Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Out With The Old, In With The New

Then sing, young hearts that are full of cheer,
With never a thought of sorrow;
The old goes out, but the glad young year
Comes merrily in tomorrow

~Emily Miller

Some predictions for 2009 (take these with a grain of salt.)

Some predictions for the New Year:

January: In his last act in office, President Bush will issue a full and unconditional pardon to Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. A few days later, Burris will withdraw his name from consideration and Blago will name Karl Rove, who it is learned made a successful bid on a home on the foreclosure block in Cicero. All three of them will deny there was a deal.

Barack Obama will deliver a riveting inaugural speech. After that Joe Biden will rewind the teleprompter and give it again.

Also in January, Chip Saltsman will be elected as chair of the RNC, and the first thing he does after accepting his election will be to lead the assembled delegates in a chorus of, "Barack the Magic Negro," followed by the pledge of allegiance to the Confederate flag and a salute to the late Jesse Helms.

February: The unemployment rolls will swell with former members of the Bush administration. As part of his economic stimulus plan, Obama will offer them jobs earning $12 an hour welding steel girders as part of bridge replacement projects.

In February, card-check will pass and Wal-Mart will announce in a statement issued by their corporate headquarters they are officially having a hissy fit and closing all their stores.

March: Following slow sports book on the Super Bowl and March madness, the gaming industry becomes the latest American industry to ask for a bailout. They will ask for $20 billion. When Congress balks industry executives will offer 'double or nothing' over a game of craps. Congressional leaders will take them up on it, and roll boxcars.

Also in March there will be a move on to legalize marijuana. Astute White House observers saw this coming in January when Cheech Marin was introduced as the new Surgeon General.

April: Congress passes an amnesty bill making all undocumented immigrants who have not been convicted of a felony American citizens. They will avoid a filibuster by letting John McCain write the bill. The first fallout from this will occur almost immediately as a resolution is passed in the California legislature by a coalition that we quickly rehabilitate the image of the United States by renaming the country, "Los Estados Unidos."

Also in April, the booze industry will ask for a bailout. After sending a whole lot of free product to Capitol Hill for an all-night session, they will be approved for "twenty-shicksh hundred and a gazillion dollars."

Also in April, the Detroit Lions will draft Oklahoma Quarterback Sam Bradford first in the NFL draft. Bradford will refuse to play for the Lions unless they pay him $150 million up front and give him a car company. Desperate, Detroit agrees. Bradford takes over control of General Motors.

May: The U.S. Supreme Court upholds gay marriage. Almost immediately, pastor Ted Haggard will become the first pastor to officiate at his own wedding as he ties the knot with former Idaho Senator Larry Craig.

Also in May, as the price of oil stays under $50 a barrel and research on alternative fuels pushes ahead, Big Oil will ask for a bailout. They will be approved.

June: In order to shock people, Britney Spears will have her eyeballs pierced. Nobody will notice.

Also in June, the pharmaceutical industry will ask for a bailout. They don't need one but what the hey?-- they have the best lobbyists and they know they can get anything they want.

July: In order to shock people, Britney Spears will cut her ear off. Nobody will notice.

Also in July, the coffee industry will ask for a bailout. They will get it after congressional staffers realize that without it there might be no more cappucino.

August: In order to shock people, Britney Spears will have her face removed. Nobody will notice.

Also in August, American forces will capture Osama bin Laden in a cave along the Pakistan/Afghanistan border. He will be caught when he steps outside during a rainstorm to take a shower.

September: Britney Spears will have the first face transplant for purely cosmetic purposes. People will notice-- mainly because the donor will be Jack Nicholson.

Also in September, a slow summer 'blockbuster' season will result in the movie industry asking for a bailout. They will be approved, and shortly thereafter a movie will open in theaters showing a bunch of politicians in suits and holding automatic weapons, heroically standing their ground and fighting off thousands of terrorists.

October: Robert Mugabe, running out of excuses and people to blame for his countries' ongoing economic crisis, will unleash a torrent of violence against the nation's animal population. Gangs of Mugabe thugs will beat
zebras for not being 'black enough.'

Also in October, the Obama administration will negotiate a comprehensive and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Combined with other peace intiatives the fallout will be immediate, as the arms industry asks for a bailout. They will be approved.

November: Alaska Governor Sarah Palin will pardon another turkey. Specifically, she will say she bears no ill feelings towards John McCain.

Also in November, a financially troubled American industry will ask for a bailout and finally be denied. Shortly thereafter Phillip Morris, Liggett and RJR will file for bankruptcy.

December: Christ will make his second appearance on earth. It will turn out that he grew up in meager surroundings, the son of undocumented immigrants in east L.A., living in the tenements and attending public schools. A lot of people will be saying, "uh-oh."


