program. Limbaugh doesn't get it! Limbaugh is not sensible." He's president of the United States. It doesn't matter to me what his race is, what his ethnicity is. What matters to me are his policies and what his plans are, and I only know what he has said he's going to do based on what he has done and how he's voted. And in terms of what I would use to define the greatness of the country, he's not it.

HANNITY: All right. Let's take that a step further here because all throughout the election, we all talked about the Chicago way: his radical friends, associates, et cetera.

RUSH: Yeah.

HANNITY: His past voting record. By the way, I brought it up a lot. You brought it up a lot. We all talked about it. What...? Do you think he really is that and people either ignored it, people don't care, or is he just somebody who is politically expedient? That's what he had to do in Chicago.
RUSH: We don't know. See, this is the thing. Now, normally a mainstream media would have vetted this guy and we would know this. We don't know what he is. That's the whole point. People don't care what he is. They don't care who he is. They care that he's black. They care that he's historic. They care that they think he's an intellectual because of the way he speaks. It's all about how he speaks. I look at some of the facial expressions of people when they're watching the guy, and it's frightening. But I'm a thinker. A lot of people, I guess, aren't. People are emotional and they react emotionally to things, and if he makes them feel good, especially in economic bad times, then that's all they're really going to care about. I have to assume that he is who he is and his radical associations are certainly things that have defined him.

If you look at the executive orders that he's promised to issue, he's going to overturn the abortion law that has guided who we fund overseas in terms of "family planning," and that's been a roller coaster. You know, Clinton imposed it. Bush rescinded it. Obama's going to re-impose it and so forth. He's going to issue an executive order to close Guantanamo Bay, but it isn't going to happen for four years. I think... You used the word "expedient." He plays both sides. He's going to placate the far left fringe kook base, his website people will say, "Okay, he's going to close Guantanamo." But he's not going to close Guantanamo, and he's not going to get out of Iraq in 16 months. He's going to say so, but he's not going to saddle himself with defeat of our forces in Iraq or Afghanistan, and he's certainly not -- I can't believe that he will willingly release people at Guantanamo who will come back and revisit terrorist acts in this country. Not on his watch. They would have loved for that to have happened during Bush. They would have loved surrender in Iraq when it's on Bush's shoulders, but I don't think he's going to do it. But he's got to say things that make his fringe kook base think that he is being true to his campaign promises.

HANNITY: All right, let me... So then this raises this question. You're the leading voice of opposition, conservative, and have defined conservatives for over two decades. You celebrated your 20 years on the air, by the way, nationally syndicated, congratulations.

RUSH: Thank you.

HANNITY: Coming off record-ratings year for you, but you are a passionate conservative. You've defined conservatives for many people in this country for years. He represents the antithesis in terms of his worldview. So then the question becomes: Do you want him to succeed?

RUSH: Now, this... (turns to camera) I am so glad that he asked me that question. (turns back to Hannity) I am so glad that you asked me this question.

HANNITY: I'm glad to. (chuckles)

RUSH: I'll tell you why. I am hearing many Republicans say that very thing. "Well, we want him to succeed," and prominent Republicans! "Yes, we want him to succeed." They have laid down. They have totally. They're drinking the Kool-Aid, too. They have no guts to stand up for what their beliefs are because they're afraid of criticism. They're afraid of being called racists. They're afraid of not having gotten with the program. Now success can be defined two ways. I said earlier, "I don't know about this guy." I really don't. I've got my suspicions and they're pretty close to convictions, but we're going to have to wait to see what he does. Now if he turns out to be a Reagan, if he adds Reagan to his recipe of FDR and Lincoln --

HANNITY: (laughing)

RUSH: -- and if he does cut some taxes --


RUSH: -- if he does not eliminate the Bush tax cuts, I would call that success. So yes, I would hope he would succeed if he acts like Reagan. But if he's going to do FDR -- if he's going to do The New New Deal all over, which we will call here The Raw Deal -- why would I want him to succeed? Look, he's my president. The fact that he is historic is irrelevant to me now. It matters not at all. If he is going to implement a far-left agenda... Look, I think it's already decided: a $2 trillion in stimulus? The growth of government? I think the intent here is to create as many dependent Americans as possible looking to government for their hope and salvation. If he gets nationalized health care, I mean, it's over, Sean. We're never going to roll that back. That's the end of America as we have known it, because that's then going to set the stage for everything being government owned, operated, or provided. Why would I want that to succeed? I don't believe in that. I know that's not how this country is going to be great in the future; it's not what made this country great. So I shamelessly say, "No! I want him to fail." If his agenda is a far-left collectivism -- some people say socialism -- as a conservative heartfelt, deeply, why would I want socialism to succeed?
- Some prominent conservatives, like Bill Bennett, don't think we should hope Obama fails. See the video.

- It's one thing for someone to think that Obama and the Democrats stimulus plan will not help the economy. But it is another to actively seek to sabotage the President. They cannot believe otherwise because they have nothing to offer. They failed us for 8 years. Now they hope America falls further so that they can gain power again. This is a betrayal of the American people.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Congressman Blows Whistle on Congress

Jeff Flake is a Republican and a Congressman. But that hasn't stopped him from exposing the corrupt practices of the House of representatives. There are still some politicians in Washington that take seriously their oath of office to serve the people of America. Following is the eye opening speech given on the House floor yesterday:

Mr. FLAKE. Madam Speaker, yesterday I introduced a privileged resolution here in the House which asked the Ethics Committee to look into the relationship between campaign contributions and earmarks. This has been a problem, as we know, for a long time but it was brought to a head just recently when a lobby firm, a powerhouse lobby firm that had $14 million in revenue just last year, it was revealed that they were being investigated by the FBI.

This firm was quite prominent. It passed a lot of campaign contributions to Members here on Capitol Hill. In return, clients of this lobbying firm received in one defense appropriation bill $300 million. So it was quite lucrative for this firm obviously to do what it was doing.

Anyway, it was revealed that the FBI was investigating this firm, and within days, the firm completely imploded. It has dissolved. One week or so after it was revealed, it's gone, but the damage has been wrought to the dignity and decorum of this House. We sit here today all under suspicion because a firm spread so many campaign contributions around, and many earmarks were received. And no matter what the intent was or the motive here, the appearance of this does not reflect well on the dignity
and decorum of the House.

We have to remember that most of the earmarks sought by this firm, this firm that is now under investigation, are for for-profit entities, private businesses. These earmarks are essentially no-bid contracts. A Member of Congress will simply say, I want an earmark for this firm. Maybe it might be in his district, it might not, but it's a private, for-profit-making company, getting a Federal contract without scrutiny otherwise, with nothing and no other bids. Nobody else can bid on it.

Here, let me just step back for a second. One thing that is unbelievable here is we will be considering an omnibus appropriation bill, a $410 billion bill, tomorrow. We received a list of the earmarks that will be in that bill yesterday. So I think within 36 hours or so of receiving the list of 9,000 earmarks, we will be considering the bill.

Now, we have had rules in this House, and good rules, passed which stipulate that we have transparency, that we are supposed to be given notice of these earmarks well in advance. I would submit that 36 hours for 9,000 is hardly transparency, but even if it were, transparency has to be followed by accountability. Accountability means that somebody should be able to stand up and challenge any of these earmarks, to challenge whether or not a for-profit entity, a company in somebody's district, ought
to be getting a sole-source contract by a Member, with no scrutiny by other Members of this body. I cannot come to the floor tomorrow, nor can any other Member, and challenge any of these earmarks, to look at the relationship between earmarks, campaign contributions, or to simply say is this a good use of Federal spending.

Then we found that--add insult to injury, 9,000 earmarks with minimal notice--we found that the PMA Group, who lobbied for many earmarks in last year's defense bill the year before that, clients of the PMA Group received as many as up to a dozen earmarks in this omnibus appropriation bill that we'll be considering tomorrow. Let me say that again. A firm under investigation by Federal authorities, for what might be misused or mishandled campaign contributions to Members of Congress, clients of
that firm are receiving earmarks in the appropriation bill that we'll be passing tomorrow, and not one Member here has the ability to go in and challenge a single one of those earmarks. It's take-it-or-leave-it on the whole bill, one vote at the end, take-it-or-leave-it, no ability to challenge. That simply isn't right, Madam Speaker. That's not right.

That's why we need the Ethics Committee to take a look at this. We know from press reports that somebody's taking a look at it. Politico reported on February 12 that, ``Several sources said FBI agents have spent months laying the groundwork for their current investigation, including conducting research on earmarks and campaign contributions.''

Now, we may not want to look at it, but the Justice Department is. We have the obligation here to uphold the dignity and decorum of the House. Our standard should not be investigations, convictions, and imprisonment. It ought to be what upholds the dignity of the House. Let's pass this resolution.

