Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Carnage In Iraq Continues

As the US keeps telling its citizens that the surge is working, evidence continues to mount that all the surge has done is move the violence to other areas. Our game of wack a mole with the lives of Iraqi civilians continues. Today Karbala was the scene of a massive car bomb that killed 36 while 289 deaths were recorded throughout Iraq.
Two months into the U.S.-led Baghdad Security Plan, at least 289 people were killed and injured across Iraq on Saturday, including 36 dead in a car bomb attack in the holy Shiite city of Karbala. The carnage of a crowd teeming with women and children set off an angry mob of hundreds against the governor and police.

The morning bombing outside a bus station and marketplace ripped through vendor stands near a Shiite shrine where the grandson of the prophet Mohammed is buried.

Bodies littered the street and body parts were found as far as 160 yards from the site of the explosion. Three buses of passengers were charred and storefronts lay in shambles.

At least 167 people were injured in the bombing, but the death toll was expected to increase because of still-unidentified bodies and serious injuries, said Saleem Kadhim, spokesman for the Karbala health directorate.
How can President Bush sleep at night knowing that his actions have led to such an unmitigated disaster? This is his war, he owns it and all of its consequences. How can anyone realistically say that the Iraqi population is better off now than they were under Saddam Hussein? As much as I want our troops home what hell will we leave behind for the innocent population of Iraq? It is becoming very obvious that the only way peace will be achieved is through a diplomatic solution that may not even exist. In the end Iraq will be led by another strong man and all this death, destruction and misery will have been for nothing. Our troops who were not seriously wounded or killed will face a lifetime of emotional scars. Even when you win a war you lose.

Red the rest of this article here.

Democrats Want Middle Class Tax Relief

The Alternative Minimum Tax is poised to effect millions of Middle Class Americans if Congress does not act. The tax was originally created to keep the rich from avoiding taxes but it could soon effect more of the middle class.
The alternative minimum tax, initially intended to ensure that the rich could not take so many deductions and credits that they paid no federal income taxes, will hit some 23 million taxpayers next spring when they file their 2007 income tax returns unless Congress takes action.

"This tax now affects schoolteachers, firefighters, police officers. It was never intended to be that way," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel, an Illinois Democrat who sits on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives.

"Middle-class families making between $75,000 and $100,000 are now more likely this year to pay the tax than those making more than a million dollars," Emanuel said in the weekly Democratic radio address.
If the tax is repealed it would cost 50 Billion per year and those revenues would need to be made up in some fashion. Expect lots of disagreements as to how this lost revenue will be made up.

Harvey Fierstein's Brilliant Op-Ed

AMERICA is watching Don Imus’s self-immolation in a state of shock and awe. And I’m watching America with wry amusement.

Since I’m a second-class citizen — a gay man — my seats for the ballgame of American discourse are way back in the bleachers. I don’t have to wait long for a shock jock or stand-up comedian to slip up with hateful epithets aimed at me and mine. Hate speak against homosexuals is as commonplace as spam. It’s daily traffic for those who profess themselves to be regular Joes, men of God, public servants who live off my tax dollars, as well as any number of celebrities.

In fact, I get a good chuckle whenever someone refers to “the media” as an agent of “the gay agenda.” There are entire channels, like Spike TV, that couldn’t fill an hour of programming if required to remove their sexist and homophobic content. We’ve got a president and a large part of Congress willing to change the Constitution so they can deprive of us our rights because they feel we are not “normal.”

So I’m used to catching foul balls up here in the cheap seats. What I am really enjoying is watching the rest of you act as if you had no idea that prejudice was alive and well in your hearts and minds.

For the past two decades political correctness has been derided as a surrender to thin-skinned, humorless, uptight oversensitive sissies. Well, you anti-politically correct people have won the battle, and we’re all now feasting on the spoils of your victory. During the last few months alone we’ve had a few comedians spout racism, a basketball coach put forth anti-Semitism and several high-profile spoutings of anti-gay epithets.

What surprises me, I guess, is how choosy the anti-P.C. crowd is about which hate speech it will not tolerate. Sure, there were voices of protest when the TV actor Isaiah Washington called a gay colleague a “faggot.” But corporate America didn’t pull its advertising from “Grey’s Anatomy,” as it did with Mr. Imus, did it? And when Ann Coulter likewise tagged a presidential candidate last month, she paid no real price.