Friday, December 26, 2008

Sad episode (not) in Gilbert underlines the disconnect people have between taxes and services

Gilbert, Arizona is a typical suburban/exurban community (in this case a suburb of Phoenix.) Upscale but not identifiably wealthy (like Paradise Valley, for example) and with a mixture of neighborhoods but few or none that would be considered 'bad' it is politically conservative-- the kind of place in Maricopa county that provides reliable Republican majorities that keep the county tilting red even though the city of Phoenix has begun voting Democratic. Gilbert has been singed by the foreclosure crisis like the rest of metro Phoenix but it has escaped with less of a hit than a lot of other communities. And like in most conservative communities, people there don't particularly like paying taxes and they will tell you that.

Gilbert isn't completely solidly contiguous however, containing several unincorporated 'county islands' surrounded by city. The people who live in those areas are generally a little more well off than the rest of the city, and they have steadfastly refused to be incorporated into the city, because then they would have to pay municipal taxes (though Gilbert's municipal taxes are not particularly high in comparison with other local cities.)

So a couple of years ago the issue of fire protection came up. The legislature passed a law in June stipulating that the residents of the 'county islands' pay a fee of $1.59 per $100 of secondary assessed valuation (a reduced tax, in other words) specifically for fire coverage. According to today's paper the city is being forced to 'eat' a significant loss at that, as the $1.59 only pays about half the cost of providing coverage in the expanded area.

Yesterday that was put to the test. And it failed badly. First of all, firefighters from three fire houses who responded to a residential fire discovered that residents of the 'island' had put 800 to 1000 pound concrete barricades up across the street they were coming down (apparently to keep out unwanted traffic from residents of the town of Gilbert; I guess being 'unincorporated' gives some idiots the right to think they can redraw the street map as they see fit without notifying emergency providers.) So the firefighters had to park their trucks, get out and spend several minutes dragging the barricades away while the fire was flaring out of control. Then they got there, and they discovered that since they were not within the city (where city law specifies that there must be a fire hydrant every five hundred feet) the nearest hydrant was nearly half a mile away. After patching together almost half a mile of fire hose, there was very little to do except put out the embers and make sure that the fire didn't spread to surrounding structures. The home was a total loss (though the good news is that no one was injured.)

A neighbor was interviewed in today's Arizona Republic, and she thought that the $1.59 'fire fee' should have covered the placement of hydrants. In fact it does not. It covers fire coverage-- and that's all. Essentially they paid the firefighters who responded to the call to remove their barricades, piece together a half mile fire hose and prevent the fire from spreading beyond that property. The cost of placing hydrants, a basic infrastructure item (and $15,000 per hydrant) is far more than the reduced tax they are paying will cover, even if the city got authorization to put them there, technically 'outside' of the city limits. But the people in the 'county island' seem to think they should be there-- in other words they refuse to join the city because they don't want to pay city taxes, but they want the city to use those city taxpayers' money to put an infrastructure improvement-- fire hydrants-- in their community that wasn't called for under the legislatively passed law (and recall the city of Gilbert has stated that the fee they are being forced to accept by the legislature only pays about half of the actual cost of coverage, and that's not including hydrants.)

What gets me here though is something that I've seen before. I remember living in a town where there was a municipal bond issue on the ballot to pay for basic services. A group of very vocal anti-tax people campaigned hard, and they succeeded. The measure lost. Fair enough. But then a couple of months later the town announced that it was cutting back on residential garbage collection, from every week to every other week, and all of a sudden the very same people who had been up in arms about the bond issue started complaining loudly about the cut in services. Apparently it didn't register on them that there was any kind of connection-- they must have been spoiled as kids, believing that the services they need will just materialize out of thin air without actually having to pay for it. Maybe they think that government is just awash in waste and fat, so that they can cut taxes and they will still find the money to maintain services by 'trimming fat.' I've talked to more than one person who's told me, after voting against a bond issue and expecting that things will be paid for, "They've got the money, you know they do." Well, in fact often they don't. Tax cuts = budget cuts = service cuts. A really simple equation.

Now, if you honestly believe in tax cuts, that's fine. But don't complain if services get cut. I believe the opposite-- I favor government providing quality service-- but I understand that the price I pay for it will be higher taxes.

Ironically, it is the more conservative regions of the country that most benefit from taxes, but apparently take that for granted. In fact, if you look at Federal spending on a state by state level (using 2005 figures, the most recent ones available) in terms of the amount of money received by the states per dollar of tax revenue collected within the state you will find for example that eight of the top ten states in return per tax dollar voted Republican in the 2008 election* while all ten of the bottom states for federal spending per tax dollar collected voted Democratic this year. In fact, it is even more stark than that. Texas, which gets back $0.94 in federal spending for every tax dollar collected in the state, is the only state that voted Republican this year that does not get a net benefit from federal largesse. Georgia, which barely comes out ahead (at $1.01) and Utah ($1.07) are the only other 'red' states that even come close to breaking even, while residents of every other Republican state gets back at least 10% more in federal dollars than they put into the till. Or put another way, if conservatives got their dream and eliminated the IRS and handed everything back to the states that is now paid by the feds, most blue states could maintain the level of services they have now without having to collect as much as the feds are now collecting, while most red states would either have to drastically cut services, drastically raise taxes even above what their residents are paying in federal taxes now, or possibly do both of those things. Yes, the gospel of anti-big government, from those who most depend on continued big government spending.