Obama State of Union Speech Transcript

It was an excellent State of the Union Speech. Read the complete transcript. Excerpt below:

I know that for many Americans watching right now, the state of our economy is a concern that rises above all others. And rightly so. If you haven't been personally affected by this recession, you probably know someone who has - a friend; a neighbor; a member of your family. You don't need to hear another list of statistics to know that our economy is in crisis, because you live it every day. It's the worry you wake up with and the source of sleepless nights. It's the job you thought you'd retire from but now have lost; the business you built your dreams upon that's now hanging by a thread; the college acceptance letter your child had to put back in the envelope. The impact of this recession is real, and it is everywhere.

But while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken; though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this:

We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.

The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation. The answers to our problems don't lie beyond our reach. They exist in our laboratories and universities; in our fields and our factories; in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth. Those qualities that have made America the greatest force of progress and prosperity in human history we still possess in ample measure. What is required now is for this country to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face, and take responsibility for our future once more.

Now, if we're honest with ourselves, we'll admit that for too long, we have not always met these responsibilities -- as a government or as a people. I say this not to lay blame or look backwards, but because it is only by understanding how we arrived at this moment that we'll be able to lift ourselves out of this predicament.

The fact is, our economy did not fall into decline overnight. Nor did all of our problems begin when the housing market collapsed or the stock market sank. We have known for decades that our survival depends on finding new sources of energy. Yet we import more oil today than ever before. The cost of health care eats up more and more of our savings each year, yet we keep delaying reform. Our children will compete for jobs in a global economy that too many of our schools do not prepare them for. And though all these challenges went unsolved, we still managed to spend more money and pile up more debt, both as individuals and through our government, than ever before.

In other words, we have lived through an era where too often, short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity; where we failed to look beyond the next payment, the next quarter, or the next election. A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future. Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market. People bought homes they knew they couldn't afford from banks and lenders who pushed those bad loans anyway. And all the while, critical debates and difficult decisions were put off for some other time on some other day.

Well that day of reckoning has arrived, and the time to take charge of our future is here.

Now is the time to act boldly and wisely -- to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity. Now is the time to jumpstart job creation, re-start lending, and invest in areas like energy, health care, and education that will grow our economy, even as we make hard choices to bring our deficit down. That is what my economic agenda is designed to do, and that's what I'd like to talk to you about tonight.

It's an agenda that begins with jobs.

As soon as I took office, I asked this Congress to send me a recovery plan by President's Day that would put people back to work and put money in their pockets. Not because I believe in bigger government -- I don't. Not because I'm not mindful of the massive debt we've inherited -- I am. I called for action because the failure to do so would have cost more jobs and caused more hardships. In fact, a failure to act would have worsened our long-term deficit by assuring weak economic growth for years. That's why I pushed for quick action. And tonight, I am grateful that this Congress delivered, and pleased to say that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is now law.

Over the next two years, this plan will save or create 3.5 million jobs.More than 90% of these jobs will be in the private sector -- jobs rebuilding our roads and bridges; constructing wind turbines and solar panels; laying broadband and expanding mass transit.

Because of this plan, there are teachers who can now keep their jobs and educate our kids. Health care professionals can continue caring for our sick. There are 57 police officers who are still on the streets of Minneapolis tonight because this plan prevented the layoffs their department was about to make.

Because of this plan, 95% of the working households in America will receive a tax cut -- a tax cut that you will see in your paychecks beginning on April 1st.

Because of this plan, families who are struggling to pay tuition costs will receive a $2,500 tax credit for all four years of college. And Americans who have lost their jobs in this recession will be able to receive extended unemployment benefits and continued health care coverage to help them weather this storm.

I know there are some in this chamber and watching at home who are skeptical of whether this plan will work. I understand that skepticism. Here in Washington, we've all seen how quickly good intentions can turn into broken promises and wasteful spending. And with a plan of this scale comes enormous responsibility to get it right.

That is why I have asked Vice President Biden to lead a tough, unprecedented oversight effort -- because nobody messes with Joe. I have told each member of my Cabinet as well as mayors and governors across the country that they will be held accountable by me and the American people for every dollar they spend. I have appointed a proven and aggressive Inspector General to ferret out any and all cases of waste and fraud. And we have created a new website called so that every American can find out how and where their money is being spent.

So the recovery plan we passed is the first step in getting our economy back on track. But it is just the first step. Because even if we manage this plan flawlessly, there will be no real recovery unless we clean up the credit crisis that has severely weakened our financial system.

I want to speak plainly and candidly about this issue tonight, because every American should know that it directly affects you and your family's well-being. You should also know that the money you've deposited in banks across the country is safe; your insurance is secure; and you can rely on the continued operation of our financial system. That is not the source of concern.

The concern is that if we do not re-start lending in this country, our recovery will be choked off before it even begins.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Latest Child Murderer Case: Too Much Violence in Media

Murders by kids is becoming more commonplace. And it's not a coincidence. Violence in the media, especially in video games and movies are a major contributing factor. You see it everywhere. And often times the killer is turned into a celebrity. Young people are raised by a culture that glorifies guns. So it should be no surprise that murders by children are becoming more and more common. As with this story the consequences are crippling the criminal justice system:

A jail warden said Sunday he will ask a judge to move an 11-year-old boy accused of killing his father's pregnant girlfriend from an adult lockup to a juvenile detention center because the jail cannot accommodate the boy.

Lawrence County Warden Charles Adamo said his 300-inmate jail cannot offer proper long-term care for Jordan Brown, of Wampum, who was charged Saturday with using his own 20-gauge shotgun to kill 26-year-old Kenzie Marie Houk.

Houk was eight months pregnant with the child of Brown's father and also had two daughters, ages 4 and 7, who lived together in the rural home where authorities said she was slain as she lay in bed Friday.

The murder follows another shocking killing linked to a boy. On Thursday, a 9-year-old Arizona boy reached a plea deal with authorities who accused him of the fatal shootings of his father and his father's roommate. The boy pleaded guilty to negligent homicide in the death of his father's roommate while the murder charge in his father's death was dropped.

In Pennsylvania, police said after the killing Brown hopped onto a school bus with Houk's oldest daughter. State troopers picked him up at school after tree trimmers called emergency services when Houk's youngest daughter told them she thought her mother was dead.

State police said the boy exhibited "little, if any, emotion," according to Lawrence County District Attorney John Bongivengo.

"This is something that you wouldn't even think of in your worst nightmare," said Bongivengo.

Additionally, the shooting was in a cold blooded manner. Is the popular media training killers:
Pennsylvania State Police say that 11-year-old Jordan Brown shot Kenzie Marie Houk in the back of the head as she lay in bed and then hopped on a bus to school - as if it were just another day. Kenzie Marie Houk was pregnant and near to term with a baby boy. Her baby died immediately of Kenzie Marie Houk Allegedly Killed by 11-Year-Old Jordan Brown Date: February 20, 2009 Wampum, PA United States of America oxygen deprivation. Kenzie Marie Houk, who was 26, was the live-in girlfriend of Jordan Brown's father, Christopher Brown.

According to the Huffington Post, Jordan Brown initially told investigators that he saw a suspicious-looking black truck on the property, causing police to chase down a false lead for hours. When Jordan Brown's story kept changing, however, police began questioning Kenzie Maire Houk's 7-year-old daughter. Though she did not eyewitness the slaying of her mother, she says she saw Jordan Brown with a shotgun and heard a loud bang.

It was this key information that led police to take Jordan Brown into custody, charging him as an adult with the murder of Kenzie Marie Houk. Jordan Brown is also being charged with criminal homicide of an unborn child. Police say that the murder weapon was a 20-gauge youth model shotgun, which they found in Jordan Brown's room.

Should Jordan Brown be convicted of the above-noted homicides, he will join a growing list of kid killers. Just recently, in fact, a 9-year-old Arizona boy pleaded guilty to the murder of his 29-year-old father and his father's friend, 39-year-old Tim Romans. The boy, whose name has not been disclosed because of his age, pleaded guilty to one count of negligent homicide in juvenile court. The murder charge against his father was dropped in exchange for his guilty plea in the killing of Romans.

Just as I posted this article MSNBC analyst and former FBI criminal profiler, Clint Van Zandt, confirmed my argument by citing statistics on the amount of time children spend playing video games.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Is the U.S. Government on the Verge of Defaulting?