In fact, when Bill Maher discussed Ms. Coulter’s remarks on his HBO show, he repeated the slur no fewer than four times himself; each mention, I must note, solicited a laugh from his audience. No one called for any sort of apology from him. (Well, actually, I did, so the following week he only used it once.)

Face it, if a Pentagon general, his salary paid with my tax dollars, can label homosexual acts as “immoral” without a call for his dismissal, who are the moral high and mighty kidding?

Our nation, historically bursting with generosity toward strangers, remains remarkably unkind toward its own. Just under our gleaming patina of inclusiveness, we harbor corroding guts. America, I tell you that it doesn’t matter how many times you brush your teeth. If your insides are rotting your breath will stink. So, how do you people choose which hate to embrace, which to forgive with a wink and a week in rehab, and which to protest? Where’s my copy of that rule book?

Let me cite a non-volatile example of how prejudice can cohabit unchecked with good intentions. I am a huge fan of David Letterman’s. I watch the opening of his show a couple of times a week and have done so for decades. Without fail, in his opening monologue or skit Mr. Letterman makes a joke about someone being fat. I kid you not. Will that destroy our nation? Should he be fired or lose his sponsors? Obviously not.

But I think that there is something deeper going on at the Letterman studio than coincidence. And, as I’ve said, I cite this example simply to illustrate that all kinds of prejudice exist in the human heart. Some are harmless. Some not so harmless. But we need to understand who we are if we wish to change. (In the interest of full disclosure, I should confess to not only being a gay American, but also a fat one. Yes, I’m a double winner.)

I urge you to look around, or better yet, listen around and become aware of the prejudice in everyday life. We are so surrounded by expressions of intolerance that I am in shock and awe that anyone noticed all these recent high-profile instances. Still, I’m gladdened because our no longer being deaf to them may signal their eventual eradication.

The real point is that you cannot harbor malice toward others and then cry foul when someone displays intolerance against you. Prejudice tolerated is intolerance encouraged. Rise up in righteousness when you witness the words and deeds of hate, but only if you are willing to rise up against them all, including your own. Otherwise suffer the slings and arrows of disrespect silently.

Harvey Fierstein is an actor and playwright.

Lee Iacocca - Throw The Bums Out

The former head of Chrysler lee Iacocca has a new book out "Where Have All The Leaders Gone". Here is a brief excerpt:
Am I the only guy in this country who's fed up with what's happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can't even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, "Stay the course."

Stay the course? You've got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned Titanic. I'll give you a sound bite: Throw the bums out!
Read the rest of the excerpt here

Friday, April 13, 2007

Sub Prime Bailout Could Top 120 Billion

The sub prime mortgage crisis could result in foreclosures of over 1 million homes in the next six years. The cost of a federal bailout could top 120 billion. The sub prime mortgage crisis is the result of people being lured with teaser rates that can only adjust upward. Now that they are adjusting the borrowers simply can not afford the new payment. With home prices falling and the days of quick appreciation over this crisis will only deepen. People will walk away from their homes because they will be worth less than they paid for them. With the bankruptcy laws changed, people forced into foreclosure could be looking at a lifetime of debt. How can we insure that this does not happen again? How can we help those families forced into foreclosure without a federal bailout? This issue will only grow as we approach the 2008 elections.

Read the article here.

Four Years of Rove's E-Mails are Missing

The E-Mails that Karl Rove sent through the RNC servers to avoid having to comply with the Presidential Records Act are missing.
A lawyer for the Republican National Committee told congressional staff members yesterday that the RNC is missing at least four years' worth of e-mail from White House senior adviser Karl Rove that is being sought as part of investigations into the Bush administration, according to the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
I would like to know how this is possible without a deliberate attempt to get rid of the evidence. There are daily backups of all systems and other security measures taken by all firms to insure that data is not lost. If the e-mails are truly gone than this was a very deliberate and thought out exercise in covering their tracks. If this turns out to be the case then I believe Karl Rove and others in the administration need to be charged with obstruction of justice. When will the 30% of Americans that still support this administration finally have enough?

Read the rest of this article here

Why Imus?

With Don Imus being forced from his show and effectively ending a nearly 40 year career one must ask why him and why now? I think what he said was disgusting but it was no more offensive than the daily ramblings of Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, Rush Limbaugh, Neal Boortz or Ann Coulter. There isn't enough space on this page to list all the hateful rhetoric that has spewed from this group of hate mongers.

