Saturday, June 23, 2007

Crazy Redux

Thanks to Rosie for pointing me to this.

Eight U.S. Soldiers Are Killed in Iraq Violence

Eight American servicemen were reported to have died in Iraq on Saturday, bringing the four-day death toll to at least 23 as insurgents continued to use huge roadside bombs to rip through combat vehicles.
The deadliest attack on Saturday killed four American soldiers in combat northwest of Baghdad. Insurgents detonated a roadside bomb near the soldiers’ vehicle. An Iraqi working as an interpreter for the Americans was wounded.

Though the military did not specify the location of the attack, American forces have been stepping up patrols and other operations in the area immediately northwest of here as part of new offensives to try to bring some control to the insurgent-dominated belts around the capital. The area northwest of Baghdad had been left largely untouched, American officials say, allowing Sunni militants to use the sparsely populated area as a sanctuary.
Did this report say Sunni militants? Didn't they get the memo that now all insurgents are called al-Qaeda? It seems since we decided to arm the Sunni militants, who are supposed to fight the sudden surge of al-Qaeda in Iraq, they are supposed to be our allies. How many of our soldiers do they have to kill until they are again classified as enemies?

What is really happening is that the United States has chosen sides in a civil war. They have decided that the Sunni Muslims must defeat the Shi'ite Muslims to curtail the influence of Iran. When the Sunni militants become too aggressive and actually kill our soldiers they are then referred to as al-Qaeda. Are you with me so far?
You see the Sunni militants can do more than one thing at a time and arming them is causing the deaths of even more of our troops. Oh and lets not forget that Saddam Hussein was a Sunni Muslim.

The only winner in this war so far has been Iran who has seen their influence in the region grow as a result of this war. We have spent over $500 billion dollars, close to 3600 American lives and an unknown number of dead Iraqis to embolden Iran. Now that is one great foreign policy. Who says the finest minds aren't part of the Bush Administration?

White House Defends Cheney's Refusal of Oversight

How much more of this corrupt administration will the American people be forced to endure? The Vice President feels he is above the law and the White House agrees.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Cheney is not obligated to submit to oversight by an office that safeguards classified information, as other members and parts of the executive branch are. Cheney's office has contended that it does not have to comply because the vice president serves as president of the Senate, which means that his office is not an "entity within the executive branch."
Is this the same Vice President that claimed EXECUTIVE privilege to hide his energy meetings from the public?

I say lets call his bluff and subpoena him on the outing of Valerie Plame and when he claims executive privilege throw this in his face. That man is dangerous and evil and has crapped on the Constitution long enough.

Bill Is Offered to Increase Tax on Private Equity

How many of us wish that we could make millions and then only pay 15% on that money? That is the standard practice for partnerships, including private equity managers, venture capitalists and some hedge funds.
Fund managers usually get a cut of those profits — often 20 percent — and that cut, known as carried interest, is taxed as a capital gain, a 15 percent rate. In recent months, lawmakers and labor groups have been increasingly questioning whether these profits should be taxed at the 35 percent rate. A similar debate has been playing out in Britain, where a well-known buyout figure, Nicholas Ferguson, said this month that he and his cohorts “pay less tax than a cleaning lady.”
The cut of the profits that they are talking about is how the fund managers get paid. That to me is income not capital gains and should be taxed as such. The managers are of course screaming that this will limit private equity. That is total nonsense. Are we to believe that they would rather lose the millions in income rather than to pay a higher tax on it?

This has been a shell game for years with the wealthiest among us finding every way possible to not pay their fair share of taxes. This practice has finally come to light in the public conscience. The Democrats need to stand firm and make the necessary changes to the tax code. The nearly free ride for these people needs to end.

The Subprime Mortgage Disaster Hits The Hedge Fund Industry

Bear Stearns Companies, the investment bank, pledged up to $3.2 billion in loans yesterday to bail out one of its hedge funds that was collapsing because of bad bets on subprime mortgages.
It is the biggest rescue of a hedge fund since 1998 when more than a dozen lenders provided $3.6 billion to save Long-Term Capital Management.

The crisis this week from the near collapse of two hedge funds managed by Bear Stearns stems directly from the slumping housing market and the fallout from loose lending practices that showered money on people with weak, or subprime, credit, leaving many of them are now struggling to stay in their homes.

Bear Stearns averted a meltdown this time, but if delinquencies and defaults on subprime loans surge, Wall Street firms, hedge funds and pension funds could be left holding billions of dollars in bonds and securities backed by loans that are quickly losing their value.
Think of what this report is saying. Your pension fund could be impacted as a result of this financial crisis. In May I posted this entry describing the subprime mortgage crisis. This situation could have far reaching effects into all areas of our economy.
Nervousness about the souring subprime loans and rising oil prices sent the stock market plummeting. Already down almost 60 points, the Dow Jones industrial average fell sharply after the announcement of the bailout and closed down 185.58 points.
You must be asking why would any financial institution get involved in such a risky venture? The answer is simple. Their clients were demanding greater and greater returns.
The first fund, the Bear Stearns High-Grade Structured Credit Fund — the one bailed out yesterday — was started in 2004 and had done well, posting 41 months of positive returns of about 1 percent to 1.5 percent a month. But investors were clamoring for even higher yields, which would require more aggressive bets on riskier mortgage-related securities and significantly higher levels of borrowed money, or leverage, to bolster returns.
12% to 18% return on their money was simply not good enough where for the average middle class person returns of that size would be welcomed. It is this greed that threatens the economic security for us all. It is time for strong regulation of the Hedge Fund Industry which operates now with nearly no regulations. It is the rich man's game but all of us are at risk.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Iraq Deaths Don't Mean Failure, Pace Says

The recent rise in U.S. troop deaths in Iraq is the "wrong metric" to use in assessing the effectiveness of the new security strategy for Baghdad, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said yesterday in a news conference with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.
"If you had zero violence and people were not feeling good about their future, where are you?" said Pace, emphasizing that the sentiment of the Iraqi people is a much better measurement than the number of attacks. "So it's not about levels of violence. It's about progress being made, in fact, in the minds of the Iraqi people, so that they have confidence in their government in the way forward."
What world is this fool living in? Since when does violence not matter? Doesn't he believe that lower levels of violence would give the average Iraqi a feeling of security?
Pace and Gates acknowledged that violence could rise -- as it has in recent days, when at least a dozen U.S. troops have been killed -- but said the number of attacks has gone up largely because there are more U.S. brigades in harm's way. Pace said that the number of attacks per brigade has not increased but that the enemy in Iraq has focused on inflicting greater U.S. casualties because it wants to affect the American public's view of the war.