But there are still people who think you can get something for nothing, that they can have their cake and eat it too. And until that delusion is addressed and people understand the connection between taxes and the services that are provided, I think we will continue to see more situations like the unfortunate one that happened yesterday not in Gilbert.

*-- yes, the District of Columbia in 2005 did benefit from $5.55 in federal spending in the district per tax dollar collected in the district, but that is neither surprising nor relevant since the District is the seat of the government and most of this was spent on the operation of the federal government. I don't have a figure on just what was spent on programs directly benefitting the district and its residents per tax dollar paid but I suspect it's only a fraction of this.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

May Your Days Be Merry

Let Christmas not become a thing
Merely of merchant's trafficking,
Of tinsel, bell and holly wreath
And surface pleasure, but beneath
The childish glamour, let us find
Nourishment for heart and mind.
Let us follow kinder ways
Through our teeming human maze,
And help the age of peace to come.

~Madeline Morse


Monday, December 22, 2008

Deer Me

The Months

January cold and desolate;
February dripping wet;
March wind ranges;
April changes;
Birds sing in tune
To flowers of May,
And sunny June
Brings longest day;
In scorched July
The storm-clouds fly,
August bears corn,
September fruit;
In rough October
Earth must disrobe her;
Stars fall and shoot
In keen November;
And night is long
And cold is strong
In bleak December.

~Christina Giorgina Rossetti


Saturday, December 20, 2008

The End Of Retirement?

Pension Funds Collapse: The End of Retirement?

Unless things change fast, history will show that the phenomenon of "retirement" was limited to one generation.

Shamus Cooke, ICH:

Unless things change fast, human history will show that the phenomenon of "retirement" was limited to one generation. After World War II, when European and Japanese economies stood in tatters, American capitalism could fulfill "the American dream," since there was little foreign competition to speak of. For the first time ever, workers were promised that -- after working thirty or so years -- they would be able to securely retire. That was largely the case ... for one generation.

The second generation is having a devastating reality check. 2008 was supposed to be a watershed year for retirement: it was the first year that the baby-boomers turned 62, and the retirement frenzy was to begin (since people could begin to draw on their social security benefits). Early in the year, however, a study was conducted that found one-fourth of these boomers were delaying retirement (only the baby-boomers who were actually able to plan for retirement were studied). The economy has since nosedived, and many more retirements are being delayed. The unfortunate reality is that many who planned on retiring will work until the grave, joining the millions of other baby-boomers who never had such dreams.

The experts are calling this the "perfect storm" for retirement. Everything that could go wrong is in fact going wrong. This storm, however, was not created by supernatural forces, but the coordinated effort of big-business and their puppet politicians.

The deliberate destruction of the pension and its replacement by the 401(k) was, of course, a giant step towards attacking retirement; but now that the economic crisis has emerged, we're beginning to see just how ruinous the effects are.

Continue article here.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Holiday Lights

Music Box Dancer -- Holdman Christmas Display

Animated Christmas Lights with 176 Channels, (music by DJ Schwede).


See higher quality video at


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bleak Economic Forecast

Job cuts adding to growing number of housing defaults

USA Today:

Unemployment is now the cause of almost half of all foreclosures on conventional mortgages, raising concerns that mounting joblessness will stall any housing recovery and could cause more foreclosures next year.

The increase in unemployment as a cause is a significant shift from 2007, when foreclosures were primarily driven by the large number of homeowners who had taken on risky loans. Many were first-time home buyers or those who bought during the housing boom that ended in 2006.

Now, layoffs and the recession are playing the pivotal role in driving mortgage defaults. The 4.3 million people collecting unemployment is the most since 1974, the Labor Department says.

During the first half of the year, about 46% of the 90-day delinquencies on conventional, conforming loans were because of a loss of income, vs. 36% in 2006, according to mortgage giant Freddie Mac.

Job losses exacerbate the situation for homeowners with risky mortgages. [...]

Mounting joblessness is also affecting homeowners who may have traditional, 30-year conventional loans but are living paycheck to paycheck.

They tend to be more urban, lower- and middle-class blue-collar workers, says Rick Sharga of RealtyTrac.

"It's not going to be pretty," Sharga says. "You're going to see whole different regions of the country suffer."

