Thursday, August 30, 2007

Report Finds Little Progress in Iraq

Iraq has failed to meet all but three of 18 congressionally mandated benchmarks for political and military progress, according to a draft of a Government Accountability Office report. The document questions whether some aspects of a more positive assessment by the White House last month adequately reflected the range of views the GAO found within the administration.
The strikingly negative GAO draft, which will be delivered to Congress in final form on Tuesday, comes as the White House prepares to deliver its own new benchmark report in the second week of September, along with congressional testimony from Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker. They are expected to describe significant security improvements and offer at least some promise for political reconciliation in Iraq.

The draft provides a stark assessment of the tactical effects of the current U.S.-led counteroffensive to secure Baghdad. "While the Baghdad security plan was intended to reduce sectarian violence, U.S. agencies differ on whether such violence has been reduced," it states. While there have been fewer attacks against U.S. forces, it notes, the number of attacks against Iraqi civilians remains unchanged. It also finds that "the capabilities of Iraqi security forces have not improved."

"Overall," the report concludes, "key legislation has not been passed, violence remains high, and it is unclear whether the Iraqi government will spend $10 billion in reconstruction funds," as promised.
Remember this report when we get the glowing report on progress from General Petraeus who can no longer be trusted to tell the truth. The GAO is a non partisan government group and any assessment by them must be considered. The War in Iraq has been lost almost since the start but the drain on our treasury and the deaths of our soldiers continue.

A Complete Meltdown in Iraq

Please read this post from Jon Soltz about the situation in Iraq. It is a must read.

Second-Quarter U.S. Growth Probably Stronger Than Estimated

The U.S. economic rebound in the second quarter was stronger than previously estimated as exports surged and business spending grew, economists said before revised government figures today.
The economy expanded at an annual pace of 4.1 percent, the most in more than a year, according to the median estimate of 81 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. The Commerce Department last month calculated the growth rate at 3.4 percent.

The outlook for the second half of 2007 has soured in recent weeks as the subprime mortgage crisis has restricted access to credit. The Federal Reserve this month said risks to growth had ``increased appreciably'' and economists at JPMorgan Chase Corp. and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. are among those that have reduced forecasts.

The second quarter ``will be the strongest quarter of the year by far,'' said Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group Inc. in Pittsburgh. `` I don't see growth topping 2 percent'' through early 2008.
These growth numbers are good but the third and fourth quarter should be much less. how much less is yet to be determined. I have said the US economy will slip into recession later this year or early next. These strong numbers have me rethinking that prediction. I would be very happy to be wrong since a recession will be most damaging for the poor and middle class.

Housing Troubles Worsen For The Poor

The numbers of low-income families devoting high levels of income to housing costs are soaring according to a new study.
The housing boom may have ended, but even at its peak, it left legions of low-income, working families worse off in its wake.

According to a new study from the Center for Housing Policy (CHP), an affiliation of the National Housing Conference (NHC), the percentage of low income households forced to spend more than half their earnings for housing needs exploded as housing prices boomed.
This report does not come as a shock. In NY many of the normally poorer area were gentrified as the middle class sought out less expensive areas in which to live. Many times gentrifying areas inhabited by the poor who were then not able to afford their own areas.
The median price of a single family house soared by about 86 percent from 1997 to 2005, according to statistics from the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight. Housing prices hit their peak in 2005, when they jumped almost 13 percent for the year.

"Home prices went up far faster than any wage growth," said Lipman, "especially among low income families, whose real wages have either risen anemically or actually fallen."
As usual it is the poor who will suffer the most as the rich get an ever bigger slice of the pie and the rest of us are left to fight over the scraps.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hypocrisy Republican Style

In some ways I feel sorry for Senator Craig. He feels he needs to live his life in the closet and visit bathrooms for sex but this video just makes me angry. He had probably just visited the bathroom at Union Station in DC before he did this Meet The Press Interview. Once again Republican hypocrisy shines through.