The surge is a failure. How many American deaths will it take for the powers that be to finally admit that? Iraq is a failed state as a result of our invasion. It is obvious to me that they are trying to blunt the criticism that will surely come in September when reports on progress are due. This war will only end when the funds are cut off. The Democrats need to use the summer to drive that point home.

Renegade Joe

Much to the chagrin of many Democrats, especially anti-Iraq war activists, Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut continues to chart his own course. And the path he's on, and the anger it sparks, were on vivid display Thursday night when he co-hosted a Washington fundraising dinner for ... a Republican.

Lieberman, the Democrat-turned-independent, announced several weeks ago his endorsement of GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. She faces a potentially tough reelection battle and, with Democrats keen on expanding their razor-thin Senate majority, the race figures to be one of the most closely-watched in 2008.
Why exactly would Joementum do this? The answer is clearly self preservation. Joe Lieberman has a vested interest in seeing that the Senate stays closely divided. With more Republicans up for re-election in 2008 than Democrats and a national mood against the war that he supports, a loss of more Republican seats could severely diminish his influence and power.

The people of Connecticut made a huge mistake by sending him back to the Senate. He is a Bush apologist and strong supporter of the War. He is also a spiteful man using his position to hurt the Democrats, most of whom supported the winner of the Democratic Primary Ned Lamont.

I hope in 2008 that the Democrats can attain a larger majority in the Senate and throw Senator Lieberman under the proverbial bus. It could not happen to a nicer guy.

The Strangehold of Big Oil

As gasoline prices have more than doubled during the administration of George W. Bush people wonder if we are being taken for a ride by the big oil companies. The answer is a resounding yes.
"On the surface, it seems that Big Oil is pumping cash rather than petrol," Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, said at a recent hearing on whether to break up the major oil companies. He said that in 1993, the five largest oil refiners controlled a third of the U.S. market; by 2005, they controlled 55 percent, and the 10 largest held more than 80 percent. And he questioned why the major oil companies were buying back shares instead of investing more in refinery additions or maintenance.

"I don't understand how an industry that makes tens of billions per year can still have rusty refining plants that constantly break down," Schumer said. "And I don't know any other industry where an equipment breakdown in one company benefits every other company by raising prices."
I completely agree with Senator Schumer but the answer is very clear. The breakdowns actually result in even larger profits. By limiting production you raise prices. It is the simple theory of supply and demand. The refiners do not need to invest anything into updating refineries. Each breakdown results in higher prices and increased profits.

It is that fact that is most troubling. Yesterday the Republicans rejected tax increases from big oil to fund renewable energy sources. Is there anyone reading this that can still claim that the Republicans are the party of family values? They are helping big oil rape the American consumer and damage the environment. Remember that when the price at the pump reaches $4.00 per gallon.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Your Tax Money At Work

Nader May Run Again in 2008

Ralph Nader, who parlayed Democratic fury at him in 2000 into utter disdain in 2004, says he may get into the 2008 presidential race.
He is waiting until the fall to decide. He says his decision will hinge on whether he can round up enough volunteers and pro bono lawyers to get him on the ballot in the 50 states over what he expects will be widespread opposition from Democrats.
Any respect I had for Ralph Nader dissolved in 2000 when he did not follow through on his promise and did keep himself on the ballot in hotly contested states. It was this broken promise that has given us George W. Bush.

This is America and he has every right to run but he knows he can not win. Hopefully those that supported him back in 2000 would never make the same mistake again. Enough already Ralph, take your toys and go home. No one wants to play with you anymore.

Arkansas Senators Support Demand for DoJ Investigation of Tim Griffin's 2004 RNC 'Vote Caging'

Following up on a letter sent to the DoJ on Monday by Democratic Senators Kennedy (MA) and Whitehouse (RI) demanding an investigation into the vote caging activities of former RNC/Bush-Cheney '04 operative, former Karl Rove protégé, and now former US Attorney from Arkansas, Tim Griffin, senators from his home state have announced their support of such a probe.

This is a very important story to read. It gives the real background of what happened in 2004 and how so many were kept from voting by this tactic called "caging".

The one thing to remember is that "Caging" is a felony and was most likely carried out by the RNC. Here is a link to the actual caging list. As you can see from this picture all of those on the list are from the Naval Station in Jacksonville. This was a deliberate attempt to stop soldiers from voting.

I can not think of a single more disgusting thing then sending them off to war to supposedly defend democracy then doing anything they can to stop them from exercising their right to vote. Is there anyone reading this that still thinks these people should not be in jail?

Cheney Power Grab: Says White House Rules Don't Apply to Him

Vice President Dick Cheney has asserted his office is not a part of the executive branch of the U.S. government, and therefore not bound by a presidential order governing the protection of classified information by government agencies, according to a new letter from Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., to Cheney.
Bill Leonard, head of the government's Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), told Waxman's staff that Cheney's office has refused to provide his staff with details regarding classified documents or submit to a routine inspection as required by presidential order, according to Waxman.
I believe that Cheney is the most corrupt Vice President in our nations history and the most dangerous. If he isn't part of the executive branch of government, what branch of government does he belong to? Does this mean that his staff will not be able to hide behind "Executive Privilege" when they are subpoenaed?
For the first two years of the George W. Bush administration, Cheney's office complied with a presidential order that requires officials to report statistics on the number of documents it classifies and declassifies.