Rising unemployment could undermine chances of a housing rebound for months to come. Potential home buyers are less likely to borrow for a home because of uncertainty about job security. That could keep inventories high as unsold homes stay on the market for months — dragging down home prices.

Another complication: Banks are less likely to lend when unemployment is high. [...]

A recent study by the National Coalition for the Homeless found homelessness rising. It's often hard for displaced workers to find new jobs. When they do, the new jobs on average pay about 13% less than the previous jobs, the coalition says.

Homelessness rising as economy slides


Homelessness and demand for emergency food are rising in the United States as the economy founders, a report said on Friday, and homeless advocates cautioned many cities were not equipped for the increase.

A survey by the U.S. Conference of Mayors showed that 19 of 25 cities saw an increase in homelessness in the 12 months to October, while four reported a drop and two cities lacked enough data for conclusive results.

On average, the cities in the survey saw a 12 percent rise in homelessness, the report said. Although the results do not cover all U.S. cities, homeless advocates said they were in line with anecdotal evidence nationwide.

Homeless advocates say families are flooding homeless shelters across the United States in numbers not seen for years, camping out in motels or staying with friends and relatives following foreclosures on tens of thousands of homes during the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

U.S. States Cut Spending for First Time Since 1983


U.S. state governments are reducing spending for the first time since 1983 as the recession erodes the tax collections that pay for schools, health clinics and other local programs, a national survey found.

The budgets passed by states cut spending from their general funds, the pools of money not earmarked for specific purposes, by $380 million to $689 billion in the current fiscal year, which began in July for all but four states, according to a survey by the National Association of State Budget Officers released today.

The decline has only deepened since the budgets were set because of rising unemployment, consumer spending cutbacks and the loss of more than $7 trillion from the U.S. stock market this year. That has dealt a blow to sales and income tax collections and forced 22 states to cut $12.1 billion from the spending plans enacted for the current year so far, the report found.

“The situation is bad and unfortunately it will continue to get worse,” Scott Pattison, executive director of the budget group, said during a conference call with reporters. “To have an actual nominal decline in spending is extremely significant, even in the downturn in the early 1990s we didn’t have a figure that bad.”

Bleak fiscal 2009 seen for states: report

States will experience a bleak fiscal 2009, a new report said Monday, with spending expected to decrease for the first time since 1983 and budget cuts to follow in coming fiscal years.

Market Watch:

"Given the continued stall in credit availability, rising unemployment rates and increasing demand for state services such as Medicaid and welfare as people lose their jobs, the fiscal outlook for states is likely to get worse," said Raymond Scheppach, executive director of the governors association. He said the decline in the housing market has impacted state revenues, especially corporate and sales tax revenues. Read the report.

State spending growth slowed for most states during fiscal 2008, the report found, and 13 states reduced their enacted budgets, by $3.6 billion. So far in fiscal 2009, 22 states have cut their enacted budget by $12.1 billion. Another five are forecasting cuts.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Wage Cuts: Not Economically Smart

Gene Sperling: Why Make Autoworkers Concede To ‘Brutal Wage Cuts’ During A Recession?

Think Progress:

The main justification espoused by conservatives for blocking a proposed $14 billion bridge loan to General Motors and Chrysler last week was that the United Automobile Workers (UAW) would not agree to “steep cuts in pay and benefits,” to be implemented in 2009.

During an appearance on CNN’s Late Edition yesterday, Center for American Progress Action Fund Senior Fellow Gene Sperling questioned the rationale behind the conservative demands, asking, “Why, in the middle of a recession, would you want to demand, in 2009, these type of brutal wage cuts? It’s not fair. It’s not economically smart.” [...]

Sperling is correct, though, to note that “it’s not economically smart” to cut wages during a downturn. Keeping people working — and spending — is a key component of reversing the downward trail of America’s ailing economy.

But preventing the loan entirely because there was no immediate UAW wage cut could have even more drastic consequences, if any of Detroit’s Big Three should fail. The New York Times reported today that, “With unemployment claims reaching their highest levels in decades, states are running out of money to pay benefits.” The fund in Michigan — the epicenter of America’s auto industry — has already run out.

The Times produced the following chart, showing that the states in danger of exhausting their unemployment funds are overwhelmingly in the auto-producing belt of the midwest:

I have a message for the GOP Senators and their supporters...

You have alienated the millions of Americans who built your homes, your cars, protected your precious homes from fire and your families from crime. [...]

And by the way don't call me again to ask for my vote, my money, my time to promote your corporatist / christianist / fascist agenda. Ever.

In fact, don't call me for anything ever again.

Don't call us when your home catches fire.

Don't call us when your home is burglarized.

Don't call us when your child is struggling in school.

Don't call us when you need your new luxury home built in that private gated community you so cherish.