The U.S. government is functioning by borrowing money from abroad. Specifically, China. Without the Chinese buying up our debt our country would be bankrupt. This is criminal in it's implications. How do you allow a great power to be in hock to our principal adversary. A nation that is still officially a Communist country, and that is hostile towards us. It is madness. China could literally blackmail us. Never mind trying to stop them from oppressing their population or supporting oppressive regimes (including Darfur). China is spying on us and stealing our technology without much of an outrage from the worthless U.S. government. We are forced to watch U.S. politicians going to Beijing to beg for help. Washington is betraying America by failing to defend us from our enemies, current or future.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Sunday urged China to keep investing its substantial foreign-exchange reserves in U.S. Treasury securities, arguing "we are truly going to rise or fall together."

China is the biggest foreign holder of U.S. debt, which helped finance the spending binge the United States went on before the current economic crisis. Some experts have expressed concern that China's substantial holding of U.S. debt gives it increased leverage in dealings with Washington because any halt in Chinese purchases would make it more difficult to finance the government bailout and stimulus packages.

Clinton, in unusually direct comments on an interview with China's Dragon TV before returning to Washington, said that reality made it an imperative for China to keep purchasing U.S. Treasury bonds, because otherwise the U.S. economy will not recover and China will suffer as well.

"Our economies are so intertwined," she said. "The Chinese know that in order to start exporting again to its biggest market . . . the United States has to take some drastic measures with the stimulus package. We have to incur more debt."

"The Chinese are recognizing our interconnection," Clinton added. "We are truly going to rise or fall together. By continuing to support American Treasury instruments, the Chinese are recognizing" that interconnection.

China is becoming a major financial power that will eventually surpass us, at this rate:
China Development Bank, one of China’s largest state-owned enterprises, has agreed to lend $10 billion to Brazil’s Petrobras (PBR) in exchange for a long-term supply of oil - the latest illustration of how Beijing is using the global downturn to further its domestic agenda.

Money Morning first reported in January that China was building stakes in some of the world’s largest natural-resource companies, which have been made vulnerable by depressed commodities prices, tumbling profits and falling stock prices. In the scant few weeks since that report was published, Aluminum Corp. of China Ltd. (ADR: ACH), or Chinalco, has invested $19.5 billion in Australian/British mining giant Rio Tinto PLC (ADR: RTP), and China Minmetals Corp. acquired Australian zinc miner Oz Minerals Ltd.

China Development Bank has been particularly active. Earlier this week, the bank lent $15 billion to OAO Rosneft Oil Co., Russia’s state-owned oil company, and $10 billion to the Russian state pipeline monopoly Transneft (TRNFF.PK). In return for the needed financing, Russia agreed to supply China with 15 million tons of oil annually for 20 years.

China Development Bank struck a similar deal with Petrobras Friday, agreeing to loan the Latin American energy giant $10 billion to help finance deepwater oil exploration off the coast of Brazil.

[...]Brazil is necessarily the country that comes to mind when taking inventory of the world’s top oil producers. It currently has about 12 billion barrels of proven reserves, but that figure could grow substantially now that a number of very rich deposits have been found off Brazil’s shores.

Petrobras happened across the second-largest oil find in two decades last year when it found between 5 billion and 8 billion barrels of untapped light oil in the Tupi basin. Even more impressive are the unofficial figures from a new reservoir, known as Carioca. That field could hold 33 billion barrels of oil and gas, which would make it the world’s largest discovery in at least 32 years.

With discoveries like these, Brazil, currently ranked 13th on the list of the world’s top oil producers could, could easily move into the top ten.

[...]Developing oil fields such as these will be very costly and with crude oil trading below $40 a barrel, financing is imperative. In that sense China couldn’t have timed its investment in Petrobras any better.

Petrobras said it plans to invest $174.4 billion from 2009 through 2013, compared with the $112.4 billion planned for investment for 2008-12. The company will invest $28.6 billion in 2009 alone.

In 2008, trade between China and Brazil totaled $36 billion, making China Brazil’s second largest trading partner.

The greatest beneficiary of the Stimulus package will be the Chinese.
It is doubtful whether we can still describe ourselves as living in the American era or, indeed, the Age of the West. If not yet quite over, both are certainly drawing to a close, and it seems likely that the effect of the financial meltdown will be to accelerate the rise of China as a global power. The contrast between the situation in China and that in the US could hardly be greater, even though it has been partially obscured by the depressive effect of the western recession on Chinese exports and on China’s growth rate. While the US economy is contracting, China’s grew at roughly 9 per cent in 2008 and is projected to grow at about 6 per cent in 2009. Its banks, far from bankrupt like their US counterparts, are cash-rich. China enjoys a large current account surplus, the government’s finances are in good order and the national debt is small. This is a crisis that emanates from the US and whose impact on China has been essentially indirect, through the contraction of western markets. It is the American model that has failed, not the Chinese.

One of the factors that intensified the Great Depression, and indeed was part cause of it, was Britain's growing inability to continue in its role as the world's leading financial power, which culminated in the collapse of the gold standard in 1931. It was not until after the war, however, that the US became sufficiently dominant to replace Britain and act as the mainstay of a new financial system at the heart of which was the dollar. The same kind of problem is evident now: the US is no longer strong enough to act as the world's financial centre, but its obvious successor, namely China, is not yet ready to assume that mantle. This will undoubtedly make the search for a global solution to the present crisis more difficult and more protracted.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Boycott NY Post for Obama=Dead Monkey Cartoon

The scurrilous NY Post should not be able to get away with the blatantly racist cartoon from this past Monday. This is no longer 1960s and Jim Crow America. The days of calling African-Americans monkeys is over. Or is it? Send a message that will no tolerate racism in America. Additionally, to remain silent is help create the conditions for the possible assassination of Barack Obama. Just as it happened in 1960s with JFK and MLK jr. The right is clearly to foment hatred of Obama for political reasons. We saw it during the campaign. They are trying to appeal to the dormant feelings of Americans still instinctually harbored by many Americans. Racism must be killed before it rears it's ugly head again:

Reactions are as varied as they are strong to Tuesday's New York Post cartoon that depicted the police shooting of a chimpanzee. Two police officers, one with a smoking gun, are near the chimp's bullet-pierced body. "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill," one officer says.

Post cartoonist Sean Delonas was using a typical funny-pages theme of linking two current news stories: the shooting of a chimp after it mauled a Connecticut woman and President Obama's signing of the stimulus bill.

But soon after the issue hit newsstands, the Rev. Al Sharpton -- and other black opinion makers like CNN's Roland Martin -- blasted the cartoon as an attack on Obama's skin color and African-Americans in general.

"Being that the stimulus bill has been the first legislative victory of President Barack Obama and has become synonymous with him, it is not a reach to wonder: Are they inferring that a monkey wrote the last bill?" Sharpton said.

Jelani Cobb, a Spelman College history professor and the author of a forthcoming book about Obama, told CNN that the cartoon offended on many levels.

He winced at the cartoon's gun violence as a stoker to the nervousness some feel about the safety of a black president in a historically racist country.

"When I looked at it, there was no getting around the implications of it," Cobb said. "Clearly anyone with an iota of sense knows the close association of black people and the primate imagery."

[...]New York Post editor Col Allan referred calls to a public relations representative who sent this statement: "The cartoon is a clear parody of a current news event, to wit the shooting of a violent chimpanzee in Connecticut. It broadly mocks Washington's efforts to revive the economy. Again, Al Sharpton reveals himself as nothing more than a publicity opportunist."

Delonas is not giving interviews, the PR rep told CNN.

This from the Detroit Free Press:
Maybe the cartoonist was making fun of a chimpanzee mauling a woman nearly to death in Stamford, Conn. If so, shame on him.

NEW YORK POST: See the Sean Delonas cartoon for yourself

Maybe he was taking a swipe at New York cops, implying they'll shoot anything. If so, shame on him.

But more likely, the cartoon is what it was: the use of a centuries-old racist slur to imply that President Barack Obama is a monkey.

You don't need the Rev. Al Sharpton to tell you something is racist.

The insensitive cartoons that somehow get published and the racial epithets that don't go away and the bigoted beliefs that persist despite their falsity all make it clear why February yields a plethora of black history celebrations. It is as if we must affirm ourselves constantly to battle opposing beliefs.

This from Americablog:
And after you read the "excuse" given by the newspaper's editor for the dead monkey cartoon about Obama's economic stimulus package, you really need to check out the same cartoonist's other cartoons, including depicting gays as people who screw sheep, and a cartoon showing Al Qaeda celebrating the Democrats' electoral victory in 2006. This guy really exemplifies what's become of the conservative movement. The best argument they can make about how to proceed in the face of our economic crisis is a racist joke about the assassination of our first black president. The party of Limbaugh, Palin and tax-cheat plumbers lives on.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Is it Too Late to Save the Economy?