Incomes Rise But There Is A Catch

The nation’s median household income grew modestly in 2006, the Census Bureau reported yesterday, even as the percentage of people without health insurance hit a high.
Experts said the rise in income was mainly a reflection of an increase in the number of family members entering the workplace or working longer hours. Average wages for men and women actually declined for the third consecutive year.
Of course the Republicans are using this data as proof that their economic policies are working.
Some Republicans seized on the new data as evidence that Bush administration policies had been good for people’s pocketbooks. In a statement, President Bush said the news was a sign that Congress should not raise taxes. The data, he said, confirmed “that more of our citizens are doing better in this economy, with continued rising incomes and more Americans pulling themselves out of poverty.”
Only these fools would look at these statistics and see something wonderful. Average wages down for the third straight year and they consider this progress? Economic policies like this are the reason I started this site. The middle class is being told their lives are better than ever while they are working more than ever. Just 20 years ago a one wage earner family was common. That is nearly impossible now and this is called progress? If you are working more and making less, thank a Republican.

Republicans Call For Craig To Resign

Gee I don't seem to remember these same people calling for the head of David "I frequent hookers" Vitter. Homophobia is alive and well in the Republican party.
Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) and Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) called for Craig to step down.

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel, who was traveling with President Bush, said, "We are disappointed in the matter," without offering more detail, according to the Associated Press. Stanzel said he hoped the ethics committee would do its work completely, "as that would be in the best interests of the Senate and the people of Idaho," the AP reported.

However, Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), the GOP whip and former majority leader, stopped short of suggesting that Craig quit. "I'm not ready to call for that," Lott said in an interview with Fox News. He said he wanted to give the ethics committee time to investigate the matter.

The Senate GOP leaders signaled in a statement yesterday that they were considering whether to force Craig from his senior posts. By removing his ranking member status a day after Craig publicly defended himself at a news conference--where he asserted that he is "not gay" and was the victim of a "witch hunt" by an Idaho newspaper--demonstrated how emphatically Republicans were trying to separate themselves from Craig.
Where is the ethics investigation of David Vitter? Where are the calls for him to resign? He frequented a prostitute, which is a CRIME why the double standard? I bet had you propositioned a female in the bathroom the calls for his resignation would not be coming.

Bush Wants $50 Billion More for Iraq War

The endless war and its drain on our treasury continues.
President Bush plans to ask Congress next month for up to $50 billion in additional funding for the war in Iraq, a White House official said yesterday, a move that appears to reflect increasing administration confidence that it can fend off congressional calls for a rapid drawdown of U.S. forces.

The request -- which would come on top of about $460 billion in the fiscal 2008 defense budget and $147 billion in a pending supplemental bill to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq -- is expected to be announced after congressional hearings scheduled for mid-September featuring the two top U.S. officials in Iraq. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker will assess the state of the war and the effect of the new strategy the U.S. military has pursued this year.
Think of the number of roads we could have fixed, the children we could have insured, the borders we could have secured and other endless lists of priorities being neglected as we spend the Treasury on this endless quagmire in Iraq.

Senator Larry Craig "I'm Not Gay"

This is the press conference for Senator Larry "I'm Not Gay" Craig.

Larry, get a spine and try loving yourself. It is OK to be Gay. No one believes your denials. If you like to have sex with men you are at least a little Gay. Bathroom sex is very 1980's so get with the program and get a computer. It will save you a lot of embarrassment.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

We Are All Uninsured Now

Even a former Supreme Court judge worries about the insurance crisis because it affects her family.
BIG NUMBERS, like 45 million uninsured Americans, are hard to grasp. But that number came home to me at a recent conference. The keynote speaker was former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Her topic was our health care system, and her message was personal and anguished.

The gist was that even she lives in constant fear of major uninsured health bills. Not her own -- those of her son. He can't afford insurance because his son -- her grandchild -- has a preexisting condition.