Don't call us when your Lexus breaks down (yes Lexuses do break down) in some God-forsaken ghetto that you helped create by busting someone's union and driving their wages down.

Don't call us when said Lexus needs extensive and expensive repairs.

Don't call us when you and your famly want to fly to Bali for the weekend when most of your constituents can't afford to fill up their cars.

Don't call us when the first draft of your new anti-union legislation needs to be rushed by UPS to your lobbyist for approval before you send it to committee.

Don't call us when you need a new casino in Vegas to piss away your lobbyist's loot.

Don't call us when your new shoes need to be shipped from Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Columbia, or whatever hellhole third world country that pays the lowest wages that week.

Don't call us when your smelly trash needs to be picked up.

Don't call us when the voluminous amounts of waste you produce has clogged your plumbing and you need someone to rod out the fetid mass that is stuck in your drainpipe.

Finally, don't call us for any other dirty job that is beneath your dignity or beyond your skill level.

After all, we union members are just lazy, unproductive, overpaid, complacent leaches on the body of the American economy.

How dare we have the gall to ask for a decent wage, a safe jobsite, and affordable health care for our children.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ten Ways To Happy

Photo h/t: I can has cheezburger?

10 Things Science Says Will Make You Happy

Daily habits can affect our well-being. Here are 10 simple actions that research has shown makes people feel good.

Jen Angel, YES! Magazine:
The emerging field of positive psychology is bursting with new findings that suggest your actions can have a significant effect on your happiness and satisfaction with life. Here are 10 scientifically proven strategies for getting happy.

  1. Savor Everyday Moments

  2. Avoid Comparisons

  3. Put Money Low on the List

  4. Have Meaningful Goals

  5. Take Initiative at Work

  6. Make Friends, Treasure Family

  7. Smile Even When You Don’t Feel Like It

  8. Say Thank You Like You Mean It

  9. Get Out and Exercise

  10. Give It Away, Give It Away Now!
Full article.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Senate GOP Class Warriors Head For Hooverville

Countdown Friday:


Epic Bail: Our fifth story tonight, the end of an era, as we learn that Senate Republicans are now willing to kill GM, regardless of whether it's good for our country, in order to kill the union of GM's workers.

GOP: 'Action Alert - Auto Bailout'

Countdown has obtained a memo entitled "Action Alert - Auto Bailout," and sent Wednesday at 9:12am, to Senate Republicans. The names of the sender(s) and recipient(s) have been redacted in the copy Countdown obtained. The Los Angeles Times reported that it was circulated among Senate Republicans. The brief memo outlines internal political strategy on the bailout, including the view that defeating the bailout represents a "first shot against organized labor." Senate Republicans blocked passage of the bailout late Thursday night, over its insistence on an immediate union pay cut.


Sent: Wednesday, December 10, 2008 9:12 AM


Subject: Action Alert -- Auto Bailout

Today at noon, Senators Ensign, Shelby, Coburn and DeMint will hold a press conference in the Senate Radio/TV Gallery. They would appreciate our support through messaging and attending the press conference, if possible. The message they want us to deliver is:

1. This is the democrats first opportunity to payoff organized labor after the election. This is a precursor to card check and other items. Republicans should stand firm and take their first shot against organized labor, instead of taking their first blow from it.

2. This rush to judgment is the same thing that happened with the TARP. Members did not have an opportunity to read or digest the legislation and therefore could not understand the consequences of it. We should not rush to pass this because Detroit says the sky is falling.

The sooner you can have press releases and documents like this in the hands of members and the press, the better. Please contact me if you need additional information. Again, the hardest thing for the democrats to do is get 60 votes. If we can hold the Republicans, we can beat this.

What’s good for the GOP is not good for GM

Dec. 12: Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter talks with MSNBC’s David Shuster about the effort by some Republican Senators to turn the issue of the auto bailout into a debate over organized labor:


"Herbert Hoover Time"

Robert L. Borosage, HuffPo:

In their last obstruction, "Dr. No" Mitch McConnell's Senate Republicans blocked a bridge loan for the auto companies, unwilling even to sustain them long enough for a new administration to sculpt a responsible response to their crisis.

What was the sticking point? It wasn't getting rid of the CEOs that drove the companies into the ditch. It wasn't forcing the creditors to cut their loans in exchange for stock, giving them a stake in the future. It wasn't accepting an auto czar to enforce the agreement and drive a transition to fuel efficient cars. That was agreed to. No, led by benighted Tennessee Senator Bob Corker -- known previously solely for his "call me" race bait campaign ad that helped him win election -- Republicans wanted to break the union, and punish the workers. [...]

For Republicans, the problem wasn't the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. It wasn't wrong-headed management that was skewered when soaring gas prices wiped out their SUV cash cows. It wasn't the Wall Street dominated trade policies that sacrificed US manufacturing behind a high dollar that made it profitable to move plants and production abroad and aided foreign competitors. It wasn't the burdens of health care costs that make US manufacturers less competitive.