The stock market shrugged off the government's stimulus bill yesterday. They don't think it will work. And with the continued plunge in the economy it is unclear whether it's the solution. It could be Mr.Obama and the Congress have no answers and are acting like they do. Continued layoffs by major corporations along with record drops in economic activity guarantee that the crisis will continue. This problem could be insoluble by a government and business community that created the problem in the first place. It looks like we are on our own.

This from the Huffington Post:

Former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said on Tuesday that the global recession will "surely be the longest and deepest" since the 1930s, adding that the Obama administration's Troubled Asset Relief Program will be insufficient to plug the yawning financial gap.

"Since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September, we have been exposed to the most rapid and unremitting set of gloomy statistics that I have ever seen," the former Fed chairman said a meeting of the Economic Club of New York, according to Politico.

Greenspan later tagged the current crisis a "once-in-a-century type event."

The move was an about-face for the free-market economist.

While Greenspan steered clear of his role in the market collapse, "he did take a new swipe at the market's self-correcting tendencies and bowed his head to a new period of increased regulation," the Wall Street Journal reported.

"All of the sophisticated mathematics and computer wizardry essentially rested on one central premise: that enlightened self interest of owners and managers of financial institutions would lead them to maintain a sufficient buffer against insolvency by actively monitoring and managing their firms' capital and risk positions," the Fed chairman said. The premise failed in the summer of 2007, he said, leaving him "deeply dismayed."

In other, un-Greenspan-like news, he told the Financial Times that he supported the nationalization of banks.

"It may be necessary to temporarily nationalise some banks in order to facilitate a swift and orderly restructuring," he said. "I understand that once in a hundred years this is what you do."

Nationalisations would "allow the government to transfer toxic assets to a bad bank without the problem of how to price them."

They key to saving the economy is jobs. Without jobs Americans cannot buy thus the economy doesn't grow. Obama and Congress should have concentrated on creating and saving jobs.
Goodyear Tire & Rubber, the biggest U.S. tire maker, plans to cut 5,000 jobs this year after posting a fourth-quarter loss of $330 million on a 21% decline in sales.

The cuts equal almost 7% of the Akron, Ohio-based company's work force and follow about 4,000 jobs it eliminated in the second half of last year.

Goodyear's loss amounted to $1.37 a share, or $1.18 a share excluding one-time charges or gains. Wall Street anticipated a loss of $1.03 a share on that basis, according to a Thomson Reuters analysts' survey.

Sales dipped to $4.1 billion from $5.2 billion a year earlier.

The economy pushed down the number of tires sold by 19% in the quarter, the company said Wednesday.

And stop bailing out the car companies. The government should be bailing out the economy not individual corporations. No matter how big they are. If the economy grows then the car companies will flourish. Don't put the cart before the horse. If are going to give GM our tax dollars make them a loan with a 20 percent interest rate. The same rate credit card companies charge consumers.
General Motors Corp. asked the U.S. for as much as $16.6 billion in new loans, more than doubling the aid to date, and said it needs some of the cash next month to survive as it sheds brands and cuts 47,000 more jobs worldwide.

Chrysler LLC, propped up like GM with federal assistance, said it’s seeking $5 billion more from the government and will shed 3,000 more positions.

The automakers’ fates are now in the hands of the Obama administration, which must decide whether to give them the additional money or let them go bankrupt. Robert Gibbs, President Barack Obama’s chief spokesman, yesterday didn’t rule out forcing the companies to restructure through bankruptcy.

“Most of the low-hanging fruit when it comes to cost cutting is gone,” said Rebecca Lindland, an IHS Global Insight Inc. analyst in Lexington, Massachusetts. “You get to the point where you’re throwing good money after bad.”

GM and Chrysler met a deadline yesterday to report progress in revamping operations with $17.4 billion in loans granted so far and got a boost from tentative accords with the United Auto Workers to cut labor costs. Now, they must show the U.S. by March 31 that they can return to profit in order to keep the money.

‘Tighten Things Down’

“We will tighten things down and hang on as long as we can” as the new request is considered, GM Chief Executive Officer Rick Wagoner said today in a Bloomberg Television interview. GM said it will run out of cash without a payment of $2 billion in March.

Maybe it's time to start bailing out yourself. We are headed for hard times. DON'T count on the government. But don't stick your money under a mattress either.
Debt-saddled Americans aren't going to get any life-altering cash out of the latest stimulus plan; it promises to put an additional $7.70 a week into most paychecks. But it's a sign of something bigger for many borrowers: The chance to build their own bailouts.

With some new debt-reducing tools, including a new foreclosure-relief program, and a bit of Washington-willed forbearance, it's time for cash-strapped folks to get on top of their bills. Make that just-in-time: households are spending almost 18 percent of their disposable income just making their monthly minimum payments, according to the Federal Reserve Board. Average household consumer debt tops $23,000, down 3.1 percent from year ago-levels, as consumers spent much of 2008 holding the line on their spending.

Digging out of that is a completely different exercise for folks who have the cash and credit ratings than it is for those who don't. That's especially true when it comes to mortgages, where if you don't need the money, it's there for the taking. With a credit score over 740, you can still get a 30-year fixed rate loan in the neighborhood of 5 percent, according to That's a great long-term deal that can boost your monthly cash flow and lock in a low rate for decades to come.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Mexican Gunmen Kill Police Officer, 10 Members of His Family

This is what we have in store for us--in America. We need to wake up to what's going on near our border. The drug gangs in Mexico are fighting over the increasingly growing market in the U.S. If they continue to get stronger this will mean more drugs on the streets of America. Border security has been scrapped as an issue because of the economic crisis and the lack of guts on the part of politicians in both parties. We can't afford to ignore this issue if we don't to wake up some day soon and find the drug gangs taking over the streets of America as they did in the 1980s:

Gunmen killed a state police officer and 10 members of his family, including five children, during a violent weekend that left at least a dozen Mexicans dead in separate events.

The shooting late Saturday also killed a street vendor in front of the house of state police officer Carlos Reyes, said Tabasco deputy prosecutor Alex Alvarez. Among the five children killed was a 2-year-old boy.

Reyes was a member of a special unit of high-level officers who investigated organized crime and kidnappings, the Latin American Herald Tribune reported.

Police hadn't determined a motive for the attack but Reyes directed a car chase and raids on two homes on Wednesday that led to the death of three suspected gang members and the arrest of seven others, Alvarez said.

"It is confirmed that [the assailants] wanted to kill the state police officer but they killed his whole family," Alvarez said.

At least a dozen gunmen in three SUVs sprayed the house with bullets, leaving police to find 11 bodies scattered inside three houses, the Latin American Herald Tribune reported.

An official from the Tabasco Attorney General's Office told the newspaper the killers "had no mercy" and were taken by complete surprise.

Meanwhile, seven people dining inside a new restaurant in Hostotipaquillo, western Mexico were also gunned down Saturday night.

Those attackers, armed with AK-47 and AR-15 assault rifles, arrived in four SUVs and opened fire, the Herald Tribune reported.

The violence is getting worse with guns obtained from you know where:
It's a bloodbath that started as a drug-gang kidnapping, ended in a shoot-out with Mexican troops. Twenty-one were killed in a snowy, desert town, including one soldier.

Since January 1, some 230 drug slayings have occurred around Juarez, Mexico's murder capital. Compare that to 75 this time last year, and you get a sense of the exploding violence, CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker reports.

Vicious cartels are battling to control the $14 billion a year illicit trade feeding an insatiable U.S. appetite for drugs. Mexican authorities are hitting the cartels with all they have.

Soldiers stormed a Juarez warehouse last week, seizing two tons of marijuana. Tuesday 10 gangsters were arrested in Mexico City with their cache of guns and grenades.

But the gangs have the money and the weapons to fight back.

"While drugs are being smuggled north, a lot of guns are going south," said Brian Jenkins, a terrorism expert at Rand Corp.

By U.S. estimates, 95 percent of cartel guns are smuggled from the states - 2,000 a day according to a recent investigation.

Janet Napolitano, the new head of Homeland Security, has ordered a crackdown on gun smuggling. On the streets of Juarez, it feels like war.

"It's such a huge fight that I don't think it will end," said Juarez resident Ricardo Felix. "It's going to continue until one of the cartels takes control of the country."

They had taken control of Villa Ahumada, the desert town where 21 died Tuesday.

Troops came in last year after traffickers killed three police chiefs, and forced the mayor to flee. Tijuana journalist, Vicente Calderon, says the government was slow to react the cartels' growing threat.

"The government used to tell us this is just a problem among drug cartels," said Calderon. "During the last two years, it's coming out into the surface and affecting everybody else."