As I listened, a light dawned: O'Connor and the rest of us with health coverage are also uninsured. We too face terrible, albeit more remote, health care risks -- the risk that our employer will drop our plan, that Medicare will go bust, that our plan won't cover our needs, that premiums will eat us alive, that our doctor will stop taking our insurance, that long-term care will wipe us out, and that our uninsured friends and family members will need major financial help.
My heart bleeds for Justice O'Connor. Maybe if she had not been one of the five that installed President Bush I could feel some sympathy but she helped put this criminal administration in place so I can only laugh at her family's predicament.

Her actions have given us the worst administration in our history and led to six years of inaction on health care and rising numbers of uninsured. I hope she wakes up nightly knowing what her actions have wrought on this nation and even onto her own family. I bet if this issue did not directly affect her family you would never hear her speak about it. Now she understands what 47 million Americans experience on a daily basis. Maybe what we need to do is to cancel the health care plan of all legislators and judges and let them spend a day in the shoes of all the uninsured.

The Shame of Katrina Continues Two Years Later

Why don't we tell them that Osama Bin Laden has been spotted in New Orleans? Oh wait they don't care about him and they don't care about the poor from New Orleans. This is your government at work. Doesn't this make you proud to be an American?

Home Prices Continue To Slide

Who will be buying a home in this current market?
Home prices have shown few signs of any turnaround, and a new report sees the downward slide continuing.

On Tuesday, Standard and Poor's said its nationwide S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index fell 3.2 percent in the second quarter, compared with a year ago. For the three months ended June 30, prices dropped 0.9 percent from the first quarter.

Major housing markets showed worse declines. The Case-Shiller index covering 20 top metro areas for the month of June fell 3.5 percent, and the 10-city index dropped 4.1 percent year-over-year.

"The pullback in the U.S. residential real estate market is showing no signs of slowing down," Robert J. Shiller, Chief Economist at MacroMarkets LLC said in a statement. "The year-over-year decline reported in the 2nd quarter of 2007 for the National Home Price Index is the lowest point in its reported history, which dates back to January 1987."
That sucking sound you hear is the price of your home going down the toilet. Look for more foreclosures as people owe more than the home is worth and will be unable to sell the home to get out of rising ARM rates.

Banks will be bailed out by the government when its revealed that the subprime mess has severely damaged their operations, but the homeowner who took out the subprime mortgage will just get ruined credit and financial hardship.

Confidence Takes Biggest Hit In 2 years

Problems in mortgage, housing and stock markets have American consumers thinking the economy is in the toilet along with Senator Craig.
Turmoil in the stock and housing markets caused the biggest drop in consumer confidence in almost two years in August, according to a closely watched survey released Tuesday.

The Conference Board said its consumer confidence index fell to 105.0 in the latest survey of 5,000 households from a revised 111.9 reading in July.

It was the biggest month-over-month drop since September 2005, when hurricanes Katrina and Rita sent gas prices to then record levels. This time it was problems was a series of financial storms, as consumers focused on problems in subprime mortgages, and falling home and stock prices.

"A softening in business conditions and labor market conditions has curbed consumers' confidence this month," said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board's Consumer Research Center, which conducts the monthly survey of 5,000 households. "In addition, the volatility in financial markets and continued subprime housing woes may have played a role in dampening consumers' spirits."
Remember that consumer spending accounts for 2/3 of the economy. Confidence numbers like this would indicate a strong pullback in spending which could result in a recession. I have been calling for that since I started this site. It looks like I could be correct.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Idaho Senator Pleads Guilty To Disorderly Conduct

What is it with closeted Republicans and public bathrooms?
Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho was arrested in June by a plainclothes police officer investigating complaints of lewd conduct in the men's public toilet at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reported.

In a carefully worded statement, Craig made no mention of the incident that prompted his arrest or the charges brought against him.