Since 2003, however, Cheney's office has refused to submit the data to ISOO. And when ISOO inspectors tried in 2004 to schedule a routine inspection of the vice president's offices, they were rebuffed, Waxman's letter claims.

Other White House offices, including the National Security Council, did not object to similar inspections, according to Waxman.

I say call his bluff and let the subpoenas fly.

How Low Can He Go?

President Bush registers the lowest approval rating of his presidency—making him the least popular president since Nixon—in the new NEWSWEEK Poll.
In the new poll, conducted Monday and Tuesday nights, President Bush’s approval rating has reached a record low. Only 26 percent of Americans, just over one in four, approve of the job the 43rd president is doing; while, a record 65 percent disapprove, including nearly a third of Republicans.

The war in Iraq continues to drag Bush down. A record 73 percent of Americans disapprove of the job Bush has done handling Iraq. Despite “the surge” in U.S. forces into Baghdad and Iraq’s western Anbar province, a record-low 23 percent of Americans approve of the president’s actions in Iraq, down 5 points since the end of March.

But the White House cannot pin his rating on the war alone. Bush scores record or near record lows on every major issue: from the economy (34 percent approve, 60 percent disapprove) to health care (28 percent approve, 61 percent disapprove) to immigration (23 percent approve, 63 percent disapprove). And—in the worst news, perhaps, for the crowded field of Republicans hoping to succeed Bush in 2008—50 percent of Americans disapprove of the president’s handling of terrorism and homeland security. Only 43 percent approve, on an issue that has been the GOP’s trump card in national elections since 9/11.
The most stunning statistic in this poll is that two thirds of Republicans still approve of this fool. What world are they living in?

Big Oil Companies Spared Tax Hikes

Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked a $32 billion package of tax breaks for renewable energy that would have been financed mostly by new taxes on major oil companies.
Democrats came three votes short of overcoming a threatened GOP filibuster that was keeping the measure from being attached to a broader energy bill. Republican senators argued that the nearly $29 billion in additional taxes on major oil companies would have led to reduced production and higher gasoline prices.

Because of Republican opposition, Democrats needed 60 votes to allow the package to come up for a vote, but fell short, 57-36. With a number of senators not voting, Democrats could resurrect the measure later, though there was no immediate indication of that.
Now you can understand why the war will not stopped until the Democrats can get a 60 vote filibuster proof majority. This is just more of a giveaway to big oil at the expense of research into renewable energy. Do you still think the Republican party is working in the best interests of the American people.

Taliban 'shifting focus to Kabul'

The Taleban in Afghanistan are changing their tactics to mount more attacks on the capital, Kabul, a spokesman for the militant group has told the BBC.
The spokesman, Zabiyullah Mujahed, said Taleban were recovering after Nato had infiltrated the group and killed some of its leaders.

But more people were volunteering to carry out suicide bombings, he said.
This is the result of a failed policy that thought a war in Iraq was more important than actually destroying the group that attacked us on 9/11. Now the world has lost respect for the United States and would be less willing to help us stabilize Afghanistan.
Correspondents say that the south of the country has this year seen the worst violence since the Taleban were ousted from power in 2001 by an international coalition.
During the 2004 election John Kerry pointed out the situation in Afghanistan when he said that we had taken our eye off the ball. The media proceeded to trash him instead of doing their job and validating what he was saying. This led to his defeat and the current mess in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Michael Bloombergs 421-A Problem

I was walking through Manhattan Sunday on a hot summer day. It seemed everywhere you looked there was new apartment construction. All the signs told of exquisite bathrooms, extra large windows and other luxury features. I thought maybe this is the time I can finally move into the city from the suburbs. There was one major problem with my dream, I could not afford even the smallest units available.

For some background, I work in the financial services industry (actually I was recently laid off but that story is for another day) with an annual salary plus bonus of slightly over $100,000.00. I am single and have great savings. I am one of the lucky middle class Americans who can actually still save money (well that was until the unemployment notice came but again, another day another story). I have a Co-operative apartment in a suburb of New York City that is fully paid for and today worth about $160,000.00, which I purchased about 15 years ago. I know I am better off than probably 90% of all Americans and yet I still can not afford even a simple one bedroom apartment in any of these new buildings.

After seeing models for three different buildings in the Chelsea section as well as two on the Upper West Side I realized that at least for new construction that I could not find any apartment for less than $1 million dollars. For those in the Mid West that just hit the floor, I know believe me I know. If I can’t afford that and neither can almost anyone I know, who exactly is buying these apartments? Most of these buildings are actually close to being sold out. You would think that this would be a great source of property tax revenue for the city. You would be wrong.

These buildings offer ten year tax abatement under the NYC program called the 421-A Program. This program was created when NYC was in deep financial trouble in the 1970’s to give incentive to developers to create affordable housing in depressed areas. The current program allows developers to skirt the affordable housing requirement by purchasing certificates for $12,000-$15,000 per unit from other developers who are developing affordable housing in other boroughs. Affordable developers receive four or five certificates for each affordable unit they build. This sounds like a ponzi scheme gone horribly wrong, where the middle class is left holding the bag. The winners are the developers and the super rich able to afford million dollar apartments. The average loss in tax revenue on each apartment I looked at was approximately $84,000 over 10 years. If you compare the cost of the certificate ($12,000) to the loss in revenue ($84,000), the city is actually losing $72,000 on each million dollar apartment and the developer probably gaining 10-20% additional on the sales price due to the tax abatement. This has caused the average price to increase to over $1 million dollars on a one bedroom newly constructed unit. This twisting of the original intent of the program has actually cost all New Yorkers in higher rents and purchase prices.