With more than 6,000 slayings, 2008 was Mexico's most deadly year for drug violence.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

60 Minutes Exposes the Subprime Loan Industry

Finally we get the truth from the mainstream media about the sinister nature of the subprime scam which has plunged our country into near financial collapse. Read the full Transcript. Excerpt Below:

How did the mortgage industry destroy itself and set off an economic collapse that ruined the finances of millions of Americans? Executives tend to hold themselves blameless, saying that no one could have seen the disaster coming.

Well, judge for yourself after you hear the story of Paul Bishop, who worked at the nation's second largest savings and loan. World Savings Bank was among the industry's most admired mortgage lenders. But Bishop says the kind of lending practices he saw were leading to a world of trouble that would ultimately result in billions in losses and a federal investigation.

What does Paul Bishop say he told executives at World Savings, three years before the crash?

"We're breaking the law, okay? We're breaking the law. You know we're breaking the law. I know we're breaking the law. What the hell do you think is going on here? You know, you're granting too many people loans who simply can't qualify," Bishop told 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley.

Bishop's story is a rare inside look at forces that tore the economy apart, as seen by a plain-spoken loan salesman who is now suing World Savings, claiming that he was fired for telling executives what they didn't want to hear.

"I definitely talked to him about Enron. I said, 'We're sitting on an Enron.' This is…bigger than Enron. I mean, we’re doing four billion a month in loans. If housing drops, housing value drops, people start to default, you know? This is a nightmare. These people will not survive it," Bishop told Pelley.

Bishop was a mortgage salesman at World Savings San Francisco Loan Origination Center. He'd been a top salesman at IBM and spent years as a stock broker. Most everywhere he went, he had a reputation for speaking his mind and ruffling feathers. He joined World in 2002, in part, because of its history.

Bishop says the owners were Herb and Marion Sandler.

"And their reputation at the time was what?" Pelley asked.

"It was flawless, near as I could tell," Bishop said.

In fact, Herb and Marion Sandler were legendary. In 1963, they started Golden West Financial and grew to 285 branches under the name World Savings. The Sandlers' were known for careful, conservative lending. They've given away millions of dollars to charity and started an advocacy group for low income borrowers called the Center for Responsible Lending.

In 2006, just before the housing crash, the Sandlers sold their bank to Wachovia and pocketed $2.3 billion.

Trouble is, some of their money came from people like Betty Townes, who is financially ruined after being sold a series of World Savings mortgages she couldn't afford.

Asked how many times she refinanced, Townes said, "Well we refinanced practically every year."

World salesmen convinced Betty to refinance her mortgage four times in four years. She got about $20,000 each time. "Well, all I know that they told me this loan was best for me," she told Pelley.

But how could it be best when Betty's pension couldn't qualify her for the loans?

"They told me that they would go by my husband's payroll," she said.

"Even though he'd been laid off from the shipyard?" Pelley asked.

"No, he'd passed away," Townes replied.

[...]The loan World was selling was potentially risky. It's called an option ARM, but at World it went by the cheerful name "Pick-A-Payment." The monthly statement offered four different payment amounts that the homeowner could actually choose from. But, the lowest payment didn't even cover the interest on the loan. Deferred interest would add up month after month, leaving the homeowner farther and farther behind.

That's what happened to Betty Townes. World sold her four Pick-A-Payment loans, racking up $40,000 in fees and deferred interest for the bank. Now her full payment is larger than her monthly income.

"Hard to think of Betty without a home," Pelley noted.

"It’s horrifying to think of her without a home. It’s just unacceptable," Maeve-Elyse Brown said.

And she's not alone. Between 2003 and 2006, the total amount of deferred interest from World borrowers, choosing that lowest payment, jumped from $21 million to $1.2 billion.

"That’s the borrower saying to you 'I can’t make my payment' or 'I’m not making my payment.’ Now that was increasing at $100-million a month," Bishop said.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Obama's Stimulus Plan Passage a Pyrrhic Victory

If the stimulus plan fails all the blame will fall on the Democrats and Obama. This is what the Republicans want. Obama is being set up for the fall. Now he can no longer just blame Bush. He, and the Dems, will get the blame for whatever happens from now on. The stock market has already spoken. They don't like it. Despite the Obama rhetoric to the contrary, we are now more divided than ever. And it is very dubious whether the plan will work:

Less than one month after President Obama took office, Congress passed his flagship proposal Friday night, an unprecedented collection of tax cuts and new spending that Democrats say offers the country its best hope to fight the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

After a frenzied month of legislating, the House and Senate produced an economic stimulus bill estimated Friday to cost $787 billion, combining tax cuts with one-time spending on infrastructure investments, expanded unemployment benefits and other programs.

It passed both chambers on a largely party-line vote, winning the support of no Republicans in the House and only three in the Senate.

The outcome amounted to the first significant fruits of November's Democratic victory, in which Obama handily won the presidency while his party expanded its congressional majorities. For the first time in 14 years, Democrats have the power to legislate without serious Republican interference, and Friday they reveled in what many described as a new dawn for liberalism.

Democrats claimed a mandate to beef up the federal government's role in areas including transportation, alternative energy and school construction - and to take on whopping deficits to do so - citing a shift in popular opinion provoked by some of the most vexing domestic problems the country has encountered in decades.

[...]Although the dimensions of the final bill closely match a template presented by Obama after his election, the particulars were drafted by House Democratic leaders at the direction of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, who invoked special rules to streamline its passage to a final vote.

Many Republicans described the 1,071-page bill as an act of "generational theft" that would dangerously increase federal deficits, saying Pelosi's maneuvers had limited their ability to influence its contents. The fact that Obama was able to enact such a sweeping expansion of government's role with little of their cooperation betrayed much of his campaign-year rhetoric about seeking bipartisan consensus, several said.

Here is some idea of how this bill will affect you directly. It is unclear how all this will stimulate the economy:
The recovery package has tax breaks for families that send a child to college, purchase a new car, buy a first home or make the ones they own more energy efficient.

Millions of workers can expect to see about $13 extra in their weekly paychecks, starting around June, from a new $400 tax credit to be doled out through the rest of the year. Couples would get up to $800. In 2010, the credit would be about $7.70 a week, if it is spread over the entire year.

The $1,000 child tax credit would be extended to more low-income families that don't make enough money to pay income taxes, and poor families with three or more children will get an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit.

Middle-income and wealthy taxpayers will be spared from paying the Alternative Minimum Tax, which was designed 40 years ago to make sure wealthy taxpayers pay at least some tax, but was never indexed for inflation. Congress fixes it each year, usually in the fall.

First-time homebuyers who purchase their homes before Dec. 1 would be eligible for an $8,000 tax credit, and people who buy new cars before the end of the year can write off the sales taxes.

Homeowners who add energy-efficient windows, furnaces and air conditioners can get a tax credit to cover 30 percent of the costs, up to a total of $1,500. College students — or their parents — are eligible for tax credits of up to $2,500 to help pay tuition and related expenses in 2009 and 2010.

Those receiving unemployment benefits this year wouldn't pay any federal income taxes on the first $2,400 they receive.

You can forget universal health coverage:
Many workers who lose their health insurance when they lose their jobs will find it cheaper to keep that coverage while they look for work.

Right now, most people working for medium and large employers can continue their coverage for 18 months under the COBRA program when they lose their job. It's expensive, often over $1,000 a month, because they pay the share of premiums once covered by their employer as well as their own share from the old group plan.

Under the stimulus package, the government will pick up 65 percent of the total cost of that premium for the first nine months.

Lawmakers initially proposed to help workers from small companies, too, who don't generally qualify for COBRA coverage. But that fell through. The idea was to have Washington pay to extend Medicaid to them.

Why isn't there more going into infrastructure? Which is what is really needed to get the economy going again. It is also essential if we are to survive. America is crumbling. This is another problem with stimulus plan:
Highways repaved for the first time in decades. Century-old waterlines dug up and replaced with new pipes. Aging bridges, stressed under the weight of today's SUVs, reinforced with fresh steel and concrete.

But the $90 billion is a mere down payment on what's needed to repair and improve the country's physical backbone. And not all economists agree it's an effective way to add jobs in the long term, or stimulate the economy.

One thing is for sure, the plan will lead to a skyrocketing deficit and debt. This means more borrowing from Communist China. Not a good thing:
One thing about the president's $790 billion stimulus package is certain: It will jack up the federal debt.

Whether or not it succeeds in producing jobs and taming the recession, tomorrow's taxpayers will end up footing the bill.

Forecasters expect the 2009 deficit — for the budget year that began last Oct 1 — to hit $1.6 trillion including new stimulus and bank-bailout spending. That's about three times last year's shortfall.