"At the time of this incident, I complained to the police that they were misconstruing my actions. I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct," Craig said in a statement.
This story makes me laugh at loud. The rumors about Senator Craig were out there for years. Couldn't he find a trick like everyone else does on the internet? Why the bathroom? It is so unsanitary and seedy. Oh and remember that this fool voted for the Defense of Marriage Act. Can we all say hypocrtite together?

His voting record on Gay issues:

Voted YES on constitutional ban of same-sex marriage. (Jun 2006)
Voted NO on adding sexual orientation to definition of hate crimes. (Jun 2002)
Voted NO on expanding hate crimes to include sexual orientation. (Jun 2000)
Voted YES on prohibiting same-sex marriage. (Sep 1996)
Voted NO on prohibiting job discrimination by sexual orientation. (Sep 1996)

I guess having to get your sex in the bathroom must make you pretty hateful. These votes are the votes of a self hating fool.

There are more closet case homosexuals running around the Republican party then anyone would have thought seeing how they constantly use the Gay and Lesbian population as a rallying cry for the theocratic fools that support them. If they have no self respect can't they just join the Log Cabin Republicans? That would seem to be the perfect place for these hypocrites. Just remember that old saying "Thou Dost Protest To Much" when you see these freaks railing against the so-called homosexual agenda, chances are there is a bathroom stall with their name on it.

Afghan Opium At 'Frightening Levels'

This is the other disaster that barely gets mentioned in the news.
The production of opium in Afghanistan has "soared to frightening record levels," according to a report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released in Kabul Monday.

Production levels of opium, from which the class A drug heroin is manufactured, are expected to reach 8,200 tons in 2007, up from 6,100 tons in 2006.

The amount of land used for the production of opium has also increased to 193,000 hectares from 165,000 in 2006, the report said.

Afghanistan is now responsible for 93 per cent of global opium production, according to the UNODC.
The Taliban once considered the production of opium a sin but they have realized that the drug trade is a great source of income to continue their terrorist activities. This is what happens when you don't complete the job you started. When the Bush administration decided to start a war with Iraq, they left Afghanistan to twist in the wind.

Unfortunately the winds are blowing towards the United States and include the bumper crop of heroin which will surely make it onto our streets and turn even more of our citizens into addicts. Another fine job by the Bush Administration. Can you think of anything they have done right? I surely can't.

Poll: Subprime Big Threat to Economy

The risk of massive defaults on subprime mortgages and heavy debts now poses a bigger threat to U.S. economic prosperity than terrorism, a panel of U.S. business economists said on Monday.
"The combined threat of subprime loan defaults and excessive indebtedness has supplanted terrorism and the Middle East as the biggest short-term threat to the U.S. economy," the National Association for Business Economics said.

The conclusion was based on a survey of 258 NABE members conducted between July 24 and Aug. 14 and updates one done in March.

Only 20 percent of members said terrorism was now their top concern, compared with 35 percent in March.

"Meanwhile, 18 percent of those surveyed pointed to the effects of the subprime debacle as their biggest concern, and the related issue of 'excessive household and/or corporate debt' was cited by another 14 percent," NABE said.
I have said it for months, the subprime mess will bring about recession. Who is to blame? I would say it is the financial institutions that loaned money knowing full well the borrower was not qualified to repay. Who will the government bail out when the shit hits the fan? It will be the financial institution while the homeowner is left in ruins.

Glut Of Homes Hits 16-year High

Homeowners trying to sell last month faced the biggest glut of homes on the market in about 16 years, as declining sales and growing problems in the mortgage market helped push home prices down for the 12th straight month.
The National Association of Realtors said sales by homeowners slipped to an annual rate of 5.75 million last month, down 0.2 percent from the revised 5.76 million pace in June. Economists surveyed by had forecast the sales rate would fall to 5.7 million in the latest reading.

Not only did sales slip but the number of homes for sale jumped 5.1 percent, the group said, meaning there is now a 9.6-month supply of homes for sale, up from 9.1-months in the June reading. It was the biggest supply of homes by that measure since October 1991.