During Mayor Bloomberg’s first term the cost of this program has skyrocketed from $130 million lost revenue in 2002 to $320 million in lost revenue in 2006 and Manhattan has become unaffordable for any new residents except the rich. Is this what we could expect from a Bloomberg Presidency? Some other statistics from the past four years:
Average tenant income was down 5.6% while average rent was up 8.7%

More than 25% of all tenants are paying more than 50% of their income on rent. That is a jump of 13%

These are just some of the statistics provided in the linked report. This program is being changed but not ended. The new requirements if passed would still allow for the abatement as long as 20% of the units are kept as affordable for low income people. What would be classified as affordable has not been determined. That does nothing to help the middle class who will still be priced out of the NYC housing market.

I have lived in the NYC suburbs my whole life and in the past years the migration both north and south out of the high cost areas has been dramatic. People are now forced to commute sometimes two hours each way to employment in a city that they can no longer afford to live in. This is especially true for teachers, police and firefighters.

Imagine if those luxury buildings were actually paying taxes. The city could then afford raises for teachers who are woefully underpaid in NYC. Michael Bloomberg has been a good mayor but during his term NYC has become out of reach for a normal middle class person. Even areas like Harlem and Inwood in Manhattan are becoming unaffordable. Is this the direction we want the country to go in?

Our income disparity is growing ever wider and programs like the 421-A are contributing. This is the perfect example of a program with great intentions being co-opted by the developers at the expense of the middle class.

Jobless Claims Hit Two-Month High

The number of U.S. workers filing new claims for jobless benefits rose to a two-month high last week, suggesting the pace of job growth is slowing after robust gains in May.
Jobless claims were up 10,000 to 324,000 on a seasonally-adjusted basis in the week ended June 16, the Labor Department said Thursday. That third-straight increase pushed claims to their highest level since April 21. Claims for the June 9 week were revised to 314,000 from 311,000. The four-week average -- which economists use to gauge underlying labor market trends -- rose by 2,500 to 314,500.

The latest data topped Wall Street expectations. The median estimate of 17 economists polled by Dow Jones Newswires was for no change in new claims. There were no special factors affecting the figures, a Labor Department analyst said.

Are we seeing the start of the economic downturn that I have been predicting? I still believe that the U.S. economy will either slip into recession or grow at an anemic pace late this year and into 2008. This will create the perfect storm against the Republican party heading into the Presidential election.

Missing Soldier's Wife Faces Deportation

Is this what they call family values?
While the U.S. military searches for a soldier missing in Iraq, kidnapped by insurgents possibly allied with al Qaeda, his wife back home in Massachusetts may be deported by the U.S. government.

Army Spec. Alex Jimenez, who has been missing since his unit was attacked by insurgents in Iraq on May 12, had petitioned for a green card for his wife, Yaderlin Hiraldo, whom he married in 2004.

Their attorney, Matthew Kolken, said 23-year-old Hiraldo illegally entered the United States in 2001 to reunite with her husband, whom she had met in her native Dominican Republic and later married at his New York State Army base in 2004.

Her attorney is seeking a hardship waiver, which so far the government won't grant.

I guess this is what they call supporting the troops. The lack of compassion in this case is astounding. Disgusting, really disgusting!!!

Attacks Kill 14 American Soldiers In Iraq

The U.S. military announced the deaths of 14 American troops, including five killed Thursday in a single roadside bombing that also killed four Iraqis in Baghdad.
The U.S. deaths raised to at least 3,545 the number of U.S. troops who have died since the war began in 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

How much more death and destruction will the American people tolerate? When will the majority of Americans educate themselves enough to know the Democrats can not stop this war alone. When will they pressure the Republicans in the Senate to stop filibustering any attempt to stop the war?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Giuliani A No-Show At Iraq Study Group

Republican presidential contender Rudy Giuliani said Wednesday it was a mistake for him to join the Iraq Study Group, on which he lasted just two months and failed to show up for any official meetings.
The former New York mayor has tried to tamp down criticism in recent days after Newsday reported that Giuliani was a no-show for two of the group's meetings and instead attended paid public appearances.
How can we forget that he has made over $66 million dollars in speeches off of the tragedy of 9/11. Now we know where his priorities lie. Maybe he was afraid that being part of the group would have meant having to go to Iraq. And in another example of his hypocricy:

In his speech, Giuliani called for the country to enact a constitutional amendment that allows for a line-item veto so the president could strip wasteful spending from legislation. "The president doesn't have that power under our Constitution," he said. "You're only going to change that with a constitutional amendment."
As mayor in the 1990s, Giuliani successfully sued to challenge the constitutionality of the line-item veto that would have given President Clinton that such power.
Giuliani is an opportunist who has made a fortune off the deaths of 3000 people killed on 9/11. This gives blood money a whole new meaning.

Expert: Housing Market 'Blood-Bath' Ahead

If you thought the end of the housing slump was in sight, think again: the worst is yet to come, say market experts.
It's no longer borrowers with risky credit histories that are taking the punches. The jump in the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage by more than half a percentage point to 6.74 percent in the past five weeks — the biggest rate spike since 2004 — is even putting a crimp on borrowers with the best credit.

What's more, the national median home price is set for its first annual decline since the Great Depression, and the supply of unsold homes is at a record 4.2 million, according to the National Association of Realtors.
I have many friends who think this can't possibly happen in NY. I have consistently told them that your house is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. If people are suffering economically, and they are, then prices will fall everywhere.
Another market expert opined that the situation is not just a housing recession anymore, it looks more and more like an economic recession.
I have been predicting an economic recession since I started this site. A recession is the Republican's worst nightmare and it seems it may just come true.

New Taliban Leader Had Been in Afghan Custody; Released in Hostage Deal

Do you remember all the times that President Bush has stated that we do not negotiate with terrorists? Well this would seem to dispute that.
The Taliban military commander who led the "graduation ceremony" for 300 suicide bombers was one of five men released from an Afghanistan prison earlier this year in exchange for a kidnapped Italian Journalist.
The Government of Afghanistan would never have released this man without the express consent of our government.