The torrents of red ink are being fed by rising federal spending and falling tax revenues from hard-hit businesses and individuals.

The national debt — the sum of all annual budget deficits — stands at $10.7 trillion. Or about $36,000 for every man, woman and child in the U.S.

Interest payments alone on the national debt will near $500 billion this year. It's already the fourth-largest federal expenditure, after Medicare-Medicaid, Social Security and defense.

This will affect us all directly for years, as well as our children and possibly grandchildren, in higher taxes and probably reduced government services. It will also force continued government borrowing, increasingly from China, Japan, Britain, Saudi Arabia and other foreign creditors.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Buffalo Plane Crash - Media Overkill

There hadn't been a plane crash (sorry no video) of a commercial airline in over 2 years. So I suppose we should be understanding while we get saturation coverage of the Buffalo plane crash. But If you wanted to hear other news you are out of luck. There is nothing the media loves more than a nice plane crash with plenty of fatalities. The only thing that beats that is a "miraculous" landing of a flight in the river. For those of us living in New York we can barely get the weather forecast or road reports. We are seeing the same video with the same interviews over and over and over again. And then there is the dramatic stories:

A widow of a victim of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center was among those killed in a plane crash near Buffalo, N.Y., late Thursday, her sister told a local newspaper.

"We know she was on that plane and now she's with him," Beverly Eckert’s sister Sue Borque told The Buffalo News.

Eckert's husband, Sean Rooney, was a native of Buffalo, the newspaper said. Eckert was flying to Buffalo for celebrations with relatives marking the 58th birthday of her late husband, the paper said.

MSNBC's headline is misleading: "Plane slams into New York home, killing dozens." It gives the impression that the plane landed in the middle of NYC.

If there hadn't been a plane crash you were heard about whether it was Paris Hilton who led caused the fight between Rihanna and Chris Brown. Or whether the mother of the 8 children was obsessed Angelina Jolie.

What should be the top story is the serious matter of whether vaccines cause autism. You've barely heard about that:
Bitter feuding over a possible link between vaccines and autism won't go away despite a strong rejection of that theory by a special federal court.

Thousands of families were hoping to win compensation and vindication through three test cases presented to the court. They contended that a combination of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine plus other shots triggered autism.

Officials with the U.S. Court of Claims said they sympathized with the families, but there was little if any evidence to support claims of a vaccine-autism link.

The evidence "is weak, contradictory and unpersuasive," concluded Special Master Denise Vowell. "Sadly, the petitioners in this litigation have been the victims of bad science conducted to support litigation rather than to advance medical and scientific understanding" of autism.

Attorneys for the families said an appeal is a distinct possibility. They also noted that the court still must rule on another theory that vaccines once carrying a mercury-containing preservative are to blame.

The head of a consumer group that questions vaccine safety said she still felt there were the possibility of a link.

"I think it is a mistake to conclude that because these few test cases were denied compensation, that it's been decided vaccines don't play any role in regressive autism," said Barbara Loe Fisher, president of the National Vaccine Information Center.

Science years ago concluded there's no connection, but Thursday's rulings in a trio of cases still have far-reaching implications. The move offers reassurance to parents scared about vaccinating their babies because of a small but vocal anti-vaccine movement. Some vaccine-preventable diseases, including measles, are on the rise, and last fall a Minnesota baby who hadn't been vaccinated against meningitis died of that disease.

"We need ongoing research into the causes of autism but cannot let unfounded myths keep us from giving our children the proven protection they need against infectious diseases," said Dr. Joseph Heyman, chairman of the American Medical Association.

Back to 24 hours of cable TV plane crash coverage. At least you will learn about the history of plane crashes, icing on plane wings, and watch Google maps view of the house before it got blown to smithereens. Who knows when we'll have the next plane crash.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Tens of Thousands of U.S. Guns Missing in Afghanistan

Sounds a lot like Iraq. And it is another argument for getting out of Afghanistan as well. It's bad enough that our troops have to fight the Taliban and al Qaeda but they are probably using our guns.

More than one-third of all weapons the United States has procured for Afghanistan's government are missing, according to a government report released Thursday.

The U.S. military failed to "maintain complete inventory records for an estimated 87,000 weapons -- or about 36 percent -- of the 242,000 weapons that the United States procured and shipped to Afghanistan from December 2004 through June 2008," a U.S. Government Accountability Office report states.

"Accountability lapses occurred throughout the supply chain," it says.

The Defense Department spent roughly $120 million during that period to acquire a range of small arms and light weapons for the Afghan National Security Forces, including rifles, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

The military also failed to properly account for an additional 135,000 weapons it obtained for the Afghan forces from 21 other countries.

And if you need more convincing that we should get out of Afghanistan? Just ask the Russians:
Twenty years have passed since the Soviet Union ended its disastrous military venture in Afghanistan. Some Soviet veterans were traumatized by the war and refuse to talk about it, others reflect on the experience and draw lessons they say apply to NATO forces that have been fighting Afghan rebels since 2001.

On February 15, 1989, Commanding General Boris Gromov was the last Soviet soldier to leave Afghanistan, walking across the Friendship Bridge that connected that war-torn country with what was then Soviet Uzbekistan.

Nearly 15,000 soldiers, advisors, and other Soviet officials died during the war that Moscow launched in December 1979. Today, Gromov is convinced there are no military solutions to political problems in Afghanistan. He spoke at a recent Moscow news conference.

Gromov says force will accomplish nothing in Afghanistan, and notes that increasing or decreasing troop strength will only bring a negative result. The general says the best way to deal with Afghans is to reach an agreement with them.

[...]A complicating factor today, he says, is Afghanistan's burgeoning drug trade, which is funding the Taliban. This, he says, forces NATO to fight opium farmers and increases popular opposition to the alliance.

Like in Iraq, we don't have enough troops to rollback the enemy in Afghanistan:
Top US military officer Admiral Mike Mullen said on Tuesday more American troops were needed in Afghanistan as soon as possible to hold territory where insurgents have been routed.

Mullen told a news conference it was up to President Barack Obama to decide when to deploy additional troops to Afghanistan, but he said time was of the essence at what he called a critical period for the country.

During a visit to the Canadian capital to discuss the Afghan war among other issues, Mullen was asked about the possible reinforcement of the US mission as requested by the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, General David McKiernan.

"The general had this request out for many months and those working through the request recognise that the sooner the better with respect to this," Mullen said.

He said 2009 was a crucial moment with elections scheduled later in the year and an increasingly violent insurgency in the south and east of the country.

"I'm hopeful that we can get them there as soon as absolutely possible, but, again, that's a decision for the president of the United States, not for me."

He said more US troops were needed to allow for development and aid projects to go ahead as insurgents were often moving back into areas where NATO forces had previously pushed them out.

"It's got to be enough forces to be able not just to clear, but we've got to have enough forces in there to hold, which we haven't had in the past," the US admiral said.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Is President Obama Clueless on National Security?

The new President has shown little interest when it comes to national security issues. And it ain't just the pressing issues having to do with the collapsing economy. And he doesn't seem to have many answers on that front either. But appointing a lobbyist to run the Pentagon raises serious questions about the President's commitment to change in Washington. But Lyon was only a tip of the iceberg. Previously, Mr.Obama had picked a political hack, Leon Panetta, as the new CIA Director. He kept Bush's Secretary of Defense. He chose another political hack, Hillary Clinton, as the Secretary of State. This suggests to me that we have a President who is willing to politicize national defense, much like his disastrous predecessor. And lets not forget what happened with Bush: 9-11 happened. And let's not forget that Clinton faced a World Trade Center attack just weeks into his presidency. Given this President's lack of national defense expertise, we expect another major attack on America:

The Senate voted 93 to 4 on Wednesday to confirm William J. Lynn III as deputy defense secretary, which will put a former military lobbyist in charge of day-to-day operations at the Pentagon.

The Senate Intelligence Committee, meeting in closed session, approved without opposition the nomination of Leon E. Panetta to head the Central Intelligence Agency, a committee spokesman, Philip LaVelle, said.

Mr. Panetta, a former congressman who was chief of staff for President Bill Clinton, has no direct intelligence-gathering or analysis experience. Mr. Obama said he was selected because of his managerial skills and ability to repair the agency’s relationship with Congress.

Not to mention the Obama administration's backsliding on his opposition to the fascist tactics of George W.:
Bad news today for people who were hoping that Barack Obama would roll back some of the imperial executive which Bush, Cheney and their wacky legal theorists built over the last eight years. The new administration's lawyers picked up a questionable legal theory from the old administration, that national security trumps due process of law.