"Forget 'location, location, location.' The most important factor in today's real estate market is 'supply, supply, supply,'" said Mike Larson, a real estate analyst at with independent research firm Weiss Research.

"We are literally swimming in an ocean of homes for sale. In fact, at 4.59 million units, we have the most raw inventory for sale in history," he said. "Until we work through this extremely large inventory glut, we're not going to see any momentum in home prices."
With that number of homes per sale and a population leery of buying during this time, the near future for the housing market looks grim. Reducing the available homes for sale at this time will be hard with even more foreclosures expected in the coming months. I would guess many of the homes for sale will be pulled of the market rather than sold as owners not forced to move will decide to wait it out and hope for the best.

Alberto Gonzales To Resign

Another rat to jump the sinking ship.
Embattled U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has resigned, senior administration officials told CNN Monday.

President Bush will likely nominate Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to the position, senior administration officials said. Clay Johnson, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, would replace Chertoff, the officials said.

Many lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have long called for his ouster after the firing of several U.S. attorneys in 2006. Bush had long stood by Gonzales.

Gonzales will announce his resignation at a news conference at the Justice Department at 10:30 a.m. ET.
Bye, Bye Gonzo you were the worst Attorney General in United States history.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Drop Foreseen in Median Price of U.S. Homes

The median price of American homes is expected to fall this year for the first time since federal housing agencies began keeping statistics in 1950.
Economists say the decline, which could be foreshadowed in a widely followed government price index to be released this week, will probably be modest — from 1 percent to 2 percent — but could continue in 2008 and 2009. Rather than being limited to the once-booming Northeast and California, price declines are also occurring in cities like Chicago, Minneapolis and Houston, where the increases of the last decade were modest by comparison.
Anyone that has read this site knows that I feel we are moving towards recession, it seems some forecasters are also calling for a slowdown:
While the housing slump has already rattled financial markets, it has so far had only a modest effect on consumer spending and economic growth. But forecasters now believe that its impact will lead to a slowdown over the next year or two.

“For most people, this is not a disaster,” said Nigel Gault, an economist with Global Insight, a research firm in Waltham, Mass. “But it’s enough to cause them to pull back.”

In recent years, many families used their homes as a kind of piggy bank, borrowing against their equity and increasing their spending more rapidly than their income was rising. A recent research paper co-written by the vice chairman of the Federal Reserve said that the rise in home prices was the primary reason that consumer borrowing has soared since 2001.
That is exactly what I have been saying. The decline in home prices had led to a decline of what I like to call the "wealth factor". People simply do not feel as financially stable as they did before. It becomes a self fulfilling prophesy. Consumers feel less wealthy and stop spending and that lack of spending results in an economic downturn and a further erosion of home prices. Hang on folks, we are in for a bumpy ride.

Iraq Body Count Running at Double Pace

The game of whack-a-mole continues and the Iraqi people are paying dearly.
This year's U.S. troop buildup has succeeded in bringing violence in Baghdad down from peak levels, but the death toll from sectarian attacks around the country is running nearly double the pace from a year ago.

Some of the recent bloodshed appears the result of militant fighters drifting into parts of northern Iraq, where they have fled after U.S.-led offensives. Baghdad, however, still accounts for slightly more than half of all war-related killings _ the same percentage as a year ago, according to figures compiled by The Associated Press.

The tallies and trends offer a sobering snapshot after an additional 30,000 U.S. troops began campaigns in February to regain control of the Baghdad area. It also highlights one of the major themes expected in next month's Iraq progress report to Congress: some military headway, but extremist factions are far from broken.

In street-level terms, it means life for average Iraqis appears to be even more perilous and unpredictable.
After reading a report like this I wonder how the Iraqis can not be grateful that we removed an evil dictator? They have this great democracy now and even though many will never live to get that purple finger again, daily life is better now than under Saddam. Who needs clean water and electricity when you have a real democracy?

The killing fields of Vietnam are now in Iraq but the "surge" is working or at least that is what they will tell us in September.