Remember that when the first bombing happens in NYC, Montreal, Berlin or London. Our policies have made us more vulnerable to attack. The War in Iraq took the focus away from a mad man like this and Osama Bin Laden so that our oil companies could get their hands on the reserves of Iraq. This is criminal, truly criminal.

If there is another attack on United States soil will people rally around the President or will they rightly blame him for letting Osama and his henchmen go?

Injustice is not a Family Value

OLYMPIA — Four months ago, Lacey resident Janice Langbehn, her partner Lisa Pond and their children Katie, David and Danielle, ages 10 to 13, were set for a relaxing cruise from Miami to the Bahamas.

But Pond, Langbehn’s partner for nearly 18 years, was stricken in Miami with a brain aneurysm and died. The family says the way they were treated by hospital staff compounded their shock and grief.

Langbehn, a social worker, said officials at the University of Miami, Jackson Memorial Hospital did not recognize her or their jointly adopted children as part of Pond’s family. They were not allowed to be with her in the emergency room, and Langbehn’s authority to make decisions for Pond was not recognized.

“We never set out to change the world or change how others accept gay families,” Langbehn told the crowd at the Capital City Pride on Sunday. “We just wanted to be allowed to live equally and raise our children by giving them all the same opportunities their peers have.”

While Washington is one of a half-dozen states to recognize same-sex partnerships in some fashion, Florida is not.

Compelled to speak out

Langbehn said that the pain from losing Pond is still fresh, but she spoke at the gay pride event Sunday because the issue of legal recognition of homosexual families was too important to let go.

“I want people to be able to hold their partner’s hand in their moment of death,” she said.

Pond suffered the aneurysm just before the R Family Vacations cruise ship left Miami for the Bahamas in February, Langbehn said. After Pond was taken to the emergency room, Langbehn said she was informed by a social worker that they were in an “anti-gay state” and that they needed legal paperwork before Langbehn could see Pond.

Even after a friend in Olympia faxed the legal documents that showed that Pond had authorized Langbehn to make medical decisions for her, Langbehn said she wasn’t invited to be with her partner or told anything about her condition.

She said she wasn’t allowed to see Pond again until a priest arrived to give Pond the Anointing of the Sick, also commonly known as Last Rites.

“I was shocked. It never would have been on my radar that we wouldn’t be allowed to say goodbye,” Langbehn said. “When I was an emergency room social worker at Mary Bridge (Children’s Hospital and Health Center in Tacoma), if someone had said they were an aunt or a partner, I would have let them say their last goodbyes.”

Langbehn says she still has not been given Pond’s medical records from the hospital nor her death certificate directly from the county or the state, which affected their children’s Social Security benefits.

But she has received support from the local community and from former talk show host Rosie O’Donnell, who has e-mailed her to offer support and said she was angry over the way the family was treated. O’Donnell’s partner, Kelli O’Donnell, is a co-founder of R Family Vacations.

Capital City Pride co-chair Anna Schlecht said that Langbehn’s story drives home the reason why gays and lesbians continue to lobby for national legal recognition of their partnerships and families.

“When Janice told me the story over the phone, I started crying,” she said. “Death is hard enough. I can’t imagine having my children barred from me in the last moments of my life.”

Langbehn said attitudes changed when doctors in charge of organ donation recognized Langbehn and Pond as a couple. They accepted Langbehn’s signature on the consent forms, she said. They also allowed the children to visit with their mother, who was kept on life support while organ matches were found.

Pond, who was a volunteer with her church and with the Girl Scouts, as well as a foster mother, wished to donate her organs because she wanted to continue to give to people after her death, Langbehn said.

“I heard from the heart recipient last week,” she said. “Now he’s able to play with his grandkids again and he definitely would like to meet our family.”

Venice Buhain
The Olympian

Circuit City Posts Huge Loss

Electronics retailer Circuit City Stores Inc. reported a $54.6 million first-quarter loss Wednesday and withdrew its financial guidance for fiscal 2008 as the company slashed jobs and restructured to fend of competition.

I posted this about this company back in April. I am sorry for the workers who will lose their jobs but this company was removed from my shopping list once this story was revealed.

Karma is a bitch!!

Lift The Ban

Former US Attorney Tim Griffin and Caging

Read this post and you will understand why the US Attorney Firings is such an important issue. You will also begin to understand how George W. Bush was elected twice. This is just criminal.

GALLUP: 7 in 10 Americans Say Economy Is 'Getting Worse'

A new Gallup Poll will only reinforce those who claim that while the rich get richer most Americans don't feel they are sharing in the growth in our economy. The stock market may be climbing and the unemployment remains relatively low, but 7 in 10 Americans believe the economy is getting worse -- the most negative reading in nearly six years.
The 70% negative rating is up 10 points since April. Also, just in the past month, there has been a significant five-point drop, from 28% to 23%, in the percentage saying conditions are getting better.

"When asked about the most pressing financial problems their family faces today, Americans mention healthcare costs, lack of money or low wages, and oil and gas prices," Gallup reports. "Healthcare costs are mentioned by 16% of Americans while 13% say low wages and 11% say oil and gas prices. These percentages are virtually unchanged from last month."
Finally the middle class is waking up to the fact that they are being screwed. Corporate executive pay is more than 400 times that of the average worker and home prices have risen beyond the reach of more and more people. The savings rate is now negative for the first time since the depression and real wages have dropped since the start of the Bush Administration.

The sleeping giant called the American middle class has finally arisen.

Senate Moving Forward On Employee Free Choice Act

The Senate is preparing to take up the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) this week. EFCA creates an easier path for workers to receive union representation. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is speaking this afternoon at an Employee Free Choice Rally in support of legislation.

Here is an excerpt from the Senator's remarks as prepared:

[T]oday when I introduce the Employee Free Choice Act, get ready for a fight. Every single Senator ought to support this bill. It ought to be a no-brainer. This bill renews the commitment made to our parents and grandparents 70 years ago, when President Roosevelt delivered them a New Deal.
Last year, the top three hedge funds earned $4.4 billion in profits, and the ex-CEO of Exxon got a $400 million golden parachute. Today, hourly wages are down while the number of uninsured is up. Today, household income is down, while the average CEO makes 411 times more than the average worker. Today – for far too many Americans – that New Deal has become a raw deal. It’s time to give working families a square deal. A square deal that honors workers and their families by giving them a real chance for a better life.