I think this incident with Imus was used by Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson to draw a line in the sand. Both Sharpton and Jackson have had their own share of bigoted comments so them being the spokespeople for what is acceptable is laughable but I think I understand their motivation.

Imus was an easy target because his comments were so bigoted that only the biggest bigots could possibly have thought the remarks were acceptable. Having Imus lose his career will no doubt send a chill down the spine of these other hate mongers. Will it change the discourse? Only time will tell.

I believe in free speech and I think this firing sets a dangerous precedent. The remarks of Don Imus were bigoted and stupid but who decides what is over the line and who decides where the line starts? Isn't the line decided by us all when we decide who we will listen to? Prejudice starts in the home and firing Imus will not change that but if it starts a discussion about what we as a society will tolerate than maybe this was good. If we just stop the bigoted talk in public but continue it in private than this incident has done nothing for society.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Pink - Dear Mr. President

Listen to this great song from Pink. It is reminiscent of protest songs from the 1960's.

Turkey Ready To Enter Northern Iraq

In the other war in Iraq the Turkish Government may allow raids into Northern Iraq to combat Kurdish rebels.
The head of Turkey's military stated publicly in the sharpest language to date that he was ready to conduct military operations in northern Iraq to crush Kurdish rebels hiding there. The final decision, however, rests with Parliament, he said.

A Turkish invasion of Iraq would be a nightmare for the United States, which is struggling to keep the war in Iraq from spreading outside that country's borders.
The Kurdish area of Iraq is supposed to be the United States shining example of democracy spreading in the region. This is what happens when you have no idea of the historical conflicts that plaqued the region. Iraq is an unmitigated disaster and no surge in the world will shut the gates of hell that were swung open when we invaded. We have doomed the population of Iraq to a generation of bloodshed.

Read the rest of the article here.

Bombing Hits Parliament In Iraq

A bomb went off in a cafeteria in the Parliament Building in Baghdad deep within the heavily fortified Green Zone. If the US military can not stop bombings even in the Green Zone what hope is there that this surge can actually work? With the US military death toll climbing and tours of duty extended when will the Generals finally turn on this disaster?
A bomb exploded in the Iraqi parliament's cafeteria in a stunning assault in the heart of the heavily fortified Green Zone Thursday, killing at least two lawmakers and wounding 10 other people.

The blast in the parliament building came hours after a suicide truck bomb blew up on a major bridge in Baghdad, collapsing the steel structure and sending cars tumbling into the Tigris River, police and witnesses said. At least 10 people were killed.
Iraq is in a civil war and nothing is going to change that militarily. I for one am tired of all the death and destruction. I often wonder how President Bush can sleep at night with so much blood on his hands.

Read the rest of this article here.

Four Years Later In Iraq

Todays NY Times Editorial is a sobering look at what four years of occupation in Iraq has brought to the US military as well as the Iraqi population. With tours of duty extended to 15 months for troops and our military at the breaking point and even the Shiite population turning on the occupation. Is there any hope left in Iraq?
Even among Shiites, who suffered so much at the hands of Saddam Hussein and who are the supposed beneficiaries of Mr. Maliki’s shortsighted policies, there is a deep disillusionment and anger. This week, a Washington Post reporter interviewed Khadim al-Jubouri, who four years ago swung his sledgehammer to help knock down the dictator’s statue. Mr. Jubouri said that ever since he watched that statue being built he had nourished a dream of bringing it down and ushering in much better times.

Now, with friends and relatives killed, kidnapped or driven from their homes, the prices of basic necessities soaring and electricity rationed to four hours a day, Mr. Jubouri says the change of regimes “achieved nothing” and he has come to hate the American military presence he once welcomed.
This is what happens when you go to war based on lies. Americans wonder why the Iraqi population is not grateful. Can you imagine having to live under the conditions these people have had to bare for four years? Read the rest of this editorial here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Home Prices Expected To Fall

Home Prices are expected to fall for the first time since The National Association Of Realtors began keeping records 40 years ago. With home affordability at an all time low this was not unexpected. Maybe we will finally get back to some sanity in the housing market
The National Association of Realtors said Wednesday it expects its measure of home prices to fall this year for the first time since the group began keeping track nearly 40 years ago.