No, for the Republican Senators, the bailout was a chance for a little class warfare. Why should an autoworker make $50-60,000 a year, plus health care? The workers should accept half that and be happy. Autoworkers have agreed to wage givebacks and benefit cuts over the last years. They pledged even deeper cuts in relation to the agreement. But their sacrifices weren't great enough nor the cuts fast enough for Corker and the Republicans. [...]

Forget about the deepening recession. The Senate Republican position was essentially that the price of bailing out GM and Chrysler was to insure that the union was broken and the workers went bankrupt. [...]

There are defining moments in politics. Here Republicans defined themselves. They are not free market conservatives, for they were willing to do the bailout. They don't object to nationalizing the banks or micromanaging the auto industry on the fly. They are class warriors, willing to risk a worse global economic calamity in order to break a union, to force workers into bankruptcy. Herbert Hoover time. Let's not forget this last ignoble obstruction, committed just as the Senators went home for the holidays.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

GOP Senators Aim To Make Hard Times Worse

It seems incredulous to me that, while we've had a $700 Billion bail out for Wall Street, GOP senators now want to to derail the loan requests by the U. S. auto makers and are throwing up roadblocks to the $14 billion House approved bailout bill. Letting the U. S. automotive industry fail would cost millions of auto industry related jobs in America and would also have a huge impact around the world.

In these worsening economic times, and with the report of a new surge in unemployment rates just released — which surely will add to the mortgage foreclosures already on the rise and to more people going without adequate health care — why on earth would these obstructionist GOP senators continue to contribute to making things worse and have even more people lose their homes, decent incomes and benefits?

That is not looking out for the best interests of the American people or American manufacturing. Do these GOP senators hate America?

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Blagojevich Busted

Gov. Blagojevich Selling A Senate Seat?


Well, the long-running investigation of Illinois Governor Blagojevich just got interesting:

Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff were arrested today by FBI agents on federal corruption charges.

A three-year federal corruption investigation of pay-to-play politics in Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration has expanded to include his impending selection of a new U.S. senator to succeed President-elect Barack Obama, the Tribune has learned. [...]

See more discussion on this in Bob Johnson's diary.

Update: Better and better:

According to a federal criminal complaint, Blagojevich also was charged with illegally threatening to withhold state assistance to Tribune Co., the owner of the Chicago Tribune, in the sale of Wrigley Field. In return for state assistance, Blagojevich allegedly wanted members of the paper's editorial board who had been critical of him fired.

What an ass.

Update II: The allegations are detailed here.

Illinois Governor Taken Into Federal Custody For Abusing His Authority To Appoint Obama Successor

Think Progress has more, with several updates:

Federal authorities took Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) and his chief of staff John Harris into custody this morning on federal corruption charges. Before the arrest, the Chicago Tribune had reported that a “three-year federal corruption investigation of pay-to-play politics in Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration has expanded to include his impending selection of a new U.S. senator to succeed President-elect Barack Obama.” According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s office:

A 76-page FBI affidavit alleges that Blagojevich was intercepted on court-authorized wiretaps during the last month conspiring to sell or trade Illinois’ U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama for financial and other personal benefits for himself and his wife. At various times, in exchange for the Senate appointment, Blagojevich discussed obtaining:

– a substantial salary for himself at a either a non-profit foundation or an organization affiliated with labor unions;

– placing his wife on paid corporate boards where he speculated she might garner as much as $150,000 a year;

– promises of campaign funds – including cash up front; and

– a cabinet post or ambassadorship for himself.

FireDogLake has more.

Illinois Governor Taken into Custody for Abusing His Authority to Appoint Obama Successor


Federal authorities have taken Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) and his chief of staff John Harris into custody on federal corruption charges. Before the arrest, the Chicago Tribune had reported that a "three-year federal corruption investigation of pay-to-play politics in Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration has expanded to include his impending selection of a new U.S. senator to succeed President-elect Barack Obama." [...]

Blagojevich told reporters yesterday, "I don't believe there's any cloud that hangs over me. I think there's nothing but sunshine hanging over me."

According to the Illinois constitution, the Lt. Governor is first in line to take over as Governor, "[i]f the Governor is unable to serve because of death, conviction on impeachment, failure to qualify, resignation or other disability." Should Blagojevich be subject to any of these conditions in the near future, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn would assume power and be responsible for appointing Obama's successor.

Download a copy of the indictment HERE.

Fitzgerald On Blagojevich’s ‘Political Corruption Crime Spree’: It Would ‘Make Lincoln Roll Over In His Grave’

Think Progress:

In a press conference explaining the arrest and the corruption charges filed against Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-IL), U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald — who successfully prosecuted Scooter Libby — declared the current case as a “new low.” Fitzgerald described the charges as a “political corruption crime spree.”