You know what the Employee Free Choice Act will mean: higher wages. Better health insurance. Safer working conditions. And by the way, we all know that employees who receive a fair standard of living are more productive. This is a win-win for employers and employees alike.

Yesterday Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Chairman of the Health Education, Labor & Penisions (HELP) Comittee, released the following statement in support of the EFCA:

Now that the House has passed the Employee Free Choice Act with bipartisan support, I’m pleased that the Senate is moving forward on this important piece of legislation. We’ve finally raised the minimum wage but we still have a long way to go to restore the economic security that has been lost during the Bush years. Working people aren't getting their fair share of our economic growth. Their hard work is producing skyrocketing corporate profits – not higher paychecks, better benefits, or better lives for their families. The best way to see that employees get their fair share is to give them a stronger voice.

The HELP Committee also provided a fact sheet on how the Act will help restore middle class security. The fact sheet included the following points on how the freedom to choose a union is vital to restoring the American Dream, especially for the most vulnerable Americans:

Unions help American workers get their fair share – union wages are almost 30% higher than non-union wages. Unions are also a cure for rising inequality because they raise wages more for low- and middle-wage workers than for higher-wage workers.

Union cashiers earn 46% more than non-union cashiers.
Union food preparation workers earn nearly 50% more than non-union workers.
Union maids and housekeepers earn 31% more than their non-union counterparts.
The freedom to join a union is a women’s issue and a civil rights issue. Union women earn 31 percent more than women workers who don’t have a union. African American union members earn 36 percent more, and Latino workers earn 46 percent more.
Union workers are almost twice as likely to have employer-sponsored health benefits and a pension at work. They are more than four times more likely to have a secure, defined-benefit pension plan than non-union workers.
Protecting the freedom to choose a union benefits all Americans, whether or not they have a union at work. In industries and occupations where many workplaces are unionized, non-union employers will frequently meet union standards or otherwise improve compensation. A high school graduate in a non-union workplace whose industry is 25 percent unionized gets paid 5 percent more than similar workers in less unionized industries.

The Republicans will filibuster this legislation unless the American people stand up and demand its passage. I was one of those that felt that Unions were no longer needed. I was very wrong. You only need to look at the statistics listed above to realize that companies left alone will do what is best for the bottom line. They will do this at the expense of its workers.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

White House Aides' E-Mail Records Gone

E-mail records are missing for 51 of the 88 White House officials who had electronic message accounts with the Republican National Committee, the House Oversight Committee said Monday.
The Bush administration may have committed ``extensive'' violations of a law requiring that certain records be preserved, said the committee's Democratic chairman, adding that the panel will deepen its probe into the use of political e-mail accounts.

The committee's interim report said the number of White House officials who had RNC e-mail accounts, and the number of messages they sent and received, were more extensive than previously realized.
The administration has said that about 50 White House officials had RNC e-mail accounts during Bush's presidency. But the House committee found at least 88.
This report cites "excessive" violations of law. Why has a special prosecutor not been called for? Why are the rules so different for this administration? Do you remember when candidate George W. Bush promised to restore honor and dignity to the White House?

This is the most corrupt administration in my lifetime and I was alive for Nixon. This President needs to be impeached and removed from office. I know that the likelihood of that is remote but impeachment, which is just an indictment, is more than possible in the Democratic controlled House of Representatives.

Shouldn't we demand impeachment if for no other reason than to show the world that the rule of law is important to the citizens of the United States and that no one is exempt?

Giuliani SC Campaign Chair Arrested

Gov. Mark Sanford has suspended state Treasurer Thomas Ravenel after it was announced Tuesday the Charleston Republican had been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine.

Ravenel in April was named the state chairman for former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s presidential campaign, but he resigned that post this evening.
Rudy hasn't had the best week. First Fred Thompson, who has not even announced, has pulled within points of frontrunner Giuliani. Then Michael Sheehan, a major contributor was revealed as the head of a Vulture Fund that was trying to force an obscene judgement on Zambia and now this.

I have said it before and will say it again, it could not happen to a nicer guy.

Health Care the Latest Red State Failure

I originally saw this posted on Americablog. and needed to comment.

It is reports like this that led me to create this site. All too often Middle Class Americans are voting against their own best interests to satisfy some prejudice or some view on social issues. This report could not highlight this more clearly.

People are being led to the slaughter due to their own willful ignorance or backwards prejudice. The problem is for the rest of us who are pulled down with them. How many would really sacrifice their health care to stop the 16 year old across the street from having an abortion or stopping the Gay couple from marrying? In the end most people will gravitate toward self interest if they know all the facts. I am hoping to bring those facts to light in a simple understandable way that changes peoples perspectives before they vote.

NY Mayor Bloomberg quits GOP

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has left the Republican Party and registered as an independent, according to a media report late Tuesday. The billionaire former CEO said the change in voter registration doesn't mean he's running for president, the Associated Press reported. "Although my plans for the future haven't changed, I believe this brings my affiliation into alignment with how I have led and will continue to lead our city," Bloomberg said, according to the AP report. Bloomberg switched to the Republican Party in 2001 for his first mayoral run.

Can we believe him when he says he is not running for President? My guess is no and that we will see him enter the race later this year. the big question is who does he hurt if he does enter the race. His views socially are much closer to that of the Democratic Party, to which he belonged until 2001 when he switched to be able to run for mayor.

He is one of the richest men in America and can self finance any campaign. He has been a great mayor of New York City but I do not believe a very short Jewish billionaire from New York will play well in Peoria. It also leaves open the possibility of a three way race for President with all candidates coming from New York.

This is a very interesting development and one I will follow closely.