In its latest monthly forecast, the real estate group said it expects a 0.7 percent decline in the median price of an existing home sold in 2007. A month ago it had been projecting a 1.2 percent increase. Half of all homes sell for more than the median and half for less.
Read the rest of this article here.

Bush Seeking War Czar

It seems President Bush can't handle being the decider. He is looking for a war czar to take over the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He must need to concentrate more on other things like bicycle riding. Maybe even he finally realizes how incompetent he truly is, unfortunately no one wants the job.
The White House wants to appoint a high-powered czar to oversee the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with authority to issue directions to the Pentagon, the State Department and other agencies, but it has had trouble finding anyone able and willing to take the job, according to people close to the situation.

At least three retired four-star generals approached by the White House in recent weeks have declined to be considered for the position, the sources said, underscoring the administration's difficulty in enlisting its top recruits to join the team after five years of warfare that have taxed the United States and its military.

"The very fundamental issue is, they don't know where the hell they're going," said retired Marine Gen. John J. "Jack" Sheehan, a former top NATO commander who was among those rejecting the job. Sheehan said he believes that Vice President Cheney and his hawkish allies remain more powerful within the administration than pragmatists looking for a way out of Iraq. "So rather than go over there, develop an ulcer and eventually leave, I said, 'No, thanks,' " he said.
Read the rest of the article here

Most People Not Ready For Retirement

Everyone needs to read this article
Overall, 40 percent of respondents said they are not currently saving for retirement while 34 percent said they didn't have any retirement money saved whatsoever. A full 25 percent, meanwhile, said they had no savings at all - retirement or otherwise.
With the end of traditional pensions fast approaching and the inability for Americans to both support their lifestyle and save for retirement are we headed for a time when the elderly poor population will explode? This seems very likely if current trends continue.

Mortgage Deliquencies Hit Record High in First Quarter

This article is bad news for Middle Class America since it was rising home values that made most people keep spending what they really didn't have.
Mortgage delinquency rates hit an all-time high in the first quarter of 2007, according to data compiled by Equifax and analyzed by Moody’s

At 6.19%, Detroit (above) is the metro area with the highest mortgage delinquency rate.

The percentage of mortgages in default rose to 2.87%, surpassing the worst levels following the 2001 recession.

“The news is unremittingly bad,” CNBC's Steve Liesman said Tuesday. “Delinquency rates were up in 44 of the 50 states.”
Since it was the psychological thought that the equity within the home was enough to continue spending will Americans now pull back and cause the economy into a recession? Most Americans believe it will.
I am sure a recession right before the 2008 elections is just what the Republicans fear the most but it might be just enough to finally show the average American that the Republican party does not and has not ever cared about your issues.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Americans Tortured by the American Government

This is what happens when you agree to give up your liberties for security. You wind up with neither.
Vance's nightmare began last year on Apr. 15 when he and co-worker Nathan Ertel barricaded themselves in a Baghdad office after their employer, an Iraqi private security firm, took away their ID tags. They feared for their lives because they suspected the company was involved in selling unauthorised guns on the black market and other nefarious activity. A U.S. military squad freed them from the red zone in Baghdad after a friend at the U.S. embassy advised him to call for help.

Once they reached the U.S.-controlled Green Zone, government officials took them inside the embassy, listened to their individual accounts and then sent them to a trailer outside for sleep. Two or three hours later, before the crack of dawn, U.S. military personnel woke them. This time, however, Vance and Ertel, Shield Security's contract manager, were under arrest. Soldiers bound their wrists with zip ties and covered their eyes with goggles blacked out with duct tape.
Read the rest of this article here

Monday, April 09, 2007

Circuit City To Fire Workers To Get Lower Wages

Last week Circuit City announced that they would be laying off employees and replacing them with lower paid workers. The fired employees are welcome to reapply for the jobs they were just fired from at the lower wage.
The electronics retailer, facing larger competitors and falling sales, said Wednesday that it would lay off about 3,400 store workers -- immediately -- and replace them with lower-paid new hires as soon as possible.

The laid-off workers, about 8 percent of the company's total work force, would get a severance package and a chance to reapply for their former jobs, at lower pay, after a 10-week delay, the company said.
Wal-Mart started the race to the bottom and others I am sure will follow suit. It is time to cross Circuit City off the list of retailers that you visit. Wal-Mart should already be on that list. I understand that when you are not performing well that changes need to be made but why is it that the employees are always the first ones hurt?