Noting that Blagojevich has been under investigation for years for pay-to-play corruption charges, Fitzgerald expressed his amazement that the activity would continue. “You might have thought in that environment, pay-to-play would have slowed down. The opposite happened. It sped up,” he said.

Chicago reporter suggests Rahm Emanuel may have ‘tipped’ off federal investigators about Blagojevich.

Rahm Almost Certainly Didn’t Bust Blagojevich

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

December 7, 1941

"A date which shall live in infamy."

On this day 67 years ago, Pearl Harbor was attacked. As the survivors of the "date that will live in infamy" fade away, we who follow that Greatest Generation should make sure that those survivors and those who were lost are never forgotten.

On the 67th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, a look back at history

Fewer veterans to tell story of Pearl Harbor

'Never Forget.' As Pearl Harbor's Witnesses Slip Away The National World War II Museum Vows to Preserve Their Memories:

"Never forget." Those two words serve as both a remembrance and a call to action as America commemorates the 67th anniversary of the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor this Sunday, December 7th. [...]

Though World War II was the most pivotal event of modern times, the memory of the valor and sacrifice of America's Greatest Generation grows harder to summon as the men and women who fought its battles both around the globe and on the Home Front are passing away. Veterans are dying at the rate of 900 a day, and vanishing with them: the personal stories of epic battles and deeds of sacrifice and heroism that museums and historians must keep alive.

Recognizing the importance of saving these stories for posterity, The National World War II Museum is committed to preserving veterans' histories. Museum historians have recorded more than 2,500 personal accounts from every branch of service and theater -- including more than 500 video accounts recorded in high definition. [...]

The National World War II Museum tells the story of the American Experience in the war that changed the world -- why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today. Dedicated in 2000 as The National D-Day Museum and now designated by Congress as America's National World War II Museum, it celebrates the American Spirit, the teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifice of the men and women who fought on the battlefront and the Home Front.

SOURCE: The National World War II Museum

USS Arizona

Pearl Harbor Gaining New Luster:

"The date that will live in infamy" -- Dec. 7, 1941, the day of the surprise attack by the Japanese military on Pearl Harbor -- lives on in the minds of many travelers to Hawaii: The USS Arizona Memorial is the single most visited attraction in the islands at Pearl Harbor, while the nearby two-year-old Pacific Aviation Museum is continuing to add new exhibits and aircraft. The memorial is part of the newly created World War II Valor in Pacific National Monument, established by President Bush on Friday, while the museum is one of 19 other sites officially "recognized" for their historic import by Bush's proclamation.

The USS Arizona Memorial, already part of the national park system, has begun a $52 million renovation of its visitor center and museum, with an estimated completion date of Dec. 7, 2010. [...]

Most facilities will remain open during the upgrade and expansion, spearheaded by the Arizona Memorial Museum Association; to see what may be closed or relocated during the different phases of construction, click here. Donations can be made to the Pearl Harbor Memorial Fund.

USS Arizona memorial is a hallowed place:

As a Pacific breeze blows across the memorial, which straddles the battleship, the sunken ship is visible below the lapping, shallow waters. It is impossible to forget that it is the tomb of 1,177. You pray, ponder, reflect in a milieu of profound sadness.

Unfortunately, the museum and visitor center is deteriorating. It must be rebuilt so that future generations can fully remember and appreciate the history-altering day and aftermath.

The good news is that the $58 million campaign for a larger facility with a museum that would protect artifacts from the elements is progressing well. The contract to construct the visitor center and museum was awarded by the Navy on Sept. 22, 2008. Groundbreaking was Nov. 5.

The USS Arizona Memorial and USS Arizona Memorial Photos from the National Park Service.


Friday, December 05, 2008

Job Losses Surge, Recession Deepens

Unemployment Sinks Even Further


News continues to get worse after the government finally made our current recession “official”. The U.S. Labor Department has announced that 533,000 jobs were cut during the month of November, the biggest monthly cut in 34 years—with analysts fearing that the 11-month trend of increasing job loss will worsen even further.

The BBC:

US employers axed 533,000 jobs in November, the biggest monthly cut in 34 years, the US Labor Department said.

In a dramatic indication of the worsening situation in the economy, the US jobless rate rose to a 15-year high of 6.7% from 6.5% in October.

Since these latest figures were compiled, further jobs losses have been announced, including big cuts at AT&T.

Recent weak economic data has fuelled fears that the world’s biggest economy is set for a deep, long downturn.

Read more

U.S. job losses worst since 1974 as downturn deepens


U.S. employers axed payrolls by 533,000 jobs in November, the most in 34 years, as the year-old recession hammered the economy and hardened calls for dramatic government action to turn the tide.