Passing The Employee Free Choice Act

The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) is proposed United States legislation which aims to "amend the National Labor Relations Act to establish an efficient system to enable employees to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to provide for mandatory injunctions for unfair labor practices during organizing efforts, and for other purposes." If it becomes law, the Act would require the U.S. National Labor Relations Board to certify a union as the exclusive representative of employees without an election where "a majority of the employees in a unit appropriate for bargaining has signed valid authorizations." In addition, the Act would require parties who cannot agree upon the terms of a first collective bargaining contract within 120 days to submit the issues to an arbitration board, which would be empowered to settle the dispute. Finally, the Act would provide for liquidated damages of two times back pay for certain unfair labor practices.

This bill will be voted on by the Senate in the next few days. It is imperative that this passes. The middle and working classes need this legislation to ensure decent wages at a time when real wages are declining. The President will most certainly veto this bill because it is not supported by big business.

The decline in labor unions since the early 1980's and the subsequent decline of the middle class can not be ignored. As more and more worker protections are dissolved and companies unfriendly to labor such as Wal-Mart thrive, the environment for labor will only decline further. This law would put labor back on an equal footing and provide a real chance at regaining the middle class which is the backbone of the United States.

A Presidential Veto should show all middle and working class Americans that the Republican party is the party of big business and will stop at nothing to ensure that wages stay depressed.

Passage of this Act and an overide of the Presidential Veto would help blunt the passage of any guest worker program that will surely depress wages even further.

Call your Senator and express your support for this bill.

Iraq Rises Up Failed States Index

Iraq ranks as the world's second most unstable country, according to an annual index of failed states.
The report - compiled by the US Foreign Policy magazine and the US-based Fund for Peace think-tank - ranks nations according to their vulnerability.

Judged according to 12 criteria, including internal conflict and society breakdown, states range from the most failed, Sudan, to the least, Norway.

1. Sudan
2. Iraq
3. Somalia
4. Zimbabwe
5. Chad
6. Ivory Coast
7. D.R. Congo
8. Afghanistan
9. Guinea
10. Central African Republic

Wow the United States has seen some real success from its military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan but alas first place was not achieved. There is always next year.

Housing Starts Fall As Permits Rise

Housing starts slipped 2.1 percent in May to a slightly lower rate than analysts had expected while building permit activity increased more than anticipated, a government report showed Tuesday.
Permits for single-family homes fell 1.8 percent to their lowest level since July 1997, but permits for multi-family units jumped 16.5 percent.

Tuesday's data comes a day after a report indicating that homebuilder confidence is at its lowest level in more than 16 years.

The National Association of Homebuilders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index dropped two points to 28 in June. The index of builder sentiment had not dipped that low since it reached 27 in 1991.
A report like this is very hard to read for any indication of where the housing market goes from here. While permits for single family homes fell, multi-family homes rose. What I see is that the average family is being priced out of the market, hence the dip in single family homes, yet the wealthy who would purchase multi-family homes as investments are doing extremely well hence the jump in multi-family permits.

This report in my opinion just solidifies my view that the middle and working classes of America are not faring well in the Bush economy, which is always touted as a great success. This report and the negative savings rate would indicate the great success is only for the select few.

Assault Pressed on Insurgents Near Baghdad

More than 10,000 coalition troops pushed their way through Diyala province and thousands more engaged in operations in and around Baghdad today as part of a major offensive against Sunni insurgent positions started last night.
As the operation proceeded, a truck bomb exploded at a Shiite mosque in central Baghdad today, killing 75 people and wounding more than 200, The Associated Press reported. Gunfire erupted shortly after the blast, which a police officer said went off near the Khillani mosque in the commercial area of Sinak, according to the A.P.

The coalition offensive, begun last night, is aimed at blunting the persistent car and suicide bombings that have terrorized Iraqis and thwarted political reconciliation.
We are constantly being told of Iran's involvment yet it is the Sunni insurgents who are being targeted. The Sunni insurgents are supported by Saudi Arabia which is a majority Sunni muslim population. Where is the talk of military action against Saudi Arabia? The silence is deafening.

The Iraq War is a business deal gone bad with American taxpayers footing the bill and the Iraqi people and our brave soldiers having to suffer the daily death and destruction that the policies of the Bush Adminstration has brought.

Taliban Fighters Seize South Afghan Area

Days of fierce fighting with NATO and Afghan forces left Taliban militants in control of one southern Afghan district and battling to take over another Tuesday, officials said.
Taliban fighters seized Miya Nishin district in Kandahar province late Monday, provincial police chief Esmatullah Alizai said. Authorities were planning to retake the remote area.

In neighboring Uruzgan province's Chora district — home to more than 100,000 people — fighting continued between NATO and Afghan forces and militants who attacked police posts in the province's main town on Saturday. Some officials reported dozens of civilian casualties.
This is the result of the Bush Administration deciding that a war with Iraq was more important than actually destroying the group that was responsible for 9/11.

How this fact can be lost in the media discussions is unfathomable. The people of Afghanistan put their faith in the United States to liberate them and make their lives better. The one problem for the Afghan people was that they were not awash in oil reserves.

We are now losing two wars and draining our treasury with no end in sight. The effects of the Bush Administration will be felt around the world for the next decade and may forever tarnish the good name of the United States.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Corruption GOP Style

The Oversight Committee has been investigating whether White House officials violated the Presidential Records Act by using e-mail accounts maintained by the Republican National Committee and the Bush Cheney ‘04 campaign for official White House communications. This interim staff report provides a summary of the evidence the Committee has received to date, along with recommendations for next steps in the investigation.

The number of White House officials given RNC e-mail accounts is higher than previously disclosed.

White House officials made extensive use of their RNC e-mail accounts.

There has been extensive destruction of the e-mails of White House officials by the RNC.

There is evidence that the Office of White House Counsel under Alberto Gonzales may have known that White House officials were using RNC e-mail accounts for official business, but took no action to preserve these presidential records.
Why are these people still in power and not facing criminal prosecution? When will the American people wake up and realize that this administration is not just incompetent (which they do realize) but also criminal (which most do not).