Class Struggle

Upon researching some old articles on the class struggle we now find ourselves in I came across this editorial in the Wall Street Journal from then Senator-Elect Jim Webb of Virginia
The most important--and unfortunately the least debated--issue in politics today is our society's steady drift toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century. America's top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years. It is not unfair to say that they are literally living in a different country. Few among them send their children to public schools; fewer still send their loved ones to fight our wars. They own most of our stocks, making the stock market an unreliable indicator of the economic health of working people. The top 1% now takes in an astounding 16% of national income, up from 8% in 1980. The tax codes protect them, just as they protect corporate America, through a vast system of loopholes.
Read the enire editorial. It is a sobering look at where we are today.

The White House E-Mail Troubles

The Presidential Records Act made Presidential records including e-mail public domain. By using off site GOP e-mail systems and avoiding the official White House E-Mail system did the Bush administration violate the law? It would appear they did because this was a deliberate attempt to circumvent the law and not allow their E-mails to be part of the public record. It seems the one major mistake they made was being caught. It will be highly unlikely that Presidential Privilege can be claimed on these e-mails. Its nice to see the rats caught up in their own web of deceit. When will the lies and deceit of this administration finally cause it to crumble? Why were lies about personal behavior during the Clinton years so horrible yet the same people who called for the impeachment of President Clinton have remained noticeably silent or have defended this administration. I am the only one who sees the hypocrisy. Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, last week formally requested access to broad categories of RNC-White House e-mails. I for one would be very interested in reading these e-mails. Who knows what other illegalities would be uncovered? It is nice to finally have oversight of an executive branch gone wild.

Welcome To Save The Middle Class

During the 1992 campaign for President, I became very interested in politics. In 1980, I cast my first vote for Ronald Reagan. Prior to the 1992 campaign I, like most Americans, had just a passing knowledge of the issues and voted based on that limited knowledge. By the 1992 campaign I had a much greater interest in knowing the complexities of the issues, and became a volunteer for the Clinton Campaign. Finally, I began to understand the intense complexities of the American political system.

Political discourse took a very negative turn during the Clinton Administration, as his enemies did everything in their power to bring down his Presidency -- and they almost succeeded. They allowed his personal mistakes to overshadow what was a very successful administration. I began to understand the unholy alliance between corporate interests and the so called “conservative right.” They began to divide us along the lines of left or right, liberal or conservative. Middle Class Americans were duped into believing that the conservative philosophy was moral and America’s best chance to remain the world’s greatest country. During this same time it was becoming harder and harder to maintain a middle class lifestyle. No longer was one income sufficient to have the same standard of living our parents enjoyed in the 1960s and 1970s. Gone were the days when one could work for a company for 20 years and expect a pension that would afford a decent lifestyle in the golden years.

It seemed to me that most people were basing their voting decisions on 30 second sound bytes. The candidate that spent the most money won nearly all the time. Politics became a game of raising money by any means necessary. With every large political contribution comes indebtedness to the donor. It was government for sale to the highest bidder. In many ways it is no different than the corruption that is rampant in many other world governments. It is government for the rich by the rich with the issues of middle and lower class Americans not on the agenda.

I decided to start this as a blog and hopefully grow it into a movement. The internet has the ability to mobilize people in a way not seen before. I hope to counter the right wing spin on issues and start to make people think, not in terms of right or left, but in terms of up and down. What do I mean by this? We need to start thinking in terms of our economic self interest. We need to vote based on where we are economically, not where we hope to be. One good example of this is the Estate Tax or Death Tax as it is called by those who want it repealed. This tax will affect less than 2% of all Americans according to theIRS Web Site, but its repeal would affect everyone. It would cut 1 trillion dollars from federal receipts at a time when our federal deficit is exploding. This would mean less money for schools, health care, and all other federal programs due to the loss of this revenue.

Most of us still consider ourselves middle class yet the United States savings rate is now negative which is the lowest rate since the great depression.

I plan to focus on these types of issues to highlight and expose reality from what we are being told. I hope by the election of 2008 I will have made a positive impact on your knowledge and that when you vote you will do so from a place of greater knowledge and understanding. All I ask is that you read this blog daily. I will highlight relevant stories that are not being reported by the so called mainstream media. I will call people to action to stop the spread of corporate influence in our politics. I welcome your comments and suggestions as I try to change the way people think of politics. Thanks for reading and again welcome to Save the Middle Class