The issue came up Monday in a court case where five former detainees are suing for Boeing helping with the Bush administration's "extraordinary rendition" program. The Bush administration had argued that the case should be dismissed because, as today's New York Times puts it, "even discussing it in court could threaten national security and relations with other nations."

Candidate Obama was rather critical of extraordinary renditions. So the judges hearing the case on Monday were a bit taken aback when governmental lawyer Douglas Letter declined an opportunity to change the government's argument in the case.

And he certainly doesn't know what to do with Afghanistan. A knowledgeable analyst of the war in that country would tell the new President that there is no winning there. But Barack will remain in Afghanistan because it is too political sensitive for the President to pull out. We will remain in a quagmire for years to come because Mr.Obama doesn't want to be soft on terror. Just like JFK didn't want to be seen as soft on Communism when escalated our involvement in Vietnam.
President Obama is facing a choice on whether to grant commanders’ requests for additional troops in Afghanistan before he has decided on his new strategy there.

While the decision is expected to be the first significant military move of his presidency, defense officials said that Mr. Obama could choose a middle ground, deploying several thousand more troops there in the coming months but postponing a more difficult judgment on a much larger increase in personnel until after the administration completes a review of Afghanistan policy.

The officials said that Mr. Obama may deploy one or two additional brigades, between 3,500 and 7,000 soldiers.

But he has other options, and several administration officials said it was also possible — though less likely — that he could postpone any deployments until after his review was complete. Such a move would not find much favor with commanders in Afghanistan, who have a standing request for an additional three brigades, or more than 10,000 soldiers.

It is also possible that Mr. Obama will fill the request for all three brigades, administration officials said.

Mr. Obama’s military commanders want additional brigades in place by late spring or early summer as part of an effort to counter growing violence and chaos in Afghanistan, particularly before presidential elections that are expected to take place there in August.

Robert M. Gates, the defense secretary, said Tuesday that he had presented options to Mr. Obama that “give him several ways of going forward,” and added that he expected a determination “in the course of the next few days.”

Referring to the additional brigades being sought by commanders, Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, said Mr. Obama “could make a decision about none, one, two or all of them.”

Obama Florida Townhall Meeting Transcript (2-10-09)

Read the complete transcript here. Excerpts below:

OBAMA: You’ve seen a change in the economic conditions of your community.

You see, all too often in Washington, what happens is, is that people think in terms of numbers and statistics. They think about it in abstract terms.

But when we say we’ve lost 3.6 million jobs since this recession began, nearly 600,000 in the past month alone, when we say that Lee County has seen its unemployment rate go from 3.5 percent to nearly 10 percent in less than two years, when we talk about the plummeting home prices and soaring foreclosure rates that have plagued this area and the layoffs at companies like Kraft Construction and Chico’s (ph), companies that have sustained this community for years, we’re not just talking about faceless numbers.

We’re talking about families. We’re talking about some of the people in this town hall meeting today, your neighbors, your friends. We’re talking about people like Steve Atkins (ph), who joins us today with his wife, Michelle (ph), and their son, Bailey (ph), and daughter, Josie (ph).

Steve’s the president of a small construction company in Fort Myers that specializes in building and repairing schools, but work has slowed considerably, like it has across the board in the construction area. Now, he’s done what he can to reduce overhead costs, but he still has been forced to lay off half his workforce, which means that many of those people may now be trying to figure out how are they going to pay their mortgage, how are they going to pay for the basic necessities of life, which puts us on a downward economic spiral.

Steve and Michelle have made sacrifices of their own. They’ve sold their home and moved into a smaller one.

And that’s what this debate is about: folks in Fort Myers and all across the country who have lost their livelihoods and don’t know what will take its place, parents who’ve lost their health care and lie awake at night praying their kids don’t get sick, families who’ve lost the home that was the foundation of their American dream, young people who put that college acceptance letter back in the envelope because they can’t afford it.

(APPLAUSE) That’s what’s behind the numbers; that’s what’s behind the statistics; that’s the true measure of this economic crisis. Those are the stories I heard every time I came to Florida, because this isn’t new. When we were campaigning down here, before the election, I was hearing about Florida suffering the first recession that it had in 16 years.

We didn’t know then how deep it was going to go. Well, it’s gone deep. It’s gotten worse. And the stories that I’ve heard here in Florida and in Indiana and all across the country I carried with me to the White House.


I promised you back then that, if elected president, I would do everything I could to help our communities recover, that I would not forget. And that’s why I’ve come back here today to tell you how I intend to keep that promise to make communities like Fort Myers stronger.


So the situation we face could not be more serious; I don’t have to tell you that. We’ve inherited an economic crisis as deep and as dire as any since the Great Depression.

And economists across the spectrum have warned, if we don’t act immediately, then millions more jobs will disappear, the national unemployment rates will approach double digits, more people will lose their homes and their health care, and our nation will sink into a crisis that at some point is going to be that much tougher to reverse.

So we cannot afford to wait. We can’t wait and see and hope for the best. I believe in hope, but I also believe in action.


We can’t afford to posture and bicker and resort to the same failed ideas that got us into this mess in the first place.


That’s what the election was about. You rejected many of those ideas because you know they didn’t work. You didn’t send us to Washington because you were hoping for more of the same; you sent us there to change things. And that’s exactly what I intend to do as president of the United States.


OBAMA: The problems that led us into this crisis are deep, they’re widespread, and so we’re going to have to do a lot of different things to get the economy moving again. We need to stabilize and repair our financial system.

We need to get credit flowing again to families and businesses. We need to stem the spread of foreclosures that are sweeping this country.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Obama Press Conference Transcript (2-9-09)

Read the complete transcript here. Partial below:

Question: Thank you, Mr. President. Earlier today in Indiana, you said something striking. You said that this nation could end up in a crisis without action that we would be unable to reverse.

Can you talk about what you know or what you're hearing that would lead you to say that our recession might be permanent when others in our history have not? And do you think that you risk losing some credibility or even talking down the economy by using dire language like that?

Obama: No, no, no, no. I think that what I've said is what other economists have said across the political spectrum, which is that, if you delay acting on an economy of this severity, then you potentially create a negative spiral that becomes much more difficult for us to get out of.

We saw this happen in Japan in the 1990s, where they did not act boldly and swiftly enough and, as a consequence, they suffered what was called the lost decade, where essentially, for the entire '90s, they did not see any significant economic growth.

So what I'm trying to underscore is what the people in Elkhart already understand, that this is not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill recession. We are going through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

We've lost now 3.6 million jobs, but what's perhaps even more disturbing is that almost half of that job loss has taken place over the last three months, which means that the problems are accelerating instead of getting better.

Now, what I said in Elkhart today is what I repeat this evening, which is, I'm absolutely confident that we can solve this problem, but it's going to require us to take some significant, important steps.

Step number one: We have to pass an economic recovery and reinvestment plan. And we've made progress. There was a vote this evening that moved the process forward in the Senate. We already have a House bill that's passed. I'm hoping, over the next several days, that the House and the Senate can reconcile their differences and get that bill on my desk.

There have been criticisms from a bunch of different directions about this bill, so let me just address a few of them.

Some of the criticisms really are with the basic idea that government should intervene at all in this moment of crisis. Now, you have some people, very sincere, who philosophically just think the government has no business interfering in the marketplace. And, in fact, there are several who've suggested that FDR [President Roosevelt] was wrong to interfere back in the New Deal. They're fighting battles that I thought were resolved a pretty long time ago.

Most economists almost unanimously recognize that, even if philosophically you're -- you're wary of government intervening in the economy, when you have the kind of problem we have right now -- what started on Wall Street, goes to Main Street, suddenly businesses can't get credit, they start paring back their investment, they start laying off workers, workers start pulling back in terms of spending -- that, when you have that situation, that government is an important element of introducing some additional demand into the economy.

We stand to lose about $1 trillion worth of demand this year and another trillion next year. And what that means is you've got this gaping hole in the economy.

That's why the figure that we initially came up with of approximately $800 billion was put forward. That wasn't just some random number that I plucked out of -- out of a hat. That was Republican and Democratic, conservative and liberal economists that I spoke to who indicated that, given the magnitude of the crisis and the fact that it's happening worldwide, it's important for us to have a bill of sufficient size and scope that we can save or create 4 million jobs.

That still means that you're going to have some net job loss, but at least we can start slowing the trend and moving it in the right direction.

Now, the recovery and reinvestment package is not the only thing we have to do. It's one leg of the stool. We are still going to have to make sure that we are attracting private capital, get the credit markets flowing again, because that's the lifeblood of the economy.

And so tomorrow my treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, will be announcing some very clear and specific plans for how we are going to start loosening up credit once again.