Petraeus: Iraq 'Challenges' to Last for Years

Conditions in Iraq will not improve sufficiently by September to justify a drawdown of U.S. military forces, the top commander in Iraq said yesterday.

Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker, his diplomatic counterpart in Baghdad, said a key report they will deliver to Washington in September will include what Crocker called "an assessment of what the consequences might be if we pursue other directions." Noting the "unhelpful roles" being played by Iran and Syria in Iraq, Crocker said: "We've got to consider what could happen."
We were told that by Septmeber we would be told whether or not this surge was working. It was the basis for the Iraq funding bill which so many objected to. The Democrats have funded this war through Septmeber knowing a progress report out at that time will determine where to go from here.

General Patraeus has just thrown cold water on that plan. It would seem that there is no intention to change course or end this war. The Democrats need to grow a spine and cut off the funding. It is painfully obvious that no other option is left on the table.

What the Democrats need to do is to drive this point home with the American public, so that when the Republican noise machine spins into overdrive, it will fall on deaf ears. A vast majority of the American people want this war over. The political gamble for the Democrats is not cutting off the funds it is continuing the status quo.

Why The Shrinking Dollar Is Bad For Middle Class America

I was walking through Manhattan yesterday on a hot summer day. It seemed everywhere you looked there was new apartment construction. All the signs told of exquisite bathrooms, extra large windows and other luxury features. I thought maybe this is the time I can finally move into the city from the suburbs. There was one major problem with my dream, I could not afford even the smallest units available.

For some background, I work in the financial services industry (actually I was recently laid off but that story is for another day) with an annual salary plus bonus of slightly over $100,000.00. I am single and have great savings. I am one of the lucky middle class Americans who can actually still save money (well that was until the unemployment notice came but again, another day another story). I have a Co-operative apartment in a suburb of New York City that is fully paid for and worth about $160,000.00. I know I am better off than probably 90% of all Americans and yet I still can not afford even a simple one bedroom apartment in any of these new buildings.

After seeing models for three different buildings in the Chelsea section as well as two on the Upper West Side I realized that at least for new construction that I could not find any apartment for less than $1 million dollars. For those in the Mid West that just hit the floor, I know believe me I know. If I can’t afford that and neither can almost anyone I know, who exactly is buying these apartments? Most of these buildings are actually close to being sold out. The answer is obviously rich people but not necessarily all from the United States. You see the shrinking dollar has allowed people from the upper classes of Europe to come and purchase these apartments at what are bargain prices relative to their currencies. It is that fact that has kept the prices at levels unaffordable to even very well paid Americans.

To add insult to injury many of these buildings offer a ten year tax abatement so in fact the middle class people of the city are subsidizing rich Americans and foreigners. I wrote this post about that issue about one month ago. A tax abatement is normally used to entice people to areas needing gentrification. Anyone who has been to New York City knows that Chelsea and the Upper West Side do not qualify.

A declining dollar should be good for exports but although our trade imbalance has improved it is more from diminished imports than improved exports. Our manufacturing base is nearly gone so a declining dollar does little to improve the trade imbalance without a real plan to revive the manufacturing base. Wouldn’t it be a better use of taxpayer money to provide tax incentives to bring back manufacturing jobs? Instead we are providing tax breaks to the wealthiest among us at the expense of education funding. It is time that we stand up and say enough is enough.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

US: 60 Pct. of Baghdad Not Controlled

Security forces in Baghdad have full control in only 40 percent of the city five months into the pacification campaign, a top American general said Saturday as U.S. troops began an offensive against two al-Qaida strongholds on the capital's southern outskirts.
Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno said American troops launched the offensive in Baghdad's Arab Jabour and Salman Pac neighborhoods Friday night. It was the first time in three years that U.S. soldiers entered those areas, where al-Qaida militants build car bombs and launch Katyusha rockets at American bases and Shiite Muslim neighborhoods.

The overall commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, said during a news conference with visiting Defense Secretary Robert Gates that the operation would put troops into key al-Qaida-held areas surrounding Baghdad.

Odierno said there was a long way to go in retaking the city from Shiite Muslim militias, Sunni Arab insurgents and al-Qaida terrorists. He said only about "40 percent is really very safe on a routine basis" _ with about 30 percent lacking control and a further 30 percent suffering "a high level of violence."
Our stategy in Iraq is like playing a game of wack a mole. The insurgents just continue to move from area to area. There is no strategy that can be successful at this time without at least double our current number of troops and that is a strategy that the American people will not support.

This war was lost from day one with poor planning and execution but what was the real purpose for this war to begin with? Even with the disaster that is currently Iraq the oil companies stand to reap the benefits of this disastrous policy while the Iraqi people are left with death, destruction and the theft of their greatest natural resource.

Bus Bombing Kills at Least 35 in Afghan Capital

An enormous bomb ripped through a police academy bus at Kabul's busiest transportation hub Sunday, killing at least 35 people in the deadliest insurgent attack in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. The Taliban claimed responsibility.
Sunday's attack is the deadliest by insurgents since the fall of the Taliban. In September 2002, 30 people were killed and 167 wounded in a Kabul car bombing. In February, a suicide bomber detonated explosives himself outside the main U.S. base at Bagram Air Field, killing 23 people, during a visit by Vice President Dick Cheney.
We must all remember that the increased violence in Afghanistan is the result of the War in Iraq and our redeployment of troops from Afghanistan to Iraq.

Did no one in the White House envision this result for Afghanistan? How can anything this adminstration say be taken seriously when everything they have touched has led to even greater disaster? The War in Iraq has been a recruitment tool for terrorists for the next generation. We promised the people of Afghanistan a better life when we removed the Taliban yet the Taliban is now back in control of whole areas of the country.

How can anyone respect our military might when we can not control two third world countries? Our foreign policy has been a complete disaster and has made us less safe as a result.