The Labor Department on Friday said the unemployment rate hit 6.7 percent last month, the highest since 1993, which adds up to 10.3 million Americans out of work or 2 million more than the population of New York City.

The jobless rate, which stood at 6.5 percent in October, would have been even higher but for people leaving the labor force in discouragement over their search for work.

A slew of U.S. companies have announced jobs cuts this week, including phone giant AT&T, which said on Thursday it was letting 12,000 workers go, and economists expect the unemployment rate to top 8 percent by late next year.

"You can't get much uglier than this. The economy has just collapsed, and has gone into a free fall," said Richard Yamarone, chief economist at Argus Research in New York.

Big jobs losses point to deepening recession


Employers shed a worse-than-expected 533,000 jobs in November, the Labor Department reported Friday, the biggest monthly jobless number in 34 years and indisputable evidence that the U.S. recession is worsening.

Adding insult to injury, the Bureau of Labor Statistics revised upwards its previous jobless reports, noting employers in October actually sent 320,000 workers packing instead of the 240,000 first reported. And September job losses were actually 403,000 and not the 284,000 stated in that month's report.

November's numbers were the worst since December 1974, when employers lopped off 602,000 positions in response to tightening credit and government price controls designed to quash inflation.

In a separate employment survey Friday, the government said the nation's unemployment rate ticked up to 6.7 percent in November, from 6.5 percent the prior month. This was slightly better than consensus expectations but reflected a large number of people no longer looking for work and thus out of the workforce. Still, the unemployment rate is now the highest in 15 years.

Taken with weak holiday sales numbers, slowing exports and the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, it's clear the U.S. economy is in deepening trouble. […]

"Job declines were widespread with losses in manufacturing, construction and retail, financial and business services. The only bright spots remaining are health care and education," said John Silvia, chief economist for Charlotte, N.C.-based Wachovia, in a note to investors. "Over the last year, the breadth of industries adding jobs has dropped sharply suggesting broad weakness in consumer spending and dismal consumer confidence."

Looking forward, it seems unlikely that recovery is anywhere around the corner.

BLS report

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Put The Financial Blame Where It Belongs

It's not the working class folks who have messed up the financial sector...

Bailout bonanza

Rachel Maddow, Dec. 2:

Talk Me Down: The Associated Press reports that the Big Three automakers plan to ask for $34 billion to bailout their industry. Should they get any money? Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers Union, tries to talk Rachel down.



Monday, December 01, 2008

Former Detroit Mayoral Aide Pleads Guilty

'I Lied Under Oath', Beatty Says

WDIV Channel 4 News:

Christine Beatty is headed to jail.

The former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s chief of staff has reached a plea deal with prosecutors. She pleaded guilty to two felony counts of obstruction of justice.

Beatty agreed to five years of probation and will serve 120 days in Wayne County Jail. She will pay $100,000 in restitution to the city of Detroit, which will be paid for during the five years of probation.

She will have until Jan. 5 to begin serving her time.

She will not be allowed to travel outside of Wayne, Macomb or Oakland counties during that time.

An emotional Beatty called a news conference Monday afternoon at her lawyers' office.

Beatty said while weighting her choices, she decided not to go to trial and take the chance of being away from her daughters longer than necessary. [...]

"We are very happy as to how this was settled. We are ready to move on as a city, as a region, as a state," Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said. "Come Jan. 5, when she is sentenced, we can truly move on and close the chapter on this."

Beatty, who has two young daughters was facing seven felony charges, had previously rejected a deal from Worthy in September that included a 150-day jail sentence.

Kilpatrick and Beatty were charged in March with perjury, misconduct and obstruction of justice. They're accused of lying under oath about an affair and their roles in the firing of three police officers.

Kilpatrick accepted a plea deal and began a 120-day jail sentence in October. His deal also called for him to resign as mayor, spend five years on probation, and pay $1 million to the city and surrender his law license.

Beatty Pleads Guilty

WWJ Newsradio 950:

A text-messaging sex scandal that gripped Detroit since January ended Monday when the last main figure, ex-mayoral aide Christine Beatty, pleaded guilty to two felonies and agreed to a 120-day jail sentence.

"I lied under oath,'' a tearful Beatty told Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Tim Kenny, the same words her former boss, ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, uttered in a courtroom during his own guilty plea in September.

Beatty offered the pleas to a pair of obstruction of justice charges, and under a deal with prosecutors, on Jan. 5 will be sentenced to serve four months in jail and five years of probation and pay $100,000 in restitution to the city. [...]

Beatty was charged with perjury, misconduct and obstruction of justice. She and Kilpatrick were accused of lying during a whistle-blowers' trial about being romantically involved.

They also denied their roles in the firing of deputy police chief Gary Brown, but text messages between the two contradicted their statements.

Related WWJ articles.

Related NBF post.

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