And that means having some transparency and oversight in the system. It means that we correct some of the mistakes with TARP [Troubled Asset Relief Program] that were made earlier, the lack of consistency, the lack of clarity, in terms of how the program was going to move forward.

It means that we condition taxpayer dollars that are being provided to banks on them showing some restraint when it comes to executive compensation, not using the money to charter corporate jets when they're not necessary.

It means that we focus on housing and how are we going to help homeowners that are suffering foreclosure or homeowners who are still making their mortgage payments, but are seeing their property values decline.

So there are going to be a whole range of approaches that we have to take for dealing with the economy. My bottom line is to make sure that we are saving or creating 4 million jobs, we are making sure that the financial system is working again, that homeowners are getting some relief.

And I'm happy to get good ideas from across the political spectrum, from Democrats and Republicans. What I won't do is return to the failed theories of the last eight years that got us into this fix in the first place, because those theories have been tested, and they have failed. And that's what part of the election in November was all about.

Obama Indiana Townhall Transcript (2-9-09)

Read the complete transcript here. Partial below:

I don’t know if you guys have been noticing, but we’ve had a little debate in Washington over the last week or two about the economy. You know, we tend to take the measure of the economic crisis we face in numbers and statistics.

But when we say that we’ve lost 3.6 million jobs since this recession began, nearly 600,000 in the past month alone, when we say that this area has lost jobs faster than anywhere else in the United States of America, with an unemployment rate of over 15 percent when it was 4.7 percent just last year, when we talk about layoffs in companies like Monaco Coach and Keystone RV and Pilgrim International, companies that have sustained this community for years, we’re not just talking numbers. We’re talking about Ed. We’re talking about the people in the audience here today, people not just in Elkhart, but all across this country.

We’re talking about people who’ve lost their livelihood and don’t know what will take its place. We’re talking about parents who’ve lost their health care and lie awake at night praying their kids don’t get sick. We’re talking about families who’ve lost the home that was the corner, their foundation for their American dream, young people who put that college acceptance letter back in the envelope because they just can’t afford it.

That’s what those numbers and statistics mean. That is the true measure of this economic crisis. Those are the stories I heard when I came to Elkhart six months ago, and those are the stories that I carried with me to the White House.

I have not forgotten them. And I promised you back then that, if elected, I’d do everything I could to help this community recover, and that’s why I came back today, because I intend to keep my promise.


I intend to keep my promise. But, you know, the work is going to be hard. I don’t -- I don’t want to lie to people, and that’s why we’re having a town hall meeting. Because the situation we face could not be more serious.

OBAMA: We have inherited an economic crisis as deep and as dire as any since the Great Depression. Economists from across the spectrum have warned that, if we don’t act immediately, millions of more jobs will be lost.

The national unemployment rates will approach double digits, not just here in Elkhart, all across the country. More people will lose their homes and their health care. And our nation will sink into a crisis that at some point we may be unable to reverse.

So we can’t afford to wait. We can’t wait and see and hope for the best. We can’t posture and bicker and resort to the same failed ideas that got us into this mess in the first place.


That was what this election was all about: The American people rejected those ideas because they hadn’t worked.


You didn’t send us to Washington because you were hoping for more of the same; you sent us there to -- to change things, the expectation that we would act quickly and boldly to carry out change, and that’s exactly what I intend to do as president of the United States of America.


That’s why I put forth a recovery and reinvestment plan that is now before Congress. At its core is a very simple idea: to put Americans back to work doing the work America needs to be done.

Ed -- Ed said it better than anybody could. He said, look, folks in Elkhart, they want to work. Nobody’s looking for a handout. Everybody just wants to be able to get a job that supports a family.

And we’ve got the most productive workers on Earth.


We’ve got the best workers right here in Elkhart, who are willing to put in hard time and do whatever it takes to make sure a company succeeds, but they’ve got to have a chance.

The plan that we’ve put forward will save or create 3 million to 4 million jobs over the next two years, but not just any jobs, jobs that meet the needs we’ve neglected for far too long, jobs that lay the groundwork for long-term economic growth, jobs fixing our schools and computerizing our medical records to save costs and save lives, jobs repairing our roads and our bridges and our levees, jobs investing in renewable energy to help us move towards energy independence.


The plan also calls for immediate tax relief for 95 percent of American workers, so that you, who are being pinched, even if you still have a job, with rising costs while your wages and incomes are flat-lined, you’ll actually have a little bit of extra money at the end of the month to buy the necessities for you and your children.

Now, I know that some of you might be thinking, “Well, all that sounds good. But when are we going to see any of this here in Elkhart? What does all this mean to my family, to my community?”

And those are exactly the kinds of questions you should be asking your president and your government, and today I want to provide some answers. And I want to be as specific as I can.

Number one, this plan will provide for extended unemployment insurance, health care, and other assistance for workers...


... other assistance for workers and families who’ve lost their jobs in this recession. So if you’ve lost your job, for example, under existing law, you can get COBRA -- some of you have heard of COBRA -- but the only problem is, it’s so expensive, it doesn’t do you any good.


So what we’ve said is -- what we’ve said is, we will help subsidize people so they can keep -- at least keep their health insurance while they’re out there looking for a new job. This plan will also -- and what this means is, from the perspective of unemployment insurance, you will have an additional $100 per month in unemployment benefits that will go to more than 450,000 Indiana workers, extended unemployment benefits for another 89,000 folks who’ve been laid off and can’t find work, and job training assistance to help more than 51,000 people here get back on their feet.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

CEOs Paying for Prostitutes with Company Credit Card: Video

This video (ABC) details a madam's (Kristin Davis) claim that some corporate CEOs paid for her prostitutes on the company credit card. She also claims that after her arrest prosecutors were not interested the names of those powerful business figures. I wonder why. I also wonder how much of that bailout money is going to pay for hookers.

Australia Wildfires: More Proof of the Global Warming Threat

Australia wildfires that have killed 84 people are more proof that global warming is a real threat.

Towering flames razed entire towns in southeastern Australia and burned fleeing residents in their cars as the death toll rose to 84 on Sunday, making it the country's deadliest fire disaster.

At least 700 homes were destroyed in Saturday's inferno when searing temperatures and wind blasts produced a firestorm that swept across a swath of the country's Victoria state, where all the deaths occurred.

"Hell in all its fury has visited the good people of Victoria," Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told reporters as he toured the fire zone on Sunday. "It's an appalling tragedy for the nation."

This from the Guardian:
Scientists are reluctant to link ­individual weather events to global warming, because natural variability will always throw up extreme events. However, they say that climate change loads the dice, and can make severe episodes more likely.

Some studies have started to say how much global warming contributed to severe weather. Experts at the UK Met Office and Oxford University used computer models to say man-made climate change made the killer European heatwave in 2003 about twice as likely. In principle, the technique could be repeated with any extreme storm, drought or flood – which could pave the way for lawsuits from those affected.

Bob Brown, a senator who leads the Australian Greens, said the bushfires showed what climate change could mean for Australia.

"Global warming is predicted to make this sort of event happen 25%, 50% more," he told Sky News. "It's a sobering reminder of the need for this nation and the whole world to act and put at a priority our need to tackle climate change."

Models suggest global warming could bring temperature rises as high as 6C for Australia this century, if global emissions continue unabated, with rainfall decreasing in the southern states and increasing further north. As if to demonstrate that, Queensland, in the north, is currently experiencing widespread flooding after rainfall of historic proportions.

More than 60% of Queensland has been declared a disaster zone in the worst floods for more than 30 years. Some 3,000 homes have been affected, and the main highway between Cairns and Townsville has been cut off.

The government is warning us about how bad it will be:
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a strong warning that global warming will have "substantial human health impacts" within the next few decades. The warning came in a report released only days after the same agency declined to regulate global warming-causing greenhouse gases as pollutants under the Clean Air Act.

"Today typifies the climate-change schizophrenia in the Bush administration," said U.S. Rep. Edward J. Markey, chair of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. "On one hand, government scientists are saying that global warming poses grave threats to our health and our welfare, and, on the other hand, [there] are White House political hacks following the oil industry's bidding to do nothing."

The EPA report warns that rising temperatures will cause air quality to worsen in Eastern cities, as well as more deaths among the elderly, the poor and inner-city dwellers during future heat waves.

"It's going to be hotter; it's going to be hotter sooner in the year than it was in the past," said co-author Kristie Ebi. Young people now living near Washington "[are] going to look back and think back about how nice the summers used to be," she said. "Within 20, 30 years, on average, the [public] should notice that it's warmer."

Global warming is also likely to lead to more frequent and powerful hurricanes, dwindling water supplies in the West, loss of coastal land to rising sea levels and storm surges, and the more rapid spread of food- and water-borne illnesses.